Monday, June 08, 2009


Pewter pewter Sadie cries meaning the
computer sitting on my lap but she’s
off now with her mother straightening
the apartment before we all head off
to the Ithaca Farmer’s Market
like we used to do most Saturday mornings
when we lived here. To market to market
to buy a fat pig, home again home
again jiggety jig, Emily sings that in what’s
become my background, while the foreground
is a blurry view of green bushes, a red maple,
and a white house in front of the window
where I type this. That spatial diagram
makes this screen the center, but how
can a two-dimensional space be the center
of anything? Viewed from the side
it vanishes: that’s the present moment for you,
inescapable yet substanceless, or
probably it’s the other way around, elusive
and constantly slipping through our fingers
yet it’s everything we can touch
everything that’s not purely mental
and yet it’s mental too. The past
isn’t even past, Faulkner said that,
referring to the bloody bloody
history of the American South, original sin
and all that but even without such theological
hooks it’s easy to feel the truth of
that statement sitting here in Ithaca once again
feeling its simultaneous remoteness
and immersion in the world, the motivating
atmosphere that pervades Severance
Songs and which apparently isn’t done
with me yet. Sadie says piggy to mean pretty
which has me singing to market to market
again, I’m going to keep this short
but that experience that awaits us is also
in the past, a spot of time
by the inlet to the lake, I can see
the people already the predominating
post-hippie aesthetic, the organic vegetable
stalls, the amateur musicians that play
by the dock, the sun streaming
beneath the awning’s edge onto the wide
wooden floor where we all promenade
a space that always felt like the real Ithaca
anchoring this peripatetic graduate student
in a place for really the first time
in his adult life: I’ve lived in New Orleans,
Montana, the San Francisco Bay Area
and am now sinking tentative roots
in Chicago (but they’re already there: we live
ten minutes from the house where my father
and his sisters grew up, where my grandfather
still lives but only for another month or two:
after July he’ll split the difference
between Buffalo Grove and Phoenix,
Arizona, at eighty-seven still a mover) but
Ithaca was home for seven years
increasingly a place of attachments
until suddenly it wasn’t and I’m a stranger here
again. But maybe the market will change
or confirm some things: at least there’s coffee
to look forward to and a great breakfast
burrito and an apple cider donut
for dessert, these things matter
I didn’t want to mention Proust but
he’d surely back me up when I say
that what we taste and smell comes closest
to guaranteeing the reality of our past
as something we feel, I’ll bite that donut
and bite into a month of Saturdays
when sunshine and Ithaca and Emily and I
were at home with each other, and Sadie
from this vantage the inevitable
coming product of that, we gave birth
to our own home and that connection
has to do with what we do and what
we do it with, sit by the water
surrounded by men women and babies
it’s not a bad life if it’s not life
turning to memory before my eyes.

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