Tuesday, December 8, 2015

James Tate


(Because the comments section at BLCKDGRD is closed, and I can't get my suggestion in. And, it seems fitting -- the season, and bloody obscene tragedies, and politicians, and Oval Office speechifying, and everything. That the world as we see it now must seem full of opportunities, to a certain type of individual.)

Behind The Green Door

Thaddeus had said he wanted to get together, but,
then, when we met in town, he didn’t seem to have anything
on his mind. “I’d like to get myself one of those remote-
controlled airplanes, and chase pigeons in the park,” he
said. “That will show them who’s boss,” I said. “Of course,
some people might think I’m a little old for that,” he said.
“For terrorizing innocent birds? You’re never too old for
that, Thad,” I said. We sipped at our beers. It was still
before noon, and Mary’s was almost empty, except for an elderly
couple at the bar drinking martinis. “They’re pretty expensive,”
Thad said. “Martinis?” I said. “No, stupid, remote-controlled
airplanes,” he said. “Think of it as an investment in your
lost childhood,” I said. He thought that over for a while.
The couple at the bar toasted one another, and laughed. The
bartender brought us another round. It was a Saturday, and
I had many errands and chores on my list. “You know all about
my ‘lost childhood,’ so I don’t need to remind you,” he said.
“I can recite what you got and what you didn’t get for all
your birthdays,” I said. “Then, why do you put up with me?”
he said. “I need to suffer, Thaddeus. It makes me a better
person. So, you see, indulging you is completely selfish
on my part. It doesn’t make any sense, but that’s how the
world is, and that’s why some great good may come out of
making those birds suffer. I don’t know what it is, but something
tells me it’s so,” I said. The woman at the bar was tickling
the man’s ribs, and he was about to fall off his stool. “Then,
you think there really is a plan?” Thad said. “Absolutely,
right down to the last drop of beer spilled on this floor
every night, to the ant you killed walking out your door,
and the plane crash in the Andes,” I said. Thaddeus seemed
stunned, while I was just saying anything that came into my
head. I took it as my job to give him something to think
about. The couple at the bar ordered another round. Then,
Thaddeus said, “If that’s true, then I’ve never really done
anything wrong. I had no choice, I’m off the hook.” I looked
at my watch. We were right on schedule for that conclusion.
“And soon the earth will open up, and a ten-thousand-year-old
giant squid will strangle us all,” I said. “I’m hungry,” Thaddeus
said, “do you want to get some lunch? There’s a new place
across the street.” “That’s not new. They just painted the
door a different color. The owner, Herb, had a midlife crisis
or something,” I said. “Well, then, it’s sort of new, I mean,
you don’t know what you’re going to get after something like
that,” he said. “I see your point. I suppose it could get
kind of ugly. Or maybe not. It could be better than ever.
Still, I have these errands,” I said. “You’re afraid to lose
even an hour, George, afraid what you might find in its place,
something truly unknown, without a name, no visible shape.
There’s nothing wrong with that, George. You know I’ve always
admired you, so go on your way, get your dishwashing detergent
or whatever it is. I’m going to find out what’s behind that green
door,” Thaddeus said. “No doubt there will be an ambrosia burger,”
I said, “and you’ll order one.” “I will have no choice,” he
said. When we stepped outside, the sunlight blinded me. “Good-bye,
Thaddeus,” I said, “wherever you are.” A dog barked, and, then,
a siren sped by. I couldn’t see my own hand in front of my
face.

-- From "Ghost Soldiers" (2008)
_______________________________

4 comments:

  1. i had a beer before noon recently - at "old town pour house" - their maryland location - my friend and i had had quite an early start and we were ready for lunch - unlike in this poem, it was a friday, not a saturday -

    there was no "ambrosia burger", so i ordered the veggie burger - farro, red quinoa, black bean and garbanzo patty, with a corn tortilla crusted, vegan sport pepper aioli, whole grain wheat bun - the fries were very good


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  2. some additional thoughts about this poem


    remote controlled airplanes

    Today, in my Discover card bill (I use a hybrid paper/electronic procedure for my recurring bills - I get them on paper, then I send the money using the bill payment option at the Credit Union website) was a chance to get a free Drone - Parrot Rolling Spider Drone, a $99 value - when I use my Discover card to purchase a select Dell PC priced at $499.99 or more

    Dell.com/mpp/freegift

    “And soon the earth will open up, and a ten-thousand-year-old giant squid will strangle us all”

    This sounds very HP Lovecraftian

    When we stepped outside, the sunlight blinded me. “Good-bye, Thaddeus,” I said, “wherever you are.” A dog barked, and, then, a siren sped by. I couldn’t see my own hand in front of my face.

    Blinded by the light - this experience occurs when there is a mismatch between one's receptive abilities and the stimulus - in one of his books Idries Shah quotes a Sufi, talking about someone who was overpowered by a mystical experience - "This is not strength, but weakness."

    and keeping with the Middle Eastern ambience of my first association, I go on to think of the proverb "the dog may bark, but the caravan moves on" - which may have a number of meanings which are left as an exercise to the reader.

    Dog barking - siren speeding by - the difference is the dog stays put, but the siren is changing location - the similarity is that both are noises intended to get one's attention

    Not being able to see one's own hand in front of one's face is emblematic of the unenlightened person's state of ignorance. While our viewpoint character George is tossing out thought-provoking utterances, by his own account he is not taking anything he says seriously - and it is his friend Thaddeus, the one who is open to new experience, the one who is determined to find what is behind the Green Door, who says to him, "You’re afraid to lose even an hour, George, afraid what you might find in its place, something truly unknown, without a name, no visible shape. There’s nothing wrong with that, George. You know I’ve always admired you, so go on your way, get your dishwashing detergent or whatever it is."


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    Replies
    1. What thing might there be to unite all concepts before us: the credit card; the Drone; James Tate; A Dog; A Siren; and a Ten-Thousand-Year-Old Squid?

      Delete

Please feel free to thrill all humankind with the brilliance and importance of You. And forgo all civility (especially the passive-aggressive sort, aggression masquerading as mildness) . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

But, consider: Dogs have short attention spans, don't tolerate bullies, and we're notoriously thin-skinned -- so make sense, be brief, and play nice, or I'll bite you and pee on your leg. Bark Bark Bark Bark Bark Bark.