Friday, October 9, 2009

I have never written a poem about New York City.

Can one write poems in a Greyhound bus? I hope so. Prose seems rather more unlikely, unless I were in a confessional mood.

Of course I might be in a confessional mood. Being in Brooklyn is always like being twenty years old again.

I am thinking of walking up to the botanic gardens, where I've never been in the autumn. Have the trees been planted to encourage elegant decaying leaf patterns on the grass?

My father's Dutch ancestors once owned and farmed a large tract of Brooklyn. Unfortunately, they sold it.

Eventually Walt Whitman's family moved in. As Walt says, "I too lived, Brooklyn of ample hills was mine."

The hill in Park Slope is ample. The mothers have to hold tight to the baby strollers.

At the top of the hill is Prospect Park. At the bottom of the hill is the Home Depot. I have never seen them mingle.

My friend Ray lives closer to the bottom of the hill. His street is sleazier than some streets but not the sleaziest.

The exhaust fan from the Peruvian restaurant next door makes his bathroom smell like fried chicken. I have eaten that fried chicken, and it's pretty good.

I never cook anything in Brooklyn because Ray's kitchen is nasty. According to Walt, "Appearances, now or henceforth, indicate what you are!"

But Thoreau complains, "By his heartiness & broad generalities he puts me into a liberal frame of mind prepared to see wonders--as it were sets me upon a hill or in the midst of a plain--stirs me up well, and then--throws in a thousand of brick."

When Bronson Alcott visited Brooklyn, Walt Whitman's mother cooked a roast for him, but he wouldn't eat it. The Whitmans were surprised. They had never heard of vegetarians before.

Meanwhile, Thoreau helped himself to cake from the oven without asking.

According to Walt, "Thoreau's great fault was disdain: . . . [an] inability to appreciate the common life."

He liked cake, however. And I, too, have eaten cake in Brooklyn.


charlotte gordon said...

Ok, I am saying what I always say to you. I loved this post. particularly the last line, that Thoreau liked cake. I like picturing these people swarming into the whitman kitchen.

Anonymous said...

Of your whole reading list that's posted, I'm afraid the only ones I've read from start to finish are Coleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Shakespeare's Sonnets.

However, I will continue to think of myself as a civilized, and even educated, person anyway. Had I not read a single one, maybe I'd reconsider :-)


Dawn Potter said...

Well, if you're going to choose anything to read from start to finish, "The Rime" and the sonnets certainly seem like ideal choices! And seeing as I barely passed "Astronomy for Idiots" at Haverford, I think we can safely say you're civilized and educated in ways I can't even begin to comprehend. Plus, you get to look through those big telescopes. Everyone is jealous of that.