“Every lament is a love-song.”*

Many summer Sundays growing up, my family would get up at dawn, skip church, and instead head out to the beach at the Myles Standish State Forest in Carver, MA. Not just my immediate family, but a huge swath of aunts, uncles, and cousins — Mum was a Georgia girl, but Dad was born & bred in Stoughton, MA, the youngest of 8 — that side of the family is massive.

The beach opened at 8am, so we’d get there around 7:30 — which meant we’d have to leave home around 6:30 — and park on the side of the road in the long line that had already formed. Then we’d wander up & down the length of cars, looking for our cousins to play with while we waited. As 8 approached, we’d all scurry back to our cars, willing our folks to hurry up and park. Whichever family cohorts parked first would commandeer a bunch of picnic tables to put together.

We came equipped with table cloths, paper plates, mugs, & plasticware; ropes to tie to the pines and hang our wet towels on; gas stoves for making tea & coffee and cooking bacon & eggs; my cousin Dianne always brought Dunkin’ Donuts; and of course hot dogs and hamburgers and chips. There were two big boxes of provisions at the house that were never unpacked, only added to.

First in, last out. The sun would be setting, we’d have changed out of our bathing suits into long pants and sweatshirts, and still not want to leave, climbing the empty  life guard chairs to avoid the clouds of black flies. But the beach closed at 8pm, so eventually we’d have to go.

But it wasn’t time to separate from the larger family, not yet. First, we drove to  Erickson’s, a roadside ice cream stand in Carver, not too far from the beach. My childhood tasted like banana ice cream — was there ever a sweeter end to a summer day?

It’s been eleven weeks since Mum died. The more days that pass without her, the emptier they feel. My southern mother loved the summer, loved the heat, the beach, even though she never learned to swim. She’d wade out to about mid-thigh, and then sit in the water for a while. That was enough for her.

The raw anguish and outrage has burned out to a dull and ragged ache. Things happen, good things, and I’m happy. I can be happy. But I feel the lack of her only more every day. If a happy thing falls** in the forest but I have no mother to tell it to, does it really happen?

The longer she’s gone, the harder it is to pretend she’s not — we’d have spoken, seen each other, so many times by now. I can accept the awful wrongness of it all, say, Yes, my mother is dead. But still my heart protests: it is awful, it is wrong. Sorrow is no longer the islands but the sea.*

* from Lament for a Son, by Nicholas Wolterstorff

** from “Duino Elegies: The Tenth Elegy,” by Rainer Maria Rilke

Sum-sum-summertime!

It’s official, and clinging to these new summer days is that summery languor, that eh, whatever, it can wait feeling. But I truly have done more than read novels and dip my toes in the kiddie pool, ensconced in my gestational cocoon — I have indeed read a lot of novels, but I had catching up to do! For a while I was reading nothing but poetry, and it’s mighty difficult to be a bookseller on a poetry-only diet.

But if you observed the several piles of books on the end table beside me, you’d see that, still, 90% of them are poetry-related. No photo, uh-uh, they’re far too ungainly and embarrassing, my piles of books. But I assure you it’s true. A few of the titles I’m leisurely reading: Colosseum, by Katie Ford; cloudlife, by Stefanie Marlis; Structure & Surprise: Engaging Poetic Turns, by Michael Theune; Things are Disappearing Here, by Kate Northrup; and Return to Calm, by Jacques Réda, translated by Aaron Prevots. So you can see I am not neglecting poetry.

I must confess that I also read an advanced copy of Elizabeth McCracken’s upcoming book, An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination, which is a memoir. A quote:

A child dies in this book: a baby. A baby is stillborn. You don’t have to tell me how sad that is: it happened to me and my husband, our baby, a son.

It’s a heart-rending book, and probably not the best reading choice for me at this time, but McCracken is an exquisite writer.

This is also the season for fall/winter frontlist orders for the bookshop, so I’ve been on major catalog duty also. There are definitely some exciting books coming up, but for the life of me I can’t remember what they are — I order them, and then promptly forget all about them — unless I read an advanced reader’s copy, that is. I’ll try to post some forthcoming poetry titles when I get the chance.

I’ve been productive in my own work as well. This weekend I reorganized my chapbook, removing some poems, adding others, fine-tuning its arc, and now it’s off to a new batch of contests. May it find more luck in this incarnation! And there’s a new poem, which is turning out to be rather long-ish, that I’m drafting. I’m trying not to be too fierce with my editing scissors this go-around, let it flesh out and see what happens.

And lastly, but most importantly, I’ve been swept up in keeping the supply of sweet tea abundant enough to meet the very high demand! I’ll tell you, it’s very hard to find a decent glass of iced tea around here unless you make it yourself. Even with all the great coffeehouses about. They just get all frou-frou with it and muck it up. Or they simply don’t know what they’re doing.

Last week I despaired that maybe I’d gone “off” iced tea, the way pregnancy makes me go “off” pasta and hamburgers. One glass I bought tasted sour. The next, from another place, tasted like cigars. Seriously. That one I didn’t finish. And then the next one, which came sweet, tasted cloying and suspiciously citrusy.

The perfect iced tea is sweet and strong, and not herbal — and if you add lemon you should be fined, or at the very least strongly chastised. Thank goodness I had a fresh batch at home, which was perfect and perfectly reassuring.

A Lost Week.

“My heart beat thick.”

I think that’s the correct quote. It’s from Jane Eyre, and I’ve never forgotten it (quite) due to Dr. Heineman’s professorial diligence back in 1990, her vehement attention to a writer’s very particular choice. (From her I also learned the proper pronunciation of “vehement” and “awry.”)

All respect to Jane, but my heart beats thick every day these days. Between the heat and the pregnancy, air feels hard to come by. And time. How did it get to be Saturday already? I don’t think I accomplished a single thing of note all week. Except for the ultrasound. And I did read Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart (which I loved, marvelously inventive, then began Inkspell a little while ago. I have an advance reading copy of the final installment of the trilogy, Inkdeath, which is why I began it — I hate to wait, I try not to begin series until all the books are available. Harry Potter is the only exception. Well, George R. R. Martin is too, but he tricked me by splitting his previous book in half…) And I also found what I hope is the perfect Father’s Day gift for Lance.

Oh, apparently there are those who were under the impression that this ultrasound would tell us the sex of our baby. You are mistaken. This is a first trimester ultrasound, undertaken because I am of “advanced maternal age” purely to check on the well-being of said baby, whose sex, at 12 weeks, is still a mystery. It’ll be another 6 weeks for that. But while the official results won’t be out until sometime next week, everything does appear to be just fine. Baby wriggled around like a healthy little tadpole, and we all squealed at the monitor.

Then we left the air-conditioned health center and wheezed in the heat. Or was that just me?

The beast awakes.

It’s so hot in this third floor apartment that when Lance went in to check on Vincent napping, he discovered that Vincent had moved from the bed to the floor, presumably because the pine floors felt cooler to his little body. I snuck in to take a picture (we have a small album of the peculiar places where Vincent likes to sleep) and while I got the photo, I unfortunately woke him up at the same time. Alas.

Vincent awakens on the floor.