Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Bei Dao's UNLOCK

Bei Dao’s work is “misty” to a very large degree. It can be maddening—momentarily one has a bead on his “drift,” then a moment later the poem is intimating something else. All of his poems work through image. There is very little reference to other texts (that Western readers can access). There doesn’t seem to be any subversion of logical statement nor any “intellection” to any great extent (that is, there isn’t any grappling with larger ideas outside the realm of lived experience and difficult emotions like exile and suppression). The act of reading Bei Dao is much like reading a mysterious rebus. Bei Dao’s work exhibits the accretion of image upon image that endeavors to lead the reader to a conclusion. It hints at what it is saying (an artifact left over from his days when he had to escape censorship in China).

Admittedly, I don’t always get to a place where I can absolutely say what the “intimated meaning” is in every piece. Quite frankly, I don’t care after a while. I luxuriate in his imagery. I just let it take me where it wants to go. If it reveals, so much the better. Of course, in order to be led by the nose like this, one has to develop an addiction to imagery. This may not be possible for those who always wish the imagery to “add up” to something or those who get their jollies from a rhetorical flourish.

The images are jarring and provocative. Bei Dao’s world is an intensely observed one. The compactness of his imagery is consistent throughout all of his pieces. The poems move from image to image, and there is little straying into other kinds of diction (in the English versions at any rate . . . in the Chinese Weinberger suggests that there are more different kinds of dictions present) Most of the objects that are present are fundamental ordinary objects. Bei Dao subjects them to odd juxtapositions with the insubstantial in order to get us to pry at the larger human significance that he is hinting at. Nowhere does he refer to those items that might plague the mind of a modern urbanite whose mind is highly mediatized. There are no brand names, no place names. The months of the year figure more prominently than any of these. By always staying within the realm of these simple, directly experienced items that, for example, a Chinese peasant might be able to recognize, the work almost seems to have a populist kind of appeal despite its resistance to straightforward communication. This is an interesting tension in Bei Dao’s work. A similar kind of tension exists between the quasi- formulations from classical Chinese poems at the same time he is working to twist these to almost the point of non-recognition. This “almost allusion” is the way he got around a lot of the censors in China while he was writing there.

Bei Dao’s work employs what I like to call a visual logic. It is the logic that is similar to the way a collage artist puts together images on a surface. The artist takes the forms as they are presented to him/her (by nature) and pieces them together to get some sort of overall picture that conveys a point, either commentary on a past episode or conveying some emotional content.


Those smells making you remember again
like a horse-cart passing through the flea-market
curios, fakes, hawkers’
wisdom covered in dust

and there’s always a gap between you and reality
arguing with the boss
you see the ad out the window
a bright tomorrow, Tomorrow brand toothpaste

you are facing five potatoes
the sixth is an onion
the outcome of this chess game is like sorrow
disappearing from the maritime chart

I’m not really a big fan of “close reading” for Bei Dao’s works (or anybody else’s for that matter), but here goes:

The first stanza introduces the general notion of “smells” and places the reader within the realm of an outdoor market. This market though seems to have withered, gone out of existence. All of the life of the market (seen in the curios, the fakes, the hawkers, indeed the most aggressive poseurs) is covered in dust. Like so much of Bei Dao’s work, there is a sense of loss and dilapidated culture present. This barren marketplace underscores this sense.

Stanza two presents a speaker addressing a reader trying to convince that reader that he/she too is dislocated, distant from authority with whom it presumably does no good to argue and distant from reality (the ultimate authority?). Economic realities prevail outside the window in the form of the “ad.” There is a sense that economic progress is being mass marketed. Its importance to one’s daily life makes it as essential as toothpaste. This seems to speak to me of Mao’s Great Leap Forward for China in the late 50’s and early 60’s. The speaker seems to dissent from such a mass marketing appeal.

The third stanza suggests that there is an odd man out, the onion that is in line with the five potatoes that precede it. Bei Dao implies that this onion is in a strategic battle with the potatoes (reminiscent of Bei Dao’s struggles with the Chinese government during the days leading to the Tiananmen Square protest). The last two lines are very curious though. The outcome of this struggle is said to be similar to the disappearance of sorrow from a maritime chart. This is a striking image and more than a bit elusive; however, I contend that the unmappable human emotion suddenly becomes absent in the same way that the human spirit disappeared from the map after it was crushed during the uprising in Tiananmen Square.

The poems that resonate most strongly for me are the ones that seemingly refer to the time of that uprising. In many ways I feel that Bei Dao is still living in that moment. It has become his identity. Many of the poems in Unlock still seem to refer back to this (or am I forcing them there through my interpretation?). I keep wondering if the pieces that don’t seem to add up for me might be relevant to a criticism of American life (where he has lived for the last dozen or so years) or some other more contemporary concern removed from China and Tiananmen.

Clearly, though, Bei Dao’s poems are dark. They are agonized meditations on that time, which use a veiled language partly as a hangover from the days of censorship in China, partly from the way that his exile continues to torture his language (like that of Paul Celan—another writer who adopted a pen name to write under, presumably because of the repression of his self). By the same token Bei Dao’s poems also champion the spirit of the individual. Perhaps the darkness and sorrow, the emptiness in his poems are elements of what he sees as the plight of the individual within a smothering collective.

Indeed, when he was asked a few years ago at his reading given at American River College what the most important prerequisite was for being a poet, he quickly and without thinking responded, “one must suffer.” This is a key insight into his work. His exile has never made his imagery buoyant and playful. It usually deals with the foreboding and ominous, the sense of loss and the attempt to recover that lost historical moment in 1989 when optimism ran high.

What is particularly pertinent in Bei Dao’s writing is the feeling of exile and how this may afflict many of us living in the US who feel we are in exile from our culture even though we are in its midst. I don’t wish to suggest that the magnitude is the same as with Bei Dao’s case. I, for instance, have never been reassigned for work in the hinterlands like he was. That said, Bei Dao’s poems provide insight into how to write political poems. For him, it was necessary to write in a cryptic manner—like the samisdat writers writing under the rule of the former Soviet Union. Of course, for Americans, the real repressive force is the market. The more one criticizes it, the more likely it is to ignore you, unless one is (mis?)fortunate enough to tweak the nose of someone in power. In the face of either kudos from the converted or dismissive jeers from the offended, is there any reason for poets not to cede this ground to journalists or content themselves with polite table talk at the Hungry Heifer Family Restaurant?

What I think is instructive from Bei Dao’s poems is he takes a highly charged moment in the political and cultural life of his nation and distills the emotions it wrought via a richly-laden and evocative imagery. The human element emerges out from under the bickering of the warring factions. Is this what political poetry in the US could be? Work that hints at the personal involvement in the culture’s formative moments, a kind of “you were there” at the World Trade Center told in mystical language that evokes how America felt at that moment? I dare say that this would be unthinkable for most American writers even if they had the credentials of Bei Dao whose line “I do not believe” was taken up en masse and chanted during the Tiananmen Square uprising.

In another poem in the collection:


Turning back from the end
when it was hard to breathe—
the angels of the fallen leaves on the hill
the sea of heaving rooftops

on the way back to the story
the deep-sea diver in the dream
looks up at the ship passing by
blue sky in the whirlpools

the tale we are telling
exposes the weakness in our hearts
like the sons of the nation
laid out on the open ground

dialogue of wind and trees
a limp
we crowd around a pot of tea
old age

Stanza 1 invokes a turning back in time to witness a breathtaking tumult. There is great uproar in the dissembled leaves and their attached angels, which suggest even the moral order is in disarray.

Stanza 2 employs a common practice in Bei Dao, the melding of the world of artifacts (i.e. the story, the song, the poetry, words, etc) with the physical world. These artifacts become equivalent to the sun and moon and objects-of-poetry-writ-large. The placement of the “story” as a location suggests its physical presence. The “diver in the dream” (someone lost in revelry?) looks up at that which passes and all is murky. The poem seems to be a meditation on memory.

Stanza 3 is the first time a “we” is mentioned. The speaker is part of a collective that is exploring the tale/story (the momentous events of at Tiananmen in 1989) mentioned previously. The exploration of this story reveals that hearts are heavy and full of remorse the way a nation’s might be at the sight of a battlefield of dead soldiers.

In stanza 4 the members of the collective dispute the events as they remember them. This is the “dialogue of wind and trees.” With the “limp” and the “crowd(ing) around a pot of tea” a suggestion of feebleness and disempowerment are evoked. Finally, just “old age” is left. Memory is the only comfort for then.

The speakers in Bei Dao’s poems suffer an affront by the world. Its moral absurdities and quandaries leave the individual speaker at the heart of the poem to construct the world as it appears in his poems as its defense. These poems with their often fantastical world intact are the counterweight to the distress of interesting times. And almost miraculously the speaker at the heart of his poems believes in the transformative power of the word and the poem. Bei Dao bore witness to his poems as the rallying cry for a revolution, and this appears to affirm that the poem as socially transforming device is possible. Perhaps this optimism is what many readers find redeeming about Bei Dao’s work despite its rather gloomy and vacant imagery. The belief in the poem as a vehicle for social change is a tall order for most Western writers to believe in when the written word is drowned out by a hundred-plus channels, the airwaves glutted with opinions, examples, and analyses. Is there anything that poetry can say with enough clarity that could cut through this haze? Again, most Western writers seem to collectively intone: I DO NOT BELIEVE. I DO NOT BELIEVE.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Journey Between Long Shadows

Monday, March 21, 2005

Cole Swensen's Goest

Looking to develop a vocabulary of absence? Then proceed to Cole Swensen’s Goest. It is hard to imagine what Cole Swensen is up to in this book when a reader first approaches Goest. However, after reading the entire collection, a certain program and theme begins to emerge. The book is arranged into three sections, the centerpiece being the middle section where many poems about “invention,” “development,” “firsts,” and “origins” lie. These pieces seem to speak to the creative act by abandoning little outposts of words that are fortified with (often factual) detail. The reader then is allowed in on the process of creating these texts by filling in the gaps, becoming an unwitting imaginative partner in the formation of these texts. This activity frequently parallels the fragments from the “story” of invention, development, etc. that is featured in each piece. In this way the process and the subject are entwined. The first and third sections [“Of White,” On White”] are suggestive of why we should value this aesthetic of the broken, the fragmentary and torn open. These sections use metaphor for the open, the vacant, the ghostly(?) (which some have suggested is punning with the title of the book—Goest). To my mind, the middle section is the most important aspect of the book, the part that raises the most questions. I find that I must acknowledge Swensen’s project of valorizing the degradation of the language (or being reminded of its insufficiencies). This kind of aesthetic is hard for many to swallow at face value (I’m reminded here of my own battles with my wife who always wants to throw out the cut flowers as soon as the blossoms begin to falter while I implore her to let them die a little more, to let them burn out and show the full range of their beauty. Of course, my approach is not very practical because the seeds and leaves scatter everywhere . . . just as Swensen’s approach mat not settle with a reader who insists that the packets of meaning should not scatter and create messes that good, middle class folk will have to clean up later because of her negligence). Despite the formal elegance of the book and the ingenuity put forth in many of her writing projects, other larger questions linger. When we elevate the broken and disfigured to the status of art objects (especially in the realm of language), how does this assail the underpinnings of what it means to produce work that essentially undercuts the medium used to express it? In other words, why use language to express what language is incapable of? Perhaps one needs to develop a new medium of silence or gesture. Could it be that Cole Swensen is really a dancer at heart?

I can accept her infatuation with the aesthetic of the broken and lost in language as impulse; however, it seems to me that she has deliberately chosen this kind of aesthetic and tried to “develop” it and “invent” it. I ask myself why all this rigor and dedication to dismantling the language?

I think of poets as choosing language to be the one kind of technology they are fluent in, and now here comes Swensen (who in her spare time disassembles and reassembles language like it is some sort of outmoded solid state device). She points out the flaws in the design, the underperformance of the signal-to-noise ratio, etc. At times I feel like I want to say to her that if she really must believe in and insist on the ineptitude of words, then she should get a job in politics and work for the government. Leave the language smithies to their delights in what can be accomplished with language.

The wonderful thing about this book is that she does deliver on this language-as-instrument to a certain extent. Her accomplishment with the language is the act of omission. However, this is akin to what the composer can do with the rest or, perhaps more aptly, what a visual artist does with negative space (or that which is not contained within the frame/installation).

Unfortunately, it is difficult for most readers to override their prevailing notion of what is beautiful. They become wary of where to draw the line between what is beautiful and what is not. They ask: are you to develop an aesthetic based on bowel movements and toe fungus? Indeed, I always have a hard time convincing my neighbors that my dog is leaving little sculptures on their lawn. They are the same folks who strut around galleries, tut-tutting, this isn’t art .

In saying this, the difficulty in getting this kind of person to grant legitimacy to a project like Swensen’s rests not only in informing him/her what the project is, but in making them care about it. They will need to defend such an aesthetic, not just merely accept it.
Then again, maybe she is basing her aesthetic on the gaps and outages that occur in cell phone conversations. The piecing together of those is almost always more interesting than what the caller originally intended.

“The Girl Who Never Rained” is a short narrative of a girl who moves around with clear space surrounding her (we will see the reference to clear space in the second section) and the resultant attraction that follows. This is a neat metaphor, I presume, for the way that she would like readers to be “attracted” to the clear and open space of the poems in the second section.

“Others” addresses the permanence (and sanctity) of blankness, how it can be magnified by passing it along (the way one passes on language, a good joke, etc.) as in the first vignette (page 4-5) Swensen goes further to look at territory that surrounds some vague but hazy recognition “a scene of roofs so blurred they were often mistaken for sails.” This suggests to me that looking at something intently can invariably result in the blurring of that object. This is something she seems to be getting at in the second section as well.

“Five Landscapes” describes very sparse landscapes always with a bit of white as the focus—egret, spot of a white house, white sheet, white bird, child in a white t-shirt. While by itself this piece does not overtly provide any insight into her project, it signals that we should pay attention to white, the white spaces of the coming poems in section 2.

“The Future of Sculpture” is seemingly a meditation on Cy Twombly’s sculptures given the epigraph. Twombly’s sculpture exhibition at the National Gallery was of work from 1946-1998 and consisted of primarily found objects and rough fragments of wood coated in plaster and white paint. Twombly’s work is also said to exhibit poetic allusions to motifs and relics of classical antiquity. The white paint would explain all the references to white in the poem. Swensen seems to be cobbling together scraps much in the same way that Twombly is so that it could be said that he is her guide and model in this approach. The poem tends to veer away from this subject towards other areas (at least I could not make it cohere in my time with it). However, it is interesting to note how the block-like sections are arranged so that they appear to be little sculptures themselves. Already we see the glomming of plain fact (scrap piece of wood by scrap piece of wood) present in this piece that is largely the project of the second section.

“White Cities” returns to a meditation on white. Here the whole imagined city is white, made of white objects—chalk, talc, sugar. The sun (already mentioned as a key ingredient in “The Future of Sculpture”) returns and could possibly be a metaphor for brightness, illumination. Finally, in the last stanza, a man is glancing at windows (presumably only getting a brief snatch of the vignette presented there as he walks by—just as we are privy only to glance at the fragments assembled by Swensen as we meander past them). The man is always and only counting up to one as he counts the cobblestones. In this respect Swensen reminds us that the cobblestones (cobbled together) are to be treated as singularites in themselves as well as larger parts of the whole.

Section 2. “A History of the Incandescent,” based on John Beckmann’s “A History of Inventions, Discoveries and Origins” (1846), is the full poetic project of Swensen’s pastiche and her concern (obsession) with white space. The first selection “Lachrymae Vitreae” reads to me like an ars poetica for the rest of the pieces in this section. The subject is a glass tear made by a man named Schulenberg in 1695. The rapid cooling of this tear causes it to shatter (a shattering that “must excite the curiosity of philosophers”). This tear then turns to particulates which Swensen so aptly relates to the fragmentation of we (the readers? the populace at large? “those who were home at the time”(those who are centered and belong to one particular space and frame of reference)?” It is the last juxtaposition which suggests as the world fragments, we fragment along with it. This would be a point that many traditionalists (who write from a singular perspective) would contest.

The technique of these poems is disorienting at first, but with repeated exposure (about 8-10 poems into this section for me), there is a tendency for the reader to arc across the gaps and spaces which Swensen presents. The imagination fills in the gaps in order to habitually connect them in semi-narrative. The presence of historical dates in many of the pieces suggests that there is a historical narrative to be had if only we, as readers, continue to pry.

“The Invention of Streetlights” is one of the more sustained pieces in this section. At first I was confused about all the classical references, the quotation by Libanius, etc. This may be because she is using Twombly as model, who also referred to classical shapes with his found pieces. But this piece seems to be quite close to having intact content extracted from it. The overall effect is to illustrate how the lighting of city streets became a democratizing experience. They became accessible to all, not just thieves and those who could afford protection from thieves. From the article that Josh sent out about how Swensen regards her poetics to be similar in how one goes through a city and discovers its incongruities, this piece is indicative of her overall oeuvre. Is this a kind of “white city” mentioned earlier in section 1, full of blanknesses that are to be written on?

In this section there are numerous references, call them motifs, if you will, to glass, the sun, the city, counting, phosphorescence/luminescence, etc.

“Sing: if in pieces we are accurate, here the we accrues” from “The Invention of the Mirror” suggests that it is the mirror that realigns all the various fragments of self (with a single representation of it.)

Throughout all of her cut-ups/collages in this section the gaps are sometimes hardly discernible, and there is very little trouble to read across the gap from one fragment to the next. Sometimes it is only after one arrives at the end of the second fragment is it apparent that there was a splice made. Many of these cuts are made as though by a master film editor. For example, “The Game of Balls and Cups” can read like a narrative nearly all the way through. Only occasionally does a fragment veer into territory that makes it apparent we are reading collage; it veers into extraneous subject matter. The transparent gaps are what one might refer to as “minor gaps”. The gaps that call attention to themselves could be said to be “major gaps,” and these pieces are systems of major and minor gaps.

Section 3, “On White,” returns to the themes in section 1: cities, the sculpture of Cy Twombly and more “landscapes.” In “Razed Cities” the most meaningful line is the last one, “Then who are they?” It suggests that blankness, whiteness is what we are all reduced to. With so much light and luminescence it is worthy of noting that white light is the composite of all in the visible range—red through violet. This perhaps also suggests that subjectivity, similarly, is the accumulation of all those colors that combine to form whiteness, blankness. The “they” might also be foreshadowing of the classic age which seems to rear its head in the next two pieces.

The “Future of White” returns to Twombly. The piece seems to be alluding to a specific work(s) by Twombly, but without seeing the exhibition, I can’t be sure. The “box” from the section 1 Twombly poem comes up again. This time it is of “the dead/we left spread out” that seemingly refers to the dead of classical Rome “by the Ionian Sea.” Here a non-descript “wheel” marks the beginning of the poem and the end. It seems to be the main subject, but I am at a loss as to what kind of wheel (or circle) is being referred to here. A wheel of life? A wheel of days, of time (a clock)? The little wheel turns vicious at the end. There seems to be regret attached to its existence. It is implied that time erases that which once existed to the state of blankness.

The “Five Landscapes” that end the book are much like the first “Five Landscapes” with one major exception. All the white items that served as the main focus in the first section are missing. The blankness has been done away with (presumably because it has been inscribed upon by other things as time ensued). Only the air is white, and it is emptier. The “field” dominates the white air. Symbolically, the field (the modern) dominates the white air (the classical) because it resembles the classical which has been inscribed upon and displaced.

[Note] John Poch's Review for Smartish Pace finds the potential for Swensen’s poems in Goest to be there, but is put off by the lack (they rely on the white space too much) of what they deliver despite the promise. He seems to be suggesting that Swensen’s emperor has no clothes. At the same time he seems to be suggesting that her presentation is reminiscent of John Cage, and just as empty. His only example cites the sparsest of poems “”The First Lightbulb.” It is only four lines, for sure, but to suggest that all the poems in the second section (and the entire book) are equally brief is to overstate the case. Also, he tries to disparage the book by saying it is more reminiscent of Joseph Cornell than Cy Twombly. This, though, seems like faint criticism to me. Cornell’s boxes were terrific. In any case, I don’t see him as anyone in the position of casting judgment. Additionally damning is his reference to Swensen’s language as something that Hart Crane would swoon over. Apparently, his great desire to contextualize Swensen’s work is something he could not overcome. It is not even remotely helpful unless one reads Hart Crane as a synonym for “incoherent,” but clearly Crane’s multisyllabic, pyrotechnical flourishes are a far cry from the plainer, factual and informational bits that Swensen has cobbled together. But what do you expect from a guy from Texas who writes sonnets about fishing? Why are guys like this allowed to review books they clearly aren’t qualified to comment on?

Thursday, March 17, 2005

How Do you Spell Relief?

I really shouldn't have provoked those boys yesterday. It's just that I find people's squaemishness towards defecation to be hilariously interesting. The feces taboo is what I call it. All this anxiety over a lump of bacteria-laden food that has been miracuously transformed to the point that it is no longer even associated with its former self. Now that's a magic trick. The dog was squatting in the yard, and a group of boys walked by. I said, "Say 'Trick or Treat' and I'll give you some." Today they twittered as they walked by. They enthusiastically related to another boy who wasn't with them what they had seen the day before. Apparently, I share the same fascinations as a 6-year-old.

But I am actually making gains, mentally speaking. Yesterday I was an animal. I spent the better part of the afternoon reading Temple Grandin's new book Animals in Translation . [ Temple Grandin ] There was a fascinating chapter about animal minds, in particular about animal language. She made some very interesting points and gave some very interesting examples of animals' use of music as language. Then she made the case for autistic people having a similar predisposition towards the communicative properties of language, suggesting, for example, that tone of voice is much more communicative than the vocables which the non-autistic hear. She relates how her mother decided that she could be given therapy and make progress because she could hum Bach before she could learn to speak. Then also, at the end of the chapter she relates an anecdote about Irene Pepperberg's famous parrot Alex. They are teaching the bird phonics by giving the bird a nut for each correct sound it can recognize and then make. One day one of the corporate sponsors came into her lab. Wanting to illustrate the progress they were making, Pepperberg picked an orange piece of felt with the letter "s" on it. Whe asked Alex "What color orange?" The bird made the correct "s" sound. However, wanting to save time, she did not reward Alex with a nut. She asked the same question with a a red piece of felt with the letters "sh" on it. Again Alex made the correct sound, but again Pepperberg did not reward Alex. This procedure was repeated a third time, and then on the fourth time, and after correctly vocalizing the letter, Alex finally showed her frustration. alex said " ennn uhhh tuhh." Pepperberg interpreted this to be the phonetic spelling of what she wanted. This behavior was totally unprompted and surprised Pepperberg who has been working with Alex for the last twenty years. She had no idea that Alex might have had the capability to go way beyond the simple phonics he was being taught and to show some form of rudimentary aptitude for spelling.

But I know what you're thinking: How does Alex do with three syllable words?

And by the way? Whatever happened to the Shamrock shake? I am going to McDonalds today to do a little bit of research on this.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Wisdom of the Elders

My elders tell me that me that I should never kiss a dog full on the lips. Doing so might result in other kinds of temptations. After all, dogs are known to eat one another's feces. But I submit that any one of us would do the same if the chef came highly enough recommended.

Monday, March 14, 2005

To Save A Sick Hermit Crab : What Would Brando Do for Chi Chi?

My hermit crab, Chi Chi, is looking rather ill. His body is extended way out of his shell. He did not retract into his shell when I picked him up and tried to wipe the moss off his shell. Now he is not reponding to the apple parings, his favorite food, that he normally devours. I suppose this is what one might expect. I have been expecting him to live in his own filth for quite a while. I thought it would toughen him up a little bit. I held up the ants running across the sink as examples for him. "Look how damn tough they are," I'd say to him. "I wash them away and they keep crawling out of the drain. Very impressive." I don't think Chi Chi was all that enthused about my value system. Sluggo just stayed in his shell, day in, day out, just being his Sluggo self. But he's the healthy one now. He measures every movement, comes out only when there is a high value food source that does not require contestation with the higher ranking Chi Chi. I suppose there is a lesson for all of us trapped within our various hierarchies. Hunker down, and let the other guy bog down in his own filth until he can't stand the environment he's living in and departs this stress-pit of a world.

There are people whose office and home I would willingly decorate in dung if it meant an early departure from the scene.

The dog keeps eating chicken bones it finds on the way to school. I would like to know who is eating all this chicken and throwing its remains out onto the street. Is this some kind of anarchist plot? Are these people just doggist, extremely prejudiced against those who have retained their fur? They must know that a dog will do nearly anything to chase a cat or suck on a bone. It's pitiful, really, to watch them struggle for such a low value food source and such a low value source of entertainment.

But I'm sure the gods make the same comment about me when I strain for recreational sex.

The Bradford pears have let almost all their blossoms fall. It is the end of an era. A strong wind took the majority of them down yesterday. Driving down the street, it was like being in a ticker tape parade. I was a genuine hero in the neighborhood. My adoring fans had all come out to praise my impeccable lawn maintenance, to express their awe at the way I staked up the camellia. Alas! To have lived and never seen a pink camellia blossom ring itself around the edge with its brown overcoat.

But now I must get back to eating my chocolate.