What’s good about it? he says.
Christ died on the cross.
You’re not supposed to go anywhere.
Not eat meat !
Be morbid and morose.
Good Friday. Huh!
What moron thought that one up?
It’s the stupidest oxymoron in the language.
Reading about Roz Chast’s parents in her cartoon memoir
‘Can’t We Talk about Something Pleasant?’ makes me feel
Almost normal. I do know how to use the toaster,
I can change a light bulb, open cereal packets neatly
so it doesn’t look ‘as if a raccoon had tried to get into them’
AND I was comfortable using the new stove after only
six months. Compared to them I’m a genius.
Meeting the Parents
But I do ‘walk around with my feelers out’ like her old man
and ‘get distracted by interesting words thereby missing
the larger point of what was being said’. And I am a fast eater
like her mum. ‘Stop gobbling your food’, I was told as a kid,
[and am still told from time to time].
I’m only on page 30 of this 230 page memoir but I’m enjoying
meeting the parents. It’s like meeting me in a book.
- what book are you enjoying at the moment?
- Have you ever ‘met yourself’ in a book? how did it feel?
after deserting me for a few days
my editor has a change of heart
and decides to return.
Yay! I say to myself.
Says he’s been reading my posts, and how I’ve been floundering without him.
You’ve pulled three posts in two days, he says. You’re sinking.
I know, I say, hanging my head in shame.
Look, he says. It’s no good fighting it. We’re a team. Conjoined twins if you like.
Like Laurel and Hardy? I suggest.
Same arrangement? I say.
Yes, he says. You write. I clean up the mess.
I used to like my poems neatly wrapped.
I thought of them as artifacts.
Pristine, well presented, spruce
But now I like them ramshackle, loose,
keen to slouch in seedy places,
tie undone, inquisitive with loose shoe laces.
“Sorry, you have to move.”
“You don’t belong here. You’ll have to move.”
“But I was here first. You saw me walking up and down with my multitudinous strands of hair incarnadine.”
“You can’t have ‘multitudinous strands of hair incarnadine’ in a poem about waiting for a poem to pull up like a bus.”
“It’s too heavy, too overwritten. Too Shakespearean. It changes the tone of the poem totally. It’s like two colors that clash.”
“I’m sorry. You’ll have to move. I can’t fit you in.”
“Okay”, she says, shaking her multitudinous strands in a flurry of petulance, “I’ll write a poem of my own and guess what?”
“You won’t be in it.”
And with that she gets out her notebook from her backpack and begins writing, furiously as Lady Macbeth cleansing her blood-soaked hands in the basin.
The poems whiz past like buses ‘Not in Service’.
There is no time table.
No bus shelter.
Only a sign saying, ‘Bus Stop 29’..
Anywhere is good as anywhere else.
That’s what Raymond Carver meant when he said:
Be At Your Station.
Be alert, open.
The deus ex machina will come.
Still, I’ve been waiting here for the last twenty minutes
With the girl with incarnadine hair.
It will be good if the poem or bus pulls up anytime soon.
I can paint by numbers.
I can paint a picture for you in one thousand words.
I can even play ‘Paint it Black’ on air guitar for you
But every time I paint myself in a corner
I need you to pull me out.