2013.1.15 — 75

75:

The diamond anniversary,

The life expectancy of a US male born in 2006,

470 miles of an interstate in Florida,

The numeric value of a C paper,

The age of Morgan Freeman,

The temperature on a mild spring day;

NOT, the appropriate setting for our thermostat.

Dude, it’s winter. Put some clothes on.

 

Addendum to this morning’s retrospectively Glee-like conversation singalong:

2013.1.9 — Republican

We were sitting on the couch,
orange cover over the length of it,
tan and tattered underneath,
buttons popped off upholstery
in no pattern
no better place to nap
I said, But please, just please don’t use the word “abandon,”
Never say that I abandoned her,
Never say that I left her
Like I was not coming back
Like love is enough to make anyone stay
Like any way we live is measured by the convention called “normal”

We do not know what will happen in June
It is the unwritten future point past which wondering works against us
We do not know what happens next
Who will be well?
Who will be here?
And what “need” means.

We were briefly quiet,
so I wondered,
then I laughed.
You asked, What’s funny?
Funny is the irony of our circumstances
The many of them that total this:
That each of us is now helping the other live in ways that have been fundamental sources of disagreement since marriage
constitutional departures of view
Helping or preparing to

Later, I drive in the afternoon drizzle.
On the sidewalk, I see the back of a girl small as Olive,
hoodied and high-topped, shouldering a bright backpack,
walking
Immediately, I miss her as if I am gone.
She has no idea.
I put out of my mind what we do not know past June

 

We are quiet again.
I look over at you on the other corner of the orange couch.
I say, I didn’t even know you still had that sweater.
That blue sweater bought faded and
flaring unreasonably at the waist
Old as our friendship.
Ever since I worked at Banana Republic, you remind me.
I had forgotten.
Of course, it’s fitting, you say; now, not then.
Fitting, I agree.

 

Banana.
Republic.

We Laugh.

2013.1.2 – Broetry

S-B-a-n-a-n-a-s,

There’s a boutique in Florida, The Chameleon, where your sister used to work and where my mom still shops. I purchased there, on NYE day, a book called Broetry (Brian McGackin). It’s bananas.

Inspired by this book and the SEC loss (UF folded to Louisville in the Sugar Bowl), I’m going to share with you a broem I inadvertently wrote on a Waco to Austin drive in November. This is the height of simulacrum, since Broetry is a selection of poems a la Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams (and a bunch of others I don’t actually recognize) stylized for “dudes,” and this poem is just in the style of that style.

Ah, ah, hem, hem:

 

Fair Weather Fan

Let’s be honest for a sex,
a sec,
I said, SEC
The Southeastern Conference
The most storied franchise in the conference,
decorated,
I meant that like “dynasty,”
like the Cowboys
like Emitt Smith–
he was the quarter back when–
Of course, I know their names,
Danny Wuerffel,
Sophomore Heisman Tebow
Chris Leak was a looker when I was in school
My school?
Not a state school
Fumble
I cheer for my parents’ alma mater
a familial allegiance
go team
The winningest conference
Go, go, go—
Spurrier was their first Heisman,
coached their second
Recovery
Hey, your offense didn’t show up
It was wild
Wiiiild
Shut out
Ours?–top five
We?
I meant defense
like the defensive lie
I said, line
game-changing reception on a third down,
dominant
Goooo team!
Beat the Gamecocks
Cock-tail party?
Call it the World’s Largest Outdoor Turnover Party
Driskel couldn’t keep it in the hole
I meant that like “pocket,”
like, tackled
sacked
Listen, let’s be honest for a sec
I said, a sec
the length of a two-point conversion attempt
These underwear are cotton,
like the bowl,
unsexy
like the stubble on my legs,
like astroturf,
raunchy
My–?
Oh. my.
No.
I said Ron Cherry,
calls it like he sees it,
“giving him the business”?
Oh.
Well. we lost it.
Forced to punt on a holding penalty
I said, punt.
Punt?
Oh.
Don’t call me that.

 

 

2013.1.1 – YOB

SB:

We are driving to Tampa. It’s Tuesday. It’s the first of the year. 2013. Ominous, I say to you. 2013 sounds ominous as a year.

We are in the driver’s and passenger’s seats of my mother’s Ford Freestyle. Mom and Olive are playing Free Cell in the back. Tonight, we stay at my grandparents’ house to cut the travel time to the airport in the pre-dawn. Tomorrow, we fly from TPA to DAL.

We have been in Florida for two weeks. Over the course of this period, Olive has turned six, caught her first fish, and gained two pounds. Our other roommate, Goose, has been offered a job with a work visa in another state. I’ve applied to ## schools. A relative of mine has been diagnosed with cancer a second time. Relatives of other relatives are coming down with similar maladies. You feel unwell. I have heard repeated–mostly by my grandmother, Gram (76), whose house we are in en route to–’no one gets out of this alive.’ It’s her running joke for the holidays.

We are driving. I am trying to adopt a new way of being. Sort of. I’m tired of being the heavy friend / person / relational noun, though I doubt whether it’s constitutionally possible to be otherwise. Still, I’m working on this personal motif that I keep calling, “Lightness and Laughter.” In my mind it looks like LOL, so there’s that.

So I say to you, to stave off the ominousness, that the year should have a theme. Let’s give it a theme, I say. And trying to be all LOL, I further indicate that it does not have to be a serious affair. I say, it can be arbitrary, something like “bananas.” Year of the Banana, or YOB. I say, Years should have theme songs, too. So like, it could be that one song with the line, “This shit is bananas / b-a-n-a-n-a-s.” I ask if you, fan of radio pop music, if you know it.

You look it up. We play it over the stereo system of the middle-aged Ford Freestyle. It’s Gwen Stefani.

We listen to about five versions of this, as you have also found many people covering the song on YouTube. We determine that the original is the best. This is our theme song. This is the year of the banana.

This shit is bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S.

Letter 8 – Some Something

Stephen,

You’re an awful pen pal, you know. I’m just going to write you some things, some nothings.

It’s been an awful week. Everything is fine. I’m feeling defeated. I’m feeling the same as I always do. I’ve been laboring over my dissertation. I’ve been grading piles of papers. Sleeping little, running less. I’m mad. This is my fault. Everything is fine.

I’ve realized that I write long sentences. Academics don’t really care about this. I learned from them, I guess. The more esoteric, the better, I’m told. If people cannot understand you, you’re probably really fucking brilliant. It is challenging, in this way, to switch back and forth between stylistic modes. It is challenging to write lengthy jargon-laden sentences about the social construction and interpretation of everything for days on end and then turn to edit staccato fictional prose.

Here is a poetically inspired something I jotted down during one late night this week. It occurred to me–and maybe it has also occurred to me before–that central pieces of our/my furniture came from my mom. They were centerpieces for homework and early toiling in my childhood kitchen. I can remember being 18 and drinking iced tea all night long after I realized it would keep me awake and alert enough to study. I share this with you not for artistic scrutiny, but to point to the shared experience of the early years of our friendship. <You said the other day that we never reminisce about high school.>  Not that you were doing the same. You were busy presiding over bible club. But I digress:

This oak table

where I sit to grade these papers

These oak chairs

where I sit to labor

over compound sentences

in compound chapters

of dissertated thought

That oak china hutch

against the north wall

They are the same places

I hunched for long nights

eyes wide on stimulants

in our teenage years

before the dawn of sedatives

to solve calculus problems

to study anatomy

to not lose

to think

and not think about how

I was not whole.

 

And am I now?

It’s safe to say that no variant of the word “dissertation” can figure into a legitimate poem. Good thing you already see me without the polish of my makeup on a near daily basis.

 

Cheers,

ash

Addendum to Letter 7 – John Cage Said

Responding to the question, “What’s restricting about taste and memory for you?” John Cage Said:

There’s a beautiful remark of Marcel Duchamp: To reach the impossibility of transferring from one like object to another the memory imprint. And I think the trouble with memory–both from a poetic point of view is made clear, too, by the remark of Rene Char, the French poet, that each act is virgin, even the repeated one. To see things as being new rather than things that we already know before we’re experiencing them.

I think this is one of the things that leads to trouble between two people when someone says of another person, ‘I knew what she would say’ or ‘I knew what he would say.’ I would hope that we don’t get into that frame of mind with respect to one another, hm?

There’s another remark I’ve come across in the last year or so that I like, and it’s by the composer Erik Satie. It’s related to that remark that I just quoted from Char–he checked his version.  Satie says experience is a form of paralysis. Do you see the relation?

If we think we know what the other person is going to say, and if we don’t approach things as virgin, then our minds and our attitudes turn out– become paralyzed, and that’s why we want to have each thing new. To realize that two Coca-Cola bottles are not identical and what makes them not identical is that they’re not at the same point. They can’t be at the same point in space. Since they’re not at the same point in space they automatically receive – each one receives light differently than the other.

 

Letter 7 – H—

When Olive is angry to the point of feeling helpless, she stands tall and stiff, fists balled, arms thrusting down, chin out and up. She grits her teeth and through them spits the meanest expression she muster at whichever of us she’s mad. In the shower two nights ago, it was you. “I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!” She can, in these states, articulate nothing but helpless anger.

I felt it tonight, her helplessness. I felt that anger at you as if I were Olive–felt betrayed and trapped and without recourse. I knew, like Olive knows, that no matter what I said or did, you weren’t listening. You weren’t changing your mind or the cool of your indifferent progress or digress. But I have, unlike Olive, no reassurance of familial affection and compassion at the cessation of sharp words. The tension only abates when one of us leaves.

You wouldn’t take from me the treatment you give me. You told me that. How insulted and small I felt. More and more I am convinced of your disregard for me; it’s working.

And I don’t know what to do–because I know that a seed, perhaps the seed of your anger and hurt, I planted long ago. And every stress and setback since seems to get tangled in the roots.

I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!

It doesn’t help at all.