September 2, 2005

reflect what you are, in case you don't know

Jonathan Weston, Absinthe

The Drink
-- by ron padgett

I am always interested in the people in films who have just had a drink thrown in their faces. Sometimes they react with uncontrollable rage, but sometimes-my favorites-they do not change their expressions at all. Instead they raise a handkerchief or napkin and calmly dab at the offending liquid, as the hurler jumps to her feet and storms away. The other people at the table are understandably uncomfortable. A woman leans over and places her hand on the sleeve of the man's jacket and says, "David, you know she didn't mean it." David answers, "Yes," but in an ambiguous tone-the perfect adult response. But now the orchestra has resumed its amiable and lively dance music, and the room is set in motion as before. Out in the parking lot, however, Elizabeth is setting fire to David's car. Yes, this is a contemporary film.

Bud Powell, Paris, 1959
-- by William Matthews

I’d never seen pain so bland.
Smack, though I didn’t call it smack
in 1959, had eaten his technique.
His white-water right hand clattered
missing runs nobody else would think
to try, nor think to be outsmarted
by. Nobody played as well
as Powell, and neither did he,
stalled on his bench between sets,
stolid and vague, my hero,
his mocha skin souring gray.
Two bucks for a Scotch in this dump,
I thought, and I bought me
another. I was young and pain
rose to my ceiling, like warmth,
like a story that makes us come true
in the present. Each day’s
melodrama in Powell’s cells
bored and lulled him. Pain loves pain
and calls it company, and it is.

Aspects of Robinson
-- by Weldon Kees

Robinson at cards at the Algonquin: a thin
Blue light comes down once more outside the blinds.
Gray men in overcoats are ghosts blown past the door.
The taxis streak the avenues with yellow, orange, and red.
This is Grand Central, Mr. Robinson.

Robinson on a roof above the Heights; the boats
Mourn like the lost. Water is slate, far down.
Through sounds of ice cubes dropped in glass, an osteopath,
Dressed for the links, describes an old Intourist tour.
—Here’s where old Gibbons jumped from, Robinson.

Robinson walking in the Park, admiring the elephant.
Robinson buying the Tribune, Robinson buying the Times.
Saying, "Hello. Yes, this is Robinson. Sunday
At five? I’d love to. Pretty well. And you?"
Robinson alone at Longchamps, staring at the wall.

Robinson afraid, drunk, sobbing Robinson
In bed with a Mrs. Morse. Robinson at home;
Decisions: Toynbee or luminol? Where the sun
Shines, Robinson in flowered trunks, eyes toward
The breakers. Where the night ends, Robinson in East Side bars.

Robinson in Glen plaid jacket, Scotch-grain shoes,
Black four-in-hand and oxford button-down,
The jeweled and silent watch that winds itself, the brief-
Case, covert topcoat, clothes for spring, all covering
His sad and usual heart, dry as a winter leaf.

* Must Listen: Excellent interview of the Mayor of New Orleans broadcast on CNN thursday night.


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