Sunday, February 19, 2012

"Tell me all the things you want to do"

On the bus the other day, I saw a woman reading a book entitled something like "Ghost Hunters and Graveyards." Silly woman, I thought, believing in ghosts. Then, without thinking much more about it, I returned to my own book on Catholic Saints.

I suppose this all ties in to a larger internal monologue I've been having for a while now. I know some people who don't, on the whole, seem as concerned with death as I am. I also am not nearly so concerned with human mortality as I was a few years ago. But I still seem to come up against it an awful lot. Could be something in the water, I suppose.

Recently, I told someone about what I do here these days (the poetry bit, not the silence), and she suggested that it was a form of bibliomancy. She is, I suppose, correct, and somewhere, I knew that. Like with the poets, though, sometimes I need someone else's word to complete my thoughts. Like I sometimes need my Muse to help me break the silence, to use those other words. Gentle Reader, if you do not yet have a Muse, I cannot stress enough how lovely they are to have. I love mine, and you should find one of your own.

Bibliomancy or no, butter always hold my attention, and so this one was doubly arresting:

BY DICK ALLEN

What every painter knows, but most others forget
is how bright colors dim in artificial light

and lobster tastes most fresh
the nearer to death
you set your teeth into the lobster’s flesh.

All jokes aside, the grim simplicity of Allen's lines here stopped me dead in my net-surfing tracks, to stare mute for a moment at the screen. Death, as I mentioned to A. today, makes me profoundly uncomfortable. So simple here, the lines, that maybe these borrowed words can be left on their own.

Not so much those of a few days previous:

BY DAVID LEHMAN

Can't swim; uses credit cards and pills to combat intolerable feelings of inadequacy;
Won't admit his dread of boredom, chief impulse behind numerous marital infidelities;
Looks fat in jeans, mouths clich├ęs with confidence, breaks mother's plates in fights;
Buys when the market is too high, and panics during the inevitable descent;
Still, Pop can always tell the subtle difference between Pepsi and Coke,
Has defined the darkness of red at dawn, memorized the splash of poppies along
Deserted railway tracks, and opposed the war in Vietnam months before the students,
Years before the politicians and press; give him a minute with a road map
And he will solve the mystery of bloodshot eyes; transport him to mountaintop
And watch him calculate the heaviness and height of the local heavens;
Needs no prompting to give money to his kids; speaks French fluently, and tourist German;
Sings Schubert in the shower; plays pinball in Paris; knows the new maid steals, and forgives her.

Note, Gentle Reader, the sheer perfection of the pun in "Still, Pop can always tell the subtle difference between Pepsi and Coke." When discussing bibliomancy and the borrowing of words, the topic of fathers happened to come up. My interlocutor's father was named Buddy as well (mine, more formally, was Bud. Buddy to his friends, though). My father was not, in many ways, like this Pop of Lehman's. But the sense of him is there. The idea of him. And that, Gentle Reader, made me stare even more mutely at the screen than buttered lobster had.