Friday, December 26, 2014

Visiting Flannery

I visit Andalusia Farm often. I go mainly to visit Flannery, not that I am a believer in such things as ghosts or spirits or anything otherworldly like that: I am too rational a creature. Being able to solve the Sunday N.Y.Times crossword puzzle is miracle enough for me. But when I go to the farm, I always stand at her bedroom door, stare at that sorry little pillow to say hello and ask her how she is, and I always stand at that same door before I leave to say goodbye. Always. It seems we agree on so many things: the ugliness of her bedroom drapes that I hear her mother put up behind her back when she was out of town, her inability to suffer fools wisely, the driving ambition she had for her work. Flannery was a writer. I am a writer. We connect.

Of course, others might disagree on how close that connection really is. After all, I am Jewish; she was Catholic. She was a southerner with an accent so distinctive it could curl hair. I am a northerner from the heart of Manhattan who went to Brooklyn College—three hours a day on the subway. Be assured, you can't get more Yankee than that. But as I said, she was a writer. I am a writer. We connect.

Here's a poem I wrote about that connection. It was first published in Shenandoah, then anthologized twice and finally included in my latest book, The View from Saturn, LSU Press, 2014. I hope you enjoy it. I wrote the first draft while sitting on the bench across the pond, the bench you can see it from the front lawn. It was close to Easter, the middle of the day, and very hot. The floor of the surrounding forest was carpeted with trillium.

Visiting Flannery

Across the pond and up the hill
from where I sit, the lady’s house—
her room of crutches and ugly drapes,
the flat and sorry pillow. Her Royal
turned for concentration to a wall.

I come often, greet the orphaned space,
wave when I leave. But today, Good Friday,
I wonder what she’d think—this Yankee
heretic, two generations from steerage,
scribbling by her pond across from
the screened-in porch where afternoons
she’d rest, enjoying her peahens’
strut and feed. How old is too young
with so much left to do? Even the barn,
reliving her story of what happened there,
is buckled to its knees.

Suddenly, a flash from the water—
fish or frog—and I too late
to catch the shine. The Georgia sun
dizzies my head and I am no saint.
Nor was she, although there’s some
who’d unsalt the stew to make her one.
Still, I like to imagine—before the final
transfusions and the ACTH that
ballooned her face past recognition—
the two of us sitting here, watching the trees
sway upside down in sky-water, ecstatic
in the bright kingdom she refracted in a drop.

Funny how two pairs of eyes fifty years apart
make one in sight: a country pond
floats a heaven, and patches of trillium
spread their whites, laying a cloth for Easter.
She smirks. Easy imagery. We do not speak,
both knowing what won’t sustain when clouds
roar in like trouble, the trillium inching
toward water, fluttering like the unbaptized
lost, or the ghost pages of an unwritten book.

-- Poet, Alice Friman, is Professor Emerita of English and creative writing at the University of Indianapolis, and Poet-in-Residence at Georgia College & State University. She has published six full-length collections of poetry: The View from Saturn, Vinculum, The Book of the Rotten Daughter, Zoo, Inverted Fire, and Reporting from Corinth.

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