Natlaie Goldberg on the “core motor” of Literature

recently had dinner with miriam. the bull’s ring where no one else would ever come with me. we shared a steak and it was good. always when i leave her and really when i’m with her too there is this feeling there is something we are not getting to or something i forgot to tell her that is so important. what can be more important than two old friends spending around five hours together. (we met in 1984) after dinner we walked around the plaza which was empty and debated whether i should have an ice cream cone at hagen daz, the energy center of santa fe, in my opinion. at the last moment i said i’ll pass, come to the post office with me.(i’m eating droste chocolate now as i write this) the moon was hazy and i told her it was a good moon for a haiku and she made up one on the spot which i can’t remember. but what i do remember was the two important things we did seem to talk about besides love, still her favorite subject: i said all these years when we look at the people we know no one has really changed much, even if they fulfilled their dreams, had children, married, divorced, published books, traveled all over. and the second thing was and i can’t remember it. forgive me. maybe it will come to me later. we were sitting on her brown couch in her living room and the late afternoon sun was slanting in and i asked her to lower the shade. what we said meant a lot to me but now all i remember is the mint tea, her new painting on the yellow wall in the kitchen, the oreo cookies in a jar, the tanazakii book she finally returned, the red and black coat she put on as we left her house. next to her house is an empty lot that her neighbor owns. i want to buy that lot and make a little park out of it. miriam seems indifferent to it. i say to myself, don’t you have enough to do. you don’t need to make a park on the other side of town from where you live. but always if something is not pretty, i want to make it beautiful. can you imagine how i suffer?

i remembered during late night zazen what the second thing was that was so important to me with my evening with miriam: she was trying to get across what last week was like. she was at the blackboard explaining a french form of poetry i’d never heard of before and suddenly an announcement “it’s an emergency. it’s freezing out and the gas has gone out in parts of the state and we are conserving energy. all schools closed right now. leave the building.”

then i turned to her. they should have let you continue with your lesson. what form is that?i never heard of it. and she explained it to me. and i said, “miriam, isn’t literature the most important thing in a society? ” and i was dead serious. “i mean, i didn’t choose something peripheral. what is more important.” how could we live without shakespeare, hemingway, mccullers, moby dick(which i still haven’t read but it’s presence is important). ok, water, food, clothes, heat, have their place. but i drive around sometimes thinking, while i listen to the news, they have it all wrong. they are too far away from poetry and that is their problem. i am not a fool. i did not choose something stupid and unessential. like the heartbeat, breath, like the core motor that runs us, look deep, you will find words there and sentences, details. what we do is central to the functioning of the world. don’t you agree?
And from Miriam: here are the haiku I wrote

how many haiku
must I write…
waiting for you

you say “hazy moon–
look! quick, write a poem…”
it’s gone