Archive for the ‘on writing’ Category

But what does she look like?   1 comment

Our guests had ever seen a night-bloomer before.  A priest, a musician, a landscape architect, an arborist, a young writer and more all crowded around and were amazed. “I’d never be able to draw this,” said David. I’ve had difficulty trying to describe this  flower. Think of the Hindu goddess Shakti with multiple arms curving from her supple torso.  Think of a long slender arm, a foot long, but curved like a saxophone, wearing a skin-tight white glove. The hand opens to many tapered fingers of white silk. Where the palm would be, a smooth white tunnel recedes to infinity. It’s fringed with 16 silken threads , harp strings strung fiber to fiber and curved in semi-circle. Within the arc of stamens a most unusual stigma, the snout of a sea creature? A spider-like figure with legs at odd angles. This is the world her pollinator might enter, crawl around in, becoming enmeshed.  A hummingbird, if it flew at night, could get entirely lost within.  We bystanders were certainly ensnared. Sally brought a lovely bottle of wine, the palest of roses that matched the shade of that indefinable area where Blanca’s bud transforms into blossom. Where does the bud leave off and the flower begin? Which part is neck , and which is face?

But none of this works. To bring Blanca’s beauty before your eyes I would have to take it further,  and avoid anthropomorphism altogether. In Mark Doty’s recent prose work The Art of Description, he reads closely four poems about sunflowers by William Blake, Alan Shapiro, Allen Ginsberg, and Tracy Jo Barnwell. Each takes the commonly recognizable image and transforms it into something entirely new.  Doty writes, “They’re self-portraits, at least in the sense of portraying some aspect of the speaker’s psyche, and they manage to be true to sunflowers, too…” Here at this latitude, I’m not so sure my description is true to the night bloomer, if I would even dare link my meager efforts here with those of a finish poem.  Sure most of us could easily call to mind an image of a sunflower, but not so with the night-bloomer.  What’s more, my mid-Atlantic vantage point may see her differently from those who grew up with Epiphylum oxypetalum  right in their own backyard.

Finally, think of a lotus blossom floating not on a pad in pool of water, but through darkest night.  Better yet, what do you think she looks like?

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Posted September 18, 2010 by Canio's in botany, environment, on writing

Jean Follain’s Birthday   Leave a comment

In another nod to coincidence, simultaneity, anniversaries, Sunday, August 29 is the birthday of French prose poet Jean Follian. He would have been107. Follain was born in Canisy, in Normandy in 1903; he died in Paris on March 10, 1971. A powerful influence in my early days of poetry study, Follain’s work was brought back to me while musing about Blanca, one of those quirks of association. What a beautiful birthday present her blooming would make for Monsieur Follain, her flowers  full of the promise of poetry.

Here is a prose poem I opened to at random from his collection, A World Rich in Anniversaries with translations by Mary Feeney and William Matthews

“This plant, so exceptional since its flower never lasts more than a few hours, broke into blossom on a morning the garden’s owners weren’t at home.  With its speckled petals, it bends in the breeze like so many other more common flowers.  There’s a terrible sweetness to everything.  A colony of armored insects, old gold, has moved into a shaded corner.  Nearby, people hurry up and down steps.  A hand stops on the rail of an oaken stairway; every minute falls.  At six in the evening, the flower will be withered, the horizon will begin to grow pale, a group of girls will start to sing with no weakness or shame. “

Posted August 23, 2010 by Canio's in on writing

Stop Time   Leave a comment

Robert’s watch has always run a bit fast, about five minutes. Lately it’s been expediting, running twelve hours, 24 ahead of where we are in this time zone, Eastern, daylight saving. I pull the stem out and stop its relentless race forward. I set the watch, a Perry Ellis with Roman numerals, black leather strap in a ceramic dish and wait a day until the time and date catch up, meridians matched. We recalibrate. That’s how Robert lived, worried there wasn’t enough time, running too fast, moving too far ahead of himself. So he died too soon, five minutes before midnight.

Blanca is another kind of time clock. The white face of her blooms mark a kind of midnight or noon of her day when meridians line up and the elaborate flowers punctuate a kind of urgency. Procreate. Pollinate. Propagate.

“The creative process is overcoming the doubt,” one young novelist recently said. Robert worked against the clock, rising early before his day job to write chapters of DeKooning’s Bicycle. A year after it was published, he died.  Yet it’s one way he’s still around. His words on the page. His voice still audible.

I’ve not yet seen the fruits of the night-bloomer. Apparently they are edible but take almost a year to ripen! Such a rare fruit must taste very sweet, yet I read they can sometimes taste bitter. All that waiting.  They are said to be reddish or yellow, or even green. Elusive flesh.

Still Blanca keeps trying. Perhaps one day a seed will set,  an “egg” will take within her ovary. And once that fruit begins to swell, she will begin to die. Her work completed.

Posted August 23, 2010 by Canio's in about time, on writing, Uncategorized

An August Advent   2 comments

Blanca is laden,  a lady awaiting, full with buds. Thirteen now hale and hardy measure three inches long. We count them daily, wishing  each one will succeed,  reach fruition. We’ve begun to speculate about her due date.  Nine more days,  guessing the rate-of-growth per day, which brings us to the 27th, an old friend’s birthday, a date that still resonates after all these years.  Anniversaries. See more at Jean Follain’s poetry collection: A World Rich in Anniversaries, something I read in grad school, too long ago.

So we are engaged, watching the weather, fussing around her, planning again. This could be a momentous inflorescence.  There’s a sense of gathering forces, Blanca’s third effort this season to reproduce. Where are the creatures, moths, bats, that would pollinate her flowers? Is this why she keeps producing?

Already the tentacles of circumstance are stretching. Which are the events, the people who will be drawn together with this blooming? We have a busy schedule of events at the bookshop next weekend. We’re making the most of the end of  summer season. Is Blanca doing the same? Is this her last pregnancy before Dormition? We count the days, and wait.

“The fineness of things gives the universe nobility.” ~ Jean Follain

Posted August 18, 2010 by Canio's in bud watch, on writing

In the midst   4 comments

Sometime in the midst of that torrential downpour mid-last week, short-lived, but intense, we lost the three-inch bud on the cutting. It wasn’t likely to last, but the effort of that portion of the plant, cut too early, to reproduce, is impressive. It’s something like the reverse of remembered limb syndrome…Here the amputated part may “remember” the whole body of the plant. Or the cutting is so full of the life-force regardless of its connection to the mother plant that it stretches forward, no matter what.

Blanca blooms in the midst of whatever’s going on in our life. Last week I estimated she’d bloom tonight, Thursday, and I considered transporting her to a friend’s dinner in Noyac, or of inviting that dinner party to transplant itself around Blanca in Bay Point.  But the bud was lengthening more rapidly. I thought she might bloom on Wednesday when the kids would be visiting. How lovely, I thought, for them to see it. But it’s a late night kind of affair, and these are little ones, ages 4, 7 and 9…Would she captivate them? What appears like rapid blooming to adults may be just a slow, boring expanse of white to a child up too late past her bedtime. Those questions weren’t to be answered as the bud was growing at slightly more than one inch per day. She would bloom not on Thursday for the dinner party, nor on Wednesday for the nieces and nephew’s visit, but she would bloom on Tuesday, for the writing students.

This summer’s writing workshop is titled “The Single Effect”, what Edgar Allen Poe meant by calling for every element of a short story to contribute to the “single effect” of the work on the reader. Here was Blanca, pouring her heart out into this one single flower that remained on the plant just now. Every effort of her soaking up water and nutrients would spread into that glorious flower that would open on the night of our third class meeting.  So a last minute pizza- and- wine supper was hastily arranged. “It’s like a birth,” said one.  We sat around the table with our slices chatting excitedly, then we’d step outside, wine glasses in hand, where Blanca would be quietly dilating. It was a cool evening, the moon a waning gibbous, one singular white orb in the sky pulling at one white flower on the deck, in singular harmony, and the students like petals around the center.

Posted July 29, 2010 by Canio's in on writing