Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Lunch Poem #1- Stepping Away from the Plateau

I need to step away from the plateau;
the Cumberland Plateau with her sedimentary rock, ridge-lines and bituminous coal;
scalped of her minerals and slow to recover.
I need to escape the hive;
the neutral and muted confines of the cubicle, with her demanding computer queen.
I need a break from
the plateau, the hive, the Word documents, the PowerPoints, Excel spreadsheets;
the rigid boxes, templates and plain white spaces between too many words.
I need to get away from
the minutes, the plans, the reviews and all the itineraries
where I go nowhere.

I need to find my spear, The Eye-Beaters, Blood, Victory, Madness, Buckhead and Mercy.
I need to see the Wild Geese
and know that I don't have to be good.
I need to see everything, all at once, in the slow pouring off of rainbows,
like a Fish in a pail that refuses to lie down flat as she dies.

Lately, I've been thinking  about James Dickey and Mary Oliver.
I want to set their pages laid out, side by side and compare
his words to her words;
the Heaven of Animals to Some Questions You Might Ask.

So on my lunch break I walk from my office in my most comfortable sandal heels to the Barnes and Noble.
Atlanta is masquerading as Seattle. She is doing it all wrong though. She's a hot mess and doesn't have the right accessories-- not enough evergreen and she is missing the coast and that maritime coolness.
I don't have an umbrella.
My hair will suffer but I cannot any longer.

In the misty, wet dreary I wait
at the light on the corner of Perimeter Center Place and Perimeter Center Road.
I cross in front of hurrying mall shoppers whose turning cars are unaware of my right-of-way.
They try to run me over.
I wave with a finger as I walk by.

I cut through the landscaping framing the mall and shopping center where Barnes and Noble is the anchor.
I catch  myself on the trunk of a crepe myrtle to keep from slipping on the wet pine straw, shaking trees, creating unnecessary showers.
I wipe the dust of the crepe myrtle bark on my teal Calvin Klein shift.
I pass umbrella clutching and sidewalk-obeying shoppers.
No one will meet my eyes as I climb out from the grove of crepe myrtles;
stepping up onto the sidewalk with velvety pink petals
tangled in my hair, pasted on my arms.
Except the black man with the goatee wearing a linen tunic, also umbrella-less.
He's the only one around here for miles looking comfortable and he meets my eyes with a wink.
I return, with teeth and lips and kind eyes, a smile.

Out of the humidity and in the store I expect familiarity, a memory smell.
Once upon a time before a husband and children I use to work here.
Once upon a time, I could find any book anyone wanted.
I knew the books, the shelves, the tables and the end-caps.
I knew all the shoppers too.
Early morning was the business men and women. The jobless too. All with their lap-tops,  meetings and cafe latte grande. Hiding behind Wall Street Journals on couches, chairs and hovering at every table. If they needed anything from me it was only if we had the latest Oracle book.
Mid morning brought the mothers and their strollers for story time or really, to wreck chaos and noise throughout the store.
Mid afternoon came the ladies after tennis, there  for a Starbucks  and maybe their book club's latest Oprah pick.
And Friday nights, after the movie next door, the pageantry of prost-a-tots mismanaging their  hormones while waiting  on their chauffeurs to pick them up.
 I realize, once upon a time, I've been all these things.

But in this store I know nothing. Books are an after thought.  Instead of shelves of the numbered New York Times Best Sellers there is a wide selection of  tablets.

I look at the tablet display and remember sitting in a store meeting before we opened for the day. I am wearing tights, a short gray dress that I should not bend over in and platform shoes. I am sipping a latte, nursing shin splints  and worrying about how I will be too tired after work to finish my paper on Whitman and Dickey while the store manager spins a tale about electronic books held inside a Kindle.
Everyone one us of thought, no way.
Books, with their pages, are here to stay.

In the center of the store is a cafe. It is a bright sun. It is the major star. It has not just coffee but pastries and sandwiches too.
A fence, like one of  Saturn's rings,  holds the cafe's tables and chairs, her planets and their moons. Sitting on the moons are people with their laptops, tablets and smart phones. There are no books laying open on the planets or pages turning in the hands
of anyone sitting on any moon.
If by moon, person or star or book by page;
No one that I didn't see buy any one book.

I wander the perimeter of the store and shelves. The Fiction and Literature section, though the biggest, is rather small.
I remember vast shelves of books but these shelves I can see over their tops.
I look for the poetry books, thinking poems are literature. 
I will find out they are not.
Poems are art and art is in a different area of the store,
far from Fiction and Literature,
on the other side of the sun and her moons.

In the shelves I find Dickey but only his Deliverance. No To the White Sea or any books of his poetry.
Mary Oliver isn't here at all.
It is then I realize, maybe, poems are not fiction or literature.

I panic that there is no book of poems at all in this store.

Circling the back wall  I find the Arts.
Visual. Dramatic. Languages,
and finally,

It is a thin collection.
I see some familiars. And some notable absences.

There is O'Hara.  I pull his book off the shelf,
I remember why I am not a Painter
and realize that my lunch hour is almost over.
There is no Dickey here. I will order online.
I look over several Mary Oliver's and settle on an anthology.

The rain is heavy now, not just a mist and the day is almost done.
I see the white concrete of my office building gleam through the oak and pine branches
as I cross the street again.
I tuck Mary's book into my purse, a spear at my side.
Silently, I walk to my office and slip back into the hive.
I fold my thoughts like Arab tents
dotted along the plateau.