somewhere between Montreal, Canada and White Plains, New York, some kind of truck is trundling along, carrying (among other things, possibly) fifteen clear plastic boxes (purchased from K-Mart on Union Square, NYC, at some point in October of 2002). fifteen boxes, of me.
i see my Pablo Neruda Book of Questions:
Where did the full moon leave
its sack of flour tonight?
Why do leaves commit suicide
when they feel yellow?
the truck is bound for a depot twenty-odd miles north of Manhattan. i imagine that from there (once they weigh everything and bleed my already-hemorrhaged Visa card dry), the boxes will be moved to La Guardia (or JFK, or Newark -- they're boxes, so they won't have too many issues with waiting on the Van Wyck), to be placed in the belly of a plane.
i see my limited edition parchment print of Agha Shahid Ali's poem, Tonight:
Where are you now? Who lies beneath your spell tonight?
Whom else from raptureís road will you expel tonight?
Those "Fabrics of Cashmere–" "to make Me beautiful–"
"Trinket"– to gem– "Me to adorn– How– tell"– tonight?
I beg for haven: Prisons, let open your gates–
A refugee from Belief seeks a cell tonight.
Godís vintage loneliness has turned to vinegar–
All the archangels– their wings frozen– fell tonight.
Lord, cried out the idols, Donít let us be broken
Only we can convert the infidel tonight.
Mughal ceilings, let your mirrored convexities
multiply me at once under your spell tonight.
Heís freed some fire from ice in pity for Heaven.
Heís left open– for God– the doors of Hell tonight.
In the heartís veined temple, all statues have been smashed
No priest in saffronís left to toll its knell tonight
God, limit these punishments, thereís still Judgment Day–
Iím a mere sinner, Iím no infidel tonight.
Executioners near the woman at the window.
Damn you, Elijah, Iíll bless Jezebel tonight.
The hunt is over, and I hear the Call to Prayer
fade into that of the wounded gazelle tonight.
My rivals for your love– youíve invited them all?
This is mere insult, this is no farewell tonight.
And I, Shahid, only am escaped to tell thee–
God sobs in my arms. Call me Ishmael tonight.
i see The Blue Dog by George Rodrigue --- a bright yellow reminder of my very first Sunday afternoon gallery stroll through SoHo with Auri (how new i was, to New York City). they were showing Blue Dog paintings somewhere on West Broadway, and i never forgot the quote on the wall. and when i found the coffee-table book years later on Carmine Street (at The Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Bookstore, of course -- how perfect was that neighborhood), i still remembered what the Blue Dog had said:
Always there's that space between what you feel and what you do, and in that gap all human sadness lies."
i see my father's copy of Lolita. it holds inside it that whole conversation: how fully we agreed, about how perfect the sentences were.
i do not know of a comfort more wonderful, than being surrounded by the books you love.
the waiting too, is nice.
[Via Marco Aurelio, Roma]
[domenica 21 dicembre 2008 ore 13:10:08] [¶]
from The Private Hemingway:
I'm sending this letter to both of you because I know you have been worried about me and I am always sorry to cause you worry. But you must not do that - because, although my life may smash up in different ways I will always do all that I can for the people I love (I don't write home a lot because I haven't time and because, writing, I find it very hard to write letters and have to restrict correspondence to the letters I have to write - and my real friends know that I am just as fond of them whether I write or not) that I have never been a drunk nor even a steady drinker (You will hear legends that I am - they are tacked on everyone that ever wrote about people who drink) and that all I want is tranquility and a chance to write. You may never like any thing I write - and then suddenly you might like something very much. But you must believe that I am sincere in what I write. Dad has been very loyal and while you, mother, have not been loyal at all I absolutely understand that it is because you believed you owed it to yourself to correct me in a path which seemed to you disastrous.
So maybe we can drop that all. I am sure that, in the course of my life, you will find much cause to feel that I have disgraced you if you believe everything you hear. On the other hand with a little shot of loyalty as anaesthetic you may be able to get through all my obvious disreputability and find, in the end, that I have not disgraced you at all. Anyhow, best love to you both,
my life may smash up, indeed.
[CafŤ CafŤ, Roma]
[martedž 16 dicembre 2008 ore 18:22:35] [¶]
i hope never to become the kind of person who complains about churchbells, or street musicians, or old people. who wears too much makeup or who changes tone when speaking to waiters, who does not smile back (or for that matter, smile first), who does not love art and poetry and prose and the sound that autumn leaves make when you step on them.
i said to Humayun, there is still much to be grateful for. later i thought, that "grateful" was the wrong word to use. "grateful" suggests desperation, a god we are scrambling to appease. "grateful" means: consider yourself lucky things aren't worse -- shut up and swallow.
i wonder if there is a better word. a word that understands how to braid grief and loss with all the good that walks with you through it, with everything that you (still) have.
i want next year to not have any dead relatives in it.
is it extreme, to want every conversation to be an intelligent and interesting one?
i am worried about the self-centredness of this life. we cluster around our wineglasses every evening, and every conversation is a protracted round-robin game of What About Me. there is less of the twelve-step therapy culture here in Italy, it is true -- a little less of that oh-so-well-intentioned trend to "tell you how i feel because i need to get it off my chest, and who cares how you might feel about it afterwards (or if you want to hear it at all).
but Rome -- and the expat "life" in particular -- bring a few special kinds of selfishness into the mix. in a city of so many thousands of motorinos, so many of them carrying people who could instead carpool, bus it, or just plain walk. in a country of queue-jumpers and tax-dodgers, abusivi and eccezioni, we are a community of people living far away enough from our families, that each of us is, for most of the year, the only person that matters in our lives. one long aperitivo hour, one long Sex and the City episode. whatever you want to call it -- i think i want to get off the island.
i want to not look inward so much. i want to talk about what's going on in Georgia and what on earth Gelmini was thinking. i want to discuss art and politics and literature and i want the discussion to be intelligent and informed and about more than just the people we all know in common and how they have wronged us.
i'm loving the New Yorker subscription.
[Chiostro del Bramante, Roma]
[domenica 14 dicembre 2008 ore 13:37:59] [¶]