Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Lessons in Metaphor


Elise snorts, then laughs. She has an endearing way of doing it. "Where did you hear that?" She asks.

Where did I hear that…?

I've been asked this before. And then, I didn't have an answer.

Imagine if you will a romantic morning in Seattle. Such things can happen if the individuals involved are in love. I remember this scene very well because while there were many mornings like it that one year, one particular day stood out. My boyfriend's wife and children had gone to visit relatives so he was slumming it by staying the night at my apartment.

It was an older brick building with steam heat so it was always too hot in the cold, and I'd leave the window open. This also allowed for a certain degree of bohemian looseness. We seldom wore clothes and I was a bit too loud when we had sex. I was younger then and thought such things were important.

So the window was open and a deluge came through Seattle, as it often does in autumn.*

That Sunday morning it wasn't his hard-on in my back that woke me up but a huge downpour. I sat up in bed and watched it come down. He woke up too. He looked at me, then outside and said:
"And I rose
In a rainy autumn
And walked abroad in shower of all my days
High tide and the heron dived when I took the road
Over the border
And the gates
Of the town closed as the town awoke."**
He was always saying shit like that. Before you suspect that my lover was remarkable, unique, a treasure know that: A. He was a poetry professor. B. He was also my poetry professor, over twenty years older than me, and my graduate adviser.

He considered quoting Dylan Thomas in bed with his young mistress as part of his professional duties. He looked at me, smiled.

"It sounds like a horse pissing on a flat rock." I said.

He wasn't all bullshit. He genuinely laughed, a sudden joy at the words—that I said them. That I had pierced his pretension enough that even he could take a break from it and laugh at himself. I

"Where did you ever hear that?" He threw his arms around me, kissed my head, my nose, my breasts and my tummy. "That's wonderful!"

I was so shocked I couldn't answer. I had forgotten.

But I remember now. Maybe because I had to be older and closer in age to the woman who said it. It was Myrna, my friend Michelle's mom. They lived out in Orangevale where I would visit my aunt, although I usually liked to play with Michelle while Myrna and my Aunt smoked Kools, drank General Foods International Coffee and spoke of forbidden things like the hair on the neighbor's chest.

But one day, Orangevale was surprised by heavy rain. Michelle and I stood beneath one of the peach trees, looking up at the sky and the green leaves and wondering how this miracle came from the dark gray sky. And then Myrna's voice:

"Girls! Get in here, it's raining like a horse pissing on a flat rock."

"Whatever happened to the professor?" Elise asks.

"He slipped away like a bare ass on a wet rock. That's another one of Myrna's. She taught me more about poetry than he ever did."


* Newcomers to Seattle may be surprised at how small the rain is. Yes. Small. This is because most of the time there is just ocean-drizzle plip-plipping on you, the car, the dog. It's enough to keep your grass growing, and everyone wearing Gore-Tex. And it occurs for most of the year save in the brief deep summer and… October/November. Those months see the Pineapple Express luxuriously unfold tropical moisture in a long band of clouds from Seattle to Honolulu. And it's the closest thing we get to monsoons.

**Dylan Thomas: "Poem in October"

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