Monday, February 7, 2011

Aimless Reading: The M's, Part 25.3 (Bernadette Mayer)

Mayer, Bernadette
A Bernadette Mayer Reader

Not sure about the origin of this one. Possibly Talking Leaves, online, or St. Mark's Books. I can't remember. It's the first book of hers that I read, but I remember specifically that my first read through was in a loaner from my friend Steve in New York. I feel like it was several more years before I actually bought my own copy.

It was a bitch to get even the mediocre photo that I did this morning. Something about white text on deep purple with a gloss finish resisted my meagre photographic tools (iSight camera on MacBook Pro, desk lamp used to deflect the light of the screen off the cover).

I never noticed before that it was called "A" Bernadette Mayer Reader before. As if there were others. Or others in the works. Maybe the next would be "Another..." Not a bad a idea, actually.

I've always liked the poem about her father (see below). I think I first read this book around the time my own father died and so found a modicum of solace in various poems about fathers dying. This one has a kind of silly humor about it I find poignant and irresistible.

from A Bernadette Mayer Reader

The Ballad of Theodore

I saw my father
and then he was here
and dressed in suit
he asked for a beer

I hadn't seen him
alive since 1957
dead I often see him
once in a while

He was all too calm
he was like a businessman
I got him a Moosehead
from the grocery next door

He'd walked into our school
daring and dead
"I haven't talked to you in centuries"
"How good to see you," I said

He put on the head of a power animal
this time it was a tall giraffe
my father then wore a longer cloak
& I was shaking hands with his hoof, no kidding

It was quite a good time we had
he'd doffed the clothing in his absence
& no dead man is scared of being dead
& most of the living are full of this his form of innocence

We conversed, it wasn't startling
I was twelve when he died
his new disguises were a method
to let particular grownups confide

He foreswore the walls of the school
and that's where I lost him
no trick of time bemoaned his anxious fate
(I'm only fooling)

We drove cars backwards
ate acacia leaves, then
made witty conversation
wore bathing suits & swam together again

I lost him in the dream's sudden regular twist
like he was an aristocratic woman
going from supper to a game of whist
instead of what he really was–an electrician who loved Frankenstein

I saw my father Theodore
& then he was there
a vegetarian ruminant silent giraffe
full of his new and perfect past

All dressed in a suit as if quite dead
but only at first, then as mammal animal
he asked me for a beer, he said
"Here death is not emotional"

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