Voice (20)

As people get older they get more alike in character and appearance and could all be leading the same life. Or almost. Shut up in the little house opposite the fairgrounds, Aunt Jenny talks to the hot-water faucet that drips, and the kitchen drawer that has a tendency to stick. IMG_8503She also sings hymns mostly, in a high quavering voice: “That Old Rugged Cross” and “Art Thou Weary, Art Thou Sad” and “How glorious the mansions be/ Where thy redeemed shall dwell with the …” Without meaning to, she has grown heavy but she eats so little that short of starving to death there doesn’t seem much she can do about it. . . .When she gets into bed and the springs creak under her weight, she moans with the pleasure of lying stretched out on an object that understands her so well.. . . .She is full of fears, which are nursed by the catastrophes she reads about in the paper. The front and back doors are locked day and night against bad boys, a man with a mask over the lower part of his face, pneumonia, a fall. There is, even so, a something buoyant in her nature that makes people pleased to see her coming toward them on the street, and usually the stop to talk to her and hear about the catastrophes. She winds up the conversation by saying cheerfully, “Life is no joke.” What sensible person wouldn’t agree with her.

— William Maxwell
from So Long, See You Tomorrow

Voice (19)

‘MORNING’

I’ve got to tell you
how I love you always
I think of it on grey
mornings with death

in my mouth the tea
is never hot enough
then and the cigarette
dry the maroon robe

chills me I need you
and look out the window
at the noiseless snow

At night on the dock
the buses glow like
clouds and I am lonely
thinking of flutes

I miss you always
when I go to the beach
the sand is wet with
tears that seem mine

although I never weep
and hold you in my
heart with a very real
humor you’d be proud of

the parking lot is
crowded and I stand
rattling my keys the car
is empty as a bicycle

what are you doing now
where did you eat your
lunch and were there
lots of anchovies it

is difficult to think
of you without me in
the sentence you depress
me when you are alone

Last night the stars
were numerous and today
snow is their calling
card I’ll not be cordial

there is nothing that
distracts me music is
only a crossword puzzle
do you know how it is

when you are the only
passenger if there is a
place further from me
I beg you do not go

— Frank O’Hara

h/t deadbeatsblog

photo — Frank O’Hara via wcpa.com

Voice (18)

Soloing

My Mother tells me she dreamed
of John Coltrane, a young Trane
playing his music with such joy
and contained energy and rage
she could not hold back her tears.
And sitting awake now, her hands
crossed in her lap, the tears start
in her blind eyes. The TV set
behind her is gray, expressionless.
It is late, the neighbors quiet,
even the city-Los Angeles-quiet.
I have driven for hours down 99,
over the Grapevine into heaven
to be here. I place my left hand
on her shoulder, and she smiles.
What a world, a mother and son
finding solace in California
just where we were told it would
be, among the palm trees and all-
night super markets pushing orange
back-lighted oranges at 2AM
“He was alone”, she says, and does
not say, just as I am, “soloing.”
What a world, a great man half
her age comes to my Mother
in sleep to give her the gift
of song, which-shaking the tears
away-she passes on to me, for now
I can hear the music of the world
in the silence and that word:
soloing. What a world-when I
arrived the great bowl of mountains
was hidden in a cloud of exhaust,
the sea spread out like a carpet
of oil, the roses I had brought
from Fresno browned on the seat
beside me, and I could have
turned back and lost the music.

— Philip Levine
image via poetryfoundation.org

Thanks so much, MN, for sharing this.

Voice (17)

southernpacific

“He is the kind of thin quiet little bum nobody pays much attention to even in Skid Row, let alone Main Street. If a cop hustled him off, he hustled, and disappeared, and if yard dicks were around in bigcity yards when a freight was pulling out, chances are they never got a sight of the little man hiding in the weeds and hopping on in the shadows.

When I told him I was planning to hop the Zipper firstclass freight train the next night he said, “Ah you mean the Midnight Ghost.”
“Is that what you call the Zipper?”
“You musta been a railroad man on that railroad.”
“I was, I was a brakeman on the S.P.”
“Well, we bums call it the Midnight Ghost cause you get on it at L.A. and nobody sees you till you get to San Francisco in the morning the thing flies so fast.”
“Eighty miles an hour on the straightaways, pap.”
“That’s right but it gits mighty cold at night when you’re flyin up that coast north of Gavioty and up around Surf.”
“Surf that’s right, then the mountains down south of Margarita.”
“Margarity, that’s right, but I’ve rid that Midnight Ghost more times’n I can count I guess.”
“How many years been since you’ve been home?”
“More years than I care to count I guess. . . ”
.

— Jack Kerouac from The Dharma Bums

top image — southern pacific train yards, dtla photo illustration by lg
bottom image — jack kerouac photo via angelheadedhipsters

Voice (16)

“In order to do what you need to do, you need to walk. Walking is what brings the words to you, what allows you to hear the rhythms of the words as you write them in your head. One foot forward, and then the other foot forward, the double drumbeat of your heart. Two eyes, two ears, two arms, two legs, two feet. This and then that. That and then this. Writing begins in the body, it is the music of the body, and even if the words have meaning, can sometimes have meaning, the music of words is where the meanings begin. You sit at your desk in order to write down the words, but in your head you are still walking, always walking, and what you hear is the rhythm of your heart.”

— Paul Auster from Winter Journal

image via paulauster.tumblr.com

Voice (14)

IT WAS midday deep in the Mojave Desert. Perry, sitting on a straw suitcase, was playing a harmonica. Dick was standing at the side of a black-surfaced highway, Route 66, his eyes fixed upon the immaculate emptiness as though the fervor of his gaze could force motorists to materialize. Few did, and, none of those stopped for the hitchhikers. One truck driver bound for Needles, California had offered a lift, but Dick had declined. That was not the sort of “setup” he and Perry wanted. They were waiting for some solitary traveler in a decent car and with money in his billfold. A stranger to rob, strangle, discard on the desert.

In the the desert sound often precedes sight, Dick heard the dim vibrations of an oncoming, not yet visible car. Perry heard it too; he put the harmonica in his pocket picked up a the straw suitcase . . . . and joined Dick at the side of the road. They watched. Now the car appeared and grew until it became a blue Dodge sedan with a single passenger, a bald, skinny man. Perfect. Dick raised his hand and waved. The Dodge slowed down, and Dick gave the man a sumptuous smile. The car almost, but not quite, came to a stop, and the driver leaned out the window looking them up and down. The impression they made was evidently alarming (After a fifty-hour bus ride from Mexico City to Barstow, California, and half a day of trekking across the Mojave, both hikers were bearded, stark dusty figures) the car leaped forward and sped on. Dick cupped his hands around his mouth and called out, ‘You’re a lucky bastard!’

— Truman Capote from In Cold Blood

Voice (13)

“It’s 10:00 AM on Sunset Boulevard. I can hear the neighborhood waking up, a phlegmatic reveille played on collapsing metal bars and security shutters, with a gathering army of grandmothers pulling wheezy basket carts to the supermarket for their Sunday shopping trips and their old husbands shuffling behind them and spitting on the sidewalks. . . . This much is familiar to me . . . the physical reference points from my youth appear skewed or rearranged. The vacant lots I played hide-and-see-in; the ninety-nine cent stories where my mother and I shopped for wispy matching sundresses that if we were lucky lasted three or four washes . . . . these places are gone, replaced with unfamiliar stores and people I don’t recognize, walking through the ghosts of memories I alone can see. Bizarre “gentrified” color schemes — pastel salmons and electric tangerines — coat the outlines of buildings whose shapes are recognizable but whose occupants and appearances are not. I caress the fresh coats of paint and stucco on these building, looking for the cracks and bullet holes I ran my finger along on my way to school, but smooth, patched surfaces betray none of these former imperfections.”

(image via simonandschuster.com)

— Brando Skyhorse from the The Madonnas of Echo Park

Voice (12)

“As I drove down Ambrose Avenue, I watched the Spanish house my family had lived in grow smaller and smaller in my rearview mirror, like a stucco galleon drifting out to sea. The neighborhood hadn’t changed much since I barreled down the street on a pair of roller skates, vibrations from the sidewalk shooting up my skinny legs rattling my teeth. Driving past the grab bag of architectural styles was like visiting Montana, the British Isles, and the French countryside in a few seconds flat. It wouldn’t have seemed odd if the residents watered their lawns in costume. Bonjour! Howdy! Jolly Good Day! Hollywood had been an ideal setting for someone as tight-lipped about his past as my father, a place where a person could choose a favorite historical style and settle in with his fellow men to a cinematic vision of the good life.”

— Bernard Cooper
from The Bill From My Father

Voice (11)

“A DOCTOR to whom I occasionally talk suggests that I have made an inadequate adjustment to aging.
Wrong, I want to say.
In fact I have made no adjustment whatsoever to aging.
In fact I have lived my entire life to date without seriously believing that I would age.
I had no doubt that I would continue to wear the red suede sandals with four-inch heels that I had always preferred.
I had no doubt that I would continue to wear the gold hoop earrings on which I had always relied, the black cashmere leggings, the enameled beads.”

— Joan Didion, from Blue Nights