Wednesday, August 22, 2012

life imitating art

I have always disliked that phrase.

If done well, art should always be a reflection and clarification of life.  And a life well lived is merely art in itself.  Not imitation.

But I may need to eat those words.  With a side of salsa verde, please.

The weather in San Miguel has been absolutely matrimonial.  Tempest-tossed on one day.  And picture perfect the next.

Last Friday was about as good as a day can get.  Sunshine.  Cool.  A soft breeze.

One of those days where you look for a green garden and a slim volume of poetry to refresh the soul.

Fortunately, I had both at hand.  Babs's hidden garden.  And Billy Collins's latest collection -- Horoscopes for the Dead: Poems.

Billy had just told me about his conversation with his parents at their graves and his habit as an uber-straightener -- in his very intimate and quirky style.

And then it was Palermo.  A tale of how he and his wife foolishly left their hotel room to see the sights of Sicily in the heat of the day.  The day was so hot that nothing was moving.  Except for a squirrel.
You were looking in a shop window
but I was watching the squirrel
who now rose up on his hind legs,

and after pausing to look in all directions,
began to sing in a beautiful voice
a melancholy aria about life and death.
 The poem then focuses on the moon.
which would appear later that night
as we sat in a café
and I stood up on the table

with the encouragement of the owner
and sang for you and the others
the song the squirrel had taught me how to sing.
A smile had barely begun to form, when right on cue, I heard the voice of a four-year old girl singing a tune.  Babs's granddaughter.

She entered stage right with a decorative violin under her chin.  Singing a wordless sing about the lilt of life.

She walked over to my chair and showed me the violin.

I told her: "You know, I just read a story about a man who learned a song from a squirrel."

Without blinking, she asked: "What song?"

"I think it was the same song you were just singing.  Did you learn it from the same squirrel?"

In one moment, the poet was joined with the girl.  And not even as an imitation.  Life and art were one.

But that is true with young girls and poets.  Words are designed to reflect the joy of life. 

For one brief moment, I too could hear the singing squirrel -- but it was a duet.  Billy Collins and Babs's granddaughter singing an aria as carefree as the day was free. 

In a garden in San Miguel.


Babsofsanmiguel said...

Beautifully written........thanks.

Steve Cotton said...

Thank you for letting me live on the stage of your garden.  I think I will head out there right now.

al lanier said...

"f done well, art should always be a reflection and clarification of life. " That sounds like something Stalin would have said, something about Socialist Realism or some such. 

Steve Cotton said...

Yikes!  I have subtly slipped to the other side.  It is right up there with my other gem: "The purpose of education is to make the student a responsible citizen of the republic."

Shannon Casey said...

You are waxing a little poetic today yourself. That was a lovely story.

Steve Cotton said...

Thank you.  It was one of those poetic moments that grace our lives.

Daurel said...

Quite moving poetry of your own, ol' friend.

Steve Cotton said...

Billy Collins always puts me in a poetic frame of mind.  I hope Mrs. Metz is pleased.