Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Storms Of Emily Dickinson

I live in a palace of ice on the Sea of Tranquility on the moon. The plumbing is ice and the counters are ice. The doors are ice and the windows are ice. The doorknobs are ice and the refrigerator is ice. The carrots are ice and the pork chops are ice. The rice is ice. The sweet potatoes are ice and smells and spices and books are ice.

I watch Bonanza reruns. And The Fugitive. Since the television is ice, the images are remarkably lucid. I can see the lines in David Janssen’s face, and Dan Blocker’s eyes are huge and generous and blue when he sits on his horse and smiles.

Richard Kimble, who bears a remarkable resemblance to Jack Kerouac, gets a job as a migrant field worker in southern California near the Salton Sea. A brush fire starts in the nearby hills. The field workers are enlisted to fight the fire. Kimble sees a fallen man in the smoke and runs down and drags him to safety. The foreman orders Kimble to drive the man back to camp where there is a nurse (played by the very sexy Beverly Garland) in the company truck. He orders Paco Alvarez, who has a pregnant wife in camp, to accompany him. Paco refuses to go. He tells Kimble privately that he and the other workers suspect that he is an undercover border cop and will send anyone without papers back to Mexico. Kimble convinces Paco that he is not a cop. In fact, he is on the opposite side of the law. Paco believes him, and they take off back to camp in the truck. I get up to increase the heat on the thermostat and my palace melts. The TV melts and the truck melts and Paco and Richard Kimble melt.

I fall from the moon and land on earth. It’s 4:30 p.m., December 9th. Roberta returns home from work. I’m shaving in the bathroom. I have lather on my face. She tells me she called. When? A few minutes ago. I must have been in the shower, I say. What happened? She spotted a small bird at the top of the hill by the corner of 5th Avenue North and Prospect, where that big hedge is. The bird was disoriented. I went to scoop him up with my hat, and he flew back into the hedge. I’m sure the bird will be ok. If he could fly, he couldn’t have been too youg. It’s strange, though. It seems awful late in the winter for birds to be hatching out of eggs.

We eat kielbasa and beans and watch Le Journal de France 2. David Cameron looks angry. Sarkozy and Merkel look happy. Cameron vows to veto the Eurozone deal. We watch the bonus CD for Paris, Je T’Aime and eat ice cream as the Coen brothers explain what they want Steve Buscemi to do in the Paris Metro. Roberta worries about the bird and I tell her I am sure that if the bird could fly back into the hedge he could not have been too young or disoriented. His chances for survival appear good. And what could she have done? If she had brought the bird home Toby would have eaten him.

Tomorrow is Emily Dickinson’s birthday. I wonder what to get her. And then I realize she is dead. And how ironic that is. So many of her poems were meditations on death. On dying. On stone. On Time and Sound and Bells and Spools. Sedulous of Multitudes, notwithstanding Despair, even Nature herself has forgot it is there. What? The dog, of course.

There are no poodles in Emily’s poetry. No collies. No spaniels. No beagles. No Dobermans or pugs. No boxers or whippets or Chihuahuas or golden retrievers. Emily appeared to be remarkably focused on pearls. Flags of Snow. Slow gold. Crooked hills. Everlasting Night.

Men of Ivory. Pizarro’s Ear Rings. Billows of Circumference. Long storms. The quiet nonchalance of death.

The storms of Emily Dickinson rage in the heart of a dachshund. The dachshund sends out rays of light. Tomorrow I will construct another palace. I will construct it of rupture and spring and call it Xanadu. It will have the glaze of a thousand revolts. I will grow more hair on my head. I will wear sonnets. I will create a cemetery for birds. I will place it in the Sea of Tranquility. Now, 64 years of age, I push the door of my life open and discover that I am really Emily Dickinson, and my breasts are made of ice, and small white words ripple among my ribs.


Steven Fama said...

A most excellent meditation on Emily D. here John, and thanks for sharing...

As for the bird Roberta saw -- perhaps it was drunk on berries? Walking up the 24th Street here in Noe Valley this morning I spotted a mini-flock going nuts in a row of trees rich with over-ripe red berries. The birds seemed mad for the berries. Such birds after over-indulging can fly into windows or street-signs, or perhaps even lolly-gag on sidewalks next to hedges...

Anonymous said...

Could be. Though there aren't any berries on that particular hedge. I have seen bottles of whiskey and tequila that have been tossed in there. So who knows. One day I might see a bald eagle stumble out of there and hit me up for some pocket change.

martin marriott said...

lovely musing. every day is such a soft wagon-wheel sometimes, and your not doing much or moving much in this day's rollalong, it just gives it that prose-poem aura.
i have such fond memories now of reading James Wright's prose-poems, the old yankee drunk finally visiting his Italy of some calmness with a good woman.
So many Wrights -- I mean Bly's pal from the magazine The Sixties.
so many rights... so many writes