Some years ago, my friend Jennifer Anderson—the inspiration behind my daily poetry blog—gave me a set of beautiful cards that she had made and painted by hand, featuring verse from The Pillow Book of Sei Shõnagon. In her “pillow book”—or diary—the poet Sei Shõnagon recorded 185 observations of life in the Royal Japanese court during the last decade of the 10th century. These short poems, with titles like “Splendid Things” and “Things that Make One’s Heart Beat Faster,” are lovely, vivid snapshots of a real person’s life in a specific time and place. They remind me to “listen to my life” more closely, and to record memories of the places and the people who mean the most to me.
To that end, and since we’re in the middle of the NBA finals (which is, as most of you know, a contest between the LA Lakers and the Boston Celtics), I’ve been thinking a lot about the wonderful years my family spent living in the Boston area—during some of my college years and for many more after that. I now live in Laker territory, but will forever be a fan of all things Boston, including the Celtics. Here is my “pillow book” poem, a few memories of one of my favorite places:
The golden dome of the State House
seen through the car window on a rainy day.
The cool museum interior on an August afternoon.
Girls in white, stepping out of the shadows,
in a Sargent portrait.
A perfect oyster that tastes like the sea.
Incense and song rising to the high, arched ceiling
of a brick church on Christmas Eve.
Packed pews; a spirited passing of the peace.
Bells ringing out in the cold, clear midnight air.
A snowy, collar-turned-up trudge
from an office tower at the end of the day.
A breathless sprint through North Station to catch the last train,
then the warmth and light of home.