“I’m completely annoyed by you,” I told Lady, “since not only have you drifted, or rather wafted, off to France, but now you are writing, again. And so there you are, and what’s a poem? Let’s face it, a poem is a one-morning-affair, unless you work it to death, as my mother tended to do. Anyway, you write it, everybody reads it, and it gets 6,000 likes on Facebook. Then it’s time to have a glass of wine and a dinner of truffles and foie gras. Oh, sorry, that’s champagne, not wine….”
“That’s completely untrue and unfair,” cried Lady trans-Atlantically, which shows you how indignant she was. “I hate champagne, as well as foie gras. Do you think Naïa would allow me to eat that? She’d report me to the ASPCA first. Anyway, writing poetry is a lot harder than you think….”
“Yeah? Because you guys get to write thirty poems or so, and then put them together in a little book, and bam! You’re a poet! But what about me, struggling to write a novel? In the first place, all of my characters keep misbehaving—I currently have a 16-year old sheltered girl from the Midwest in a dirty bookstore on 42d Street, sometime in the 1970’s. Oh, and she’s with two Puerto Rican drag queens, though she doesn’t know they’re drag queens. And do I have any idea how she got there, much less how to get her out of there?”
“Well, if she got there by herself, then let her get herself out of there.”
“What is this, laissez faire? Even the smallest exposure to French culture has ruinous affects on you, Lady!”
“So what’s the problem?”
“The problem is that writing a novel is a race—actually it’s a series of marathons. And writing poetry is just a sprint!”
“I completely reject that,” said Lady. “Anyway, why all the fuss? Aren’t you the guy who believes in ‘just-sit-down-and-do-it?’”
“Excellent advice for others,” I tell her. “Oh, and the 16-year old’s mother is sleeping off an afternoon drunk in the Ritz bar. That’s how bad that novel is….”
“Well, an afternoon drunk at the Ritz sounds rather lovely to me,” said Lady. "Though who knows, it may be a rather submerged affair, given what’s happening in France. They closed the Louvre, you know, since the Seine…”
“I read the paper,” I told her.
“C'est vraiment très dommage” Lady tossed off.
“Certainement,” I responded. Then we glared at each other, as all of our French lay exhausted on the pavement…..
“Anyway, to get me out of writing a novel, I decided to write a modern-day Pilgrim’s Progress. Julian—I see you stiffen up, there—is still rattling around down the centuries.”
“You’re stalking her, Marc! She’s 700 years gone, for God’s sake. Let her rest…..”
“Well, now I have a hill talking to a pilgrim, if you can believe that….”
“You know, I really think you have to come with us, the next time I go to France. The things you get up to, when I’m away.”
“Mais oui” I told her. “Or maybe I mean bien sur…. Although I suppose I could send the 16-year old up the hill, to get the pilgrim back home….”
“Or to talk to the hill….”
“Anyway, I looked up Pilgrim’s Progress, which I used to know about, and it turns out that it’s even worse than writing a novel. I have to fiddle around with characters named Pliable and Trustworthy, as well as visit places like Gaius’s Inn, which is between the Valley of the Shadow of Death and Vanity Fair. Then I have to kill four monsters, called Giant Grim, Giant Maul, Giant Slay-Good, and Giant Despair. Oh, and this is all in the first part, since there are two parts. Unfortunately, I was too tired out by reading about the first part to tackle the second part. So sorry, no info there….”
“Quite ruined, my day,” said Lady, whose humor has dried quite considerably by her sojourn in France. “Can’t you get them drunk at the Ritz?”
“Definitely a thought,” I said. “Though it’s fearsome, the idea of footing the tab for Giant Despair. Can you imagine how much he’d soak up? He’d be a bottomless pit!”
“Well, Mommy Dearest has her credit cards,” said Lady. “Do you know, I really do think a glass of wine, just now, wouldn’t be a bad idea. Somehow all this talk of drinking at the Ritz….”
“Bother the Ritz,” I said, “I definitely am switching to poetry. One poem a day, and poof, by the time you come back, puffing on your Gauloise and sipping your absinthe, I’ll have a book in my hand! Bam, just like that! Then, I can host the Tuesday night poetry slam, since I will be a poet! Screw novels, and screw theology! I’m taking the literary life easy, and playing in the fields of the Lord. Which in this case is poetry….”
“Do it,” said Lady. “I dare you!’’
Wait and see!
Rifs on Rilke
Rifs on Rilke
I love the dark hours of my being,
Where time is exiled, where sighs
Stitch together the boredom, the sorrows,
The expectation that nothing, after all, will come, and that…
…slowly, the soul lies down with despair,
Takes it into her arms, caresses it, and tells it
That she is lovely.
Despair—who taught night to the dusk,
Who taught time to the hours.