August 31, 2013 § Leave a comment
Strong wind this afternoon, the kind that makes your feel like your hair is blowing off. French-blue sky, wheat-colored mountains drizzled with gold, the sharp grasses bending in great curls. A few deer, a few trucks and me. I could get addicted to this place.
The other night we went to the Occidental Hotel in Buffalo to hear bluegrass music. Multi-instrumentalists with impressive moustaches, a guitar player with an orange guitar strap marked “Dept. of Corrections,” a little girl standing on a box playing her fiddle, a woman who looked like Maureen Stapleton singing a torch song, and a youngish man doing a cover of “The Fox Went out on a Chilly Night,” which Charles used to play and sing to his children at bedtime. A good half of the customers were over 60, the ladies with perms and the men with high-waisted pants. The collection box handed around wasn’t for the musicians but needy townsfolk.
Nothing like live, homegrown music to make you feel the reality of a place, although the animal head décor had a say in that as well. We were looked down on by the big, glassy-eyed trophies and while this doesn’t affect me the way it does some people (roadkill bothers me far more), that may be a generational thing. I grew up thinking it was kind of normal—not that I knew anyone who shot and mounted ungulates but it was so prevalent in novels about England, the West, etc, that it seemed as if I did, and when I began came across the odd, real trophy, in my teens, I didn’t think twice. Now it just seems tacky.
We didn’t stay long at the Occidental, but it was fun to get off the grounds of this monument to creative solitude and remember that art is always of the people and by the people, both common and precious. Maybe before I die I’ll wring the last of the tortured romantic artist myth out of my soul.
Though, of course, I am tortured and romantic. But not because I’m an artist, and anyway, I’m much less romantic than I used to be. As for torment, they have drugs for that.
A Dog Was Crying Tonight In Wicklow Also
In memory of Donatus Nwoga
When human beings found out about death
They sent the dog to Chukwu with a message:
They wanted to be let back into the house of life.
They didn’t want to end up lost forever
Like burnt wood disappearing into smoke
Or ashes that get blown away to nothing.
Instead, they saw their souls in a flock at twilight
Cawing and heading back for the same old roosts
And the same bright airs and wing-stretchings each morning.
Death would be like a night spent in the wood:
At first light they’d be back in the house of life.
(The dog was meant to tell all this to Chukwu.)
But death and human beings took second place
When he trotted off the path and started barking
At another dog in broad daylight just barking
Back at him from the far bank of a river.
And that is how the toad reached Chukwu first,
The toad who’d overheard in the beginning
What the dog was meant to tell. “Human beings,” he said
(And here the toad was trusted absolutely),
“Human beings want death to last forever.”