It is Monday morning and I don’t have to go to work. That’s not quite right. It’s Monday morning and until four years ago when I launched this website, I was retired and Monday mornings meant I did not have to go to work. Now that the website is up and running, I am only slightly retired. Now on Monday mornings I have to get up to go to work on the website. I am no longer retired from going to work, only from receiving a paycheck for that work.
But on this particular Monday morning, even though I have a lot of work waiting for me at the PC on my desk in the other room, I have chosen to sleep in. I am no longer a spring chicken and a kink in my upper back (at both “wing bones”) has kept me from a full night’s sleep for more than a week. This morning I got out of bed, took my pills, opened the dishwasher to finish its “natural” drying, looked at the clock, and at 6:45 decided to go back to bed.
It is now almost nine thirty and I am up. I feel better. I am thinking about the work I will do on the website when I spot a copy of Cynthia Rylant’s The Van Gogh Café. Bookin’ with Sunny has recently published Joanne Mallari’s review of Rylant’s Ludie’sLife. Joanne is a young writer with a bright future. Joanne loves poetry, writes her own and was happy to accept Ludie’s Life (a novel in free verse) for review on BWS. Her review got me to collect all the Rylant titles in my stash, and so here I sit on my unmade bed reading chapter one of The Van Gogh Café.
The café used to be a theatre. Rylant tells us that there is magic within a theatre’s walls, and I think to myself, just as there is magic within a book’s pages. I finish The Café (Rylant doesn’t number her chapters, but if she did, it would have been Chapter 1) and read straight through The Possum (unnumbered Chapter 2). She’s right. Magic does exist in the Van Gogh Café and all the people who come to it. I look at the clock. I’ve been reading and thinking for almost a half hour. My attention drifts to the bookshelves to the left of my bed and my eye comes to rest on a copy of John Dos Passos’s State of the Nation.
See, this is the part about being old with enough good health to be cavalier about how you spend your time – I allow the Dos Passos title to remind me of a book of poetry, Phantom Noise, that I recently read and reviewed. The poetry was written by a veteran of the Iraq war. It too, like State of the Nation, in its own way, speaks about the state of our nation. I put down Rylant’s novel of magic and reach for the 1944 Dos Passos book.
Dos Passos writes of “the rift between the man in the service and the civilian. So much of the youth and energy of the country has been committed to these wars that what kind of citizens you people become as you grow up in warfare is going to determine in a very large measure what kind of a country we shall have when the wars are over.” I think Dos Passos would have enjoyed a cup of coffee in Rylant’s café. I think he would have shaken Brian Turner’s hand for his service and his poetry. Dos Passos writes that what America has attained since its inception “has been a sort of a miracle.” Sort of like magic, my mind clicks in. He goes on to write, “Miracles only happen when enough people want them to happen.” He definitely would have liked a cup of coffee at the Van Gogh Cafe.
Miracles and magic. The theatre of wars and cafes and the pages of books. I’m still thinking on this when I see it is now noon. The day has already gotten away from me. Maybe it’s not only the kink in my back that is keeping me up at night. – Sunny Solomon