Friday, January 16, 2009

Morning Glory Chapter

I'm nearly done, as far as I can go now (which is pretty far) with my hybrid memoir, my 2nd dissertation (hybrid = narrative, lyric, travelogue, reportage, and slightly academic nonfiction). My largest concerns are more description of my and the mother's gardens, titles for the three sections, clarifying some too-heady philosophical bits, and possibly something else I won't say here because I have to think long and hard about if I really want the book to take this turn; I might add it in after I hear what the committee says, but sometimes the absence of a thing--the implication of its presence only--is far more powerful than the actual reality of it at hand.

I doubt I'll surface again for a while, if anyone cares. Battlestar Gallactica is back on TV for its last season. Travels are once again at hand. Classes have begun. Teaching is being attempted. So here is, what I believe will be, the penultimate chapter to the book, Morning Glory: A Story of Family and Culture in the Garden (240 pages in TNR 12 pt font, but around 330 in Courier 12pt).

The temple bell stops,
but the sound keeps coming
out of the flowers.

--Matsuo Basho

It is likely the last warm day of the year and the morning glories are already open—it’s not even seven. Sitting on the deck the low sun creates a haze in the garden, and around the tips of these blue-vined blooms there seems to be a halo, one which echoes on the fuzzed bumble bees who slide into flower after flower, legs dangling below, as if on wobbly zip lines. Everything is sunlight.

In the long yellow throats of morning glories the bees rest for a moment, perhaps reflecting, calculating, perhaps getting oriented. Then each pulses—the bloom seems to shutter all the way from the stamen’s core to the petal’s tip, and the front legs of the bee push pollen to the caches on the hind legs.

All morning this October bees collide with the blooms. Dozens at once, hundreds each hour, thousands each day. The asters have begun to fade, the ironweed and sunflowers are turning to seed, but the morning glory waits for that fragile dip into winter, the morning when the air barely freezes, and for a few days afterward each bee must work harder to open the limp, closed blooms and gather what’s left. Back in the hive the queen will take what’s brought to her, the only one who will survive the winter and begin the colony again in spring.

One morning, a day or two past frost, a bee is on the ground, just below the dying morning glories. Bending down carefully I nudge it with my finger and it flickers its wings, briefly pulses its body like a ringing phone. I blow on it as softly as I can. I blow again. It rights itself, wipes its eyes with a foreleg, then lifts toward a part of the garden where the sun is warming the chokeberry’s red, autumn leaves. The sky is a crisp, clear blue, perfectly empty, perfectly absent of life, but still holding the echo of migrations. Above me in the wrinkled green leaves, toward the end of one young vine not yet touched by its silent heart, a morning glory is about to bloom.


Victoria Summerley said...

Bravo, Benjamin. I'd like to read the rest of it.

Victoria Summerley said...

PS: I meant bravo in the operatic sense, when people stand up and cheer and throw flowers. Especially the flower bit.

Christopher C. NC said...

First I had to look up the meaning of penultimate.

Knowing that now does not alter the deep resonance that seeps through this description of the life of morning glories.

Susan Tomlinson said...

Well done! It must feel very good to be at this stage.

I'd like to read an anthology, for instance... ;-)

Benjamin Vogt said...

Victoria--speaking of tossing flowers around, why don't you send me some? I haven't had time to place any orders with the gazillion catalogs I get in the mail....:)
Christopher--It is very encouraging to have anyone say that they find something good in my writing. Thank you for stopping by and saying so!
Susan--OMG in an anthology.... That's right! Maybe I can take you up on that extension, say a week, because I hadn't even been thinking about this lately: it's been all editing and the first week of teaching. You know. Hope you've been getting lots of submissions! (anyone big?)

Kylee Baumle said...

Ben, this is just so beautiful, and I can picture it, your description of the scene is so detailed. I even imagine this in my own garden. The MG is 'Blue Star', in case you wanted to know...

Unknown said...

Ben, a huge congratulations! To be so close to done is a big moment, and I can't wait to read the book when it comes out. I too am very excited about the final episodes of Battlestar Galactica (though the revelation of the final Cylon felt like a bit of letdown).

Benjamin Vogt said...

Kylee--I'm hoping it's 'Heavenly Blue,' actually. I was describing how the bloom looks after it's limp and faded--white, but pink on the curled limp. So, it sort of looks like a curled up 'Blue Start.' I might have to go in and change things--thanks for helping me see that!

Benjamin Vogt said...

Jehanne--Finally got you to stop by, huh? :) Everyone keeps saying they'll read the book when it comes out, but I can't even imagine having the good fortune of having a publisher (though Milkweed would be nice!). When your poetry collections come out, I'll be all over them. As for BSG, that was a bit lame. I still don't buy who the final cylon is--I think they're still toying with us somehow.

Anonymous said...

Hi Benjamin, so exciting to think of holding your words in my hands to read, I will gladly pay good money too! :-)

The tall evergreen you asked about it an Arizona cypress.

Do relax a bit, take a deep breath, buy a flowering plant from the grocer's to feed your soul. And some bread.


Anonymous said...

How beautiful.