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Author photo courtesy of Heather Kresge
Today as I boarded my train of thought, I thought of you, your bristling ennui, and, in my mind, I opened my umbrella in the face of the porter carrying my cerebral baggage and in the face of that beauty with a nose ring from Phoenix.
You know this sensation, and many others, I am sure. But for me, stepping into the third class compartment of my mind, when I felt my senses trade places with one another, it almost made me fall asleep, except that the smell of a salami flew towards me like a bright light, the sound of the knife cutting off a piece bit my ear, and the symbolic forests nattered at me as I tried to find my seat.
I sat upon the greasy pelt of red velvet and felt remote. I mean remorse. Like you, I am no one until deformed identities descend upon me. So, I looked out the window and took notice of the worm and the graveyard, of people living on the street, on the dole, and I saw the gleaming faces of opportunists and tarts. I elbowed my way out of the alexandrine and let it break into long, odd, beautifully oiled avenues and arias of prose; I became a gold fish, a dreaming spark, a blossom on the pale ranks of dogwoods ending in twilight.
And I became them while at the same time retaining my seething distance from them.
It could have been worse. I could have been a swarm of grass, a perfume of flies; I could have been a crowd, a horde, a throng, faceless, all with one face. Cher Baudelaire, it is our employment to name the masses, to prick them into singularity with our stinging noticings. My notebooks are filled with their wordless fragrance and the clouds I have made from their headaches.
Encore! The sound of the knife cutting a salami flies into my eye like a cinder. I weep in my mind in the third class compartment, I get drunk and stoned. I strive for the elitist lucidity of drugs, like a Republican, and for the proletariat entrancement of wine, like a Democrat. I try on the chapeau of lurid beauty and it fits. I swath myself in a distant malignancy and—as the bath of humanity keeps pouring through the mind's third class—greasy, noisy, murky—I invent vices and lives for this bath water. I myself have been in remission from my life for over an hour.
Cher Baudelaire, I sit on the train with you and watch capitalism struggle in the windows and fall in love with the charming evening. I notice a torn pocket on a passing harlot; I notice a loose button in one of my poems. And, in the city of my thoughts, the great alcove of sky now closes over us and the snow descends and our days go on forever. I do not exist except as the snow descending, the day forever going on, and, if I bother to extend myself into the distances of being, I am, like you, most often entering a room, or I myself am the room, suffused with the lubricious rustlings of women's outmoded dresses. Although sometimes, since I am by nature unfaithful, I am at a party eating haschisch in the jardin, or on a chemin de fer reading your poems.
Lynn Emanuel is the author of five books of poetry, Hotel Fiesta, The Dig, Then, Suddenly—, Noose and Hook, and, most recently, The Nerve Of It : Poems New and Selected, which was just awarded the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets.
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