Photo link should be working again, I’ll add some more shots today.
Time to reflect on those who have achieved far more in less time. I’ll never forget turning 26 and being so depressed because I hadn’t published anything yet and John Keats had written La Belle Dame Sans Merci and died by that age.
Here’s a list of people who are roughly the same age as me:
Here is a list of people who are/were roughly the same height as me:
Brooke Shields (met her on an airplane once — she was really cheerful)
Russell Crowe (doesn’t he seem taller?)
Mel Gibson (I know he seems taller)
Nicole Kidman (doesn’t she seem shorter?)
Jean-Claude Van Damme (now he seems shorter)
Princess Diana (she’s a lot thinner these days, too)
Woman with the same bra size as me:
Gina Gershon (says Jack, “I knew there was a reason I liked you.”)
Poet with the same birthday as me:
Philip Levine, b. 1928
My sister-in-law Lisa sent me The Wizard of Oz and Willy Wonka on DVD. I adore Gene Wilder. Jack’s mom sent me a cake that looks like it will just about put me in a coma. And Jackson gave me the greatest gift of all — he slept from 8:00 p.m. last night until 7:00 a.m. this morning and I got nine full hours of sleep.
* * * *
it’s all right
small cheap rooms where you walk
down the hall to the
bathroom can seem romantic to
a young writer.
even the rejection slips are
amusing because you are sure that
one of the best.
but while sitting there
looking across the room
at the portable typer
waiting for you on the table
you are really
in a sense
as you wait for
one more night to arrive to sit and
type Immortal Words — but now you
just sit and think about it
on your first afternoon in a strange city.
looking over at the door you
expect a beautiful woman to walk in.
helps get you through
many senseless and terrible
The big question now is, should I have another baby?
Pro: Jackson would have someone to play with.
Con: Jackson would have someone to fight with.
Pro: Being a loner by nature, having another kid around would take some of the heat off me, as I wouldn’t be the sole source of entertainment for Jackson.
Con: I’d have two kids to entertain instead of one, and would get nothing done, ever.
Pro: Jack wants another one, but not until we can afford it, which could be several years down the road.
Con: I’ll be 38 years old in three days, and do not want to be pregnant at age 45.
Con: I have had some depressing days since Jackson arrived, so I could be at risk for more post-partum depression with kid number two.
Pro: But I probably won’t have the same stresses of (a) trying to edit a magazine while learning how to tend to a new baby at the same time, and (b) getting blindsided by the humiliation of losing my job (see posts of 11/20/01 and after for details).
Pro: It might be a girl!
Con: It might be a girl.
Last night I was nursing Jackson to sleep and reading my journal from 1990, and I found that I had copied down this poem. It was a time, like this, where I was contemplating action versus inaction.
Sonnet XIX: On His Blindness
When I consider how my light is spent,
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest He returning chide;
“Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or His own gifts. Who best
Bear His mild yoke, they serve Him best. His state
Is Kingly: thousands at His bidding speed,
And post o’er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.”
I have yet another new comments system, I hope and pray it will be the last. Please give it a try. Many thanks to yaccs.
My great aunt LaVerne died. She was 98-1/2 years old. She broke her hip and then an infection set in, then she got pneumonia and died. My father calls pneumonia “the old person’s friend,” I guess because it’s a relatively nonviolent way to end life. One of my few vivid memories of LaVerne is that she looked so much like her brothers Harry and Roy that when they got older you couldn’t tell which was a man’s face and which was a woman’s. Just like in babies, there was no difference between masculine or feminine features.
I was looking for something on death in Sharon Olds’s “The Dead and the Living” but I found this instead.
Rite of Passage
As the guests arrive at my son’s party
they gather in the living room –
short men, men in first grade
with smooth jaws and chins.
Hands in pockets, they stand around
jostling, jockeying for place, small fights
breaking out and calming. One says to another
How old are you? Six. I’m seven. So?
They eye each other, seeing themselves
tiny in the other’s pupils. They clear their
throats a lot, a room of small bankers,
they fold their arms and frown. I could beat you
up, a seven says to a six,
the dark cake, round and heavy as a
turret, behind them on the table. My son,
freckles like specks of nutmeg on his cheeks,
chest narrow as the balsa keel of a
model boat, long hands
cool and thin as the day they guided him
out of me, speaks up as a host
for the sake of the group.
We could easily kill a two-year-old,
he says in a clear voice. The other
men agree, they clear their throats
like Generals, they relax and get down to
playing war, celebrating my son’s life.
Jackson had his six-month check-up yesterday, he’s in the 90th percentile for height (27 3/4″), the 75th for weight (18 lbs. 6 oz.), and the 95th for head circumference (a whopping 18 1/4″) — finally, part of him that will take after me, I have bestowed upon him the lifelong challenge of finding a hat that fits.
Time for resolutions! Mine this year is to dress better — I spent the last six months wearing t-shirts and jeans or anything that Jackson could cheese with impunity, and the six months before that wearing a pair of 40-waist Levi’s and any shirt that would cover my belly. Now it’s time to spruce it up a bit. (Something for Daddy, dontcha know.)
Lakers won last night even without Shaq and his injured toe. I had scoffed at the inability of such a big man to deal with such a small problem, so the gods punished me by giving me a blocked milk duct — my right breast got really hard and I had to cover it with a heating pad set on high and then massage it (ouch) while I nursed Jackson with a cracked nipple, which I believe is the equivalent of walking 20 blocks with a blister on your heel. So I’ve gained some sympathy for the milionaire and his arthritic toe.
New link on the right to The Plagiarist, a good source for modern poetry. Here’s one of my favorites.
Why I Am Not A Painter
I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not. Well,
for instance, Mike Goldberg
is starting a painting. I drop in.
“Sit down and have a drink” he
says. I drink; we drink. I look
up. “You have sardines in it.”
“Yes, it needed something there.”
“Oh.” I go and the days go by
and I drop in again. The painting
is going on, and I go, and the days
go by. I drop in. The painting is
finished. “Where’s sardines?”
All that’s left is just
letters. “It was too much,” Mike says.
But me? One day I am thinking of
a color: orange. I write a line
about orange. Pretty soon it is a
whole page of words, not lines.
Then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven’t mentioned
orange yet. It’s twelve poems, I call
it oranges. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike’s painting, called sardines.
It’s amazing how relaxed things are between me and my parents now that I’m married and have a baby. I used to really struggle with feeling misunderstood and invisible; but now, it’s not about my neurotic little problems anymore, it’s about us loving them and them loving their beautiful grandson and us. I’ve never had a real deep relationship with my mom, but just sitting on the couch next to her, playing with the baby, watching the Broncos beat the Raiders with my dad — just talking about nothing — I can’t remember being so comfortable doing that.
My brother Tim gave Jack a ticket to the aforementioned football game as a Christmas present. Jack said that everyone in the stadium sang the national anthem together, instead of having it be performed by some Top 40 singer trying to plug a new single. The way it’s supposed to be, he said: “It was like church.” Jack was also pleased to find that, after Tim had spent a good deal of time making Jack feel less than manly about being from California and not being able to deal with the cold, my brother eventually started shivering. They bet each other $5 every time the two teams meet, so I guess Jack was able to pay up in person this time. Whenever the Raiders lose to the Broncos Jack talks about paying Tim with five pounds of pennies or some other inconvenient way, but so far he hasn’t bothered.
Not to spoil the mood, but here’s the opposition’s response to all that good family feeling, by Philip Larkin.
This Be The Verse
They fuck you up, your mum and dad
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.
We’re going to visit my family in Denver for the next few days, and on that topic, here’s another poem by Philip Levine from a recent New Yorker (I found it, Brian!). I’m sure this violates a copyright or two, but I like to think that posting poetry is like sharing music files, and that if you like them maybe you’ll go buy one of the poet’s books and we can call it even.
Home for the Holidays
Does anyone give a shit? Not
I, said the little brown mouse.
And so to bed, said Mother,
but no one was listening.
Praise the Lord, said the radio,
the radio said Praise the Lord
again, and the television
turned its back on the room.
Turnips for wisdom, eggplant
for beauty, parsnips for ease,
cabbage for size, a raw egg
for the hair, a slice of ham
to seize the hips, for the nose
foxglove and salt, for grace
ice-cold water poured from
way high up to way down low.
Everyone sits at the big table
in the dark. The empty plates
moon, the silverware stars,
the napkins scrub their hands.
I’m home, says the front door.
The windows are deep in thought,
the roof has taken off its hat.
Nothing to do, chants the toilet.
Here I am, shopping for books over the Internet on Christmas Eve. This morning I suddenly realized that two of the books I look for every time I go into a used book store could probably be found very easily online, and I was right. So I ordered them. Of course, that takes some of the the fun out of browsing at used book stores for a while.
Time for two poems, the first by William Carlos Williams.
This Is Just to Say
I have eaten
that were in
you were probably
they were delicious
and so cold
Isn’t that nice? Now this one’s by Kenneth Koch.
Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams
I chopped down the house that you had been saving to live in next summer.
I am sorry, but it was morning, and I had nothing to do and its wooden
beams were so inviting.
We laughed at the hollyhocks together
and then I sprayed them with lye.
Forgive me. I simply do not know what I am doing.
I gave away the money that you had been saving to live on for the next ten years.
The man who asked for it was shabby
and the firm March wind on the porch was so juicy and cold.
Last evening we went dancing and I broke your leg.
Forgive me. I was clumsy, and
I wanted you here in the wards, where I am the doctor.