Stepping into the hotel, it was like being dropped into a truly alien world. Nothing shiny, no excess of glass and marble. A simple dark wooden reception desk, a clerk in black with a white vest. A bow upon approaching. Your room is simple, no internet, a single light on a small desk. A tatami mat in the corner. A hard wired phone. And you know, in the distance, the Daibutsu awaits you in the morning. Here there is no CNN International, nothing that isn’t Japanese. Your computer is essentially useless, a fax machine in the office for emergencies. And the nearest business center, sorry closed, is in the city. The Internet is coming soon, they promise . But on your morning run, as you catch your breath on the step outside the Todai-ji Daibutsu-den, a deer comes up to you and licks your face and you know this morning Daibutsu is smiling.
First, read the syllabus
and buy the books we will read.
Note that I have carefully selected
works for which there are no Cliff Notes
or their equivalent, so if you were
counting on that consider yourself screwed.
When you write an essay, do not ever,
let me emphasize EVER, begin by saying
in my opinion, for if I wanted
an opinion on a great writer’s work
I would as soon stop and ask
my multigrain bagel what it thought,
although I admit its Everything cousin
did have some amazing insights into Hamlet.
Do not bother plagarizing quotes
from things you find on the internet,
for they will either be wrong or
you will have found them by using
Google or another search engine
and I discovered those when you
were still in diapers. And finally
if you ask for more time to write
a paper, I will give you a strong
recommendation to take my friend’s
Intermediate Composition class,
the one you tried to duck
by taking my class instead.
It is all well and good to believe
that you will know it when you find it,
that it will be so obvious you could not miss it.
You’ve been down that road before,
and on several occasions were certain
that you’d found it in her face, or hers,
in her smile, or her laugh, or one
of their soft touches and caresses.
You were wrong each time, a facsimile
at best, an avatar if you wish, so you
are determined to be prepared this time,
for there must be a this time you are certain.
You have read all the best books, consulted
on the internet, careful to sort the wheat
from the chaff, skimmed the cream of the offerings,
and have practiced reading the tea leaves.
You dare not miss it so you maintain a high
level of vigilance and a focus that is not
easily interrupted, ready to spring,
but know that it defies logic, that the mind
is useless in its presence, and that it is
the heart not the head that feels true love.
My friends have often wondered aloud
why I claim to be most creative when
I am stuck on an airplane for hours.
I have told them that the solitude,
the lack of It is an interesting quirk
of the internet, that birth
and death are disconnected.
Seeking out those born today
I found a long list, the dinosaur
among which is Judy Collins.
That I still remember seeing her
reminds me at once a sense of my youth
and my ever progressing age.
But seek out those who died
on this day, and you hear the strains
of the Slavonic Dance in E minor
or the Sabre Dance from Gayane
but Popes Pius V and Marcellus II
suggest neither of them matter,
Heathens both, they claim, which
brings a deep laugh from Cleaver
and Livingstone, both of who
deny the other, and each says
that only he truly found the black
panther, and I’m thankful to be alive.to distract me,
which includes any airline approved movie,
that allows my creative self to emerge, to
express itself fully without reservation,
a status that being earthbound denies.
Many laugh, uncertain of how creativity
expresses itself, but certain, they
assure me, that my efforts have not
gone unnoticed, that my time spent,
but most importantly my results so well
reflect the surroundings of their creation.
I have it on good authority,
supposedly, that the internet
will not he the death of me.
I have my sincere doubts, and
regardless, it has turned my world
on its head more than a bit.
In high school and college
I knew that a thick envelope
was an acceptance, a thin one
a letter telling me this or that
Ivy League school had a large
number of qualified candidates.
And as a poet, a thin letter was
acceptance, thick a return
of my work to trash or recycle.
Now both worlds are driven by
computer generated emails, and
I know the computer rejecting
my work in a kindly, if grammatically
inaccurate email never understood
the subtlety of my imagery at all.
She says you should not put
all of your eggs in one basket.
I remind her that I’m not
terribly fond of eggs, and only
rarely have more than one, and
in any event, I keep them in
the refrigerator to avoid spoilage.
She says, so why is it we
have no TV, no phone, no Internet,
tell me that, wiseguy.
I steer away from eggs and baskets
and simply respond, because
we have yet again been stranded
on that barren, fruitless island
known to all, hated by them, as Comcast.
We both shrug our shoulders
in resignation to our fate.