I spent most of the weekend laying around coked up on Advil Multisymptom Cold. Okay, not coked up, mostly dragged out. But my reading went well. It was in a big room with not so many people, but the people seemed pretty attentive to me (I'm a hypersensitive scanner of the room in situations like this--any hint of boredom and it's over, baby. Unlike, say, in a department meeting, where I'll hold forth till people keel over.).
Anyhow, I planned what I thought would be a 40 minute reading which was more like 30, but there were questions from students and the reading organizer, so all was well. No heckling. As a sample, and because middlebrow claims that my readers want poesy, and because I promised my daughter I would, here's a recent poem, the one I closed the reading with:
[Warning: poem below contains mention of a granddaughter and a daughter, but also
drug references. Read at your own risk.]
Two Dark Birds, Flying
As I was walking all alane,
I heard twa corbies making a mane:
I've pinned a line of red clothes to snap
in a wind that blows and keeps blowing.
Today an unfiltered sun pours
at last down the empty Knaven road.
I'm the American grandmother, here
to help with the new baby.
Everywhere here, fireweed's pink flush
—in ditches, lining the narrow farm lane
in this hamlet outside Aberdeen—
Pheasants large and small scurry—
they're so stupid, says my daughter,
that hawks will make swift meals of them.
Last night, I read in The Scotsman that,
by their own report, Scots are happy least
of all people in the U.K., and even
in the whole E.U.—in fact, they're sadder
altogether than Norwegians, Danes, or Swedes.
What could cause it? Heroin
enters through northern fishing towns;
also, they smoke too much, everything's fried,
and, despite the landscape, no greens to eat.
Too much to drink. Old mills closed, economy's
bad. And then the weather: the bright days
like this—in a whole summer, you can count them
on your fingers. Inside, my daughter sleeps,
and the new baby, not quite awake,
snuffles in her little chair. One gray morning
soon I'll go back to my stateside life. I look
through each window in turn—farms
and more farms. While each child clings
to her last shred of sleep, I'm out again
to check the clothes. Two ravens fly
over this unsown acre,
torn fence, house of plain brick.
Here so lonely, they twine, part and rejoin.
Tomorrow they'll cast their runes on a sky
dull and dreich, and I'll have to leave these
tender ones to it, but just at the moment
here at Knavenside, my hands are full
of red shirts, and pheasant chicks scatter
before my step in this brief, lucky weather.