Poetry Challenge, Day Four: Summer Sunday

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There’s nothing original about finding Sundays vaguely depressing. Lots of people know what I’m talking about.

There was a time years ago when I loved someone who didn’t love me back. It was awful. His sister thought I was excellent, though. You’re like a Friday morning! she would say, meaning I carried a sense that life was a constant state of happy anticipation. (A completely inaccurate assessment, but not one with which I was likely to quibble.)

I don’t know whether weekends are always better in anticipation; many of them actually have excellent content throughout. But Sunday! Quiet streets, boredom, and the impending prospect of the return to responsibility. It’s like the last day of vacation every single week.

Sunday has a way of making another life, any other life, preferable to the dull, boring, blah, tedious workaday existence that is normal adulthood.

Even when your life is, in reality, perfectly lovely all seven days of the week. Continue reading

Poetry Challenge, Day Three: For My Sister Judy

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I’ve spoken of my eldest sister here before, how when she came to visit me one time in Austin we found ourselves weeding out by the fence. She was gloveless and I tried to tell her something about fire ants. I like to feel what I’m doing, she said, and went on plunging her bare hands into the hardscrabble dirt. Continue reading

Poetry Challenge, Day Two: The Meanings of Things

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I’ve been re-reading Andrew Wallace-Hadrill’s Houses and Society in Pompeii and Herculaneum. This sounds kind of precious, I agree; but as you know if you have read my posts from the Spring of 2013, my visit to Pompeii had a profound impact on me. I like reading about the history of those places that were erased by Vesuvius.

However, apart from complaining about living in a suburban neighborhood defined by residences with things like garage facades, I have too often failed to give sufficient thought to what possessions mean.

And so to go back in history.

It’s good to think about the significance of the everyday in a culture completely removed from my own absorption in tangled earbuds, stupid things I’ve posted on voat, and the possible whereabouts of the remote for the TV in the front room. (Tracy, if you are reading this please ask the boys where they might have placed it or removed it to. Check the bag with their damp swimsuits.)

Where the ancient Romans had front doors that were thrown open every morning to allow passers-by a glimpse of the homeowners’ worldly goods and, by extension, his position in society, I live in a place where garage doors open on late-model SUV’s, or wall-to-wall masses of stuff. Although a teetering hoard isn’t my idea of excellence, when I peer into an almost-empty garage I feel an odd sadness, as if the house had been abandoned by its people.

Here in my little corner of heaven I have been known to wander into “estate sales,” some of which have yielded an assortment of new possessions that come into my house to be used or not. I love to eat junk-food soup (aka “Top Ramen”) for example, from one of two green glass bowls I picked up at an estate sale in our old neighborhood. They are of the “Depression Glass” era, those pressed-glass tableware items such as our parents received as premiums with the purchase of a ten-cent movie ticket.Just using one of those bowls brings back the entire experience of wandering through that 19th-century Austin home with a mixture of envy (having grown up in old houses) and relief (having grown up in old houses).

To be honest, I enjoy the fact that the first thing people notice upon peering into our garage is a row of bicycles hanging on the back wall. It says something about us that I like. It’s hard to go to someone’s estate sale and not wonder what people will think when the time has come for us to divest ourselves of our possessions and they come over here to ours.

Chapter One of Wallace-Hadrill’s book opens with two quotes, one of which is this:

In the protracted dialogue about value that is embedded in
consumption, goods in their assemblage present a set of
meanings, more or less coherent, more or less intentional.
They are read by those who know the code and scan them
for information. The great novelists have never doubted just
how far removed this function of creating meanings is from
the uses of goods for welfare and display.

Mary Douglas and Baron Isherwood,
The World of Goods

My poem for Day Two occupies itself with the nature and meaning of goods. (With apologies to family and friends some of whose worldly goods I have used for the illustrations.) Continue reading