Tag Archives: Maine

Currency

 

That which is of the now, or, power that flows (including money)

People who are hungry and have enough money in their pocket to buy one sandwich and no other money look forward to that sandwich. They value and are scared of it to some degree, for what happens when the money and then the sandwich are gone? But still, overall and right now, they are pleased it’s there (sandwich and money both).

Ben Bradlee lived a good life. It says so on the spine of the book here just out of my reach on the bookshelf. It’s a very large bookshelf. It runs across a whole wall of the parlor. Maybe 500 books, not a precise count, but that won’t be far off. There are a number of bookcases in this house. Some smaller, others bigger, but all full up. Most of these volumes I can put a memory to. Not of the books themselves (although that as well) but of when they were bought or where or why, by whom. I imagine most people can do that.

Ben Bradlee’s book was borrowed and never returned from my mother-in-law. She lived in New Hampshire when I borrowed it from her. For a while when she got sick again she came to live with us, here in this house in Maine. She spent about six months with us, living in an apartment in the barn. Perhaps that book was then in a way no longer borrowed as she was living under the same roof. But then she left and moved to Austin, Texas to live with my wife’s sister, her younger daughter. At that moment, from a moral or legal standpoint, the book was borrowed again. But then after a while we also left Maine behind and bought another house in Austin and then my mother in law died. This happened in the summer that we had come back north for a few weeks and so the book became ours. Technically it’s my wife’s and I’m sure if I bought a legal challenge for specific custody of it I wouldn’t likely win, unless it was part or fell under some wider agreement as regards all the books we own. But still if, for example, my wife and I stay together and she dies before I do then it will be something I could then leave in my own will to anyone I wanted.

When Benjamin Crowninshield “Ben” Bradlee, who was born on August 26, 1921, chose his title he must have been somewhere in his early seventies, as the book was published in October of 1995. He lived for a good amount more afterwards, dying 19 years later on October 21, 2014 at 93.

Externally and compared to most of us he had a full life, which is probably one of the markers of it being good. There is something a little smug it seems to me about self-describing your existence as good, but my feelings about this might be cultural. The English feel the Americans are too full of themselves as it is. Brash, which -to one side- is one of my favorite words. Not for its associated meaning, but just the sound and stubby shape which never ends because of the ‘sh’ at the end.

As a child I had a minor speech impediment involving the letter ‘S’ and am perhaps more sensitive to the areas of its deployment than the average person.

Although it was a separate event and happened a few years later, I was also sent to elocution lessons to tidy up my accent which at eleven was thought by my parents (mother, probably) to be too rough or working class. And although class is and was then a central part of the English fabric, I think this experience led me to being highly attuned to the differences, perceived and otherwise, between people and who was good and who was less good.

With regard to Bradlee, and while his life as written about was certainly full of color and famous people he had opinions about, I would find it far more interesting now to read 426 pages about everything that happened to him after he first put his pen down. The last segment. Of course, in a wholly secular way what I would like to read is his unfiltered Afterword. What he made of it all when it was all done. Impossible task and why the obituarists get to do their pale work.

Robards played Bradlee in the movie, but died sooner. I like Robards, but have no idea why, having never met the man. I like Bradlee despite the same shortcoming, although I did see Bradlee interviewed a number of times, so at least can guess at the character he was while playing himself not another.

Getting to the point (or at least outlining an idea or basis to give you something to hang on to or project from), it has always seemed odd or difficult or unfortunate that humans must feel deeply to learn or gain experience and then have enough time for reflection to understand certain things and even then that a large number of the most important things we learn come too late to use ourselves. But we are incapable of helping others. Not because of any unwillingingness on our part, but because of some trait that runs in almost every person; an inability to be told.

One plus one equals one and sometimes a very tiny bit.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Season Of It

Some summers I would write
Poetry in the night
Automatically as if possessed
By the house I found myself in.

The old walls and wide floors
Like water to float a body in
Making my thoughts quiet freely
In the silence of it all.

I resent my porousness now
The power of my circumstances
To cause my head to fire or rot
To make good sense or not.

I fear my life draining away
Without the notes I need
To know where I’m going
To see where I’ve been.

A moose in paint looks down on me here
Alternately sorrowful and confused
The conscience of a butler
Brought far from home.

In the parallel universe of myself
Sat on some other couch
I am elsewhere and happy
I envy him and hope he knows.

 

Spoon

They say in a prison
any gulag or road gang
a spoon is a man’s most valuable item
he can scoop and cut and drink with it

and after all a watery soup
of some kind of porridge
is what you might be grateful
to be eating.

In the solitary of living alone
albeit a short sentence
while my family are elsewhere
and I am here unfiltered

I look into the kitchen sink each morning
to see four or five spoons
and nothing else to be washed
for everything I needed was done right there.

On This Third Day of July

It’s ten in the morning,
on this third day of July,
and I am sitting on a narrow bench
(too narrow for the bones upon it),
on an old wooden deck in a tangled garden
at the back of a tangled house.

There are bricks and twigs
roughly assembled here on the table
and a long shell stuck nose down
into the hole designed to received umbrellas.
There are small reasons for all of this,
as there are for mostly everything.

It is the hot of New England,
for we are closer to the sun here
(although it remains uncertain
if the sun feels closer to us).
My fingers and this pen are a shadow on the page,
as if the left-handed sundial of myself.
Two lines the most moderate of detectives
could spend a full day in the field over.
What can be known from the little that is told?

They say in other dimensions you can slip through time,
as if off the back of a creased envelope,
and this is also true of relationships long-developed.
Any different word or way of saying it
can rip through this fabric we consider so strong.

The bricks, thirteen of them in their pieces,
some still clung to by mortar,
came from a chimney on the roof
(where chimneys tend to be).
There was a storm some weeks ago
while we were in the west and elsewhere,
as though a movie left running
with no one in the room.

The lightning rod served its purpose
and is propped up here beside me,
disconnected and dead for now.
The bricks I don’t know about,
they remain gathered up
awaiting word of their fate.

The twigs, also poorly collected,
are a kindling pile for the smallest possible fire.
They were fingernails from a branch
that was connected to a bough,
once limber on a thick trunk,
that was snapped suddenly by the wind
during the same storm and are nothing now
but items of evidence in a court that will never convene.

Upstairs my wife sleeps.
It’s ten twenty five;
what has been learned?

 

 

Rain and fire

After many days of sun
here comes its equal opportunity brother
the New England rain

just cold enough
even on these last days of June
to cause consideration of the wood stove

not only as an object of mechanical beauty
but also for its immediate capability
to warm flesh and memory both.

We lived here in the East
before then moving to the West
for reasons of broken hearts

and alcoholism
the requirements of a fresh start
and a change in all the weather.

And it was effective mostly
for it’s a dry heat they have there in Texas
despite the many bars.

But while we are alive again now
we are partially also gone soft.
in ways I wouldn’t alter

Perhaps these are connected states
just as Maine and Austin
will also now for always be.

The bloodstream
filtered only by coffee
is thin and clear these mornings

as I sweep the ashes out
and see the wood of our days
so thankfully rekindled.

Insignificant after midnight in Maine

To say that the darkness
owns the night
seems at first redundant

self-evident
until one thinks again
and realizes that everything

everywhere is night
with but the few interruptions
that random suns cause

matches flaring for a moment
as if sulphur in the nose
of a non-existent God.

like fading freckles
on a vast and endless skin
which is not us.

The Love Desk

I have always made an effort to avoid missing those things beyond my reach; so little point. Not always possible, of course, but a proof of free will is sometimes to be found in our struggle against incapability (as free will itself can often be).

To love some thing (or one) is to be infected at the same time by a fear of its loss or removal. For all of that this struggle to avoid is also what leads to an unconscious holding back, even a reluctance, when it comes to fully celebrating the place of a loved one (or thing) in the very present of its presence.

This reduction of the here and now is (very precisely) a great pity and one I also try to avoid, as one should with variables in any equation. All good, in essence and theory also, but I sat at my desk today and sobbed at it (the desk itself).

I was happy to see the old thing again
sat there inanimate as ever, but massive and metal
not in need of any speaking, such a statement does it make
just by sitting across half the room’s width.

The weeping was also because
the nine or ten months of the year
we are not together
are a symbolic absence
of what has been lost.

I have another desk, in Austin.
It is there now
cluttered and full,
awaiting my arrival in August,
phlegmatic, unfussed, complacent almost
(I had a Nanny once who always told me
that to anthropomorphize oneself
was a terrible mistake, she never once
mentioned doing the same for desks
or other common furniture).

The Austin item has a metal top also,
but it is little more than beaten silver foil,
a thin layer on a wooden base.
This magnificent beast before me
weighs several hundred pounds
and on the rare occasion of its moving
requires many men and awe as well as cursing.

We lived in New York City then
as everyone should consider doing
if only for a little while.
It was a Sunday afternoon, a warm Autumn,
and we were walking downtown
when she pulled me into a shop
that stood across a whole city block.
It had many departments
(being that kind of store).

She took me down into the basement
where there were endless (and endlessly large)
industrial objects made mostly of metal
iron and steel, shot-blasted,
and not originally constructed
for domestic use or purchase
by the bourgeois classes
of which (that afternoon in New York City)
we were then masquerading.

Love at first sight is real.
As is loss, eventually and afterwards,
and therein lies the thing of it.