Poet and choreographer Annie Kahane grew up swimming in rivers in Calistoga and Laytonville. In the midst of a very hot summer, a friend asked Annie to write a poem for a solstice party. As she began to reflect on the meaning of summer, Annie found herself challenged by her poetry.
This is Annie Kahane's Moment.
I wanted to write something that would celebrate summertime. It was in the middle of the drought, and I was having a hard time celebrating summertime because all the creek beds were dry, and all the swimming holes that I grew up swimming in were low and you couldn't go swimming.
If you grow up in Northern California, it's very temperate, the seasons are pretty mild. But even so, can you imagine living in a world where there was literally no change in what it felt like from December to July?
We frame memory in terms of a period of time when something occurred. We think about whether it was cold, if we were indoors, if we were laying in the sun. And so the idea that those things might be lost is what this poem is about.
When Celebrating the Solstice in Our Now
I believe in time as medicine,
in night settling her quiet blanket over an open question, rearranging the matter in an unresolved heart,
I believe in cycle of light to dark;
in the way the season tastes at its center
and at its edge,
how the light today reminds you of the light a year ago when the rose bush bloomed, your friend died
and you pledged to pay attention to each minute.
And whether you have done it.
I believe in the crash of freezing rain
that herds us indoors toward fire and warm lovers,
how it feels when a whole neighborhood opens after the storm,
unveils pale skin, shoulder blades sharpened toward the air, wind flapping at a flimsy dress and the crisp definition of a crocus forming in the freshness.
And I believe in heat,
in the dry pocket of time between what has been and what will be done; colors deep and flat,
the yellow hills of California, that slowed speech
and something uninspired about urgency.
And I believe in the quickening that follows,
engine revved again for the cycle, leaves surging with potential
that rises in the common buzz
and the busy people’s cheeks shine underneath wool hats,
hands working and progress zooming us back to the beginning of it all.
But ‐ there is a lava catapulting toward this very airplane.
We are flying through an ash cloud ‐
not to mention the fifteen other rebellions the earth has staged since last summer, pounding on our clean, white doors, ignored and shouting
while we sit, sipping streamed television with our coca cola ‐
and I’m wondering
how we forgot to save ourselves;
How, when there is so much time for so much else ‐
so many carefully orchestrated group photographs, Amazon deliveries and dry cleaning ‐ do we shake our heads in mild and detached horror,
exclaim and come together only for a moment when our town is on fire,
and still drive alone each day across the bay bridge, bemoan the traffic as if the two are unrelated,
just few thousand friendly half‐way harmonizers
blowing whistles from the comfort of the air conditioning
so I’m praying
for the endurance of my favorite way of mapping time.
I'm praying that the grass does not dissolve out of the hills,
and that my someday daughter has a wild tree‐covered hill to climb, and that we do not arrange a future
where the history books have chapters for the 4th grade
about what seasons were like.
Poet and choreographer Annie Kahane founded the award-winning Alive & Well Productions in San Francisco. Becky Hoag recorded and produced Annie's Moment.