This past month, I’ve been honored to craft lovely letters, stories, poems, & words for some incredible individuals.
As I’m shifting away from this blog to focus exclusively on the shop, I’ll be highlighting these stories on my mailing list, instead. You can receive an email every Wednesday by subscribing.
Today’s feature is a Custom Typewriter Poem called “Irrigation.”
Several years ago, I attended the Canoga Park Art Walk with my cardboard Free Poetry sign & a lawn chair. It was full of other Valley creatives—mainly painters, graffiti artists, & bands—which I loved as the Valley often gets a lot of disdain from non-natives moving in to the “cooler” parts of LA.
I attended regularly as a vendor, & ended up writing several poems for the same people year after year. One of my favorite regular visitors, Renée & her son, Javi, would stop by to wait in long lines, staying until after dark when all the vendors were packing up, just to receive a poem.
She requested five Custom Typewriter Poems as gifts to her family for birthdays & graduations. One of them in particular was a poem for Mimi, her niece & Javi’s cousin.
Mimi currently works in tech, helping companies improve their sustainability. This was something that caught my attention immediately, as Wired recently published an article on Sustainable Web Design (& how minimal code can help cut down one’s carbon output). She studied Atmosphere & Energy Engineering at Stanford, which sparked a wave for the poem.
With Father’s Day on the way, I circled back to memories of last autumn, when my father was still alive, & my daughter had yet to be born. “Irrigation” was influenced by a specific patch of land in the garden, where my mother & I planted bulbs in late September. While several months pregnant, I decided to use my father’s old breathing tubes & my mother’s old rain barrels to create a self-sustaining rainwater & graywater system that would water the bulbs through a do-it-yourself drip line irrigation.
I placed the rain barrel as high as I could, so that the breathing tubes would then slope down at an angle before watering the patch of land. The gravity gave the water the force it needed to run—but I couldn’t figure out how to keep the force going without manipulating the tubing with more air.
These thoughts of air & water as fundamental building blocks for all of life guided me as I recollected symbols which, at the time, were mundane & insignificant. I think back to those green breathing tubes & marvel at the poetry of life. My father’s favorite instrument was the saxophone; he stopped being able to play it once his respiratory system started to fade. The beautiful circle of breath being given & taken away—our need for water, for air—this poem is a tribute to those elements, how they interweave & play with us, how dependent we are on them, how often we take such simple things for granted.
Here’s “Irrigation” in its entirety. I hope you enjoy it.
IRRIGATION Last autumn, I collected bits of rain to irrigate a small patch of land beneath the stairs. I channeled it through a thin piece of tubing, recycled from my father's breathing machine before he passed away. With summer's heavy heat upon us, I like to think back to that season of fruitful rains, each drop channeling breath, all of our systems simple: just water & air passing through. --billimarie june 24th 2020
Thank you Renée, Javi, & Mimi for your part in this story. & of course, thank you to my mother for that special plot in the garden; thank you to my father for spending those last few months with me, & for waiting to meet his granddaughter.