|I finally finished.
||[Jan. 13th, 2007|03:20 pm]
Yes, White Oleander. I've read it. What a gorgeous book, a striking example of all the things we can learn from life if we just see the lessons before us. One of the best books I've ever read, and the writing's so rich and utterly beautiful that I do wish it was edible by all the senses at once. And no, you won't hear me saying that again.
1) Sometimes I imagined I had a father who worked nights for the railroad. A signalman for the Southern Pacific who wore heavy waterproof gloves big as oars, and wiped sweat from his forehead with a massive forearm. If I had a father who worked nights for the railroad, I might have had a mother who would listen for the click of the door when he came home, and I would hear her quiet voice, their muffled laughter through the thin walls of the house. How soft their voices would be, and sweet, like pigeons brooding under a bridge.
If I were a poet, that's what I'd write about. People who worked in the middle of the night. Men who loaded trains, emergency room nurses with their gentle hands. Night clerks in hotels, cabdrivers on graveyard, waitresses in all-night coffee shops. They knew the world, how precious it was when a person remembered your name, the comfort of a rhetorical question, "How's it going, how's the kids?" They knew how long the night was. They knew the sound life made as it left. It rattled, like a slamming screen door in the wind. Night workers lived without illusions, they wiped dreams off counters, they loaded freight. They headed back to the airport for one last fare.
Under the bed, a darker current wove itself into the night. My mother's unread letters, fluid with lies, shifted and heaved, like the debris of an enormous shipwreck that continued to be washed ashore years after the liner went down. I would allow no more words. From now on, I only wanted things that could be touched, tasted, the scent of new houses, the buzz of wires before rain. A river flowing in moonlight, trees growing out of concrete, scraps of brocade in a fifty-cent bin, red geraniums on a sweatshop window ledge. Give me the way rooftops of stucco apartments piled up forms in the afternoon like late surf, something without a spin, not a self-portrait in water and wind. Give me the boy playing electric guitar, my foster home bed at the end of Ripple Street, and the shape of Yvonne and her baby that was coming. She was the hills of California under mustard and green, tawny as lions in summer.
2) "You're beautiful anyway," he said, going back to his drawing. "There's not much you can do about that."
"It doesn't mean anything. Only to other people."
"You say that like it's nothing."
"It is." What was beauty unless you intended to use it, like a hammer, or a key? It was just something for other people to use and admire, or envy, despise. To nail their dreams onto like a picture hanger on a blank wall. And so many girls saying, use me, dream me.
3) I wanted to tell her not to entertain despair like this. Despair wasn't a guest, you didn't play its favorite music, find it a comfortable chair. Despair was the enemy.
4) What was a weed, anyway. A plant nobody planted? A seed escaped from a traveler's coat, something that didn't belong? Was it something that grew better than what should have been there? Wasn't it just a word, weed, trailing its judgements. Useless, without value. Unwanted.
Well, anyone could buy a green Jaguar, find beauty in a Japanese screen two thousand years old. I would rather be a connoisseur of neglected rivers and flowering mustard and the flush of iridescent pink on an intersection pigeon's charcoal neck.