Teagarden

March 15, 2010

They say the night growls. Let’s suppose that. Dogs
out there, dogs scared, showing their teeth, mongrel
dogs, ready to rip skin, barking at windows.
A brutal world, this night. It’s why we sleep;
it must be. Teagarden, though, is not out
there, not tonight. We call him Tea for short.
Nice name for a dog, yes? ‘Teagarden’, as
in Jack Teagarden, trombone player
extraordinaire and ‘Teagarden’, as in
the pleasure a tea garden might bring:
The pleasure of music, the pleasure of
place. Teagarden right now is underneath
the bed, under the ground, digging his way
to China, I suppose. Teagarden is looking for all
the useless tea gardens of this world…
Dogs do dream, you know. Dogs do write poems.
‘Hey Tea, there’s a good boy, come on, wake up.’

*

My friends, follow me here. My humble attempt
at definition, at poetry:
Listen to Tony Judt in ‘Night’, his piece
in The New York Review of Books:
One is thus left free to contemplate
at leisure and in minimal discomfort
the catastrophic progress of one’s own
destruction…

His intension here, a serious disclosure,
is not poetry, per se. It’s not a metaphor.
He does in fact have Lou Gehrig’s disease.
a motor neuron disorder… a variant
of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis…
‘Night’ invokes, of course, Ellie Weisel’s
famous book; but ‘night’ remains
the night for Tony Judt. Thinking and thanking
issue from the same source: in distraction,
in destruction: …I suppose I should be
at least mildly satisfied to know that
I have found within myself a sort of
survival mechanism…
To survive
the long night, left propped up in bed, Tony
Judt constructs memory palaces,
mnemonic rooms you occupy with thought.
Read Jonathan Spence on Mateo Ricci
sometime, how he used his memory
to impress the Chinese, who thought memory
the highest good, who thought
the real resides in passing time, and who
were just a little worried about that cross
around Mateo’s neck…
You worship suffering, Father Ricci?

*
Perhaps we do worship our suffering,
perhaps it’s like digging for bones, old bones
in ancient tea gardens in ancient China.
Perhaps that’s what poetry is: ripping
the hell out of an idea, searching for it.
So ‘night’, so ‘sleep’—words to remind us that
the Earth is a mass of rock that blocks the sun.
You too should be digging to China, Tony boy.
I think a good god would have made that mass
transparent. Earth should glow, be warm,
radiate peace, make sleep passé, stop wars.
(Oh, and leave us sexually satisfied,
prosperous.) Leave us healthy.
Leave us part of our commonality.
At death we should join the communion…
Instead, at night we stand as souls, we lay
in bed as souls: all the useless tea gardens
of this world: ‘Come on Tea, up and at ‘em.
Let’s go for a morning run.’

For the night growls.
‘Come on Tea boy, let’s run for the sun.’

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