Ivy’s given me a letter and some instructions. So, here I go.
Poetry–I really believe that we could all benefit from learning to love poetry. Like beer, it’s an acquired taste, I know. But you don’t have to love all poetry. Just find one poem or part of a poem that reminds you that what we’re doing here is something magical. "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want."–You could start with just that much and have enough for a whole life.
Potato–My grandma loved potatoes. She would make us mashed potatoes when we went to visit her or she’d buy us extra large fries at McDonald’s. After she died, as she was laying in her casket, I put a potato in there for her, tucked it under her arm.
Dead people are like seed pods, really. They look like the people you love, but there’s something so frail and dry about them that you know the thing that made them really them is gone.
I like to think of that potato as a stand against the chemicals and the locked box and the concrete bin we drop our remains into. I hope that potato takes root and returns my grandma to the ground that sustained her when she was alive.
Prairie–The natural prairie is gone, for the most part, replaced by corn and beans. Still, when you stand on the edge of the field, the Queen Anne’s Lace and the cornflowers tugging at your clothes, and you shut your eyes, you hear that same sound–endless acres of tall grass rubbing against each other–it’s a dull, ceaseless roar and you think, if only you listened hard enough, you could hear what it was saying. I suspect, though I don’t know, that the corn says to the deer, "eat me" and the deer say to the wolves "chase me" and the wolves say to the moon, "light my way" and the moon says nothing at all.
Pig–My grandma used to sing us this song, when we were little about an old woman who goes to the market to buy a pig and she’s bringing the pig home and they come to a style and the pig won’t go and so she goes a little farther and she meets a dog and she says, "Dog, dog, bite that pig. Pig won’t go. And I see by the moonlight, it’s almost midnight. Time pig and I were home an hour and a half ago." But the dog would not. And so she went a little farther and she met a stick…
It goes on and on until she meets a hammer and then the hammer begins to break the knife, the knife begins to cut the rope, the rope begins to hang the butcher, the butcher begins to kill the ox, the ox begins to drink the water, the water begins to quench the fire, the fire begins to burn the stick, the stick begins to beat the dog, the dog begins to bite the pig and the pig begins to go.
I really loved that song.
Pen–The whole side of my hand would turn a shiny blue black from my pen by the end of the day and I could smell the ink on my skin. I really felt like writing would be my salvation. I think it has been.
Portent–I think the difference between a sign and a portent is that a sign indicates that something is happening and a portent indicates that something will happen. The real question is–what is the difference between a portent and an omen? I have no reason to make this distinction, but I believe that a portent is more general than an omen. Like, if you drop a fork, that’s a portent that company is coming. If you drop three forks and they form a letter "N" that may be an omen that your brother Nick is planning a visit. But I could be talked out of that. Maybe there is no difference.
Police–I still have nightmares about the police knocking on my parents’ door and barging in with badges and guns and dogs and swarming over the house. I can see my mom’s look of blank confusion, probably followed by tears. I imagine how my dad feels, all impotent rage and looking for blame. I wonder about the red Grand Am headed back for Georgia and I can’t even begin to know what the driver of that car is thinking–"Lucky I got out of town."? The dogs are what bothers me the most, something about the police coming through the house with dogs. It makes everyone in the house the criminal. I don’t think either of my brothers ever got that, really, how what they were doing made inadvertent criminals of us all. I wasn’t there, but I still have nightmares about it.
Pants–Arguably the funniest word in the English language. It sounds like it should be an onomatopoeia of some sort, but, if so, I’d think the word would actually be the noise a paintball makes upon leaving the gun or that a dart makes upon thudding into the board. But, no, instead it means trousers.
Pagan–According to the OED: "The older sense of classical Latin paganus is ‘of the country, rustic’." Ah, early Christianity! You’ve got to love that, even then, folks knew how much people are influenced by advertising. "Come join the cool church or everyone will know that you’re a hick."
Potluck–I loved when we had potlucks at church. It’s such a good and simple idea. Everyone brings a dish. Everyone eats a little from all the dishes. Everyone helps to clean up. Potlucks are the unacknowledged cornerstone of much church life. They build community and reinforce the notion that everyone can contribute and everyone benefits from those contributions.