Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Meeting with the Devil

My to-do list is disgustingly large. The undone chores range from the imminent like bill-paying (the gas and electric people probably think I have died) to the esoteric, such as getting my mitts on a novel by this year’s Nobel Prize winner in literature, Mario Vargas Llosa, of whom I have shockingly never heard despite his being regarded for decades as “one of the world’s greatest and most adventurous writers,” according to my newspaper. I’m a Philistine.

So anyway, the to-do list is long. If I don’t dust pretty soon, all my little tchotchkes will turn into fossils. I still haven’t put away the Christmas stocking holders I bought on sale last December (I may as well leave them up now since it’s nearly Christmas anyway). And I think I’m growing enough penicillin in the far reaches of the refrigerator to inoculate most of the Third World.

That makes me think of Monkey Man’s Sunday 160 challenge, which requires you to write something of great literary value using only 160 characters and spaces. Here’s my effort, an acrostic poem:

Dust adorns your set of tchotchkes
United by its ridiculous paucity of value
Someday your grandchildren will not be
Thrilled to inherit its archaeological zilch.

But back to what I was doing with my time yesterday. Was I marking off anything on my to-do list? Nooo. I was outside on the patio grooming the cooperative Cecile Brunner rose that I’d been so beastly with earlier this week. That put me in such a Zen state that I moved on to the 20-foot-long Banks rose hedge that lines the rest of the patio fencing. I decided to untangle all three interwoven bushes, thin out the dead stuff, and then re-weave the canes into a nice lacy network of Banks roses. (*** See note below.)

Dear hubby came outside and asked, “Do you realize you’re pruning shrubbery at 10 o’clock at night?” No, I said, I had no idea it was that late. So I put down the pruning shears and went to our bedroom to scrub my hands. There, I realized that cleaning the double-sink vanity was on my to-do list, so I started scrubbing the sinks. Dear hubby, who was by then climbing into bed, said, “Why are you cleaning house at 10 o’clock at night?”

I thought, “He’s really hung up on that 10 o’clock at night business.” What I said was “I’m not cleaning house. I’m just doing a quick wipe-down here. I’ll be done in a flash” and I went on scrubbing. No time like the present, and all that. When I got out the water bottle and the rag to clean the mirrors, dear hubby made a groaning sound and stated the obvious: “Now you’re cleaning the mirrors!” I wiped much faster and said, “Look. See? I’m just about done.”

Dear hubby’s good-night ritual was a little grumpy last night. But I felt wonderful anyway. I got to scratch an item off my to-do list, and also scratch off another big chore once I added “Prune the Banks rose” to the list. That’s how to-do lists work: If you inadvertently do something that was not on the list to begin with, you add it to the list just so you can cross it off.

Also on my list was a poem for this week’s Poetry Bus, the Totalfeckineejit’s adventure in global poetry. He got Argent to drive this week because he’s busy basking in the glory of his debut volume of the Poetry Bus literary journal. It’s full of magnificent poetry by poets all over the world, and it’s practically free compared to what the Big Guns cost. Follow the link above to buy a copy of the premier issue for a paltry 6 pounds, a real steal since it's sure to become a collector’s item worth millions. At the same time you get to do your small bit to support the world’s grass-roots poetry culture.

Argent, meanwhile, instructs poets to tackle the topic of meetings if they want to hop aboard for this week’s world tour. Check out the bus riders at Argent’s Delusions of Adequacy blog. I met the challenge with a poem about meeting the dark side of the force.

Dancing with the Devil

The devil comes to me as I walk down a rocky trail
beside a small stream the color of sweet brown tea
in a broad avenue of sycamores towering high overhead
with their gray skin peeling away from their white flesh
and their russet leaves fluttering down like butterflies,
where the air smells of wood and stone and decay.

He appears to me with a sound like birdsong
and immediately my feet stop in wonder against my will
for I know the devil to be the devil, not a sweet sound,
yet I halt and listen. He takes shape, the form of a man
out for a country walk, a fellow seeker of the quiet
earth, and he hails me with a gentle call, naming me.

I know the devil knows my name but his voice is soft
as fleece against my ears, and against my will I turn
and wait for him to catch me on the trail, this prince
of darkness whose countenance is friendly, so damn glad
to see me in this solitary place: Why here? I wonder
that he should accost me in broad daylight, in serenity.

I know him and know he bodes me ill but momentarily
my arm rises with a will of its own to greet him
like an old friend happily found on the trail I walk.
My hand reaches out to him against my will to clasp
his hand reaching out to me, and it is powerfully strong,
his grasp, warm and muscular, with great endearment.

He draws me in against my will with one arm out
to encircle me as if we are equally welcoming,
equally glad to meet one another on this path,
which has turned suddenly cold, bitterly cold and
forbiddingly silent, and the only warmth is in his arms
one dropping to my waist and one grasping my hand.

We begin slowly with unconscious melody to dance
delicately there on the trail surrounded by sycamores
reaching to heaven and boulders buried in earth’s depths.
We dance, the devil and I, against my will, in a lazy
little box step, nothing fancy but intriguingly warm
as icicles grow crystalline on sycamore twigs.

We dance although I know he bodes me ill
and against my will I like it. I melt into his arms
with one hand on his shoulder and one hand clasped
in his, and his soft endearing voice whispers Why not?
as we dance. The leaves crackle in the cold
and the sound of ice swallows my scream.

(***Sunday morning: I checked out my handiwork with the Banks rose hedge after last night's pruning interruptus. The "nice lacy network" of interwoven rose canes that I envisioned in the dark looks in fact like a bomb exploded in the hedge, spewing chaotic branches everywhere. My to-do list just got a little longer.)


Grandma Yellow Hair said...

What a great post. So glad I stopped by here this morning and read this.
How funny I could just picture you putting down the shears only to end up in the bathroom cleaning.
Oh how most of us can relate.
Thanks for sharing

Brian Miller said...

oh i really like your bus poem...delicious dance....your 160, you even used big words, that make me have to go look things and it is nice to get something off the to do list, no matter what time it is ...but good job look out for world health growing that panicilin...smiles.

Jinksy said...

Not often the Devil comes in such a friendly guise! Thanks for an entertaining post which ends by flourishing a worthy bus ticket.

the walking man said...

So winter is the devil? I have to agree. So you danced with the devil ergo this winter is yours, even though the sufferer is to be me/.

Andrew said...

Oh yes, I know about dancing with the devil.

The last stanza says it all for me.

Karen said...

Wow! (Now wasn't that an articulate reaction? - but it's real.)This has me thinking: I have met the devil and he is me.

Lyn said...

Wow -- pruning AND a clean bathroom AND a poem. I would say that you had a very productive day! And I agree -- that's how "to do" lists go.

Woman in a Window said...

Argh, I don't have time to read the poem. ARgh, ARGH! Gotta go to work. But your preamble had me roaring, your prepoem too, "archaeological zilch".

I'll come back later.


Mona said...

True, sometimes the children are not exactly thrilled at what they inherit!

Llosa's books are not available here. I wonder if they will get some copies in the bookshop soon!

The Bug said...

See? He's really sneaky that way! Get out of there!

On another matter - I love the conversations you have with your husband - so similar to the ones I have with mine. Why, washing my face in preparation for bed perks me right up & I'm ready to handle any number of tasks!

Rachel Fox said...

Enchanting! Suitable enough.

Dianne said...

Sounds like hubby was jealous of the shrubbery. Monty Python understands.
Hubby also knows what I know, the dance with the devil is a one way trip.

Magpie said...

Wow...I feel this way about chocolate.

PattiKen said...

Oh, my, a dance with the devil on a country lane. You did a terrific job with the images and feelings. I was there.

Good luck with dusting your tchotchkes. I can relate. One year I left my Christmas Tree up so long, it became a decorating feature, and I had to dust it.

Monkey Man said...

This is one blog packed to the gills. Love the new photo. Great 160 and your poetry is magnificent as unsual. Thanks for playing, Chris.

TechnoBabe said...

I'm still laughing. "Now you're cleaning the mirror". Duh, really???
And you were so kind. My hubby likes the night time rituals too, read in bed half hour, hugs and kisses, and then he can zone out. If I stay up a little later it ruins his schedule. Ha.

Argent said...

I could not stop reading your bus poem, it drew me right in. You have such a light touch and yet you conjure up such clear images - I, too, was there. You had me howling at your to-do list antics and your cold-light-of-day reaction to the pruning!

Carolina Linthead said...

I really like the poem, with the repetitive "against my will" juxtaposed with the reality of being drawn deeper and deeper in, until...

Victoria said...

Love your acrostic. When my dear 90year old mom passes away no one will see me for months!

Bimbimbie said...

Looking in from Monkey Man

Tchotchkes ... now I know I have some of those too - lovely 160

and swooning over your dance with the devil*!*

Karen said...

Love your new header, by the way.

e said...

"Against my will," that repetitive phrase will echo in my head til sleep displaces its timbre with the stuff of dreams...

exploded hedges??? Sounds like another peom in the offing. Be well, Chris.

Magpie said...

I guess I missed the point entirely of the poem because I thought it was about addiction...that's what it said to me. That's why I said it reminded me of how I feel about chocolate. :) Maybe that's why poetry is so wonderful. It can say different things to different people. Great job, Chris!

the watercats said...

This poem is intense!.. Love it! I could smell, hear, feel everything.. seriously cool poem.. oh, and happy rose taming ;-)

Kim A. said...

You and I are on the same wavelength again. I also understand the to-do list philosophy--my list is a forever evolving creature that doesn't mind my ordered chaos!

Have a good Monday.


Syd said...

I have some of that obsessiveness in me as well. When I am on a roll with something I want to continue it, no matter what the time. I have been known to mess with computer stuff (not blogging) until 4 AM. I know that Devil too.

Peter Goulding said...

I'm just wondering if, with a bit of shuffling about, you could turn that into a really powerful sestina. This is something special, Chris...

Jess Mistress of Mischief said...

Sometimes the persistant hissing rhythm of the devils dance obsesses in my head...and I dance a step or two before I find the slippery slope and must seek desperately the perfect partner who can always cut in with grace!

young-eclectic-encounters said...

This is difinately a post I can relate to. My to-do list and my search for peace are often at odds-playing tug of war with my soul. I too have found myself doing that which needs to be done but has not yet made it to my to-do list at 10 o'clock at night and than adding it to my to-do list just so I can scratch it off. Thanks so much for sharing. This reminds me of the quote 'We are all more alike than we are different'
Johnina :^A

Mama Zen said...

And, the devil is waving my to do list!

Carrie Burtt said...

A to-do-list,can be kind of like just never really ends...:-)
But one the the things on my to-do-list is to read your blog....just love it! And love your new header photo! :-)

NanU said...

Wonderfully scary poem, Oak. I especially like the end, where the sweet kittens on the sidebar are visible as you're reading. Or are those evil kittens?
The roses will grow again. A bad haircut is always temporary. Thing is, it was fun!

crownring said...

Magnificent new blog photo and poem! As for the devil, wind him up in pruned rose canes and let him suffer for a change!


Georgina Dollface said...

I recently bought myself one of those little wind-up kitchen timers in a effort to widdle away at my to-do list. I made a list of things I thought I could do in 25 minute increments, and I would just set the timer, work on a task, and when the bell rang, that was that. If the task wasn't done, I could set the timer for another 25 minutes or just give myslef permission to leave it until I had a bit more energy. Suffice it to say, it hasn't quite panned out the way I wanted it to. The timer is still sitting on top of the microwave. I wonder how long it would take me to clean that little clock?

Beautiful poem! I also loved the one about your cat looking out the window! - G

RNSANE said...

I am sure the devil would be the only one to ask me to dance these days and it would be a pretty slow number. What a great poem.

Totalfeckineejit said...

Beguiling in it's terrible beauty. Wow!
This would also do for the Halloween Bus!

Totalfeckineejit said...

And thanks for the plug!

MuseSwings said...

Amazingly visual poetry here! I actually cringed when the devil whispered soft as fleece in you ear

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