Friday, June 11, 2010
Behind Ginny's Little Longhorn
"Wires and pipes, snapped off at the roots, quiver.
Well, that is what life does. I stare
A moment longer..."
From "An Urban Convalescence" by James Merrill
I feel a little like this truck. Or is it that I feel more like those clouds? Difficult to say, but I will say this about James Merrill.
A number of years ago, when I lived in New York City, I heard that James Merrill was going to read some of his poems someplace downtown, I can't recall where. Of course I was going -- there was no way I was NOT going.
I was waiting for the bus that would take me downtown when two young men came near. One of them began talking to me and handed me an invitation to a church. He urged me to go to their service that night. I told him I couldn't -- I needed to see and hear a poet read some poems, thank you very much. Besides, wasn't art a form of church?
He got a little huffy, and waved towards the crowd of rush-hour working folks crossing the street, an inimitably world-weary hustle and flow:
"Do those people look happy? They need God to be happy, not art!"
"Ah," I said, "their problem is that they have too little art -- if they only read more poetry and looked at more paintings, they'd all be much happier!"
My unnamed accoster snorted in scorn while his partner-in-proselytization could barely stifle his giggles. The bus pulled up, and I said, "Last chance -- I'll go to your church with you both tonight, but you have to go to the poetry reading with me now!"
I got on the bus; they stayed on the pavement.
Merrill was splendid, magical -- he arrived swathed in an elegant red-lined cape and read his beautiful, ormolu verse in a voice that made them seem the most natural things in the world to say.
And when I left...I was happy.
I hope you're happy. And if not, let's meet here and look for more art.