Monday, January 28, 2008
I wrote this almost two weeks ago. It was during the first week of the Australian Open tennis tournament. The new tennis season was just beginning. I knew I wouldn’t be able to post it until today and this stuff almost became a lost piece itself because I’ve been flip-flopping, I’ve been changing my mind every day for the last two weeks about whether I should post this or not post it. On one hand, this is way too self-indulgent and off-topic even for my tastes. On the other hand, the sledgehammer ‘symbolism’ of losing my pants and my umbrella in this context is just so absurd—both are, I swear, true stories; I’d never make up anything so silly—that I can’t stop smiling and I hate to waste slapstick. So, like I almost always do when I’m locked up in self-doubt, I re-read Ogden Nash’s “Portrait of the Artist as a Prematurely Old Man,” and that makes me implore me to exert myself and always sin by doing rather than by not doing. So, I’m posting this. It’s eleven days late [Eleven days? I once said to someone, “To you, four days is nothing. To me, four days is a lifetime.” To my mayfly mind, I wrote this almost three lifetimes ago.] but I’m posting it anyway because it’s important to me to screw up by doing things and saying things rather than screw up by leaving things undone and things unsaid.
The theme for this New Year so far is ‘loss,’
a trilogy of chunks gone from my heart.
I lost my big red and white umbrella.
I left it at our local library.
A librarian found it and placed it
in the first floor lost-and-found container.
I looked for my umbrella the next day.
The librarian told me she’d found it.
She showed me exactly where she’d put it.
Somebody else had claimed my umbrella.
I’d had it for years. When I first started
drawing the umbrella modeled for me.
When I learned some martial arts weapon forms
the umbrella learned to parry and thrust.
Now I’m using a smaller umbrella.
It’s okay. It’s from the Art Institute.
But it hasn’t lived through the rains with me.
I sleep in pajama bottoms. Last night
my pajama pants, which I’ve often sewed,
simply came apart—along seams, old rips
and areas of worn-out, frayed fabric.
I’d worn them for years. I’d sewed the old rips
when I’d wanted something useful to do,
waiting for a phone call or to go out.
Each repaired old rip was a memory.
They’re gone. I didn’t make the pants a rag.
I went to Walgreens and bought new bottoms.
They have no rips at all. No memories.
The new tennis season started Sunday.
It reminds me that for years and years past
I’ve watched the players in Australia
start the New Year with their struggles, their fights.
It’s a long season. Ends in November.
My birthday is in November, also.
During last year’s Australian Open
I’d never have expected my birthday
to turn out as cool as it did last year.
The three holes in my heart—two like mouse bites,
the third like a great white shark had slashed me
with a razor and eaten me, laughing—
make me feel completely fucked up, empty.
But I’ve no reason to believe the world
has used up its last unexpected thing.
Last year was a wild, unexpected year.
I’m still here, damn it. I weigh the same weight
as when I played tennis thirty years back.
Even if I tried I couldn’t pretend
I wanted something normal, expected.
I want whatever the hell’s coming next.
Even when I’ve cried I’ve known these spaces
make room for new, cool unexpected things
synchronicity’s jotting my name on.
I’ve got lots of energy. I still do.
When the next wild and unexpected thing
comes my way I’ll probably screw it up
but for a while I’ll be having more fun
than I’ve ever had before in my life.
Maybe that’s not good. But it’s good enough.