Tuesday, April 05, 2011

looking over my shoulder

I sit on the roof terrace as smug as the Norman conqueror.

The garden is mine; the roof is the territory of the upstairs renters.  A line as clear as the one Mason and Dixon drew 250 years ago.

But, for a month, there are no other renters.  And I am not one to let a temptation pass without at least a taste.  So, I altered my evening routine by storming the roof -- I could have been a Chinese soldier on the Spratlys.

The world is different up here.

My garden is the realm of dwarfs.  Shadows and good solid dirt.

The roof is the kingdom of elves.  Light.  Tree tops.  Wide open spaces. Where the world is yours for the looking.

I managed to get up here just in time to see one of our Spring sunsets -- more abscess yellow than colorful.  Without clouds as a backdrop, the sun sets behind the western hills with as much charm as Leona Helmsley.  All celebrity.  No stage.


But there is more to the evening than sunsets.  Sounds take on a brilliance of their own at this height. 

A group of young boys joyously wreak havoc on an ever-pulpifying cardboard box.

A wizard's black coven cloud of grackles race by at rooftop level -- hoping speed and numbers will protect them from the evening's raptors.

Followed by another flock of much smaller birds I have never been able to identify.  But their massed wing noise startles me each evening on the malecon as they rush home.

And always the ever-present percussion of the ocean fisting the steep shore.  Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield duking it out to an eternal draw.

All of it -- the birds, the boys, the beach -- weave a perfect tapestry for my evening's reading.  I am in the midst of Billy Collins's latest collections of poems.  Ballistics.

It could not be a more perfect night for poetry.  Those of you who have been been reading this blog for any time know that I am very fond of the work of Billy Collins.

He knows his craft.  How to take a sauté pan filled with notions and reduce them to the essence of daily existence.  Lines of poetry capable of piercing the heart, pinging the brain, or tickling the funny bone -- sometimes simultaneously.

Let me give you a brief example. 

In August in Paris, he sets the mood by looking over the shoulder of an artist to see what he is painting.  He then ponders why he cannot similarly see his readers looking over his shoulder as he jots in his notebook.

But every time I turn around
you have fled through a crease in the air
to a quiet room where the shutters are closed
against the heat of the afternoon,
where there is only the sound of your breathing
and every so often, the turning of a page.

As I read those lines on the roof terrace, my thoughts turn to you -- my readers.  And I wonder what your day has been like.  Whether you saw the red ball on the neighbor's lawn.  Or heard the children laughing.

And just what we would talk about if I turned around to see you there -- catching you just as you tried to disguise the rolling of your eyes.


Cheri Clark said...

You, too, are a poet. I love reading your "stuff." How's that for poetry?

Irene said...

"--catching you just as you tried to disguise the rolling of your eyes."

Busted! But I did like your description of the roof as the kingdom of elves.

Steve Cotton said...

I am always a sucker for the shaggy dog tale/

Steve Cotton said...

Thank you very much. "Stuff" is the very essence of our souls.

Steve Cotton said...

It is a great spot up there. Just the place for a bit of poetry -- eyes rolling or not.

ANM said...

What means the rolling of my eyes,
as I your writing analyze?
Am I making criticism,
or merely noting witticism?
Either way you've done your art
by making sleeping mind to start.
Burma Shave


LeslieLimon said...

A very beautiful post! :)

The past two days have been very hectic for me. Thankfully, I have my children's laughter, smiles and hugs to remind me that there is always something good in each day! :)

Steve Cotton said...

Thanks. And nice use of weaving the children's laughter from the post to your life. That is why we do all of this. I think.

Mic said...

Today started with snow...huge flakes falling softly down all around from a gray sky. I drew open all the living room window drapes - most of the wall on two sides - so I could feel like I was out in it without getting cold. Snow turned to rain in the afternoon - then back to snow this evening. Everything outside is fresh & white again. Spring might arrive before next month.

Your rooftop perch for poetry reading sounds delightful :-)

Steve Cotton said...

I love the look of snow. I just don't like life in the snow. Remind me I said that when I am awash in sweat in a month or two.