WIPjoy #4

Share a song that inspires you for this story.

Um . . . Maybe something by October Project? I mean, nothing immediately springs to mind, which is kind of weird since I usually do use songs for inspiration. Maybe the Waterboys’ take on Yeats’ “The Stolen Child”? It simply uses the poem:

Where dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water rats;
There we’ve hid our faery vats,
Full of berrys
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim gray sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And anxious in its sleep.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

Away with us he’s going,
The solemn-eyed:
He’ll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast,
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal chest.
For he comes, the human child,
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than he can understand.

Listen to the Waterboys sing it here.

Pain

Three rejections in two days. Feels a bit like being beaten with a stick.

And there are a lot of good things happening, too, but when you’re in pain you don’t typically focus on the parts that aren’t hurting. When you have a migraine, you don’t think, “At least my feet are all right.” You’re too busy trying to fix your head.

So this morning I walked without music, which is really rare for me. I love music, and usually I would pump up the upbeat tunes to get me back into fighting shape. But today I felt the need for something more fundamental. To hear the birds, to meditate on the “clouds low and hairy in the skies” (Robert Frost, somewhat adjusted). And it was good. I’m in a little less pain now, and even just received news that I’ve been added to a stable of writers to be called on if and when needed. So that’s nice.

And now I’m going to try to work. Because if I focus on the pain too long it will only get worse. Better to think of something else and let the pain ebb away.

The Literary Space Ghost

Back in the winter of 1999-2000, while messing around in my then boyfriend’s office, I began to write a mashup on a chalkboard. It featured Robert Frost’s “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” interspersed with commentary by the Space Ghost: Coast to Coast trio of Space Ghost, Brak, and Zorak. I eventually went on to write four of these, which I dubbed “The Literary Space Ghost.” I’d forgotten all about them until they were unearthed this past weekend. So I’ve reproduced them here, beginning with Frost because his was first.

Episode One: Frost

Space Ghost: Hey there, everybody!

Zorak: Run while you still can!

Space Ghost: Tonight we have a special treat—the poet Robert Frost!

Zorak: Um . . . Isn’t he dead?

Space Ghost: Not in space, he isn’t. You see, in space we get all kinds of ghosts. Like me, Space Ghost! Okay, Robert, take us to your special place—

Frost: Whose woods these are—

Space Ghost: Whose woods are these?

Frost: I think I know

Brak: I think I’m lost!

Frost: His house—

Space Ghost: Whose house?! You didn’t answer my first question!

Brak: It’s cold out here!

Space Ghost: It’s cold in space . . . and oh so lonely . . .

Zorak: Not with all those ghosts floating around. Hey, Jack! Frost Boy! Hey!

Space Ghost: His name is Robert.

Zorak: Bob, Jack. What’s the difference?

Frost: Is in the village—

Zorak: Idiot. Village Idiot.

Frost: He will not see me—

Zorak: Good! Steal his stuff! Then—

Brak: What stuff? All I see is snow! It’s cold out here, buddy!

Frost: My little horse—

Space Ghost: A pony!

Frost: Must think it queer

Zorak: Tell me about it. Queer as a—

Space Ghost: Go back to the pony! I want more about the pony!

Frost: to stop—

Zorak: please do!!!

Try to remember that I was relatively young and still testing my talents (such as they were and are) as a writer. Also, if you’re not familiar with Space Ghost, Brak, and Zorak—if you can’t read this and hear them in your head—then this doesn’t make any sense to you anyway. It doesn’t translate.

Episode Two: Fred

Space Ghost: Well, boys, tonight we’ve got a real looker. Dorothy Parker!

Zorak: You mean a real liquor.

Brak: Lick her? Why? Does she taste like candy? Or pizza? Or beans? Oh, I hope she tastes like black-eyed peas!

Space Ghost: You know the rules. No snacking on the guests. Especially you, Zorak. Now, Ms. Parker, let ‘er rip!

Parker: I like this place, Fred.

Space Ghost: Actually, the name’s Tad. But you can call me Space Ghost!

Parker: This is a nice place.

Zorak: Are you kidding me? This place bites!

Brak: It does? It’s never bitten me!

Parker: How did you ever find it?

Space Ghost: Oh, the production company found it.

Parker: I think you’re perfectly marvelous, discovering a speakeasy in the year 1928.

Brak: It’s 1928? Already?

Parker: And they let you right in, without asking you a single question.

Space Ghost: Everyone here knows me! I’m Space Ghost!

Parker: I bet you could get into the subway without using anybody’s name. Couldn’t you, Fred?

Brak: Who’s Fred? Am I Fred?

Zorak: No.

Brak: Are you Fred?

Zorak: No!

Brak: Is the pizza boy Fred?

Zorak: Actually . . . yes.

Space Ghost: The pizza boy is here?

Brak: Oh boy!

Space Ghost: Who ordered pizza? I don’t remember authorizing—

Parker: Oh, I like this place better and better, now that my eyes are getting accustomed to it.

Space Ghost: It is rather bright to begin with. But you get used to it.

Parker: You mustn’t let them tell you this lighting system is original with them, Fred; they got the idea from the Mammoth Cave. This is you sitting next to me, isn’t it?

Space Ghost: The one and only.

Zorak: You can always tell; he has a peculiar smell.

Parker: Oh, you can’t fool me. I’d know that knee anywhere.

Space Ghost: You betcha! I have super heroic knees! Watch as I bend them!

Brak: I wish I had some legs!

Zorak: They’re chained under your desk.

Brak: Why so they are!

Parker: You know what I like about this place? It’s got atmosphere.

Space Ghost: We make sure to pipe in oxygen for our guests.

Zorak: Even the dead ones!

Parker: This is a nice highball, isn’t it?

Space Ghost: Who let her have that? Zorak?

Zorak: Don’t look at me.

Space Ghost: Brak?

Brak: What?

Space Ghost: Did you give Ms. Parker a highball?

Brak: An eyeball? No . . . I’ve only got the two.

Space Ghost: Nevermind. Fred!

Fred: Sir?

Space Ghost: Did you give my guest a highball?

Fred: I just deliver pizza.

Space Ghost: Hmm.

Parker: Are you going to have another one?

Space Ghost: I didn’t even—

Parker: Well, I shouldn’t like to see you drinking all by yourself, Fred.

Space Ghost: Fred! Have you been drinking?

Zorak: There’s nothing more dangerous than a drunk pizza delivery boy.

Space Ghost: Remember that, kids. Never accept a pizza from a drunk delivery boy.

Parker: Solitary drinking is what causes half the crime in the country.

Zorak: I used to cause half the crime in the universe . . . But soon, soon I’ll be free . . .

Parker: You’ll like that, Fred.

Zorak: I AM ZORAK!

Parker: Don’t let me take any horses home with me.

Space Ghost: You can have Brak on loan if you like.

Parker: Do you come here often, Fred?

Space Ghost: Oh, we have pizza delivered about once a week. Don’t we, Fred?

Parker: I shouldn’t worry about you so much if I knew you were in a safe place like this.

Space Ghost: Don’t worry. I keep the villans under lock and key.

Parker: Was Edith here with you, Thursday night?

Space Ghost: We’re not on on Thursdays. Unless it was a repeat.

Parker: Now to me, Edith looks like something that would eat her young.

Zorak: Watch it!

Space Ghost: Yes, Zorak once ate his nephew. And his best friend Klovar.

Parker: I haven’t got a friend in the world. Do you know that, Fred? Not one single friend in this world.

Brak: I’ll be your friend, Dorothy! And we can go to Kansas and visit the Emerald City and play with Toto and—

Space Ghost: What about your world, Dorothy? Are you from Kansas? And are there really flying monkeys there? Dorothy? Dorothy, speak to me!

Zorak: I think she’s had one too many.

Space Ghost: Damn you, Fred! We were just about to learn the secrets of Oz!

Brak: And we’re out of pizza, too!

Episode Three: Ornithology

Space Ghost: Greetings, Citizens! Welcome to another Literary Space Ghost! Tonight’s guest is James Thurber! How you doing, James?

Thurber: I saw Gertrude Stein on the screen of a newsreel theater one afternoon and I heard her read that famous passage of hers about pigeons on the grass, alas—

Space Ghost: I tell you what, James, nothing makes me more angry than those pigeons!

Brak: I like pigeons. They just walk around, bopping their heads to the music . . .

Zorak: There is no music.

Brak: Well sure there is! In a pigeon’s head!

Zorak: You would know. Bird brain.

Thurber: Pigeons on the grass alas may be a simple description of Miss Stein’s own consciousness—

Zorak: Or Brak’s. Take your pick.

Thurber: A truly simple description of the pigeons alighting on the grass of the Luxembourg Gardens (which, I believe, is where the pigeons alighted)

Space Ghost: That’s right, James. Those pigeons are just all over that Garden! It’s one of the reasons I was forced to destroy Paris. But I think they’ve managed to rebuild most of it by now, haven’t they Zorak?

Zorak: The pigeons rebuilt it.

Thurber: Pigeons that alight anywhere are neither sad pigeons nor gay pigeons, they are simply pigeons.

Brak: You just don’t understand them the way I do!

Space Ghost: I’ll have to agree with Brak there, James. The pigeons that alight on my Phantom Cruiser tend to look pretty gay to me.

Zorak: Birds of a feather . . .

Thurber: It is neither just nor accurate to connect the word alas with pigeons.

Brak: I usually connect the word bird to pigeons!

Space Ghost: Grey is also a good word to connect with pigeons. And stupid.

Zorak: I connect Space Ghost to the word stupid.

Thurber: Pigeons are definitely not alas.

Zorak: No, but Space Ghost is an a—(beep) Whoa, what was that?

Space Ghost: The censor button. Watch your language.

Zorak: Watch it do what?

Thurber: When it comes to emotion, a fish, compared to a pigeon, is practically beside himself.

Brak: I like fish! I once had a pet goldfish named Dr. Muff and he swam round and round in his bowl. And then one day Zorak said Dr. Muff might be happier in a bigger bowl, like maybe the toilet bowl and—

Thurber: With a horse or a cow or a dog it would be different.

Brak: A horse wouldn’t fit in the toilet!

Space Ghost: Neither would a cow. But a dog, if it was a small one, might.

Thurber: I should not have minded if Miss Stein has written: dogs on the grass, look out, dogs on the grass, look out, look out, dogs on the grass, look out Alice.

Brak: Poor Alice! Look out!

Space Ghost: You really do have to look out for those dogs on the grass these days, don’t you? Why, back in the good old days—

Zorak: May have to put a few of those dogs in the toilet.

Space Ghost: Exactly! That’s what I’m saying! Back in the good old days, there was no need to put dogs in the toilet. But now—

Thurber: Pigeons can be understood only when you understand that there is nothing to understand about them.

Zorak: Kind of like Space Ghost.

Thurber: Hens embarrass me—

Zorak: Kind of like Space Ghost.

Thurber: Owls disturb me—

Zorak: Kind of like Space Ghost.

Thurber: If I am with an eagle I always pretend that I am not with an eagle—

Zorak: Exactly like Space Ghost!

Thurber: But pigeons have absolutely no effect on me. They have absolutely no effect on anybody.

Brak: Except me!

Space Ghost: And me!

Zorak: So . . . As James was saying, pigeons have absolutely no effect on anybody.

Thurber: They couldn’t even startle a child.

Zorak: Kind of like Space Ghost.

Thurber: If any body let loose a lot of owls on such an occasion there would be rioting and catcalls and whistling and fainting spells and throwing of chairs and the Lord only knows what else.

Space Ghost: That happened once when Brak accidentally got loose, too. But the production crew recovered. Mostly.

Zorak: Except for that one guy he bit—

Space Ghost: Yeah, too bad about old Henry . . . The family isn’t suing, is it?

Zorak: They can’t. Henry signed a waiver, just like the rest of the crew.

Space Ghost: Thank goodness for that at least. Where is Brak, anyway?

Zorak: Uh-oh.

Episode Four: Math Lesson

Space Ghost: And now, ladies and gentlemen, here’s A. E. Housman!

Brak: You mean he’s a house-man? Like part house and part man? Oh boy! That’ll be something worth watching!

Space Ghost: No, Brak, he’s a poet!

Zorak: In which case, it’ll be something worth going deaf.

Space Ghost: Take it away, Mr. Housman.

Housman: Lovliest of trees, the cherry now—

Space Ghost: I’m partial to elms, myself, A. E. Or should I just call you “A”?

Zorak: Call me . . . Ishmael.

Housman: Now of my threescore years and ten, Twenty will not come again—

Space Ghost: Hold on a minute . . . threescore and ten . . . How many zeros is that?

Brak: Makes my head hurt!

Zorak: Looking at Space Ghost in that get-up makes my head hurt.

Housman: And take from seventy springs a score—

Brak: Who scored? I didn’t know there was a game on!

Space Ghost: My money is on Buffalo.

Zorak: Loser.

Housman: It only leaves me fifty more.

Space Ghost: Are you sure about that, A? That’s not the answer I got. Let’s try this again. Threescore and ten . . .

Housman: When I was one and twenty—

Space Ghost: Well why didn’t you say so before? Now I see how you got fifty!

Brak: I don’t get it.

Zorak: You wouldn’t.

Quoting Poetry

Though I cannot write it myself (as we have so recently seen), I do enjoy reading poetry. I’ve done so since I was young, and I have a tendency to quote it at random as well. Or really, lines of poetry have a tendency to spring to my mind at random.

One poem that comes to mind often is “The Mending Wall” by Robert Frost. For example:

Isn’t it where there are [plural noun]? But here there are no [plural noun].”

And:

I could say ‘Elves’ to him, but it’s not elves exactly and I rather he said it for himself.

And of course:

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.

And:

Good fences make good neighbors.

What’s funny is “The Mending Wall” is not my favorite Robert Frost poem. That honor goes to “Once by the Pacific.” And on top of that, Frost isn’t my favorite poet. I don’t think I have a favorite; it more depends on my mood. Frost does hold a special place for me, though, being that he was one of the first I could read and really comprehend thanks to his rather frank style.

Later I would come to prefer the more ornate lines of the Romantics. “Lara” and “Daffodils” and “Ozymandias” and all things Blake, among others. And then there would come the requisite affair with Poe’s dark words. All so quotable and handy, lines kept in the mind like tiny books can be kept in a pocket. Quick reference. Though how useful? Not very, perhaps, except at pub quizzes.

Proof I Cannot Write Poetry

I’m going to show my underskirts here a bit. I’ve said a few times that I’m no good at writing poetry (though I have had a couple poems published in very nice journals—these were the exceptions that proved the rule). Now, as I continue to unpack the boxes stacked in my office, I have come across an old notepad wherein I used to scribble bad poems when bored with my editing job. Since my editing job was mostly very busy, the notepad is mostly filled with notes about the books I worked on and not many poems. Count this as a mercy. And to prove to you that my poetry is quite terrible, here is something dated 5 June 2004:

several small universes inhabit
your eyes, I see them when I peer
at the photograph of you, the one
where you’re leaning against the brick wall.

impossible, I call you, understanding
if I insisted on thinking of jam
as what you would call a pencil—if
we could not agree on even the words—we would be
unable to name our feelings and they would be lost.

I do not use love lightly.

small universes, I say, and the stars there
are winking out.

WTF? I really don’t know what was going on there. I’m not even sure whether I was writing about an actual photograph or something imagined. There’s a second page, but I’ll spare you; in any case, it’s not clear if the next page is part of the same poem or is something else again.

In the same notepad I have a series of notes titled “Blogging the 77th Annual Academy Awards.” It’s very surreal to read out of context.

Now here, in modest defense, is a poem I wrote while an undergrad, and because my poetry instructor really liked it, I feel less self-conscious about posting it here:

Welcome
to the Requiem.
Would you care to sit
On the left
Or the right?
This is the panegyric,
N’est-ce pas?
And then the reception
at the mausoleum.
You will be attending,
I assume?
Then I shall save you a seat;
You can eat
next to Rey and Dawn.
(They were in the fire
of 1863 and may
Bore you with their stories.)
Or perhaps you would rather
Dine with Cousin James, although
you may find his company
somewhat funereal.
(His fall from grace
upset him greatly.)
I suggest you take tea
at Davida’s table. (She
is not cheerful but
her scones make up for it.)
What’s that? Oh, you
won’t be able to stay
for tea, you say?
Well, give my best
to the firmament.

Looking at it now, I’m not sure why my poetry instructor was so enthusiastic. Unless it’s simply that, confronted with my other efforts, she suspected this one might be as good as she could hope for. (Though her exact note was: “Wherever you got this, go back for more.” If only it were so easy for a writer to do that!)