August 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

don't expect being smart to help much in life

My friend says: I have no doubt you’ll be seeing him again in a few weeks, I don’t care what you say. But why do you have to feel this idiotic competitiveness? You’ve known what he’s like forever. Of course, you’re in denial…and she pauses, as one does at the stark of absurdity of another’s denial, while one’s own sits smiling in plain sight, picking his teeth…but you know he loves you; these other women….

The more common advice: never see him or speak to him, put him out of your mind and life entirely.

So far I’ve steered a middle course, like Obama. I meant to spend the morning planning what I need to write to make money. But I’m writing poetry, fueled by heightened emotion, the stark clarity of desire and desperation (his and hers included). Yes, I’ve read and responded to the many often-incoherent letters Beatriz wrote me or cc’d me on over the last 2 ½ months. But how could I resist? She’s forwarded long strings of their emails! Writers are snoops. I have so much material now.

I’m not pretending I did it for the material. I was obsessive and angry, and looking for an angle, just as she was. Most of my life, the writer-wanting-to-find-out-everything part of me has served me well. Intimacy has been the place where I take risks,learn things others don’t know. War zones, prisons, emergency rooms, executive suites, parent-teacher meetings…the very idea provokes panic. I prefer bed.

It’s the desire to write that keeps me in bed now, with my laptop, the relief it brings, which, if one were to use the terminology of addiction, would be like an alcoholic keeping one last bottle in the house, caressing it, sniffing the open mouth, but also—not to gross you out entirely, but I just finished reading Adam Gopnik’s piece about dogs in the New Yorker—it’s like a dog sniffing another’s butt, learning as much that way as we do having a long chat. And if a dog could sniff its own butt, believe me, it would.

Gopnik says that dogs “forget” what they’ve learned from the sniff, so keep going back for more, and that, oddly enough, every dog dislikes being sniffed. This doesn’t tally with what I’ve noticed. Some dogs dislike it. Some people talk to everyone, others guard their privacy. As for the dog “forgetting”? Don’t people say the same thing over and over; ask the same questions over and over? Do you love me? Do you really? Do you promise? I love you. I hate you. I hate you more than Hitler. Sniff my butt, it’ll say the same thing. But you’d have to be a dog to understand.

Country Fair

If you didn’t see the six-legged dog,
It doesn’t matter.
We did, and he mostly lay in the corner.
As for the extra legs,

One got used to them quickly
And thought of other things.
Like, what a cold, dark night
To be out at the fair.

Then the keeper threw a stick
And the dog went after it
On four legs, the other two flapping behind,
Which made one girl shriek with laughter.

She was drunk and so was the man
Who kept kissing her neck.
The dog got the stick and looked back at us.
And that was the whole show.

-Charles Simic


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