Essays

Vladimir Vladimirovich and Franz Ferdinandovich

A clever boy, one of those drinky, druggie, droopy Pisces with philosophical aspirations, a slight situation with sibilants, a fear of driving and a fair chance of pleurisy, maybe a musician with a couple of groupies dry-stuck to his privates from last week – that guy. Many girls dated him. Maybe the same girls who painted their lips with nail polish at the age of five and learned that it was an awful idea.
Those girls respond to the lyricism of Franz Ferdinand (the band, disambiguation.)
If you like Franz Ferdinand, you’ll love this:
And now,
Immense,
I hunch in the window,
Melting the pane with my forehead.
Will there be love or no?
What kind –
Big or mini?
Vladimir Mayakovsky and Franz Ferdinand find similar verbal solutions to common lyrical tasks; Mayakovsky does it in bold.
A lover not a philosopher; a lyricist not a poet; yeah, so? Whose fault is it that being in love is in the top three most arresting human experiences, superseded by being in extreme physical pain, trailed by being in a creative trance?
So you make a come-on love album, and a fuck-off love album, and a please-please love album and a good-bye love album. If you shoot yourself before reaching your forties (Vladimir, this concerns you!) you will not get to make a good, subtle, chilly good-bye love album. And you will never relax enough to go all merceybeat on your fresh strawberries.
I’m in love with a narcissist/I know for the mirror told me/I’m in love with my nemesis/I know for the mirror told me. Who isn’t now? Now everything has names: Mayakovsky’s OCD, Lili’s narcissism. Everything’s easy now. The games of chance, the obsessions, fate says yes, fate says no, fate says yes, what’s the color of the next card – all can be explained, recognized.
No one can recognize me now:
An enormous sinewy sack
Moaning,
Agonizing.
What could this clod want?
This clod wants a lot!
Fun’s not fun anymore/Can’t stop feeling, no I won’t stop feeling/You leave me here on my own/You leave me to die on the floor.
The stuck-on groupies offer no meaningful relief. I flirt with every flighty thing that falls my way.
I’ll cloyingly cling to a thousand cute faces
Who “love Mayakovsky!” –
It’s no more than a dynasty
Of princesses who’ve ascended a lunatic’s heart.
But all the same they are welcome and willing: the come-ons are exquisite with a side of filthy. Find me and follow me/Through corridors, refectories and files/You must follow, leave/This academic factory /Find me in the matinee/The dark of the matinee –
Come learn from me,
Officious officialette of the league of angels,
Dressed in your dining-room cambric.
Is it any wonder that the girls who respond to the lyricism of Franz Ferdinand fall tumbling for the droopy Clever Boy who’s an awful idea?
Cocky and caustic, I’ll mock you till I’ve had enough.
I could be noxious and/Occasionally cruel/But only to the ones I loved –he is not kidding. Oh, the poisonous smear of your love on our lips, Clever Boy! Yes, two can play at being dramatic. Bring all you got; we are waiting.
You’re waiting
For my cheeks to cave into a ditch,
For that day when, tried by everyone,
Tasteless,
I’ll come to you,
And toothlessly lisp
That today I’m
“surprisingly honest.”
Yes, there is still that issue with sibilants: can you spell “promiscuity” without slight salivation?
Franz Ferdinand has a round Rodchenko heart of four quarters: Hurt, Don’t Care, Hurt, Don’t Care. The heart is pumping its clockwork beats. In the center there is a tin arrow that always points at Hurt, Don’t Care, Hurt, or Don’t Care. Any song falls on this continuum. Some are fibrillating in Hurt on the cusp of Don’t Care, sliding off Don’t Care into Hurt. These are the four seasons of the heart according to this excellent collective.
I am Hurt; you Don’t Care. I Don’t Care that you are Hurt. I am Hurt, you are Hurt. I am Hurt but pretend that I Don’t Care, with a hope that you notice I’m Hurt.
You know something –
I’m getting married.”
Well then, get married.
I’ll be ok.
See – how calm I am!
My pulse
A dead man’s.
Why don’t you walk away/No buildings will fall down/Won’t you walk away/No quake will split the ground.
I can imagine having a drink with that guy/ He’s all right.
Or, although I can spell, say, dance and charade “promiscuity”, I am still Hurt by the very thought that you could. I have a red vendetta in my narrow bones/A wicked indicative eye/Of my yellow jealousy I have no control.
To love –
Is to tear yourself away from sheets torn
By insomnia
Jealous of Copernicus,
Because he,
And not some Jane Doe’s husband
Is
My
Rival.
Here and there is a dud of grandiosity, of enlisting world politics and natural disasters to come illustrate your individual suffering. Here and there is a detour into suicidal thoughts, musings on the meaning of life or matters pertaining to God – all ancillary to Hurt.
Almighty one, you dreamed up a pair of hands,
Made it
So each one has a head –
But why didn’t you think
To make it so one could kiss and kiss and kiss and kiss
Without being tormented?!
We forgive the Clever Boy the occasional “just sing amazing godless grace”; as witnessed by the added nasality and enhanced sibilation of the delivery, he himself probably does not believe that line.
Gods, world leaders, even the sun – everything stars in this drama of the unyielding tin heart. The stars also star. The rocks rock, the quakes quake, the seas sing their siren pleas.
I stand on the horizon/I wanna step across it with you/But when the sun is this low everything’s cold/On the line of the horizon.
Look now –
The stars are once again decapitated
And the sky is all bloodied with slaughter!
We forgive the Clever Boy many things.
We forgive Mayakovsky everything and always.
Ladies, lovers of my prime cuts, and that
Girl who’s looking at me like I was her brother,
Bury me in tossed smiles –
I’ll sew your garlands into a fop’s jacket.

Yi Nian Si Ji

 

Four Seasons is not a good name for a story anymore. It is the name of a famous hotel chain, and Stephen King wrote a collection of novellas with the same or similar title. I don’t believe that book had a hotel or a chain in it. It might have had a chain, but the hotel was in a different one.

The Chinese expression to denote seasonality is yi nian si ji. It means one-year-four-seasons. The year is one, but the seasons are four; the seasons are four, but the year is one. All things are well within one another.

People who move away from seasons are beyond me. People in general are beyond me, but those who choose their home climate to be only more or less hot are beyond me even when I wear my stereo goggles.

For those of voluntary exile to tropical paradise that turns brain to whipped cream, I am setting out to give a speech of such alluring architecture and design that the plush texture of autumnal forest that’s in it, and the frosted glass of wintry skies, and the latticework of black birch carcasses about to sprout tiny lime-green leaves will have them racing back into the temperate woods, abandoning their endless boring shallow summer.

There is nothing like a good yi nian si ji to assist emotional change and personal growth. (Although I dislike the expression “personal growth”; it seems to be related to whiskers. The expression “emotional change” I hate as well, it is sisterly with both pennies and menopause. ) But let’s take love: doesn’t it have seasonal coloring? The miserable, unrequited kind seems to be particularly colored by the attending season.

To winter through bad love is to emerge new and whole out of the better end of it. Winter misery is the blackest, but also the most redeeming. Yes, I saw you then, don’t think I didn’t.  You were sitting on the icy kitchen floor, head between the knees, toes frozen blue, and did not care one bit for the cigarette ashes all over your shirt. You were nineteen, right?

Will it happen again, do you think? Or are you too humble now for this particular kind of suffering? For if you break the pain into small cindery pieces and track down the cause of fire, you discover that it was really you who fell asleep with a burning pipe. You couldn’t stand being disregarded, disliked, ill-loved. You were mad that things were not going your way. You were not humble enough, and you did not fireproof.  So wrap yourself in this black-n-white chunky knit scarf, and stride away in your black sooty boots, coughing white steam, dripping black tears, hugging yourself against the gothic frost; no Purple Heart for you.

Graphic black, porcelain white, the foggy Industrial Revolution from a history book, cathedral verticals, Wagner.  An ugly scene under the red blanket. Black footprints disappearing in the early dark. Red cartoon droplets of blood upon the little black stick figure on the snow. Black crows gather around the victim. The bitter end.

If not in winter, would the defeat have felt as bad? I don’t think so. But let’s leave the grim January girl in her ebony memory frame, for spring is yippee-on-the-way!

It is hard to think of a heart breaking in spring. A breaking heart can cheat a person out of spring entirely. Let’s envision Lisette, a mother and a wife, having suspicions that her husband is being unfaithful to her. It is April and she is sitting among her Dutch tulips, lost and knowing not how to grieve. She smiles, confused, looking at her hands covered in warm dirt, then wipes her fingers on her apron and makes herself some herbal tea.

Her husband is, well, a gentleman, but this spring is driving him insane. The smiles, the breasts, the glinting eyes, the floral smells, the bare arms, the women all alert – he cannot help himself. He can’t help but respond to his new secretary.

He is getting dressed in the morning, looking at himself in the mirror – a wide smile. He is ecstatic. He feels no guilt, he is anesthetized with euphoria. He drums his fingers, twiddles his thumbs, twitches his foot. His wife talks to him; he doesn’t hear. Never has he been more awake. Leaving the house, he hits his elbow on the door and doesn’t even feel the pain. Never has he been more asleep and dreaming.

He meets Janine in the park; the music swells. He cannot keep his eyes open, the sky bright with a supernova. In this iridescent atmosphere her hair makes glittery whirlies. Is it she talking or a million doves cooing, or icebergs melting and running happy gurgling brooks on the sidewalk? Warm wind glides its tickly hand under his open-collar shirt and plays with his chest hair. His heart moans to have her; everything moans around him. Birds moan for birds, and plants shamelessly display their sexy aromatic flowers.

He thinks, I may not sleep with her. I have a wife and the twins. My soul awakens for Janine. We read the same books. She looks in my eyes and she knows me. I want to know her. Is this it? Am I arrested for life? Imprisoned in spring when prison is unbearable? What have I done? Misery, misery, woe is me. Come, Janine, and save me. Glide around me, show me your tender flowers and let’s watch the tiny mirrors breaking on the surface of the unfrozen pond. Let’s stroll down the lavender river without our hats and coats; I will tuck my hand inside your shirt. I am in love with you, Janine.

But virtue prevailed, adventure crawled away yowling. Lisette the wife’s loyalty was not offended; Rupert the husband’s integrity remained good as the day he got it. Next spring it is Lisette’s turn to fall in love with a new man. Will those two do it? No telling. But spring does make falling in love acute, both short-lived and all-enveloping. And the signature suffering of spring is that of deprivation, of the impossibility to reach out and lay claim. When everything bursts to life, to suppress living urges is especially unnatural, to enjoy them is especially fulfilling. Hail to spring, everything is born and we also wish to be new.

So. Summer, huh. There is a good procedure for summers. Be not a farmer or an office worker or anyone for whom summer means work. Wear swimming clothes most of the time. Beach, water, sand, navels, sheets. Siesta, water to drink, sheets. Sweat, shower, mosquito spray, margaritas, grilled sole, rocker, laughter, sheets. Be sure to hit those cool striped sheets often, for with all the skin around you won’t be able to resist the biceps, the necks and especially the navels. Navels only get to be seen in the summer, so they really work at it. When they appear, they beckon to be licked in all their glistening glory. Even looking at the navel of an orange puts me in the summer mood.

When under a green frond, one does get playful in one’s mind. It befuddles me how any business manages to get done in the tropics. It tickles me to imagine how a bunch of businesspeople in Miami sit at a conference table and seriously discuss their stuff, all the while picturing themselves naked with one another in various situations not befitting their buttoned-up double-breasted selves. (Butts. Breasts.)

I once happened to sever a very important tie in June. Then I spent the entire summer not understanding what happened, simply because it was hot. Immediately after the bloody break-up I got myself a beau to get intensely physical with. A superb navel he had, by the way. A tan, taut innie, very much like that of an orange. Compounded with the effect of nightly margaritas, the mindless summer lovin’ put me in a state whereby my brain refused to process my meaningful separation in any intelligent way. It can be a good thing, too, but fall must come and set one straight.

Brodsky said he was tired of summer; I know what he meant. While winter tends to the mind, spring tends to the soul and summer tends to the body, autumn tends to the spirit. When fall comes, clarity settles upon us. Poems write themselves, and even the faithless among us feel the higher presence, be it that of God, of nature and its purposeful death or of our eudemons. In autumn, be where the colors turn luxurious against the leaden gray of the sky. Be alone, stroll and ponder, sing under your breath when no one can hear. Touch the bark, smell the leaves, lie down and stare up.

Autumn is the time of knowing, of sorrowful laughter and of longing. When people find each other in the fall, it tends to be for a long time. When people fall in love in autumn, it is with somebody they can talk to. They go to the theatre, the museum, the art gallery together to connect over symbols in their shared reality. That’s why all the new plays and art exhibits open in the fall. Okay, that was perhaps a random connection, but if it were autumn now it would work, because it is a connection.

For those weathering a love disaster, autumn in the best time of the year. The victim is reasonably sad, but sadly reasonable. Her mind is in the best working order it could be under the circumstances, not blighted by the carnality of summer or the drunkenness of spring or the extreme self-pity of winter. Autumn is the logical time for endings. Autumn suggests re-birth. When we are lonely in winter, we are too cold. When we are lonely in summer, we are too hot. When we are lonely in spring, we are too lonely. When we are lonely in the fall, it is a holy experience.

Yi nian si ji is a fusion of routine and change. Let’s observe the dark and the light, feel cold and warm, see green and red, pink and white, wear mittens and bikinis, be sleepy and energetic, drink hot cocoa, scotch, punch and pina-coladas, listen to katydids and snowfall, stand over crocuses and under mistletoe with our loved ones, combine plaid and cashmere with “War and Peace” or linen and seersucker with Danielle Steel. Let’s leave Florida to alligators; they are dying out without their primal swamp. Leave Florida to alligators. Stay temperate with me.

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One thought on “Essays

  1. Wonderful. Indeed!
    “While winter tends to the mind, spring tends to the soul and summer tends to the body, autumn tends to the spirit” – oh that’s superb.
    By the way, I met my wife and fell in love with her in autumn… The read-above has just set in tune within something inside me. Thank you!

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