Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Latest start yet: it’s quarter to eight in the PM
and I can see light from the sinking sun
reflecting off of high cumulus
putting my neighbor’s red maple
into chiarascuro, while a single shaft
of sun from somewhere lights a high patch
of green bushes, translucent leaves
making themselves known. Sadie’s down,
Emily’s walking with a friend, my parents
are off to their B&B after a tasty dinner
at Just a Taste, the downtown tapas place
that even Chicago’s wealth of kitchens
has yet to replace in my heart (try the
Thai-style spicy chicken wings, sweet
and sour with basil, yum). Breaking
news: the sun must have been behind
a cloud because the dark leaves
of the maples furthest from the trunk
are suddenly edged with green light
splashing the red, and one white cloud
is fully illuminated through the gaps.
The weather was perfect today, low
seventies, blue skies with just a few clouds
to keep it interesting, warm in the sun
and not too cool in the shade. It’s
different to write like this at night
in anticipation of just a few hours
before sleep rather than a day’s work.
Finding time to write
will be harder while my parents are here:
I don’t expect much progress on the novel:
my best hope is just to stay in touch with it,
to revisit the manuscript and characters
so that when I do have a little more time
there won’t be as much chance of burning
up on re-entry like the astronaut
in that Ray Bradbury story, the one jealous
of everybody else’s good memories, adrift
in the sky, talking on the radio
with his camerados while waiting
for earth’s gravitational pull
to take hold of him and skate his dissolving body
across the troposphere like a smooth flat stone:
it’s a sentimental story but it’s stayed
in my mind for decades now, along with
the really chilling one about the automatic house
in the wake of a nuclear war, carrying on
an idealized bourgeois domestic routine
in the total absence of humans or life
beyond a radiation-burned dog who dies and is removed
by ever-watchful cleaning robots.
That’s a keeper: I’m part of the last generation
to grow up believing that at any moment, at
school or in the park or listening to my parents fight
that the sky could go white
and everything be blown away: is it because
of that memory or in spite of it that we all
went apeshit after 9/11: even the worst scenario
anyone’s ever thought of, a nuclear attack
on a major city, can’t measure up
to the total annihilation of history and life.
A little apocalypse to define the edges
of an idyllic family day, though we got
little sleep last night and were grumpy with each other
until after the afternoon nap we got: Sadie
slept for one hour and then woke up crying
I went into her room and picked her up and lay down
on the mattress there with her on my chest
and she slept and I dozed a little: sweet
but destined to be infinitely sweeter in memory
with just a tang of bitterness: I saw a book
reviewed in the Times that apparently includes
the sentence, “I felt nostalgic for the present”:
if that doesn’t define both happiness and our limited
capacity for being in the moment
(the root of happy, happenstance, which gets at
the luck factor and the temporality as well)
I don’t know what does beyond
actual immersion in the senses, preferably
the ones that drag earthy roots behind them,
taste and smell, the radicals: at this moment
I’ll settle for sight, the overcast curtain
now settling over the top of the tree, the sun
still not down at 8:01 PM but no longer
shooting even blanks, just a diffusion
that captures my tired and somewhat satisfied
state of mind, in spite of the stolen Iranian
election which may yet be a crack
in the wall of the mullahs: I’ll say now
a simple and contradictory prayer
for enlightenment in all its forms
and go down now to my novel or maybe
Jacques Roubaud’s Great Fire of London
a fascinating book about the failure to write
a subject that deserves and demands
the attention paid only by great success.

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