I was moving a bunch of Jackson’s baby photos from one digital archive to another when I found this, taken in the fall of 2001 on one of those walks we used to go on at the end of the day when he was cranky. He’d bob along in his baby backpack and I’d take pictures. I was a little depressed at the time, having just lost my job, and having barely any idea of what to do with a tiny person all day. But we survived. Flourished, even, after a fashion.
I hooked up my record player this morning, finally, after two years of watching it gather a half-inch-thick layer of dust. You think I’m kidding. We rearranged the furniture before the Nut was born and it left the turntable miles away from the rest of the stereo equipment, so it was just sitting there mute until this morning. I didn’t even knock the dust off before I had to put on a record, and I ended up choosing the last one I bought before making the commitment to CDs, which is how I know that this difficult changeover occurred in the winter of 1988, soon after Tower cleared out all their record bins and I knew I had to make a choice between becoming a crank who also refused to give up her typewriter or being a person who embraced new technology as soon as it became affordable.
So I sat and listened to a bit of Billy Bragg’s 1988 album “Worker’s Playtime,” and I enjoyed my little dose of self-pitying romantic lefty British pop, even though the record skipped in one place and I had to pick up the needle and gently put it back down in what I hoped was the next groove over so as not to miss too much of the song, and the Nut napped and dreamed and woke up, and life went on in its life-y way. As it will do.
Who do I have to bl — er, KNOW to get the comments link to work?
I am totally thinking of applying for editorial work at this place, even though moving to L.A. is pretty much out of the question. But that fits in nicely with my pretending-to-try-to-find-a-job M.O.
Going to Palm Springs tomorrow to visit Jack’s mom, who is recovering from pneumonia. She got kind of choked up on the phone when he told her we were coming, so we’re hoping that a dose of The Peanut will cure her completely.
Edward Dorn is a damned good poet. If you can find a copy of his “Gunslinger,” buy it.
The cowboy stands beneath
a brick-orange moon. The top
of his oblong head is blue, the sheath
of his hips
In the dark brown night
your delicate cowboy stands quite still.
His plain hands are crossed.
His wrists are embossed white.
In the background night is a house,
has a blue chimney top,
Yi Yi, the cowboy’s eyes
are blue. The top of the sky
I’m a goddamned housewife! A revelation I had while cleaning the stove ten minutes ago. Three weeks ago my life was all about typesetting and captions and health tips and spas; now it’s all about Shout! and Fantastik! and Viva and Huggies.
I went through our budget and figured out that we can live on Jack’s salary and my unemployment — not well, but we won’t starve, nor will I feel the need to sell my car. I just have to keep “looking” for work to keep my benefits coming (and there’s no threat of finding another editing job in this overfed cultural backwater).
I had a terrible dream about my former job last night, that I showed up late to a meeting at the office and my former assistant, who now has my job, was wearing a gorgeous green velvet dress and was so happy. It turned out to be a big party and Oprah was the guest of honor and I looked at her and just wanted to bust out crying. Why I thought Oprah would understand my problems — that’s a power normally reserved for Jesus and the ideal reader. It’s my fault for having an old copy of “O” magazine on my nightstand. I swear I just bought it for research.
No poems today.
Depressed about the whole joblessness thing. I mean, I really hated/was burned out by that job, but I didn’t want to get fired. Editing jobs are impossible to find around here, so I might have to switch fields. God help me if I have to go back to working in a bookstore, the pay won’t even cover childcare. I might as well stay home and raise goats. My landlady would love that. Then I’d be homeless, too!
This is my favorite poem by LeRoi Jones.
Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note
(For Kellie Jones, born 16 May 1959)
Lately, I’ve become accustomed to the way
the ground opens up and envelopes me
Each time I go out to walk the dog.
Or the broad edged silly music the wind
Makes when I run for a bus . . .
Things have come to that.
And now, each night I count the stars
And each night I get the same number.
And when they will not come to be counted,
I count the holes they leave.
Nobody sings anymore.
And then last night, I tiptoed up
To my daughter’s room and heard her
Talking to someone, and when I opened
The door, there was no one there . . .
Only she on her knees, peeking into
Her own clasped hands.
Well, I certainly was the arrogant one, I knew some people were going to get fired but I didn’t think one of them would be me.
I don’t remember where I read it but apparently the origin of the term “to get fired” came from a charming ancient tradition wherein if the people of a town/village/collection of huts didn’t like one of their neighbors, they’d set the person’s house on fire. Guess you’d be traveling light after that, if you weren’t burnt to a crisp. I certainly was burnt out at my job (these fire metaphors are fascinating) but I was scared to death of quitting. Now I’m on the dole, getting paid to babysit, basically.
This poem is by Howard Nemerov.
Flaubert wanted to write a novel
about nothing. It was to have no subject
And be sustained upon style alone,
Like the Holy Ghost cruising above
The abyss, or like the little animals
In Disney cartoons who stand upon a branch
That breaks, but do not fall
Till they look down. He never wrote that novel,
And neither did he write another one
That would have been called La Spirale,
Wherein the hero’s fortunes were to rise
In dreams, while his waking life disintegrated.
Even so, for these two books
We thank the master. They can be read,
With difficulty, in the spirit alone,
Are not so wholly lost as certain works
Burned at Alexandria, flooded at Florence,
And are never taught at universities.
Moreover, they are not deformed by style,
That fire that eats what it illuminates.