April Dreams: a Story & Two Poems

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST

iTunes

Spotify

Anchor.fm

 

One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.  Goethe

 

The bleachers were full and folks were talking but I didn’t hear a sound. They got up to join their teams. I had a boat oar shaped like a wooden spoon, tall as me. I wouldn’t be joining the other teams. I was headed out to the water with my friend, who had an oar like mine.

Never was one for the water. I love water, don’t get me wrong. But I don’t like being out in it or on it for any extended time. I have a healthy regard for water. It was strange that I would be heading out to row, to be on the crew team.

I figured wrong. My friend and I were welcomed by a boat captain, his face unshaven, eyes dark. Out on the boat we could see a break in the distance, a strip of land maybe or a flotilla, moored in the shallows.

“Is this as fast as it goes?” I asked. The captain’s eyes narrowed. The bow lifted out of the water and we were half way to the break when I looked back at him, worried he wouldn’t make the turn. He cut hard left and my friend fell out, thrown really. I can see the arc of her body, like a swan dive, out and away from us. The water was a great rolling hill of a wave and swallowed her whole.

I was in the water too, but close to the boat.  The captain reached down to help me up and asked about my friend who hadn’t surfaced.

“Ah. Don’t worry about her,” I told him. “She’s a swimmer.”

 

*

Things were fuzzy. Clock said 6:50 AM and my bedroom was quiet like the bleachers. My friend and I had talked last night, before she showed up in this dream. It was her birthday last week and we chatted. She’s an April baby, born in the month of poetry. If you forget, look around. The world is bursting forth in song: the forsythia with its yellow fingers reaching up from winter’s crypt. The hand-sized magnolia blossoms. A fountain of pink weeping cherry petals. Green poking out on tree branches. Beaded maple leaves unfurling.

The friend of my dream was born ready, paddle in hand. She’s a swimmer; she knows how to swim. Not surprising for me to be hanging near the boat, unsure where my oar was. My friend, meanwhile, taking a swan dive. But you have to go under when you do.

This month, I’ve noticed a peculiar habit of mine. I’ve taken to stowing poetry in odd places. Billy Collin’s Nine Horses (2002)  is in the door well of my car. Under the console parking brake, I have the poet Mary Oliver’s Devotions (2017). In my purse I carry a 1973 bilingual edition of Pablo Neruda’s Love Poems. I can fit it in a zip wallet.

It’s pocket poetry, at the ready, in case of emergency. It’s there, where I can reach out and touch it and I don’t need anything but a minute to rescue me from the mundane, the sordid, the spectacle and the suffering that is life. A paddle for when I’m up the creek or a life preserver for when I get thrown from the boat.

My friend Nan lost her mom this week. She said the hospital allowed one visitor each day because of the pandemic. A kind nurse let her two siblings visit her mom while she snuck into a room next door. Another nurse demanded to know why she was in the staff room.

Unwilling or unable to argue, she said softly, “My mother is dying.”

She was close to her mom and at the end of our phone call she said, “It’s hard to think I will never talk with her again.”

When my own mother stopped by my house the next morning, she looked frail. All 93 pounds of her. I watched as she walked in, slumped and slow. I kissed her cheek.

Such are the times in our lives, sandwiched between youth and age. Children and parents.

 

 

Yoel Hoffmann compiled the extraordinary poems of Haiku Poets and Zen Monks, uttered on the verge of death. They are strangely comforting, in the way that walking in the cemetery can be. Visiting my father’s grave and looking at the names of others who once breathed and walked, somehow makes living more urgent and vibrant. Here is one Zen Monk’s final utterance, translated to English.

 

 

The Jisei of Zen Monk Musho Josho, written at age of 73 in 1306

 

Mary Oliver writes of the ocean and I will close with one of her poems which I discovered in the collection I keep by the parking brake in the car.  From her 2012 anthology, A Thousand Mornings. It seems fitting after my dream.

 

THE POET COMPARES HUMAN NATURE TO THE OCEAN FROM WHICH WE CAME

by Mary Oliver

The sea can do craziness, it can do smooth,
it can lie down like silk breathing
or toss havoc shoreward; it can give

gifts and withhold all; it can rise, ebb, froth
like an incoming frenzy of fountains, or it can
sweet-talk entirely. As I can too,

and so, no doubt, can you, and you.

 

 

Over 200 poems from her first to her latest volumes          Link to book.

 

 

FUN FACT

Mary Oliver is a winner of the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Her work is inspired by nature.

For centuries as part of Japanese tradition, Zen Monks and Haiku Poets would recite or write jisei— a death poem– at the moment of their passing.

 

April Fool’s Day – Answer

The Answer to the last post about Two Truths & a Lie, if you guessed correctly, was all three! The hint  was in the example about Korean Romance in which all 3 were true, and the 3 facts about Whistler in the caption which were true.

If you guessed the story about Ortiz and Lewis as the lie, you would also be right. That story was told to me by one of my soldiers and is likely true though I spun the details for readers. Those who guessed at the names Fred Ortiz & Oggie Lewis would recognize the F-O-O-L as the lie. Happy April!

Two possible correct answers. Ha Ha from the biggest fool of all,

April Phools

Apr 26, 2021

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

About the Author

Mylinh Shattan is a writer who has lived on three continents, served in the Army, worked in corporate America, and taught in college. She loves adventures, in the world and in the mind. Literature is relevant and learning is a lifelong pursuit, so you might as well have a bit of fun along the way.

Stay Up to Date

Become a better reader and writer today and try the TreeHouseLetter for free. Always learning with a bit of fun.

Latest Posts

What Music Teaches Us About Writing

7 Min read The Music in Prose Creative Writing Forum, West Point Sentence rhythm, Beryl Markham and David Foster Wallace Writer's Toolbox, Improve writing immediately * I met with the Creative Writing Forum at West Point to discuss what music can teach us about...

The New Words Are In, Merriam-Webster Dictionary

2 Min read 13 New words Late to Coffee with a Baker's dozen * New words are in. And, 370 words have been added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary this September. You likely know many and below are some of my favorites. The editors break them down by category, but I...

Reading for Foodies

5 Min read 2 Book recs, memoir and craft Improve writing immediately AVAILABLE IN PODCAST Spotify iTunes * "Buy me five, ten, okay? That's 50, make it a 100," my mother says, leaving a Ben Franklin on the counter with two packs of TJ's peanut butter cups.* I order the...

Bringing Writers and Readers Together: Why I Write

2 Min read Short Take Creative process For writers and readers AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes * Maybe the better way to think of this letter is, why you read TreeHouseLetter. For me, it's about why I write. Which, are two sides of the same coin. I updated my site...

“Old Age is Not for the Young”*

6 Min read 2 Book recs, by elderly writers Serial comma 10,000-hour-rule Explicit language, 13 to 103 AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes * If you believe 10,000 hours of practice will help achieve mastery, say, on the violin or as a volleyball player, then the...

Books I Love

5 Min read 17 Books, 19.5 including mentions in footnotes Genres: Memoir, Essays, Fiction, Writing, Love, Poetry, War Toolbox, Texture in writing Contemporary and classic books from the top of my stacks, my more current reading. * The most common question I get is,...

What Book Would You Take to a Desert Island?

7 Min read 2 Book recs Film rec Article abstract, on Virtue and Vice* Toolbox, Improve writing, ages 9 to 99 AVAILABLE IN PODCAST Spotify iTunes * What book would you take to a desert island? I didn't know and hadn't given it much thought until Saturday when I told my...

Topics

Become a better reader and writer today and try the TreeHouseLetter for free. Always learning with a bit of fun.