Sunday, March 02, 2008

Of Coyotes & Dogs, Teachers & Students, Youth & Age

Since the dam broke on New Year’s Day, the lake near where I find myself staying has mostly turned to mud, and is turning to dirt. Last night, twice, with their prey dwindling, I heard the coyotes closer to the house than ever before, yipping and yapping and baying in the dark. In the yard at the edge of the woods, the two sweet dogs, Ginger and Jazz, stood and barked into the darkness; Jazz, the black lab, even began to howl. Last night, as the dogs shivered and barked, I stood in the darkness myself for a while, listening until the silence. I wondered what I would do if the coyotes, much bigger and hungrier than the dogs, actually came into the yard.

One night earlier in February, to change the subject, I had a perhaps less primal experience: one of those blocks of time that make me glad I decided to, whenever I can, share my thoughts and answer questions. I was guest lecturer at a two-and-a-half-hour creative writing class for a dozen or so students at Trinity Valley Community College in Athens. I read a few poems and discussed the 10 elements of creative expression, then read another poem and a couple of short prose pieces – lots off serious stuff and some laughs. The group voluntarily gave up its mid-class break to spend the whole time in the discussion, and a couple of the students stayed in the room talking until we had to leave because the next class was starting. I sold a dozen chapbooks, which is secondary to the experience. (Being both nice and mentally focused for two and a half hours tired me out.)

My favorite pizza place in East Texas, to change the subject again, closed, because the owner wasn’t making enough money to keep the location open and because she had to have surgery. It was mostly a take-out place, open from about 4-8 p.m., with only two tables. Once a week or so, I would sit at one of the tables with a Dallas paper and read whatever interested me while I ate a really fine cheese pizza and talked with whichever of the young women worked that night. (A few days ago, in the local weekly newspaper, bored, I read the high school lunch menu which reminded me of my own school days which reminded me how young those young women, those girls becoming women, really are.) Talking to them, and to the ones like them, helps keep me young. My first, faint memory is of sitting on a stool in the City Café, which my father owned for a while, and asking for a hamburger. The owners of the building eventually divided the City Café into two parts; one of them became, many years later, the pizza place.

My birthday looms at the end of March. I believe I may spend it, at least the hours late into the evening, wandering through the minds of my six muses and exploring the many interior landscapes, the sharp edges and dreams, the created realities like Henry Moore sculptures.

I wonder if good art really imitates life, or whether good art irritates life.