Mr. Senescence

July 20, 2017

There were those that would have wept to step barefoot into reality…                            —Wallace Stevens

A picture of my family:
My mother and father and me,
all wading in some river.

Must be 1949 or so.
I can’t really remember it.
I would have been two.

But my feet were wet.
My father had his trousers
rolled up to his knees.

And mommy had a dress on.
The cold, clean water ran
through our toes.

(I could walk then. )
When your tongue reaches up
into the sky, the sky kisses it.

Yippy yi yo kayah.


5 Responses to “Mr. Senescence”

  1. John Looker Says:

    “How something came to gather this poem together “. No, that’s not playing with words Jim. I recognise the experience and I expect many others do. Strange isn’t it? The surrealists of course had great faith in the subconscious. Proust – yes. The Greeks had their Muses. And you have Bing Crosby 😂! Well that’s just me teasing you: you also have Wallace Stevens, a wide reading and plenty of memories.
    Beautiful apartment by the way. Our house is much more cluttered and worn out 😊.

  2. extrasimile Says:

    How this poem came together? Or maybe how something came to gather this poem together? That sounds like I’m playing with words, but the experience—at least for me—is a common one. I remember it well—or, wait, how could I know that I remember something well, unless it came with supporting evidence: like I’m sitting with a group of people who shared a common experience (remember when we used to go sleight riding in the dark on Essex Street) and we all have enough we remember to agree that this really happened. [That strikes me as a pretty weak form of knowledge—buy could we know anything without it?]
    Memory is obviously a big topic, and I’m not going to cover it all right here, but in terms of this poem, the picture came first. I don’t remember specifically when it happened—but I’m pretty sure it is picture of my parents and me. No reason not to (like suppose there was no evidence that Essex Street ever existed). When I first found it, it resonated with me and some experience in my early childhood that I had…well, what is the word…forgotten? Not quite. It was there enough to bring back to conscious consideration. Write a poem about. (not exactly Proust, but not un-like it either).
    Incidentally (or Indecently, as autocorrect had it) the penultimate stanza has no conscious relationship to the preceding stanzas, it just felt right, and the last line…I don’t know, comes from my childhood someplace. The origins of it evidently came from an old Bing Crosby movie, that I don’t remember ever seeing. But I don’t remember not seeing either (As if one could.)
    Anyway simmer this in the mind for a while, the add a line from Mr. Stevens [ever wonder why one poet so much resonates in the mind (Stevens) and another of similar achievement (say, Frost) does not?] and out comes a poem.
    Mr. Senescence. Hum… What does that mean again?
    You know, cellular senescence may be why we all have to die.

    The picture. You may be interested to know I took that picture from my rocking chair in my living room. It’s just a picture into the eating area of our apartment. The gods were on my side for this one, though.
    By the way, you might google ‘tudor city’. It’s an interesting part of the city

  3. John Looker Says:

    I’m afraid I didn’t find your reply until this morning Jim, but I’m interested in how that poem came together – as also in your speculations about memory. I have some vivid very early memories – one of which cannot possibly be true! – but some I believe probably are, if distorted through a child’s perception.
    I’m really glad you have poems in the Indra’s Net anthology – their presence helps to sustain the quality of the book and the book will give those poems of yours a different ground for longevity.
    All the best, John

  4. extrasimile Says:

    Thank you, John. It was really the felicitous juxtaposition of the Stevens quote and the picture, which I turned up when my mother died, that sparked this poem. What is a memory anyway? Can you be said to have a memory (in the picture) of something you don’t remember (or can’t remember)?
    I think my father was found of wading in rivers when I was a kid—consequently we did this more than once. I’m just remembering other occasions.
    Anyway, the picture is one of my vehicles for remembering both my parents and the occasional sojourn into a river.
    By the way, I wanted to thank you for getting me involved in the Bennison Books project. Deborah was excellent to work with—she picked the two poems I would have picked to include. You can’t do better than that.
    Also, you’ll be interested to know that on all four days of Manhattanhenge this year it was cloudy.

  5. John Looker Says:

    Well, young man, some of your brain cells have certainly lit up on full power with this one. Reading it, my own mind went numb with shock, the shock of recognition that is, and then a kind of tingling set in as normal life slowly reappeared. Yippy yi yo kayah, indeed. Best wishes, John

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