March 4, 2014
The bodies are buried.
The house is sold.
And the dust has settled.
But not for you.
You keep turning the soil.
You’re digging for worms, not coins,
And sinking further into the soil yourself.
But you’re a writer, you said,
Can’t you see this is material?
At your insistence, I took ownership of the package of bundled letters.
They sat undisturbed in my hall for three years as the leftover Viagra packs slowly expired.
You dropped those in the envelope to make a point about men and marriage,
Then chased your tail even faster.
On the day I finally opened the bulging scripture,
And saw the dedications to one goddess after the next,
My eyes gravitated, instead, to the array of hotel stationary logos.
Design history at my fingertips.
The sight of the word “pining” three times in one paragraph, though,
Made me shut the deck for good.
John Updike might have had a heyday with this story line.
And Gay Talese would have been remiss not to have added it to his sources,
But not today.
That moment of urgent originality has passed.
The shock of the new has died from constant exposure.
Besides, this needs heavy editing.
And I’m not the one to do it.
See it for what it is:
A souvenir from a time
When domestic doubt took hold of great minds.
Along with The Pill and Vietnam, this rush of new storytelling
Took regular hits at America’s perfect paint job.
It dinged and keyed us, and crashed our ideals off cliffs and into guard rails.
Literature had finally stopped alternating between lofty treatises and virile adventures.
And homes were opened to air, light and a stream of words.
Over the decades,
The revelations multiplied.
The keyboards of much lesser writers clacked
As they tried to capitalize on this trend.
And the once chunky broth thinned to a dull, watery liquid.
But domesticity was on high boil again in the seventies
When Alice Munro and Mary Pratt elevated dirty dishes to high art.
Even the goings-on in janitorial closets got their due.
But if the subjects weren’t memorable,
The artistry was and is.
The cycle repeated itself.
As it always does.
Soon the zipless fucks and the fish on bicycles
Got papered over by a brand new batch of opportunists.
This time it was female newspaper columnists pressured by tasteless editors
To dedicate their inches to ticking clocks and The Great Size debate.
Looking at our package.
It’s not Updike or Munro.
It’s not even Harlequin,
But it is our reality.
I’ll keep the moons of Jupiter and the caged birds.
I’ll even keep the pompous Bertrand Russell books — and not because they’re first editions —
But for the soft pencil markings mapping one man’s head and heart,
Scribbled at a time when so much was at stake.
Our futures, no less.
But you keep the letters.
I’m putting this rabbit to rest.