By Claribel Alegría
Translated by Carolyn Forché
I went out searching for you
ploughing distant seas
asking of the clouds
and the wind your whereabouts
it was all useless
you were within me.
To my surprise and delight, Edward Hirsch wrote this week's Poet's Choice column this week -- I don't know whether this means he has returned to writing the column or whether they simply couldn't get a guest poet, but he's my favorite person who ever wrote the column. "The Portuguese and Galician term 'saudade' suggests a profoundly bittersweet nostalgia," he writes. "It is not just a nostalgia for something that was lost; it can also be a yearning for something that might have been...whereas we tend to consign a dark, bittersweet nostalgia to the all-encompassing dustbin of sentimentality, the Hispanic sensibility has saved it as a poignant and durable feeling relating to the transitoriness of life. Saudade, like duende, is a name for something we don't have an official word or term for in English, but can recognize when manifested in music or called back in poetry. Ten years ago, I was moved by the Nicaraguan poet Claribel Alegría's book titled 'Saudade,' which Carolyn Forché rendered as 'Sorrow' (1999), a collection of yearning love poems, brief piercing lyrics, to her dead husband, Darwin J. "Bud" Flakoll, her collaborator, translator and companion for nearly fifty years."
My penguin is now a man -- well, according to Jewish social convention, anyway -- and I am very happy, though also overstuffed and overtired! After getting up insanely early to take photos -- the two B'nai Mitzvah families are supposed to share the 9-10 hour in the sanctuary to take photos, but our partner family informed us that they needed a full hour with their relatives, so we went from 8-9 after picking up the cake, guests who needed a ride, etc. -- the ceremony went very well, with both kids giving nice speeches. Adam tells me he screwed up the eighth line of his Torah portion, but I seriously doubt that anyone besides the rabbi had any idea; I certainly didn't. The rabbi's sermon was mercifully brief, about personal responsibility and loyalty to one's principles, with a tribute to Officer Stephen T. Johns.
Yet again I completely winged the candlelighting ceremony, having forgotten to write notes on what to say until the last minute, but those ceremonies exist in large part to get photos of the Bar Mitzvah celebrant with family and friends, anyway. The food at the Melting Pot was terrific and the restaurant staff was very helpful and easy to work with -- we had to make room for two poker tables and a caricaturist and turn up the lights for our photographer, and keep turning the music on and off so we could say a blessing, greet people and all that. I sat with Vertigo, Gblvr, Dementordelta, Cidercupcakes, and Hufflepants among others at one of the long party tables. We got to see out-of-town relatives, hang out with friends, listen to kids shriek with glee at their dessert fondue, give out blackjack prizes, and play with squishy penguins at the reception. These are photos snapped with my camera and my mother-in-law's camera, so nothing like official...
Me, Paul and Adam on the bima.
My kids, my sister's kids and my cousin Garrett in the small chapel.
My parents, kids, sister and families in the small chapel.
My son, father, niece, cousin, and a friend playing poker at the reception.
Me, Paul and Adam at the candlelighting.
My family and in-laws at the candlelighting.
Me, Paul and Adam with Daniel at the candlelighting.
The caricature of me and Paul sketched at the reception.
Things got a little chaotic toward evening when we went to drive one of Adam's friends home, only to learn that the child's parent was in the hospital after an accident that turned out to be much more serious than the hospital initially believed. The friend is sleeping over tonight and has no idea how bad things may be -- the ex-spouse of the parent asked us just to say that it was taking longer to get through the x-rays so it was better if he slept here -- I think she wants to talk to the child in person, but was too upset over the phone to do so, since there were a lot of tears. We went to my parents' house for some light deli, though the kids spent more time running around in the backyard than eating. When we got home, we all watched the series finale of Pushing Daisies, which made me laugh ("Your moral compass is always pointing due...the right thing") but also made me sad and I need to watch it again when I am not so distracted. So I am very tired but very pleased!