Wednesday, December 31, 2008


This is an experiment. It's snowing again; I'm thinking how much I'm frightened by driving in snow, and how all the poets in my life, and most of the people I love, are a car ride or a plane ride or a train ride away.

(A ferry ride, some of them, and I wonder what it would be like to cross Long Island Sound on a ferry with snow falling into those gray-green waves. Every time I look at the inkblot of a storm on the weather map--where the snow often changes to rain once it's out to sea, which is grey or white changing to green in the color language of the map--I think of fat white wet flakes landing and disappearing on each swell.)

All my adulthood I've wanted a village in which everyone important to me lives either next door or across the common: family, friends, fellow poets, fellow teachers, past students, heroes and heroines, living, gone, all of us somehow close by. Picnics. Spontaneous parades. One night, all of us gather between the trees to look at Jupiter and a thin slice of moon, setting.

Three things resemble that, for me:

One is the body of my poetry, which exists because I discovered that words could hold in the light people from whom I was distant, and times.

The second virtual village is my teaching life, in which, for example, with my students' help, Sarah George Bagley and Henry David Thoreau and Abby Kelley Foster can all come to life together, and speak to us.

The third is this screen on which my words appear, on which the words of others appear, magically, so that conversations can happen that would not have happened, and often hold meanings that wouldn't have emerged any other way.

Electrons don't have the taste real stuff does; they taste sort of tinny; it feels like you should take them out of your mouth and put in bread with pesto, or chocolate, or anything else. But I am getting so I can ignore that, the same way we all ignore the fact that words aren't things. My grandson Abe was so young when he agreed that "horse" could be the word, or the horse, or a picture of a horse. All of them could gallop effectively.

So maybe the word "village" can be the buildings, or the voices, or the electron pictures of the voices, or any conjuring of a group of people who--this is the crucial part--listen to each other, in any way.