Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Long Self-Indulgence

The Movie Has No Ads, But Patriotic Newsreels

This is another of those times, the ones about sleep.
Long spells, centered on lying awake, my fingers
pretending they have sundown syndrome, plucking
at the covers like bare-headed birds, guineas,
without their clown makeup, après le show.
Eyes trying to focus on shadow ceiling and the past,
I write lines of witty dialog for scenes everyone
but me has forgotten, and even the author,
whoever, whatever, has scrunched and lobbed
high arching across the room into the tin can.

I’m massaging my hands turn, turn about,
kneading the thumbs’ palm pads, working up
each finger. The working hand is so sure, knowing
exactly where to find pain, warming the joints.
Because the patient is fragile and mute and dry,
it relishes the attention in silence.  When I was young

I gave my mother back rubs.  My small hands learned
how to press her fat back, deeply enough to find
the bundled muscles, but spreading my fingertips
like goose feet to diffuse force that took all my weight.
I walked her back with my fingers and fists, glad
for a while to be of use, but soon ready to go back to my book.
Rarely, I rub my husband’s back,
though in the past there were those men
for whom my hands gave up reading.

I am a woman who has known porches.
Front porch, back porch, side;
sitting, rocking, swinging porches.
I have seen, but never slept on,
sleeping porches, yet, I have never
strolled on a veranda, all long vowels
and liquid glow of lady perspiration,
and the silver chink of ice and good glass.

I’d like to be the sort
who’d use the word “veranda”
not pausing before or after the honey
caramel black walnut crème brûlé of it,
just “veranda”. I wonder if I left them there,
I’d say, on the veranda; forgetting
that my glasses were pushed up, to perch
on the top of my head. I’d wonder aloud
to some begonia or jade, and wander off,
chewing on my hair. But when I stepped out,
and the screen slapped shut, there’d be
that blur ahead, against low clouds, of
something circling west and south, between
the pine and the peeling gray green sycamore,
and I’d pull my glasses down to see,
because need knows where the incidentals are.

Heaven has a veranda, and pretty summer dresses
with sandals, and occasionally, polished toenails.
You see it in the magazines that young women read
while they wait to marry in white, with roses.

The world has grown gardens of white flower women
out of these glossy paged catalogs of ideals.
There would seem to be so many miles of satin,
and laces and such clouds of tulle you’d think
there’d have to be, in every house, a room
for nothing but the wedding dress alone.
the splendid white dress.
I was married in white, like a virgin, but cotton.
Wanted a symbol of the white dress,
without its fuss and ritual. Half-stoned, and barefoot,
I was still raised to yearn to be the bride
of the modern kitchen. With all my hippie heart,
I craved red lipstick.

Do you think to ask your mother what she had wanted from life?
Whatever Mama wanted, I don’t think she got it.

If you need to research these things, this poem’s sources,
look at wedding albums. Spread a cross section of open
white around you on the floor, and cross-legged, search
the pages, observing the invisible lines of force there,
between the brides and their grooms. They could be separated
by pages of dressing and garters and cakes in preparation,
but they are aware of one another; you can feel tension
through the gloss and semi-matte and years.
They are bound-together.

In my parent’s picture, the two, civilian in sunday dress,
are smiling and warmly happy. But do you see any bond?

It may be I’m inventing a sorrow that wasn’t there, because
it’s too late to cast myself into the cocktail party gaiety.
I am such a child of imagination gone crackers, there we are,
all of us in the little black dress. You will have seen it
a sheath sketch in New Yorker cartoons. I’ve never
mixed elegantly. Perhaps that’s why I’m reinventing
the whole caboodle of afterlife. We will all be milling
and witty, and charmingly sloshed and slender,
and rich. I’ll be there, and you. She won’t. She”ll spend
her eternity in one long Republican fund raiser.

Of course, only the omnidirectional god
can tell one party from the other. Heaven

also has a thirties movie supper club, with diamonds,
bias-cut satin, and full orchestra. I get to sing
before I stroll down the veranda ( see how neatly
I worked that in) and into the moon garden, where
all the plants are night-blooming, and densely
fragrant lures for moths and lovers. Heaven
has multitudes of gardens, gardens galore, some
only a surrounding for one swath of lavender, with
a broad bench and a pebble path. Lavender oils
cling to your hands, rub your face and it becomes

There is a lake, an Andy Griffith lake with a fishing pier,
a diner; black-waxed Harleys with studded saddle bags;
long, streamlined trains with linked miles of private rooms,
and a sassy staff. Heaven has its wage slaves, who
relish their bondage with wise cracks, and plots–
hilariously intricate–for the overthrow of something unimportant.
Heaven is made of subplots and subtexts.
Drop-the-book funny, it has slow, lingeringly wordy rich
pages that run on into chapters for dozing into,
leaving life with an endearing drool,
because life can’t just end.

 - Barbara Young

(Barbara Young is a writer who makes her life, home and art in and around Nashville, Tennessee. The Long, Self-Indulgence first appeared within the pages of the Briarcat. The Bar None Group thanks Barbara for allowing us to peruse her writings on the Briarcat and The Long, Self-Indulgence was chosen from the many fine poems that Barbara has composed to share with our readers.)

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