Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Thus far, my success of the day is figuring out why our house is filled with mosquitoes. (Answer: Ruckus the cat's window-screen vandalism.) Although the hour is still early, the weather is sultry. A robin is singing furiously, and a cicada is emitting that long buzz-burring, Doppler-effect, midsummer rattle that I can't figure out how to describe in words. Bread is rising; towels are laundering; Tom is orchestrating power-tool noises in his shop. A log truck rumbles down the road.

I sat at a soccer game yesterday evening and read May Swenson's "Snow in New York" while deerflies circled my head and my son's team reenacted the Brazil side of the Brazil-Germany World Cup game. Swenson wrote,
I went to Riker's to blow my nose
in a napkin and drink coffee for its steam. Two rows
of belts came and went from the kitchen, modeling scrambled
eggs, corn muffins, bleeding triangles of pie.
Tubs of dirty dishes slid by.
Outside the fogged window black bulking people stumbled
cursing the good-for-nothing whiteness. I thought 
of Rilke, having read how he wrote
to Princess Marie von Thurn und Taxis, saying, "The idea haunts me--
it keeps on calling--I must make a poem for Nijinski
that could be, so to say, swallowed and then danced."
and I thought about Rilke, who was writing yet another letter: did he do nothing but write letters? And then I thought about what Swenson also thought about--the name Nijinksi, "that odd name with three dots / over the iji"--which reminded me of an interview I listened to in the car the other day, while I was driving to Skowhegan to pick up my new glasses. It was an interview with painter Jamie Wyeth, who was talking about how often he had painted Nureyev. At first the dancer hadn't wanted to bother letting this callow youth paint him, but eventually he figured out that the callow youth was a Wyeth and changed his mind. Yet as he sat in Warhol's Factory and allowed himself to be replicated, he would occasionally glance over at the young painter's work and remark, "My foot is far more beautiful than that."

"Je suit chat avec le coeur," wrote Nijinsky, "Coeur mon coeur mon coeur est chat." He was mad but the syllables sang. He wrote, I think, more beautifully than Gertrude Stein, but he had no irony.

"Snow in New York," wrote Swenson, "is like poetry, or clothes made of roses. / Who needs it, what can you build with snow, who can you feed?"


Maureen said...

I saw Nureyev danced twice: once at the height of his talent, the last time (at the Kennedy Center) when he had lost it. And yet he was mesmerizing, and he knew it. He had a supreme ego. It helped him survive.

I've also see Jamie Wyeth's paintings of the dancer. I think Nureyev was at least a bit correct in his assessment.

Dawn Potter said...

Apparently there's a Wyeth retrospective at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts that includes a number of his Nureyev portraits, some done since the dancer's death. I find it intriguing that Wyeth couldn't get that body out of his mind.