You have to love Marcel Proust. The man got 2,000 pages from eating a cookie. I like to forage tins of pecan sandies when I write a poem, noshing myself back to puberty, to falling in love, to having something to write about. Then I eat too much and get sleepy. Most of my poems become dreams I can’t remember, or ones I’d rather forget like the snakes coming out of a wall, lunging and snapping at me in 1975.
No, I said to my shrink. The snakes are not a symbol for penises. She wrote something in her yellow pad and told me to wear a sporty outfit for the class photo tomorrow. My mother had been analyzing me the whole semester. She’d gone back to college for a psyche degree. I wasn’t just her son. I was her client.
Why is it so hard to forget what you don’t want to remember? If there’s such a thing as involuntary memory can’t there also be involuntary forgetting? I love the irresponsible side of involuntary anything. With “responsibility” comes pressure and pressure produces performance anxiety. Why can’t we all be Quakers, sitting quietly in the meeting house, waiting—for an hour or so without a minister—for something important to pass through us?
Why can’t sex be like that—two people lying on their backs, staring up at the dark, making astronomy from the ink, a few groans, and then morning? Instead, I suffer predictable blunders, making involuntary associations at all the wrong times.
Roll over Beethoven. The flip side of memory is desire. It had to be voluntary—as controlling even—as memory had to be spontaneous. According to Proust, jealousy is the first sign of love.
I wish I’d thought of that.
Irrational jealousy, controlling desires, involuntary memory, responsible, irresponsible, east, west, left, right; makes me so dizzy to ride this train while the steeples lurch past.
When you think of steeples do you think of penises? The thing about moms is that they show up unannounced right in the middle of your essay about the French novel. At such times it pays to send a letter to a voluntary poet in the Catskills.
“Why? Why? Why?” I begin. But I’m not talking about my mother. I’m referring to Brian Tierney. I was re-reading Proust because of him. Brian! He of the pre-Vietnam era line structure! He of the all night guitar solos! He of the beautiful bride to be! He of the Stegner Fellowship! He of the cross country trip to San Francisco with his brother. His brother!
I am so jealous of him. Sure, I’m proud of him too. But I’m mostly jealous. I am chase-him-through-the-streets-of-Paris jealous. I am so jealous that if I ate him I’d be jealous of my own shit. If Proust is right there is only one explanation: I am in love with Brian.
It’s true, his eyes have a contagious sparkle which he embellishes with a sly wink from time to time. His grin is sheepish, but it has dimples too. And his conformation! His stride has souplesse, guided by Rabelaisian kneecaps. I love that the big wide future lies before him. All I have is a scrawny past .
I confide my plan to Mark to meet up with Brian and his brother in Kansas. At the right moment I’ll offer to take the wheel and when Brian least expects, I’ll crash his side of the car into a passing buffalo.
When you think about bison…
That’s Marcel’s secret, to be irrational and logical at the same time. At the race track, trainers who are great friends sometimes run horses against each other. The one always says to the other, “If it’s not me, I hope it’s you.” So I return the RSVP to Brian’s wedding. Yes, Odette and I would love to come.