Yesterday morning was one news-heart-stopper after t’other, wasn’t it? Scarcely had I allowed my eyes to trail over the headlines when I saw that:
11 Climbers Had Died on K2
Alexander Solzhenitsyn Had Died
It is much, much more difficult to ascend K2 than it is to ascend Mt. Everest. One route up K2 is called “The Magic Line” [eee!]; another, the most difficult route, is called “The Polish Line”. I have not read which route these climbers took. I know that they were trapped by broken ropes close to the summit. I read something else, a story from 1986; it was about a climber named Michel Parmentier, trapped on K2’s “south shoulder” during a blizzard. Other climbers, down at the base camp, tried to get him down the mountain over their radios. Apparently, they could hear him saying the words grande vide over and over again, which means “big emptiness”.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote “The Gulag Archipelago”, which–to my disgust–I have never read. He was sentenced to eight years in a Soviet labor camp, because he wrote unflatteringly of Joseph Stalin in a letter to a friend. His first published book was “A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich”, about a man in a prison camp. The Soviet government banned his work. He spirited his writing out of the country on microfilm.
Once he said: “Truth eludes us if we do not concentrate with total attention on its pursuit.”
On Saturday afternoon, my friend Lara and I taught a writing workshop we created for 2nd through 4th graders at 826Chi. We called our workshop “Word Chefs”. We talked about food, and we pretended that we were spaghetti and meatballs [you have not lived, until you have seen a small child divebomb his person at the ground, in order to imitate sauce being poured from a jar]. We created fantastical pretend recipes. They latched onto the idea and ran away with it, away and away, until our hands ached with the speed of our dry-erase markers, trying to catch every thought. We first worked together to create the recipe for:
chicken milk frog sandwiches
–which recipe includes, if I recall correctly, 500 chickens, 1,000 cups of sugar, 1 teaspoon of milk, 2 1-inch slices of pumpernickel bread, and 2 frogs [which cannot come from a lake, cannot be toads, and must be green with black spots].
[One angelic-faced girl added: “And two bear noses!”]
Then they all wrote their own recipes, as we and our teaching assistants wandered about, offering aid. “What’s your recipe?” I said to one young man. It was “banana avocado juice”. A benign-enough concoction, with the following ingredients, verbatim:
0 cups of sugar
3 cups of cups
4 cups of motorcycles
“So who eats this?” I said.
“A hat with eyes!” he said. “And its brains are in its mouth!”
Late in the month, late afternoon,
en route or waiting for the train,
spring barely peeking through mild rain:
what does this impatience mean?
Scarlet eruptions on the skin.
We’re poised: when will the war begin?
I crane to hear the starting gun.
What does this impatience mean?
Wait for the other shoe to drop.
What now is green will soon be ripe;
what’s ripening began as green,
so what does this impatience mean?
Is the best position for the hurt
of life in time to stay alert
or try to sleep to ease the strain,
the rash, the spring, the war, the rain,
oh what does this impatience mean?