Tuesday, June 10, 2008

To Nobody

I just finished reading Jane Mead's The Lord and the General Din of the World, her first book, published in 1996 (and winner of the 1995 Kathryn A. Morton Poetry Prize). I've had to read it slow--it's intense and dark and amazing.

There are many gems, but this one is the one I keep going back to, re-reading, for its sounds, its line breaks, the way you have to let it pull you through its long sentences...

To Nobody: February 20, 1985
(On the way to K Mart to buy a filing cabinet.)

What I wanted was a solid exchange
of cash for steel, but
the surcharge--that hallucinatory
exchange of pleasantries
that turns existence to the air
around a curtsy--was more
than I could pay
and I kept driving.
The white fields
have a world to themselves,
but human silence needs
a human shelf, so I depended
on the way I knew--
each time I shifted gears--
the team of Swedes
who made my car and, trusting
only that solid connection,
drove. Here at the Stagsfoot
Motel, I'll M.C.
my life tonight. No more
smiles at the register, no more
false currency. Disregard
is a counterfeit word:
the things we choose
to do define us. So,
while I may choose,
one day, to forgive her,
I do not mourn Sarah.
        August 1, 1977.
        Or Reed.
        June 18, 1978.
        I do not mourn Paul.
        November 15, 1983.
        Or Dad.
        Twenty-nine days now.

You cowards.

I have snapped the back
of this year in some town
I do not care to know
the name of. Here
at the Stagsfoot
breath of mildew
where I'm M.C.,
keeper of the key
to room one-o-one,
I do not even mourn
the voices between my ears
or care
why they cut out.
You cowards.

What I wanted was steel and square.
Cash for gas.
Grease for gears.

And this lovely excerpt from "LaGuardia, the Story," also in the book.

Some nights I make a killer pot of coffee--
I put on the music that I love,
and dance. Sometimes I dance for hours.
Go to your phonograph. Put on
Brandenburg Concerto Number Six.
This is about something very hard.
--This is about trying to live with that music
playing in the back of your mind.
--About trying to live in a world
with that kind of music.

Long live Ms. Mead.

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