Monday, February 2, 2015


I was recently going through some old folders of mine, and I came on a (very different) version of this poem– or rather the start of it. I clearly gave up back then, perhaps 20 years ago. All I had was the inscription from Freud, though I can't even remember why it should have caught my attention, nor where I stumbled on it, having not read Civilization and Its Discontents since my college days, which have receded into a fantastical era of fifty years and more back. I had the inscription and about 20 lines.

In any case, I elected to finish the poem, as I have here, though in all honesty I am not sure what this composition "means." That's all right. I may figure that out in due course. Meanwhile, as follows:

     On My Love of Country Life

                                    The question may be raised why we chose precisely the past of a                                                       city to compare with the past of a mind.
                                                                                          –Civilization and Its Discontents

He ruminated, cigar in crippled jaw.
Cocaine pulsed like the strobe on that cop’s cruiser.
There’s oceanic distance from where Freud sat
To where I stand just now as I visit Manhattan,
Which back in the doctor’s day was no Big Apple.
The Sheep Meadow still held sheep. But in time they’d vanish,

The park be thronged, and we’d raise his question–
Or I would, comparing his moment to our own,
When even that rim of posies by the reservoir’s
South end at 87th seems a threat.
Imagination, mine at least, would crave
A village, clean, essential, if maybe not

The one I’ve lived in so long. Are you like me?
Can you conjure some antique European village,
Complete with organ grinder, playful monkey,
Coins chink-chinking softly in a cup,
Air soft as bedclothes too? Here in the city,
That bus’s diesel chokes me. Jackhammers rattle.

The very pigeons move from there to there,
Cosmopolites, while the park affects a show
Of green among the cans and candy wrappers,
Rinds and condoms, jugs of Sneaky Pete
In shards. The traffic seems deployed for battle.
Its headlamps will sweep across the stoops come dark,

Across the benches, where mad folks rage against
The day gone by, or politicians, sports teams.
Just so we heard our elders, late at night,
In our anxious puberty. They madly shrieked
Their calumnies downstairs, and slammed their doors.
Are you like me? Did you long for more precision?

Did you crave an explanation? Why do I keep
Including you? You may not be like me,
Who craved it –how I craved it– for years and years,
Some way to make some sense of my inward city,
Though I didn’t think in those terms, and even then,
My mind ached likewise for another place,

The one in which things blurred: soft nap of meadow,
The spring blooms’ brightness muted, peasant wagons
Full of hay gone evening-fragrant, glow
Of a setting sun on the houses’ brick, and beasts,
Both wild and tame, intent upon their grazing–
Their placid grazing, narcotic, every moment

Much like the one before, their mild jaws rolling.

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