Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Talking about a Friend Over a Cup or Two of Coffee

“Their first fight was over school lunches. Free school lunches. She taught Kindergarten in a public special ed center for emotionally disturbed children. The 100 students were roughly 60% white, 40% black and 96% poor enough that they qualified for free breakfast and lunch. He astonished her with a blunt pronouncement that they shouldn’t be giving out free food. And, you know, she explained why the meal programs were so important, but failed to sway him in the least during the next hour or so of their drive to a fish camp. (She’d never been to a fish camp before and didn’t want to go to one ever and yet, there she was.)

So, seven months into her marriage she finally noticed that she’d hooked herself up with a Republican. Somehow her life had only grazed the surface of relationships with those people. Never had she been in a long discussion, confined in a car for hours, with someone who opposed feeding children who otherwise would not get enough to eat. His arguments made no sense to her, whatsoever, and he was her husband!

Of course, they’d only dated for six weeks or so before she got pregnant and the wedding was three weeks after that. Life was a delirious blur for sixteen weeks, then she lost the baby. And then, well, she was too depressed to take in much of anything for a while.

He thought the weekend with friends at a fish camp in the Dead Lakes region would cheer her up. Ironic, eh? But… she’d never been there, knew the area was famous for its mystery, and besides, she really, really wanted to have her first and only marriage (she was 41) work. This big fight over free school lunches and all that, however, was a humdinger. They almost never discussed politics after that weekend.

Somehow they stayed married for 15 years. She told me just the other day that she doesn’t think anyone can top her when it comes to arranging reality in neat compartments. Her husband’s Republicanism stayed locked away, way in the back of her mind for as long as she loved him. Amazing, isn’t it? I mean, one of her heroes has always been Noam Chomsky.”

Monday, April 17, 2017

 Landscape, Corfu 1909, John Singer Sargent

April Notes

After my bath Saturday morning,
I checked cable news to make sure
we hadn’t gone to war with North Korea.
I’d never done precisely that before.

My neighbors still have lawn signs
from the campaign standing upright and loud.
Nice people, except can they be
if he’s still their guy?

Every few nights I plunge into my giant
volume of Walt Whitman to slake my thirst
for heart on an awesome scale, ride
expansive lines, absorb, embrace.

NPR people discussed revulsion: humans evolved
with disgust for things that made them sick
like vomit, feces, sex with diseased-looking people.
Now let’s hone our aversion to fantastic greed.

Recently, when I became furious with someone I love
I reduced my sulk time significantly— a triumph.
When angry, I get a sour bubble in my throat
until I come out of it, then— Poof! Gone!

When I needed to quit drinking, but kept drinking,
the trick was to be damn good, an expert, at lying to myself.
So I know what hard work keeping delusions going can be.
No one can do it without becoming twisted. Truth smoothes.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Robert Rauschenberg

Bloody Hell

I feel wounded. As if he is throwing darts and the board is my long life. I was one of those kids who referred to “back when I was a kid” when I was twelve or thirteen, sensible early on to having a past, I think. Well, I certainly have one now, along with all the other boomers.

I spent election night in a motel room in Palatka, a tiny town in north-central Florida. (That probably sounds worse than it was; the motel was fine and I had a view of the St. John’s River from my room.) I was on my way to a poetry conference at the Atlantic Center for the Arts and in a great mood. Like so many Americans I turned on the TV around seven to watch the returns. (I’d voted for Bernie in the primary, then Hilary, of course.) Within hours I was riveted to the reports— alarmed, disbelieving, and increasingly sad. I fell asleep around mid-night, then woke up at 3am, turned the news back on and watched until sunrise. I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach and when I went down to the breakfast buffet at 6am to stock up on caffeine, I felt wary of the others getting their scrambled eggs. Were they on the other side? The few people in the dining area seemed suspiciously cheerful to me. The night of November 8th and the morning of the 9th were only a few months ago, but it seems much longer to me. Well, I’ve got all these wounds, haven’t I? I’ve been losing blood.

These darts are so numerous and well described by others that I’ll only get into one or two of them in this space of mine: The man who would be king doesn’t read books. How can someone who doesn’t read books be President of the United States? I could see that happening in a monarchy—some schmuck inheriting the title and proceeding to rule until he’s overthrown, murdered, or manages his court (or someone manages his court) well enough for him to die a natural death. I’m personally offended that my countrymen and countrywomen elected to office someone who doesn’t, and clearly hasn’t bothered, to read. At least he watches people who do read on TV. There’s that. What minimal effort he makes to be informed, to be educated! His degree must have been a near miss. Of course, he was a college kid a long time ago, a long time ago. Maybe he read back then; various arts of deals and maybe smut. Has he read any poets, I wonder? Any at all?

His hair is a dart. Yep. I’m hurt that our so-called leader does that thing with his hair. Even Martin Van Buren’s Victorian muttonchops weren’t as silly and besides, stylish men were all doing that to their cheeks in 1837.  But Donald Trump’s hair is uniquely his own. Lots of men still try for comb-overs, (I don't think they should) but not swoops and swirls and flashes of brilliant gold.

I become mesmerized by his hand gestures if I watch him too long. I’ve even practiced doing them myself and if I still choreographed dances, might steal them for a “hand dance.”

Why does he wear such long ties? Does he think that does something for his figure?

My brother Peter has an idea for a Saturday Night Live sketch: DJT has been in office for a year and he looks exactly the same, but his cohorts, members of the opposition party, reporters, and late night talk show hosts have all aged—gone colorless, stooped, baggy-eyed, exhausted. It would be a good sketch in the hands of the SNL crew, I think.

I’m trying and miserably failing to take in less of his daily insults. I’ll make an effort again today to become thicker-skinned so that this American horror show going on in our country doesn’t pierce me quite so forcefully. I’ve already become anemic from loss of blood and they’ve only had a few months since that dreadful night in Palatka. The Resistance helps me the most. The crowds on TV, the small but dedicated people who I can join in protest in my smugly red town, my friends who do read books, the press, columnists, the comedians (especially, I think, Stephen Colbert and Seth Myers) and the defenses to his brand of abuse that I’ve found all my life in books. In so many ways I am the books I’ve read and loved. Walt Whitman is on my nightstand these days and I’ve just finished George Saunders' miraculous novel. I have a vast cabinet of remedies; iron pills to shore me up against this attack against my humanity and against your humanity (it’s happening, you know, whether or not you feel threatened.)

Look at this! I was going to keep this light; haircuts, thrown-over wives, things of that ilk (I never got to his unbelievably unenlightened sexism, did I?) and now I’m on about humanity. Blame it on what I’ve been reading. Blame it on Walt Whitman—he can take it.