Well, Mel’s done it again..
I dearly hope I am reacting charitably to being ‘out-gun-ed’ by my beloved competition. Mel-Famy has just ‘super-solberg-ed’ me… again. His romp on Beatles lyrics combined with a ‘gripping-in-its-own write’ story-line is perilously close to blowing my own pathetic ouvre out of the murky waters.
Yet I persist in the race. Someday, G-d willing, I shall sit and share a meal with him and his equally-significant other, and we will shake hands, co-equal contenders for the Xanga-Throne.
Meanwhile, my modest gauntlet, thrown into the ring-o-fire at last night’s poetry reading/public lynching got tramped into the mud big-time. I should have thrown in a towel instead.
“You’re a peon”,
spit out contemptuously by an irate beige-complexioned Middle-Eastern type, already in the middle of the first verse. I tried to take it in stride, agreeing quickly that “Yes sir, I make no claims to be in any leadership role in the field.”
and went forward with my offering.. I
don’t often do readings. In fact, in the last three years, I’d agreed to only three: The “Reading Poetry Happening”
series, in Reading, PA, Reading, Mass, and of course the one of which I speak here , in that charged hot-bed of anti-Zionist lit-crit, Reading, Berkshire, UK
I’d selected my “Ode to Rope”,
with no delusions that it would be received any more gracefully than say, Stravinsky’s “Write of String”,
or even the emasculated Guy du Maupassant’s modest “A Piece of String’
. Readers are invited to judge it on it own merits: (below) Meanwhile the cat-calls kept calling:“Your Rope-Peaean sucks!”,
the little swarthy guy persisted, not more than two lines into the second verse.
This time I understood it. He had a bone in his craw for the entire northern Western Hemisphere, for which I apparently stood, before him, as spokesman-du-jour. I also noticed he was a tad shaky on his feet, as he stood on the folding chair to make his point…um.. taller,
towering ominously over the hors’d’ouerves table, from which he’d obviously drawn copious liquid courage. Yes, now I remembered, he
was the guy I’d seen helping himself to finger-sandwiches with both hands. So yeah, both alcohol and mercury-poisoning from the tuna might have warped his faculties. T
he moderator motioned me to continue, but I needed to respond. Removing my reading-glasses to mime ‘sizing him up’
, I calmly replied:“I see from your tag that you are from Tunis, and which tuna sandwich did you have a lethal dose of, if I might ask?”
He didn’t take the bait, which was just as well, sparing us all a discussion of illegal ocean-dumping. But he was not through, not by a long shot.“Take your rope and hang yourself!”
was his next suggestion. The moderator stifled a chuckle at that. Damn, I was all alone. And here I’d hoped to have the crowd eating out of my hand by this point, and with the final ‘Can’t push on a rope’
conceit as my ‘leave ’em crying for more’
trump-line. I searched the crowd for admiring co-conspirators, coming up goose-eggs. Even the sweet-faced middle-aged matron in the third row, with whom I’d hoped to discuss rhyme and reason at the after-party was looking at her watch, while the rest of the crowd had split into impromtu conversations amongst themselves, probably about the gloomy weather, and what to do about it.
I swam on, against the tide,a la F-Stop Fitzgerald, finishing with a flaccid flourish; my once evocative “and the little lasso from Lhasa sings of its captures of yore”
falling in a Gordian tangle on the hardwood floor.
What else could I do? Red-faced, I demonstratively crumbled up my papers, laid down the mike, and exited in shame through the side door, into the angry night, trying to forget as quickly as possible that I’d ever been there. And with some success, until I was asked to empty my coat-pockets at Heathrow this morning. Wait. I’d skipped the whole fourth verse, I noticed, in the ‘duh’
blur of travelers, wheeled-luggage, and in-comprehensible departure-announcments there by the X-ray machines. I’ve never felt more like curling up in one of those plastic trays and riding through the Ray-gun tunnel, emerging data-free, formatted, and blissfully un-perturbed by ghosts of past Readings. I may in the future avoid public hangings, especially when my Last Words are limited to ‘G-d Save my Soul’, and no one in the crowd gives a rat’s ass about James Merrill, to name one hero of many
I tie my ass to the camel’s back
and we head off for Long Island./ Armed with
hemp and a hump, via Hackensack; and we
slouch toward theHamptons, and Lord Byron…
(Where I) work till dawn on the puzzle pieces: got to be a
dozen missing. On-ward, I guzzle cheap spirits, Ach, wie
langer und wie shlimmer!; I may schtup Mademoiselle, Is this
even ger-mane? Ah the Merrill’s and the Lynch’s loosed my
camel, I’d forgotten Appollonian concerns. Hey, I’m
only thirteen; the worm turns, yet he burns. And if I
smoke this rope, will I finally understand? Or be con-
vinced of the delusion. There, he’s waiting in the sand.
Q: Whassup, Sol?
A: I know a loaded question when I see one..
Q: No, seriously, ‘What’s it all about, Alfie?’
A: Um.. I was ‘initiated’ into ‘manhood’ at an early age by a French grad student who was doing a paper on idiot savants.
Q: Ahh.. That explains the resonance with Merrill’s “Lost in Translation”, right?
A: You make me cry sometimes, you know that?
Q: Sorry. The Boss, you know, he just wants me to get the facts..
A: It’s OK. And I didn’t have a camel in those days.. write that down.
Q: Yeah, poetic license. Hey, you think a post like this’ll get you on the Xanga Front Page
A: Hah. That’s why I like you, Q. Your sense of humor…