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Friday, May 6, 2011

Ode to a Lemon

The other day I watched Harold and Maude again. I try to see this movie every couple of years to remind me to be free. Like the way one should trip on mushrooms every year to be reminded of how it is to see the world full of childlike magic. The trees dance and the stars form patterns as they sing. Everything is beautiful.
Then you wake up the next day and go home to traffic and a sinkful of dishes.
But the ghost of that feeling lingers with me for weeks. This movie has the same effect. If you haven't seen it, will make you happy. Everyone. I will generalize-no matter who you are. When it's over you are changed imperceptibly. You see the world through Maude's eyes-even for a fleeting day or two.

By the way-if you haven't seen it skip this blog-go see it and then come back and read it.
You probably won't do that. It's your funeral-because I am about to completely spoil it for you.

It's about a boy who is deeply depressed. He goes to funerals for entertainment, his life completely devoid of joy.The movie was made in the 70's-before prozac. My God what did people do back then? Hang yourself I guess.

He meets and 80 year old woman named Maude. She is bright and beautiful. She approaches every experience without fear-full of wonder and curiosity.

They fall in love. Despite the age difference it's one of the most touching love stories I have ever seen. He begins to see the world through her eyes.
Unattached to anything-even her own life-she is free. When Harold gives her a ring she throws it in the lake.
"There!" she laughs."Now I shall always know where it is!"

Which reminds me of something Bertrand Russell said-
"It is preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, that prevents us from living freely and nobly"

Here today, gone tomorrow.
Go ahead and live. That's all you've really got.

At the end, when he is holding her hand in an ambulance as she dies, she is still joyful and unafraid.
"But I love you!" he weeps.

"Oh Harold," she smiles and grips his hand."That's wonderful! Now go and love some more."

And that's it really, isn't it? Love, love, love as fiercely as you can-and then let it go.

The combination of watching that movie again and a little red wine made me send long texts to one of my dates about the nature of universal love-breaking out of paradigms and living fearlessly.
(I read in a ladies magazine once you should never, ever send a man sappy poetry. Oops.)
But I like men who like poetry-so maybe that weeds out dull, sports obsessed cavemen.
"I don't know anything about poetry." one of them told me."It's gay."
Much of them time it is actually. Nothing is worse than bad poetry, or women who wear too much purple and call themselves poets.

But-some of it is sublime.
Pablo Neruda-the most famous Chilean poet-wrote beautiful poems. Many of them in response to the brutal dictatorship of Pinochet-people "disapearing", torture, rape--he celebrated the beauty of the ordinary. Stop to notice these small moments. They are perfect.
Art and love ultimately conquering the brutality and horrors that the world can bring.
What else is art for, anyway?

Ode To The Lemon by Pablo Neruda
From blossoms
by the moonlight,
from an
aroma of exasperated
steeped in fragrance,
drifted from the lemon tree,
and from its plantarium
lemons descended to the earth.

Tender yield!
The coasts,
the markets glowed
with light, with
unrefined gold;
we opened
two halves
of a miracle,
congealed acid
from the hemispheres
of a star,
the most intense liqueur
of nature,
unique, vivid,
born of the cool, fresh
of its fragrant house,
its acid, secret symmetry.

sliced a small
in the lemon,
the concealed apse, opened,
revealed acid stained glass,
oozed topaz,
cool architecture.

So, when you hold
the hemisphere
of a cut lemon
above your plate,
you spill
a universe of gold,
yellow goblet
of miracles,
a fragrant nipple
of the earth's breast,
a ray of light that was made fruit,
the minute fire of a planet.


  1. She walks in beauty like the night
    of cloudless climes and starry skies.
    And all that's best of dark and bright
    meet in her aspect and her eyes.

    No one calls Byron gay-- not anyone who knows what he 's talking about anyway. Poetry is a good guy screener, I would bet.

  2. Oh Fred! Thank you for reminding me that I love Byron. I think we were separated at birth :)

    Here is one for you- Blake-

    TIGER, tiger, burning bright
    In the forests of the night,
    What immortal hand or eye
    Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

    In what distant deeps or skies
    Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
    On what wings dare he aspire?
    What the hand dare seize the fire?

    And what shoulder and what art
    Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
    And when thy heart began to beat,
    What dread hand and what dread feet?

    What the hammer? what the chain?
    In what furnace was thy brain?
    What the anvil? What dread grasp

    When the stars threw down their spears,
    And water'd heaven with their tears,
    Did He smile His work to see?
    Did He who made the lamb make thee?

  3. Ok one more for you Fred- another famous one you have no doubt read before-but really more terrifying than any horror movie. It always gives me the chills-

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.
    Surely some revelation is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
    When a vast image out of Spritus Mundi
    Troubles my sight: somewhere in the sands of the desert.

    A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
    Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
    The darkness drops again; but now I know
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep
    were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

  4. Sunny, I wear a lot of purple and call myself a poet and Neruda is my Fahrenheit 451 book - when all the books get burned and people have to pick a book to memorize and hand on, I will be his Collected Poems. I'm packing for a trip and he's already in my carry-on. I wish I could read and enjoy him in Spanish...

  5. Zann-Me too. I have read the Collected poems twenty times at least over ten years. I wonder if we have the same copy-yellow with white words? I can't approve of the excess in purple garments but I bet --if you love Neruda--you have a good sense of language and what is good. I bet your poetry is very good-even if you wear purple or have 21 cats or wear crystals or whatever-it's excused by good writing-I think everything is:) Would you maybe send me some? That would be cool. Send it as a comment-I won't publish it unless you want me to but that way I can read it. Thanks!