The sprig of unknown bloom you sent last fall
spent the long winter drying on my wall,
mounted on black. But it had turned to fluff
some months ago. Tonight I took it down
because I thought that I had had enough
of staring at it. Brittle, dry and brown,
it seemed to speak too plainly of a waste
of friendship, forced to flower, culled in haste.
So, after months of fearing to walk past
in case the stir should scatter it to bits,
I took it out to scatter it at last
with my own breath, and so to call us quits.
—Fooled! for the fluff was nothing but a sheath,
with tiny, perfect flowers underneath.
It is all in the mind, you say, and has
nothing to do with happiness. The coming of cold,
the coming of heat, the mind has all the time in the world.
You take my arm and say something will happen,
something unusual for which we were always prepared,
like the sun arriving after a day in Asia,
like the moon departing after a night with us.
they were delicious
and so cold
- William Carlos Williams
(Yes, I know that's a peach in Ian's photo and WCW is talking about plums, but it's late and I can't sleep even though I'm tired and this is the first photo that I thought of. And the first poem I thought of too, I've had WCW on the brain lately.)
By the road to the contagious hospital
under the surge of the blue
mottled clouds driven from the
northeast-a cold wind. Beyond, the
waste of broad, muddy fields
brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen
patches of standing water
the scattering of tall trees
All along the road the reddish
purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy
stuff of bushes and small trees
with dead, brown leaves under them
Lifeless in appearance, sluggish
dazed spring approaches-
They enter the new world naked,
cold, uncertain of all
save that they enter. All about them
the cold, familiar wind-
Now the grass, tomorrow
the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf
One by one objects are defined-
It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf
But now the stark dignity of
entrance-Still, the profound change
has come upon them: rooted, they
grip down and begin to awaken
#60, Chicago, from Hardly More Than Ever by Laura Letinsky
I'm always happy for an excuse to post a poem from Frank O'Hara or a photo by Laura Letinsky. Fast Company, in this week's New Yorker, is nominally a review of Mark Ford's new Selected Poems by my crooked-nosed hero; it's also a good read in and of itself.
And on account of having been given an excuse, below a poem by Frank O'Hara, one that I haven't posted before, which made me think of the photograph above that's by Laura Letinsky.
For Grace, After A Party
You do not always know what I am feeling.
Last night in the warm spring air while I was
blazing my tirade against someone who doesn't
me, it was love for you that set me
and isn't it odd? for in rooms full of
strangers my most tender feelings
bear the fruit of screaming. Put out your hand,
an ashtray, suddenly, there? beside
the bed? And someone you love enters the room
and says wouldn't
you like the eggs a little
And when they arrive they are
just plain scrambled eggs and the warm weather
I start out most evenings with some resolve to get to sleep at a reasonable hour. The resolve gets chipped away by any number of circumstances and/or stimuli:
- Getting home later than usual. I need at least 2 hours to putter around both before and after sleeping, I am a delicate flower.
- TiVo (Shocker.)
- Eating dinner too late. I recently waited an hour and twenty minutes for take out to arrive! How is a girl supposed to get to sleep at a reasonable hour when she doesn't have dinner til after 11pm?
- Internet (Reeling from that revelation? Of course you are.) IM is a particularly egregious offender in this regard. Signs of a grave situation: my West Coast buddies are heading off to bed. Even graver: Friends in Europe are chatting with me from their offices, well into their next day, wondering what the fuck my problem is.
Signs that I'm actually heading into the zone come to me electronically. Sign one is if I've made it through that evening's TiVo'd episodes of Jon Stewart and Colbert. Hope is not entirely lost at that hour, however. At slightly past midnight on a school night, it's still early enough to sleep the sleep of the normal.
The first sure sign of danger appears in my Inbox. It's the MIT Technology Review daily newsletter. I never read it. I think I read it once and found something interesting. Usually it gets deleted immediately, unopened, because it's a sign. It arrives at approximately 1:05AM. My heart sinks a little bit when it shows up and I'm there to see it. It's confirmation of the very obvious, yet otherwise ignorable - I'm in front of my computer, past my self-imposed bedtime of sometime before 1am.
The useless yet guilt-inducing Tech Review is followed in short order by A Word A Day. Then, a barrage of Google alerts I've got set up to come in once a day. (Me and all my other favorite people are as-it-happens alerts.*) I know I'm in deep shit when Daily Candy NY shows up. Critical? Daily Candy LA, Today's Headlines from the NYT, hurtling towards me from tomorrow.
TV-wise, it's looking bad if staying up for a slightly buffered re-run of The Shield starts to seem feasible. (That hasn't been a problem lately though, as I ultimately deemed Vic Mackey too dark for my inner-Pollyanna to bear. I have since returned to the tamer arms of the anguished and misunderstood Vincent and Criminal Intent.)
Lately I've had some success at combating the insomnia, thanks to an amazing innovation: the alarm clock. It turns out that over-sleeping makes me feel worse than being sleep-deprived.
My walk of shame is the bed-headed shuffle to the coffee shop at *cough* 11am on a weekday. Say it's Tuesday, coming up on the noon hour, and you see happen to see a blonde-haired, light-sensitive fashion don't struggling across 2nd Ave, a stubborn dog of the most unlikely proportions in tow. That'd be me.
There is some small part of me that delights in my ability to do this - I'm pretty sure it'll always feel like I'm being bad because I'm not sitting at some desk somewhere like everyone's supposed to. But the fact is that sheet-marks across your face in the near-midday sun usually feels more bad-bad than better-than-everyone-else bad.
So, yes: the alarm clock! Lately I've been setting it for 7:15 and have actually made it out of bed by 8 most days, a record I am most proud of. (Someone laughed at me, hard, when I said this. You know you are. Shut up.) And the shuffle is so much less shameful at that hour - sure it's still a little late for the 9-5 suckers, but there are still many puffy-eyed dog walking comrades at this hour.
Even if I get to bed at 2am and don't actually sleep til close to 3, which is how it's looking for tonight, I've got a way better chance of making it through the day in reasonable spirits with an 7:30 wakeup rather than a 10:30 one. And after a few days of that, lo and behold, going to bed at midnight actually works. It's better than drugs!
*This is an awkwardly constructed sentence, the true sign of an insomniac. I have just spent my waking moments working through several alternatives to the clearly wrong "me" and the internet has been of no help: I and all my other favorite people are as-it-happens alerts. I, along with all my other favorite people, am an as-it-happens alert. Myself and all my other favorite people are as-it-happens alerts.
I think the middle option is most correct, but sounds utterly nonsensical. Certainly my initial attempt above was wrong wrong wrong, as "Me am an as-it-happens alert" sounds like caveman talk. Still stumped, but also still too sleepy to come up with an appropriate alternative. My point is this: I have as-it-happens Google alerts set up for all my favorite people. I happen to be one of them. How's that? (Aside from astoundingly narcissistic?)
When I can't think of what to write and the internet has run out of news for me, which happens sometimes actually, or sometimes if I'm just looking for other people's words instead of my own, I dig up poems and read them. Sometimes I even read them out loud and my dog looks at me quizzically when I do. I'm not dramatic about it or anything it's just that anything beyond "Treat?" and "Ollie, NO!" are incomprehensible to her.
Right now I can't sleep and I still love this poem by Kenneth Koch, which I dug up a few months ago and go back to from time to time, one of those times being now. It just gets better and better too, so don't be all ADD - read it through to the end. It won't kill you.
The Boiling Water
A serious moment for the water is
when it boils
And though one usually regards it
merely as a convenience
To have the boiling water
available for bath or table
Occasionally there is someone
around who understands
The importance of this moment
for the water—maybe a saint,
Maybe a poet, maybe a crazy
man, or just someone
With his mind "floating"in a
sense, away from his deepest
Personal concerns to more
A serious moment for the island
is when its trees
Begin to give it shade, and
another is when the ocean
Big heavy things against its side.
One walks around and looks at
But not really at it, at what is on
it, and one thinks,
It must be serious, even, to be this
island, at all, here.
Since it is lying here exposed to
the whole sea. All its
Moments might be serious. It is
serious, in such windy weather,
to be a sail
Or an open window, or a feather
flying in the street...
Seriousness, how often I have
thought of seriousness
And how little I have understood
it, except this: serious is urgent
And it has to do with change. You
say to the water,
It's not necessary to boil now,
and you turn it off. It stops
Fidgeting. And starts to cool. You
put your hand in it
And say, The water isn't serious
any more. It has the potential,
However—that urgency to give
off bubbles, to
Change itself to steam. And the
When it becomes part of a
hurricane, blowing up the
And the sand dunes can't keep it
Fainting is one sign of
seriousness, crying is another.
Shuddering all over is another
A serious moment for the
telephone is when it rings.
And a person answers, it is
Angelica, or is it you.
A serious moment for the fly is
when its wings
Are moving, and a serious
moment for the duck
Is when it swims, when it first
touches water, then spreads
Its smile upon the water...
A serious moment for the match
is when it burst into flame...
Serious for me that I met you, and
serious for you
That you met me, and that we do
If we will ever be close to anyone
again. Serious the recognition
of the probability
That we will, although time
stretches terribly in