I wonder if the longstanding tradition of morning cleansing of marble steps at the front door in many inner city neighborhoods of Baltimore has survived the stresses of two-income families or single-parent households? Who knows when it started or in how many other locales it’s also practiced. This has been a custom of row houses, connected to each other – blue-collar communities, in fact – and not of detached suburban housing. And that makes the foremost difference.
These poems consider what women do and preserve – though not always exclusively. Yes, I’ve known women who bale hay or decipher monastic manuscripts, and I’ll also admit men can know nothing of bearing children or nursing. Yet, somehow, many women seem most at home around the kitchen, even if it’s nothing more than a teacup or a picnic. Even her garden, should she be so inclined, seems to extend from that table or the alchemy of her oven. And that goes for flowers, as well as vegetables and berries. (Remember, though: not all mothers and daughters can stand to be in the same kitchen at the same time, though they both be masterful cooks.)
Looking back on Baltimore, I remember my next-door neighbor, each morning in season watering the black locusts between our houses and the street. Maybe she did her stoop, as well. But the trees, which seemed to have always been there, were beautiful and timeless, as if spreading their own table.
I could imagine myself an orchestral conductor, but there are many things that must be trusted to the players themselves. Something like Rubato, within a musical phrase, comes to mind. And then, in a flash, it’s passed. Reflect on that with these poems.
Matters of what’s stolen in the course of a life – time, affection, even a glimpse – give flexibility to the rhythm of these poems. In music, the technique’s called Rubato. Blame the Italians, if you will, though I won’t go there in this collection.
All along, I’ve felt a ping of guilt when taking time to write poetry or fiction. As if I’ve been stealing from others, even when I was living alone. Rubato, in Italian, means theft, although in music it’s applied as a way of making a phrase more flexible and ultimately sensual. And here it enters, as a dimension of my life journey.
What, then, is honest and what comes across as fake in a deep desire for love and affirmation?
I’ll let these poems sing and shout and lament on their own. I’ve somehow survived their transitions.