Wednesday, June 10, 2009


At red Gimme! once again, off to
the slowest of starts. No news catches
my eye, I haven’t been moved to crack
any books, the novel hangs fire. How
about the weather: cool but getting warmer
and better than Chicago where they’ve got
lots of rain: I know this because I can now
listen to Chicago Public Radio on my phone
and so walking in Ithaca I’m hearing about
traffic jams on the Edens and Eisenhower
Expressways, feeling pleasantly bifurcated
and also more sure than last year
that my center of gravity is now Chicago,
that’s home, whereas Ithaca
is a summer place (cue “A Summer Place,”
for some reason I listened to that song
over and over on the portable record
player I had as a kid, that and an unfortunate
recording of the Star Wars soundtrack
on a Moog synthesizer, glorious seventies
don’t come back too soon) with more
traffic than I remember and some old
friends: a little while ago sitting at
the next table was my old prof Tracy
McCabe, she teaches French theory
and has undergone Lacanian analysis
and has had a baby since we left:
what kind of parent is a Lacanian it
sounds like the preamble to a joke
but she’s a normal mom by all appearances
maybe a little better dressed. A guy
I used to see all the time just
crept in, I don’t know if he’s homeless
but he always looks so unwell with a nasty
sore or lesion on his forehead he used
to come into the bookstore when I
worked there and change pennies for nickels
I’m surprised he’s still alive like
I’m surprised my old neighbor Elmer
keeps hanging on, a guy for whom the phrase
old coot is a perfect descriptor and
who speaks almost unintelligibly
like a Warner Bros. cartoon character, Yosemite
Sam maybe: harmless old sticks
that spook me a little so clearly shrouded
by mortality and yet obviously still
kicking might outlast me even will
certainly outlast this time in Ithaca, one
month max to dream at the keyboard
and take Sadie to the park (her leg’s
better today) now the old man
is just one table away from me there’s
a certain human dignity to his profile
I never noticed before, maybe because
the open lesion isn’t as visible
sipping a big coffee hunched in a
surprisingly natty striped blue dress shirt
and now putting on a ratty jacket
removing himself again to the back of the cafe
like he’s hiding how terrible to be so visible
and have so little he’s leaving now
in a hurry like he’s got an appointment perhaps
he does. Places change but more slowly
than I’d expect, same goes for me
you can’t easily detect your own process
of aging without studying your face
in merciless mirrors closely, something I
don’t often do and I’ve always looked young
could still pass for a man in his late
twenties but that won’t last there’s a gray
hair or two and I’m 38, in
the middle of life’s wood that’s for sure
when Sadie’s 18 I’ll be 55
when she’s my age now I’ll be 76
crotchety but I hope still reading books
alive in my mind and in reasonable health
and Emily and I will live someplace warm
if everyplace isn’t warm
maybe retire to New York City and go
to lots of plays and concerts, don’t need
a car. The old sad man is visible
again through the window, smoking a cigarette
and rubbing his forehead, he can’t leave it alone
a wound marking him as untouchable
and sacred (what’s the difference) and a man
with real problems: meanwhile I’m inside
with coffee and Abba on the stereo, “Super
Troopers,” it will make you smile
sometime to be so alone
with others and your thoughts.

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