Mainspring and Fall

A unplanned collaboration via email:

MICHAEL, are you grieving
Over Apple Watch not shipping?
This bright thing of man you
With your old heart care for, can you?
Ah, as the year grows older
That lack will make you smolder
By and by. And pout. And sigh
As, watchless, weeks and months go by,
And so you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, Cohen, the name:
False watch springs are the same.
Nor face had, no nor hands, expressed
What Mickey heard, Minnie guessed:
It is the pause man was born for,
It is Apple Watch you mourn for.


Windy Weekend

The windows shiver, palm fronds rattle,
A hot wind blows from a graveyard somewhere.
Ana returns, her saintly eyes burning,
Bearing a nervous and dusty despair.

Beowulf: The monster and the cricket

I like Tolkien and I like Anglo-Saxon poetry. So, when a friend sent me a link to a New Yorker piece by dance critic Joan Acocello, titled “Slaying Monsters,” I clicked.

Then I had to scrape the stupid from my retinas.

Selected quotes from this farrago and my notes on them follow:

* On Beowulf’s lack of a “real psychology”: “Unlike Anna Karenina or Huckleberry Finn, [Beowulf] is not a filter, a point of view, standing between us and his world.” Maybe because Beowulf is NOT A FUCKING 19th CENTURY NOVEL!!

* On Grendel’s piteousness: “Tolkien describes how, after the fight with Beowulf, Grendel, ‘sick at heart,’ dragged himself home, ‘bleeding out his life.’” Because Tolkien meant the passage to…oh, wait, he only translated it.

* On Grendel’s childlike nature: “One reason Grendel seems childlike is that he has a mother.” Because everyone with a mother is childlike. Like George Clooney, and Hitler.

* On the battle between Beowulf and Grendel’s mother: “It also shows a man killing a woman.” That fucking sexist pig, Beowulf, and his misogynist collaborator, Tolkien!!

* On the poem’s treatment of time: “As the time planes collide, spoilers proliferate.” Which must have really affected the poem’s box-office receipts.

* On Anglo-Saxon: “If you don’t know German, it doesn’t sound like anything at all.” Your knowledge of Dutch won’t help you, either, you fools! And don’t even talk to me about Frisian!

* On the duties of being a professor: “That is why Tolkien had a job: at Oxford, for decades, he taught the first half of ‘Beowulf.’” Wanted: professor of Anglo-Saxon. Must know first half of English epic, be comfortable wearing burnt cotton.

* On Heaney’s translation compared to Tolkien’s: “Heaney, to his credit, took responsibility for this poem, and turned it into something that regular people would want to read, and enjoy.” Irregular people read something else while trying to coax a bowel movement.

* On Tolkien’s interest in the poem: “Like Beowulf, Tolkien was an orphan.” After the age of 12; before that he was only half-an-orphan, or an orphan-let.

A Poem

I have a big problem:
It’s that I’m a Jew—
A Jew that loves bacon
And sausages too!

And butterfly shrimp,
And scallops in butter,
And a bacon cheeseburger
Makes my heart go aflutter!

I’m my rabbi’s despair,
And my family’s shame —
But if treyf is so tasty,
Should I get the blame?

A short pantoum inspired by the opening line of “Gravity’s Rainbow”

A screaming comes across the sky.
A sound we haven’t heard before:
A distant wailing thin and high,
It drops into a dreadful roar.

A sound we haven’t heard before,
To freeze the blood within our veins
It drops into a dreadful roar:
The cries of countless fears and pains.

To freeze the blood within our veins,
A distant wailing thin and high—
The cries of countless fears and pains—
A-screaming, comes across the sky.