Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Notes from far away

When you've had a peripatetic childhood and have had to leave many friends, the ones you make as an adult are so dear to you that you wish you could just buy a gigantic apartment complex in a fabulous city and offer everybody a place to live rent-free, so you could see them every day. I suppose that's no different than people who have lived in one spot their entire lives -- everybody wants to keep their friends close. But when you've moved a lot, you always have the feeling that saying goodbye might mean goodbye for years and years, or forever. And when that turns out to not be true -- when your friend who left for points elsewhere comes through town, or you go visit -- you feel like everything in the world just clicked into place.

The next best thing to having a visit is having a letter. And I mean an old-fashioned, hand-written, post-office-clearing, stamp-needing letter. There is nothing like a Good Mail Day when you can't see someone you miss in person. Email, texts, Facebook messages just don't compare. And calls, while nice, feel like an approximation of the real thing, what with the delays and static and stilted way people talk on the phone. I would have never thought to trade letters with anyone if it had not been for my lovely friend Tallie, a far-away mail art artist who is great all around. Her most recent letter was in response to my quandary of being hungry all the time. Her suggestion: add meat bits to beany stews. She is so smart. I will try this and report back.

On the back of the envelope is Meat, an eerie and wonderful poem by August Kleinzahler, that makes me think of the way food production was industrialized many, many years ago, and how we're just now shaking off the constraints of that system. It starts...

How much meat moves
Into the city each night
The decks of its bridges tremble
In the liquefaction of sodium light
And the moon a chemical orange

That opening gives me shivers. And the moon a chemical orange. I don't think I'll ever look at the orange autumn moon the same way.

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