The Carriage, or the Limo and M&Ms

Compare Susan Deborah King's poem (from Writer's Alamanac):

As Death Approaches

I can't believe I'm laughing!
I'd have sworn I'd be
shaking or sniveling.
And I sure didn't expect
a limousine.
I've never been in a limousine.
No biggy.
I've had better than fame.
Who needs the pressure?
As for fortune, I'm filthy.
That's why I'm laughing.
I've had so much love:
the giving, the getting.
It's shameful.
It's embarrassing.
And it's too late.
No one can take it away!
And I've had the pain
to help me appreciate it.
Thank God for the pain!
Easy for me to say
now that I'm going!
But no, seriously,
the kicks in the teeth,
the gut, the rugs
pulled out, slammed doors,
setbacks, snubs.
Without them, I'd
never have recognized
Love, bedraggled,
plain eyes shining,
happy to see me.
Do I want more?
Of course I want more!
I always want more
of everything: money, hugs,
lovemaking, art, butter,
woods, flowers, the sea,
M&Ms, chips, tops, bottoms,
trips — I did give up drinking —
time, sure, and yes,
I'd like to see
my grandchildren,
if there are any.
I'd like to see my books
but more has never
been good for me anyway.
Enough — that's what I've
always needed to learn,
and is there a better way?
So this laughter
I had to work up to
through so many tears,
it just keeps coming
like a fountain, a spray.
Let it light on you
refreshment, benediction,
as I'm driven away.

With this:

Because I could not stop for Death—
He kindly stopped for me—
The Carriage held but just Ourselves—
And Immortality.

We slowly drove—He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility—

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess—in the Ring—
We passed the fields of Gazing Grain—
We passed the Setting Sun—

Or rather—He passed Us—
The Dews drew quivering and chill—
For only Gossamer, my Gown—
My Tippet—only Tulle—

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground—
The Roof was scarcely visible—
The Cornice—in the Ground—

Since then—'tis Centuries—and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses' Heads
Were toward Eternity—

King's use of the limo and death as journey makes the comparison inevitable. I just don't see the point of the slang and flabbiness of King's poem coming, as it does, down line of the Dickinson.


Oh Yeah, That Gore

I pulled my copy of Michael Nicolella's Shard out of the shipping box and there, on the front lower right, was a black-and-white "Parental Advisory" sticker. My first thought was, "Well, thank God, who knows what would happen if the youth of the country listened to too much atonal music."

Nicolella's album title comes from the recording of Elliott Carter's Shard, a particularly dissonant and difficult 20th-century guitar piece, and the reason I'd bought the album.

But alas, the sticker was not, as I had hoped, for Shard (nothing would spur interest in atonalism as quickly as banning it). No, it was for the next track on the disc, an electro-acoustic work for electric guitar and tape called Grab It. The tape contains highly processed fragments of interviews with prisoners. And they're not happy campers. It is, however, a very interesting work as the guitar mirrors, almost exactly, the pitch and intonation of the speech fragments going on around it.

And so, because the track includes the word "motherfucker" (one word or two? I never know), an album of difficult, engaging, and serious 20th and 21st century music gets a parental advisory label.

Lest we forget, in the haze of nostalgia brought on by the Nobel prize, it was Al Gore's wife Tipper who first called for censorship of music and, when that failed, browbeat the industry into the labeling we have today. We should also remember that Al backed his spouse 100%.

Whatever its virtues in other contexts, on the front of an album of dissonant contemporary music, the label is utterly and simply stupid. I look forward to the day when we have a country of adults.


Uh Oh.

Since the divorce I've been sleeping smack in the middle of a queen-sized bed. This, of course, leaves room for books to either side of the pillows.

This morning I woke up looking at a volume of Kafka's short stories on top of a book on dating and relationships.

I don't know what this means, but I doubt that it's a Good Thing.


Stay Out of New York State This Weekend

...unless you'd like a face full of buckshot. Dick Cheney will be hunting this weekend in Poughkeepsie.


Firefly Wisdom Monday

JAYNE   You want I should shoot 'em now, Marco?
MARCO   Wait until they tell us where they put the stuff.
JAYNE   That's a good idea. A good idea. Tell us where the stuff's at so I can shoot ya.
MAL   Point of interest? Offering to shoot us, don't work so well as an incentive as you might imagine.

Out of Gas