May 06, 2009

William Blake’s neighborhood, Texas radio, Indian blanket, spilled tea

While the service guys were installing the air conditioner coil, I was in the study writing a lesson on Romantic poetry for high school seniors. Blake’s neighborhood in London, Lambeth, during his ten years there “was already acquiring the characteristics of a peculiarly repellent urban slum with wretchedly built and undrained houses,” according to his biography, and with Industrial Revolution encroachments: “a stone manufactory and a wine factory, potteries and dye-works, lime kilns and blacking factories.”

Finishing a long day in the eighteenth century, I sank onto the couch to bathe deep in one of my customized radio stations, the one with Texas music. Lucinda Williams “Blue,” Tracy Chapman “Never Yours,” Neil Young “Star of Bethlehem,” Carrie Rodriguez “Never Gonna Be Your Bride” which is about Austin musicians, Eliza Gilkyson another Austinite, James McMurtry “Choctaw Bingo,” whose lyrics have the most knowing details of Oklahoma redneck life you could possibly imagine. John Prine “Angel from Montgomery,” which is one of the possibilities I might have mentioned if God had ever offered me the chance to write one song in the whole world. But there are a lot of songs in that group.

Out back, the wildflowers can’t stop blooming. For weeks it’s been deep in magenta flax, and now tall stalks of orange and red Indian blanket stand above them. In the past when I’d tried to sow wildflower seeds nothing happened, but this time I sprinkled one packet of seeds over the little plot and kept the soil moist like the directions said and the sun did the rest. Across the yard, the antique rose bush sprawls untrimmed like a teenager, pink blossoms on every twig, branches spilling over the old raw wood deck almost to the bur oak. Looking at it through the window while typing this and getting up to check the quote about Blake, I knock over the half-full mug of rooibos tea that’s on the coffee table. Fortunately the tea stain is more or less the same color as the jute rug.

That’s at least four beautiful things but I can’t help it.

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