Tuesday, May 30, 2023

The Glass Eye That Stares at Me in Amazement from the Bronze Mantel

L found five must paint sites in Allegeny and Garrett Counties for her week-long plein air competition: the overlook top of Town Hill on Scenic 40 near Flintstone, an abandoned silk factory in Lonaconing, an abandoned paper mill in Luke, along the Savage River near Avinton and, because I made a wrong turn and accidentally turned around there, at the ridge line of Big Savage Mountain, windmills, giant, up close. 

West Augusta be beautiful. Cumberland is shriekingly ghost town gorgeous. Freaking goth gorgeous. Effing Depression gorgeous. The house L will stay in, amazing, we could buy two and a half of them there selling our Cape Cod here, lordy. Sunday's blaze, Long Pond Trail, Green Ridge State Forest:

No report from the breakfast lounge of the Frostburg Quality Inn, I'd forgot how much I hate staying in hotels, we Maine and Michigan in houses, today in my complicity. Besides the orange blazed trail, we hiked trails blazed sky blue, blue blue, white, and red. I fill with as much spiritual wonder over tree blazes as I do over road route signage, old-timers here can vouch. Hey, I seem to be able to write again but all I want to write about is my painting, so no surprise that I paint blazes, I just typed the abridged version why

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John Ashbery

Fifty years have passed
since I started living in these dark towns
I was telling you about.
Well, not much has changed. I still can't figure out
how to get from the post office to the swings in the park.
Apple trees blossom in the cold, not from conviction,
and my hair is the color of dandelion fluff.

Suppose this poem were about you - would you
put in the things I've carefully left out:
descriptions of pain, and sex, and how shiftily
people behave toward each other? Naw, that's
all in some book it seems. For you
I've saved the descriptions of chicken sandwiches,
and the glass eye that stares at me in amazement
from the bronze mantel, and will never be appeased.


  1. As any bag of protoplasm yearning for sentience will tell you, I'm sorry that Amis passed away, died, is dead currently, no more yearning for sentience. But I didn't like his writing for a similar reason (take cover, here it comes) I don't like Updike's. It was too infra dig, baby; it was too I-alone-can-know-the-troubles-I've-seen kind of self-referential, I-named-him-Rabbit, because it's supposed to be Babbit; geddit? Anyway, Amis seemed bored with just about everything, and that's not the lens through which I want to see the world translated.

    1. Once upon a time I read every new Updike (and have first editions to prove it, or at least prove I bought them) in part cause I felt I was supposed to and was eager to comply (ditto Roth), in part because the guy can write an excellent sentence in English and has ear for dialogue, in part because Janice's drunken drowning of her and Rabbit's baby devastated me the first time I read it enough that I read it 60 years ago and mention it in a blog testament, though I can't imagine ever reading again not for your dislike (which I understand) but because they same reason some old favorite bands (e.g. Talking Heads) don't work anymore: antiques; I never need to hear or read again

      I read and loved London Fields then never liked anything else Amis wrote after I failed the first one or two post London Fields. Americans are better at English fiction and poetry than the English

    2. 40 years ago, my apologies.

  2. After setting aside my smartassedry, I have to admit also feeling I was supposed to read Updike. I tapered off over time, and the Janice episode seemed shocking because it was (for me) unexpected. I'd seen some unexpected things horrific for real, but I was as shocked as if it had been real. Which is a bit of a testament to Updike, I guess. Always felt Roth was more accessible -- more a Salinger in his narrative; Updike was closer to Bellow in my mind's ear, the mind that reads.

  3. i was a bookish child, and bought science fiction novels with my allowance when i was 12, until my parents told me not to waste my money on such foolish things

    and then i bought another one, by my then-favorite novelist - robert a. h_______ - and because of my defiance i was punished by my allowance being suspended for a time

    i found a work-around, however - at that time, in 7th grade, i was being given the price of the school lunch each day - thirty cents - this was 1959 - but the lunchroom also sold tuna fish sandwiches, for a dime - so i managed to divert a dollar a week to my pocket even while my recreational spending was supposedly on hiatus - who knows if it was good or bad?

    as they say, life is full of sorrow, and over too soon