Saturday, April 11, 2009

On Reading Virginia Woolf (Part III)


"Virginia Woolf was a genius," Peytie says.

"The smell of hyacinths," I say, stepping into the Sunken Garden.

"Which ones are the hyacinths?"

In the morning, I waited for her in a coffee shop on Grand Avenue, drinking Turkish coffee. Pouring it from the long-handled copper pot into the miniature cup felt like a small ceremony. I wanted to ask Peytie what she thought of A Room of One's Own, but now the flow of conversation carries us on, finds different channels. She tells me about her roommate, what it's like when her college friends get together—how the conversation is pulled in so many different directions.

"Those are foxgloves," I say, pointing.

I can never grow flowers like that, so tall and straight. Mine always bend toward the sun—delphiniums prostrating themselves, toppling under their weight of blue flower.

From a distance, I took a photograph of the conservatory—the glass structure almost ghostly in the sunlight, among the bare trees at the end of March. Julie saw the photograph and said it reminded her of Kew. How connected we are, that a friend in Oxfordshire—someone I have never met, but who shares my love of books—can see my photograph and think of Kew! How separate, and yet how much a part of each other we are!

I read out the labels of all the palm trees gathered from around the world. Peytie stands under the broad leaf of a palm, like a child trying on her grandmother's hat. As we walk together I feel, "I am you."

Thus one couple after another with much the same irregular and aimless movement passed the flower-bed and were enveloped in layer after layer of green-blue vapour, in which at first their bodies had substance and a dash of colour, but later both substance and colour dissolved in the green-blue atmosphere.

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New Poem: "Phrasebook"

My poem " Phrasebook " has been published online in Ergon: Greek/American Arts and Letters .