chocolate is a verb

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Tag Archives: view

found poem: the “outer”

what Dorothy saw…

DAK self portrait 1964Our house was set partway up a narrow, curving, hillside street that was just a block long and my mother said she fell in love with it the first time she stood at the kitchen sink and looked out the window. The view was mainly north, down the street, across nearby rooftops to the foothills where, decades later, the Getty Museum would become a stark white presence. You couldn’t see the house across the street, just the steep slope it sat on, which was carpeted with ice plant.

Arcing high above the house in its journey over Southern California, the sun never reached into the window but glanced across the small front yard and the neighborhood and cast a light that Dorothy would paint a thousand times.

The kitchen was her domain and the window her throne. From her spot at the sink, she would call out bright hellos to passing neighbors and scream at anyone, friend or stranger or unaccompanied beast, who dared to set foot on the mounded ivy in the front yard. Hearing the first note of her rising ire, I would shuffle away in embarrassment, hoping not to be seen, not to be associated with her screeching from the window, which was a joke among the neighbors that would surely rub off on me, compounding my already awkward existence. There was no sidewalk on the other side of the street, so people would clutch their dogs’ collars as they made their way past the house or even walk them on the dangerous blind curve to prevent the chance sniff that might launch Dorothy’s operatic alarms.

But even as generations of children and dogs — and I — left the neighborhood, even as her vision diminished, her voice grew weak and her legs would no longer hold her upright at the sink, the view continued to captivate her. When at last, at 88, she moved from the house, willing to leave behind most of her worldly possessions and more than fifty years of history, it was not my father, or the neighborhood, or the trespassing dogs she talked about, but the view from the kitchen window.

window frame…

Dorothy's window frame

The window at the end of our living room looked out onto trees. Beyond and between the trees, at the bottom of the hill, was the cemetery with its always-green, always-mowed grass and its tidy rows of matching marble headstones. Beyond the cemetery were more trees and, rarely, on exceptionally clear days, a glimpse of distant Catalina Island.

The window was large and square, between drab drapes that my mother drew closed religiously every night and that remained closed in the morning to protect the furniture, and the artwork, from the sun’s burning rays.

One day, with her artist’s eye and her quirky imagination, my mother enlisted my father to build a slender wooden frame, which they then suspended on fishing line within the larger frame of the window.

What we saw was no longer just a view, but a constantly changing painting: the jacaranda tree with its feathery leaves, lavender flowers and large, flat pods; the dusty silver eucalyptus; the gaudy pink oleander; the raucous jays and mockingbirds; and the breeze, stirring the colors and shapes into ever-new compositions within the focusing lens of the simple frame.

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