Monday, April 21, 2008

Solo at the Red Sun

Red Sun Buffet

On the way to Calvin, I temporarily lost a necklace. I'd gone through security, laid the jewelry on my jacket, and put both into a gray plastic tub to send them through the x-ray machine. After walking through the metal detector, I began chatting with one of the security people while I tried to reassemble my belongings and get dressed again (it feels like one has to undress these days to walk through security!).

About 10 minutes later, after I'd settled into eating yogurt with strawberries while waiting to board, I saw a woman waving a necklace around, "Did anybody leave a necklace?!"

I retrieved it.

When I am distracted by conversation, I clearly lose track of details. But when I am alone, they press in from every side. Being alone, then, is a special gift...though it may not feel that way at the time.

Today I offer two poems from my gift of going solo to the Red Sun Buffet. Arriving a day early for the Calvin conference always means I'll be eating alone. I consider, in retrospect, that this set me up for a few days of keen awareness of details; it also meant that my singleness made me more connected to the longing that seemed inherent in the waitress and the buffet setting itself...

"Solo at the Red Sun Buffet"

Signs: sushi, grill, barb-q,
in green, orange neon.
Trill and hum of fridges
ovens, clack of friers.
Red crustaceans stacked
near fried rice, their eyes
black and fixed, like the gaze
of the leaning waitress; silent
in faux pink silk, she follows
every sip of my hot and sour,
each bite into my slight,
stale spring roll.

When I finished with my odd buffet (I ate things I don't usually eat— shrimp, chocolate pudding, fried rice— along with things I generally do... salad, green beans, tofu, soup), the waitress who had spent her time watching me brought the check and one fortune cookie. Upon reading the fortune, I immediately decided there was a poem in it. And there was a bit of prophecy too, as the days to follow would confirm...

"Fortune at the Red Sun Buffet"

will now come your way.

Tomorrow I'll begin to consider the flip side of going solo. Since a conference also offers the gift of connection.


LL's Leaving

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Blogger christianne said...

ll, this is all so precious. thank you for opening your time up to us in this way. your poems are splendid and so poignant, and your honesty is, well, i can only say it again: precious.

i'm really looking forward to reading about the rest of your time at the conference. totally intrigued by what you said the fortune cookie read: everything will now come your way. i'm wondering if you meant this in contrast to the solo time ('everything' being a windfall of activity and noise and other people) or blessings totally unexpected. or both. or something else entirely. i guess i'll just have to wait and see . . . :)

2:32 PM  
Blogger Marcus Goodyear said...

I like these lines and line breaks:

Red crustaceans stacked
near fried rice, their eyes
black and fixed, like the gaze
of the leaning waitress; silent

2:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LL, I love your observations. So acute and full of depth and clarity.

And I'm the exact same way, terrible with details when distracted, overwhelmed by them when focused...

Enjoy the conference. I look forward to hearing more in the coming days!

3:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

See what I mean about details?!? Had I been paying more attention to those, I would have noticed that you went to the conference last week...
such a bad blog friend I am. :)

Welcome home then!

3:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

great post!

5:10 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

This all seems so tender and sweet, like all the new leaves I keep seeing. Thank you for sharing the little pieces of your heart.

5:23 PM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

Nice to be able to put together a poem on from happenings like that. I can kind of sense or imagine the setting, including the smell and taste.

Maybe that's what a good poem does; helps put you there, and makes a lasting impression, as well.

5:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was thinking of your recent post on presence as I imagined you and the waitress being together yet each being solo. There's a presence we have with those we love that brings so much connection. And yet there's a presence we can have with strangers that leaves us feeling strangely alone.

I'm so happy to be getting these glimpses of Calvin. I feel like I am experiencing it in the same order and increasing intensity as you did yourself.

7:13 PM  
Blogger Michelle Van Loon said...

Ah...the buffet.

Just like the Festival is...

What an acute and beautiful observation of aloneness/not loneliness.

8:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LL, not to sound like a sycophant here, but I have to say about you: it's not that you write poems, it's that you are a poet. Alone or connected, you have an awareness of details that the average person (say, me, for example) misses. And not just an awareness, but somehow you're able to see in, and relate to, your details a deeper and finer truth than what was apparant to the average person (say, me, for example). Your writing-- Seedlings, Stone Crossings, Love Notes--is infused with the poetic; it's like walking into natural lighting after spending the day in a bulb-lit room. Your light is different, and our souls experience it differently. So yes, your words could be described as precious, and tender, and beautiful, but that's not really it (for me). The poetry of your writing is what my soul thirsts after.

9:20 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Christianne... thank you! I loved your interpretation of the fortune. And in some ways it is both.

Mark... I like it when a poet tells me the best lines. This is helpful.

Brandon... it's fun to share these observations now with (good) blog friends, of which you are a part. :)

Nancy... thanks. From a fellow poet, I take that as a sweet compliment.

Sarah... love that image of the new leaves. A good analogy for what it felt like at the conference!

Ted... you might try it sometime. It's fun to pick out details and then attempt to weave them together.

Charity... you've expressed it exactly. It was a strange experience of being disconnected from someone who stood in the same room. And I'm glad you're enjoying the serial conference notes!

Michelle... well, I wish I could say I didn't feel lonely. But in fact I kind of did. Still, such loneliness can sometimes take us to unexpected places.

A An... I don't know; I think you are a poet perhaps too. There is a certain rhythm and beauty to your writing and (yes) sometimes a wonderful humor (poetry can be funny too!). Thank you for your sweet words. I feel blessed beyond expression.

1:54 PM  

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