Friday, September 17, 2010

Penelope Days and Gingerbread Evenings

Yesterday was one of those surreal days at work, those Penelope days I call them. I spent much time yesterday redoing Faculty Development Files once again. Standardize this kind of entry, find this kind of documentation, simplify this, modify that--pretty soon the whole day is shot, the whole week has vanished.

I think of Penelope, weaving her tapestry by day, unravelling it at night. I weave these files from the threads that faculty provide, and then I unravel what they've done and try to put it back together in the way that the administration will like. And then, it will all go to the accreditors, who may require more weaving and unweaving.

Insert a heavy, heavy sigh here. Did I go to graduate school for this? Let me not dwell on that question. I can't afford that introspection right now.

I did become an administrator to make life easier for faculty. And if I can do the weaving and unweaving, so that faculty are free to teach, so be it.

By the end of my afternoon of copying and filing, I wasn't good for very much. So I picked up a volume of poetry. I didn't expect to be able to read much. On Wednesday, after the first round of copying and filing, I returned home and could only read a chapter or two of Julia Glass' The Whole World Over. I assumed poetry would be that much more impossible.

Wrong, wrong, gloriously wrong. I picked up Ava Leavell Haymon's wonderful volume of poems, Why the House Is Made of Gingerbread. She does amazing work weaving together modern life with the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale. There are undertones of abuse and darkness, but they don't overwhelm the work. Maybe I was just in a mood to handle the darkness that some of these poems contain.

Here are some stanzas to whet your appetite:

"The witch, what of her?
She would wait, neither happy
nor unhappy. She had cooked
herself up after all

and could do so again, exist
as undeniably in recipe form
as in a cake slice on the saucer.
A rite of passage cake--"



"Knowing the sugar house
dangerous, even evil, Gretel walked
toward it. After long enough in the woods,

any house of your own kind seems a shelter.
They had seen dens, lair, deer huddles,
small round nests of finches."

("First wish")


"Why does the story begin with the mother
dead? The walls of gingerbread--
they were not on plumb. They'd yawned

against each other, skidded sideways a bit
till the eggwhites in the icing set hard.
Who raises, who braces walls with only sugar?"

("Fairy-Tale Childhood")

1 comment:

Shefali Shah Choksi said...

Thanks for the snippets; I'll check out more soon, the gods willing! this is why i go back to fairytales all the time: they promise an end and reward to every meaningless, unending task, and i know that no fairytale tells lies, so...