Friday, January 11, 2008


We're having our floors refinished. Old fir floors, which were painted when we moved in: apparently the paint is old and too dangerous to sand. We had a crew in first to blowtorch them and scrape them. That was the Mexican crew, not an English-speaker amongst them. Now we have the Anglos in, big strapping guys, twice the size of the Mexicans, with lots of heavy equipment. They've sanded everything down. Today they start putting on the urethane, or verathane, or whatever it is. Three coats, over a week. So we camp in the living room, for now; our bedroom is one of the rooms being done. I woke this morning at five, and sat for half an hour, by the porch light glowing through the front curtains.

It is exhilarating to have empty spaces in the house. Step past the plastic sheeting, and there are bare floors, bare walls -- uncluttered space. I did not know how deeply I was yearning for empty space.

Martha and I are moved by the same impulse. We are selling books and throwing away files. It's time to jettison things. We don't need much for the last stage of the journey. We have some twenty years left, probably. The only books to keep now are the ones I'm sure I'll want to look into again in the next year or two. Old journals, old letters -- they should all go. All this detritus. Why leave it to perplex and oppress our children?

Among my stuff, a file of poetry. I had been dreading it. Most of it dates back to the year I went to Lane Community College, when I was sixteen, and it was mostly, as I expected, awful. But it was so bad that sorting through it was easy. It almost all went easily into the roundfile. Of it all I saved four poems, which I'll post here eventually so I can get rid of that paper too. Here, in fact, is the first of them, in its entirety:

Valerie, O Valerie, I sing one song for you;
This river is a river that one tide could well undo.

Who was Valerie? Well, I have to admit that I'm not quite sure. I tended to fall in love, in those days, with women with oceans of dark hair. Probably she had a great mane of it, and an engaging smile, and let me join her at the cafeteria tables and memorize the way her tresses foamed over her shoulders. But it's not one tide, but thousands, since then. Who knows where in the wide world she is, now, or if she's still with us here at all?

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