For several weeks now I've had an unopened but very old copy of Frank O'Hara's Meditations in an Emergency. I borrowed it from work because I saw again the episode of Mad Men when Don Draper asks a stranger in a bar about it. I enjoy it in movies and films when a stranger in bar imparts information that moves the character to do something; it's probably why I so enjoyed Looking for Mr. Goodbar. Anyway, it has sat on my living room table for weeks and weeks because I am in the habit of a short attention span and very little time simultaneously along with the desire to remain a well read individual, a well watcher of films, a well listener of music. Facebook, Twitter and texting has melted away key parts of me and lately, I'm looking to be a bit more solid. (No, not like that.)
So I finally got around to opening this ancient edition. It is entirely possible this is a first edition; it certainly smells like one. The binding is breaking but the thinness of the volume keeps it together. Anyway, amidst the chaos of my recent days Mr. O'Hara's words have managed to reach across half a century and they have given me pause. It is what I used to experience daily when my attention branched out and spanned longer. I loved having this respite from the din of clickety clack and one word responses and the ease with which I can shrink away from actually thinking about much of anything. I just thought I'd share my favorite part so far. It is variation 2 from the poem Two Variations.
I'm glad that the rock is heavy
and that it feels all right in my heart
like an eye in a pot of humus.
Let's write long letters on grand themes,
fish sandwiches, egg sandwiches and cheese;
or travelling in Mexico, Italy and Australia.
I eat a lot so I won't get drunk and then
I drink a lot so I'll feel excited
and then I've gone away I don't know where
or with whom and can't remember whom from
except that I'm back with my paper bag
and next time my face won't come with me.
Something about that particular stanza...I don't know what it is exactly but I don't think I want to know. I guess I just want to read it over and over again for a little while.
It seems apt that I finally opened this book on a day when I found out an old (and I mean old) professor had passed on. Aside from that whole hilarious/creepy story (the man claimed to have bedded Mae West...I told you he was old), it reminded me of a state of mind I used to inhabit. Amazing how sometimes the news of the end of someone's life can be a footnote to another, bigger thought. Well, maybe not amazing. Interesting at least.