Sunday, April 6, 2008

Our house/my mind is a dump

I am a person who parts with empty cardboard boxes with great reluctance. I still have some of my maternity clothes, plus a bag of baby clothes with the left arm slit or missing because Ron said we should keep it "in case" something else happened like our 14-month-old daughter falling off a two-step Little Tikes slide and breaking her wrist on the grass. Last night, Ron finally persuaded me to at least store some of the old taco sauce jars that I use for drinking glasses downstairs (often a stop on the long way to the trash). This morning my son filled up our trash cans with stacks of papers and old pieces of toys after the cat dropped a mouse from her jaws inside our house, and it ran into Walker's room. In the process of finding it and taking it outside (still alive), we got a bit of cleaning done in that room.

Generally, our household is not a place where papers, catalogs, magazines, or books ever get thrown away. The whole idea of a commonplace book, for me, is to have a place to keep all the ideas that I'm interested in and want to make a part of myself. When you live with them long enough, they become commonplace ideas.

So instead of spring cleaning, I'm thinking of one of my favorite poems by Wallace Stevens:

The Man on the Dump

Day creeps down. The moon is creeping up.
The sun is a corbeil of flowers the moon Blanche
Places there, a bouquet. Ho-ho. . . The dump is full
Of images. Days pass like papers from a press.
The bouquets come here in the papers. So the sun,
And so the moon, both come, and the janitor's poems
Of every day, the wrapper on the can of pears,
The cat in the paper-bag, the corset, the box
From Esthonia, the tiger chest, for tea.

The freshness of night has been fresh a long time.
The freshness of morning, the blowing of day, one says
That it puffs as Cornelius Nepos reads, it puffs
More than, less than or it puffs like this or that.
The green smacks in the eye, the dew in the green
Smacks like fresh water in a can, like the sea
On a cocoanut--how many men have copied dew
For buttons, how many women have covered themselves
With dew, dew dresses, stones and chains of dew, heads
Of the floweriest flowers dewed with the dewiest dew.
One grows to hate these thing except on the dump.

Now, the in the time of spring (azaleas, trilliums,
Myrtle, viburnums, daffodils, blue phlox),
Between that disgust and this, between the things
That are on the dump (azaleas and so on),
One feels the purifying change. One rejects
The trash.

That's the moment when the moon creeps up
To the bubbling of bassoons. That's the time
One looks at the elephant-colorings of tires.
Everything is shed; and the moon comes up as the moon
(All its images are in the dump) and you see
As a man (not like an image of a man),
You see the moon rise in the empty sky.

One sits and beats an old tin can, lard pail.
One beats and beats for that which one believes.
That's what one wants to get near. Could it after all
Be merely oneself, as superior as the ear
To a crow's voice? Did the nightingale torture the ear,
Pack the heart and scratch the mind? And does the ear
Solace itself in peevish birds? Is it peace,
Is it a philosopher's honeymoon, one finds
On the dump? Is it to sit among mattresses of the dead,
Bottles, pots, shoes and grass and murmur aptest eve:
Is it to hear the blatter of grackles and say
Invisible priest, is it to eject, to pull
The day to pieces and cry stanza my stone?
Where was it one first heard of the truth? The the.

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