I havenʼt got a good update to anything creative that some of you might expect on a Sunday. Thereʼs nothing new outside my head on “Mantorville,” not a clear angle for the next Daniel bit for Stars in Heaven (although there is a whole section from the boykidʼs point of view thatʼs been done forever), and I started handwriting a new Søren-and-Judah story (the direct sequel/continuation of “Mistakes by Moonlight”) instead of getting a third bit of editing and revision completed for today (or any more of it digitized — too busy becoming Picasso/getting a new furnace/subbing last Friday/wasting my time arguing against ignorant authoritarian Rightist politics on Facebook/reading/idling).
However, it has been raining around here this weekend, starting Friday night into early Saturday morning. So I will take refuge in a bit of verse I had wanted to put up for autumn, but with our month-long dry spell this year, ending Friday night, this antique hasnʼt seemed quite right. And, as I have pretty vivid memories of the weekend around which this not-quite-a-poem came to be (mostly because theyʼre recorded in the poem), I know itʼs not cold or dreary enough to really qualify for a revisit. However, I donʼt have anything else, and I really have wanted to post this one (or at least have an excuse for typing it up on the computer).
It came from my first autumn in Maquoketa, in the (probably underheated) cute little house on Emma Court (has anyone noticed that I used that street as a character in the Queztal County story?), which was evidently a cooler and definitely wetter autumn than this one has been. I was sitting at home alone in the quaint house, rain drizzling, feeling tired and old and apparently very chilly as I listened to I-donʼt-know-which-Bob-Dylan-album on the stereo. It might have been Street Legal, but I am pretty sure (especially having just checked on Wikipedia) that came out later, the next spring, and was new when I played it almost ceaselessly on the drive to and back from the 1978 International Thespian Festival with three unwitting high-school girls on lawn chairs in the back of my blue Ford van (sorry about that, ladies, in retrospect). Much more likely the soundtrack for the poem(s) was Blood on the Tracks, which would fit perfectly.
The actual trigger for composition was work-weariness and the earliest sensation of arthritis in my poor overworked and enervated fingers (much more noticeable any day of any week in any season nowadays), which you may easily observe in the second part/poem/stanza…
Shades of Gray: Autumn Rain
The cracks between my bones
forget the lambent tones of electric lights
and listen: the sleety whispers of the wind
keen autumn autumn autumn winter night.
Dylanesque atmospheres suggesting
ice inside these fingertips
and fogs behind my eyes;
the coals of existence whisper
out in the leaf-drenching drizzle.
15 September 1977
Not a lot for exegesis here. The three poems or verses or stanzas (I donʼt know why I numbered them — probably an Eliot-influence) are essentially moody description (intended to mean description that creates a mood).
The date is a Thursday night (I really do love being able to check anything in a heartbeat or ninety on the internet; I probably would be a good victim/consumer for a smartphone or an iPod Touch), so my notion it was a weekend is wrong (unless I am recalling the typing process, having first composed longhand — no idea if that was the way it went, either). However, that would explain the “hectic day” falling quiet in the beginning, a long day after school, and in those days for Andrew, church night (meaning no extracurricular activities in the evening, thus no play practice) was on Thursday. So I would have been at home in my then-TVless house. The arthritis-or-whatever-you-like sensations are there in the close of that verse and grow worse/stronger in the next little poem.
Why my aching joints forget the warm “tones” of electric lights rather than the warm sun is probably me trying to avoid the too-obvious image, and life at school really is ruled by artificial illumination, especially in these shortened days of fall and winter. The final line of number II is mere sounding rhythm (but for lots of poets, say Poe, thatʼs what itʼs all supposed to be about) and the conscious mind of the speaker falling asleep, maybe. The susurrus of the storm/cold rainfall outdoors probably shouldnʼt use so many m sounds.
Number III brings the music on the stereo to the front (so Seventies of my Seventies self). And the speaker falls asleep? (That sounds so trite that perhaps youʼd be better off without the explication…) But autumnal weariness and chill extinguishes whatever passes for energy or life in our speaker.
Of course, I feel this one works as a companion piece to “Dry Leaves” written in the same location a year later (sorry, Rod and Dave, I couldnʼt go so obvious as either of your suggestions; I really do feel poetry shouldn’t be quite that literal). Or maybe I should chose to call that other one “Burnt Fires”? “Fallʼs Cinders”? “Faded Flakes”?