Thursday, January 23, 2014

Meal Stop, Ninety-seven Miles From Bangor Airport \ Ted And Sylvia

Nancy: The only time I ever fell asleep at the wheel – only seconds but enough to come to my senses, enough to print the night, the diner, the men in my mind forever.

Meal Stop, Ninety-seven Miles From Bangor Airport

Behind me, two men sat talking of women
and fishing and faith,
as I came awake over a plate of potatoes
pooled in ketchup.
Out on the road I’d fallen asleep,
drugged with finality,
and out of the grating slew of gravel
had fumbled into the hot oil spoon clatter
only twenty miles from home.
Coffee – please –
elbow propped thinking sugar maybe
and making whirlpools in the thin stuff.
I couldn’t finish the fries; pushing away
I left them tumbled like peeled posts
on the plate.

Behind me, the men went on to pie;
one said,
       “She’s not much for speed,
        but she’s got quite a roll to her”
– but I’d lost track
and didn’t know whether they were talking
about women or boats,
and will never know, for I went
back to the road
and did the last twenty miles slowly,
carefully, in the fog.

Alan:  Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath still seem bound tight, more than fifty years after her suicide and fifteen years after his death during cancer treatments.  I wonder sometimes if the myth of the Poet killed them both.

Ted And Sylvia

Sylvia was “Ariel,” is Ariel to us now,
but who was she really, behind the closed door?
And Ted?  Self-styled wild thing of the woods?
Or just a man consumed by appetite and then remorse?
(She ever off the table in subsequent public discourse.)
Who consumed whom in each other’s mythy dreams?
And whom do we consume?

My father sought his archetypes in dreams
that he could then reduce to formal verse:
Joseph Campbell a congenial, gentle guide.
But his me-myth eluded him behind his own doors,
each one smaller than the night before
until at the end all he saw
was an impenetrable garden wall.

I have been advised that we should be
the heroes of our own stories, make of ourselves a myth,
so that tomorrow, when we are dead – what? –
our friends will say, “He thought much of himself”?  (Too much.)
Narcissus with broadaxe and horned helmet?
Or just Polonius embarrassed to be stabbed
under a threadbare pelmet?

Living the quotidian is unmythic in the extreme, and better for it.  
Let others make us myths,
or more likely forget us, the way we forget
what we ate last Tuesday, although we know we ate.
Our pleasures the pleasures of a moment,
alive on the surface tension of this dew-drop world,
we are most of us, to be frank, not quite second-rate.

Even the Buddha, despite his self-placed honorific,
was nothing but human, although inhumanly awake.
True, he denied all categorizations, but
it was left to others to abstract 
his innumerable qualities, give them the artifacts
we crave: arms and auras, faces mild or fierce.
The carefully placed hand above the perfectly placed wrist. 

So, let us, first and last, be unknowable to ourselves,
and ever a surprise and a disturbance, 
no more Ariel, no more Wodwo, no more Buddha or Bodhisattva
than the neighbor boy who, daydreaming and careless,
trips on the sidewalk, running to the house,
and catches himself, and then looks up,
astonished.  Suddenly aware.

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