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Pruning and Despair

Pruning and Despair

Pruned Plum Tree
Pruned plum tree (and hand-me-down boy)

After calling in for the Orwellian “Tele Town Hall” my GOP Senator, Steve Daines held last night, and after this morning’s news that the GOP Congress has approved Scott Pruitt for EPA, I’m filled with despair and heartbreak. And anger at every single upper middle class person I know, which is pretty much every one I know, who continues to blithely fly around on airplanes and drive SUVs and buy new stuff just because they feel like it. We, the generation of selfish overconsumers, who have ruined the world for everyone else.

To all “my” kids — to the whole gang of you — I’m so so sorry for what we’ve done. We’re leaving you a blazing hellscape of a planet, with ruined water and oligarchs who we’ve allowed to buy up all the resources so they will be able to hold them hostage when you’re grown.

So I did what I always do when I don’t know what to do and I’m angry, and agitated, and picking fights with people I shouldn’t be picking fights with on Facebook. I went out into the garden. It’s been warm here, and most of our snow has melted. The ground is still frozen, but I had pruning that needed to be done.

The little plum tree in the picture (behind the charming little boy statue that Biba, my neighbor, left me about a decade ago when she upped and moved to Argentina), that plum tree suffered bad damage in our freak freeze three years ago that killed all the cherry trees. It went from the 60s, to minus 20 in less than 12 hours, then came back up into the 40s. It was the freeze/thaw cycle that apparently did most of the damage, and we didn’t even know until spring that the cherries were all dead. I planted two new baby cherry trees last spring, but I think it’s going to be a while until I get fruit. This plum tree turns out to be a greengage. It has been an uneven bearer — fruiting every three or four years. The first year, I kept waiting for the fruit to turn purple, and it wasn’t until I was sitting in the backyard reading a book one afternoon, and a plum fell off it was so ripe, that I realized they’re greengages. They are utterly delicious, and I only ever get a peck or two.

Last year I was laid up with the ankle surgery, and I was waiting to see what parts of the tree would come back. By this spring, the dead parts were very dry and dead and easy to identify. So I got in there this afternoon, in my agitation, and cut out suckers, and sawed off the dead tops, and generally cleaned the little thicket that is my greengage patch out. I also took a shot at the gooseberry bushes while I was at it, and the currents (which are pretty battered by Hank-and-his-big-blue-play-ball). I pulled the thick layer of straw off the komatsuna and the kales, which were green underneath, and in general, started puttering around. (Oh, and cleaned up a lot of dog shit).

It won’t help with the state of our nation or the world. For that, I keep making my phone calls, and registering to go pester our GOP Senator who won’t speak to us, and trying to be patient as I explain to angry white Evangelicals that no, I’ve never had any of my Muslim friends try to impose Sharia law on me, the only people who have ever tried to impose their religious beliefs on me are white Evangelicals. I feel like we’re living in any number of dystopian novels, from Orwell to Margaret Atwood, and I’m thoroughly heartbroken about it.

But the world is turning a wee bit. The sun is coming back. There’s pruning to be done, which at the very least lets me burn off a little physical energy. And maybe, just maybe, there will be greengages this summer. To eat amidst the flaming ruins of our Democracy.

Best Food Writing 2010

Best Food Writing 2010

Here’s what was waiting in my inbox this morning:

From Kim Carlson at Culinate:

We’ve been sitting on this news for a little while, just to be sure it materialized: Your piece on croquembouchehas been selected to appear in the book Best Food Writing 2010.

It’s a great piece, Charlotte, and this is much deserved. Congrats!

You’ll get a free copy of the book when it’s released in mid-October (it’ll probably be sent to us, and we’ll forward it to you).

Bravo!
Kim

I’m beyond thrilled! As I replied to Kim this morning, it wasn’t that long ago I was buying those volumes trying to figure out what it was that I loved about food writing, and how I could do it. And of course, it wasn’t until I got a bee in my bonnet about something, and just sat down to figure it out in sentences, that I wrote something that really spoke to people.

It’s been a big year. When I got laid off last summer, I told myself that it was time to really get back to writing, and trying to publish (something I am a terrible coward about. Lo and behold, it seems to be starting to work! My first published story (“Robert Redford Speaking French” linked above) in Big Sky Journal, and now this.

And a big thanks go out to all of you, who I think of as my “twelve faithful readers” — the blog has, over the years, given me a place to practice nonfiction, to figure out how to say what I want to say, and you’ve all been so kind in the comments. Scarcely a troll in sight!

Okay, enough celebrating. Back to work!

September Mourning

September Mourning

It’s been a weird week — starting with the outpouring of false sentiment over the 9/11 anniversary. I’ve come to dread it, that upwelling of sentiment, the appropriation of tragedy by those only tangenitally affected, the politicians and blowhards pontificating about how we are all changed forever. I’m not talking about the real grief of those who lost loved ones, I’m talking about the obscene way that the day has been spun and abused and turned into a sentimental touchstone. I hate it. Luckily I don’t watch much television, so I missed most of the worst of it.

September 13 was my brother Patrick’s birthday, and he was killed on the 27th,  so September is always a tricky month around here. But so far, it’s been okay this year. I have a dear friend who just lost his love after a valiant fight with pancreatic cancer and watching him go through this makes it clear to me how far I’ve come. I’m out of that tunnel, the one where all you can hear is the thrum of your own pain and disbelief, like a loud heartbeat whooshing in your ears. One of my oldest friends lost her two older sisters and her father in a plane wreck when she was thirteen — it took her decades to come to terms with it and I remember last summer, she said she was on a pack trip with a bunch of girlfriends and realized it was her sister’s birthday. She told me how nice it was to remember the day without being torn apart by it, and that’s how I felt this year. I miss him every day, but it is an enormous relief to have arrived at the 13th this year and find that it was okay. It was a day. I missed my brother as always, but it wasn’t the icicle to the heart that it’s been in years past.

And then David Foster Wallace killed himself. I’ve found myself the past few days surfing Google reader, looking for anything I could find about this. I feel a little weird writing about it because I didn’t study with him, I didn’t know him personally, and I didn’t love his work the way many did. In a way, being as sad as I have been about this the last few days feels like the false sentiment that so upsets me each year about the blort of 9/11 commemoration. Throughout those years in graduate school when I was writing my novel, my relationship with David Foster Wallace’s work was one of false opposition. I found myself in a writing program that was obsessed with literary fashion, one where everyone was chasing David Foster Wallace’s tail. Although I didn’t want to write like David Foster Wallace, I admired the way he seemed to be doggedly creating his own aesthetic, writing as if digging a tunnel through language and grammar itself toward that chimera of postmodernism, the Truth — truth he sought even as, it seemed, he couldn’t quite bring himself to believe it existed. For all the surface pyrotechnics of his work, there was always a big tender heart there, it was postmodernism with soul.

And yet, it ends with a rope around the neck, his wife coming home to that terrible sight, the outpouring of tributes to his artistic genius and personal sweetness. It ends with a lot of bewilderment, and his brokenhearted father telling the New York times that the meds had stopped working, he’d been in and out of the hospital for the last year or so, they’d tried ECT and it hadn’t worked. I lived with a lot of depressives in my life, including my beloved Patrick, and it’s a terrible disease. It turns the minute-by-minute experience of living into an ongoing, relentless crisis. I think of all the things I’ve learned in these last few days about David Foster Wallace that’s the one that really breaks my heart. That he lived for as long as he did in that kind of pain. That he created the astonishingly inventive books that he did. Like Virginia Woolf, the point is not that they were both mentally ill, but that despite their struggles with mental illness they managed to create books that changed the landscape in which the rest of us write.

While I’ve managed to get through this month of anniversaries in reasonably good shape, I think the reason I’ve been so obsessed with David Foster Wallace’s death, aside from the general sorrow when someone dies who has changed the landscape of the medium in which you’re trying to work, is that the most difficult thing for me to get through about Patrick’s death was the role depression played. Patrick had been fighting a fierce battle in the months before he died, a battle that was waged minute by minute. I’d been doing what I could, but as anyone who has lived with someone who is stuck in that hole will tell you, there is very little you can do.  Whether Patrick’s death was an accident or an act of impulse, it was depression that led to him driving his truck off that embankment that night. Sweet, big-hearted, talented people can be hollowed out — I suppose that’s why I’ve been so obsessed with Wallace’s death. It’s not just that death itself is incomprehensible on a personal level — that the people we love can just disappear — but then there’s this other thing — this dark cloud that can steal the people we love away from us right before our eyes. That nothing we do can help. That we can’t help someone we love who is in terrible pain.

Add to that the general terror of the times — we’re at war, our financial markets are collapsing, and our artists are losing their will to live — it all feels very ominous. And so I do what I always do when I get the existential wobbles. I go outside and work in the garden. I pick tomatoes. I make sauce and boil jars and put up pints of tomato sauce for winter. I make something (even if it’s not a new novel). All we can do, as the Dalai Lama tells us, is to make positive effort for the good. Sometimes that feels like a very small effort, but if it can push back the darkness, then I suppose that’s the best we can hope for.

Whole Foods, Whole Lives …

Whole Foods, Whole Lives …

I’ve been thinking for days about Michael Ruhlman’s tribute to his dad — it’s just a tiny note in a really beautiful piece, but Ruhlman points out that his father died in his house, among family, and with his ex-wife by his side. We should all be so lucky, or perhaps, we should all aspire to lead the kinds of lives and build the kinds of relationships where our family and loved ones will want to be there with us for that last mile. Another dear friend just buried his beloved, last week, an incandescent woman who went far too soon, who fought to stay with her daughter with a ferocity that left us all awestruck, and who died at home, with her beautiful daughter and my friend and her sisters and brothers and her mother at her side. It is unbearably sad, but there is something real and comforting in the fact that she died like a real person, surrounded by love, and not in some sterile hospital bed hooked up to things that beeped and shrieked, that she died surrounded by people who were heartbroken, but who helped her make that crossing.

And while it might sound glib at first, I can’t help wondering whether when we all write and talk about food in the way that many of us have been these past few years, what we’re really writing about is our relationships with one another and our deep desire to connect with what is real, and elemental and whole in the world. Our primary relationship with the physical world is through what we eat and what we feed one another — do we want that to be products so mediated that they are unrecognizable, or do we want to eat and feed our loved ones food that is whole, food that comes from known sources, food that was grown and harvested by people with whom we have a relationship, even if it’s as slight as a smile across a Farmer’s Market table once a week?

For much of the late 20th century, the impulse was to outsource all unpleasantness — we removed butchers from supermarkets and hence, removed any evidence that meat came from actual animals. We removed our old people to “homes” where they are cared for by strangers. We removed our sick and ill and dying to hospitals filled with florescent lighting and beeping machinery all designed to preserve the illusion that no one need ever die. We divorced our eating habits from the seasons to the point where we’re flying grapes and oranges and flowers from Chile and Australia and Columbia and we think this is perfectly normal.

I think these things are connected. I think that a growing awareness that natural limitations are not simply challenges to be overcome by technology might be a good thing. And I can’t help but think that there is a connection between chefs like Michael Symon and Chris Cosentino insisting that we learn to honor those animals we eat by not wasting any of their parts, by reviving the old habits of husbandry and thrift, habits which are delicious when done with care — and the movement to bring our dying loved ones home, where with the help of those dedicated hospice workers we can help them through this last transition. When my youngest brother died it was in a hospital, a hospital to which in the 1970s we weren’t even allowed to visit him. He went away, we were sent to our aunt’s house, and then he was gone. It was very sanitized. It still seems unreal. I grew up in a cancer cluster so this happened over and over — and I can’t help but think that while there is nothing more traumatic than losing your mother, that my friend’s daughter will be stronger from actually having been there instead of having her mother whisked away for her “protection.”

The whole/local/SOLE food movement gets a lot of flack for being elitist, for being a yuppie affectation, for being out of touch with “real” people — in this it reminds me of the environmental and adventure sports movements in which I spent so much of my teens and 20s — but there is a deep human need to connect with the unmediated realness of the world — whether that comes by putting on boots and a waterproof jacket and getting up at five in the morning to climb a mountain peak or by building a relationship with an actual person who raises animals or grows produce for you to eat. To seek out ways to connect with the elemental forces of the physical world is a powerful drive in a culture in which we are swaddled in layer after layer of corporate mediation, and perhaps simply deciding to find out where your food comes from is a first step in reconnecting with the world.

Feeding ourselves and our loved ones is our most basic act of love. Michael Ruhlman says his father was a man who loved to be the host, who wouldn’t sit down until everyone had everything they needed, a man who took care of his family. Jim and Mari and Isabella welcomed me into their French idyll that fall when I was so heartbroken over Patrick’s death. I was still very raggedy around the edges and it was generous of them to welcome me to their little green metal table outside that farmhouse near Aix, a green table where we sat and talked and drank wine and ate delicious veal chops we bought from the local butcher (who proudly displayed a photo of the steer who now resided in the case). If what we feed ourselves and our loved ones is the most basic building block for the relationships we build, then it’s not elitist to take more care, to build a food system that relies on actual relationships between people, between people and the land, between people and the animals they raise. Because when it comes right down to it, these relationships are all we really have in this world.

Rodeo Slack

Rodeo Slack

Independence Day is a three-day event here in Livingston, and the centerpiece is the Livingston Roundup Rodeo. There are so many rodeos in this part of the country over the holiday that they call it “Cowboy Christmas” — most of these riders will do two, three or four rodeos over the weekend chasing the bonanza of prize money available that might just get them through the rest of the season. It’s easier for the rough stock riders (bucking events) to do a lot of rodeos because they don’t have to haul livestock with them — often three or four guys will hire a small plane to hop between Livingston, Red Lodge, Cody, Great Falls. But the folks who ride timed events, team roping, bulldogging, barrel racing, tie-down roping, they have to haul their horses with them, and so, many of the top competitors in the timed events show up in Livingston the day before the rodeo for the Slack Competition.

I have no idea why it’s called the Slack, but it’s my favorite part of the rodeo here. For one thing, it’s really just rodeo people in the audience, and as I said to the nice group of roper guys I wound up sort of sitting with (listening to them bitch about their wives was pretty amusing), it’s the only time I get to really watch without having to explain what the events are, or that the calves will really be all right. None of my friends here really grew up around horses, and none of the people with whom I’m going to the rodeo tonight (to hear our Sophie sing the national anthem) or on the Fourth really follow rodeo at all. To them it’s a strange, and possibly barbaric form of entertainment and a lot of them are really just there for the social scene and the fireworks afterwards.

I’ve written before about how rodeo was a thing that Patrick and I did together, and it’s always difficult to be there without him. I got a little teary sitting up in those bleachers by myself, but after a while, as I wound up surrounded by that group of ropers, as I watched the little kids running up and down the bleachers like Patrick and I did during our childhood at horse shows, as we all watched Trevor Brazil, who is leading the standings for all-around champion this year, sign a hat for one of those kids (a kid whose ears seemed to be the only thing keeping that hat above his eyes), and chat with some of the older guys in the stands, as I sat there and ate my hamburger, and had a drink, and watched a lot of very good roping, and bulldogging and then some barrel racing, well, it felt okay. The last couple of years I’ve gotten too sad, and I’ve had to leave, and it makes me mad because I really like rodeo. I’d still rather not be there by myself, but this was the first year I had a good time. It was an odd good time, but the ropers were nice, and explained to me why they don’t like roping in our arena (something about how there’s not enough room, and when they push the calves out of the chute they tend to drive them over into the corner). It was companionable, and fun, and although the bucking events are spectacular, and exciting to watch in their own right, it was fun to watch the timed events, which take a whole different set of skills while surrounded by folks who don’t just think the timed events are the boring filler between the bucking events, to be surrounded by guys who frankly, would rather be out there in the arena than sitting up here in the stands.

Humpty Dumpty

Humpty Dumpty

Yesterday I took poor Gimpy Dog over to Billings to the veterinary orthopedist. Even typing that makes me feel slightly ashamed of myself — we live in a nation in which an enormous percentage of our population doesn’t even have human health care, and I’m spending how much money on orthopedic surgery for my dog? So anyhow, I was really hesitant about this whole thing — not just because of the money, but because the effect of the first surgery, which was supposed to increase his mobility had exactly the opposite effect — he fell apart entirely. But this guy is a specialist, and does a lot of orthopedic work on animals, and I figured he could give me a reasoned idea about what we were facing.

I left Owen there for about an hour or so while they took another set of xrays, and it turns out that he didn’t have the structural problems I had feared he did. His back is fine, his hips are good (one of the other docs thought his hips were arthritic), and his other knee is sound. His achilles tendon on the leg that had the knee operation is almost totally blown, and both hocks are pretty arthritic. But the vet was confident that he could fix the achilles, and that we could medicate the inflammation and pain in the hocks.

All of which was very good news. And so, I left the poor boy there and we’ll know by late this afternoon how the achilles operation went. He’ll come home with a whole external fixature device on (think the kinds of halos they use for broken necks) and we’ll go through another round of recovery and we’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed that he doesn’t blow the other achilles tendon (statistically, there’s a 50% chance).

While I’m enormously relieved that I didn’t have to put my sweet boy to sleep, I’m still not convinced that performing this kind of medical intervention on a pet is entirely warranted. Luckily, I have the money, and with any luck, this vet is a good judge of his own skills — but I wonder how fair is it to do this to an animal? I can’t explain to him what’s going on, or why we keep hurting him. All he knows is that we keep knocking him out and he wakes up with an incision, on drugs, and in this case he’ll have a device attached to his leg.

But on the other hand, I don’t have much faith in medical intervention for human beings either. I grew up in a cancer cluster in the 70s and 80s — we watched 2 kids and 2 moms in our immediate circle die long slow painful deaths, and there were probably another 6-8 peripheral people we knew who also died. When my cousin Dede was diagnosed last fall with breast cancer, her first impulse was to refuse the chemo — from what we’d seen, what good would that do? We had a long long talk on the phone, about how it was better now, how chemo actually works these days. Neither of us come from a place where our default emotional reaction is that doctors can make it better, that medical intervention actually works. I feel a little bit the same about the dog, that’s why I agreed to the operation — as I said to my mother, I can’t just kill my dog because I have no faith in medicine.

I came home from Billings absolutely exhausted yesterday. I was enormously relieved that this vet thinks he can help, and that I’ve got the money to pay for it. I was enormously relieved that I didn’t have to drive back with a crippled dog I was going to have to put down. But as emotional as this decision has been, and as much as I love my dog — I couldn’t help thinking about my one friend whose girlfriend is waging a heroic and drawn-out battle with cancer, or my other friend whose husband is currently sitting at his ex-wife’s deathbed (both, strangely enough, have pancreatic cancer) — and my heart was sore for both of them. I love my dog, and it would be a big sorrow to put him down, but it is not the same as losing a person. As tired as I was from all this, I can only imagine what they’re all going through — it’s a sad way to keep it all in perspective, but it does.

Blue Jelly

Blue Jelly

A million years ago, when I was still in graduate school and working at the bookstore in Salt Lake City, I picked up Blue Jelly by Debby Bull. I loved this book. I tried my darndest to sell it to people but for some reason, the folks who wanted Bridges of Madison Country didn’t want to buy this odd little book about a woman who cured her broken heart by canning. Here’s my favorite quote:

Canning may sound like a strange path out of the dark woods of despair, but all the other ways, from Prozac to suicide, are really hard on your body. And therapy – breathing new life into the story every week – doesn’t always help. When you’re really depressed, you have to do something that takes you out of the drama, that makes you detach from the big world and become king of a tiny, controllable world, like one of berries and Ball jars. Just because your heart is smashed, it doesn’t mean that all of your dreams will end in a big mess. Canning demonstrates this principle. You might argue that you could do other, easier things like baking. With cookies and cakes, you wind up with something you actually have to eat right now. And there are not enough steps. Canning is a whole world of a thing to do. It requires that you get out of your head. It’s a Zen thing. You have to be in the moment, paying attention. You boil and sterilize stuff, you time things, you measure and take temperatures: you create an orderly little world. Unlike what has happened to you, these steps take you to what you planned on. You become a person in a world in which things turn out the way you thought they would

Somehow, in the intervening years, I managed to lose, or sell, or give away my copy, and since the departure of the MH (which was sad, but not the sort of heartbreak that Bull went through), I’d been thinking of this book.

When Patrick died, it was my garden that saved me — I kept telling myself that depressed people don’t start gardens. And that first summer, I spent a hot hot August afternoon blanching and freezing enough chard to see me through the winter, weeping with terror because I was going to have to leave the next day for California for work and I was afraid that in the same way that Patrick disappeared overnight, somehow my life in Montana would disappear while I was gone. I told myself that my house couldn’t disappear, because I’d put up enough greens for the winter. I had food in the freezer. I’d be okay. That first year, I thought often of this odd little book, and the woman who canned her way through despair.

Last week my friend Margo came over for dinner — and she brought me a copy — turns out Debby Bull lives across the street from her, here in Livingston. I’ve never met her, although strangely enough, I’m now reasonably good friends with the man who broke her heart, who also lives here. Made re-reading the book a little weird.

It was so interesting to re-visit the book after all this time — it’s just as funny and heartbreaking as I remembered, and the recipes are terrific. So in honor of Canning Week here at LivingSmall — a nod of the head to Blue Jelly, a book that planted the seed in my head all those years ago, that tiny kernel of an idea — what about Montana?

And here I am, all these years later, living in Montana, surviving a different sort of heartbreak altogether by growing a garden, and learning to fill my pantry with pickles and jams and fruits preserved in syrup.

Close Call …

Close Call …

Monday night I got a phone call from my cousin Jason’s wife. I thought she was calling to thank me for the baby present I’d sent a few days earlier, but it turns out she was calling because my 95 year old grandmother, who lives on our farm with Jason and Jackie and my Aunt Molly and her husband had been taken to the hospital and was going in for emergency surgery.

She’s 95. Surgery is always daunting when you’re that old. She’s been pretty open the last couple of years about being ready to go … “I wish I lived in Oregon,” she told me when I called on her birthday. “Then I could just get a doctor to put me down.” My grandmother has raised horses her whole life, and considering how deaf she is now, how bad her sight has gotten, and how difficult it’s become to get around, I can see why she’d feel this way. I laughed at her — “Don’t tell Molly that,” I said. “You’ll hurt her feelings.” “Well,” she replied in her usual crabby way. “It’s true.”

So I have to say I was a little surprised to hear she’d opted for surgery. Turns out she had a perforated ulcer — Molly found her passed out on the floor of her apartment at six that morning (my grandmother has the ground floor of Molly’s house). Her choice was surgery to fix it, or to live with terrible pain and a condition that would kill her. She went for the surgery — although she went into surgery armed with all her living wills and DNR paperwork on the bedside table. Molly left her at two in the morning, after having reiterated to the hospital staff that there was, under no circumstances, to be a ventilator put in should she start to crash.

By the time Molly got to the hospital yesterday, my grandmother was out of bed, sitting up in a chair, her hair washed, all clean and tidy and looking very pleased with herself. If there’s anything she loves, it’s to be the star pupil — and there she was, older than anyone else in the little community hospital near the farm, and recovering more quickly and miraculously. We all just laughed. She’s always been the toughest bird in town.

As one does in these situations, I had a long talk with my cousin Jennifer on the phone yesterday morning. Jennifer lives in Arizona now, where she has two daughters who look so much like she did at 12 and 14 that their photos make me a little misty. I haven’t actually seen Jennifer since she was that age, and I was in college, and her mother (my grandmother’s daughter) died. Jennifer told me she is in no way ready for MommyJane to die — and I told her that although I know in my head that she’s going to — she’s so old, after all. Even MommyJane can’t live forever. But, I told Jennifer, it’s inconceivable to me — I really can’t imagine a world without her in it. She’s been our rock. She raised half of us cousins. Whenever things went weird, which they did a lot, we got sent to the farm.

And so, it was a great relief to hear that as always, she’s being remarkable. She’s astonishing everyone. She’s being MommyJane.

I went to bed early last night, exhausted from a day of family worry, and unlike the night before, when my grandmother was in surgery, I slept like a baby all night.

Meditation at Lagunitas

Meditation at Lagunitas

All the new thinking is about loss.
In this it resembles all the old thinking.
The idea, for example, that each particular erases
the luminous clarity of a general idea. That the clown-
faced woodpecker probing the dead sculpted trunk
of that black birch is, by his presence,
some tragic falling off from a first world
of undivided light. Or the other notion that,
because there is in this world no one thing
to which the bramble of blackberry corresponds,
a word is elegy to what it signifies.
We talked about it late last night and in the voice
of my friend there was a thin wire of grief, a tone
almost querulous. After a while I understood that,
talking this way, everything dissolves: justice,
pine, hair, woman, you
and I. There was a woman
I made love to and I remembered how holding
her small shoulders in my hands sometimes,
I felt a violent wonder at her presence
like a thirst for salt, for my childhood river
with it’s island willows, silly music from the pleasure boat,
muddy places where we caught the little orange-silver fish
called pumpkinseed. It hardly had to do with her.
Longing, we say, because desire is full
of endless distances. I must have been the same to her.
But I remember so much, the way her hands dismantled bread,
the thing her father said that hurt her, what
she dreamed. There are moments when the body is as numinous
as words, days that are the good flesh continuing.
Such tenderness, those afternoons and evenings,
saying blackberry, blackberry, blackberry.

From Praise, Robert Hass, 1974