Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Overheard in Harvard Square, part 4

After reading Maureen Dowd's column on the train back to New York, I copied this section into my notebook:

. . . Henry van Dyke writes: “Are you willing ... to own, that probably the only good reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what you are going to give to life; to close your book of complaints against the management of the universe and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness ... to make a grave for your ugly thoughts and a garden for your kindly feelings ...? Then you can keep Christmas.”

Then I started writing quatrains:

Resentment is getting stronger.
The products can't match the hypes.
The line for complaints is longer.
Even the wise have gripes.

Critics are snide and vicious.
Children take pills for stress.
In a world that enthrones the ambitious
Nothing succeeds like excess.

How are we meant to live
If we hide from each other's sight?
When morals are relative
Gray is the new black and white.

Reactions are all atomic
And pleasures are met with a frown
When Hope is a has-been comic
And Providence just a town.

(What can I say, the train had just stopped at Providence.)

The past is always unpleasant.
The future's required to be bright.
Nothing is worse than the present
Except for the sins of last night.

"Let's put this all behind us!"
Is the anthem of those who lead
As they constantly remind us
Tomorrow holds all we need.

And then I started working on the Harvard Square poem again, and came up with these replacement stanzas:

Amours that kiss your cheek in Paris, France,
Always present you with the croix de guerre.

I think I've finally figured out romance.

Amours are like a [whirlwind trip]/[week from hell] in France:
C'est parfait always winds up C'est la guerre.
I think I've finally figured out romance.

Passion is just a self-hypnotic trance --
It makes you chase a prize that isn't there.
I think I've finally figured out romance.

We'll let those sit for a day or two and see how they look in the cold fluorescent light of my lower-level basement office. Only the purest poetry can survive in that corporate desert.

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