soul that could melt a stone
the pioneer press headline was no exaggeration: With death of Bill Holm, Minnesota loses a piece of its soul.
holm was sensitive like robert bly and garrison keillor, but he had soul like wilson pickett -- soul for days.
the obits are praising his sharp essays, box elder bug variations, and the heart can be filled anywhere on earth. all great stuff, but i go for the poetry. three selections:
What is the pain like? says the pretty girl with the clipboard.
Like a serrated bread knife sawing at the top of the rib cage, punctuated with
sudden blows from an ax or a meat cleaver.
What the girl wanted was "not too bad" or "pretty bad", or even "bad", an
anonymous quality, sans detail, sans metaphor.
A little stoicism might have cheered her up.
Are you claustrophobic? She says with another nod at the clipboard.
Of course, I answer, Isn't everyone if they are still alive?
Can I give you something for it?
Only the lead gift in the twilight if that's what it comes to.
How do you feel, she asks, after she has slid my supine body into the tight white sarcophagus.
Like a character in a Poe story.
No, I work for Dr. Moe.
Not much lit in the med-tech course, I suppose.
Lots of people like music, she nods cheerfully.
What have you got?
Easy listening, soft rock, country...
No Mahler Ninth? No C# minor quartet?
Give me the news, I say. Ashcroft and the collapsing stock market seems about right.
It's noisy, she warns.
She has a gift for understatement.
It's like being squeezed in an airless plastic coffin dropped on the floor of a sheet metal factory
stamping out auto parts or shell casings. Irregular metallic thumping and whanging.
Only an hour left, she says after ten years.
Just lay real still. We're getting good pictures.
Not since the Middle Ages has anyone thought of a machine quite like this,
a modern rack or iron maiden to take pictures of the spine, the organs, the bones, the muscles.
Torquemada would have used it to take pictures of your opinions.
He would have offered his heretics prayer but neither easy listening nor Valium.
He thought it God's will. We think it science.
This is, I suppose, progress of a kind.
One way or another, you wind up diagnosed.
Either that or burned at the stake, another kind of diagnosis.
Wedding Poem For Schele and Phil
A marriage is risky business these days
Says some old and prudent voice inside.
We don't need twenty children anymore
To keep the family line alive,
Or gather up the hay before the rain.
No law demands respectability.
Love can arrive without certificate or cash.
History and experience both make clear
That men and women do not hear
The music of the world in the same key,
Rather rolling dissonances doomed to clash.
So what is left to justify a marriage?
Maybe only the hunch that half the world
Will ever be present in any room
With just a single pair of eyes to see it.
Whatever is invisible to one
Is to the other an enormous golden lion
Calm and sleeping in the easy chair.
After many years, if things go right
Both lion and emptiness are always there;
The one never true without the other.
But the dark secret of the ones long married,
A pleasure never mentioned to the young,
Is the sweet heat made from two bodies in a bed
Curled together on a winter night,
The smell of the other always in the quilt,
The hand set quietly on the other's flank
That carries news from another world
Light-years away from the one inside
That you always thought you inhabited alone.
The heat in that hand could melt a stone.
How They Die
They dry up,
turn into light.