Saturday, 8 June 2013

Sestina | Elizabeth Bishop

September rain falls on the house.
In the failing light, the old grandmother
sits in the kitchen with the child
beside the Little Marvel Stove,
reading the jokes from the almanac,
laughing and talking to hide her tears.

She thinks that her equinoctial tears
and the rain that beats on the roof of the house
were both foretold by the almanac,
but only known to a grandmother.
The iron kettle sings on the stove.
She cuts some bread and says to the child,

It's time for tea now; but the child
is watching the teakettle's small hard tears
dance like mad on the hot black stove,
the way the rain must dance on the house.
Tidying up, the old grandmother
hangs up the clever almanac

on its string. Birdlike, the almanac
hovers half open above the child,
hovers above the old grandmother
and her teacup full of dark brown tears.
She shivers and says she thinks the house
feels chilly, and puts more wood in the stove.

It was to be, says the Marvel Stove.
I know what I know, says the almanac.
With crayons the child draws a rigid house
and a winding pathway. Then the child
puts in a man with buttons like tears
and shows it proudly to the grandmother.

But secretly, while the grandmother
busies herself about the stove,
the little moons fall down like tears
from between the pages of the almanac
into the flower bed the child
has carefully placed in the front of the house.

Time to plant tears, says the almanac.
The grandmother sings to the marvelous stove
and the child draws another inscrutable house. 
~ ~ ~ ~

Elizabeth Bishop was one of my favourite poets in school. This will forever be one of my favourite poems. 

This time of year always has me thinking about the past. It's Leaving Certificate time, and, like clockwork, I found myself flustered, stressed and anxious just as, oddly enough, I read by chance that the Leaving Certificate had begun back home. In-built.

So ingrained in my psyche is that process; the exams, the anticipation, the implications for the future and your self esteem and prospects, that I don't think I'll ever feel my usual self once June rolls around. It's inescapable.  I went to the infamous Institute of Education for my final year of school, where everyone around you either wants medicine or veterinary studies or physio, studies 60 hours a week and goes out every Thursday night, working through their sleep-deprived hangovers on Friday. 

It was such an intense experience, the usual rush of hormones and emotions, teenagers reaching the end of puberty and becoming grown ups, hangovers and eating disorders and 'relationships' and friendships all tinged with the intensity of that brief period in life that is being 17, 18, 19. Nothing ever feels so significant afterwards.

As I sit here in a dorm room in this weird foreign country where I don't understand anything that's said to me, I wonder about the person I was that year. She'd never believe you if you told her she'd be in Denmark doing wood work now, that all those hours of sacrificing going outside in the sunshine for studying history notes in the pink dining room, two degrees and a whole lot of aspirations, would really end up being pushed to one side in search of something more important. 

It's funny, the choices we make, how things change, how I don't for a second regret not taking an unpaid internship and staying in London. I'm here now, the weather is beautiful, the quality of life is amazing, and I'm going to cycle over to my school now where Leo has finished competing in a carpentry competition and there's a barbecue.

And I'm sure I'll be able to understand Danish eventually. I wouldn't change my life for anything.

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