Saturday, June 24, 2017

Daily Dose





From Life Studies and For the Union Dead, by Robert Lowell


BACK

"The farm's my own!
Back there alone,
I keep indoors, and spoil another season."

From Grandparents

Friday, June 23, 2017

Dad


Daily Dose


From The Complete Poems Of John Keats, edited by John Barnard

WRITTEN ON A SUMMER EVENING

The church bells toll a melancholy round,
Calling the people to some other prayers,
Some other gloominess, more dreadful cares,
More harkening to the sermon's horrid sound.
Surely the mind of man is closely bound
In some blind spell: seeing that each one tears
Himself from fireside joys and Lydian airs,
And converse high of those with glory crowned.
Still, still they toll, and I should feel a damp,
A chill as from a tomb, did I not know
That they are dying like an outburnt lamp, -
That 'tis their sighing, wailing, ere they go
Into oblivion -that fresh flowers will grow,
And many glories of immortal stamp.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

A Bookstore Bird


Daily Dose

From Imaginations, by William Carlos Williams

IF

"If what I have said so far is clear and true and strange to unaccustomed ears, let me see if I can make it still more lucid."

From A Novelette and Other Prose, VIII. Anti-Allegory

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A Caricature


Daily Dose

From The Duke's Children, by Anthony Trollope

THERE ARE

"There are moments when in which stupid people say clever things, obtuse people say sharp things, and good-natured people say ill-natured things."

From Chapter 21, Miss Boncassen's River-Party, No. 1

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Caricature


Daily Dose

From Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, by Tom Stoppard

HEAVY

"No, no, no... you've got it all wrong... you can't act death.  The fact of it is nothing to do with seeing it happen -- it's not gasps and blood and falling about -- that isn't what makes it death.  It's just a man failing to reappear, that's all -- now you see him, now you don't, that's the only thing that's real: here one minute and gone the next and never coming back -- an exit, unobtrusive and unannounced, a disappearance gathering weight as it goes on, until, finally, it is heavy with death."

From Act Two

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Bookstore Bird


Daily Dose

From The Infatuations, by Javier Marias, translated by Margaret Jull Costa

AND SO

"And so, sooner or later, the grieving person is left alone when she still has not finished grieving or when she's no longer allowed to talk about what remains her only world, because other people find that world of grief unbearable, repellent."

From page 62

Sunday, June 18, 2017

A Bookstore Bird


Daily Dose

From The Century's Daughter, by Pat Bsrker

LATER

"Later, in the grounds of the hospital, he endured an English spring: snowdrops, grape hyacinths, crocuses, daffodils, anemones.  He was alone in a world that hadn't died."

From Chapter Six

Saturday, June 17, 2017

A Bookstore Bird


Daily Dose

From Approaching Eye Level, by Vivian Gornick

RESOURCEFUL

"The sentence structure of scorn grew even more resourceful as the writers reviled themselves, and each other, for spending their lives teaching the unteachable."

From At the University

Friday, June 16, 2017

A Bookstore Beast


Daily Dose

From Hotel Du Lac, by Anita Brookner

IT IS

"'It is simply this.  Without a huge emotional investment, one can do whatever one pleases.  One can take decisions, change one's mind, alter one's plans.  There is none of the anxiety of waiting to see if that one other person has everything she desires, if she is discontented,n upset, restless, bored.  One can be as pleasant or as ruthless as one wants.'"

From Chapter Seven

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Bookstore Beast


Daily Dose

From Pitch Dark, by Renata Adler

AND THEN

"And then this matter of the commas.  And this matter of the paragraphs.  The true comma.  The pause comma.  The afterthought comma.  The hesitation comma.  The rhythm comma. The blues."

From page 78, this edition

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Clerihew of a Little God


TRUMAN CAPOTE

Truman Capote,
Sporting a dhoti,
Said, "I coulda been Vishnu
If I'da wished to!"

A Caricature


Daily Dose


From If Beale Street Could Talk, by James Baldwin

IT WAS

"It was a strange weight, a presence coming into me -- into a me I had not known was there."

From page 79

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A Caricature


Clerihew for Big Little Critic


TRUMAN CAPOTE

Truman Capote
Read Don Quixote,
Said "I'm happy to lend it,
Though I can't recommend it."

Daily Dose


From Byron: Complete Poetical Works, edited by Frederick Page

LOVE AND DEATH

I watched thee when the foe was at our side,
    Ready to strike at him--or thee and me,
Were safety hopeless--rather than divide
    Aught with one loved, save love and liberty.
I watched thee on the breakers, when the rock
    Received our prow, and all was storm and fear,
And bade thee cling to me through every shock;
    This arm would be thy bark, or breast thy bier.
I watched thee when the fever glazed thine eyes,
    Yielding my couch, and stretched me on the ground
When overworn with watching, ne'er to rise
    From thence, if thou an early grave hadst found.
The earthquake came, and rocked the quivering
    And men and nature reeled as if with wine.
Whom did I seek around the tottering hall?
    For thee.  Whose safety first provide for?  Thine
And when convulsive throes denied my breath
    The faultest utterance to my fading thought,
To thee--to thee--e'en in the gasp of death
    My spirit turned, oh! oftener than it ought.
Thus much and more; and yet thou lov'st me not,
    And never wilt!  Love dwells not in our will.
Nor can I blame thee, though it be my lot
    To strongly, wrongly, vainly love thee still.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Doodle


Daily Dose


From If Beale Street Could Talk, by James Baldwin

DESPAIR

"Despair can make one monstrous, but it can also make one noble: and here these children are, in the arena, up for grabs."

From page 152

Sunday, June 11, 2017

A Caricature


Daily Dose


From Byron: Complete Poetical Works, edited by Frederick Page

TO EDDLESTON

Thou too art gone, thou loved and lovely one!
    Whom Youth and Youth’s affections bound to me;
    Who did for me what none beside have done,
    Nor shrank from one albeit unworthy thee,
    What is my Being! thou hast ceased to be!
    Nor staid to welcome here thy wanderer home,
    Who mourns o’er hours which we no more shall see--
    Would they had never been, or were to come!
Would he had ne’er returned to find fresh cause to roam!

Oh! ever loving, lovely, and beloved!
    How selfish Sorrow ponders on the past,
    And clings to thoughts now better far removed!
    But Time shall tear thy shadow from me last.
    All thou couldst have of mine, stern Death! thou hast;
    The Parent, Friend, and now the more than Friend:
    Ne’er yet for one thine arrows flew so fast,
    And grief with grief continuing still to blend,
Hath snatched the little joy that Life had yet to lend.

From Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, stanzas 95 - 96

Saturday, June 10, 2017

A Caricature


Clerihew for an Irish Lady Writer


ELIZABETH BOWEN

Elizabeth Bowen,
While considered high-brow in
A stylish way,
Was not above sex in The Heat of the Day.

Daily Dose


From Byron: Complete Poetical Works, edited by Frederick Page

THE CORNELIAN

No specious splendour of this stone
    Endears it to my memory ever;
With lustre only once it shone,
    And blushes modest as the giver.

Some, who can sneer at friendship’s ties,
    Have, for my weakness, oft reprov’d me;
Yet still the simple gift I prize,
    For I am sure, the giver lov’d me.

He offer’d it with downcast look,
    As fearful that I might refuse it;
I told him, when the gift I took,
    My only fear should be, to lose it.

This pledge attentively I view’d,
    And sparkling as I held it near,
Methought one drop the stone bedew’d,
    And, ever since, I’ve lov’d a tear.

Still, to adorn his humble youth,
    Nor wealth nor birth their treasures yield;
But he, who seeks the flowers of truth,
    Must quit the garden, for the field.

‘Tis not the plant uprear’d in sloth,
    Which beauty shews, and sheds perfume;
The flowers, which yield the most of both,
    In Nature’s wild luxuriance bloom.

Had Fortune aided Nature’s care,
    For once forgetting to be blind,
His would have been an ample share,
    If well proportioned to his mind.

But had the Goddess clearly seen,
    His form had fix’d her fickle breast;
Her countless hoards would his have been,
    And none remain’d to give the rest.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Old School


"Just because a book is old that doesn't make it interesting."  This is something we say nearly every day to people selling their used books. Not strictly true, that sentence.  It's an oversimplification offered to explain why we won't be buying most family Bibles, sets of James Whitcomb Riley, or library-bound issues of Popular Mechanics. The reader may think at least one of those sounds interesting, and indeed, I would not necessarily disagree, but who is going to buy any such thing and what are the odds that that buyer will happen into the bookstore where I work in search of same?  That's the point.  Still, unsaleable isn't always the same as uninteresting, at least for the fifteen minutes it may take to thumb through a book abandoned in our donations pile.

Witness: English Literature (Four Years), in the Oxford Review Series, by K. W. Wright, M. A., of De Witt Clinton High School. M. D. Ryan, M. A., of Bay Ridge High, et al., and "All of New York City", published by Oxford Book Company, Educational Publishers, New York, 1929.

Great libraries burn, rare books are lost, classics turn to dust, but someone kept... this.  Why?  There is a history here that we will never know.  No one wrote their name in it.  Nothing to say how it came to Seattle, presumably from New York, and across the Used Books buying desk.

I picked from the pile because the obvious age of the thing did indeed make it interesting, at least in passing.  When I opened it to the table of contents, I was intrigued by two things: the date of publication, and the list of the works thought necessary to review for a high school student in 1929.  It starts on page one with The Odyssey -- still unsurprising -- and then goes on to the following categories of literature: Novels, Dramas, Essays, Poetry, and Oratory, before ending with "Recent Examination Papers."  It was not the obvious subjects then that proved of interest, but rather the works listed in each as necessary for review.  Here are the novels:

Ivanhoe
Treasure Island
Silas Marner
A Tale of Two Cities
The House of Seven Gables

The last three were still on my high school syllabus roughly fifty years later.  No idea if any but the Dickens are still being studied in high school.

All of Drama turned out to be Shakespeare:

As You Like It
A Midsummer Night's Dream
The Merchant of Venice
Julius Caesar
Macbeth
Hamlet

Again, much the list as I knew it in high school, but for As You Like It which was swapped out by then for Romeo and Juliet, on the assumption presumably that the kids would "identify" more with the doomed teenagers than with the witty lovers.

But really, it was the Essays that got me:

Sketch Book (which proved to be Washington Irving)
Frances Bacon
Charles Lamb
Thomas DeQuincey
William Hazlit
Sir Roger De Coverley Papers (Addison and Steele)
Carlyle's Essay on Burns
Macaulay's Life of Samuel Johnson

My kind of list, but I would bet not one of these has been mentioned in an American high school since my parents graduated in the '40s.


At first glance, I thought I might want this book for brief things to read aloud.  The format seemed to suggest excerpts from the essays etc., but no.  According to the preface, this is a book of "concise but comprehensive summaries" presented to "refresh the memory of books long since read."  So, not an anthology as I'd assumed.  No, this little volume was basically an early example of Cliffs Notes, a study guide or crib for high school students facing exams. 

Here, for example, from Poetry, subsection Keats, rather than To a Nightingale, this:

"... Man is destined to death; but not the nightingale -- she is ageless.  As she sang in the days of Ruth, and before the magic casements of faery land, she sings today.  In the midst of his revery, he is called back to the realities of life, finding that the illusions of fancy are not so permanent as the heart might wish."

Indeed.  Nice.  Still, one can almost hear the flies buzzing about the remains of the teacher's sack-lunch in the waste-paper-basket, no?

There is surprisingly little quoted, even in the Poetry section, even of Shakespeare in Drama.  All is brief summary; plot, theme, point, act and scene.  It is all seemingly in order and, read to no better purpose than idle curiosity, weird.  What was this meant to do for the examination student?  How did this help? 

This stuff is not sometimes without a sort of borrowed glory, as in, "Irving rejoices in the lingering holiday customs recalling ancient English life.  They hold together the traditions of their country as ivy supports the crumbling cathedral ruin..."  But more often it is just the straight-forward statement of the obvious, "Two poems, To the Cuckoo and To a Skylark, are among the many which are suggestive of Wordsworth's love of birds."  Why, sure.

 As it turns out, only three Americans included: Irving, on England, please note, and, in Oratory, Washington's Farewell Address and Webster's first Bunker Hill Oration -- the remaining selection for summary being Burke's Speech on Conciliation, so America if not by an American.  No Poe, no Dickinson, no Twain.

The only stumper for me was in Poetry where "Sohrab and Rustum" is described, seemingly without the need to so much as mention Matthew Arnold's name.  Had to look that one up.

Perhaps the most interesting bit in the book proved to be the actual exam questions at the end, few if any of which would seem to have a damned thing to do with what came before.  The exam, and the book, closes with the following:

6.  Write a composition of 250 to 300 words on one of the topics below:

My candidate for 1956
Flood control
Music for many moods
The importance of student government
Parents' Night
Sports coverage on TV (or the radio)
The manners of young peopkle
Near East trouble spot
Man-made satellites
Securing more teachers
Thev role of the vice president
The city in early dawn
Scholarship blues
The pleasures of convalescence

The surprising appearance of television and the 1956 election tells me that at least the sample examination is clearly of a later date than the title page leads one to believe.  Beyond that, how does "flood control" figure in, say, "The Poems of Milton" or The Merchant of Venice?!  Come to that, where in any of the above might one insert that fascinating business of Wordsworth and the birds?

Nevertheless, I remain impressed with the idea that all the literature described was assumed to be familiar to anyone in America, let alone a high school student, even in 1929.  And I am even a bit envious of the graduates of the prestigious De Witt Clinton High School, circa the day, who would seem to have had Hazlitt off by heart. 

Otherwise, this poor thing reminds me of two things:

First, how very fragile a thing is literacy,

And, nobody ever went broke reducing literature to pap.

And now to contemplate the pleasures of convalescence and the city in early dawn.

Daily Dose


From The Naked Civil Servant, by Quentin Crisp

DUE

"I found that I had become so spinsterish that I was made neurotic not only by my life of domesticity but by the slightest derangement of my room. I would burst into a fit of weeping if the kettle was not facing due east."

From Chapter 21

Thursday, June 8, 2017

A Caricature


Daily Dose


From The Naked Civil Servant, by Quentin Crisp

SOMEONE

"As someone remarked, when told the new atomic bombs would explode without a bang, 'they can’t leave anything alone.'"

From Chapter 13

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A Caricature


Daily Dose

From The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera, translated by Michael Henry Heim

THE FIRST

"The first betrayal is irreparable.  It calls forth a chain reaction of further betrayals, each of which takes us farther and farther away from the point of our original betrayal."

From Chapter 3, A Short Dictionary of Misunderstood Words

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

A Caricature


Clerihew for a Renaissance Man


LANGSTON HUGHES

Langston Hughes
Took the Blues
And with a certain nonchalance
Made the Harlem Renaissance.

Daily Dose

From The Horseman on the Roof, by Jean Giono, translated by Jonathan Griffin

EMPTY

"Empty also the roads of hope.  The sky was plaster, the heat like glue.  The dry wind bestowed no breath but only blows; it smelt of goats and other, terrible, things."

From Chapter Eight

Monday, June 5, 2017

Clerihew for the Lonely and Irascible


PATRICIA HIGHSMITH

Patricia Highsmith
Proclaiming forthwith
She was never again to drink alone,
Went out and bought a dictaphone.


A Caricature


Daily Dose

From In Patagonia, by Bruce Chatwin

BIG MAN

"Boarding the boat back to Ushuaia was a big man with a blotchy red face, upturned moustaches, and the syrupy eyes of an Ottoman pasha.  He wore an astrakhan hat.  He had come from Santiago to see about a plant for processing krill.  The whales were gone but there was still plenty of krill.  I talked about Grandpa Felipe and mentioned Charlie and Jackie.
'He probably ate them,' the fat man said."

From 62

Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Hat


This morning, early, I walked into our back yard.  Not something I do much, or have ever done.  First, I didn't used to get up early.  In my fifties, that's changed, suddenly.  Don't know why, it just did.  I stopped being a night-owl.  I go to bed earlier than I used to, around midnight most nights, and consequently I wake up earlier, usually around six or seven.  Maybe it's the other way around; I wake up earlier so I go to bed earlier.  Who knows?  Doesn't matter.  Anyway, awake around seven, I went out and listened to the birds.

Our back yard, by the way, isn't a yard.  It's basically a walled patio with lots of flowers planted around it.  No grass.  When we bought the house, there was one plot of grass, just a strip, maybe ten feet by three, next to the garage.  First thing I had done was to have that strip of grass pulled up and replaced with roses.  I love flowers.  I have no patience with grass.  A promise I made myself as an adult was that I would never cut grass again and I never have.  Mowing the lawn was always a chore and I never liked doing it.  Mowing the grass was always my father's thing, never mine.  He loved having a big yard.  He loved mowing the grass.  He had a hat just for that; a hideous, straw cowboy hat, sweat-stained and misshapen from being folded and shoved in his back-pocket, I suppose.  Just for keeping the sun out of his eyes while he rode the mower.  When he died, that hat was one of the things I threw away.  Nobody was ever going to wear that hat again.  I tried it on first.  It was not a good look, on anybody.  There were plenty of things my father left behind, things invested with memory and sentiment, plenty of hats come to that, but nobody was going to want the hat he wore for yard-work.

My brother gave me one of Dad's hats actually, before Dad died.  It was just this past winter and I was back in Pennsylvania to help look after the old man in what proved to be his last illness, his last winter, his last everything.  The hat my brother gave me is a good one.  It's brown felt, Australian with a broad brim and a high crown with a thin, leather bolero for a band.  All I had with me was a thin stocking-cap -- my Texas nephews call these "beanies" which nobody calls them in Pennsylvania.  Nobody at the gas-station knew what the kid meant when he asked them if they sold "beanies."  They didn't stock them anyway.  I gave my nephew mine.  My brother gave me Dad's hat. "Keep the snow of o' you anyway," and it did.  "It's a pretty good hat," my brother told me, and it is, "should fit you," and it does.  Men in my family, we all wear a big hat.

When we moved to Seattle, the husband and I, we went to a nice haberdashers downtown, a hat store that's been there forever.  Classy.  We bought porkpie hats, which we haven't now worn in years.  That was the thing at the time, for that one brief moment in men's fashion, so we bought each other porkpie hats.  I remember the woman who was fitting us. The beloved husband, possessing a normal, proportionately handsome head if I do say so, had no problem getting a good hat. Put it on his head, and done.  With me, the woman had to keep stretching the damned thing.  She kept putting it on my big head and then taking it into the back to steam and stretch the thing again and again.  "You got a big, narrow head," she said finally, "that's unusual."

Seems that's a family trait, that big narrow head of ours.

It's spring now, so I've moved on to wearing a nice straw hat I bought at a different hat shop, gone now, but all winter in Pennsylvania while my father was dying and even after I got back to Seattle, I wore my Dad's hat that my brother gave me.  We all went bald to one degree or another, my brother, myself and my late father, so a hat seems to be required for actual weather, snow or sunshine.

We buried my father with two hats, though both just in the coffin, not on.  One was a Korean War veteran's cap he'd only recently taken to wearing.  His time in the army was the least happy time in my father's life.  He came quickly to dislike the military and he learned to hate war.  The war before his took his beloved older brother from him.  My Uncle Dick died in the Battle of the Bulge.  My dad, his parents and his whole family never really got over that loss.  Every year, on the anniversary of Dick's death, and every Memorial Day, for the rest of his life my father could hardly see the day out soon enough.  Never wanted to talk about it.  He just went about the business of putting flowers on the family graves and a fresh flag on his brother's grave, and then waited for the day to end.  This year my brother, his wife and my mother did the flowers and the flags together: our grandparents and theirs, aunts and uncles, all my parent's siblings, and now my Dad's.

We were a little surprised then when my father took to wearing those veterans' caps.  He usually wore a billed cap, the kind with the adjustable snap at the back to accommodate his big, narrow head.  More usually these were hats he got for free from car dealerships or farm-equipment concerns.  He bought some too with clever quips on the crown.  He was given others, mostly camouflage patterns for hunting.  He had hundreds of such hats.  We found boxes full when he died.  Man had a lot of hats.  Only in the last year or two did he adopt the veterans' hats, and the Korean veterans hat in particular.  He wore that whenever he went out to dinner now, which was once a week for years; every Friday.  People frequently thanked him for his service when they saw it.  Amazingly it seems he liked that after all.

Thirty-five years ago my mother announced one Friday that it was her "day off."  She never really took a day off.  She worked when I was young, cleaned other people's houses as well as ours, cleaned college dorm-rooms.  We needed the money, so she worked.  It was more unusual then, still.  Or rather, it was meant to be.  Second wave feminism -- still called "Women's Lib" -- was happening around then.  Middle-class white women decided they were not going to be bound by traditional gender-roles.  Many wanted to work away from the home.  It was a revolution.  For poor women?  Maybe not so much.  My mother worked.  My grandmothers worked.  My father's mother worked the desk of a motel when she became a widow at a relatively young age.  More a matter of necessity than choice.  My mother, before her marriage, worked in a dry-cleaners, and at a local coffee-roasting plant, and in a jewelry store.  Later, as I say, she cleaned for other people.  One day she announced that Friday was her day off and told my father he was taking her out to dinner.  I went along.  We had the fish special at the restaurant in the basement of Sears, I think it was.  My father took her out to dinner faithfully every Friday there after for decades.  "He didn't kick," my mother used to say, with a lingering note of pleasure and surprise.

When I went outside this morning to listen to the birds I watched two of them run races along our garden wall.  No idea what they were.  Little wrens with long, comical legs, I think they were.  For whatever reason they just chased each other around the wall.  Made me smile.  My father would have known just what they were.  He would have known by their songs as well every bird we have out here, at least he would have if they were like the birds he knew back home in Pennsylvania.  He would have known the names of the trees as well, and the plants down to the weeds.  He understood the world so long as there was earth under his feet.

Looking through boxes of old photographs after my father died it was clear that the old man spent most of his childhood outdoors. He and his brothers rode and raced horses and ponies. They rode and they hunted and they kept dogs.  Until he was in his late seventies he kept dogs.  He kept dogs until he and they were too old to hunt.  When the last old beagle went off and never came back, he stopped.  "I'm too old to chase her," he said, "and she was too old to be bothered coming back, I guess."

As an adult he worked in car dealerships and factories and was indoors most days, but only when he couldn't be out.  He preferred being outdoors all his life.  Even when he got too old to hunt, he'd sit on the porch, mow the grass, plant things he'd never live to see grow.  He planted most of the trees on the property.  Some of those trees are taller than the house now, some of them taller yet.  His general theory of gardening was to stick things in the ground and if they grew, great, and if not, why, you plant another.  He was an unsentimental gardener.

He loved the spring, my father, as do I.  Who doesn't, come to that? but for him it always meant he could be out in it again; bad knees, a bad heart, bad feet, none of that much mattered once the cold was over.  When spring came again and there was a sunny day it meant he could take the little red convertible out of the garage again and take his wife for a drive.  It's a generational thing, that business of just driving for pleasure.  He loved cars all his life too, and he loved that little red car, the nicest car he'd ever owned, specially. No one else ever drove that car.  The weather got warm enough and the sky clear enough and he'd take that car out and wash it and shine it and my mother knew that meant he meant to go for a drive.  They'd tool around the country roads they both knew like the geography of their own history and they'd look at "the nice houses" and the "good yards" with lots of new flowers and they'd stop for lunch somewhere they'd eaten for twenty years and they would make a day of it.  He might drive the little red car when they went out to dinner on my mother's day off, but going for a drive was different.  The point of going for a drive was the going, not the getting to.  He loved the freedom of that.

I didn't even learn to drive until I was thirty-five.  Cars were another thing, like hunting and dogs and working outside that my father and I didn't really share.  I'm an indoor man.  I'm for an armchair and book and eating dinner while we watch TV.  My father and I did not have much in common then, save for the shape of our skulls.  More than this would make it seem, but less than than either of us might have wished, if I'm being honest.  We were never really easy with one another, not the way he was with my older brother.  When my father retired and a bit later when my brother moved into the old house across the yard from my parents, my brother and my father became true friends.  Never an entirely easy relationship for most people I should think, father and son, but they made it work.  Saw each other pretty much everyday.  Later still when first one then the other became ill, they grew specially close.  It's my brother who stayed.  It's my brother who takes care.  He was far more of a hell-raiser than our father ever dreamed of being and for quite a time they had, if anything, even less in common in some ways than I had with either of them.  But they always had a common, male language to do with all those things they both loved and understood: dogs, and engines, and hard work.  My brother spent twenty some years in the same factory my father retired from.  I was gone before any of this, first to Pittsburgh, and then California and finally to Seattle.  I missed a great deal, but then my father did too.

My father went into the hospital at the end of last year and my sister came home from Texas to help and then I did too.  Baudelaire says, "This life is a hospital where every patient is possessed with the desire to change beds; one man would like to suffer in front of the stove, and another believes that he would recover his health beside a window."  When they told my father he had liver cancer and would die soon, all he wanted was to be home.  The window wasn't enough.    They brought him home, my brother and sister.  I came back.


When poor people "go into hospice" that means something different than it does when middl-class people do.  Poor people come home.  The family rents a hospital bed, an oxygen tank, order diapers from the service.  The nurses come every couple of days.  We changed my father's bedding.  We washed him and fed him and sat with him and gave him his medication every four hours.  My mother slept in the spare room.  We slept on couches and a rollaway bed in the laundry-room.  When we could still lift him and he could still stand, it was my sister and my sister-in-law, me and my brother and my brother-in-law and my nephews who lifted my father in and out of bed.  When his feet would no longer stay under him and we couldn't move him to a chair anymore, it was my brother-in-law who lifted my father, who was not a slight man, to the end of the bed to sit up for a spell.


Towards the end that was the one thing he wanted, my father, to get up and get out of that wretched bed.  It was hard to tell him that he couldn't, that he wouldn't anymore, ever again.  He did not understand and then, I think he sadly did.  That was hard.  The nurses explained this clinically but compassionately to us all; how the body rebels at the end, how the mind's last hurrah is often expressed in this urge to be up, to be out, to be upright.  All perfectly reasonable and true, I'm sure.  I can be forgiven I think for reading more into the gesture than that.  What my father or some part of my father that still was my father wanted was, I think, to be out.  More than anything for a man like my father to be outside was to be alive.  To never go outside again meant the end, and so it was, and it was hard.  My father's death was not easy, and as my mother said, it was not fair.  "Why should anyone have to suffer that way?" she said. No answer to be had.  She was right.  It wasn't.


I think now I might have made that moment a little better had I had the sense to hand the man his hat. Maybe if he'd had that in his hand if not on his big, narrow head, he might have felt some comfort in at least the potential of a departure back out into something better than that bed, that room, his fate.  That hat was a comfort to me every day I was home, every night when I got up to smoke a cigarette on the porch.  Kept the winter off me head.  Kept my father close whenever I could leave his room for a bit. He might have liked to have that hat for a minute again himself. I wish I'd thought of this at the time.  It probably would only have just further confused him and the whole hideous business of his dying more, but maybe he might have had another moment of, if not hope, then expectancy at least.  But I didn't think of it until this morning, when I walked outside and heard the birds I don't know the names of, and felt the sun come over the garden wall through the trees I can't name.


And then I came back inside, and put on my father's hat for no good reason, and I wrote this.  


You're missing the spring this year, old man, and I am missing you, more than either of us might once, long ago, have thought possible.  Glad we had the chance to make some of that up.  Glad to have the hat.

Daily Dose


From The Prelude, by William Wordsworth

HERE

"Here, calling up to mind what then I saw,
A youthful traveller, and see daily now
In the familiar circuit of my home,
Here might I pause, and bend in reverence
To Nature, and the power of human minds,
To men as they are men within themselves."

From Book Thirteen

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Clerihew of Lesbian Cool


EILEEN MYLES

Clearly, no one "styles"
Eileen Myles.
Should anyone try
She'd say, "Maybe... a tie?"

A Caricature


Daily Dose

 From Agate: An Anthology, edited by Herbert Van Thal

THE KID

"... there is, at least for me, more emotion in the single tear of The Kid than in all the bucketful of 'Vesti la Giubba.'"

From Hey, But He's Doleful!