Friday, November 30, 2007

Friday Snippets 21

Finally a snippet from my NaNo novel which I'm willing to share. It took two days of reworking it to get it to this point. I crossed the finish line shortly before noon yesterday but have not uploaded to NaNo's verifier yet as I was focused on getting this prepared. I'm going to get that done before I start my blog visiting for Snippets, TT and Poetry Train. Said visits will be the focus of all my Internet activity for the next week but may be hit and miss over the next few days as I'm supposedly traveling north to spend a couple weeks with my family in Longview, Washington.

I'm not sure exactly when as I've not heard from my sister yet as to when they will be driving through here on their way back from visiting with my Mother's family in Gerber and Sacramento where they spent Thanksgiving. I haven't even started to pack yet and that is going to be a huge endeavor as the chaos in my room reflects the chaos of my Spring Fever manuscript. I've not been keeping atop the clutter for several weeks and haven't done laundry since the weekend before Thanksgiving. I hope my sister took me seriously when my last IM message was that I would not start packing until she called to let me know when to expect them. When they stopped by to see me on their way back last year she called from her cell phone as as they approached the Phoenix exit on I5. Since our trailer park is right next to it they were here within five minutes.

OK. Enough blathering. Here is a snippet from the second chapter of Spring Fever, it has no title of its own yet but it may be helpful to know that this chapter is governed by the themes expressed in the Emperor's card of the tarot.


Graham paced the perimeter of the room as he read aloud from the slim volume he held in one hand as his other hand kept brushing back the silver and charcoal marbled hair that kept falling over his brow. His words were as measured as his steps.

' La gloria di colui che tutto move
per l'universo penetra, e risplende
in una parte più e meno altrove.'

"Who would like to translate?" His eyes swept the faces of the dozen grad students gathered around the long table that nearly filled the small room. Some few were studiously ignoring him as they stared down at their own copy of Dante's Paradiso. Others were doodling and several were fanning their faces with their books. Only one zealous hand waved high.

Graham stopped behind the one empty chair, besides his own at the head of the table which he'd abandoned in the first moments of class, and leaned his forearms on its back, resigning himself to the inevitable. When Maia Robins missed a class the life went out of the party. She had a way of eliciting the participation of the others in an easy repartee. He was often irritated by the frivolity that would ensue, feeling the reins slipping from his hands with his carefully scripted lesson.

"Mr. Egan." Graham pronouced the name with care, restraining himself from saying aloud the mnemonic which helped him remember this student's name. Eager Beaver.

He closed his eyes in a mental wince as the rush of words, squeezed out of the soggy sponges that were Dave Egan's lips, poured in a tuneless torrant.

"The glory of Him who moveth everything
Doth penetrate the universe, and shine In one part more and in another less."

Having stood and spun towards the window with his back to the circle of faces Graham opened his eyes, finding his unfocused gaze wandering over the pink and green spackled blue through the blooming branches of the nearby Dogwood grove. "That was a fine display of an ability to memorize Longfellow's translation, but it demonstrates neither your translating competence nor your comprehension of the author's intent. Which of course was the aim of this exercise."

Graham was about to turn back to the class when he caught a glimpse of movement, a splash of color airbrushed against the green grass of the yard. A familiar figure glided in a flurry of fabric. A lithe-legged, bramble-headed wood-nymph clothed in scarves with a garland of flowers woven into her autumn leaf colored hair and a half-dozen bangles between wrist and elbow that he knew mimicked wind chimes with every movement of her arm. A sound that had annoyed him enough in class one time for him to offer her a roll of tape to silence them only to have her hold out both arms for him to apply the tape himself right there in front of the others. Another quirk of hers that annoyed him, this willingness to display in class the familiarity with him borne of her many visits to his home since last Fall to meet with Holly who was her advisor.

Holly, his beloved Holly who spent most of her hours these days strapped into her wheel-chair her own lithe-limbs imprissioned by MS, whose much sought after poetry writing classes had been cut back to one small by-invitation-only class which met at their home. Maia, of course, was one of the invited. If not for Maia, Holly would probably have taken this entire year off. She had stopped taking on new advisees a couple years ago and, about to see her last one graduate, was contemplating the possibility of taking this year off when she got the submission from Maia last year. Graham was equal parts grateful for the new light in his wife's eyes and envious that it was Maia and not he who put it there.

He could not understand what it was Holly was so enthused about nor why she was so indulgent with this girl, this child-woman. Several times over the last months Maia had called to cancel appointments with Holly and she had missed an occasional class with him, including the first one of the term last week. When he expressed his disapproval of this evidence of a lack of seriousness to Holly she just smiled. And last week she'd said Maia's excuse was probably the most legitimate one possible short of death or an incapacitating accident or illness.

What was she doing now? Stooping on the grass and fishing around under that voluminous tent of cloth, yet another poncho or cape covering her to mid thigh. She must have a wardrobe of the things as she had sported a series of them in every fabric from felt to cashmere since last Fall. This one a shimmering sky-blue in silk or light-weave linen. She stood now, fumbling at her collar-bone area--with a bra strap? with the the knots of one of those saris that looked always to need but a firm tug to end as a puddle around her feet?

With an exasperation reaching unfamiliar heights, he opened the window and called down to her. "So nice of you to join us Ms. Robins." The blossom-scented breeze assaulted his face and a cloud of butterflies swarmed up from the bushes below him

He was gratified to see her startle and to catch a glimpse of a fleeting expression of chagrin.

“Ah, I’m sure Miss Robins you have heard often of the proverbial early bird and the worm.”

“Often and often Professor Carmelo and I always thought the late worm had the best deal of all.”

A gurgle of laughter flowed though the room and Graham felt himself blushing like a callow kid. Raising his hand he brushed at a tickle on his brow only to find the tickle transferred to his hand. He stared in bemusement at the butterfly on the back of his hand.

In hopes of regaining control of his class and putting her back in her place he called out again. "Perhaps you would like to share with us your translation of the first tercet of Paradisio?"

From below came the musical tones of a voice trained for stage and choir, projected as though to reach the wispy clouds above as her hands made graceful gestures about her head that did not disturb the halo of butterflies that had lit on the wreathe of flowers in her hair:

"The gloriole of the Choreographer,
Riddles the Cosmos, illuminating
Here a little more and there a little less."

"It's original at least. Though you've taken some mighty liberties."

He could hear her sigh from where he stood and could not help but hear within his head an irony-infused declamation of the of Paradiso's thirty-fourth tercet.

Ond'ella, appresso d'un pio sospiro,
li occhi drizzò ver' me con quel sembiante
che madre fa sovra figlio deliro,

If you simply must see the translation, highlight below to read Longfellow's rendition. And no, I do not read or speak Italian. Maia's translation took me hours of perusal of four different translations and my J. I. Rodale Synonym Finder to turn out three lines that reflected both Dante's words and Maia's unique take on things.

Whereupon she, after a pitying sigh,
Her eyes directed tow'rds me with that look
A mother casts on a delirious child;

4 tell me a story:

Ann 11/30/2007 7:45 PM  

Great snippet, Joy. I always enjoy reading your contributions. Have a great weekend.

Gabriele Campbell 12/01/2007 9:11 AM  

I have some Italian, and your translation works to characterise Maia's take on poetry - and life.

Anonymous,  12/01/2007 5:47 PM  

I like Maia. I also like Graham. I think Maia irritates him because he's attracted to her. To him, that's unthinkable, so he finds himself irritated by her presence. Good snippet!

IanT 12/02/2007 5:09 AM  

I loved the description of Maia; the flurry of cloth, the resemblance to a wood-nymph and the bangles. It gives motion and temperament as well as physical appearance.

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