Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Grace Paley is Still Making Connections


Lately, everything I’ve been writing about is about spectral connections - the connections we living people experience with the people we love who have passed. It started when I was swimming at the pool at Maryland. I saw my sister. I wrote a poem. The Master Poet told me, “Whenever,” that is an important word for the beginning of the poem as though she might reappear. Each time you might focus on some different aspect of her - her eyes, a scar. So it began. The poems about seeing my dead sister.

And it has expanded. I have a poem in mind about the man who built and lived in our house. Sometimes I wake in the middle of the night and he is sitting on the couch smoking a cigar and drinking brandy or cognac. He never speaks to me, but I walk naked from my bed and I smell the sweet cigar and the bitterness of the alcohol and I look at him, sometimes naked too, sometimes in an old white terry robe - the kind that I want to have but don’t. We don’t speak. I try to quietly return to my bed in his bedroom. I want him to enjoy that smoke, that drink. Sometimes, he pets my cat.

Now today, all of the connections made by Grace Paley. She died shortly after I left Vermont, yet it is like she is still bringing us together. Us - those who have work to do to make the world better. It began with an obituary for the special issue of off our backs that I am editing. An artist in Vermont. A writer in Oregon. Some photographs. Some photographs from Tillie Olsen’s family. It extends out, further and further. Like she is reminding us to engage in the world, to find one another as though we might continue her work.

I need to call Merry. I need to tell her that Grace says we are to put together a special issue of oob on Women’s Friendships. I’m tired tonight and trying to gather my strength to celebrate a new year. To make my amends for the past year and enter the new one with a fresh slate. Grace calls, though. I will answer.


1 comment:

Merry Gangemi said...

I too, have the gift of connections to my family and friends who have left this planet, perhaps to a place I will never see. But isn't it that way? The preciousness of life passing through our minds like water running downhill to the rivers, to the lakes, to the seas.

Grace Paley has given us memories of women known and unknown, of women abandoned and blessed; memories of love and the touching of love ..."frail fullness disappearing/ deliciousness offered ...."

I have organized a memorial reading for Grace Paley. It will take place on Sunday, October 7th, at 3pm in the chapel of Vermont College, Montpelier. Cora Brooks will be there,David Budbill, Phyllis Larrabee, Susan Thomas, Jim Schley, Jody Gladding, Ellen Bryant Voigt, Major Jackson, Barbara Sorenson, Samn Stockwell, and me. Bread & Puppet will come if they can. And Grace. Grace Paley will be there, listening and laughing and crying with all of us.

Julie, you should do this special issue of OOB. Goy you, for Grace, for all of us.

Thank you.