It’s Sunday, 90 degrees, October and a soothing warm rain holds back in the South, threatening to shower my purple heart, rose moss, a wild succulent plant, and variegated Halston. The steel colored elephant ears peak with three healthy leaves and a newer one makes its translucent spine aware. They must have tropic-like weather to survive. The clouds form a limitless smear of gray and blue and hang impossibly low, not as humid, but low like when you see them on a drive through the hills, through Hollister to get to Monterey...Dunes. Clouds always seem so far away in California until you make a drive like that. Here, in Texas, when the climate is moody and erratic, they are always within reach.
But I was contemplating language and the various benefits cultures have, the marvelous innate nature of not code, but upbringing and tradition. I have a fruitful, diverse group of students at the community college where I instruct—in Texas—a place where when I was sprouting like my new elephant ear leaf, I was limited to territory and broken dialect. To me English is not a beautiful language; it has become lost in necessity--it is outdone and all too common and its evolution rather dumb. However, in teaching my ESL students, I have learned another perspective, English is not merely the only verbal means to communicate, to survive, but it is something like an old rough, secret smile, a playful but grave dance.
Take these lines from Light in August: "She aint come from nowhere close ... She’s hitting that lick like she’s been at it for a right smart while and had a right smart piece to go yet.”
“Only a negro can tell when a mule is asleep or awake.”
How in the world could I explain to a Vietnamese, Mexican, Albanian, Hungarian, Portuguese, or African student what “hitting that lick,” or “right smart” or “right smart piece to go yet” means as a strand of English language so personal--so regional--so preserved? Even some native Americans might have a time, initially, translating Faulkner. I would have written "Hit'in".
In my profession, you must find away just as my Halston grows almost between the other flowers. Students drop the “s” and treat “th” as “d”—(which leads to the old reality that our own home grown people tend to “dis” naturally).
My great Auntie recently again reminded me of the sharpness of the English language that yet thrives. She was telling me about a recent trip to Oklahoma. She travels with her usual group of retired ladies—the eldest is 87, the youngest 82. All but one is not sold on technology and continues to use her glasses to see, to play, to read, to dictate her slot machines--instead of undergoing laser surgery. She also drove them to the casino this last time and my Auntie told me she can’t see to “damn good.” I said, "She can't?" She fired back in a voice that's just as boisterous as her color, “Girl, Bennie can’t see two white elephants fucking at midnight.”
My Aunt has never read Hemingway, but she’s probably kin to Faulkner—up the line, and only if the French LaRues had something to say. I could not evade this noticeable image, beyond my Aunt’s comical nature. Could we miss two blond, fleshy elephants gettin it on, at night, midnight? Can't use this as an example of anything...for students of course. English is a clever, pretentious habitual blab. And then a student will draw me back in with an anguish: chicken and kitchen, thought thorough though through throughout taught---these I can manage, these nuances I can explain.
It's May 2012 and nothing has changed since November.11. I am all smiles at my relationship and myself. My honey and I continue to amaze each other on a daily basis. We're still ever so 'in' with each other. I completed my MA in literature last May and I'm teaching four college English courses to really smart students. I am hopeful to enter a doctorate program soon. This way, I can run out.All is scary good.
upon hearing your voice life again expands like moon crest like pomegranates swell to the sun and you are patient because god calls
when he came for you this morning you were bent into the flower bed singing black hymns so he left you alone until this third afternoon but even then he found you elbow deep in jewel weed with a mouthful of figs from a nearby tree again he waited because each time seemed to him an inconvenience and a wrong moment
and it was your persistent humming that drove him up and back until he could get his timing perfect he waited another day or so until
your gardening tools rest into porch corners your paring knife shines deeply into a drawer your hair comb lies slanted in a shoebox your wedding band hides in the mattress your fishing rod stays stolen
the sound of your voice desires to sing or hum but this time is perfect he has covered you like lavender-colored silence but he has also added streaks of olive green and pink because this is what the other soul-folk has told him to do and he has become tired in the process and therefore begins to rush sonances of your body he finds you the least complex when you are not outdoors digging in that garden, humming hymns and thriving and for a moment he questions his own timing its perfection and everything goes accordingly until he finds you have buried fruit peels and wandering jew petals underneath your back this does not anger him but it tilts his agility to deliver you and in his own questioning and presence of smells that he cannot privilege all this over powers his choice all this reels his otherwise perfection into letting you go
when i see you sitting in the plush squares of limitless St. Augustine your eyes are lit like crystal warmed soil releases from each of your hands
how did i get to this point this point of knowing you for you are nearly a century old