I derive a great deal of satisfaction from moving books around. Since I have so many, and since most of them are in this room, it takes a bit of doing not only to fit them all and to accommodate new arrivals, but to arrange them in a harmonious, meaningful way. In effect, each book must be free to sing from its place on the shelf, while bidding its neighbors to join in. Bindings, colors, sizes, page edges — all must be taken into account. Wherever one is in the room, whichever way he is facing, there must be a feast for the eyes and an ultimate balance. The books must be presented in such a way that they demand to be picked up, turned over, held, and examined. Those that are in stacks must be accessible. Those that are gifts must always be at hand. Those that are so old that they can only be touched infrequently, must not be made to feel they have fallen from favor; on the contrary, they must be honored like the venerable grandparents and great-grandparents that they are. There is somewhere in the neighborhood of two thousand five hundred books in this room. There is also my mother’s desk, where this is being written, and upon which reside a full set of Lord Byron, a full set of Montaigne, a set of Daudet, a set of John Lothrop Motley, and other miscellaneous volumes. Paintings, photographs, drawings, gifts, family heirlooms of humble origin. Three comfortable chairs: the red rocker that once belonged to my mother’s father; the medium-sized leather recliner (my reading chair) that my mother used to sit in; and a smaller rocker that used to belong to my father’s parents. The room itself is not that big. I would measure it right now, but there are too many obstacles. I think it is meant to be a den or sitting room. It has a large window that faces the street. But the room really continues into the front yard, because I have encouraged the plant life out there to become a kind of enclosure that gives privacy and yet affords glimpses of the street. I have written many a poem about the goings on out there — the bird life, the grass, the lilac, the delicate maples. If I could keep books out there too, I probably would. But only a few. I would hate to over do.
Saturday, November 18, 2017
We are in the midst of a misty morning — yes, the midst of a misty. Timid frost. Like a deer afraid to show herself. And then, suddenly, she is surprised by her reflection when she finally decides to drink. Oh. Who am I? And who am I to think? Water in me, water of me, how good it is to meet.
Friday, November 17, 2017
Making soup out of simple ingredients: potatoes, garlic, leek, carrot, celery, and one very small tomato. The tomato is from the garden. It was picked a month ago. The variety is Indigo Rose. I mention the tomato specifically because the plant was given to me by my now ten-year-old grandson as a Father’s Day gift. A bit late to be planting a tomato. But it grew and produced. The fruit ripened late, but that was quite fine with me. Just turned off the soup. It smells very good. I forgot to mention that there is a little meat in it. Does that make it stew? No. I think not. I have theories about these things. Or are they beliefs? For instance, it depends on how you cut up the potatoes. If they are in chunks, then you have stew. But if they are in slices, then you have soup. That this and everything I have said to this point is of absolutely no consequence rather delights me. I left the peels on.
I have another new book: The Journal of a Disappointed Man, by W.N.P. Barbellion, whose real name was Bruce Frederick Cummings. I started reading it today. I have a real weakness for journals, diaries, lives, and letters. So far, this one is wonderful. Here is a picture of it. It was published in 1919, the same year the author died. Imagine that. If you want to find out why the man was disappointed, you can follow the links. I won’t be disappointed if you don’t. Because I won’t know.
The Journal of a Disappointed Man
We all know what it is to see someone from across a room, and the feelings that go along with it, the curiosity, the surprise, the fear, the tension, the joy, depending on who the certain someone is, or, more accurately, depending on who we are and how we perceive them. The memory, the hurt, the possibility. The strange feelings of attraction or repulsion. The immediate desire to make this person a character in a story, however beautiful or implausible. We love her, we really do. In another life, he might have been a king. In this life, which we know must be a dream, he still might be. The intervening space — do we measure it in feet, or in years? Do we cross it in a great ship? Is that ship our body? And what of the stars, the galaxies, the wind? We feel ourselves rise and fall and tilt upon the waters. The room, we discover, is vast. It comprises the whole continent. It is the world. Suddenly we find that there is a lantern in our hand. We are all holding lanterns, and we are beckoning to one another from the shore. Then, when at last we are about to meet, we drift awake. And that is when we say hello, or pardon me. That is when we speak: you seem so familiar; haven’t we met before? And the answer is, yes, of course.
Thursday, November 16, 2017
That we write each other in this way fulfills a very old promise. And the promise is this: that those of us not met in the flesh may yet express — and, yes, touch — that which is deepest within us. That this would seem to require effort is an illusion. Those are our distractions speaking; our seemingly sacred old habits; the nonsense and noise we have allowed to cloud our view and cripple our attention. And so the question we must ask is, what really occupies us? Why, when we see trees so graceful about losing their leaves each fall, do we cling so desperately to ours? This isn’t to be answered rhetorically, or according to what we think we or others most want to hear. It is to be answered privately, and patiently, without hurry, and with the entire energy of our lives. It is to be answered with our lives. Our lives will be the evidence, just as they already are, and always have been.
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Monday, November 13, 2017
by which all that is useless and spent is driven from me
I like to think you begin in the heart of a small wood
curious about the lives and the love of two leaves
and that you are as helpless as anyone
who has faith in poetry