Today a leveling grayness over the hills.
Collegetown Bagels this morning, looking out
the window at the corner of the parking garage,
a brutalist slab softened by proliferating ivy.
Murky blue minivan. Ceiling fan forces
a breeze. I forgot yesterday the news,
and lots of it: GM gone bankrupt, a missing
Air France plane, and the diminishing intelligence
of the discourse around the Sotomayor nomination.
The Obamas flew to New York over the weekend
to see Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, and now ticket sales
are way up. How unsettling their charm and glamor—
can it last? and can it somehow contribute
to genuine progressivism? Not holding my breath:
national security Obama’s not much different
from national security Bush, though at least
he’s holding Israel’s feet to the fire on the settlements—
how long, Lord, how long? did I mention I’m
a Jew, a bad Jew, not so much as bar mitzvahed
and I love bacon and eat it too, but by Nuremberg
standards I’m a super-Jew, four Jewish grandparents
and so I stake my uneasy claim to an opinion
which is that my brothers the Israelis do awful things
in the name of national security. Which makes them
from us, how different? Ammons for sure today:
read the early I-am-Ezra poems yesterday, pretty
straightforward stark romanticism, bearded prophet
in the desert postponing prophecy stuff. What a relief
to get to the first poem of the next phase,
“Batsto,” which has words in it like “Route 9,”
“Pleasantville,” “Seaview Country Club,” “Garden
State Parkway” and is a driving poem of the sort
Dr. Williams might have written.
Feeling a little guilty now about the news I notice
or don’t: nothing much about Indonesia crosses my ken,
or even the civil war in Sri Lanka, over now
supposedly: though in Asia as they say they’re the
rising powers, and facing some big danger from
rising sea levels too. It’s pretty horribly depressing
thinking globally without so much as a theory
of sufficient nuance and complexity by which
to grasp it all, some big handle like history, or
the universal, or even capitalism. But I’m reading
a book, Friction, by the anthropologist Anna Lowenhaupt
Tsing, loaned to me by my anthropologist buddy Alex,
a colleague at Lake Forest where I teach—a fortuitous
friendship that, he has acres of curiosity that cover
huge neglected swathes of the globe (neglected by me)
and so I’m learning a thing or too about Indonesia
and its history of environmental degradation and the complex friction
between local and global capitalisms, which offers me
something like a grippable surface, some beginning
of understanding of the political-historical-ecological phenomena
of my times that goes beyond the crippled worldview
of The New York Times or, God help us, The Washington Post.
Yes there’s room for all this in poetry, and much else,
and if I have some atavistic pull myself toward the romantic,
the singular self encountering the world with an aim
toward transcending it, if not spiritualizing the thing itself
completely out of existence, here’s not the place
to scratch that itch. Foregoing habits of epiphany
like quitting smoking you’ve just got to do it.
A woman in a blue straw hat just went past the window,
a man with glasses and a mustache and goatee
is reading the local (local!) rag two tables over,
a girl says to her mother “It was horrible Mom”
behind me, by which she means nothing all that horrible,
and my allergies have got me good, the ceiling fan
doesn’t help. Think I’ll relocate to the public
library where there’s cushy chairs
and no speakers mumbling classic rock
and read Ammons pen in hand
on the lookout for news I can use.
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