Time with the Season
… , and all things keep
Time with the season; only she doth carry
June in her eyes, in her heart January.
— Thomas Carew, The Spring
At least three days in the valley,
with its two immense towers of cars
was an unintended complication of living well.
The causeways were as good as last year
though a drought affected most of the coastal
region. In the valley of the fever it seethes,
whole neighborhoods overgrown with bulletins.
In times of drought toupees of grass
sprout from regions still scarred from winter.
Three or four things had fallen into
my lap unexpectedly, a vacation home
and some mysterious ailment causing me
to roll over onto the stone floor by
the hotel pool shaded by a few sickly
palms recesses where tireless minds
display their most secretive and affordable
memories. You can’t convince me that
I was sharing in some collective hallucination
for a new season and/or a companionable
nostalgia for the Greeks. Can we map
ourselves in the gaze of the Medusa?
What if the graph of set expectations
was itself unmoored and you no longer
knew where you were standing?
To remain goal oriented across a span of time
as one does for a dead-line with purposes
unknown. Something you said in passing
about how we can no longer tell the seasons
by the fruit we find at the market.
I guess there was something practical
to learn in the nursery–I was riveted
to a view of the ocean and the beach
ball-The wind didn’t stop. Without identity
all is lost. Paper is scarce. If we use
less we’ll have little to say.
My affairs turn out badly, the sky
papered over with flimsy nuances.
They cross the limit– You’d think,
by now I’d be used to the rain stealing
the light and the girls in galoshes waiting
for the drug stores to open. Is ordinary
fruit no longer acceptable? Must it be
pomegranate or mahogany antique?
Are puzzlers found only on $ 100 bills?
Are the plazas to be unshaven, trickling
down to the poor like a useless tear?
When sitting next to beautiful people
the most endearing object was always you.
Anyway, you’ll never get to know them,
not even their Christian names, with
the terrible onslaught of breakfasts,
brunches, and phone calls, all that
schlepping and shelving because you
don’t want anything extraneous in your
way. Some liked the gorging, yet
nothing happened and they flew away
beyond a white wall. Can you keep up?
It’ll take weeks to fill you in on
the savory details. Me, I’m doing ok
up here in my crumbling crow’s nest.
Land ho ( I guess) a newly minted land
called Israel, not part of any one
person. Its boulevards go quickly by,
flanked by houses not built to be lived
in, flagstones for you to walk on or
between. A joyful evening on a sad
occasion is better than the reverse,
I suppose. Nights after my father’s
death I carried my briefcase up and down
the stairs to a carrel in the library.
Dorm life was sublime, with its moon-shaped
elevator dials. Footnotes come to mind
and a subsequent march in a continuous
succession of goose steps. Then after
a month long hiatus I resumed
donating blood to the Red Cross.
Research made everything take longer,
even writing. A parade of authors.
As the visible world disappeared
the word, spit or spirit entered
my mind like a distant steam boat.
The fan’s steady whirr of where…
where? Lulls, scolds, come back
into the beyond. The darkness of
a plum high in the plum tree.
Are a deer and her fawn in early
morning watchful, on “alert”, a dream
or a naive conceit? Thinking they
are unobserved, they bed down
in the mulch, leaves flickering
between light and shadow. To wander
from room to room, so quiet,
a hair descends, steps creak, a little
inscrutable world in a pinprick.
This shelter of neglect and decades
long delay, whiskered white repairs
fall from the sky and exit or enter.
The poor light up the island,
whispering the “truth” about “lonesome
George”, the tortoise who ignored
his companion for ten years before
attempting to mate with her again.
Then he died. A black bird caught
a worm it could not eat all at once.
Feigned affection bounces right off
me, shining the x-ray beam on the paint
chips in Van Gogh’s beard, which may
have staved off his madness. Van Gogh’s
leaky jar placed in a marsh, its cross-
hatched reflection on the still surface
of the water. The day wore on as if it
had been etched in with a stencil, or
with slanting pencils of sunlight and
in the hedges, a swarm of fireflies
blink on and off, undisturbed ashes
from a cigarette— mosquitoes thicken
and in the Red Hook of tomorrow
one last dangling red bee.
***Note: A few years ago I discovered the poetry of English Cavalier poet Thomas Carew through an Allen Ginsberg post about Carew’s Songs. From there I began to read through his work and began to improvise on a theme based on his poem “The Spring”. From there I decided that each section of the poem ought to record not only my experiences of the season but also the progress of a style or the development of the poem. Carew’s collected works “The Poems and Masque” include as one might expect to find in a cavalier poet of his day a Petrarchan cycle of poems to a woman named Cecelia, various song cycles, a long erotic poem called The Rapture, and all sorts of occasional verse from tributes to Donne and Ben Johnson to bucolic verses praising country life to end with a long Masque. In todays poetry world one would similarly expect to find in a poet’s collected work a few sestinas or sonnet cycle ala Ted Berrigan or a unusually long disjointed poem usually in the form of a modern collage and/or cut up. Here I am thinking of Ashbery’s “Europe” the long poem from the Tennis Court Oath which so many in the experimental poetry camp claim to be their “ur-text” for experimental writing.