Monday, March 23, 2015

#82 Op. posth. no. 5

I’m not sure if “good nature is over” has a double meaning or not, but I see something. The whole poem has a pissy, irascible, even bitter tone, so there’s that. But “good nature” can also mean something like the embeddedness in nature, that some of the other poems preceding refer to, with the potential for pleasure and meaning that come from being of nature and in nature by virtue of a body, which of course now is lost or over, or at least falling apart. One interesting thing: Henry looks to be speaking not from the Great Beyond, the timeless realm of spiritual eternity, etc., but from his actual grave! So, maybe not fully dead? “Do not do” is obviously a reference to Plath’s great poem to her father. “Perché” is likely the Italian, for “why” or “what for,” spoken at the end by henry’s Death-chorus-conscience.

Henry’s not in a good mood today. Regarding religion: “We was had.” Regarding fathers: “Do not do.” Regarding the accolades in response to his art: “Maskt as honors, insults like behaving missiles homes.” They didn’t fool me, in other words. So we’re bitter in the grave? I suppose I’m sympathetic.

I think and write a lot about what has been lost. We live in times of such rapid change, and despite the advances that supposedly drive such movement, change ensures that something will be lost. Lost is a sense of cultural and community continuity, and a sense of a place in nature. Also probably lost is a sense of the inevitability of fate, awareness of the narrowness and limits of one’s world, so that’s to the good. I look back on the life of flowing creeks, abandoned farm buildings, pastorality in the countryside, and trees and trees and trees as the markers of my childhood. But I remember as well that I also played a lot on bulldozers and excavators and the trenches and holes and mounds of dirt they dug up. We were too close to expanding cities. The abandoned buildings that so fired my boyhood imagination were abandoned because their usefulness at their locations had decayed before they were quite physically gone. I played in that brief space. But at 10 and 12, there is no sense of overarching cause. An abandoned log cabin simply is and simply should be, and when I played there, it and I were timeless. When they finally succumbed, it was tragic, a travesty, and I make no apologies for that even now. I played in Kentucky in a deserted village, built in the late 1860s by a community of newly-freed slaves. A century later, the cabins and barns were empty, but the spirit of the place was my teacher—though I didn’t know at the time that I was a student. The village, abandoned as it was, should still timelessly remain in its place, and the Home Depot dropped like an anvil on its place, and that stirred up a great boiling cloud of dust in its landing, will be forever a monstrosity. Later, having moved on, the barn I played in, built on the estate of a successful and wealthy industrialist, taught me that that particular pastoral aesthetic is precisely how we should inhabit an American Midwestern countryside. Never mind that the place was conceived in a wealthy, aristocratic spirit of image-making in the '20s, by a rapacious and image-conscious industrialist whose wife convinced him that gentleman farmer was a role it would be advantageous for him to play. I absorbed the lessons folded through every shingle and nail in the architecture without understanding what I was learning or why. Now, because of my having absorbed the lessons of that timeless boyhood space through a kind of existential osmosis, I know in adulthood that aesthetics are every bit as critical as utility, and I am sure that the dairy barn in all its stuccoed splendor was worth infinitely more than the expensive travesties of the houses that landed in the hole left when it was demolished. It’s what was bequeathed to me by the accident of showing up then and there, at that moment of my life, and frankly I haven’t absorbed anything since to convince me I’m wrong.

So, I understand Henry’s looking back on his life with bitterness. Changes are always wrong, you see. The hottest circle of hell is reserved for real estate developers, and I do not mean that as a joke. Those changes for Henry include the changes that come when your father kills himself, and the changes that come from success and the struggle against grief and the unassailable knowledge that things should never, never have come to this pass. Never. Just lie there pissed off in your pit and decay. I do so totally get it.

No comments:

Post a Comment