Sunday, June 14, 2009


Running on the trail this morning saw
a lone cardinal leveling his or her way
directly across and deep into the woods
from left to right like a spear in flight
then up the hill into fog dissolving verdancy.
Ithaca really does have a kind of rainforest
climate, something to do no doubt
with the deep vertical cut of Cayuga Lake
channeling moisture from the north and
the various creeks and gorges bearing water
down from the hills, but I won’t pretend
to much knowledge or authority
when it comes to the natural world: I realized
talking to Emily last night that my first allegiance
has always been to fantasy, whether Tolkien
or Las Vegas, Arcadia or Disney World or even
the local mall, I’m drawn to evidence
of the human will to create nothing from something,
simulacra the painstaking detail of which
are further evidence of their fakeness:
in that sense the pleasure I derive from nature
running on that trail for instance
is pure Wordsworth: I value such spaces
for the freedom they offer the imagination
different in quantity and not in quality
from the freedom I feel on the streets of New York
or a Chicago neighborhood where lots
is going on: Chicago particularly appeals
thanks to the Burnham Plan, itself a great fantasy
of a city whose shoreline has been preserved
for purely aesthetic purposes, so all that steel
meets green meeting water, the environment
in the ecological sense is at best an afterthought
to that unless we are to trust
that whatever in us turns space into place, terrain
into landscape, is some intuition in tune
with the greater needs of the organismic network
we are part of with microbes and invasive species
of fish and birds like that cardinal arrowing
so unwaveringly through ramifying obstacles
presented by branches, leaves, cobwebs,
and the invisible territorial demarcations
of other birds and animals, not to mention me
huffing and blundering my way through
with NPR on my headphones
listening to news about Iran’s election, taking place
this moment, will Moussavi win and will the clerics
let him win, will we be able to see more clearly
the whole of the Islamic Republic, two words
that repel each other in the whitebread mind
but we’re not terribly good at understanding
how people might vote in their own interests
as opposed to ours, even in this country. So
I’m braced for more insanity, more anti-
Semite bastards breaking loose with guns
even as I hope that the grown-ups finally in charge
have a strategy to meet that insanity.
As usual it all seems far away in Ithaca’s
ten square miles surrounded by reality
upstairs at the cafe of Autumn Leaves on the Commons
a soft-anarchist used bookstore in the biography
section, where on display I see lives of Louis
XIV, Lloyd George, Lytton Strachey, Princess
Di, Cromwell the Lord Protector by Antonia
Fraser, that’s the Brits: behind me it’s Africa-Asia:
the Mandelas, Nelson and Winnie, Theresa
Hak Kyung Cha’s Dictee in the old California
edition, Miyamoto Musashi, Mao, the Gandhis:
the American wall’s in front of me and far away
but I can make out Lyndon Johnson and John Glenn
weirdly in a spacesuit though his face in the photo’s old,
Eisenhower, Lincoln, Thos. Jefferson,
Colin Powell’s autobiography (shame
forever upon him, I haven’t forgiven him
his part in ginning up the war, never mind
his late and probably crucial endorsement
of Obama), Nixon, and Dan Rather (huh).
Tempted to abandon the morning’s (really
the afternoon’s) work for the complete set
of Pepys’ diary I just spied, and I’m even
a bit interested in Maxine Kumin’s memoir
anything’s more attractive than what you’re s’posed
to do, even if you yourself are doing
the supposing. A little more coffee
won’t hurt, then, the next thing.

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