Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Aimless Reading: The P's, Part 32 (Sylvia Plath)

The Collected Poems
Plath, Sylvia
The Collected Poems

Given to me as a Christmas gift in 1991, my last Christmas in College. Inscribed:

To our favorite 
Merry Christmas! 1991

As I recall, the 'Grandpa' was a a two-part joke. On one hand, I was at the time very fond of wearing a gray cardigan sweater, which my fashion-forward friends thought was just about the funniest thing they had ever seen. They used to say that I looked like someone's grandfather.

On the other, I was about two years' clean and sober at that point, which was a very odd place to be for a college kid. Early on in my sobriety, I decided that I did not want to limit myself to hanging around only sober people. L, R, & J were not sober people.

The three, two girls and a guy, lived in an apartment on the second floor of a ramshackle apartment house on Hoffman Ave in the Bronx, just south of 187th St. I actually looked it up on street view this morning to see if it was still there. It still is. It's got to be the ugliest building in New York. It's only three stories high, very boxy, with no architectural details at all, unless you consider white vinyl siding an architectural detail.

Their apartment was party central. You entered from the stairwell into the kitchen. Straight ahead was one bedroom. To the left, a little doorway led into the living room, which had about six levels of beer-, sweat- and semen- soaked carpeting on it. There were two bedrooms off the living room. I am not sure where the bathroom was. Possibly off the kitchen.

The three of them were my closest friends during my final year of college. I spent a lot of time at their apartment. I used to go to all their parties. My M.O. was to sit on a wing-backed chair in the corner by the window, chain-smoking Marlboros, saying nary a word as they and the other partygores got drunker and drunker and the music got louder and louder. One night I recall everyone writhing, half-naked, on the floor with the hot new albums Nevermind and Ritual de lo Habitual blaring from the stereo.

I never took part in these rituals. I just sat in the corner with my cigarettes and coke, observing, judging, trying to pretend I was comfortable. I wasn't of course, but you never would have known. The other part of the 'Grandpa' joke was, I am sure, directed at my always being at a remove from the 'kids' while they did their thing, drinking, dancing, getting high, etc. I could always be counted on to safely drive somewhere late at night to find something to eat.

I lost touch with all three of them within a few years. J. was first. He moved back to Boston, where he'd grown up. L. moved to SF for many years and we lost touch. R. got married and has since lived all over the world. I moved to Buffalo around the same time that L. and R. left NYC. Amazingly, I can find none of them on Facebook or anywhere on the internet. I did manage to discover that both R. and L. are back in NYC, but that's about all I could find.

Which is a bit ironic, as I was always the one who absolutely adored NYC, while they complained about it endlessly. C'est la vie, as they say.

from The Collected Poems


The woman is perfected.
Her dead

Body wears the smile of accomplishment,
The illusion of a Greek necessity

Flows in the scrolls of her toga,
Her bare

Feet seem to be saying:
We have come this far, it is over.

Each dead child coiled, a white serpent,
One at each little

Pitcher of milk, now empty.
She has folded

Them back into her body as petals
Of a rose close when the garden

Stiffens and odors bleed
From the sweet, deep throats of the night flower.

The moon has nothing to be sad about,
Staring from her hood of bone.

She is used to this sort of thing.
He blacks crackle and drag.

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