Monday, January 26, 2015

The Wayward Mind Basks in Some Yucatan of Its Own Making

Snow songs, jeebus, but they are stuck in my head and will not leave until I plunge this post. Breaking kayfabe - one crucial motivation for this shitty blog is my need to rid myself of one new iteration of standard obsessions for the next, and while I love that Dead song (and how did I not have a Grateful Dead tag until this post?) I need it gone. Also, I've friends and readers in the direct path of the worst blizzard ever since the last and until the next, neener, it missed me, consider this taunting. Hope your fun-pantry is full!


Anthony Hecht

Here in this bleak city of Rochester,
Where there are twenty-seven words for "snow,"
Not all of them polite, the wayward mind
Basks in some Yucatan of its own making,
Some coppery, sleek lagoon, or cinnamon island
Alive with lemon tints and burnished natives,

And O that we were there. But here the natives
Of this grey, sunless city of Rochester
Have sown whole mines of salt about their land
(Bare ruined Carthage that it is) while snow
Comes down as if The Flood were in the making.
Yet on that ocean Marvell called the mind

An ark sets forth which is itself the mind,
Bound for some pungent green, some shore whose natives
Blend coriander, cayenne, mint in making
Roasts that would gladden the Earl of Rochester
With sinfulness, and melt a polar snow.
It might be well to remember that an island

Was a blessed haven once, more than an island,
The grand, utopian dream of a noble mind.
In that kind climate the mere thought of snow
Was but a wedding cake; the youthful natives,
Unable to conceive of Rochester,
Made love, and were acrobatic in the making.

Dream as we may, there is far more to making
Do than some wistful reverie of an island,
Especially now when hope lies with the Rochester
Gas and Electric Co., which doesn't mind
Such profitable weather, while the natives
Sink, like Pompeians, under a world of snow.

The one thing indisputable here is snow,
The single verity of heaven's making,
Deeply indifferent to the dreams of the natives,
And the torn hoarding-posters of some island.
Under our igloo skies the frozen mind
Holds to one truth: it is grey, and called Rochester.

No island fantasy survives Rochester,
Where to the natives destiny is snow
That is neither to our mind nor of our making.


  1. Which book are you reading? Housekeeping or Home? In any event, if this is your first Robinson novel, you'd have best started with Gilead.

    1. Is Gilead the first of the trilogy? I thought Housekeeping was - that's the one I started.

      Will set aside, try again with Gilead in a few months.

    2. The trilogy is Gilead, Home, and the recently published Lila (have yet to read it; my wife has and loved it). I would read them in the order of publication, Gilead first. Housekeeping is separate from the Ames trilogy.

  2. I am suffering from a painful series of earworms, none of which I will share (one of them, that lasted three days and is just clearing up, I hope, involves a Swedish pop band from the 1970s and actually helped to wreck my sleep last night, and godammit it's coming back) because I'm just not that fucking mean. I know, I'm disappointed that I'm not that fucking mean, too. I would be grateful if one of them was "Cold Rain and Snow."

    1. Your first wife'ws box of 45s, Waterloo. I couldn't escape if I wanted too. Also too, Strawberry Letter 23, which is still a great song.

    2. "Dancing Queen" does it to me every time!

    3. I enjoyed Housekeeping. Gilead—my father, the 85 year old Baptist minister, enjoyed it (you'll see why); I, not as much as Housekeeping. Yes, re the trilogy.

      And hey! thanks for the bump & link. I suspect RD will be grateful as well. If my interview gives you a preview, and that preview draws you in, then good! Indie, all the way!