Micro Memoir: A Vague Love for Parsifal

One

Yes. There’s a suggestibility in books and last month when it was raining I read some mathematical calculations which were like various masks you’d find in a museum. Straight off I wanted to be a Victorian mathematician with pencil and tablet; Macassar oil, inked hat, a vague love for Parsifal, a fascination with godforsaken places. These—from an old volume of algebra.

You wouldn’t think you were suggestible. I am referring to myself. I’m confident I can remain half mad for one more day. It’s the damned books that push affections and dissatisfactions—it’s the books.

All I want is flowers in the window.

Two

Alright. A repeated fury has me by the toe. You see, the wind from dawn’s hourglass opened my eyes and I wasn’t ready. Now I want to tear the wreaths off my neighbor’s doors.

There are so many unknown forces in the genes. Today I am a rabid king. Beware lest I appear in your yard. As Pablo Neruda once said: “Please, I beg a sage to tell me, where may I live in peace?”

Three

I’m listening to Beethoven’s String Quartet #12 in E Flat, Op. 127.

How good on a dark day

To hear the strings

Like silver in a poor man’s room

A clean force.

Quartet #12—

Afternoon

Before a trip

Darkness against my cheek.

 

Four

I bought an umbrella from a street vendor. The sky was clear. The weather report called for many days of sun. Sometimes you need a prop for the dark, unconscious side of life. I bought the thing for my dead mother. And then she was there with me on 8th St. And the crowd around us formed a dense black ant pile and the confusion all about was indescribable.

Five

I fell out of a tree in 1955. Entered the world like a cicada.  There’s a chain of coffee places in New York City called “Pan Quotidien” which we are supposed to imagine means  “customary bread”–but I generally hear it as “ordinary pain” which brings me back to the cicada. He walks around and then gets eaten. Once when I was in college I asked an entomologist why insect scholars aren’t more philosophical. He said that science is exact. Which I still take to mean “being eaten is being eaten” and that’s that. You see, there’s no meaning in being eaten. And across the street from “Pan Quotidien” is a Methodist Church. For those who hope being eaten means something. I fell out of a tree. Talk a lot. Make a clatter with my unsupportable wings. That’s it.

Six

Birch branches curve slightly upward, less insistent than the oak. Across the street from me, in a different building, is a man who can explain why this is so, but we do not know each other.

Meantime, I guide my life by dreams, inefficient as always, prone to depression, occasionally putting my forehead down on the wet lawn early.

Seven

I wonder if I can stick to one thought, like a small hunting dog? Riding the train to New York, looking at the spoiled factory towns, the haunted river, can I hold with one thought?  I think I can be allowed a murmur. There has to be music in human silence. There may be music after this. Shadows fall together in the tall grass of a railroad siding.  Night crosses the desert of my understanding. I wonder if I can stick to one thought, like a small hunting dog?

Eight

Topographers of the 18th century, here’s snow with its rhymes and half words. I know how you put this on your maps. This is because I also try to avoid temporal distractions.

Nine

How does it begin, the collapse of wish?

When you can’t ask how it ends.

This is a joke of the rich

Who play chess with civic statues.

Ezra Pound would insert Greek.

ὄνους σύρματʹ ἂν ἑλέσθαι μᾶλλον ἢ χρυσόν

(Asses would rather have straw than gold.)

Three crows on my lawn,

All dancing sideways

Pecking at the remains

Of a Christmas wreath…

When I was a lad, well, you know—

I lived in the warrens of an outlawed sect called “the blind”.

Ten

My louche, unbuttoned, acerbic, free wheeling side pops up all the time. Says what it wants. Said once: the enemy stars are the same as ours–said it to a military recruiter and why not? And said once to a government agent who was photographing a protest against Ronald Reagan’s suppression of freedom in El Salvador: you know there are honest jobs, ones where you can make humble and lasting discoveries. And he of course photographed me.