I compiled a zine for the SideQuest Gallery show Femme 4ever. Originally it was going to be printed in glorious color, but then I made a hasty ink-purchasing decision and screwed that up completely. ($45, down the drain. Four and a half hours of my life. ARGH.) Luckily, color is cheap on the internet, so here’s a digital version:
You ask the computer to call you “sir”
and it doesn’t
because that was the wrong menu.
but you click around the options
“Sir, sir, sir!”
The computer requests that you
please calm down.
The machine asks
would you like a lozenge,
for your throat,
because you sound hoarse.
The available flavors are cherry and lemon.
Your fingers on the soft keyboard
that you don’t dare to pound
even in your rage.
The anger is worst when the computer stays
A couple of days ago I went into Pegasus Books specifically to buy the new Cometbus, “A Bestiary of Booksellers”. Pegasus hadn’t received their shipment yet—even though Pioneers and PBW already had copies!—but coincidentally there was a larger-than-usual Cometbus display so I got to pick up some of the other issues that I haven’t read. One of the featured volumes was Last Supper, which I didn’t realize was a collection of poetry.
I hardly ever buy poetry because it’s so hit-or-miss, but I’m okay with having purchased Last Supper. It conveyed something of punk New York to me, a person who’s never been punk or visited New York. Lots of romance and nostalgia. The author bemoans that time is slipping through his fingers; all of the places that he used to love are closing down. It’s a book about time and place, how the where is just as ephemeral as the when. And the who.
Recently I discovered the poem “Morning” by Billy Collins. I love it in the same way that I love the peaceful verses of Yeats’ “Innisfree”. Ironically, I first read “Morning” late at night, because I couldn’t sleep and I thought poetry might soothe me. Oh well — the time was past midnight, so it was technically morning, right? Here is the poem, in full:
“Why do we bother with the rest of the day,
the swale of the afternoon,
the sudden dip into evening,
then night with his notorious perfumes,
his many-pointed stars?
This is the best—
throwing off the light covers,
feet on the cold floor,
and buzzing around the house on espresso—
maybe a splash of water on the face,
a palmful of vitamins—
but mostly buzzing around the house on espresso,
dictionary and atlas open on the rug,
the typewriter waiting for the key of the head,
a cello on the radio,
and, if necessary, the windows—
trees fifty, a hundred years old
heavy clouds on the way
and the lawn steaming like a horse
in the early morning.”
“My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lightning) when I was three, and, save for a pocket of warmth in the darkest past, nothing of her subsists within the hollows and dells of memory […].”
Because of the allusion to Lolita, I know that Billy Collins loves a book that has fascinated me since I was a teenager. Enjoying one novel in common seems like a tenuous connection, but that’s the beauty of reading — sharing literature connects people in spite of material obstacles. Billy Collins is an elderly man and I’m a young woman, but we would have plenty to talk about.
That’s also why the poem “Morning” delights me. As it happens, I am a morning person who prefers to write early, although I’m not an espresso aficionado. Nothing feels better than starting work when the sun does. Waking up early has a significant impact on my mood throughout the rest of the day.
Reading this poem, I feel happy that my own feelings are so well-described by someone else — described in clear, beautiful language. That last image, of dew steaming from the lawn like sweat from a stallion, is so unexpected and enchanting. Yes, “enchanting” is definitely the right word: Billy Collins gave me a moment of magic. It’s trite but it’s true.