Sunday, April 11, 2010

Dr. Zhivago

In this film I'm not quite dead but I'm just as good as because I'm a snowman; & besides she's wearing a wool cap, which gets my attention. There was something, too, about catching a train, & the train meantime was inching up the elevator shaft or somewhere else it's snowing like crazy & in the Cyrillic alphabet or, as you might guess, a bit effervescently like this string of white Xmas lights exploding into still photos of her 93% naked. I've said that before. It's not like a string of white Xmas lights exploding into still photos of her 93% naked, it's like a flurry of eyeballs each staring fixedly behind a monocle. I told her it's 7:23 in Berlin & there are few poems that could compare with the goldfinches singing in her underthings or some other French lyrical malarkey about jewelry, rhododendrons & grecian ruins undergoing a blizzard; but as desperately as I was looking for an orthodox church & a Pennsylvania Dutch quilt with complex memories of her pajamas, just then I was somewhere else; & who doesn't understand that desperate sense of being displaced when someone passes the borscht through the clouds, through the Bolsheviks in their rabbit-fur hats & through that piquant aroma of copulation that accompanies every good meal, & all the while you're thinking of making it like souls in bliss in a house full of 16 tons of snowdrifts: though to be honest you're utter strangers, not to mention you're a snowman. But I told her it's 9:30 a.m. in Moscow & I need to get inside. There were a few other non-sequitors, for instance my moustache becoming the 1 sentence of a love letter that'll penetrate the centuries like a passenger train, its sleeper cars awash in snowstorms— but it really wasn't like a flurry of eyeballs each staring fixedly behind a monocle, it was like a seasick dictionary. Words, words, words. Right now it's hard to say why I'm thinking so much about her amidst the dead sockeye salmon gillcovers & the brokendown zambonis & the crumpled Personals section & the baggy Russian monsters. It's hard to say anything. That's what winter means, folks. The world is flat & so is this beach. Skating across the Pacific. Skating across the Pacific we fall in love & then through the black ice thousands of miles west of Waikiki. Under the dense & frozen waves you could see boxes of chocolates that sailors have been tossing overboard since time immemorial. I was about 7 then & drowning in the rural town pool's black water; at the bottom was a no-wax ice rink linoleum floor chock full of figure skates cutting her silhouette into a map of upstate NY's unhappy arthritic finger lakes, & there I was becoming a balalaika. Thank god it didn't hurt, & on top of that, here I was, if not dead as a doorknocker, then a snowman at least laying with her under a ton of salt & beach balls & dog sleds. If this
ain't love, what is it? Nonetheless, I'm inundated with realists. Nonetheless, the revolution is tramping on snowshoes towards the Ice Palace. At last we have reached that delicious place where everything makes sense, but here amidst the Kleenex & the tortured teeth & the blowfish & the hypothermic gloves, who can tell who actually had a mind of winter? Good-night, my one-&-only, I'm floating away from your lovely wool face through the ice & through the regions of space where there isn't an awful lot of matter, just a few mongrel stars & a tavern with Rhinegold on tap. When next we meet I’ll practically be an iceberg.

Jack Hayes
© 1990-2010


Mairi said...

This is like a snowball rolling downhill, accreting, collecting, incorporating everything in its path. Where Steven's imagery is spare and barren and alienated this is cluttered connected to almost everything. Where Steven's narrator comes to a 'bare place'the narrator here arrives at the delicious place where everything makes sense. Stevens narrator is pared down to the nothing that is and isn't there while here the snowball gathers so much to itself that by the next time we see him, he predicts he'll be an iceburg. He does recognise though, that the wealth of stuff and activity disguises the alienation and despair of those around him, making it impossible to tell who actually has 'a mind of winter.'
The prose poem is a relatively new form for me, and not one I really understand yet. This one, without resorting to Steven's single long sentence rolling from verse to verse, has the same sense of hurrying the reader through a landscape - a dreamscape in this case. It feels slightly surreal, as dreams inevitably do, in sharp contrast to Steven's precise clarity. Very interesting. I'm going to go look the form up, and see what I can find out about it, especially as an older reader of mine claimed that what I really wrote was prose in verse format.

willow said...

What a wild and wonderful trip this was. Much like a collage chocked full of interesting bits of delicious tidbits. Trains, snow, Russia, letters, knew I would love this one, John!

John Hayes said...

Hi Mairi & Willow

Mairi: Thanks for the fantastic reading--that's so much appreciated. In this case, I was balancing thoughts about Stevens with thoughts about the film & a number of biographical associations. As far as prose poems go, I love the form, but other than the general observation that it involves a verbal density that's foreign to standard prose writing, I'm afraid my most clear definition of the form is, I know one when I see it.

Willow: Thanks! Yes, it does make sense you'd like this one. Part of it was especially inspired by the scene in which Shariff is in a mansion filled with snow.

Dianne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dianne said...

glad I found this site, I follow the banjo and now the wine and roses.

i love the links here with the water and the ice, nice thread.

John Hayes said...

Hi Dianne: So glad you like this one, & thanks for following here!