Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.

8.30.2012

All Drunks Think They Can Sing

What I really like is jazz, especially old songs: "The Haunted Heart"
Or anything on the lips of Nina Simone, songs that should
Make you sad but don't because they're simply exposing
The lyrical side of pain.  You can't live without pain.
That would be like living without music.

I finally got around to buying this book: The Book of What Remains by Benjamin Alire Saenz.  I've been meaning to ever since I first read it, but have been waiting for it to show up at Half-price Books during one of my random visits or otherwise stumble on it cheaply.  But yesterday I decided to buy it outright and make sure the author gets full royalties for my purchase.

Mostly we talk to ourselves
Except that we need someone else in the room so it will seem
As though we're having a conversation instead of a monologue.

I was reminded of it most recently by a friend's blog post, from her reading of his most recent teen book: Beautiful Words.  Follow the link; it's a very short, quick read, but--as advertised--has a beautiful little quote.  Then come back here, of course, and finish with this.

Who wants to live without music?
No music equals no dancing.  No dancing equals no sex.  No
Sex equals--you see exactly where I'm going with this.

When I read that post I decided to check out this book again.  I opened it when I had a moment to kill and randomly started reading.  I once again fell in love with it, that random page I started reading.  The quotes in italics you've been reading are from it, and I have it waiting for you in full at the bottom of this post.  It's worth reading in its entirety.

One thing I've learned: all drunks think they can sing.
Why is that?  Even my father hummed to himself when
he was drunk.  That was a long time ago.  When he got sober,
The songs on his lips dried up and wilted.  His brother,
My uncle Willie, liked to whistle.  I thought he was at least
As good as a bird--though I'm no expert.  That fact that
My uncle Willie whistled all the time didn't mean
He was happy.  He was happy only when he was drunk.  My mom
Used to sing as she worked.  Now, she was happy.  There is no
Logic to this.  She worked and worked and worked.  And yet,
There she was: singing and listening to those old Mexican songs
On the radio.  I have no explanation for her kind of happiness.

I first encountered the author through another of his teen books, Last Night I Sang to the Monster.  My review of it was pretty simple: "My new favorite book and one of the best I've read. Anything else I can think to say seems trivial. Just wow."  I've mentioned it previously on this blog a number of times, particularly in this post, which shares quite a few quotes from it in its second half.

I really do hate Joseph McCarthy.  You think hating him
Does any good?  Hating him is like my uncle Willie's whistling--
It doesn't make you happy.

After I read that first one, I decided to read this book.  I shared a long poem from it in this post: Oof.  It was soon after my own divorce and really hit home.  Of the whole book, it was the one that most resonated at the time and the one I wanted to share: "What I Have to Sing About."  Reading it will be a long detour, so you might want to wait until after finishing this post to follow the link; but follow it, I do advise.  It moved me.

Since I haven't shared it here before, my review of the book:

"My reason for recommending this is the same reason I’m not sure I’m qualified to recommend it: it’s the first book of poetry I’ve ever voluntarily read cover to cover. I’m certainly not anti-poetry and really enjoy evocative language that has rhythmic and aesthetic qualities—poetic language, if you will—but long chunks of ongoing poetry piled on top of one another just generally don’t do it for me. I was delighted when this one did.

"Perhaps one of the things I liked was that, for poetry, it’s almost prosaic. Often poetry seems to me to be about language first and content second, but in this I very clearly felt the language was just the tool being used in the service of what it was saying. Very conversational, at times organically stream-of-consciousness-ish, but with a non-linear, connected circularity that belies any attempts to call it random. Saenz’s writing is intimately personal and confessional, giving voice to raw pain and anger, although themes like politics and place and race keep showing up as they inform his identity, and there is a sense of connecting his particular struggles to a greater humanity. The overarching theme is finding the fragile, struggling, harsh life and defiant beauty in the desert, which serves as a metaphor on many levels, particularly that of his damaged psyche."

Meditation on Living in the Desert

 

No. 2

 

I love the sand, the heat, the arid nights.

I am in love with plants that can survive the droughts.

I am also in love with air-conditioning.

I refuse to recycle.

I am helping to make the entire world into a desert.

I live in the desert. I want everyone else to live in one, too.

When all the trees have disappeared, we can all read Robert Frost poems and feel sad.



But, of course, there's a reason I've invited you here today, and that's to read a different poem, the one that moved me yesterday, the one that gives this post its title, the one I've quoted extensively above.  It starts on the right side of the first image and continues through the next two.  Click on the images to enlarge them for easy reading.






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