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 forget: FROPPER, 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:
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.