Not Supposed To Do

This poem, excerpted from Art Garfunkel’s autobiographical What Is It All But Luminous / notes from an Underground Man ©2017, reminds me of the playfulness of Shel Silverstein:

Today I'll judge my books by their covers.
I'll watch a pot, count unhatched chicks,
I'll fix the unbroken, hold secret gods divine.

A thousand fine soldiers, resplendent in
  their jacket designs, are lined in shelves
        in my aerie--
All the noble sentiments quilled,
Cry for all the milk that's spilled,
Let the unaware buyer be sold--
If the book cover glitters, it's gold;
I'll make a Top Forty polled for pretty veneers,
  how the book appears, and how it feels
    to hold and be held the whole night
       through...
Today I'll do exactly what you're not
supposed to do.
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’69

Excerpted from Art Garfunkel’s autobiographical What Is It All But Luminous / notes from an Underground Man ©2017:

In May of ’69… Paul’s writing changed from “I know your part’ll go fine”– words of a deep friendship (The Only Living Boy in New York)– to “Why don’t you write me?”– words of frustration.

So many things that are obvious in retrospect slip by us in the present.

(An aside:  it seems petty to complain about a book’s font, but this was published in something resembling Comic Sans that is very difficult to read.)

It Is Important Not to Know

Lawrence Ferlinghetti on the benefits of travel:

Sometimes it is better not to know anything about a country when you visit it. Especially it is important not to know its language or languages. Thus every sound, striking the ear like a small bell or animal cry, without any associative meaning, takes on the immediate quality of poetry, the quality of pure color in painting, with the percussive effect of pure sound in a void. It is only as these sounds accumulate inside us that some sort of composite meaning forms itself. Until then, we are like children newly arrived on earth, with virgin timpani, each a tabula rasa upon which all has yet to be written. Herein lies the true fascination of travel, not in the confirmation or contradiction of what we have been led to expect by the perusal of history or the learning of local languages, nor by the recognition of native customs in their similarity or dissimilarity to our own…

Thus it was that I came upon the souk in Marrakesh as a space traveler in a time warp, knowing nothing of the place in which he has landed, with only his senses to inform him of the strange terrain.

And strange it certainly was. Night itself, and I arrived at night, casts its mystery even on the most familiar domestic scene, for night itself is always the eternal unfathomable darkness out of which all is born and into which all is borne in the end. We are merely time travelers in between, fleetingly passing in a patch of sunlight, from shadow to shadow. Every day is a patch of light, however somber or bright, every night a patch of that eternal mystery.

The souk was of that darkness, and it lay everywhere before me.

Excerpted from Writing Across the Landscape, © 2015.

But in your dreams, whatever they be…

Another excerpt from Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s travel journal, Writing Across the Landscape, © 2015:

NIGHT OF MARCH 6 (1972), IN NADI MOTEL– So noisy couldn’t sleep all night. Like a train station: trucks roaring past, people talking in hotel, doors slamming, etc., etc. Bad dreams… 7:15 a.m. we fly out to Australia. Possible that our waking psychic states are mirror images of our sleep & dreams, as the branches of the tree mirror the pattern of the roots? So that the profile of our dreams transfigures our waking moods preceding or following that sleep? The depression or euphorias of dreams carried over into our daytime subliminal feelings… A bad dream may blight our day, a dream of desire carry over into waking sexual aggressions. Of course, it’s all in Freud, all in Wilhelm Reich… The moon is my undoing when the sun comes up, the midnight sun gathers us in, our dream siblings signal us thru the flames.

 

“I don’t see him.”

A Q&A by Lawrence Ferlinghetti following a poetry reading in 1960:

Question by a serious student before a huge crowd at University of Vermont conference: “Sir, how you stand on fornication?”

Answer: “As for fornication, I very seldom stand; I lie down.”

Second question: “Do you really think Christ is dead?”

Answer: “The way the world acts today, you would think so. He’s not here tonight, is he? I don’t see him.”

Voice from the back of the auditorium: “Here I am.”

Excerpted from Writing Across the Landscape, © 2015

“You are wasting your time.”

In this excerpt from Myra Scovel’s autobiography, The Chinese Ginger Jars ©1962, Brother Li has come to visit her husband as he recuperates from a gunshot wound inflicted by a drunken Japanese soldier during the war years:

Fred was amused, but he was looking very tired.

“One would think that you never had a serious moment,” I said, laughing. “Let’s go downstairs and have a cup of coffee. It’s time for Fred to have a nap.”

“Brother Li, you’ve made me feel like a new man,” said Fred. “Happiness is good medicine.”

“Happiness is my mission in life,” Brother Li replied as he rose to go.

“Happiness is my mission in life.” I thought of the words as he pedaled out of the front gate and I remembered the day Brother Li showed me the pair of shoes he was making for an old priest who was having trouble with his feet. He had explained his contrivings to make the shoes comfortable.

“You are wasting your time making shoes,” I said to him. “You would make a wonderful priest. Why didn’t you go on and study to become one?”

He had looked at me as if I were a child. “You do not understand,” he said. “I make shoes for God.”

Two Gallons of Milk per Day

In 1930, actress Mary Astor contracted tuberculosis.  In her autobiography My Story, she recounts how it was treated:

The treatment was to be rest and sun; a glass of milk every half hour (eight quarts a day), mineral oil, complete bed rest, and sun on the roof. There were to be no visitors, only my maid Greta and himself (the doctor); no phone calls, no cigarettes, and no liquor.