[lit-ideas] Re: Sunday Wotsit

  • From: David Ritchie <ritchierd@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 27 Apr 2008 11:43:31 -0700

I felt the world a-spinning on its nave,
I felt it sheering blindly round the sun;
I felt the time had come to find a grave:
I knew it in my heart my days were done.
John Davidson 1857-1909

Dear Future: you'll not believe the variety of woes we now call a cold. Some people just get a sniffle, brace themselves like sailors in a storm, hitch up their trousers, carry on. My wife is one. Others, and all art of course is in some sense autobiographical, crash like an uprooted Douglas Fir, sap oozing, sap sticking, sap coughing five million times per night.

When I'm sick, my mind spins and sloshes. Like a washing machine, lurching from one programmed energetic bit to the next, with of course pauses in between, it churns. I bet you can see, through the wee window in my skull, quibbles darting like fish: How is it that mending fences improves relationships? In English are there many sorts of fettle on offer, or just fine? Exactly how big is a quantum leap; do they come in family or other sizes?

To help time pass--and goodness this week it seemed gummed--in semi- lucid moments, I looked stuff up.

Good fences make good neighbors is where that first phrase arises, and when you walk bounds you may run into Robert Frost, who thought this wall-and-boundaries-thing through more poetically than I, but to me the metaphor goes wrong when explaining how Nixon courted China. Bloody great ocean in between, dominos falling, little red opera; what's fences or walls got to do with that?

There are several fettles in metallurgy, but being in fine fettle once meant being girded up with a well-shaped belt, or just having all your battle togs on. Perhaps because I'm reading a biography, I'm seeing General Patton here. Did you know there was a moment in World War One when Patton and MacArthur, within range of enemy snipers, stood together, each more exposed than the fellow at the end of "All Quiet on the Western Front," and neither got shot? By the way, Patton's sister and Pershing were an item. Pershing dropped her for the woman MacArthur eventually married. Oh and Patton and his sister, come from Scots in Virginia, inherited a good fraction of Pasadena.

A quantum was neither large nor small. It was a legal term for measure. Then Physics shrank it down. Now the web says you can go fishing at a quantum level, which probably is intended to be big, like the leap.

Feeling I'd accomplished not a lot, I unbent a wire hanger and pulled a hairball from the shower. My view is that a hairball reminds you you're alive and makes clear your place in the world which, for purposes of this poem's end, is supine, but still superior to a drain.

David Ritchie,
Portland, Oregon
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