Friday, April 14, 2006


Upstairs, the dogs are curled in their own beds and my wife is clutching the comforter as she twitches her eyes in her own ineffable dreams. I’m sitting here on the sofa, half-listening to The Gospel of Judas and half-distracted by the thoughts of spring cleaning and taxes.

It’s just past midnight on Good Friday. Taxes are due on Saturday. I find this coincidence of the calendar oddly pleasing. Just as many in the country finally can succumb to their Lenten temptations, a government deadline looms. And then, on the next day, those who are so inclined can celebrate a seminal aspect of Christian faith—the resurrection.

Since it is Easter weekend, a brief discussion of the sprung rhythms of Gerard Manley Hopkins or the vivid visions of William Blake or even the heart-rending doubt of Thomas Hardy might make sense, but most of my library is still boxed in the basement. Worse, what could I say that would not be boring or redundant?

Instead, I’ll tell you about a brief conversation in a bar with a dear friend. It was my senior year of college, and being of a certain age and of a certain disposition, I was blustering prophetic poppycock about my place in the canon of 21st-century American poetry. In retrospect, I had probably had too much coffee.

Nevertheless, I sat in that bar, nursing a beer while she poured another cup from the pitcher we shared. We had not spoken for weeks, which seemed an eternity in those days, so the conversation lolled along, ranging from topic to topic. We spoke of Janis Joplin, whose “Me and Bobby McGee” played again and again on the dive’s jukebox. We spoke of classes and our mutual friends, who we leaned on as though they were family, and of course, we spoke of writing. Now, almost 10 years later, I can’t remember most of what was said, and I strongly suspect that if I did remember any of my words I’d be too ashamed to recreate them here. I do, however, recall the echo of one phrase.

She told me that (somehow) I’d taught her that life is a kind of poetry. Even now I hesitate to take any credit for such an insight. But I do think that she is right. Life, with its bureaucracy of emotions, is an epic poem that even Virgil couldn’t replicate. And conversely, the minutiae of our lives is the earth from which poetry flowers. So, take a moment.


Now imagine a psalm—dripping with whatever surreal images would delight you most—to the oracular columns, recondite calculations, and hermetic instructions of the tax code.


Anonymous me said...

I went up to Providence to take precepts and for the Buddha's birthday, recently. We celebrated on April Fool's day.

9:42 AM  

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