Sunday, January 11, 2015

Turnip Greens and Garrison Keillor

I used to love his show, but it was easier to commit when I was single, and a drive towards Chapel Hill to get a better radio signal required only a couple bucks' sacrifice.

Today, he is doing what I like best, giving a poet the podium, and the musical guests are folksy, bluegrass...the music of nostalgia.

The poet reminds me of AP English IV, when I was the student, not the teacher, and Mrs. Williams explained that the speaker could be free to wander the hills of his youth, even while bound to his meaningless existence, a prisoner in a cell of his own making, and I eagerly raised my hand to participate, as was my habit, and I said, "but isn't that true for everyone? I mean, no offense, Mrs. Williams, but I'm often wandering the hills of my mind while you have us diagramming sentences..."

And she would crease her lips in that smiling smirk and sigh, and remove her glasses and put the stem in the corner of her mouth, and she would say, "you are special," and the class heard her sarcasm, and I embraced her approval.

The turnip greens are steaming my tiny kitchen, as the radio chats, an incessant voice like an old familiar friend who doesn't mind my checking in and out of our conversation as I think about poetry and remember that theology conference at Duke where a Harvard or Yale lecturer discussed the role of preacher as poet, bringing the divine to the vulgar because we cannot understand God without metaphor...And I think about my agnosticism. Someone said, "Agnostics are just atheists without guts," but I rather like believing that I could be wrong about my discoveries...I choose honesty when love and faith are at stake.

I remember when all it took to be a fake was the gentle sucking in of a girl's cheeks to feign dimpled beauty like a character from a Thomas Hardy novel. Before Tinder dates could steal someone else's Instagram images, before Botox injections could plump a lip, before reality T.V. taught us that to be famous for nothing was something...and I dream of a rustic hillside town with a single filling station and the smell of the corn in the air, and I imagine crossing paths with a country girl whose smile is a dream I am willing to lose myself in, twelve hundred miles away, and twenty years later...

The ham hocks at the bottom of my turnip greens have lured the tomcat from under my house, and he paces restlessly outside my window, aware of my antipathy, yet audacious and cold, and for a moment, as a Prairie Home Companion comes to an end, as my sons celebrate a living room triumph over a digital foe, I am where I want to be.

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