Monday, July 1, 2013

Across the Oonaverse: Upstate New York

Dear (r),

There are two Mount Hadleys, one in the southern Adirondacks and one on the moon.

In Johnsburg, New York, there's a road-side egg stand that boasts "Eggs so fresh, you'll want to slap the hens!"  Behind the stand, you can see several dozen chickens and one very large turkey.  You're supposed to leave $3.25 in the money box when you take a crate of eggs, but there's also a security camera & a hand-painted sign alerting you to its presence.  I pointed out that somebody would be more likely to steal the camera itself than a dozen eggs, which prompted my anthropologist to observe that the farmers aren't worried about thieves, per se; they're worried about opportunists.     

Horse races aside, Saratoga Springs is full of temptations.  For instance, you're not supposed to feed the ducks and/or ducklings in the park.  There's also a Lilly Pulitzer store that somehow makes you feel as though you've never really seen a Lilly Pulitzer dress for what it is.  And Joe's dad makes a mean mango tofu.

On a rainy Sunday afternoon, it's important to remember that there is no place to get coffee in uptown Kingston, New York.  & I mean no place.  Even Dunkin' Donuts is closed.  So you'll understand why, after a good long wander through rainy, shuttered streets, an anthropologist, a comparativist, a pit bull, and your R found themselves catching up over the selected works of local poets.

We bought two copies of Dan Wilcox's boundless abodes of Albany (Benevolent Bird Press, 2010), which features the following crafty aubade:


Cut me up, paste me
in your collage, over
that waterfall, or inside
that shell, expanding
like breath,
                  better yet
put me next to that naked woman
(a nice place to be)
or, sometime soon
next to you, stuck
in the grey glue of morning.

I was also drawn to Four Women (EXILIT, 2005), a co-authored chapbook featuring 3-5 poems contributed by four poets.  We can't know why Ina Conneally, Sandra Graff, Jeanne W. Mueller, & Mona Toscano decided to collaborate on a chapbook, or why they decided to make the most basic details of the chapbook's authorship its title, but somewhere in that mystery there are echoes of those handwritten books passed from hand to hand by women at the turn of the nineteenth century.  & these echoes reverberate in the chapbook's scenes of daily life: "Someone tried to sell me perfume/I told him I wasn't into/Odors from nobody's sweat" (Conneally, 5); "Dump your husband if/he won't help you with housework/So you have time to hang the wash/outside on the line" (Graff, 10); "she,/who knows proper placement for all objects/in her refrigerator,who tells/stories three times and doesn't say,//'Stop me if you've heard this" (Mueller, 16); "My daughter has told me she is in love" (Toscano, 22).

Finally, we bought James Lonergan's Poached Dreams (Epigraph Books, 2010), a book of poems written by the bookseller's father over the course of forty years.  Its questions range from the satiric metaphysical ("Does God go to parties and let his hair down?" (71)) to the grotesque mundane ("I have driven you/from our bed./Is it my farting?" (27)) to something somewhere in between:

He once asked me out of the blue
What I thought was the dirtiest part of one's body.

I laughed at the question.  "Your ass."
He said "Your hand."

At our twenty-fifth class reunion
He asked the same question again.

I laughed at the question.  "Your hand."
He said "Your head."

Such questions are interspersed with poems in a range of registers, elegy, epigraph & ode (to life Upstate, among other things) chief among them.

(r), when I wrote to you from Gore Mountain, I asked you for a fact to ponder & you wrote, When you fold down the arms of a paper star, you get a pentagon, which is the shape of a house.  The stars are always so close to home.

Yours as always,