Daily Archives: September 30, 2011

9.30.11 Each Minute the Last Minute

This evening, we – my little one, wife, and I – sat down for dinner, and I reached for Garrison Keillor’s collection Good Poems, and I found “Living.” We have about five or six books of poems at all times stacked on the dining table because for at least one meal a day either my wife or I reads a poem before – or at least among the first few bites of – a meal.

I opened the book to Denise Levertov‘s poem “Living.” I have been reading Levertov’s letters to and from William Carlos Williams lately but have never encountered this poem:

The fire in leaf and grass
so green it seems
each summer the lat summer.

The wind blowing, the leaves
shivering in the sun,
each day the last day.

A red salamander
so cold and so
easy to catch, dreamily

moves his delicate feet
and long tail. I hold
my hand open for him to go.

Each minute the last minute.

I read it aloud. The little one seemed captured more by tomatoes on her tongue than words in her ears and so groaned more than grinned. And one eye of my wife seemed to humor me while the other seemed to watch the waddling little one swaying in her chair, fork in hand. And there it was, this moment of dinner and poetry and being together.

And so I’m trying to remember the last minute, but it slips away before I can finish this sentence, and this sentence is little more than an urgent, creative run to hold off the period, the final period, the big period of periods. Yes, that one. And Levertov, in her simple beauty, has made sentences that last beyond the last minute. Each sentence the last sentence.

Our lives are measured in minutes, and if we’re lucky those minutes will have some rhythm, some cadence, and some meaning.

And ritual, like reading a poem before a meal or reading a story before bedtime or kissing your lover on the cheek when you awake, is some small way to shape minutes into meaning and let them slip into memory.

So what about this Three Highlights Habit? Take a minute to reflect upon your day, and share here your Friday’s three highlights. And let us know where you’re writing from.

See you in the woods,
The Three Highlights Guy