It’s Sleeping in My Memory

you're breaking my heart, you're shaking my confidence daily

For reasons unclear to me, as I was driving to work, some lines from Alexander Pope’s stupendously long poem, An Essay on Criticism, popped into my head.  I would like to say that the poem is roughly 362 pages long, and I only read up to these lines, which occur very soon into the poem.  I mean, I’m sure I “read” this poem, but only if “read” is defined loosely as “slept five minutes, forgot entire meaning, read five minutes, slept five minutes, forgot entire meaning, repeat for six weeks.”   The whole thing is written in couplets.  Reading it was like riding on a bouncing stagecoach.  Anyway, the lines are:   “Unfinished things, one knows not what to call,/Their generation’s so equivocal.” 

What impresses me now is that Pope pulled off rhyming “not what to call” with “equivocal.”  I mean, really.  ” Call” doesn’t  truly rhyme with equivocal.  But when you make a line out of those four words (“not what to call”) you get something that rhymes with equivocal and doesn’t sound stupid.  What must have been floating around in his head, waiting to become a rhyme I cannot even begin to imagine. 

But I digress.  What I really have today is a question.  I am curious about what pops into people’s heads.  This is the first time I can remember that actual poetry appeared.  Mostly what comes to me when I’m driving to work is either (a) something someone said to me once that so shocked me that I still think about it (for example, a boyfriend, on his sexual responsibilities: “I am not a service station,”) or lines from pretty much any song on Bridge Over Troubled Water (“still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest”)     

What lines of poetry or dialogue or description or wisdom or insult pop up in your head with some regularity?

More Summer Reading

It was a less than perfect day today.  Maybe it’s the sudden turn from sun to gray here in San Francisco.  Could be the work I’m staying late tonight to finish contains, at its core, a story of people who seem to have not only no hope, but no hope of hope. 

Who knows what it is, but all day I’ve been hearing the phrase “grayed in and gray” in my head and so I went to see where it comes from, which means you plug that into the internets and you will find out, as I did, that it comes from a Gwendolyn Brooks poem called The Kitchenette Building. When I read it again I realized it was about circumscribed lives in which hope occasionally breaks out, even if not for long.  And that seemed like a good thing to have in one’s head on a not so great summer’s day.  Just one poem — that counts as summer reading too.

Kitchenette Building

We are things of dry hours and the involuntary plan,
Grayed in, and gray. “Dream” mate, a giddy sound, not strong
Like “rent”, “feeding a wife”, “satisfying a man”.

But could a dream sent up through onion fumes
Its white and violet, fight with fried potatoes
And yesterday’s garbage ripening in the hall,
Flutter, or sing an aria down these rooms,

Even if we were willing to let it in,
Had time to warm it, keep it very clean,
Anticipate a message, let it begin?

We wonder. But not well! not for a minute!
Since Number Five is out of the bathroom now,
We think of lukewarm water, hope to get in it.

Gwendolyn Brooks