are you thirsty yet?

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I read this poem over more than a few times, being surprised by it again and again. Wanting to offer something small, delicious and sweet to someone during a busy afternoon, I sent the poem to someone in need of such a thing.

The sound of Catherine Wheel‘s “Delicious” doesn’t quite go with the flow of the poem. The imagery of the lyrics certainly does, though, which I suppose is why, for the second time in a week I thought of Catherine Wheel after many years of almost never thinking of them.

“You eat, you sleep, you breathe something delicious
You spill, you grip, you squeeze something delicious
You peel, you strip, you bleed something delicious”

Beyond which, Edwin Morgan, the poet, dedicated Glaswegian that he was, deserves to be everywhere.

The Apple’s Song
Edwin Morgan
Tap me with your finger,
rub me with your sleeve,
hold me, sniff me, peel me
curling round and round
till I burst out white and cold
from my tight red coat
and tingle in your palm

as if I’d melt and breathe
a living pomander
waiting for the minute
of joy when you lift me
to your mouth and crush me
and in taste and fragrance
I race through your head
in my dizzy dissolve.

I sit in the bowl
in my cool corner
and watch you as you pass
smoothing your apron.
Are you thirsty yet?
My eyes are shining.

Angle of Repose

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“You yearned backward a good part of your life, and that produced another sort of Doppler Effect. Even while you paid attention to what you must do today and tomorrow, you heard the receding sound of what you had relinquished.”

“Routine work, that best of all anodynes which the twentieth century has tried its best to deprive itself of—that is what I most want.”

Angle of Repose, Wallace Stegner

I have no idea why I started reading Angle of Repose, but I am not sure that any book I’ve read recently captured so perfectly that sense of wishing I could breathe life into my own late grandparents’ stories (or the stories of anyone who has left this life)… longing to bring all the details I never thought to ask to life again, to recreate their individual histories and the story they built together. To have, or at least imagine, all the answers to questions I never thought to ask. This history lost to time, as it is in all families. I was quite unexpectedly moved by this quite long book.

“My grandparents had to live their way out of one world and into another, or into several others, making new out of old the way corals live their reef upward. I am on my grandparents’ side. I believe in Time, as they did, and in the life chronological rather than in the life existential. We live in time and through it, we build our huts in its ruins, or used to, and we cannot afford all these abandonings.”

Perhaps the best of books do this to us – we don’t know what to expect going in, and we are constantly surprised, even when what we are confronted with is quite simple, but beautiful. Angle of Repose is certainly both, the richly historical fiction of the American West coupled with two rather tragic but unsentimental stories (one from the past, one in the present, which was, at the time of the book’s publication, the early 1970s.