Saturday, June 23, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's, Part 25 (Eleni Sikelianos)

The Book of Jon
Sikelianos, Eleni
The Book of Jon

I think I bought this online. I remember buying several autobiographical works by contemporary poets around the same time, as I was trying to think about ways to use autobiography as a part of my own writing. I brought this with me when I went to Florida alone to write for a month in the summer of 2008. I also brought Jennifer Moxley's gargantuan autobiography. I think I read Juliana Spahr's The Transformation before I left. The latter was the most useful to me.

We were living in between houses at the time. We'd spent the past five years rehabbing and living in a house in the Black Rock section of Buffalo. The previous summer we'd decided to sell the house, with the intention of leaving Buffalo. As we had nowhere in particular to go and no way to support ourselves when we arrived, we decided to rent for a while until we figured out where to go. That took four more years!

We hated renting, but we found that we liked where we lived, on Auburn Avenue near Norwood. Eventually, we started looking for houses again. Just before I left for Florida in June we put an offer in on a house. While I was down there, Lori and her father inspected the house and discovered a few structural issues, as well as a hidden chimney that basically destroyed whatever plans we had for transforming the structure. We walked away from that one.

I remember it was really hot in Florida. I spent my days indoors, writing in the air conditioning before heading downtown in the afternoon. I'd go to a little cafe called Latte Art and drink an espresso and eat an almond croissant. After that, I'd drive over to Siesta Key for an evening swim in the Gulf of Mexico. The water was so warm it felt like I was taking a bath at home.

On the way back, I'd stop off at a great video store and pick up something to watch. The store was manned by a very sweet, know-it-all movie buff who went to great lengths to steer customers toward foreign and independent films. Usually, these were older people looking for recommendations. The clerk would ask questions about their tastes, their present mood, etc. Then he would ask if they liked foreign films and if they said yes they would recommend a film by explaining the story and talking about why they thought it was great. Sadly, that clerk died last year. My mother sent me a newspaper clipping. I can't imagine that store surviving without him. It seemed the whole existence of the place depended on his presence and his love of film.

I'd usually pick up some food on the way home and then go eat and watch a movie, maybe do a little reading before bed. Sometimes I'd check over the writing I'd done during the day. I usually called Lori around bed time.

from The Book of Jon

Supermarket, 1968

It is the year of the student revolution in France. Elayne and I are in a supermarket in Santa Barbara, maybe getting some bananas, which I will later ask her to cut “like that” (waving my hand in the air in several directions), and will cry when she doesn’t understand what I still know to have meant lengthwise, and the tears are tears of frustration at not having enough language to say what I mean. A man my mother seems to know approaches. He’s wearing loose-fitting Levi’s, dirty on the thighs, frizzled hair with twigs in it. I hide behind her legs while they talk, one arm around her left knee. He goes away. Mommy, who was that man?

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