January 20: No relation to Charles
January 21, 2013 § Leave a comment
Yesterday someone asked me if I was related to the poet Charles Simic (we share countries of origin and last names). Alas, I said, we are not related. But I am always so happy when someone asks me that question, because it is a meeting of two poetry lovers in a world where reading poetry is becoming rare.
Today we returned from our trip and I am tired. Still, one ought to be creative in some way.
So I remembered a manuscript I wrote years ago, titled “No relation to Charles.” It really has nothing to do with him, but here are parts of it anyway. And if you haven’t already, do read some Charles Simic.
NO RELATION TO CHARLES
In the notebook from my insomniac first year as a feminist in training, I found these words: “We write to taste life twice: in the moment and in retrospect”. For a brief instant I hoped that the words were mine, that I was clever enough and wise enough to write them. But I am no quote-maker. In that moment, though, I was the queen of the postmodern world, in which the boundaries between “they said” and “I said” were obliterated. The notebook also contained the following, which I am certain is all mine, though I have no recollection of writing it. Ah, insomnia, how I miss the cracked mind it created…
Skinner & his duck(s)
(streamlined version, 2004)
He woke up shivering, before sunrise – it was not the glove-wearing deep-breath-taking weather – it was no ordinary frost. His goodwill froze when he awoke, that’s how cold it was. And the last duck in his flock refused to perform the tests. Morality comes in six easy steps. All you need to do is follow them, and you will be saved. Saved!, I tell you. As to what the steps are that I cannot tell. It is for you to discover.
– It may or may not have anything to do with burning fake animal fat in lamps, in northern lands, to keep (moderately) warm;
– It may or may not have anything to do with not performing tests on rats and kittens;
– rabbits hacking from snuff, choking on smoke induced, low-flying cumulonimbuses;
– chickens wearing lip-gloss, resembling humans as much as chickens can (frightening).
Skinner wakes up, puts on a bathrobe, and stumbles into the kitchen, his ducks on his trail. He is their proud mother. The littlest ducks call him mother in their primeval minds; his was the face they saw when they first hatched. He looks nothing like a concerned mother, but how would they know? Birth is such a shocking experience – it deletes the data intrinsic to the brain, a human child would fare no better, not recognizing the home she was preparing for. He writes in his study. Science points fingers at him: -He is the man- while he pats the ducklings’ heads, never confusing them with the tale, feeds them until they gag and lets them sleep in his shoe. At the same time, only much later, El Niño raids the Pacific, making men hysterical and women cold, and ducks too fat to fly. Too fat. El Niño throws fish at their feet and they eat until they gag. Unlike young girls, ducks can’t induce vomiting, instead, albeit blissful, they, ducks, are irreversibly tied to the ground. Somehow always shortchanged.
Oftentimes, E.G and H.G.(Wells) would sit in his time machine, legs crossed, sipping coffee or moonshine, depending on the mood, and discussing free love (if you want to raise eyebrows in an otherwise open-minded, gregarious society, try this topic sometime). When they were particularly playful, they would smoke long, thin cigars. He would try to sell her on socialism, unsuccessfully, but in the end they would always heartily laugh. Once the time machine was set in motion, they would place bets regarding the following questions:
– Which would prevail: socialism or anarchism?
– Which would be the first anarchist society? Who would be the first to discard the vote?
– When would class warfare end?
– When would artists become respectable in their lifetime, no longer appropriated by the system only after they are dead?
We have heard that in many cases Emma won. But that is just a rumor, and in fact, oftentimes they both emerged from the contraption weeping. On one occasion only, she returned blushing exceedingly, saying “I never though the fringe would make me into a superstar in the 21st century…” Wearing her T-shirts and forming seemingly invisible liaisons across the world: the Emma Goldman fanclub.
A visualization exercise
We concede that leaving home is a many-tiered task and we will make no attempts to convince you that it is the only, or even the best way to go about solving your problems. No, we offer you many fine alternatives; but if you happen to opt for the pilgrim walk (our personal favorite) out of your current life after all, let us just say that a pilgrimage is capable of circumnavigating games, genes and family, all at once. Surely they have often treated you like a bowling pin, and by now you may feel like one. If so, it is comforting to think of outside influences on your pilgrimage (these will include, but will not be limited to rain, sharp stones in your shoes, heavy luggage, impure water, bottled water, family curses 80 years old) as heavy shiny balls with three holes for fingers that can break your every bone and then rebuild you in the likeness of deities of old.
What happened to women allergic to wheat and strawberries before food labels and warnings? How many died of walnut excess? Isn’t it strange? Just as anorexia, at least as old as fanaticism (and while we were savages nobody was fat) lurked unnamed for centuries, so too, the mysterious romantic deaths of heroines could have been caused by something as trite as lactose intolerance. Life can be lactose intolerance at times. As Saul Bellow didn’t say but wanted to, nobody dies of a broken heart any more.