I set my playlist to shuffle and out pops 1987 in all its cloying polychrome. I remember Callahan and his clove cigarettes. I remember Billy and his weird little sonnets about the rain, the ocean, the umbrellas in tropical drinks. I remember the drive from Hamilton, New York to a sleepy but opulent home near Framingham.
I comb the adverts for something to take away the ennui, Neville's affliction. Sidebars of the social media proffer trips to Paradise. Second-hand bookstores are more paradisal and less expensive than the equatorial resorts toward which the winter-weary swarm.
Look, the classic video station is showing that bizarre clip with the trampolining Swiss Guard, and the dancers moving backward as through a flood of invisible molasses.
Scarlet virtues. The woman from college. And even in that dewdrop, altercation.
That dreadful poem in Rowboat. Sweet cognac unrequital, indeed. You were convinced of the malignity of the universe. Solemn as Thomas Hardy in your early twenties, vodka robbed you of exuberance and health. You'd have been better off talking to one of the sisters in the Newman Center than trying to be one of the cool kids. Still, you were reading up a storm, and some of it was nutritious. Goatfoot, milktongue, und so weiter. It wasn't that ice-queen of an art student, pallid, moneyed, who caught your fancy, it was the sunflowered soul from Brooklyn with the conscious t-shirts and the eyes that would have made Countee Cullen melt, and resolve himself into a dew.
Professor Nelson. He would lecture on the Beats and the Confessionals with equal dexterity. And that warm November night, he had the whole class over for turkey dinner. He played the record of The Greatest (no, not him) reciting "Fern Hill" and "Do Not Go Gentle." He's still among the living. Eighty-something, probably. Pugnacious, full of vim and vinegar.
Who needs gasoline when you've got the Magnificat? Who needs Philip Glass when you've got the Tuba mirum? Who needs Bukowski's fleas when you've got George Herbert's Easter wings? Who needs Hollywood when you've got Our Man from Buenos Aires? Who needs politics when you've got sung vespers? Who needs nostalgie de la boue when you've got Olivier Messiaen? Who needs Madison Avenue when you've got Santa Maria Maggiore? Who needs the Cure when you've got the Camaldolese? Who needs "Imagine" when you've got the Cantica del Sole?
September impends, and not a moment too soon for the dogday diarist. The pill-bottle, the photographs, the shopping list. Books, unread. Clothes, unlaundered. Leaves on the broad-shouldered arbour in front of First Parish Unitarian begin to redden and let go. Silence, silence to do when earth grew loud. It is good to wait in patience. It is good to wake and work.
Poetry by Thomas DeFreitas
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Written on 2017-08-28 at 07:09
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