Tuesday, December 7, 2010


December 7, 2010:

I woke up at five-thirty this morning from a dream in which somebody was pounding on the door, or the floor, and could not go back to sleep. Yesterday's blog entry--that poem--I knew something was wrong. You always know something is wrong. I can't tell you how many versions of it I've been through, lengthening the list, shortening it, trying to find out what it needed. It needed something. Even when I had posted it yesterday I kept going back to it, changing a word, two words, but focusing on the last line. It was the last line that really bothered me. It was weak, didn't quite convey what I wanted, which was that sense at night when you hear the trains in the distance, as I used to do when I was a child, and you can't sleep, that sense of distance, of things passing away and passing you by, of loss and loneliness; and all that was congruent with the mood of the poem and I thought it was just a matter of finding the right combination that suggested that. But it didn't feel right. It felt clumsy and obvious.

So here I am, fresh from my own sleeplessness, after struggling with this and trying to doze off and failing, with the newest version. I can't promise that I'm done with it, but this one is better, I think, and it tells us more about this person and how much he's holding inside; and maybe it even says something about pain. I don't know. You tell me.


Sunlight folded into the window curtains.

The five doors out of the house, the seventeen inside.

A cherry side table we both wanted once.

Your translation of Proust, and mine.

The wall clock in the kitchen, still ticking.

The wedding photograph in its Tiffany frame.

Lamplight and solitude in the long evening.

Train whistles screaming through the night.

Let me add that my mother had an old cherry side table, and my brother took it into his house when she died. It was a beautiful table. The doors into the house are now "out of the house," the connotation being that the house is, in a sense, a trap; and why five? I once lived in a big old house that had five such doors, during my first marriage. It also had more than sixty windows. Poems are made of these bits and pieces, personal and impersonal. We've all seen wedding photos in Tiffany frames, but I've never owned one. Wall clocks always work, don't they, and go on working, and time always passes.

But I say too much. I like this version better, and it's now after eight, and I can forget about this poem for a while. Until I see something in it, at any rate, that shouldn't be there, or something else that should. I'll let you know if that happens.