Denver is home to the world's first Quiznos
In Alice Notley’s Waltzing Matilda the narrator reads a friend’s poems, contends with the ambivalences of marriage, tends to sick children, gets hammered, makes an ass of herself, worries about making an ass of herself, reads the news, frets about money. Good god, am I describing my life or a book of poems? This book was published in 1981. I was published in 1976.
Lately when I sit down to write it’s a firework. (This post is going to be an admirable example! Also I do not talk of Quiznos in it.) A thousand threads spiraling out of a teeny, tiny, imperceptible, barely pulsing center a.k.a. my brain. I don’t know if the diversity of these threads makes sense, sense is likely too haughty of a goal anyway. But they seem to affect each other. Take the way I recently injected Fred Sandback into a fantasy with my new lover [namely us making love next to Untitled. 1967.] Or the way accidentally no-showing my therapist on Monday is directly connected to my inability to get my daughter’s and my new telescope aligned. So far we have seen the impenetrable fabric of night, really up close, and a neighbor’s garage, really up close.
A few days ago, on a November day, Alice Notley tweeted [yes for real] that she is having a birthday. Today, on this November day, I randomly opened Grave of Light: New and Selected Poems, 1970–2005 and read the poem, “The Trouble With You Girls.” It begins:
In the chair covered with shawls
I’m wearing my favorite red shirt
Maybe it’s November near my birthday, sun
On my shoulder and coffee too in what cup chipped;
Coffee too in what cup chipped. Just damn. This phrase is a song. Later:
Day’s lovely before I’m
Too many thoughts, I’ve become content this year;
Content? Or content? How wonderful to be both.
And running in the background of her thoughts, Ted is talking at or to her. She admits she isn’t listening. She answers the question, what’s a person for?
I think it’s
Partly to be with a plant.
Two nights ago I watched 3 Faces by Jafar Panahi at the Denver Film Festival. It was very good. My friend Andrew told me Panahi once had to sneak a film out of Iran in a birthday cake because the government banned him from making films but he made one anyway. 3 Faces is about a dozen things. One of those things seems to be the human need to create despite horrible consequences, or, if I were a film critic, “the enduring power of self-expression.”
Notley writes in her poem, I don’t know what I’m for.
Ted, in her poem, talks so much about objects. He mentions chairs and things to drink and sunshine and coffee and money and asses and cigarettes and Pepsi and the newspaper and doughnuts and … philosophy. It is funny to place philosophy into his litany of things, so it is an object. He says in the poem You have no philosophy which sounds to me like half Dude, you’re out of toilet paper and half Yakkity yakkity yak.
In an exquisite example of bibliomancy (bibliomancy is always exquisite, no?), “The Trouble With You Girls” is also about “the enduring power of self expression.” Go figure. Ted’s standing in for what the power must endure; in this poem it is money, patriarchy, lofty ideals about the artist, the outside world of news and current events, the body’s needs.
A couple of weeks ago, my friend Julia asked me to speak to her students about a few poems I wrote. Sometimes I don’t know who I am until I say it out loud. This time, a student asked me if I believe in the angels and muses that some poets and artists say come and speak through them. I told them I have never had such an angel, but I believe in other people’s angels. I also said, almost as if in warning, that the existence of these angels doesn’t let us off the hook. That there is a lot of work we must do to prepare ourselves for the arrival of angels. Gotta fill yourself up with stuff angels like.
Then I said, and this scared the hell out of me: I have been preparing for these angels my whole life.
If this is true, then getting a DUI a million years ago and breaking my sister’s horse cookie out of jealousy another million years ago and crying in front of my boss last month and divorcing and mooning the Grand Canyon and staying on the phone for hours with a sick friend and cleaning my mother’s house on my hands and knees and sneaking into Lethal Weapon II and watching my child do The Floss and being a librarian and forgetting to buy deodorant last night was all in preparation for the arrival of angels. It seems impossible but, it was, it is. It’s a terrifying relief, frankly. I don’t have to write “prepare for angels” on my to do list. In fact! And this is wonderful! I will rename my to do list: Prep for Angels List.
Sometimes I’m a lot more Ted than I think.