Saturday, October 5, 2013

Slept (Not That Much) in the Middle, Part One: The Poems She Recited in the Shower

My date with Pretty Slave and Cute Master was last night and I think it is my new favorite. I got home feeling like a millionaire sex princess. I can’t believe how lucky I am.

Pretty Slave had asked if she could pick me up right after work since we work close to each other and she wanted to beat the traffic out to the suburbs. I told my students all day that my weekend was starting at 4 P.M, so they’d better be awesome. They were semi-awesome at best, but I did come home with enough energy to put on coffee, shower, and pack my gingham suitcase. We would finish getting ready when we got to her house.

She looked so cute in her work clothes, and it was the first time we really got to have girl time. Adding to the comfort of it was the fact that we both drive the same kind of car, so I felt extra at-home in her passenger seat. We talked and talked about all of our various characters and shenanigans, about work and religion and parties and poetry. I was giddy, probably babbling Muppetishly the way I do when I’m excited about someone.

Cute Master was home when we got there but he was absorbed in a game of Halo, so PS and I were free to stay in girly mode.  I asked if I could blowdry my hair while she showered. (Got a good gander at her lovely nakedness, but it didn’t feel like time yet to touch.) I complimented her in the depth of their tub and told her my second-favorite poet factoid: that Anne Sexton used to disappear at parties and just go ahead and draw herself a bath. I vowed to try this at the earliest opportunity.

(My first-favorite poet factoid: when Sylvia Plath first set eyes on Ted Hughes, she liked him so much that she bit his face. And drew blood!)

PS responded to my Anne Sexton fact by reciting this poem, almost in its entirety:

With Mercy for the Greedy

Concerning your letter in which you ask   
me to call a priest and in which you ask   
me to wear The Cross that you enclose;   
your own cross,
your dog-bitten cross,
no larger than a thumb,
small and wooden, no thorns, this rose—

I pray to its shadow,
that gray place
where it lies on your letter ... deep, deep.
I detest my sins and I try to believe
in The Cross. I touch its tender hips, its dark jawed face,   
its solid neck, its brown sleep.

True. There is
a beautiful Jesus.
He is frozen to his bones like a chunk of beef.
How desperately he wanted to pull his arms in!
How desperately I touch his vertical and horizontal axes!   
But I can’t. Need is not quite belief.

All morning long   
I have worn
your cross, hung with package string around my throat.   
It tapped me lightly as a child’s heart might,
tapping secondhand, softly waiting to be born.   
Ruth, I cherish the letter you wrote.

My friend, my friend, I was born   
doing reference work in sin, and born   
confessing it. This is what poems are:   
with mercy
for the greedy,
they are the tongue’s wrangle,
the world's pottage, the rat's star.”


Really. I’m brushing my teeth and putting on eye shadow and that is what someone is saying to me. What an astonishing woman. How did I ever get here?

She asked if I liked Auden, and when I said yes, she said this:

“September 1, 1939

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright 
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.
 
Accurate scholarship can 
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return. 
 
Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.
 
Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.
 
Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire 
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.
 
The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.
 
From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
"I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,"
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?
 
All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.
 
Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.”

She laughed at me when I noted that September 1st was the day before their Labor Day party. “Yeah, I’m sure that’s what it’s about.”


Friends, poetry was my whole life for more than ten years, and it does sneak into these adventures in a line here and there, but these poems hit the spot so much that I felt reoriented, even more completely at home than I already had when I walked in the door.

Next: We sing in the car and I realize I really like him.






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