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Tuesday, 11 December 2012

(Post) Moderne


Villa Moderne Motel (Charlevoix, Michigan): photo by docksidepress (Matt Stangis), 17 June 2007

I'm no longer much good at connecting things up with their names
(if I ever was)
but these strange long nights I do remember and indeed cannot not remember
the name
of my lovely young cousin
who dwelt with her big strapping happy tango loving husband
(to a child's eyes, happiness appears everywhere, even where it perhaps isn't)
in a modernesque apartment
in a place called Skokie
I loved visiting there because on the way we got to drive by
The Villa Moderne

And when visiting there I got to listen to my favorite record in all the wide imagined modern world
Hernando's Hideaway

That was at a time when we were living on the near West Side
where things were not very modern
that is clean bright neat well organized
It always seemed more things were falling apart than were being mended
but I imagined a future in which things would be becoming
I imagined
the future as a place
whence all that disorganization and squalor would have been chased away

by a kind of geometrical evolution
My private
altarboy's-own-world naïf design for living
Things would be very different in that imagined brilliant future
things would no longer require being mended
because they would never fall apart
The future would be available to everybody yet at the same time be
a secret place like The Villa Moderne
or Hernando's Hideaway

I was seeing with the foolish eyes of a child

But before long
when I learned that my sweet
and pretty and bright and cheerful and always happy
young cousin was very ill with colon cancer
and suffering terribly
and having her abdomen burnt away
by relentless doses of radiation "therapy"
and then when she died anyway
so that all that remained of her bright smile in my mind was an indelible
of unspeakable agony
and she was spoken of in hushed voices behind doors in the family
and somebody whispered that her big happy tango loving man
who had loved her so much had gone crazy
with the pain of it all

I started to have second thoughts

Silver Tanks and Moon: Arthur Dove, 1930; image by mbell1975, 24 August 2012 (Philadelphia Museum of Art)


TC said...

Hernando's Hideaway: Archie Bleyer, 1954



Thanks for such "second thoughts," placed above these Silver Tanks and Moon.


light coming into fog against invisible
ridge, sparrow landing on post in right
foreground, no sound of wave in channel

this change unnoticed, that
were perhaps observed

whether turns, planes which,
assembled the surface

silver line of sun reflected in channel,
cloudless blue sky to the left of point

TC said...

Many thanks Steve, second thoughts of course could also at some point give way to third, fourth & c. -- as happily we roll along -- and indeed the day was then made by three kind little backchannel words (actually about the poem, as though it were one!!) from Aram Saroyan: "Lovely new poem..."

Three little kindly words. All it takes to warm the ancient thoughtless flinty heart!

By the by, though the joint with the flagrant roadsign in the top photo is/was a motel, the Villa Moderne mentioned in the poem was a nightclub, different state, different century.

But during officer training in the Polish Cavalry I was taught, "Never apologize never explain," so let this not be taken as an explanation -- well perhaps a smidgeon of one, no not more than merely the tiniest -- and apology, never, no, too late now for that.

Otherwise... one hopes one has not been contributing to the moral deterioration of Canada with those wild castanets. Though thinking a bit further upon it, perhaps anything that managed to contribute even the littlest bit to the moral deterioration of Canada can't be ALL bad.

tpw said...

Beautiful & touching poem. I can't hear mention of "Hernando's Hideaway," however, without remembering Bernard Welt letting me in on the secret knowledge that Frost's "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening" perfectly fits the melody of the song.

TC said...

Thanks, Terry. I do love the sound of a castanet clicking deep in the snowy woods at evening. And small world, Lawrence Welk used to draw that same comparison in our intimate latenight chats, some of the most intriguing passages of which were alas lost due to the inordinate volume of the bubble machine. But as a performer yourself you'll know how that is!

Hazen said...

You’ve captured beautifully a child’s first exposure to what Nietzsche called ‘ . . . the eternal wound of existence.’

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

Hard to believe rock 'n' roll was waiting in the lobby of Hernando's Hideaway just itching for a vacancy (which popped up in less than a year). BTW, tpw’s right on about the poem.

Wooden Boy said...

"...and indeed cannot not remember..."

The absence of the cousin's name is the clincher, shown up so that it hits harder.

It is a lovely new poem. It also hurts to read.

All the first thoughts gone or boxed up in some almost ungettable place.

TC said...

The "wound of existence", of course, is suffered early, and has salt poured into it at intervals along the way. It is a reductive simplicity to suggest that news of the existence of suffering comes on all at once, or is not reiterated over and over.

Still, there's that mysterious half-information of the darker side manifesting itself in family things, not quite understood as a child, and all the more unsettling for that.

As to not mentioning names, thanks to WB for recognising that I did understand that with "subject matter" of this kind, there is a fine line to tread -- to forget, bury, dismiss, or somehow to refresh the memory in a way that returns to the lost one a bit of the dignity that is always taken away in the late stages of a cruel wasting disease.

The young woman was still in her twenties when she died. She had a brightness, a lightness, yet also a fragility, about her, which in later years has caused me to remember her face whenever I hear this song.

Nin Andrews said...

Wow, this is such a powerful poem. So so true. For me the animals were the ones I first saw the suffering in, and the vet, making me his little helper, and the trust and love in those animal faces, looking up at me, thinking I could save them. I tried and tried.
The cats who would crouch during mowing time, the kittens with their distemper, the calves--my first one-- I gave my own name, and after it died, I refused to use my real name and always insisted on Nin. The animals in various states of disrepair dropped off at the farm by strangers or tossed from cars . . . Welcome to human nature, the vet said once.

TC said...


Once when we were having one of our beloved cats, awfully ill with terminal cancer, done in -- you know how harrowing these scenes are -- I asked the vet who had just done that second, final heart-stopping shot -- the mercy shot -- whether he ever thought about the inequity whereby humans can administer this shot to animals, but are not allowed to administer it to one another.

"Yes," he said.