I’m sitting next to a dude at Starbucks who is chewing his stale pastry like a cow put out to pasture. Cross your fingers for me that I finish this post before I take him out with my house keys.
This week’s poet was recommended to me by my friend Ladie, who is currently living in Africa, but will be moving to New York at the end of the month. Like many of my friends, she happens to be extremely pretty.
Which is useful for the purposes of this post, because I can post this picture of her and just sit back while the click rate rapidly rises.
She says that every time she reads the poem below, by Clarice Short, she wants to have a baby. I want to have a baby basically all of the time, except when I realize that bearing children requires two things: sexual relations with men and money. Acquiring either one requires a major sacrifice of time and energy that I’m usually not willing to expend unless I am under the spell of libations. Which as I mentioned above, is all of the time.
So…Clarice Short (1910-1977) was an academic, a writer and a Mormon who described herself as such: “I have lived two lives—-that of the farmer and rancher and that of the scholar. The poetry is the product of both.”
She was born in Ellinwood, Kansas, raised on the family farm in the Arkansas Ozarks, and later involved herself in the operation of her family’s ranch in the desert near Taos, New Mexico. With a B.A. and an M.A. from the University of Kansas and a Ph.D. from Cornell University, she spent thirty years teaching English at the University of Utah.
Fucking killer, right?
In my head, Clarice Short was a pioneer lady, like Elizabeth Taylor in Giant (1956), living in the midst of a sand storm in a big, old Victorian home, riding her mare like a cowboy and being loved from afar by James Dean.
Only perhaps a bit less glamorous, and a little more real. Dust-coated and cotton shift clad, living roughly off the land. Sometimes dying for water, for herself and the children she bore in a land washed dry by the black tornadoes of topsoil that blew across the desert.
A brilliant mind, the Agnes Martin of literature, a lady who could use her hands, but who also thought like a champion. My mind is running wild with imagery.
Without further ado, and because I must run to an appointment, here is Ladie’s favorite of Clarice Short’s poems, which gives both of us, collectively as we read it together over Gchat, the shivers.
When dust is where grass was,
And what was mud crazes
In bottom of water holes,
The cattle and the sheep
Can be driven to watered places;
The rooted things must stay.
I shall baptize my child
In the last trickle of water
In the ditch where the water dies
Before it reaches the corn
In hope that he may sense
How dangerous roots are.