Friday, November 30, 2012

Limbourg Brothers, plan of the Monuments of Rome
illuminated manuscript from the Tres Riche Heures du Duc de Berry, ca 1416

Rain for Angelenos is rain for so many ninnies, should I go out or should I not?, brake lights, minivans parked too close, the quandary of wet shopping carts and a gray blanket over the hills.

Natasha Trethewey, the poet laureate of Mississippi and the United States has a mellifluous voice and read poem after poem from her book thrall, weaving together her interracial roots, relationship with her poet father, eighteenth century paintings, the 14th century myth of the miracle transplant (black donor, white recipient) -- my hands lay in my lap, clenched and relaxed, the weird tension of loving words.

I ate ramen afterward in a small restaurant in Little Tokyo, wide bowls of steaming broth, a flaky hard-boiled egg cooked soft in soy sauce, melting in my mouth before the crunch of scallions, noodles slipping from the chopsticks, sliding down my throat, the voice of the host, keeping things moving, his Angeleno Japanese voice. The mix of the city, young, old, Asian, Hispanic, white and black -- we passed the tents of skid row, one after the other squared up neatly, their backs against low-slung buildings.

The idealized painting above of the monuments of Rome was commissioned by Jean de Berry who was very angry with divisions of the Church. It is said that he liked to run his fingers over the forty churches depicted, tracing the former path of the Bishop of Rome. The little white square on the left, in the middle, depicts snow, ordered by the Virgin Mary on a warm summer night to fall and mark where a church should be built. The idealized painting had little to do with reality, it is said.


Like the moon that night, my father --
        a distant body, white and luminous.
How small I was back then,
        looking up as if from dark earth.

Distant, his body white and luminous,
        my father stood in the doorway.
Looking up as if from dark earth,
        I saw him outlined in a scrim of light.

My father stood in the doorway
      as if to watch over me as I dreamed.
When I saw him outlined - a scrim of light -
      he was already waning, turning to go.

Once, he watched over me as I dreamed.
       How small I was. Back then,
he was already turning to go, waning
       like the moon that night - my father.

Natasha Trethewey


  1. Sounds like a lovely evening. So pleased you indulged in it.

    I can't identify with the rain for Angelenos. Up here in Seattle, if it doesn't rain for more than a week at a time, I start to get melancholy. But after a week of solid rain, I have to come find your pictures of sunny beaches to restore me.

  2. I knew that poet was from around here somewhere.

  3. You have introduced me to a new poet. I envy your ramen.

  4. your ramen was delicious :) thanks for sharing it

    lovely poem - I can see that one too



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