In the Moment

It was a day in June, all lawn and sky,
the kind that gives you no choice
but to unbutton your shirt
and sit outside in a rough wooden chair.

And if a glass of ice tea and a volume
of seventeenth-century poetry
with a dark blue cover are available,
then the picture can hardly be improved.

I remember a fly kept landing on my wrist,
and two black butterflies
with white and red wing-dots
bobbed around my head in the bright air.

I could feel the day offering itself to me,
and I wanted nothing more
than to be in the moment- but which moment?
Not that one, or that one, or that one,

or any of those that were scuttling by
seemed perfectly right for me.
Plus, I was too knotted up with questions
about the past and his tall, evasive sister, the future.

What churchyard held the bones of George Herbert?
Why did John Donne’s wife die so young?
And more pressingly,
what could we serve the vegetarian twins

who were coming to dinner that evening?
Who knew that they would bring their own grapes?
And why was the driver of that pickup
flying down the road toward the lone railroad track?

And so the priceless moments of the day
were squandered one by one-
or more likely a thousand at a time-
with quandary and pointless interrogation.

All I wanted was to be a pea of being
inside the green pod of time,
but that was not going to happen today,
I had to admit to myself

as I closed the book on the face
of Thomas Traherne and returned to the house
where I lit a flame under a pot
full of floating brown eggs,
and, while they cooked in their bubbles,
I stared into a small oval mirror near the sink
to see if that crazy glass
had anything special to tell me today.

Billy Collins

"Un Ange Passe"

I was just watching an old Truffaut film called “Jules and Jim”and a scene just hit me – In it, two friends reunite after years of fighting on opposite sides of a war (Jules is French and Jim is German), they sit in Jules’ house, and after a long tense silence, Jules says, “Un Ange Passe” or “An Angel is passing by” to describe the awkward moment. This French phrase struck me as beautifully poetic – describing a lull in conversation. (Jim also knowingly adds that ‘Angels usually pass by at 20 minutes past or before the hour’.)

The Best of Youth

I’ve been totally engrossed in an Italian movie called “The Best of Youth” (More like a miniseries – it’s 6 hours long!) Made in 2003, it follows two brothers across four tumultuous decades in Italy’s history. It makes me want to quit my desk job and hitchhike across Europe.

Update: I finished it, and I can’t tell you how much it stayed with me even days after. It has the effect that a movie is supposed to have on a viewer. I’m dying for someone to watch it too so I can talk to them about it!