I am out of touch, have more or less always been out of touch, with who is or was a celebrity. The contemporary music scene, the classic music scene, film stars, writers, reality TV—didn’t know Pink Floyd until a student introduced me to them twelve years ago—so you think you can tell heaven from hell… Listening to Tom Petty this morning—I’m learning to fly, but I ain’t got wings…
I stumble on artists, poets, thinkers almost by accident, usually years after the fact. Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead sat on my shelf unread for a six or seven years. Even after Mark recommended her to me, I waited a year or more. Then I read her—wow—but Marilynne is hardly a celebrity. Not in the Tom Petty sense, I think. But understand Prince was lost on me as a significant character in a day of the life of America. I didn’t know who Joni Mitchel was until ten years ago or so. Listen to her music all the time now. I knew the Beatles and Ali—and JFK. I saw a Jackson Pollock in a New York museum and felt the movement of whatever moves when you witness a certain magic, but I’m still not all that familiar with the artist.
I have a few friends who are poets and writers and artist. I know them.
But I am out of sync. Brett Foster introduced me to Tyndale six years ago. Didn’t know Tyndale. Then Brett died in his early forties a couple years after that, and this morning I had to search through my poetry book shelves to find Brett. The books are in alphabetical by author, but I couldn’t remember his name. I liked Brett Foster very much when I met him. Emailed him once about his book. He emailed me back, saying he hoped this would be the beginning of a long conversation. But he slipped into the next world quietly on me. I found out from another friend he had died. This morning, I couldn’t remember his name. But I remembered his introducing me to the language of Tyndale, the vernacular that became Shakespeare and company.
Who is famous, who isn’t—obviously it ain’t me, the poets says offhandedly. Can’t get six people to show for a public reading—but does it matter.
I watch the current president toss paper towels to a crowd in Puerto Rico as if he were shooting free throws. I could do that while reading my poems—toss out rolls of Bounty. Only I’m left handed—at least when shooting free throws. Write right handed.
The point, the point, some old composition teacher screams at me. There is no point—not in this note, not in shooting hoops with paper towels, not in the looming war with North Korea or Iran or with whatever. Not in all the wars ever fought. Not in Rome. A large cockroach scurries across the floor beside my desk. Gregor Samsa wakes one morning to discover… Who the hell is Gregor Samsa.
I sip my coffee. It’s still dark outside. Been raining off an on. Just remembered, today is my fucking birthday. I’m 71. Last year I posted a photograph of me doing a dead lift. Can’t do that today. Happy birthday to me.