Thursday, February 6, 2014

WHERE IS MY TESTING TREE?

Still not a lot to say, but several folks expressed pleasure at receiving a post, so I thought to oblige them (you?) again, as best I could.

Louise and I have been working on the script very intensively. After two or three hours pounding on that, I am a bit intellectually exhausted. I don't have those kind of writing muscles built up yet, I guess. But very good progress so all involved are pleased. Besides working on the actual project, I did research and note-taking on script writing, in general, and my head is fairly a-buzz. That same head leans toward a pile of pillows not too many feet away.

I watched another PBS documentary, though I watched it on Netflix. This one, again highly recommended, Primetime in America, was particularly interesting to me at this time, as I think about the amount of time I spend thinking about film and tv. The last episode had a lot of resonance for our screenplay … and some for my life as well. The fourth episode was on the archetype of The Crusader. 

One of the talking heads quoted a Stanley Kunitz poem, "… In a murderous time the heart breaks and breaks and lives by breaking …"  Hmmm … the heart breaks and breaks and lives by breaking … I certainly know about the heart breaking and breaking, not so sure about the "lives by breaking" but it is something to ponder.




So, in lieu of having too much to say, I thought I'd share the whole poem, which is, of course, a good one.


The Testing-Tree

  by Stanley Kunitz


1
On my way home from school
   up tribal Providence Hill
      past the Academy ballpark
where I could never hope to play
   I scuffed in the drainage ditch
      among the sodden seethe of leaves
hunting for perfect stones
   rolled out of glacial time
      into my pitcher's hand;
then sprinted lickety-
   split on my magic Keds
      from a crouching start,
scarcely touching the ground
   with my flying skin
      as I poured it on
for the prize of the mastery
   over that stretch of road,
      with no one no where to deny
when I flung myself down
   that on the given course
      I was the world's fastest human.

2
Around the bend
   that tried to loop me home
      dawdling came natural
across a nettled field
   riddled with rabbit-life
      where the bees sank sugar-wells
in the trunks of the maples
   and a stringy old lilac
      more than two stories tall
blazing with mildew
   remembered a door in the 
      long teeth of the woods.
All of it happened slow:
   brushing the stickseed off,
      wading through jewelweed
strangled by angel's hair,
   spotting the print of the deer
      and the red fox's scats.
Once I owned the key
   to an umbrageous trail
      thickened with mosses
where flickering presences
   gave me right of passage
      as I followed in the steps
of straight-backed Massassoit
   soundlessly heel-and-toe
      practicing my Indian walk.

3
Past the abandoned quarry
   where the pale sun bobbed
      in the sump of the granite,
past copperhead ledge,
   where the ferns gave foothold,
      I walked, deliberate,
on to the clearing,
   with the stones in my pocket
      changing to oracles
and my coiled ear tuned
   to the slightest leaf-stir.
      I had kept my appointment.
There I stood in the shadow,
   at fifty measured paces,
      of the inexhaustible oak,
tyrant and target,
   Jehovah of acorns,
      watchtower of the thunders,
that locked King Philip's War
   in its annulated core
      under the cut of my name.
Father wherever you are
    I have only three throws
       bless my good right arm.
In the haze of afternoon,
   while the air flowed saffron,
      I played my game for keeps--
for love, for poetry,
   and for eternal life--
      after the trials of summer.
4
In the recurring dream
   my mother stands
      in her bridal gown
under the burning lilac,
   with Bernard Shaw and Bertie
      Russell kissing her hands;
the house behind her is in ruins;
   she is wearing an owl's face
      and makes barking noises.
Her minatory finger points.
   I pass through the cardboard doorway
      askew in the field
and peer down a well
   where an albino walrus huffs.
      He has the gentlest eyes.
If the dirt keeps sifting in,
   staining the water yellow,
      why should I be blamed?
Never try to explain.
   That single Model A
      sputtering up the grade
unfurled a highway behind
   where the tanks maneuver,
      revolving their turrets.
In a murderous time
   the heart breaks and breaks
      and lives by breaking.
It is necessary to go
   through dark and deeper dark
      and not to turn.
I am looking for the trail.
   Where is my testing-tree?
      Give me back my stones!


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