Monday, February 02, 2009

Sunday Scribblings #148: Regrets

Well, folks, I regret to say that I do not have the finished exquisite corpse I was hoping to schlep into place as this week's response to the SS girls; the final couplet is, hopefully, still wending its way back to the point of origin. Just as I was confident that any morgue-ish poem worth its salt would surely address the "regret" prompt, I'm sure that the very same poem would do just as fine a job with next week's "leaf blower" prompt.

Short of ready-made material, I am left to fend for myself on this week's noodle. Before I dug myself in too deep, I decided to consult Aunt Merriam online for some etymological considerations and she informed me that the word "regret" cousins up nicely with roots that entangle themselves with the words "greet" and "weep." Perhaps, then, to "re-greet" or "re-weep." Maybe even "re-visit." Set a spell, even. I liked these suggestions, especially as they were contrary to what I expected to "greet" when I went searching. Rather than greeting again or even weeping again, I tend to associate regret with albatrosses and anchors: things with weight and maybe a foul smell: not your average Armani or Jerry Garcia neckwear.

I don't do avian regret: it just hasn't suited me for a long time - long, long time. I've done too many things in my 55 years that, in another closet, would have qualified for plenty of albatross du jour: left marriages, given away houses, given away large quantities of retirement funds (long before any "credit crunch" decided to level some playing fields), walked away from twenty years in another profession...Thirty years ago, while trolling 6th Street one weekend night in Austin, I ran across a black and white "No Regrets" button. It seemed a perfect mantra then, just as it still does now. I'm sure that if I dig deep enough in the archives out in the garage, it's probably still out there, radiating its wise message.

And speaking of wise, consider the Houstonian narrator in Ms Alister's latest tale, who, when asked if he has any regrets, replies, "Regrets? Naw, Ma'am. I mean I do, I mean I could." Cracked me up the first time I read the line (still does), another priceless coinage out of the Duchess' mint, but banter genius aside, I love the truth of the statement, too, particularly in that meaty beaty bouncy, "I mean I could." Of course, he could; of course, we all could. Houston bubba's letting us know that we strap on those damn albatrosses ourselves, be they full-Windsored or half-Windsored. If, that is, our regret is measured in sea-blown poultry.

But, on the other hand, if I follow Aunt Merriam's lead, then you just might have to sign me right on up as a first class re-gretter, cuz, brothers and sisters, I do like to "greet" and I am not at all above frequent flyer mileage as a weeper. (Just ask two viewings of the final prison scene with Fagin and Oliver in Polanski's "Oliver Twist" or another viewing of the sublime "Dear Frankie," and the 80-something thousand other movies that have jerked their own share of Niagaras out of this head.)

And with this retro-fitted definition in mind, count me as a big re-weeper on finding out, a couple of weeks ago, that dear sweet and formidable Grace Paley had passed on long before I ever got the news, back in August 2007, while all this time I was living under the illusion that her gorgeous self was still up there thriving in Vermont. The bookflap on Fidelity, her last book of poems, informed me otherwise, and it seems her final journeying was not an easy one, as she chronicles so beautifully, so achingly beautifully, in the poems under its roof. I will re-weep for this beautiful psalmist anytime, just as I will always hasten to greet the new day of her glorious prose.

by Grace Paley

My friends are dying
well we're old it's natural
one day we passed the experience of "older"
which began in late middle age
and came suddenly upon "old" then
all the little killing bugs and
baby tumors that had struggled
for years against the body's
brave immunities found their
level playing fields and

but this is not what I meant to
tell you I wanted to say that
my friends were dying but have now
become absent the word dead is correct
but inappropriate

I have not taken their names out of
conversation gossip political argument
my telephone book or card index in
whatever alphabetical or contextual
organizer I can stop any evening of
the lonesome week at Claiborne Bercovici
Vernarelli Deming and rest a moment

on their seriousness as artists workers
their excitement as political actors in the
streets of our cities or in their workplaces
the vigiling fasting praying in or out
of jail their lightheartedness which floated
above the year's despair
their courageous sometimes hilarious
disobediences before the state's official
servants their fidelity to the idea that
it is possible with only a little extra anguish
to live in this world at an absolute minimum
loving brainy sexual energetic redeemed.

(In "regret" of the lovely Grace Paley: December 11, 1922 - August 22, 2007)



Blogger Tumblewords: said...

Ah, what a fine, fine read this is! Every word, every word. I love this one...

8:12 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Tumblewords, you are assuredly one of the people I love to "re-greet" every week. Thank you again, my friend.

9:28 PM  
Blogger Rinkly Rimes said...

first stanza alone to be a pleasing entity, although the poem as a whole says it all too.

9:53 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

RR: Grace has still got it goin' on, for sure...

10:01 PM  
Blogger alister said...

This encompasses all in its wide world of wonderfulness. And I don’t just say that because you were the brightest portrait light hanging over a few bad forks. I’d copped a ‘tude and your attention to my detail was smelling salts to my soul. Rather, it was the vulnerability, the splaying out of you and your thoughts, here, along with your fire-cracking wit, just about back to full tilt, that was more attractive than any Kootenai River rapids and almost as attractive as Grace Paley’s everything, ‘specially her brain ;-) A deep and gracious bow to her. And to the last stanza of Sisters, that I would devour as a sacrament wholly only hoping, because I’m short on belief, that it would change me into its truth, its reality.


10:36 PM  
Blogger anno said...

I'd love this, if only for that etymological discussion of regret and Ms. Paley's beautiful poem. But then you went and worked into that already rich mix your own stories and connections (including that wonderful line from Miss A!), lifting any heaviness associated with regret, turning it thick, smooth, and sweet. Just the slightest taste of salt. Beautiful.

4:57 AM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Lady A: You are its truth, and its reality. Thank you for nudging me along back to the prompt.

And BTW, Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat: the corpse is complete! I'll get it up sometime today, probably this evening.

Blessings to you, as you are to us.

5:35 AM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Anno: That was a happy visit with Aunt Merriam last night, and I'd been wanting to do a tribute to beautiful Grace since I found out the news: re-greeting and re-weeping paved the way. Funny you mention salt: I never cook with it, never even put it on my food (pepper and other spices, no problem), but just this past week, I've been sprinkling a bit in. Thanks for your continually lovely greetings.

5:42 AM  
Blogger jsd said...

thank you for sharing, a re-minder to re-enter each day fully.

6:44 AM  
Blogger murat11 said...

jsd: All kinds of cool re-considerations, amiga. Thanks for checking in.

10:19 AM  
Blogger alister said...

Oh, splendid, Paschal! Whether the EC shows up today, tonight, or during the next leaf-blowing session (deep down, I’m all about delayed gratification) I will be delighted to see what the blind of mankind hath wrought!

Thank you for pointing me back toward the truth, the reality of what we all are. I get very small and lost, moving about my ego’s surprisingly vast territory, and I forget...

11:16 AM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Duchess: Ah, the lighting out for the vastness...

You are welcome.

12:06 PM  
Blogger CordieB said...

Ah. . . what a lovely re-gret. I enjoyed reading this. . .

Peace, Light and Love. . . CordieB.

4:02 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

CordieB: Thanks for dropping in with your "greetings."

6:07 PM  
Blogger Maria said...

paschal/murat: as THE reader of my attempt at a sort-of blog, I am indebted once again for your kind words and enthusiasm. so i came for a visit and found this fine post, so enigmatic too because of the partial bird's view into personal history. i liked this post too because it crosses so many genres: at once it is evocative, etymological, vaguely biographical, always philosophical. so you like exquisite corpses too? i tell you, i use them a lot with students (of literature or english language) and i have yet to encounter one of these collaborative efforts that didn´t have humor, tragedy, and some allusion to both sex and death. ah, those nutty surrealists!
take care! (and thank you always)

1:11 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Crusoe/Maria, is that you? Thanks for your visit and your good words. Your blog rocks: I was afraid you had gone underground. And, yes, I love exquisite corpses, and wanted to include you in this one's creation, but wasn't quite sure how to make that happen. Let's get you involved in the next round. Peace to you, amiga.

2:42 PM  

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