Today seemed like the right day to wallow in what is possibly my favorite song of all time: Majesty Snowbird by Sufjan Stevens. I saw it performed live in Philadelphia back in 2006 by a colorfully winged Sufjan and I fell in love. Like, I want to walk down the aisle to this song performed by a full orchestra. I don’t think it has ever been released, various live versions float around the internet.
Some lines I love:
Is it the right word you designed for me?
Is it the broken word or good advice I need?
Is the tapestry set beneath my wings?
Is it mysterious, glorious?
Don’t stop, don’t break
You can delight because you have a place.
Quiet room, I need you now.
I spent a really blissful “sick day” last week at the Wheaton Park. It was one of those brilliant autumn afternoons and, I figured, the last day I could show off my new broad-brimmed sun hat I bought on sale in the city. Armed with only my hat, a tissuey scarf, and a collection of poems by Gerard Manley Hopkins, I treaded through the botanical gardens with the elderly couples and new mothers before escaping to a bench on the little dark pond to read.
Hopkins was the perfect choice for the dying light of fall — he has this view of the world that is both very dark and very lovely. Drawn his whole life to acetic self-denial, his relationship with God seems to bring him more pain than anything else. His verse, written with what he calls “sprung rhythm,” indeed is wound up tight and just waiting to leap off the page. It betrays a rebellious energy he harnesses in meter, as though Hopkins himself is afraid of what his unleashed words can reveal.
My favorite Hopkins poem is “Spring and Fall,” about a little girl who feels sad in autumn. She feels the way I did as a child, drawn to inanimate objects and at times inexplicably and profoundly heartbroken for them: “Leaves, like things of man, you/with your fresh thoughts care for, can you?” He argues that “sorrow’s springs are the same,” namely our own mortality. Not a happy poem, but a pretty one that just begs to be read aloud:
|Spring and Fall
|to a young child|
|MÁRGARÉT, áre you gríeving|
|Over Goldengrove unleaving?|
|Leáves, líke the things of man, you|
|With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?|
|Áh! ás the heart grows older||5|
|It will come to such sights colder|
|By and by, nor spare a sigh|
|Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;|
|And yet you wíll weep and know why.|
|Now no matter, child, the name:||10|
|Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.|
|Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed|
|What heart heard of, ghost guessed:|
|It ís the blight man was born for,|
|It is Margaret you mourn for.|
Kanye West’s 2010 album “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” changed my life, for reasons I will not go into now. One of the strongest songs on the album is “Power” (no pun intended). There’s one line in particular that is just magic to me:
“My childlike creativity, purity, and honesty is honestly being crowded by these grown thoughts.”
It reads almost like chiasmus with the reversal in the middle. I love the way the line is literally crowded at the beginning with an abundance of syllables, slackening up as we get to “grown thoughts.” Just a lovely piece of writing.
Of course listening to “Power” always has me humming, as I drive home, my other favorite line: “At the end of the day, goddammit I’m killin this shit.”
I yelled “Hey Handsome” at Victor out the window
and immediately felt like I was cheating on you.
But it’s only Victor,
whose vague Eastern European accent we find affected
whose charade of wearing pink pumps with his three-piece suit
shut down Human Resources that whole Tuesday morning.
And it’s only you, handsome in your own European way
but not as handsome as your boyfriend
who is not as handsome as mine.
Yelling at Victor from a Honda is not how I thought we’d end up
you and me
but we’ve protested
and we’ve sung hymns on hard benches
and I’m running out of ways to love you.
After sitting in traffic through Annapolis for what felt like years, I was so happy to finally reach the Eastern Shore this past Friday. It might be my absolute favorite feeling in the world: crossing the Bay Bridge and suddenly finding myself surrounded by green fields and water and sky. Small brick churches dot the landscape, along with white clapboard farmhouses tucked in little oak groves off the highway. I like to imagine a Faulkner or Steinbeck tome springing up from each tiny family graveyard on each plot of land, though thejuxtaposition of my whirring engine and the peace I’m passing by so fast is always somewhat unsettling.
This is my ultimate liminal space, neither here nor there, where I unwind my city thoughts and look forward to the peace of home. It is a limbo of sorts, as familiar as a friend but never a destination. Being home is comfortable, leaving home is hard, but getting home is truly delicious.