Any Common Desolation
By Ellen Bass
can be enough to make you look up
at the yellowed leaves of the apple tree, the few
that survived the rains and frost, shot
with late afternoon sun. They glow a deep
orange-gold against a blue so sheer, a single bird
would rip it like silk. You may have to break
your heart, but it isn’t nothing
to know even one moment alive. The sound
of an oar in an oarlock or a ruminant
animal tearing grass. The smell of grated ginger.
The ruby neon of the liquor store sign.
Warm socks. You remember your mother,
her precision a ceremony, as she gathered
the white cotton, slipped it over your toes,
drew up the heel, turned the cuff. A breath
can uncoil as you walk across your own muddy yard,
the big dipper pouring night down over you, and everything
you dread, all you can’t bear, dissolves
and, like a needle slipped into your vein—
that sudden rush of the world.
"During a rough time in my life -- prolonged family illness -- I was sitting in the yard and...saw a leaf glowing in the blue sky like a little lantern," Bass told Poets.org for Poem-a-Day. "I felt how the vivid life of the physical world can amaze us even when we feel inconsolable."
At midday Saturday, it was nearly 70 degrees, but by 5 p.m. it had dropped over 20 degrees and there were some flurries in the air. We dropped off Maddy at work after lunch and picked up Alice on the way to Reston Town Center, where we went to the Greater Reston Arts Center for the final day of Shih Chieh Huang's Synthetic Transformations, which is like a psychedelic underwater collection of jellyfish and squid. We also saw the Patrick Dougherty installation.
Then we went to ArtInsights, which I've wanted to visit for two reasons: the Harry Potter and Star Wars original concept art and the fact that it's co-run by Leslie Combemale, with whom I went to theater camp in the very early 1980s (we have friends in common but I hadn't seen her since then)! We took Alice home, stopped in briefly to say hi to Jeremy and Avery, came home for dinner, and went back to Virginia to get Daniel from Dulles, so he is here for Thanksgiving week!