Saturday

Nov. 8, 2008

Following the Road

by Larry Smith

I have left my wife at the airport,
flying out to help our daughter
whose baby will not eat.
And I am driving on to Kent
to hear some poets read tonight.

I don't know what to do with myself
when she leaves me like this.
An old friend has decided to
end our friendship. Another
is breaking it off with his wife.

I don't know what to say
to any of this-Life's hard.
And I say it aloud to myself,
Living is hard, and drive further
into the darkness, my headlights
only going so far.

I sense my own tense breath, this fear
we call stress, making it something else,
hiding from all that is real.

As I glide past Twin Lakes,
flat bodies of water under stars,
I hold the wheel gently, slowing my
body to the road, and know again that
this is just living, not a trauma
nor dying, but a lingering pain
reminding us that we are alive.

"Following the Road" by Larry Smith from A River Remains. WordTech Editions, 2006. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the woman who founded the Catholic Worker Movement, Dorothy Day, born in Brooklyn, New York (1897).

It's the birthday of the woman who wrote Gone with the Wind (1936), Margaret Mitchell, (books by this author) born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1900.

It's the birthday of Indian novelist Raja Rao, (books by this author) born in Hassan, in southern India (1909). His native language was Kanarese, but he wrote all of his books in English. He grew up going to Muslim schools in India, and got his degree in history and English literature. When he was 19, he moved to France and studied literary theory and Christian theology at the Sorbonne, but then decided to focus entirely on creative writing.

At the time, India was still under British colonial rule, and Rao was one of the first Indian writers to try to capture the rhythm of Indian life in English. He said: "The tempo of Indian life must be infused into our English expression, even as the tempo of American or Irish life has gone into the making of theirs. We, in India, think quickly, we talk quickly, and when we move we move quickly. We have neither punctuation nor the treacherous 'ats' and 'ons' to bother us — we tell one interminable tale. Episode follows episode, and when our thoughts stop our breath stops, and we move on to another thought. This was and still is the ordinary style of our storytelling."

He wrote his first novel, Kanthapura (1938), when he was only 21 years old. It begins:

Our village — I don't think you have ever heard about it — Kanthapura is its name, and it is in the province of Kara. High on the Ghats is it, high up the steep mountains that face the cool Arabian seas, up the Malabar coast is it, up Mangalore and Puttur and many a center of cardamom and coffee, rice and sugar cane. Roads, narrow, dusty, rut-covered roads, wind through the forest of teak and of jack, of sandal and of sal, and hanging over bellowing gorges and leaping over elephant-haunted valleys, they turn now to the left and now to the right and bring you through the Alambè and Champa and Mena and Kola passes into the great granaries of trade.

Rao's books include the short-story collection The Cow of the Barricades (1947), a biography of Gandhi, and the novels The Cat and Shakespeare (1965), The Policeman and the Rose (1978), and The Chessmaster and His Moves (1988). In the 1960s, he began teaching Indian philosophy at the University of Texas, and he remained in Austin until he died in 2006 at the age of 97.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









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