Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Get Dressed

IN MIND
by Denise Levertov

There's in my mind a woman
of innocence, unadorned but

fair-featured, and smelling of
apples or grass. She wears

a utopian smock or shift, her hair
is light brown and smooth, and she

is kind and very clean without
ostentation --
but she has
no imagination.
And there's a
turbulent moon-ridden girl

or old woman, or both,
dressed in opals and rags, feathers

and torn taffeta,
who knows strange songs --

but she is not kind.

Mrs. Lee and April Fool's

When my family lived in College Station, Texas, we had a very large, round, quirky next-door-neighbor-woman, about 60, who wore flowered muu-muus, thick black-rimmed glasses, and her nearly-white hair in a blunt page-boy. Mrs. Lee's personality was as large as she was, always a happy "hello" and a chat over the fence whenever we were outside, and the subject of conversation once we were indoors.

On April Fool's Day, oh, about 1972 or so, when I was 7, my mom came into my room and said breathlessly, "You're never going to believe this." "What, what?" "No, I can't tell you." "Mom!" "...Mrs. Lee is lying out in her yard getting a suntan...and she's NAKED!" "NO!"

The humongous Mrs. Lee naked! That I had to see. My eyes popped and I grinned and started to run for the window, but then remembered: It was April Fool's Day. And my mom was gooood at April Fool's jokes. I stopped dead in my tracks and locked eyes with her, completely torn. I soooooo wanted to see our wacky neighbor naked! But my mom was making it up. Or was she?! Do I act cool and say, "Oh, Mom, you can't fool me." Or do I run to the window out of pure wishfulness, knowing still that it wasn't going to be true... My mom and I stood staring at each other, me looking anxious and befuddled, her looking amused at my mental dilemma. I couldn't help it. I bolted for the window, hoping against hope...

"April Fool!" Mom laughed. Darnit! And then we both started wondering and chatting, in awe: "But what if she really HAD been naked? Can you imagine?!"

For some reason, that stands out to me as the best April Fool's trick I ever had played on me. The minor psychological torment at the decision I had to make! The emotional excitement the whole time! :)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Obama-Fingers!

There's a new chicken product out in Germany -- Obama-Fingers!

No, no sense whatsoever of the possible negative connotations. Reminds me of when Germany was reunited in 1989: What was the first thing the country's legislature did? Oh...sing, en-masse, "Deutschland Uber Alles"! (Ya'd think they'd act just a little humble, at least at the beginning of their renaissance...) :)

(And, what's with the horrid "curry dip" accompanying the chicken fingers? Curry?? They're not "Bobby Jindahl-fingers"!)



Article from Der Spiegel.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Nicholas Hughes: 1/17/62 - 3/16/09

I just found out from a reader of this blog that Nicholas Hughes, son of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, hanged himself last week. He was 47.

London Times announcement
University of Alaska remembrance

LIFE AFTER DEATH
by Ted Hughes (published 1998)

What can I tell you that you do not know
Of the life after death?

Your son's eyes, which had unsettled us
With your Slavic Asiatic
Epicanthic fold, but would become
So perfectly your eyes,
Became wet jewels,
The hardest substance of the purest pain
As I fed him in his high white chair.
Great hands of grief were wringing and wringing
His wet cloth of face. They wrung out his tears.
But his mouth betrayed you -- it accepted
The spoon in my disembodied hand
That reached through from the life that had survived you.

Day by day his sister grew
Paler with the wound
She could not see or touch or feel, as I dressed it
Each day with her blue Breton jacket.

By night I lay awake in my body
The Hanged Man
My neck-nerve uprooted and the tendon
Which fastened the base of my skull
To my left shoulder
Torn from its shoulder-root and cramped into knots --
I fancied the pain could be explained
If I were hanging in the spirit
From a hook under my neck-muscle.

Dropped from life
We three made a deep silence
In our separate cots.

We were comforted by wolves.
Under that February moon and the moon of March
The Zoo had come close.
And in spite of the city
Wolves consoled us. Two or three times each night
For minutes on end
They sang. They had found where we lay.
And the dingos, and the Brazilian-maned wolves --
All lifted their voices together
With the grey Northern pack.

The wolves lifted us in their long voices.
They wound us and enmeshed us
In their wailing for you, their mourning for us,
They wove us into their voices. We lay in your death,
In the fallen snow, under falling snow.

As my body sank into the folk-tale
Where the wolves are singing in the forest
For two babes, who have turned, in their sleep,
Into orphans
Beside the corpse of their mother.

-----------------------------------------------------

NICK AND THE CANDLESTICK
by Sylvia Plath (October 29, 1962)

I am a miner. The light burns blue.
Waxy stalactites
Drip and thicken, tears

The earthen womb
Exudes from its dead boredom.
Black bat airs

Wrap me, raggy shawls,
Cold homicides.
They weld to me like plums.

Old cave of calcium
Icicles, old echoer.
Even the newts are white,

Those holy Joes.
And the fish, the fish --
Christ! they are panes of ice,

A vice of knives,
A piranha
Religion, drinking

Its first communion out of my live toes.
The candle
Gulps and recovers its small altitude,

Its yellows hearten.
O love, how did you get here?
O embryo

Remembering, even in sleep,
Your crossed position.
The blood blooms clean

In you, ruby.
The pain
You wake to is not yours.

Love, love,
I have hung our cave with roses,
With soft rugs --

The last of Victoriana.
Let the stars
Plummet to their dark address,

Let the mercuric
Atoms that cripple drip
Into the terrible well,

You are the one
Solid the spaces lean on, envious.
You are the baby in the barn.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

March 23 (Joan Crawford/Assia Wevill)

March 23 is a red-letter day for me, being the creator of the world's largest Joan Crawford website. It's Joan's birthday. So of course I expected a heavier amount of traffic, mainly on the Best of Everything site, but also here, on my blog.

What I didn't expect, though, was a strangely large number of hits to this blog originating from a photo I posted here back in June 2007, of Assia Wevill's daughter Shura. (I have a stat counter installed that allows seeing the web address through which visitors enter the site.)

Then it clicked: Assia Wevill killed herself, and her daughter Shura, on March 23, 1969. So I suppose people are remembering Wevill/Shura, and my blog posts about them from back in 2007 are showing up in their searches.

It's a bizarre thing for me to see the conflicting reasons for people visiting my blog on this March 23: I love and admire Joan, and all she stands for (hard work, talent, gumption, self-sufficiency). I despise Assia Wevill and everything she stands for (laziness, no talent, relying on men for survival/approval, murdering her child).

In short: Look at the two pictures below and think for a second:

One of these little girls sitting on her Mommie's lap got gassed by her mother. (And the mother's somehow regarded as a sensitive martyr.)
The other little girl was forced by her mother to write Christmas cards and lived to write a tell-all. (And the mother's somehow regarded as a pariah.)

The hypocrisy of this makes me sick.


Trial By Fire / Tigers and Hunters

TRIAL BY FIRE

what oaths have been sworn, what
twinning of thought
could have led to such comfort, such
easy grace you now possess--
still, curled and clenched as a fist
a salvaged pearl in each tight palm

listen to me! your sleep
is grief and breathing even
an affront

you sense the descent
as dead anger needles
yellow and fall
to pin fluttery fly-by-nights
in a welter of ether

whir of disturbance
to mar your
blur of dreams and wings

such is capture, such is cure
each motive unpure
for the purpose of
loosing in you
a howl so winter-white, in-
sightful in its need, im-
prisoned by sleep's frost
of thoughts both delicate and untrue

to awaken you?

my fury, like the sky, imparts
a thousand falling stars--
to catch
or watch emblazon
vast expanse

a world wooed by fire
blackens through misuse

until I learn, my darling
we will burn

------------------------------------------------

TIGERS AND HUNTERS

are lovers, at first.
The battle still game.

The rifle may jam.
The Hunter survive
stiletto swipe to face,
tender-Tiger-style.

There is always hope then.
That one may simply
lie still and let the other
lope off.

But what if the aiming
of that rifle, those claws,
is too stirring
to resist.

If the memory of that
gun, and that click,
trigger the sickness
of last week's miss;
the claws--the kiss
once transfigured.

If either Beast will
NOT lie down. And paws
scrape metal, or pavement,
or dirt, and the jaw is
a weapon, the snarl
of a curse, and haunches
tense at each small sound.

And then eyes lock, each
split upswept--
and jungle cries only
with keeper
and kept.

Friday, March 20, 2009

"She's the One" by Tessa Hadley

Reminded me of a hundred things while I was reading. In this week's New Yorker.

One of the best "desire" songs ever



p.s. I did drive all night one time... After midnight in a decrepit car, through some pretty barren Texas landscape, without a map, not knowing exactly where I was going or what hotel or room my lover was in... I found him! :)

The feeling, and the welcome, were exactly like this song. (Except, no, my Texas man didn't, once I showed up, just lie there and kiss me sluggishly like the gay male model in the video!) :)

And I love the "Is that alright?" line... Although I was pumped up while driving, part of the adrenalin was fear...what if he rejected me?

--------------------------

"I Drove All Night"

I had to escape
The city was sticky and cruel
Maybe I should have called you first
But I was dying to get to you
I was dreaming while I drove
The long straight road ahead, uh, huh

Could taste your sweet kisses
Your arms open wide
This fever for you is just burning me up inside

I drove all night to get to you
Is that alright
I drove all night
Crept in your room
Woke you from your sleep
To make love to you
Is that alright
I drove all night

What in this world
Keep us from tearing apart
No matter where I go I hear
The beating of your heart
I think about you
When the night is cold and dark
No one can move me
The way that you do
Nothing erases the feeling between me and you

I drove all night to get to you
Is that alright
I drove all night
Crept in your room
Woke you from your sleep
To make love to you
Is that alright
I drove all night

Could taste your sweet kisses
Your arms open wide
This fever for you is just burning me up inside

I drove all night to get to you
Is that alright
I drove all night
Crept in your room
Woke you from your sleep
To make love to you
I drove all night... to hold you tight

"May you live in interesting times."

I was just thinking back to my initial peevish reaction to hearing that Chinese quote/curse, years and years ago (probably back during the long stretch of Clinton years, when things were relatively calm and prosperous): "I'm bored! I'm bored! I wish things WERE interesting!" (In my defense, though, I also remember a quote from Clinton himself after he left office, saying he wished he had had more challenges to face, since that is the only way of truly testing a president!)

I was too little during the social upheavals of the late 60s and, more importantly to my mind now, the economic crises of the 70s to fully comprehend what such turmoil actually entailed. (My dad was an enlisted Air Force man; his salary remained stable, so our family was unaffected financially.) Then, when there was another economic downturn in the early 90s, I had a safe state job at a university library, plus was gearing up to go to graduate school, so, again, I was completely unaffected. Then, around 2002/2003, when my publishing company in Austin started having a wave of layoffs: the first time, I was a project employee with months to go on my contract, so I was (cheap and) spared. The second round, I was let go, but was only unemployed for about a month before another company snatched me up.

After another 6 months or so of working for this second company, the original company hired me again, with full benefits. Where I remained until I so cavalierly quit to come to NYC...SANS JOB!

What was I thinking? Oh, something like... "It's the publishing capital of the world! How hard can it be to find a publishing job?!" (Famous last words!)

I remember people (mature adults) being somewhat surprised that I was going to a new city, and New York of all places, without a ready source of income. But here's the thing: While my family always had decent houses in decent neighborhoods when I was growing up, as an adult, goofing around in college for years and years and living off of a library-wage, I was used to living in small, rented quarters. I had no house/mortgage, no kids to support. My living expenses were always pretty small. Picking up and moving to NYC wasn't as bizarre-seeming to me as it might have been to , say, an editor in her 50s with a regular large income and a nice house and yard and yearly month-long vacations to Europe.

I, on the other hand, was still a scruffy "Romantic" in my head--I had no financial or emotional ties holding me in Austin, just wanted to dive in to the beauty and history and excitement of New York, just because I'd fallen in love with it during a job interview there circa 2005... And get this, in the "kicking myself in the ass" department: That interview was for a copy-editing supervisor position with the company I was then working for in Austin. They had been unable to fill the NY position after 6 months or so of interviewing New Yorkers, so I, not having any idea of NY, nonchalantly said I'd interview for it. They flew me in; the interview went well. I then told them I'd take the job IF they paid my moving expenses! What, was I living in the affluent early 60s in my head, where companies paid your moving expenses?! And that f'ing job paid over $50,000 a year!! Good lord I was stupid! And childishly "into" letting the Fates decide! Had I that moment in time to do over, I'd beg, borrow, and possibly steal the f'ing "moving expenses"! :)

As it stands now, I'm on the cusp of my third major job search since I arrived here 2 years ago. (I expected to have ONE.) It's extremely draining mentally. I have been pretty lucky, though: In 24 months, I have had 14 months of full-time, well-paying project publishing jobs. (The other 10 months have been either living off of savings or doing tedious part-time scattered things like legal proofing.)

With the recent stress, I've also been questioning my move here. Especially since my current project job is in Jersey and involves a looooong bus ride to and from work. Hardly the "me-bopping-around-the-city" that I'd imagined. While I like Jersey just fine and it's been interesting getting to see the pretty countryside and towns during my trek every day, I don't LOVE Jersey. I do, however, LOVE New York City. I love it. I get to see it every morning when I catch my bus to my job in Jersey, I get to see it on weekends... If it were just Jersey in the equation, I'd move back to Austin in a second, where there is also pleasant scenery and lots of shopping, plus rents at half the price (though not the kind of Northeast weather that I like a lot more)...

But it ain't about Jersey. It's about New York. I get a thrill just walking around looking at the buildings and riding the subway and jostling on the sidewalks or hanging around my favorite areas of Union Square or Chelsea listening to and watching people. I love walking and not driving. I love being able to buy a hat or sunglasses or a hot-dog off the sidewalk vendors. I love the true mixture of people. (Not the fake "diversity" that towns like San Fran claim, where every "minority" group is completely enmeshed in its own neighborhood and political ghetto.) I love not feeling self-conscious or weird here because there's so much going on that there's no time for judging what's "weird" or not. (The judgment seems to be based on your work: Is it good or not?) I can just relax and breathe and be myself.

When I moved here in early 2007, it wasn't quite clear that the recession had yet started. I was still thinking I'd be riding the wave of prosperity and easy jobs.

And I'd had no real concept of "NYC" in 2001, when 9/11 happened (except for notions garnered from literature and pop culture). I felt for the city, but only abstractly.

But a couple of years later, after the black-out, which occurred after my first introduction to the city via my job interview, I cut out pictures from the New York Times of people walking home across the Brooklyn Bridge and stuck them above my desk at work, with the note-to-self: "I should have been there."

Now I AM here. And I'm going to stick it out, job or no. Years from now, I want to be able to say that I was loyal to the city through the hard times. THAT is how you prove that you really love.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Roy Clark, 1969

When I was a kid in Texas, I grew up watching Roy Clark as the co-host (with Buck Owens) of the TV show "Hee-Haw." I always liked Clark better than Owens physically, but I never thought of Clark as a real singer or writer. Just, though, came across this song of his, "Yesterday When I Was Young":



This song reminds me of what I like about some country men. They can be goofy and cut up, but also be the most sensitive and soulful. Thanks, Roy!

Jersey Girl

I was waiting on the Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge (connecting Manhattan to Jersey) for my bus home after work this evening when a co-worker came up to me. She and I usually nod to each other on the morning company bus and don't usually see each other after work... When she asked me this evening what bus I was waiting for, and I said the 156 to Weehawken, she came alive: "Oh, you're a Jersey girl! I didn't know that!" She'd always been kind of surly mornings, but once she found out I was living in (not quite "from" I couldn't admit) Jersey, she became really friendly and talkative. We exchanged chit-chat about the shortest transportation routes to our job up until her sister pulled up to the curb to pick her up. (! -- Now THAT's a "short transportation route"!) :)

I love the friendliness, but I'm also rather dismayed. When this co-worker thought I lived in Manhattan, she ignored me, but when she found out I lived in Jersey, I was all of a sudden OK?

This reminds me of my creepy experience in grad school in San Francisco: My poems were of the same quality. Pre-telling I was gay, one (gay) professor (thinking I was "just" from Texas) went out of his way to criticize me and make me feel stupid. Post-telling I was gay... the same professor then went out of his way to praise my poems in class and out. Having been through the first dismissal, I couldn't ever trust his second stage of phony praise.

I miss my books!

I probably had close to a thousand books back when I lived in Austin. I sold maybe 50 at a yard sale before I moved to NYC, and the rest now sit in boxes in my mom's garage in San Antone.

After I moved, in '07, I had the Ma ship me what I considered my "must-haves": Every last one of my Joan Crawford-related books (about 35), plus all of my dictionaries and reference books that I use for my copy-editing work (about 10). Then, when I've gone home for Christmas, I've picked up a few that would fit in my suitcase: Plath (2), Hughes (2), Rilke, Eliot poetry, some screenplay books ("Blue Angel" and "Sunset Blvd" and "Hedwig and the Angry Inch"), some NY-themed things like Salinger's work, Frank O'Hara's poems, and gay-themed stuff like "Celluloid Closet" and "Drag Queens of NY."

I've always felt deficient without my library with me. But it's interesting to see how the collection has started to grow again. First are things I've bought outright: I have 11 books about New York City that I've bought at the Strand. And then 3 used bios: Zelda Fitzgerald, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Hillary Clinton (also from the Strand). Plus one that my first roommate here gave me, about rocker Carole Pope (roommate Fran was actually a one-time manager of Pope, who was a one-time lover of Dusty Springfield).

The rest I've been picking up for free--from the first 2 apartment buildings that I lived in (there were "free" shelves in the laundry-rooms). And lately, I just discovered that my workplace also has a "free" shelf. So here are the freebies I've picked up, in no particular order:

The Theory of the Modern Stage
Changing, by Liv Ullmann
No One Here Gets Out Alive (Doors bio)
Riders on the Storm (Doors/Densmore)
The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer
Great Expectations
The Jungle
Saint Joan (my favorite Shaw play)
A Room with a View
The Sheltering Sky
The Mill on the Floss
Story of O
Looking for Mr. Goodbar
Jane Eyre
Pierre and Jean (Maupassant)
Siddhartha
Walden
To Kill a Mockingbird
It Takes a Village
Citizen Hearst
Epitome of History (1883)
A Harvard Classics set including volumes on Franklin/Woolman/Penn, Aesop/Grimm/Andersen, Addison/Steele/Swift/Defoe/Johnson, Emerson, Homer, Plutarch, Virgil, Cervantes, American Historical Documents. (Like I'm ever going to crack open one of these!)

(The one book I myself contributed to a free-pile was the autobiography of Maria von Trapp! I thought it would be a rolicking good tale, a la "The Sound of Music," but... the woman writes like a nun!) :)

The only things I really wish I had with me from the garage are my nice, big art and movie books (too big and heavy to ask my mom to mail), plus my dozens of books on/by Plath/Hughes, and the rest of my poetry collection. The other novels and things: Eh, I can always pick up from the library if I'm craving.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

514 W. Rebecca

I was just thinking of this house that I lived in in Iowa Park, Texas (a small town near Wichita Falls), when I was in 5th and 6th grade.

I started thinking of it because I was crying just now, and I remembered once at Christmas when my dad was stationed overseas... The house was two-story, my mom's bedroom downstairs, and our kids' bedrooms upstairs. And on Christmas, my father intentionally didn't call my mom, and she was crying, and I could hear her crying through the vents. I never in my life saw her cry, but I heard her that once.

Other memories of that house:

(1) There was only dirt and small rocks all over the yard when we moved in. So my mom set me and my brother on a project to pick out all of the rocks so we could plant grass. While we were out there in the yard, passersby actually stopped and opined that we would never get all of the rocks out, and grass would never grow! (Yeah, yeah: We DID get all of the friggin' rocks picked up. And grass DID grow!)

(2) I used to create themes for my upstairs room. One time, while I was into "Encyclopedia Brown" mysteries, I turned my room into a detective's headquarters. (My mom wouldn't let me hang a business sign on our front door, like Encyclopedia... Why not?? One mystery that I wanted to solve was a dead cat that I'd found lying in an empty lot a few blocks away, with the flesh missing from one leg. I could tell that it had been tortured. Never did figure out who did it.) I was also once into the Old West in that room (which consisted of me, for some reason, turning around my desk like it was the front desk of an inn, and hanging hand-made "Wanted" posters on the walls).

(3) From my room, which was upstairs, I could spy some boys building an underground fort in an empty lot a couple of blocks away. Of course, I had to go over there and mess with it. And tell other people about it. The guilt. Really! It was a neat, secret thing, but because of my "I Spy" bedroom, I could see exactly what they were doing and got involved and messed it up. I just told a couple of people, but the word spread, and pretty soon teenagers were hanging around there, leaving garbage strewn around.

(4) From my room, I could spy the Dairy Queen that I used to visit once a week. My mom would give me the 45 cents or whatever it was to get my usual, a cherry sundae (no nuts). I would go there by myself and eat at a booth by myself, then come on home. One time, there was a man there with his wife and 2 kids sitting across the room. He kept looking at me, then insisted on buying me an ice-cream cone. I was sitting there already eating a sundae, and he was there with his wife and kids, but something compelled him to force the counter person to bring me an ice-cream cone. I nodded a "thank you" over at him, finished my sundae, then left with the cone and dumped it outside on the way home. (Jesus, I was 10 or 11. The precursor to the guy buying you a drink from across the bar!)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Silly Geese

I work in North Jersey, relatively "out in the country" (at least by Northeast standards), at a "campus" that houses thousands of people. It's been cool to watch the Canadian geese hanging around, even during the snows. They're big and sassy, constantly strutting and flying around, not scared of people. And...they poop as big as puppies! Seriously, while walking from my bus one day, I saw a couple of goose-piles on the sidewalk and had to ask a fellow passenger: "Did someone have their dog here? What DID that?"

Being from Texas, I'd never encountered such big beasts of birds before! Aside from their poop, I also had to inquire, when they were hunting around for food in the snow a couple of weeks ago: "I thought geese were supposed to fly SOUTH for the winter! What are they doing hanging around Jersey in this cold?" The person I was talking to said, "They're CANADIAN geese! This IS 'South'!" :) :) Ohhh! :)

One last thought: A few weeks ago, after the "Miracle on the Hudson" emergency plane landing, because the emergency was caused by said Canadian geese flying into the engines of the plane, a bunch of yahoos, both legislative and civilian, started coming up with plans like "Let's shoot all of those geese"; "Let's douse their eggs with gasoline"; etc. etc. Just wondering: Did those kill-happy idiots ever think about perhaps installing lightweight grills over the engines so that no flying beasts could be sucked into them? Hmmmm...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Talk about "No Exit." (Some death poems.)

Monday I was late to work, caught a late bus to work, which was later still because of a huge hour-long hold-up on Jersey's Route 17. As the bus inched closer to what I'd already guessed would be a wreck-scene, you could see yards of tire tracks in the grass on the side of the road, then, finally, a silvery car smashed head-long into a tree. A yellow plastic tarp covered a body next to the car. (That's when one of my fellow-passengers--aged 22 or so, pale as a ghost and glib with youth--piped up to no one in particular: "Whoa! That guy's gotta be dead!" Gee, ya think, Dude?)


LATE

Somebody died in Allendale today.
Near noon, on Route 17. I was late for work.

Was he reaching for his coffee,
or to put out a cigarette?
Was he mad at someone passing
in this rain?
What song was playing?

His yellow plastic tarp
will outlast his remains.

My boss does not complain.

------------------------------------------------------------

My poem is pitifully flimsy, of course, but I was reminded of other poems about sudden, surprising death that have literally made my heart ache:


THE DEATH OF THE BALL TURRET GUNNER
by Randall Jarrell (1945)

From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

....................

"OUT...OUT"
by Robert Frost

The buzz saw snarled and rattled in the yard
And made dust and dropped stove-length sticks of wood,
Sweet-scented stuff when the breeze drew across it.
And from there those that lifted eyes could count
Five mountain ranges one behing the other
Under the sunset far into Vermont.
And the saw snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled,
As it ran light, or had to bear a load.
And nothing happened: day was all but done.
Call it a day, I wish they might have said
To please the boy by giving him the half hour
That a boy counts so much when saved from work.
His sister stood beside him in her apron
To tell them "Supper." At the word, the saw,
As if it meant to prove saws know what supper meant,
Leaped out at the boy's hand, or seemed to leap -
He must have given the hand. However it was,
Neither refused the meeting. But the hand!
Half in appeal, but half as if to keep
The life from spilling. Then the boy saw all -
Since he was old enough to know, big boy
Doing a man's work, though a child at heart -
He saw all was spoiled. "Don't let him cut my hand off -
The doctor, when he comes. Don't let him, sister!"
So. The hand was gone already.
The doctor put him in the dark of ether.
He lay and puffed his lips out with his breath.
And then - the watcher at his pulse took a fright.
No one believed. They listened to his heart.
Little - less - nothing! - and that ended it.
No more to build on there. And they, since they
Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.

..................

And then there's Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood," which I just a few weeks ago re-read. The ultimate painful, heart-breaking "death-poem." (Babe, the horse, is what I keep remembering the most for some reason...)

Thursday, March 05, 2009

No Exit

Sartre's play "No Exit" I read back in college: If I remember correctly, there was a straight man, a bisexual woman, and a gay woman trapped together in a room. The bi woman wanted the straight man, the gay woman wanted the bi woman, the straight man didn't want the bi woman but did it with her just to piss off the gay woman. (I'll probably have to go back and re-read.)

Back in the late '80s, I had a night of relatively bad sex that reminded me completely of the above.

I lived in a small apartment complex managed by a drug-addled gay guy who never cleaned the pool. (No, not "so to speak." The lazy ass never cleaned the damn pool.) He let a lot of his similarly druggy gay guy friends live there for free. At the time I wasn't out, had no idea the manager was gay or doing drugs, etc. One night I looked out my window across the way and saw a naked guy lying in HIS window, curtains wide open, jacking off. Being a naive 22, I immediately reported him to the manager the next day: "Was there a homeless guy in that apartment? I saw someone...PLAYING WITH HIMSELF last night!" My complaint (combined with my complaints about the scuzzy state of the pool) freaked the guy out. He told everyone he knew that I was a "narc" sent by the police, and subsequently quit in his paranoia.

(Funny how wanting a clean pool and not wanting to see guys jacking off was interpreted as being a "narc"!)

Anyhow, that's the back-story to my "Bad Sex" story, which took place at the same apartment building.

Once the building had a new manager, and a clean pool, I met a guy at said pool. Turned out he was, so he said, an "ex-Chippendale's dancer." He was staying there with a gay male friend of his, who was also out by the pool. The three of us chatted for hours, etc. The "friend" eventually went back to his own apartment, and the Chippendale's guy ended up coming up to my apartment. There was some more chatting and then a lengthy bout of making out. I was a virgin at the time and the guy was cool with that, so we just grappled for a while (and I learned how good someone's tongue can feel in your ear---oops! too much information!). He was completely gentlemanly in his naked Chippendale's way, though his "I'm going to drive you crazy" exhortations didn't really.

When it was all over around sunrise, we said 'Bye and I was seeing him out. Only to look down at the pool area and see the gay friend sitting there and glaring up at us...Lord knows how long he'd been sitting there waiting to see when his friend would emerge from my apartment.

I felt terrible. I could have cared less about the Chippendale's guy, yet here was somebody below who obviously cared very deeply, enough to wait up all night for him...

There wasn't any sort of scene. Chippendale silently went down to his friend's apartment, the gay friend followed him in without yelling at me. In the next couple of days, Chip and I went to a mall and held hands awkwardly. He then found another place to live and we never kept in touch.

But to this day I do feel a bit guilty about what I too easily got and didn't want, what the guy by the pool didn't get and would have given anything to have had.