Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Alice's Song

Looking at my looking glass,
“This isn’t me,” I said,
“What happened to my pinafore?
“Why are my eyes so red?”

And my reflection, as the thing
Is wont to do, replied,
“I don’t know who you think you are,
But I am on your side.”

The Pinafore we left behind,
Abandoned on a reef;
The ship went down as you went down
On somebody named Steve.”

“We drank enough to drop a mule.
I can’t remember why
My face fell in the toilet bowl
A-swirling, ‘Let me die.’”

“Well, die, I haven’t done that yet.
Well, that’s what people say.
If you return my boxer shorts,
I’ll read your résumé.”

“Miss Rabbit, show the young man out.
He must have things to do.
Some hearts to break or notes to take.
(I would, if I were you.)”

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Cashier

Before I go any further, I have a Statement to make to that cute Cashier, which may also be of some interest to the general Reader. I freely acknowledge a Self-Interested Motive in turning philosophickal here. One turns thoughtful toward the End of Life. Sometimes at the Beginning. Occasionally, too, in medias res, while buying Condoms at Duane-Reade, one looks forward toward the End. Sometimes, also, the Register closes, and the cute Cashier suddenly steps out for a Smoke, or a Trip to Taco Bell, and one is forced—along with hundreds of other Customers—into another Line—the only Line now open—the one manned by a nymphomaniac Gorgon—and a Return to the Beginning. This last Circumstance is what the bony Indian Fakir regards as his Reward for a Life of patient Self-Destruction, Reincarnation. This is what we in the more corpulent Lands of Christendom presently call, Hell. It is this Hellacious Present that I am most concerned with Here. The Present is what makes me think that my Fifteen Seconds of Fame at Duane-Reade might be the ideal Juncture in Time to interject a Detail—relate an Anecdote—tell a Story—that will illuminate—I hope not as an Epitaph—one or two Aspects of the Chaos which orders Human Life. From one Angle, I know, the following Remarks will read like a Fruit Salad. From another, they will appear as clear as Clotted Cream. I am coming to Terms with my Limitations. I am over 40, and the Truth of the Situation is hard to bear. As Mr. Eliot suggests, we cannot endure too much Reality. And the Reality for me is that I cannot endure too much Mr. Eliot. I know that eventually I will reach the Cash Register. Despite the best Efforts of Mr. Pound, “The Wasteland” will forever remain mired in the miserable muck of Passchendaele, a hopeless Mess. So, we shall pass over “The Wasteland”, as we pass over the Twentieth Century, as the Fragrance of Mountain Sage passes over a Prairie Cowpat. How do I justify this Journey? Easily. Time passes. Or, in the later and more learned Words of Mr. Eliot, “Time present and time past / Are both perhaps present in time future…” They are indeed, Sir. Because, you see, that Cute Cashier only popped out for a Pee. He actually returned from the Toilet to this Poem about 150 Words ago, not long after the Gorgon arrived. They are now standing side by side and things are moving in parallel very fast. I would have told you earlier, but I had to finish my Thought: all parallel Lines converge at Infinity. And the next lucky Customer in one of those Lines is you. Or me.


            My first foray into the world of friction [sic] was an untitled piece I slaved over for two years in the mid-nineties. As I envisioned the work at the time, when I was twenty-six and obsessed with Thurber, this would be the first in a series of Jamesian character studies centered around academic life.
            In the opening tale, Jack (34) returns triumphant from a contentious conference in Boulder, Colorado, where he delivered a provocative paper on the position of commas in the sex life of Gibbons (collateral descendants of the famous historian of Rome) at the Modern Language Association’s Annual Conference: only to find his boxer, Elgin—Marbles, for short—dreaming of beef marrow bones in an inaccessible crotch of an elm in his courtyard.
            As Eve (34), his girlfriend, is out shopping for fruit-flavored lubricants and other gluten-free delicacies with her best pre-op friend, Paulette (28), visiting from Portland, and President Clinton is downtown distracting the rest of the neighbors, most of the story we spend with the perplexed young adjunct, orbiting the tree: trying to figure out just how the dog came to be there. Jack advances several different theories, all equally credible: extraterrestrials, an earthquake, a mountain lion, Mustafa Kemal, ghosts, a tri-cobalt satellite (left over from an episode of Star Trek), the black magic of his gardener (Barney Haller), a cantankerous kite string, or a confabulation of faeries.
            For five pages we wander in circles with Jack under this tedious tree, looking up at his dreaming dog, trying figure out just what has gone wrong with the forces of Nature in this idyllic corner of Iowa. It never occurs to Jack to wait for Eve and Paulette to return with the fruit-flavored lubricants and gluten-free delicacies and ask them; or to call the fire department; or to grab the aluminum ladder the painters left under the lilacs and try to rescue his dog himself, so lost he becomes in a maze of sensitive semiotic questions arising from the presence of a dog in the crotch of such a tall tree: since, as you will notice, the word “Dog” spelled backwards is “God.” And we all know in what mysterious ways THAT gentleman works.
            Sadly, I never got further with this story than the thin filament of drool connecting Elgin above—Marbles, for short—to the Earth below, before I abandoned it as totally unworkable. Plausible as the image of a fictitious dog sleeping in a fictitious tree might seem to me, I couldn’t imagine anyone else would believe it.
            Except for the people of PETA, who would have hopped in a minivan and been over in a flash to burn down my house.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

In the Drift

A piece of orange peel
greets the violet dawn
with an expression like a smile,
unconcerned about the cold,
the collie pissing, or
that massive plow of stars
just visible in the sky.