Elaine Equi and her husband Jerome Sala came over to my place last week to record some of their poetry. I’d enjoyed hearing Elaine read from her latest book, Sentences and Rain, and was interested to hear that she loves to read while it rains. “I really like the sound of rain…I wanted the whole book to have that mood of intimacy that’s created.”
After reading Cardboard Figures in a Landscape, she told us, “I kind of hoped a truck would go by.” Now, if you listen, when Elaine comes to the end of her reading, reading a poem that is not in the book, a final new poem, The Secret of Time Meets a Stranger, the sound of a truck does pass by accompanying and illuminating her reading.
Sound is important. Before we started recording, I mentioned that I’d been putting music to some lyrics I’d written in my twenties and was a little worried the words today might not be politically correct. The two lines go
Like a boy and his dog
Like a girl and her doll
And truth be told, why can’t the girl have the dog, and the boy have the doll? But Elaine said, “Don, I like how it sounds. Dog, doll one syllable and there’s a rhyme.” I could have hugged her and swung her off the ground, but as she and Jerome were drinking glasses of ice water—they’d just walked many hot city blocks in the bright sun and then walked five flights up—I let it go at a smile. When in doubt, go with the sound.
Words must be a pleasure, not always pleasant perhaps, but a pleasure. The words below are from Elaine’s title poem that you can hear her read and read for yourself from the whole poem below. That said, let me add the first four stanzas here because they are worth repeating now.
THE SECRET OF TIME MEETS A STRANGER
You look familiar.
Were you once my mother?
My child that slept through the Ice Age?
That song you were whistling –
where did you learn it?
Time passes, but the past will not stay behind,
and the future keeps rushing back
in search of a button it lost in the mist.
Who can say if it is better to wind up a clock
than to wind up a mammal?
In Newton’s day, time was seen as an arrow.
The arrow turned into a river.
The river stopped at a diner.
I’m there now, drinking a cup of coffee, writing a poem
called “The Secret of Time Meets a Stranger.”
Somehow, I always knew you would come.
Sentences and Rain is published by Coffee House Press. You can check them out here: