Thursday, June 29, 2006

Voice on Water

An old friend is stopping with us, his famille nouvelle in tow. I mean he is accompanied by his very new girl friend whose pregnancy is just slightly newer.

I admire someone for whom the thought and the deed walk side by side rather than straining in tandem. Good job, old friend.

He and I went to the Giants game last night -- ManTime, etc.

It was a night game, so when we walked back up the Embarcadero to BART, we had Bay looks to the right. (Walking along the Bay after baseball is a common theme here at top 'o the cat, I know. But be patient.)

A little north of where the Embarcadero passes under the Bay Bridge, we stopped for a look back. The lights on the bridge were reflected in the water, bright little pathways in the foreground.

My friend said in Wallace Stevens' "The Idea of Order at Key West," that's what he's talking about.

(I do not quote my friend directly because so often when one does so, it is actually blunt and vigorous paraphrase, quotation marks be damned. One is actually improving on the original. But I will not take this liberty with my friend, who talks better than I can remember -- or write.)

Safe from the desecration of quotation from memory, he went on. He said light on water was what Stevens was describing when he talked about the fishing boats with lights on their masts at night. He said the masts "portioned out the sea." Their reflections lay on the water and moved on the water as the water moved, he said.

And then he quoted the passage from the poem, which I looked up today and quote now.

Ramon Fernandez, tell me, if you know,
Why, when the singing ended and we turned
Toward the town, tell why the glassy lights,
The lights in the fishing boats at anchor there,
As the night descended, tilting in the air,
Mastered the night and portioned out the sea,
Fixing emblazoned zones and fiery poles,
Arranging, deepening, enchanting night.

I suppose there was a time when many people knew reams of poetry and tattered their welcome among friend and stranger by unleashing their memories at the slightest provocation.

That time is long gone. My friends spontaneous overflow of emotion recollected in tranquility was a treat, a treat better than baseball, at least better than this particular game.

And -- hey! -- maybe now we also know what the lady liked so soon and so well.

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