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It's still April, innit? More poetry!

I was introduced to David Wagoner, and this poem, by a lover during my Freshman year in college. I've liked it ever since, for a number of reasons, and it's been on my mind of late.

Beauty and the Beast

Men wept when they saw her breasts, squinted with pain
At her clear profile, boggled at her knees,
Turned slack-jawed at her rear-view walking away,
And every available inch of her hair and skin
Had been touched by love poems and delicious gossip.
The most jaundiced and jaded people in the village
Agreed with the Prince: young Beauty was a beauty.

But through the long day he doused and plucked his roses,
Drained and refilled his moat, or caulked his dungeons,
And all night long he clocked the erring planets,
Pondered the lives of saints like a Latin-monger,
Or sat up half-seas over with sick falcons,
While Beauty lingered in her sheerest nightgowns
With the light behind her, wilting from sheer boredom.

"You're a bore!" she said, "Prince Charming is a bore!"
She cried to the gaping seamstresses and fishwives.
"He's a bore!" she yelled to the scullions and butcher's helpers.
"That tedious, bland, preoccupied, prickling Princeling
Is a bore's bore!" she told the bloody barbers
And waxy chandlers leaning out to watch her
Dragging her rear-view home to Mother and Father.

But deep in the woods, behind a bush, the Beast
Had big ideas about her. When she slipped by,
Hiking her skirts to give her legs free sway
And trailing a lovely, savage, faint aroma
Fit to unman a beast, the Beast said, "Beauty,
Come live with me in the bushes where it's chancy,
Where it's scare and scare alike, where it's quick and murky."

She looked him over. Though the light was patchy,
She could see him better than she wanted to:
Wherever men have skin, the beast had hair;
Wherever men have hair, he had black bristles;
Wherever men have bristles, he grew teeth;
And wherever men have teeth, his snaggling tusks
Lapped over his smile. So Beauty said, "No thank you."

"You'd be a sweet relief. I'd gorge on you.
I'm sick of retching my time with hags and gorgons.
You're gorgeous. Put down my rising gorge forever."
She remembered her mother whispering: The Beast
Is a bargain. It's a well-known fact that, later,
He turns into a Prince, humble and handsome,
With unlimited credit and your father's mustache.

So all you have to do is grin and bear him
Till the worst is over.
But Beauty felt uncertain.
Still, after the Prince, it seemed like now or never,
And maybe all men were monsters when they saw her,
And maybe the ugliest would teach her sooner.
Her heart felt colder than a wizard's whistle:
She said, "You Beast, how can I say I love you?"

With horny fingers caressing everything
Available on the little world of her body,
The Beast then took her gently, his rich odor
Wafting about them like the mist from graveyards,
And Beauty began to branch out like a castle
Taller than trees, and from the highest tower
She loosened her long hair, and the Beast climbed it.

When he was spent, he lay beside her, brushing
Leaves from her buttresses, and said, "I love you."
She shrank back to herself and felt afraid.
"You'll change into something much more comfortable
Now that you've taken me," she said. "I know:
You'll be transformed into someone like Prince Charming."
"I'm always like this," he said, and drooled a little.

"If you're going to change, change now," she told him, weeping.
"Peel off that monster suit and get it over."
"I wear myself out, not in," he said. "I'll love you
In all the worst ways, as clumsily as heaven."
"Thank God," she said. And Beauty and the Beast
Stole off together, arm in hairy arm,
And made themselves scarce in the bewitching forest.

--David Wagoner


Another favorite poem

This is the second poem that I ever memorized and read in front of a group of people (the first was by Shel Silverstein). I reprised it by reading it for people at a party a couple of years ago.

It's still one of my favorites.


may have killed the cat; more likely
the cat was just unlucky, or else curious
to see what death was like, having no cause
to go on licking paws, or fathering
litter on litter of kittens, predictably.

Nevertheless, to be curious
is dangerous enough. To distrust
what is always said, what seems,
to ask odd questions, interfere in dreams,
leave home, smell rats, have hunches
do not endear cats to those doggy circles
where well-smelt baskets, suitable wives, good lunches
are the order of things, and where prevails
much wagging of incurious heads and tails.

Face it. Curiosity
will not cause us to die –
only lack of it will.
Never to want to see
the other side of the hill
or that improbable country
where living is an idyll
(although a probable hell)
would kill us all.

Only the curious
have, if they live, a tale
worth telling at all.
Dogs say cats love too much, are irresponsible,
are changeable, marry too many wives,
desert their children, chill all dinner tables
with tales of their nine lives.

Well, they are lucky. Let them be
nine-lived and contradictory,
curious enough to change, prepared to pay
the cat price, which is to die
and die again and again,
each time with no less pain.
A cat minority of one
is all that can be counted on
to tell the truth. And what cats have to tell
on each return from hell
is this: that dying is what the living do,
that dying is what the loving do,
and that dead dogs are those who do not know
that dying is what, to live, each has to do.

--Alistair Reed


Apparently April is Poetry Month

I heard this on NPR's Fresh Air a few days ago, and it caught my ear (and spirit):

Thousand Kisses Deep (Excerpt)

You came to me this morning
And you handled me like meat
You'd have to be a man to know
How good that feels, how sweet
My mirror twin, my next of kin
I'd know you in my sleep
And who but you would take me in
A thousand kisses deep

I loved you when you opened
Like a lily to the heat
See, I'm just another snowman
Standing in the rain and sleet
Who loved you with his frozen love
His second-hand physique
With all he is, and all he was
A thousand kisses deep

I know you had to lie to me
I know you had to cheat
To pose all hot and high
Behind the veils of sheer deceit
Our perfect porn aristocrat
So elegant and cheap
I'm old, but I'm still into that
A thousand kisses deep

--Leonard Cohen

Candid self-portrait meme

Take a picture of yourself RIGHT NOW.
Don't change your clothes. Don't fix your hair. Just take a picture.
Post that picture with no editing.
Post these instructions with your picture.

Candid self-portrait thing

Doggerel du jour

Oh, and before I forget: regular readers of this journal may recall that when I'm engaged in activities that don't require a lot of focus (exercising, gardening, showering), my mind tends to wander and I'll find myself fabricating silly songs or poems.

During tonight's bike ride, I found myself using as inspiration the reaction that my ratgirls had to being fed Krusty-O's this morning. One of the 7-Elevens that've been turned into Kwik-E-Marts to promote the Simpsons Movie is down by work, and has a panoply of rebranded products available. I picked up a box of Krusty-O's, which, as far as I can tell, are basically Froot Loops.

Curious Jennifer peeks outPart of this nutritious breakfast!

The rats love them. No, I mean really love them. It's like rat crack. And it was so adorable watching them clutch the colorful little torii in their paws while they nibbled away. So with that image in my head from this morning, and my muscles aching as I climbed the hills, my muse struck. Without further ado:

O tiny rat, with Krusty-O
I've read the box, and thus I know
That these are awfully bad for you
...but it's so cute, the way you chew

I blame the low blood sugar. I was seriously bonking towards the end of that ride (and bonking in the glycemic sense, not the fun sense).

(What is up with all the double entendres in cycling, anyway? Pumps? Multi-tools? Lube? Chains? BONKING??? Must be the influence of all that Spandex.)

Cycling Frenzy!

OK, maybe not exactly a frenzy, per se. But I did cycle into work both today and yesterday, and was feeling very butch about it. So much so that I decided to go on the post-work ride. Now there are some hard-core riders at the office, and keeping this in mind, I mentioned to the organizer of the Thursday evening rides that I was probably going to be a bit of a wuss. "No problem," says he, "We'll opt for an easier ride today."

There were only three of us tonight, which gave us some additional flexibility. Since I'd ridden in from the north, we would head that direction, then after a while I would split off from them and continue heading home while they looped back to the office. So, abandoning my laptop, backpack, and (as I found out later) my house keys at work, off we go.

Now, I live in the flatlands. Work's in a pretty flat place, too. And there's a nice, easy, 13-mile route between the two that doesn't have what any cyclist worth his multi-tool would consider a "hill". Hardly the sort of thing that serious cyclists would go out of their way for on a group ride. We crossed I-280 into the idyllic, bucolic hills surrounding Foothills Park and the Arastradero Open Space Preserve. Gorgeous, with the setting sun reflecting off of the dry, high-summer grass. That whole California "golden hills" effect.

I probably wasn't appreciating it as much as I could have, given the fact that I was just trying to keep up with the other two. It was probably an elevation gain of... oh, I dunno. 2,000 feet? More than I've done in a while, at any rate. But I know that even while I was feeling the lactic acid burn in my leg muscles, I was in a far better position to appreciate the scenery than I would have been were I in a speeding car.

Eventually we reach Alpine Road and split... they back to the office by way of Sand Hill, me down Alameda de las Pulgas (yes, "avenue of the fleas") to my house. shaix was kind enough to let me back into my house (thanks!!!!), and I noticed that as usual, I ended up the imprint of a dirty chainring on the inside of my right calf.

The inspiration for my first tattoo

I almost always seem to end up with that mark on my calf. And back when I was cycling almost daily, I thought to myself, "Hey, why not make it permanent, then? Why not just get a tattoo of it?" Having been riding more recently, I've thought about it again. So yeah, I'm going to get that done. My first ink.

Another July Birthday!

Here's wishing a very happy birthday to voontah. Cheers!

Happy Birthday!!

Many happy returns to xthread!!!

More song!

basmati and I attended the Lucinda Williams concert at the Oakland Paramount on Thursday night. The last time I was there was nearly a year ago, for an Elvis Costello/Alain Toussaint concert, and I had forgotten how much walking into the Paramount was like entering an Art-Deco Oz. It's gorgeous. I want to see more concerts there just to spend time in the lobby.

Oakland Paramount

Aside from fantasies of ascending the grand escalier in tails, I was really looking forward to seeing Lucinda in concert. I'd learned of her by word of mouth circa 2002, and Car Wheels on a Gravel Road hooked me. World Without Tears was easily as good. And I have awfully fond memories of a hot summer evening concert at the Oregon Zoo in 2004, featuring Lucinda, John Hiatt, a Pendleton blanket, my grilled salmon and corn salsa, a gorgeous sky, and the magic of friends new and old. Perhaps it was the fond memories of this that inflated my expectations. But after hearing the new album West, I should have known that Lucinda was taking things in a different direction.

It's not as if her music is particularly happy, right? But the material on the previous albums, just seemed, well... more raucously morose than what's rendered on West. I keep trying to come up with a term that nails it... she still defies categorization, but in a new way. Emo-billy? Emo-tonk? Emo & Western?

Kelly Joe Phelps opened, and was awesome, but perhaps a bit low-key after a long week and not enough sleep. Then Lucinda came on, and to her credit, she did perform a number of songs from previous albums. And even some of the songs from the new album were done OK live, I think. But the nadir was what she introduced as a song she'd recently written and had not recorded yet. The lyrics consisted of (I kid you not) variations on:

You're my little honey bee
I'm so glad you stu-ung me
Got your honey in me
Oh my little honey bee

That's really about it. Over and over. And I know she can write stellar lyrics, so I'm not sure where this came from. Perhaps "recently written" meant "in the shower this morning", or "on the tour bus after a few shots of Jack". Oh, and during the bridge, she was dancing. But... well, aren't musicians supposed to have a better sense of rhythm? I later characterized it as the "white middle-school boy dance".

I am probably coming off as being too critical. I like Lucinda and will definitely continue to enjoy Car Wheels and World, I might see her perform again, and I'll keep an ear open for her new work.

Oh, but this is the fun part, especially as it comes on the heels of my previous post: the new song inspired me to spend an entire day coming up with doggerel for my text messages and Twitters. Examples:



Then my friends started doing it. The best! I should thank Lucinda for that; entertainment is entertainment!

Sweatin' to the Dada

Occasionally, when I'm engaged in a tedious and/or physical task, the clutch of my mind starts slipping, and I'll start treading spirals of non-causal creative thought. For some reason, this almost always manifests itself in song: either coming up with new lyrics to an existing song, or weaving new songs from whole cloth. To wit: when gardening three years ago, I started singing a Beastie Boys-esque rap about the International style of architecture.

Tonight, while working out, I started recasting a Nerdcore rap song in Elizabethan verse.

I'm not sure what this means. Low blood sugar, perhaps.