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Dear friends,

Very cold here today. The snow is mostly melted (we had a light snow on Friday night, it turned to ice and sleet yesterday) but still visible on grass, cars, bushes, so here is a picture by Monet of a wintry snowy day -- in the French republican calendar Jan-Feb is "snow-y month," one not much known in public:


Claude Monet (1840-1926), Effect de neige, soleil couchant

I have a habit of putting poems on the three yahoo lists I moderate (see list at end of blog). Sometimes I've thought of just putting them on one of the blogs just as they appear on the listservs. This Sylvia space seems a good place to do that whenever the impulse takes me. I twill also allow me to sharre favorite pictures from the three Yahoo listservs and their albums.

So, August Kleinzhaler (not exactly a catchy name but perhaps his birth one) writes regularly in the LRB; I find him especially compelling when he does diary entries: he often begins with something very personal (what happened after his mother died and he came to the old family house on the Jersey side of the Hudson River looking out over Manhattan) and moves out from there to make memorable vignettes, stories, utterances I like to underline, wishing I could remember them -- like Samuel Johson. This following poem seems to me 18th century in feel: a poem written on a tiny daily incident in plain style, addressed to a close friend (or loved family member), and made to apply out to large social, psychological, finally poltical questions.

Lo Mein

You were still only a child,
I, 19, the age of your eldest boy now.
It was the evening of the Marijuana Caper
your eyes first met mine at the China Chalet;
I believe it would have been spring,
early, but days clearly lengthening,
a patch ofice maybe here or there,
pussy willow catkins ...
We nearly bought it twice that evening,
my father swerving left and right,
Mother, beside him, silent, stiff with fright.
He was mad at something.
Mad, of course at life, but mad:
only very occasionally, and on this occasion.
They'd dose a man like that these days,
or try. He'd never have stood for it,
nor any of us, who knew the storm he sailed in
and trembled to be on board with him, but still ...
Your hair was black, or nearly so,
and long for a child's, partway down your back.
Your eyes dark, as well, roving, restless,
then, as now, taking in the busy room, .
as you fitfully dug through your pile of lo rnein.
We hadn't planned to get him stoned.
Improvisation was a habit in that household.
He insisted we put it in his pipe,
to prove that he was right, getting high
was humbug, a notion fools entertain.
Mother hid in the kitchen, out of sight.
It was a long-ish drive for us of a Sunday,
but not so long as it ordinarily might have been.
His frenzy, that's what would have caught your eye,
the way he went after it, like a dog at a carcass,
scowling over his left shoulder, then his right,
dare a stranger approach to share or take away
the wonton crisps or dumplings, beef
with scallions, shredded pork, whatever floated by­ --
New Jersey Chinese fare of the day.
It would have thrilled, or frightened, a child
to behold an adult at table quite so wild.
40 years ago, 40 years ...
You don't remember all that, do you?
How could you? I'm making it up,
the two of us both there at the sarne time.
It might easily have been true.
If! made it up it's because it pleases me to.
As you please me, poking through your lo mein,
raising your head nervously to take in the room,
me, and what's doing with the rain.

*********
Perhaps to that same sister he had to divide and sell the old house with (she lives a very conventional life and he does not).

Tuesday for Women Writers through the Ages, Wednesday for Eighteenth Century Worlds, and Sunday for Trollope19thCStudies. On Fridays I try to keep up my foremother poet postings to Wompo, which I've begun to make blogs for in my Reveries under the Sign of Austen Two, and Ellen and Jim have a blog, two. Since I've been doing some of these a long while now, I've run out of 19th century poets I know or like, ditto women poets I know and like sufficiently really (my expertise is the long 18th century) to write foremother poet discourses on, but I still keep up sharing any poem which has moved me on Trollope and any poem by a woman on Wompo.

Sylvia

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