Saturday, June 16, 2007

it's early for fireworks

It sounds like the city is practicing for the Fourth of July outside my window. Sadly my apartment faces the wrong way -- even if I go out onto the fire escape, I can only see towards Manhattan, whereas the city sends the fireworks in the other direction, over the river by the Promenade. Maybe we'll keep that in mind when Mr. Ben and I opt for a bigger apartment in this neighborhood.

Technically I should be in Prospect Park at the free Joan Osbourne Sings the Blues concert, one of countless free events NYC has begun to offer in honor of the delicious weather. Just the other night I was swaying to the enthusiasm of Sharon Jones in Rockefeller Park. But this evening I felt compelled to attend to one of the characters in my novel, the mother, Abby. She's been sort of shortchanged. Things tend to happen around her, not to her, and it occurred to me I should fix that. And I haven't had time: this week has been as packed as last week was.

Yesterday, for example, after some necessary but fucking expensive dental work, I wandered around, continuing to make purchases, on the assumption that solace could only be found in the hair of the dog that bit me. Although this experience in the dentist's chair wasn't as bad as the last one with the x-rays that left me in tears, it wasn't fun. Once again I resorted to reciting poetry in my head to keep my mind off the fact that my jaw had been hanging open for an hour.

It's funny, the poems that go through your head at such awkward moments. In fifth grade, when my teacher assigned us all to memorize and recite a piece, most people came in trotting Shel Silverstein behind them. When it was my turn, I got up in front of the class and began at verse 52 of Macaulay's Horatius at the Bridge:
But meanwhile axe and lever
had manfully been pried
and now the bridge hangs tottering
above the boiling tide ...
I was an overachiever but more importantly, my father was. I still think about poor Horatius from time to time, like when I'm immobilized and Novacained and being prodded with sharp silver sticks.
But fiercely ran the current,
Swollen high by months of rain:
And fast his blood was flowing;
And he was sore in pain,
And heavy with his armour,
And spent with changing blows:
And oft they thought him sinking,
But still again he rose.
I rose; I tried to ignore my lopsided facial numbness as I ran errands. Shopping for flatware when you can't feel your mouth is an experience, let me tell you.

I'm also very partial to the Pied Piper of Hamelin from listening to Gielgud recite it over and over again on a tape I had as a kid. But my memory of it is spotty, sadly. You should read it if you haven't: it's fantastic, full of wickedly clever rhymes.

I have one more dentist appointment before this horror series is over (it's my fault for putting off visiting one for three and a half years--and, um, for not flossing). Maybe I'll work on memorizing something meaty and substantial in preparation. Let me know if you have recommendations.


The Wifest said...

I memorized James Whitcomb Riley's The Raggedy Man for my fifth grade poem. My mom helped me pick it out and then helped me practice it. I don't remember her doing that very much - helping me with homework (although she assures me that she helped me all the time and that I only remember the two times that she was not there to help me with something is a deficiency in my memory and not her parenting which is probably right), so this poem carries found memories.

I've always been good at memorization, but accents (and especially reading written-out accents or dialects) have never been my strong suit. So "An' he opens the shed -- an' we all ist laugh" was tricky for me.

If memory serves, my recitation was flawless. On the note card where my teacher, Mr. Web, gave us comments and a grade, he noted that my poem was longer and harder than all the other kids' poems and that he was proud of me.

Danny said...

Faerie Tale Theatre (back from the 80s) had a great Pied Piper of Hamelin with Eric Idle as piper-cum-narrator. Worth checking out if you haven't seen it (it incorporates a fair bit of the poem).

Andrew Ironwood said...

I considered mentioning Howl ( as in "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness"), but it seemed in this context somehow inappropriately apropos [grin]...