Saturday, January 16, 2010

Au Courant and Sleepless the Night Before Class

Getting ready for bed, my husband tells me
a joke that I don't get.
To make matters worse,
I'm propped up on six pillows reading
the latest touted book of poems.
It won a prize in New York.
On the jacket the poet is an eminence,
bearded, gray, a this-is-serious
kind of guy.
I read these poems and I don't understand.
What's with the marble wall, and how
can it be "dark" and "sunbaked" both?
And why are lemurs suddenly swimming
down the third verse?
My forehead furrows and my lips
tense up. I crimp my glasses and
look again.
I don't want to be lost the night before class.
I feel completely dumb.
Maybe I'm not smart enough to be alive.
Is the true thing finally here,
my smarty ruse a bust at last?
I took Valerian an hour ago.
I'm not sleepy.
Did you get to the first poem yet? My husband calls
from the other room, where
the electric toothbrush whirrs.
I didn't understand it, I mumble from
my billowed perch, the poem my bean
a mattress down.
Good, he intones,
You're not supposed to "understand" a poem,
But I'm the teacher, I say. I'm the teacher.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Deepening Affection

I'm reading the New York Times review of the 2003 William Macy movie "The Cooler" while watching it and stopping it using this newfangled DVR as needed to make tea and settle my stomach from an emotionally tempestuous day. In the review, I come across the phrase "deepening affection," and I know I have something I want to say.

"The Cooler" is a hokey/sweet/violent flick, where sadsack Macy, always so excellent, surprisingly finds lucky love in an otherwise bleak Las Vegas life. Even his cat, who'd abandoned him and his row of dead house plants, comes back after he's inexplicably seduced by the believably authentic Natalie, played by Maria Bello.(Alec Baldwin is disturbingly convincing, too -- I'm glad I just saw him in "It's Complicated" for a slightly brighter persona). Anyway, the true-hearted Natalie develops, the Times review says, a "deepening affection" for Macy's innocent Bernie Lootz. Their love scenes are wonderful. Macy's expressive face has never been better. The movie's not over yet and I'm pretty sure it's going to end badly, but before it does I just want to pause to savor that phrase: "deepening affection."

Today I was confronted with one of my life's failures for the first time in awhile: packet in the mail -- passive aggressive bundle of indicting postcards (my own words thrown back at me), photos, uncomfortable reminders of years of unwieldy yearning and confusing striving, bound to disappoint. Some things never get quite cleansed, the glib promise of closure a misleading myth.

But I have deepening affections. My "mature" life, such as it is, finds its way these days -- not always smoothly, not always with perfect understanding. I'm slowly forging a life with Ted, with the interconnections of love and work that seem to suit me better than the life I used to try to inhabit like the wrong house, imperfect architecture. This life isn't the same as that -- less surface glitter, less naive, edgy ambition. But it allows for something true -- as I find out what that is.

As it turns out, the movie didn't end quite as predictably as I thought it would. The director was Wayne Kramer after all, not Quentin Tarantino.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

About time to check in in 2010

A night in downtown Flint: dinner at Blackstone's. Having dinner with a candidate for a post at UMF, I found myself talking about Flint like a real oldtimer. Driving home, my brief mile in the dark, I thought, "I belong in this place. It's my home." And it didn't feel so awful. Being a grownup in a place, being fond of its architectures and quirks, its ups and downs, isn't so bad.