Pied Beauty

Glory be to god for dappled things, for digitalized things, for desolation.

I’m not sure what came first–trying to write poetry or being antisocial, almost misanthropic.

Even this evening, at a free outdoor concert at a children’s park, I saw many people I sort of know from around town. We all go to the same parks, libraries, coffee shops. They are friends with each other. Why can’t I actually make friends with them? Can they sense that I have no firm opinion on which lettuce stand at the farmers’ market is superior? Can they sense my major feelings of inferiority (I can barely get it together to wash an apple before eating it–how could I make a salad, nevermind investigate lettuce purveyors?) while at the same time my strong disdain (for what? for salad eaters? for people who support local farmers?)? Or can they sense that if I did have a lettuce-stand opinion, I’d never share it because then I’d be part of a group of women opining about lettuce for god’s sake?

To me, the really objectionable word in the previous sentence is group.

This, according to David Orr’s latest NYT review, makes me a laughably stereotypical member of another group: poets. Orr writes, “But we sometimes talk as if poets are exceptions not simply when they write well, but because they write at all. According to this way of thinking, the art form demands such devotion to one’s individuality that every poet, no matter how lowly, is a kind of outsider – a Cheese Who Stands Alone. This perception frequently finds its way into depictions of poets in popular culture; it also emerges in the vehemence with which poets themselves regularly declare their opposition to labels, categories, schools, allegiances, booster clubs, car pools, intramural softball teams and so on.”

I love the way the dust from a dry softball field sits on fielders’ eyelashes. I like playing second base, squinting my eyes and shifting my weight from side to side as I wait for the batter. I love how umpires talk. But it’s true– I could never play on an intramural softball team–especially one sponsored by my office. It would be impossible to relax and enjoy it, overcome as I would be by self-consciousness, by the very fact that I was playing on an intramural softball team.

And to most people in my life, that last sentence is at worst elitist and at best ridiculous.

Which is why I love my friends. And I love my friends to be dappled. (And mostly, the dappled people turn out to be writers. Or the writers turn out to be dappled?)

Justin Quarry, for instance, has piebald hair. It’s a lovely dark brown, except for this freak streak of white in the back.

Not all of The Dappled are as easily recognizable as he. (I’ve been disappointed in many a weirdly-freckled but ultimately blissfully happy, uncomplicated acquaintance or two.)

Being so fussy, so full of disdain, so comfortable excusing my awkwardness at parks by thinking “um, that’s fine, you want to be a poet anyway,” and with Justin Quarry living far away in Arkansas, and other friends similarly far-flung or flung far by my unfriendlike behavior, etc., glory be for digitalized things: texting, blogs, email.

I suddenly love Facebook.

Just tonight, updates from “friends”:

“______ Dylanos. Lonesome death of HC in waltz time. it’s all right, ma, we’ll be staying at the Days Inn.”

“_______Davis people: if anyone wants a HUGE bookcase– very old, solid wide planks– I took it from a basement at Duke while they were remodeling– e-mail me or if you know Kara Thompson e-mail her. It was mine, then hers… now she can’t take it to her new job in Ohio… it really oughta be in the home of a writer.”

“______sees that section four of chapter four is one hot mess.”

It’s nice, to feel part of (a window-gazer in) a sort of community.

But then–and I have been guilty of this too–there are all those beautiful baby pictures, wedding pictures, birthday party pictures on Facebook.

And I think, How is it that everyone is smiling? or, Doesn’t Hawaii seem too sunny to be real?

Actually, what I think is worse: These smiling photos of your vacation–how can you post them so carelessly? As if all is well? (Is all really well?) The implication is that all in your life is safely on an upward trajectory, that health and well being are enough to lead to contentment. (That contentment should be a goal!)

And then again (then again, then again, dennigan), the very writers who make me feel so cozy and happily ensconced in a cyber community can also seem, well, discomfitingly …straightforward themselves. For instance, writers on Facebook will post when they have a new piece published somewhere. And that is basically OK, if, if (in my salad-days opinion) they agonized and tortured themselves about issues surrounding self-promotion and purity for several hours beforehand.

And if they have taken a moment before they hit the “Share” button to remember: Hopkins burned his early poems.

(Is it any wonder my cell phone bill is so low? I would rather not feel a part of even the group (poets) who supposedly eschews groups!)

But back to my friends, the few who make me feel unalone in loving

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

I never call you guys. I barely write. But I love reading what you have written. And I love being in my apartment alone, feeling the companionable loneliness of you–striving and complicated and alone in other rooms.

Dissonant Daniel Figgis music, uncomfortable moments at the post office, futures full of chasms, and a thousand beautifully bruised apples to you all.