Another favorite poet and poem:
The Poem of Chalk
On the way to lower Broadway
this morning I faced a tall man
speaking to a piece of chalk
held in his right hand. The left
was open, and it kept the beat,
for his speech had a rhythm,
was a chant or dance, perhaps
even a poem in French, for he
was from Senegal and spoke French
so slowly and precisely that I
could understand as though
hurled back fifty years to my
high school classroom. A slender man,
elegant in his manner, neatly dressed
in the remnants of two blue suits,
his tie fixed squarely, his white shirt
spotless though unironed. He knew
the whole history of chalk, not only
of this particular piece, but also
the chalk with which I wrote
my name the day they welcomed
me back to school after the death
of my father. He knew feldspar.
He knew calcium, oyster shells, he
knew what creatures had given
their spines to become the dust time
pressed into these perfect cones,
he knew the sadness of classrooms
in December when the light fails
early and the words on the blackboard
abandon their grammar and sense
and then even their shapes so that
each letter points in every direction
at once and means nothing at all.
At first I thought his short beard
was frosted with chalk; as we stood
face to face, no more than a foot
apart, I saw the hairs were white,
for though youthful in his gestures
he was, like me, an aging man, though
far nobler in appearance with his high
carved cheekbones, his broad shoulders,
and clear dark eyes. He had the bearing
of a king of lower Broadway, someone
out of the mind of Shakespeare or
Garcia Lorca, someone for whom loss
had sweetened into charity. We stood
for that one long minute, the two
of us sharing the final poem of chalk
while the great city raged around
us, and then the poem ended, as all
poems do, and his left hand dropped
to his side abruptly and he handed
me the piece of chalk. I bowed,
knowing how large a gift this was
and wrote my thanks on the air
where it might be heard forever
below the sea shell’s stiffening cry.
- Philip Levine
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Last weekend we had a much needed getaway to Santa Barbara. Friday, Justin and I woke up at a painful 3:30AM and caught the 6AM flight to LAX. Dean, Amy, and Nolan picked us up and we were off to SB!
We booked rooms at the Castillo Inn at the Beach, which is a cute little place just across from the Harbor, and just a few blocks from State Street.
We grabbed lunch at the Endless Summer Cafe at the harbor and then walked down to State for some wandering, shopping, ice cream, and happy hour. I was determined to find a delicious taco shop while in SB, and on our way back to the hotel we came across (with the help of google maps...) Rudy's on Montecito. Delicious everything. I got a huge order of nachos that was impossible to eat in its entirety, Justin got chicken enchiladas en mole, and I tasted Dean's chile relleno which was fantastic. Mission accomplished.
Saturday morning we headed to the SB Farmers Market. I was impressed with the number of booths of beautiful produce. In Seattle, our farmers markets are ususally a mix of fresh fruits and veggies and craft booths but this was entirely food-- veggies, fruit, bread, cheeses, oils, honey, etc. We got a fresh baguette and some cheese and walked over to Muddy Waters coffee shop (great coffee and beer, FYI cash only). Dean, Amy and Nolan headed back to the hotel for nap time while Justin and I went antiquing and then to Santa Barbara Brewery for lunch.
We met up with Dean, Amy and Nolan for margaritas and dinner, then went for a walk on Stearn's Wharf where we promptly located a candy shop and bought a ridiculous amount of salt water taffy and swedish fish. Vacation is delicious.
Sunday was misty, but the air felt so refreshing and I actually went for a morning run (I know, I surprise myself sometimes). It was so nice to be out in the cool ocean air, and I ran along the harbor to the end of the pier and down along the beach. Luckily I made it back to the room before the rain really started coming down. We said farewell to our cozy hotel and decided to check out the old SB mission.
I don't think I mentioned it earlier, but Santa Barbara is gorgeous. Everywhere we walked there were trees and flowers in bloom, awesome succulents, cute houses, and interesting architecture. The mission grounds are lovely, and on a sunny day it would make a great picnic spot. We enjoyed a self tour through the mission, cemetery, and church. Mass was still going on while when we arrived so we were able to hear the hymns while we walked through the inner courtyard.
We left Santa Barbara around 1pm and when we made it back to Dean and Amy's at 3:00 the the sun came out and the sky was clear and blue, and we had In-n-Out for lunch on the patio in the delicious warm sunshine. A perfect end to a great weekend.
We headed to the airport and caught our plane back to the grey, wet Pacific Northwest. Thanks for the welcome home Seattle.
See the rest of the photos here