the charm of 5:30

Posted by on April 7, 2010

Celebrating Pascha with friends © 2016 Julia Mason Wickes.

Celebrating Pascha with friends © 2016 Julia Mason Wickes.


The Charm of 5:30

by David Berman

It’s too nice a day to read a novel set in England.

We’re within inches of the perfect distance from the sun,
the sky is blueberries and cream,
and the wind is as warm as air from a tire.
Even the headstones in the graveyard
seem to stand up and say “Hello! My name is…”

It’s enough to be sitting here on my porch,
thinking about Kermit Roosevelt,
following the course of an ant,
or walking out into the yard with a cordless phone
to find out she is going to be there tonight.

On a day like today, what looks like bad news in the distance
turns out to be something on my contact, carports and white
courtesy phones are spontaneously reappreciated
and random “okay”s ring through the backyards.

This morning I discovered the red tints in cola
when I held a glass of it up to the light
and found an expensive flashlight in the pocket of a winter coat
I was packing away for summer.

It all reminds me of that moment when you take off your sunglasses
after a long drive and realize it’s earlier
and lighter out than you had accounted for.

You know what I’m talking about,

and that’s the kind of fellowship that’s taking place in town, out in
the public spaces. You won’t overhear anyone using the words
“dramaturgy” or “state inspection” today. We’re too busy getting along.

It occurs to me that the laws are in the regions and the regions are
in the laws, and it feels good to say this, something that I’m almost
sure is true, outside under the sun.

Then to say it again, around friends, in the resonant voice of a
nineteenth-century senator, just for a lark.

There’s a shy looking fellow on the courthouse steps, holding up a
placard that says “But, I kinda liked Reagan.” His head turns slowly
as a beautiful girl walks by, holding a refrigerated bottle up against
her flushed cheek.

She smiles at me and I allow myself to imagine her walking into
town to buy lotion at a brick pharmacy.
When she gets home she’ll apply it with great lingering care before
moving into her parlor to play 78 records and drink gin-and-tonics
beside her homemade altar to James Madison.

In a town of this size, it’s certainly possible that I’ll be invited over
one night.

In fact I’ll bet you something.

Somewhere in the future I am remembering today. I’ll bet you
I’m remembering how I walked into the park at five thirty,
my favorite time of day, and how I found two cold pitchers
of just poured beer, sitting there on the bench.

I am remembering how my friend Chip showed up
with a catcher’s mask hanging from his belt and how I said

great to see you, sit down, have a beer, how are you,
and how he turned to me with the sunset reflecting off his contacts
and said, wonderful, how are you.

*  *  *

For Poetry Wednesday, here’s a poem by David Berman. I have to confess, I think of him as a sort of dude who writes poetry more than a poet. But that is perfect for this week. There shall be no fasting during Bright Week. Neither shall there be any serious poetry. There shall be no peeking at the price of the cheese when deciding which one to put in your grocery cart.

When I told Jeff I was thinking about posting this poem on my blog, he said it was a good idea, except that there was that one sort of creepy line about the girl with lotion. Then I remembered how that line does make me feel as if the poem is veering off in an uncomfortable direction. Nevertheless, weighed in the balance, this poem still expresses something of the essence of Bright Week for me this year: a sublime relief that life may be getting back to an easier version of itself, for a while at least.

After six weeks of a cupboard which, though technically stocked, managed to feel simultaneously as bare as Old Mother Hubbard’s during the Great Depression, it is nice to have chocolate, cheese, and salami just sitting around. My husband took it upon himself to make one of those absurd Paula Deen casseroles for dinner last night. It bordered on the symbolic. The belt encircling our girth of existence seems to have been let out by several notches, as evidenced by the fact that we are free–nay blessed–to use dairy fats as the perfect tool that they are for melding all manner of ingredients together at 350 degrees.

The photo is of Pascha day with good friends. There were no serious conversations that I can recall.


  1. Molly Sabourin
    April 7, 2010

    Julia, Julia, I'm so thankful your Bright Week ponderings (or purposeful lack thereof) are so appropriately, cleanly, joyful. It is really, really difficult for me to release, to obediently FEAST like that. It's like I almost need someone to physically enter my brain and cut the overheated power cord juicing my heavy, intensive, thoughts and then yell, CHRIST IS RISEN! Now eat ( I heart that Jeff made a Paula Deen casserole), drink and be merry! I adored that poem and felt refreshed by the untethered optimism oozing from your post. Thank you!!

    much love,

  2. Beth
    April 7, 2010

    That is a great poem. I love the idea of walking into a downtown area- I am picturing a small Iowa town complete with town square and monument- and sitting down on a bench where a pitcher of cold beer awaits. I can almost taste it. Great choice for this week. Makes you remember that life shouldn't be taken so seriously.

    And of course yay for rich yummy foods that absolutely do not include any kind of bean. I was thankful last night as I shredded a cooked chicken for soup.

  3. amber
    April 7, 2010

    So, well, David Berman reminds me of you and Jeff. I read him first at your little apartment up at Crestwood Lakes, with Effie batting at my ankles. And Berman is, for the record, one of the few poets I will keep reading even if the poem goes beyond one page (there are only a very few poets I'll turn a page for). And he is the author of the "Self portrait at 28" which I consider a perfectly delightful poem.

    I must admit that as I read the poem you posted today I just couldn't wait for the girl with the lotion and had to skip ahead to see if it was really all that bad, and then it didn't make sense, so I had to back up and read it in context, and even then I didn't think it was all that bad.

    Nonetheless, it's a lovely poem and I'm glad you reminded me of Berman. I will have to see if I can get some work of his cheap on Amazon. And that's about it for my rambling comment!


  4. anna j
    April 7, 2010

    Funny–I just noticed Amber's comment and must confess to doing the same thing 🙂
    He is a new poet to me but reminds me of some of the readings I just listened to at a writer's conference. It was so good to work on listening to, and appreciating, all manners of writers, since my own is rather naive and, often, I think, not as "literary" as others . . .
    But I digress. Thank you for posting this light-hearted word-treat 🙂

  5. Julia
    April 7, 2010

    Self-portrait at 28 is also by far my favorite David Berman poem, and I do remember reading it to you out loud, Amber, although in my memory it was in my office in Rangos. Maybe we just read David Berman poetry all over creation. Those were the days!

    Re: the part about the girl with lotion. I guess it isn't really creepy, depending on how you look at it. That little bratty puritan in me felt the need to provide a moral disclaimer, but now that I think about it, moral disclaimers are also probably contrary to the spirit of Bright Week.

  6. Kris Livovich
    April 7, 2010

    It is nice to be light – having a long period of serious heaviness before makes it all the better.

    I have to agree with Amber, I did not find the girl with lotion part very creepy, just kind of a fun imagining.

  7. amber
    April 9, 2010

    Hmmmmm. Maybe you did read it aloud to me at Rangos, and then–to get the full force of the thing–I read it again at your apartment. Seems likely.

    And in response to your remark that "moral disclaimers are…contrary to the spirit of Bright Week" I will invoke yet another Crestwood memory, this time of the show you and Jeff would watch (was it Fr Ted?) and the half-hearted protest they staged carrying signs that said: "down with this sort of thing"

  8. Julia
    April 10, 2010

    I love that episode of Father Ted. The bishop tells them to protest a racy movie in front of their local theater. Frs. Dougal and Ted show up looking really embarrassed with one sign that says, "Down with this sort of thing," and another that says, "Careful now."

  9. Jenny
    April 12, 2010


    My favorite line is the one about the guy with the sign outside the courthouse that reads, "I kinda liked Regan." I can imagine myself laughing with you over this line, and so many. The poem captures perfectly the jovial mood of Bright Week, and the sky is blue berries and cream!