Monday, October 15, 2012

Ocular Allusions

What it is about the seasons lately, failing to meet my expectations by, one might say—at least here in New England—continually failing to season, has ignited in me a nagging sense of loss and, well, just plain glumness. (Nagging because it's a rare Day that performs as it should within the framework of its given season; Day has become defiant, belligerent—refusing to comply, he turns away and knocks Expectation on its head. He rebels! I nag!) This is the glum loss about which I am writing in a series of poems, a poetic sequence, for a poetry class that I'm currently taking with Catherine Imbriglio at Brown Continuing Studies.

There are twelve of us, poets (though I'd hardly plunk myself in this particular category, but I will fake it for the duration of the six weeks), casting a sequence of poems linked, for the most part, by either form or theme. And I will fake it further because I need to believe that this can be done. Six poems, or more, linked by this glum/loss theme. Belligerent Days that become belligerent Seasons that become belligerent Years!

The good news: my eyesight is improving. It's true! Maybe it's the changing light of our seasons. Maybe I really AM growing younger! When my ophthalmologist had me sit behind what she called, and what I could not then spell, a phoroptor—a word I couldn't release from my mind, what I heard as and what I quietly recited so I'd not forgetFROPPER FROPPER, FROPPER! (what a strange name for an instrument) (as it turns out FROPPER is a social networking site specializing in Indian dating)—she found that, within the past year, I was minus (or is it plus in phoroptor language?) .50 from the prior year's examination. That puts me at -3.25! Which means that maybe I won't need readers in the supermarket. Heh. And wasn't I happy for the phoroptor, even if I couldn't spell it, but now that I can the image in my mind has turned to a beast—a highly photogenic (and perhaps Vietnamese) dinosaur.  PHOROPTOR!

That was this morning. When I left my ophthalmologist's office I was so happy to be at positive (or is it negative?) phoroptation I decided to take a little walk so as to let it all sink in. And there, to the left, to where I turned my rejuvenated oculi, was this magnificent, versicolor (word of the day) tableau and I quick-grabbed (because Day, like a smart-mouthed teenager, can turn on me at any moment) my iPhone and shot what was, what is, undoubtedly, Day behaving like Fall! Compliant FALL!

(This is not good for my poetic sequence—which might very well be titled Ocular Delusions. And which now seems as old as a dinosaur.)

And because my disposition has shifted widely from glum to blithe and I cannot, at this very moment, be too disappointed in Day (even if he still knocks Expectation sideways), I'm going to sign out by offering one last poem (not one of mine) from yet another former U.S. Poet Laureate, which shall also serve to top off the grand callithump parade that is to come (believe what I say—it will!). 

Introducing Philip Levine (in a video of much better quality than that of which I was able to capture), all the way from Brooklyn, NY, giving us a little lesson and believing everything he says:

Black Wine

Have you ever drunk the black wine - vino negro -
of Alicante?  The English dubbed it Red Biddy
and consumed oceans of it for a pence a flagon.
Knowing nothing - then or now - about wine,
I would buy a litre for 8 pesetas - 12 cents -
and fry my brains.  Being a happy drunk,
I lived a second time as a common laborer
toiling all night over the classic strophes
I burned in the morning, literally burned,
in an oil barrel outside the Palacio Guell,
one of the earliest and ugliest of Gaudi's
monuments to modernismo.  Five mornings
a week the foreman, Antonio, an Andalusian,
with a voice of stone raked over corrugated tin,
questioned the wisdom of playing with fire.
He'd read Edgar Allen Poe in the translations
of Valle-Inclan and believed the poets
of the new world were madmen.  He claimed an affair
with Gabriella Mistral was the low point
of his adolescence.  As the weeks passed
into spring and the plane trees in the courtyard
of the ancient hospital burst into new green,
I decided one morning to test sobriety,
to waken at dawn to sparrow chirp and dark clouds
blowing seaward from the Bultaco factory,
to inhale the particulates and write nothing,
to face the world as it was.  Everything
was actual, my utterances drab, my lies
formulary and unimaginative.
For the first time in my life I believed
everything I said.  Think of it: simple words
in English or Spanish or Yiddish, words
that speak the truth and no more, hour after
hour, day after day without end, a life
in the kingdom of candor, without fire or wine.


  1. Jayne, I am pleased your "Day" at the ophthalmologist provided such a great story of (no pun intended) Observation (or Ocular Allusions). The Picture with your iPhone is just wonderful and now has caused you a wonderful dilemia ... "Day" became Compliant, behaving like Fall. I am glad you had a wonderful "Day" and shared it with us!

    1. Dilemma, indeed, Gary. I'd better quick come up w/something for tomorrow night or I'm going to look like the total slacker that I am. Maybe I should just go for another walk. ;)

  2. Oh I should think there would be tons of material to fuel your theme! The more I desire a day,season or year to cooperate with me, the more belligerent it becomes.
    I didn't even know eyes could improve themselves- this is good news for you! When my glasses(old age)are off and the world is blurry, I feel muddled and foggy. How much clearer I can think when the world is in focus. The thalmus and receptors and what-all parts in the brain must play a huge role in this as well- how we 'see' the day.

    1. The nerve of our days, seasons and years! Seriously, they need a good time out.
      My husband laughed at me, Leonora, he did, when I told him about my eyes. I have a bad habit of feeding him increasing amounts of evidence pointing to the scary truth that I 'see' the day in total fog! Maybe I should just keep these things to myself? Maybe I ought to have my thalamus and receptors checked, too! ;)

  3. Funny, my older sister just told me that she no longer needs glasses, that her eyesight has improved.

    Lots of things, of late, are failing to meet my expectations, so I'm glad to hear it's just not me! I'd love to be taking an 8-week poetry class, so good for you! And thanks for the poem.

    1. Aha! Thank you, Yvonne, for sharing that with us! So I'm (or my eye doc) am not crazy after all!

      The poetry class is fun, but you can write your own poetic sequence without one, too! ;)

  4. Weeks before signing off on TV last, I needed readers and still use them just for that 12-13 inch space from eyes to newspaper or book. But as for you, my friend, I will make this observation from a distance (no pun intended). You are getting younger! ; )

    So nice to hear you speak of poetry. It deserves a revival for sure!

    1. Michael- in the market today, I didn't put my readers on once. Yep, I'm moving backwards. (Hmm... but I'll try to keep myself from pilfering clothing from my daughter's closet!). :)

  5. Can I just say that I love that Fropper turns out to be what it is?

    Fall is the least compliant of all seasons and the most universally-loved. I think the one depends on the other. No one ever waits with panting heart for a freeze or withering heat. But the cool amber slant of autumn? We are in a perpetual state of yearning for that so it does seem, perhaps, rebellious in its quiet, scissoring, bird-like approach.

    1. "No one ever waits with panting heart for a freeze or withering heat." Love that line, Suze. However, I must differ--I do wait w/panting heart for a freeze--especially the type that brings snow!"

      We've had a stretch of rainless autumn days, so dear Fall is making up for his bad behavior. Now if it could only last longer... ;)

    2. Ha! I shouldn't have made the statement with such a broad stroke. :)

    3. Us New Englanders are hardy folk, Suze!

      Btw- "...quiet, scissoring, bird-like approach." That's a gem, too. I'm so tempted to use that. You never know, it may show up in my future writings quite unconsciously. And then I'll look back and say, Hey, wait a minute--that was Suze! (Or maybe you'll remind me.) ;) Just love it!

  6. Invasion of the PHOROPTOR! LOL!!

    My keen-eyed odist, you are more than ready to dip your quill in fresh blood and pen a poem. Godspeed.

    And as far as finding a compliant day...NEVER! Drop your expectations and your vision will improve exponentially;)

    1. I know, Leah, I must learn not to expect anything of a given day. I've stopped looking at the 10-day forecast and resigned myself to "que sera, sera." It helps. Of course, 4 to 5 days of beautiful fall-like weather occurring while it is still actually fall goes a long way in improving my outlook. Er, disposition might be a better word choice. Day by day! :)

  7. thanks for the levine poem, jayne.

    this is great. so glad you're taking the class.

    here is my wish for you, my dear: that you write your poetry until your fingers ache and your eyes blur. don't worry, though—it'll only be a temporary blur. they will unblur with a little rest and a little—make that big— glass of red, to be sure.

    1. Mignon- Oh, I wish I could say I'd been writing until my fingers ache and eyes blur, but such is not the case. Have been on the road again w/little time to consider poetry--but plenty blur of road and brimming glasses of red! Though I think I've something brewing, last minute, for tomorrow's class. ;)

  8. perhaps we might have a peek—or more—at your poems, too?

    1. Well, there are poems that I've published here on SS (those not credited to an author are mine) under he Category poetry. But in terms of new poems--once I've generated something that is, um, shareable, I'll be happy to share!

  9. Dear Jayne,
    I love your photo in cold colours - made through i-phone. Autumn as not reaching expectations? I don't know whether I would want to write that - though maybe it is a fine contrast to all these red&yellow&gold - hymns. Or like the world Philip Levine sees when not drunk on that black wine. Though I would drink a glass of that when autumn wouldn't live up to my expectation... Trust your eyes (and your better eyesight): it is beautiful!

    1. Interesting, Britta, they are cold colors, aren't they? There was some subconscious work going on there. Autumn is a season of warm colors, but the season had been so dreary up until the day I wrote this piece that I could barely capture the fiery warmth of autumn. I was still viewing it, literally, from another lens!

      Speaking of warmth, Levine was so lovely, so warm and generous. He's the gold standard for Fall!

  10. Going away to Google "FROPPER."

  11. Poetry gives me such a hard time in that I just don't get half of it, or maybe it's just that I don't have the patience for it. And then I think maybe it is like opera and you have to have some training in the subject before it really clicks. Or maybe I am just not that bright, but it does bother me that I don't have the patience for it. Maybe I'm too literal. Regardless, I would love to see/read/hear some of your poetry. I envy you your class Jayne.

    My eyes got better 4-5 years ago (I'm 65) and I thought the guy had made a mistake, thinking eyesight should only get worse. But then I realized the optometrist before might have been mistaken. Or, maybe it indeed was the carrots.

    And as for fall, not my favorite season, the thunder is beginning to take over the sky here and soon we will have a perpetual light show, and I will be scared. :)

    1. Ru- this is what I love about both Collins's and Levine's work. They make poetry accessible to all. Most of it is fairly straightforward though we may not always get the references. I was glad Levine gave us some background to his Black Wine poem. Collins, too, as he introduces his poems to us, offered a little backstory to each poem.

      In the poetry class I'm currently taking, we are reading contemporary work. Some of it is highly abstract and I don't have much patience for that either. But when you're sitting in a class with a master poet who gently points the way toward translation, it goes a long way. So it's true, I think, some poetry demands some expertise.

      Perpetual light shows, as in lightening, does not sound like something I'd enjoy either. I hope fall decides to be kinder to you, out there.

      And your eyes...That's terrific! It's the carrots, it is! ;)

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  13. "Suburban Solilioquy" has been included in the Sites To See for this week. I hope this helps to point many new visitors in your direction.

  14. Jayne, My experience at Bennington was a positive one. You will enjoy it.