Tuesday, December 15, 2015


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The first two stanzas are about the travels the poet has gone on and the things he’s seen, from the great Bosch painting in the Prado, The Garden of Earthly Delights, castles, India, cool little apartments in NYC, there was Berkeley and Harvard Yard: “Henry got around. / I can’t say it improved him.” That’s funny, actually. The third stanza puts him suddenly on a ski lift: “He hoped to die / on the down into the void, / his seat so small it had no toilet paper.” In other words, the ride on the ski lift scared the shit out of him. Doesn’t look like he’s actually skiing, since he’s going down, and that fear-of-heights thing is bad enough going up, but on the way down you get it worse, hanging up high on a nauseously swaying park bench. The real point of this is that he’s up there seeing four or seven states—more travels, more vistas—but even more important, his wife is hanging up there with him, “while the mountains smiled, at Henry in mid air / & at his equally terrified wife, monfs pregnant.” Oh, I see, another real adventure on the way, in other words. More of life’s magnificent vistas due to arrive squalling in a few more months. Yep, and a child is like with all travels: Sometimes you see the great painting in the Prado and the great temples in Bhuwaneshwar, have an exquisite dinner at LaPérouse. For me, it was all of deserted Amiens Cathedral utterly and completely to myself for a whole blessed afternoon on a rainy February, and dinner with Luidmilla in her flat in Budapest where we read poetry and talked about literature all night. In southern France, in a dairy near my friend’s 17th century farm house, lifting a great can full of frothing milk still hot from the cow and tilting it back so that I could taste that intense fragrant milk in my ears. But then, sometimes a drunk French clochard spits on you through the gap in his teeth, hordes of mosquitoes attack through the open window in your hotel in Venice, your basement room in your London hotel has a ceiling so low that you can’t stand upright and it smells like mildew and cigar smoke. But it’s all good. It’s part of the deal. When your baby is born, you get daily vistas of the magic in your child’s life one day after another: First smile. First step. Show him how a drinking fountain works. Sit with him in the car while he hears “Stairway to Heaven” for the first time in his life. And then—here comes the most recent report card. You wanted the magic to keep coming, but like Paris—magical, yes, gorgeous, oh my god!, and then some drunk spits on you. But it’s still okay. You keep your head up and eyes looking around, you don’t lose sight of the architecture and the art and the people and the food... Wipe the spit off your jacket and walk to the cathedral, where the sadness and disappointment soon enough passes. That’s what I did.

1 comment:

  1. Karl, I envy you, the same way I envy my wife. But my lack of travel is my own doing, and there's still time.