Monday, September 18, 2006

the yellow bicycle

in high school, a friend gave me a copy of this poem in a holiday card. I'd forgotten about it until now—something just made me think of it.

Robert Hass
The Yellow Bicycle

The woman I love is greedy,
but she refuses greed.
She walks so straightly.
When I ask her what she wants,
she says, "A yellow bicycle."

Sun, sunflower,
coltsfoot on the roadside,
a goldfinch, the sign
that says Yield, her hair,
cat's eyes, his hunger
and a yellow bicycle.

Once, when they had made love in the middle of the night and it was very sweet, they decided they were hungry, so they got up, got dressed, and drove downtown to an all-night donut shop. Chicano kids lounged outside, a few drunks, and one black man selling dope. Just at the entrance there was an old woman in a thin floral print dress. She was barefoot. Her face was covered with sores and dry peeling skin. The sores looked like raisins and her skin was the dry yellow of a parchment lampshade ravaged by light and tossed away. They thought she must have been hungry and, coming out again with a white paper bag full of hot rolls, they stopped to offer her one. She looked at them out of her small eyes, bewildered, and shook her head for a little while, and said very kindly, "No."

Her song to the yellow bicycle:
The boats on the bay
have nothing on you,
my swan, my sleek one!

Friday, September 01, 2006

Oh, the Noise

So I've mentioned, I'm sure, the never-ended construction site surrounding my house. On 2 sides of the lot they are building really ugly townhouses and two small single-family houses. They have been building these buildings for close on 2 years now, and we're all getting tired of it. The whole neighborhood, really. The site's a mess, they're mucking up our yard, they're noisy, they're breaking code by working late and on Sundays, but yet they still don't make much progress. They leave the buildings open, the foundations aren't sealed and have got to be a mold farm by now.

It used to be I would leave home in the morning to the blessed quiet of my nice, orderly workplace, in the serene, contemporary building, designed by the venerable I.M. Pei, where I work.

Now, that has ended. They're building a new conference room on my floor, and a new kitchen/common room on the 3rd floor, and damn is it noisy. Also, they're painting now so add to the noise the fumes of the paint and other fun poisonous chemicals. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm all about progress. Ok, I'm not really, but I try to be flexible. I think if it was quiet at home I wouldn't mind the noise here, and vice versa. But as it stands I am jumping up and down in anticipation of 2 nights and 2.5 days on the Vineyard, where it will be very, very quiet, except for Sunday when Shellac are playing.

So the following is a poem about a religious vocation, but I just keep thinking about the first lines, whenever there is a particularly loud crash or bang at home or at work.

Gerard Manley Hopkins
The Habit of Perfection

ELECTED Silence, sing to me
And beat upon my whorlèd ear,
Pipe me to pastures still and be
The music that I care to hear.

Shape nothing, lips; be lovely-dumb:
It is the shut, the curfew sent
From there where all surrenders come
Which only makes you eloquent.

Be shellèd, eyes, with double dark
And find the uncreated light:
This ruck and reel which you remark
Coils, keeps, and teases simple sight.

Palate, the hutch of tasty lust,
Desire not to be rinsed with wine:
The can must be so sweet, the crust
So fresh that come in fasts divine!

Nostrils, your careless breath that spend
Upon the stir and keep of pride,
What relish shall the censers send
Along the sanctuary side!

O feel-of-primrose hands, O feet
That want the yield of plushy sward,
But you shall walk the golden street
And you unhouse and house the Lord.

And, Poverty, be thou the bride
And now the marriage feast begun,
And lily-coloured clothes provide
Your spouse not laboured-at nor spun.

—Gerard Manley Hopkins