Measured Extravagance

2001-04-10 - 9:50 p.m.

I've got a case of the shivers tonight, and it's not from the air-conditioning. (That may be a little unkind: Mechaieh pictures Phelps renaming one of her local snowbanks after her and giving it a good kick.) Seriously, though, on my way home I found myself driving over a shard or two of debris in my lane from a motorcycle wreck. (It was a traffic jam, and by the time I realized the debris extended to my own lane there was no way I could have dodged it - never mind that there were dozens of cars ahead of me.) On the shoulder, a lane away, there were two people watching a third pull a motorcycle towards them, out of traffic. There was a police truck backing towards the accident scene. There were three cars parked on the shoulder further up the interstate.

And there was a body. I want to believe the rider could have survived the crash, but he was very still on the ground, half-curled on his side, helmet still on, and none of the three people were paying attention to him even though they were just a few feet away. I think of more positive scenarios: perhaps he told them to fuck off until professional help could arrive. Perhaps everyone involved knew not to disturb him any more than necessary for fear of exacerbating his injuries.

But perhaps they were focused on dragging the bike out of the way because there was nothing to be done for the rider.

I knew that the rider couldn't have been the BYM. Wrong bike. Too short. Yet, still, on the rest of the drive home, I found myself reassuring myself with other details: Wrong color helmet. Wrong color jacket. Wrong make of jacket. TheBYM wouldn't be riding that section of interstate on his way home. The BYM doesn't wear jeans to work. Etc.

I don't worry about the BYM too much. He knows what he's doing. But, occasionally, I do worry about the cars that might not see him. Or us. There was a Taurus that ran through a stoplight once. It missed us - but still.

I don't worry, but I shiver.

* * *

The Academy of American Poets is petitioning the USPS to feature more poets on stamps. There's a bunch of nominees listed at the website. I don't think the website specified a limit, but I held myself to three votes since that was the number specified on the paper ballot I received in today's mail. The Academy is specifically pushing for Langston Hughes for centenarial reasons, so I put one of my votes there, and gave the other two to Frank O'Hara and Elizabeth Bishop. I was also pleased to see Countee Cullen among the nominees, and would have voted for him had I not thought it better strategy to support my favorites amongst the top ten. (See the end of this entry for the text of Cullen's "Song"; also, in looking for an appropriate link, I came across a page devoted to Cullen's monument at the New York Public Library. It's not for slow or dodgy connections, being generous with pictures, but both the sculpture and the artist's statement are worth studying...

* * *

I'd nominate him for a stamp if he were dead, but Albert Goldbarth lives, and a good thing too, as I want more poems from him. He concocted a spectular narrative for a Paris Review a year or two ago out of a hodgepodge of writing-exercise suggestions, and Library has been making me laugh and scheme every time I've stolen a glance at it during the past two days. Thus far my favorite line is "This book doesn't do anyth / oh wow, check THIS out!"

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My book!




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