“In a room upstairs, under a hot roof, / the infants long for something”
“Something” by Ruth Stone, from Second Hand Coat: Poems New and Selected
Today I met with my BFF, Blaze, for tea and talk at Panera. She is young enough to be my daughter; I am old enough to be her mother. But never mind, in talk we are ageless and everything we talk about is ageless and as soon as we talk about it, “it” is gone—and ageless. I was there already when she arrived. She put down her bag, carried her wallet to the counter, ordered food. Back at the table when we were deep in talk about karass,* her name was called, her salad was ready. We moved from karass to W.H. Auden’s poem about Nothing and then to her travels, my writing, her kids, my kids, and the nature and importance of empathy. We were deep in talk about feeling alive when her name was called (she has a different first name than the name I use for her here—there really is only one Blaze). In that moment of hearing her name called for the second time in an hour, I felt as if we had just sat down, just started talking, her salad was ready. The gray sky beyond our window table gave no indication of time of day, and except that our plates were empty, we could have just begun. In that time warp, I remembered an episode from the old Alfred Hitchcock TV show where a man is driving down a dark road, sees a figure standing along the road, something happens, and there he is again: driving down a dark road, sees a figure, something . . .
In the work I do at the Boulder Center for Conscious Community, we learn that life is a little like this: We go along doing this or that or not much at all, we feel good, and then something happens; we react; we have emotions; we have stories about our emotions. The we go along doing this or that . . . and something always happens. Well, that’s life, isn’t it. In the Hitchcock episode, the main character was caught in a loop of the same thing happening over and over, and that’s how I felt in those few seconds hearing my BFF’s name called again. I wonder sometimes just how big the loop is, how far in time it stretches, if it defies time: déjà vu.
The snow has melted. Tulips are in bloom. Today may bring us a thunder storm. My time with Blaze came and went. There is a blue tear in the gray sky and birds are singing. Tomorrow my grandson will say goodbye to his parents and the next time we see him—three months from now—he will be a Marine. Yesterday a friend said to me, “How does this happen?!” meaning the passage of time, meaning the growth of a child from baby-cheeks to stubble-cheeks when, for us, no time at all has passed.
Something happens. "Something" is happening all the time.
In a room upstairs, under a hot roof,
the infants long for something
as they tear up their books,
as they throw the pieces of Mr. Potato Head.
It is calm after the rain.
On the hill behind the house
the green pup-tent gapes open
beside the wading pool of white and red.
Marking a broken driveway,
asters fringe in the plain weeds.
The family has been fed.
The mother sits on the patio
having a cigarette.
It is getting dark.
In the grass around the house,
in the neighbors’ yards,
along the edges of the roads,
as if at a signal, there begins
a subliminal rattle
and steady sifting fall of ripened seeds.
~ by Ruth Stone
* karass: A group of people linked in a cosmically significant manner, even when superficial linkages are not evident. From Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle: "When I met Thomas, I quickly got the feeling he was part of my karass."