These precious things

8 01 2013

So I ran faster, but it caught me here…

In high school is where I think of it starting: the framing of my world through Tori Amos songs (and not so much “songs” as the whole tales she intended, as finite units, but more notes, tones, chords, trills, and chains and ladders of words, the micro-stories in a run of any line or three. I don’t think that’s actually accurate–I remember the first time I saw the video for “Silent All These Years” on MTV at my parents’ house, but I think I was in college. Most of my friends were still in high school, though, so the location was still prominent (the halls, the furtive staying-up-late in each others’ bedrooms, the gyms of other high schools for Winter Guard shows where girls in white dresses danced and whirled and threw heavy wood rifles to the driving heat of “Precious Things”). At the time, and through the ten or fifteen years that followed (I’ve missed a few recent albums; she lost me, and then I lost the drive to chase her down to try to understand), I found myself in those little strings of language, the swells and plummets and pirouettes of sound. I saw a lot of concerts, her alone in a cone of light, making love to a piano, and it helped form my sense of what to be–not talented, because I couldn’t fake that, but intent, and intense. And, of course, red-headed (the fact that hers is dyed is and always was irrelevant to the outcome, although interesting for cause/effect purposes): she embodied the iconic sense of the color in the culture, by choice and charismatic giftedness. Mine was born there, implying in the first visual impression I made everything I wasn’t: beautiful, daring, fierce and wild–rather than just stubborn and bratty–and also mystical, as if somehow connected more directly, the current deep and harder to sever than other people’s, to the planetary heartbeat revealed in mushroom faery-circles and the way a sunny ray of light would snag among the misty needles of a morning pine.

So I learned to fake it, until I could hold enough of it in my hands (we held gold dust) to feel a little mystical myself, to feel if not connected (and sometimes that, as well) but at least worthy of connection, magnetic enough. This led to poetry–to making my own strings of language that told stories in little confetti slips of implication, captured memories and mental photographs in tiny drop-of-water worlds tossed across a window’s glass while the rest of the world went by, too big to hold on to, and mostly not of interest anyway, by comparison to the dazzling microcosms. It led to a lot of hope and bitterness and burned-sugar richness in how I thought about love (and all of her associates, “crush” and “friend” and “boy” and “girl.”) All of which kept my twenties very, very interesting.

But the world doesn’t end there, in one’s interesting (and gorgeous, and exhausting, and also anguished and extreme and emotionally violent, with fallout I still find myself wishing I could erase, wishing I’d never created: wishing I’d been just a bird, winging through some pretty scene, and not the bomb that shattered it) twenties. The tiny hour-clocks of the dandelion give way to the slow-paced counting of the oak, season, year, decade, aeon.

And so after all of that, Tori’s voice is with me still, telling different stories between the lines of the same songs, and re-telling the same tales to a me with different ears, interweaving changed narrative with the musical paintbrush-trails and piano-hammers that still touch and slip around and twang the same heartstrings (because after all, we’ve each of us got only the one heart to play upon), and this morning she, with her “southern” girl stories (Baltimore, though north of where I met this me of mine, is south of the Mason Dixon line) finds me in a northern town, my mouth closed against the tiny butterflies of words her words release, feeling only a hundred miles away, instead of the usual thousand or more, from a poem’s wings of breath and condensation taking off along the runway of my tongue, rocking my red-haired daughter against my chest in front of a picture-window full of winter (I run off, where the drifts get deeper) and watching her future and my past blur here in the middle.

For example, this: three cats rolling in a little crushed-leaf dizziness on the floor are teaching her to love quick, lithe-muscled creatures, to admire their speed and shape and physicality. Her father, who is all of those things to me, wearing his own set of the taut boy-shoulderblades and pretty lips I watched before I even understood to recognize the feel of pining, is right now teaching a class of distracted teenagers in a room where someday she’ll look at girls, and boys, and the words for “friend” and “love” will take on form and character and bicker in her mind… so much awaits, so much tripping on youth’s chemical stew in all the colors language can imbue, so much giddiness and the heartache without which we would not know the shapes or recognize the borders of our hearts. I know that she’s a new creature, this tiny-fisted ball of hot breath and slippery little lizard tongue and flickering lids who dreams against the rhythm of this heart I’ve learned the shape of through an awful lot of sharp-tooled edging, yet maybe, too, she’s (never “just”) pieces of me you’ve never seen.

It’s going to be a beautiful unfurling, to see what wings she grows (and probably a point of high frustration, to hear whose tones and voices she chooses to guide her way–let’s hope popular music does some significant backsliding toward lyrical complexity in the next fourteen-to-eighteen years!). I can’t wait, and I wish she’d slow down already; she can’t even understand me yet, but every day I’m losing time, and there’s so much I want to tell her…

It’s your turn now, to stand where I stand

with everybody looking at you–here, take hold of my hand





2 responses

14 01 2013
MaxAnn Twomey

Loved these precious thoughts

6 02 2013

You know of ‘Blueberry Girl,’ right? It’s a kid’s book that was written for Tori Amos and her baby when she was pregnant…

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