We are driving. My three year old daughter says cute things in the car. She says she is dreaming about brownies and milk. I want to kiss her cheeks every time she pipes up. I love her strangely and fiercely for the cute things she says at three.
I’ve been mentoring a student in a senior project on poetics. Recently we read this wrenching instance of the sestina, a form that calls for the same six words, in differing orders, to end the lines of six consecutive stanzas, then for the sudden yoking of those words into a three-line envoy.
While writing on such a grandiose personage, it’s hard to not aspire to touch on a great many magnificent things. And what numerous numbers there are! Ashamedly, I have not read much Coleridge before. I knew of him historically speaking, and what he was known for and with whom he hob-knobbed, but I had read little past “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and a few others. Then I landed his Aids to Reflection.
The center of every man’s existence is a dream. Death, disease, insanity, are merely material accidents, like a toothache or a twisted ankle. That these brutal forces always besiege and often capture the citadel does not prove that they are the citadel.
—G.K. Chesterton, “The Position of Sir Walter Scott” in Twelve Types
My mother died on a snowless January morning high in a hospital room from whose window one could see pretty much into forever. Sudden failings in her body’s systems had taken hold—imbalances of blood and bone and lung. Frailty won the day. Fresh in our shock we gathered, reeling from the cruel slap of this impossibility. We got out mental notebooks and filled pages with long, quixotic lists, arguing with Providence about the absurdity of this person, our person, dying for no reason at all. Her professional accomplishments; her impeccable health regimes; her unobtrusive, back-row-Baptist godliness; her beloved mom-ness. We were insulted. How could this woman, who literally looked like a movie star on her wedding day and eschewed white bread consistently and invited kids off the Reservation to stay with us and knelt with a magnifying glass before every other flower in her garden to better behold its wonders, die?