Friday, November 26, 2021

Apple As Life

First forbidden but thank god she took a bite so all the rest of us could curiously disobey.

Even if, as some say, it was a pomegranate, full of apple-like seeds aspiring for applehood.

Out of Eden down the primrose path Johnny Appleseed spread the stuff out of which came apples pressed for cider. Drunk is much preferred over foul water.

I was seeded in the Big Apple before it was a household phrase. Did I give an apple to a teacher? I wouldn’t put it past me.

I bobbed for apples once; I think a tooth fell out. Maybe it was one of those poisoned apples left over from the witch in Snow White.

Don’t sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me. Glenn Miller, Bluebird Records, The Modernaires.

What’s not to love in the geometry of it? Apple, baseball, eyeball, roundabout and circle of friends. And apple pie out of the oven; love a la mode.

Jonathan and McIntosh, Fuji, Gala, Honey Crisp, and Granny Smith. Shoo fly pie and apple pan dowdy / I never get enough of that wonderful stuff.

What bounces and rolls, apple-like, marbles to golf balls to basketballs go into holes. Slam dunk. Some apples become balloons.

Some become moons. Take a bite. Steve Jobs did.

On a train riding out of Delft the man seated across was peeling an apple with the agility of a sculptor. Green skin curled around the white flesh, a vernal equinox separating itself in readiness from the last snow of winter.

And walk among long dappled grass / And pluck till time and times are done / the silver apples of the moon / the golden apples of the sun. Thank you, W. B. Yeats.

Cezanne painted apples and more apples. He unstilled their still-life. The world was his apple as it orbited the bowl.

But I am done with apple-picking now / Essence of winter’s sleep is on the night / (with)The scent of apples I am drowsing off. 

So says Robert Frost, not me. Small planets apples are. Like oranges without the rind to peel. Just sink your teeth to feel the juice of life dripping.

This is how one becomes a writer: A ten-year is on the lunch line at school and spots a bowl of apples with a sign saying: Take one. God is watching. A bit further on he/she sees a plate of cookies and writes his/hers first short story: Take all you want. God is watching the apples. 

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Absences

Table set for breakfast; one spoon, one knife.

No more melon. Too many quadrants.

No hummingbird seen since….

Large space on the white paper.

No singalong heard with the Irish group.

I wake up holding the pillow.

Hard candies still in the bowl.

Still-life of eggshell and empty cup.

Far less trash.

Cancelled appointments.

Glue sticks and scissors found everywhere.

Wallace Stevens waits. Your bookmark.

The poem I didn’t write for our anniversary.

Opening a book with your underlining. Why this paragraph?

Your pink eraser.

Those days I squandered.

Too much space in the closet.

Old cards saved, what did you mean by that last line?


Monday, November 15, 2021

Gratitude Day

From the point of view of the turkey population this could be one of their 

best Thanksgivings in recent memory. It’s not clear whether memory is 

located in their white meat or dark meat. The word in Turkeyland is that 

unvaxed deniers cannot sit down with woke vaxers much to the relief of 

the fowl community.


In any case I’m doing my part.


My plans include a dinner of virtual turkey with Google images of 

cranberry sauce, digital stuffing topped off with fractals of pumpkin pie. 

No gluttony and sloth. No gastro-intestinal reflux. And no decline in the 

domesticated turkey population.


Turkeys are a much-maligned fowl. Their reputation for not being very 

bright is probably because of their head size and propensity to stare up 

into the rain, sometimes even drowning in the process. Give them a break. 

It’s all because of their monocular vision which results in a tilt of the head 

in order to focus.


They express all they have to say, both jubilation and trepidation with 

what we hear as an undifferentiated gobble. My guess is there are gobbles 

within the gobble beyond our acoustic acuity. In fact, only males gobble. 

Females cackle and chirp. As in other species males swell their snood, that 

piece of flesh hanging down from their beak, in the mating ritual. Those 

male turkeys with erectile dysfunction are deemed good for nothing and 

generally end up in the oven.


And why do we call them turkeys when they are native to North America, 

I hear you ask. It’s a long story highlighted by European mistaken identity, 

African imports of guinea hens and a bit of Greek mythology. The chances 

are you’ll never be asked that question even on Jeopardy.


Turkey, the country, has nothing to do with it except that according to the 

Treaty of Versailles, following W.W. I, The Ottoman Empire (centered in 

Turkey) was carved up by the European imperialists. France and Great 

Britain had a virtual food fight over who was to get Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, 

Palestine etc… on their plate


The day has devolved into football games and Black Friday Eve as 

consumers gather, full bellies and all, to storm the stores for the essentials 

of life. Though I would imagine Jeff Bezos will be rubbing his hands together 

as we flock to the Amazon website forgetting about gratitude for which the 

day had been set aside.  


There is nothing about the holiday more iconic than Norman 

Rockwell’s image of the serving of turkey with four happy heads 

on each side. Consider the notion that Rockwell, himself, so often 

inserted in his own illustrations, is missing from this one. Maybe 

he was not what we had thought. Rockwell evolved into his true self, 

an outsider, an anti-Nixon Liberal, possibly a closeted 

gay man who took all his vacations with his buddies and had disdain 

for his own American myth.


As for dining alone on Thursday. I'm fine with it. I'm likely to get 

gravy on my shirt anyway and I never know which fork to use. Like 

Norman, my namesake, I’ll not be part of this year’s table signifying 

the excesses of the American idyll.

 

Wait, I can't end on this sour note. Thanksgiving is actually my 

favorite holiday; no flags and no religious fables. There is much to 

be said about bringing together family and friends celebrating our 

good fortune and each other. There is grace inside the word 

gratitude. And that's amazing enough.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Trash Talk

 No ideas but in things.

                       William Carlos Williams

 

Looking out the window I can see him

tossing out the big ideas, 

those recycled truths

which explain everything

as the green garbage truck,

upon which so much depends,

embraces the blue trash can

with its yellow arms like an enormous hug,

then lifts and dumps the concepts

 into its hydraulic gut,

without any deliberation,

crushing ninety gallons of abstractions

into a fraction of its thirty-ton cargo

the way a filibustering speech in the Senate

over seventeen hours of blather,

reading the Bronx telephone directory,

could be compacted to a, Hell No,

which is why poetry is best as concision,

shucked corn, tops off the carrots,

the distillate, barely adjectival,

as it grinds exhausted words into

hard-earned, new birth

having swum down the embryonic sea.

 

 

 

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

From Artifacts to Simulation

We travel to have our senses amazed, to alter our perceptions and to renew our bonds. In short, to rediscover ourselves. During my recent trip I also got a glimpse of the future and I'm not sure I want to be here when it happens. There is no thing there. Not nothing, there’s plenty of something but it is weightless and carries no antecedents

In fact, the future has already arrived; it’s a country with a language in which I have little fluency, a land of fractals, digital and virtual. It has no materiality. We’ve traded artifacts for artifice. Books are gone along with the feel of a deckled edge. The book is on a screen and I miss the physicality of it, the dust jacket, the inscription, maybe a stain here and there of Ragu sauce or chocolate, signs of the journey it has taken to get here.

When this planet withers away from neglect and aliens come for the big dig there will be no evidence of human life. Only some Google glasses and a few pin numbers scratched in the dust.

This new world is glutted with options. Just put on the head set and dial up your menu. You want an apple? Here’s what an apple tastes like. Hold the mustard on my pastrami please.  How about a football game or trench warfare? No problem. The sensations can all be replicated. What about sex? I forgot to ask.

The talk at the table was all science fiction, my least favorite genre. A pack of what-ifs. True, much speculation is now our reality. I shouldn’t have said that such stuff is a failure of the imagination….but I did. In doing so I was revealed as a certifiable snob even though the longest word I know is delicatessen.

Sci-Fi strikes me as comic book, made movie, made series, all propelled by half-baked ideas. The present is extrapolated into dystopia into the apocalypse. The genre is a refuge for people’s grandiose fantasies and fears. Maybe my mind cannot bend around the corner; maybe I’m missing out but I’m not done yet with the actual. There is too much humanity as we know it yet to be explored and too many permutations of love. Why set up supernatural conditions to test our flaws and fiber?

On the other hand, true literature can occasionally happen as with Mary Shelley’s, Frankenstein or Orwell’s 1984. It all comes down to language, that element hard to define but you know it when you feel its lift.

As Edward Abbey said, True magic inheres in the ordinary, the commonplace. Only petty minds yearn for the supernatural. Everything around them is pure miracle.

Maybe I’d be better advised to stay home and curl up in Faulkner’s world with the sound and the fury signifying nothing.  

Now it can be told. The above message wasn't really written by me but a robot impersonating me in a parallel universe from a subterranean lab as I was transported via a time machine to a distant galaxy.


Saturday, November 6, 2021

Return

Odysseus, you used to be tall and thin and now you’re short and fat.

I’m not Odysseus.

And you were young and vibrant and now you’re old and haggard,

I’m not Odysseus.

And Odysseus, you even changed your name. *

 

Odysseus goes out for a cup of coffee and a few video games. He returns ten years later as Ulysses with wild yarns to tell. It’s not what it looks like, he tells Penelope. I can mansplaln everything. Fortunately, she has a loom with a view with yarns of her own to spin which she’s been unraveling to keep away prospects from E-Harmony. She had reason to presume he was a goner but he was just mostly dead, not altogether. Our hero doesn’t suffer fools gladly. They are all seen as arch rivals up with which he shall never put. Ulysses was, as Emily Wilson says, a complicated guy. I would call him duplicitous, pragmatic, resourceful, the very model of a modern man.

I suppose I’m less complicated. Modernity eludes me. It took me only two weeks to dodge the dragon wood carving at the Chinese Garden, fight off mountain lions rumored to be roaming around the garbage dump in the woods of Lincoln City. And then there was a black bear spotted last week snatching salmon as they rushed past in Schooner Creek.

I have returned unscarred and ten pounds heavier bursting with banquets. As far as I can recall I saw no cyclops except, perhaps, that home plate umpire in the World Series, But I digress.

I’m now preparing to be on my own. Demons come and go. This is the true odyssey we all must travel returning to where we started but not quite the same person.

Peggy’s ashes have become part of the soil where her favorite coral tree stands in its skeletal phase. I leave her renewal in the hands of Demeter. Soon red flowering cones will release her radiance.