Scenes from the Summer Gone By

photo (3)It is cold and only getting colder. This time of year I think of the Rilke poem, Autumn Day:

Who has no house now, will never build one.
Whoever is alone now, will long remain so,
Will watch, read, write long letters
and will wander in the streets, here and there
restlessly, when the leaves blow. (S. Mitchell trans)

Here are excerpts from my journal from June to September.

Sunday Morning- Couldn’t write. All my poetry seems too awful for revision, even though it is all revision from the moment of the second breath and maybe even before that. This idea itself is a revision, a failed line from yesterday’s writing session.  Reading Adam Zagajewski, Without End- New and Selected Poems. Finished The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo last night.  My usual timing, a few years past the moment of cultural relevance. Going to play basketball at the Armory with the other gray athletes, an effort at friendship, the only kind that I was ever good at, good-naturedness in the struggle and a firm and binding goodbye. For the friends that stay and talk, I require liquor.

Wednesday- The Festival of Cultures- Dropped LB off and read a Richard Howard essay on Frank O’Hara. Made me regret not having his poems at the house. The kids came out and I go onto the big yellow bus holding LB’s hand, bound for the Festival of Cultures in Queens. A long drive. A few kids complained of car sickness and it only seemed a matter of luck that we made it without incident. Saw African dancing and Native American dancing with hoops. Hadn’t seen that kind of dance before. The hoops were used to make various shapes, mostly animals. Saw a fire breather- ho hum- who was also a contortionist- more interesting. Then two Chinese acrobats stacked themselves against a dry narrative of circus history. The man did a dance/tumble that also involved a juggling of hats. At one point he dropped a hat and the woman gave him a severe look of disdain. I don’t know if he saw it but he surely must have felt it.

On the way back, a little girl complained to me about her father. I know them both. She complained that he never spent any time with her. He never worked on art projects anymore. Oh sure, she said, the occasional board game but no art. I think I said something like, “Board games are pretty good.” The father I saw at the end of the day. He wasn’t on the field trip. He just happened to get on the subway with me. I didn’t tell him anything about the conversation. We talked about how they are selling their house because they need something bigger. Always then the inevitable question, “Are you leaving Brooklyn?” He says no but I wonder because I wonder about myself. When will I get wise and move somewhere dull and cheap?

Thursday- Brooklyn Queens Day and home with the kids. The low level anxiety of not being able to do anything about work is present. I leave it behind though. Something is wrong with my remote access to email. I never have the chance to fully tune in. We have a late breakfast at a diner and then we take a long walk through the park. There are white moths, the same kind everywhere and the children teach me something. Butterflies rest with their wings closed but Moths stay unfurled. We go over to the library and then the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. There are several women I try to ignore but I can’t help but look, their skirts made somewhat transparent in the bright sunlight. Flowers everywhere. Kids running ahead. We stop in the Cherry Orchard and we lay in a clump together reading. L laying perpendicular to me with her head resting on my ribs reading a mystery. A laying on top of me reading out loud from a non-fiction book on extreme Weather. On an idyllic day, she is reading about blackouts and the old Greek gods and tornadoes and tsunamis. The cherry blossoms are long gone. LB commented that it doesn’t seem the same place without them. So much of life happens after the tumult of blossoms. To the right, the summer roses are blooming and if you smell the air, you can smell a note of them moving around with the wind.

Friday- a half day went to the Poet’s House and sent a few poems out, looked at a few journals. Heart still not in it. Had a hamburger and a beer by the harbor of super yachts.

Saturday- Swimming at the Tony Dapolito Recreation Center on Carmine St. and then back to Battery Park City and the Poet’s House with the family. L wrote a strange poem about a pin cushion on one of the typewriters in the children’s room. An excerpt: The men all banished by their wives. I asked her about this line and she said that she got the idea from a Chinese folk tale that she heard at school, only it was the opposite, the wives were banished. She also showed me a few other lines and said I learned this from you: Take the example further. They don’t always seem to be listening but I guess they are. Snoopers of the future, she is eight. She knew she had written a very grown up sounding poem. She had that new poem feeling. She read it to me again and talked about what it meant and how she usually writes kid poems with kid subjects.

Monday morning, struggled to get the kids to school in a downpour. We stood in the door of a bodega and looked out at the rain and the sodden trudge the strangers were making of it. It grew heavier and lighter and heavier and lighter and then it was time. We had to go no matter what. AB was the only one in rain boots and after a rocky start in which she accused me of not telling her about the rain and a poor parenting moment where little empathy was shown, she started enjoying herself. I was not. I was wearing a poncho and carrying a trash bag of backpacks. I went home and changed out of my wet jeans and in the unlikeliest act of all, already late for work, I shaved.

Undated entry: I have been to this bar before of course.

The girls use an APP that makes custom teddy bears. You pick a bear and dress him. This is inexplicably fascinating.  AB made one on the bus to the ferry called Poet Bear. The bear had a top hat and black leather mask. It was wearing a tuxedo and holding a black laptop like mine. The pomp and menace of this bear seem about right for a poet.

Sunday- Laundry day and I’m alone. The clothes are spinning in the fire for another thirty five minutes. I usually work on poetry but I left the laptop at home. Not even any to read except for whatever is on the Nook. Still need to finish the Argonautica. In the early morning, an hour of writing. I finished 6 a.m. , a poem made of scraps from another poem with the odd subject of a pair of pastry tongs. Maybe a couple of new lines at the end saves it. In that first flush of enthusiasm, I sent it out to a journal named Moonshot. (Rejected with undoubtedly good judgement at a later date- ed. note)  Two games of basketball, shot better but it is painfully clear that I am old and maybe a little chubby. I keep waiting to get my legs under me again but maybe those legs only exist in my imagination. I should have said at the top of this entry that I am at the bar using their wifi while the clothes dry. I could barely afford what they term as a fizzy lifting drink, a High Life. This is the second time that I have seen that phrase today. The first time was on the red bikini’ed bottom of a woman at the Red Hook pool. Beck is on the stereo: Two turntables….

July- On vacation now, Saturday morning at the Flagler Bar and Grill. The bar switches to coffee in the morning at the Sheraton. The girl that served me had just been crying. I chose a frozen latte, too sweet, but still coffee. I received a rejection in my email and a suggestion for a few lines on another poem from a friend. It is so strange to hear pop music again. I don’t go the places in New York  that I would hear it.  So rapid. So compelling, so present, like a part of the climate here in Florida. Maybe they are right: eternal youth and sun and love-making and the guidance of Disc Jockeys.

September 30- The last day at Governor’s Island- I am here with my two children. They are on the swings, the swings with the best view in the world. They face the Statue of Liberty. Tall ships and yachts and the Staten Island Ferry and lower Manhattan and Ellis Island and New Jersey are all visible. They are taking turns pushing each other. I’m sitting at Little Eva’s about one hundred feet away eating a pulled pork sandwich and drinking sangria. Not a parent of the year moment but not so bad either. Some of the best times in life came when my parents said, “Go off and play.” There are not as many food options today, many of the food vendors have already shut down for the season. It isn’t the best day. There is a little chill in the air. Most of us are here because it is the last day. A moment when you realize the season is gone and there is no guarantee that any of us will ever come here again. Though we probably will. This place is perfect for the small amount of melancholy that I have today. Where would it have gone had I not come here?


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