Saturday, October 15, 2016

True Grit; Standard plumbing; Servants



Note:  left to right:

Union Jack flag
Two Trump flags
Illuminated 'Back the Badge' sign in yard
American flag
Don't Tread on Me flag
and not shown ~
sign in the front yard - 'Hillary for prison' 


Midnight in Paris, great movie, great music

If it comes on in the middle, roll bar back to start.


Standard Plumbing

Plumbing supply places, like auto parts stores,
 have long counters with bar stools
 for the customers. When I came in, the
man behind the counter was telling a story
 about the time he
and his friends had decided to celebrate
 getting home from
Vietnam and had bought a lot of Scotch
 and given one bottle to
a wino who drank half of it all at once
and dropped dead.
Then the man, with Walter stitched on his shirt,
asked what he could do for me and I told him
I had come to buy a toilet, the
cheapest, most basic toilet they had.
 He wanted to know if I
was putting it in one of my apartments or something
and I said
no, it was for my own house and I was,
oddly enough, buying a toilet for the first time
because we were installing indoor
plumbing. The other houses I’d lived in
had always come with
toilets and I’d never given much thought
to choosing one,
though today I’d kind of decided I wanted
bone, not white. So,
in the process of getting the bowl
and the tank and the seat and
some pipes and gaskets from the warehouse,
we got to talking
about our outhouses and he allowed as how
the one he had in Florida
when he was kid in the fifties
hadn’t been all that
bad, except for the bugs and sometimes
a snake, and we both
agreed that there are times out there
when you see things from
an unusual vantage, for instance:
that view of the night sky in
winter is unparalleled.

"Standard Plumbing" by Marie Harris, from
  Weasel in the Turkey Pen.
© Hanging Loose Press, 1993

The reading of the above - Standard Plumbing - 
reminded me  of something  on the general topic  
I wrote in 1980:

Orduration by moonlight

I am sitting on a chrome kitchen chair
from which I've removed the seat.
I've wound rags around the metal
so that my bare skin will not stick to the chrome,  
remembering once when I was a child
that I made the adhesive mistake of touching
my lower lip to the bare cold steel of my sled.

I am sitting on this chair that I've carried from 
the cabin
into the snowy back yard because it is winter and
the indoor plumbing has been discontinued 
for the season.

I have just arrived in the woods after driving the 
230 miles from Milwaukee after work 
to spend another contemplative
weekend out of the city, out of the polluted air
away from the struggling masses, an army to which
I unwillingly belong.
This is the place that refreshes my spirit
and offers sanctuary.

Tonight I am especially struck by the profound silence
in the woods.  It is always quiet here, but now,
in the middle of the night with no sounds on the road
and no wind, I can hear nothing but the pulse in my ears
and the little unwinding, clicking sounds of my close-by
cooling VW engine.
 A distant owl sounds its call.  Because there is 
nothing else,it is clarion.  

I look up.  The sweeping sky is cloudless and full of stars.
Lacking the inverted bowl of city gases
this northern crystal vantage offers
a clear look into the heavens.
The Milky Way shines overhead like
a loose band of sparkling diamonds.

From piney horizon to piney horizon
there are bright gems against back velvet.

In the east, through the woods
I see a quartering moon on the rise.
It furnishes enough reflected light for me
to note a row of forming icicles 
from melting snow on the sloping back roof.
Some of them will reach the ground.
I know that soon, after the blaze I have set
in the pot-belly stove spreads its heat.
There will be additional configurations
and occasional dripping sounds will issue
outside my bedroom window tonight
as I sleep.

About four inches of fresh snow are on the roof.

To my left stands what is left of an outhouse.
The deceased homesteaders who built it
couldn't have guessed that the rough boards
they nailed there would interest a sojourner
sufficiently, years later, to bring a careful pinch bar
to the by-then frail repository.
The dissembled outhouse is now the paneling
in the living room of the cabin.

It was a promotion for wood that faithfully 
stood a rude watch long enough.  Wood that
sustained the weathering of the years,
coats and coats of dissimilar paints
and the apparently frequent shotgun blasts
of passing hunter fools.

It all shows graphically and beautifully,
the wrenching history, the B-B shot marks,
the gradual mouldering,
the time spent out here in the back yard
with a lean-to and a shed.
Now the noble slats hold forth in a milieu
where people still read
and do things of a more pleasant nature.
The outhouse had paid its dues.

I sit listening.  The wind has commenced since
I chose my random spot to tarry.
Snow from the branches of some near-by pines
is dislodged and I hear it land with a whoof.

Some particles drift toward me.
I feel them as they land on my bare thighs and face.
I open my mouth and taste the flakes.   Purity.
Time passes.

Standing, I prepare to leave my starry observatory,
chair in hand.

The owl repeats its interrogatory:  WHOOOO?
It seems a more insistent question at this closer range,
and a good one, too.
Along with what and where and why and how.

All questions I have pondered 
and will continue to mull here 
in the northern clearer land.

[dzd 1980]



In college I read about Virginia Woolf and Edith Wharton
and I thought of their great minds and their long dresses
and their gilded friendships which involved tea
in the library or on the lawn. I thought of the places
they traveled and the weight of their trunks
and all the ways their marriages did or did not
please them. I thought of the dogs that followed
at their heels and the rooms and gardens they
decorated and the beaches where they
carried umbrellas. But I never once thought of
their servants. I didn’t think of the cook who
woke up to make the fires of morning or the maids
who stood over a pot of hot soap, stirring the day.
I did not think of how someone dressed them
and scrubbed their floors, how someone
brought their dinner on a tray. It was years before
I knew they had them at all: invisible, unremembered,
people who gave their lives to drudgery. Now I
can barely write or finish a book for all the housework
and errands, now I think of them: knocking dust
from the curtains, carrying the rugs outside
each spring so they could beat them with a broom.

"Servants" by Faith Shearin from Telling the Bees. © Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2015