Last Friday I received a letter from my friend Russ, who spent a month in Budapest. I try to send letters as much as possible. I get tired of Re: as a subject line, of emoticons and attachments. You can’t spill wine on an email. You can’t type crooked because you’re on a speeding train. And you can’t lick and seal an out box (I expect my most popular Google search term will shift from “nude in public” to “lick box.”)
This is the stamp Russ picked. Pictured is Evi Marosvasarhelyi. It looks like he owned a Beddazzler.
I suspect he also did something to contribute to Hungary’s glory in 1707, but that’s all I can find out. Did he let down his hair to rescue a Hapsburg fallen in a well? Was he a cover model for an 18th Century Hungarian romance novel titled “The Gallant of Goulash”?
My mother doesn’t read books. I’ve tried twice to get her to want a library card. About ten years ago I gave her a biography of The Royal Family (not the Marosvasarhelyis) which I believe she opened for the colorful insert photos. The second time was Christmas 2004, right after Billy Collins’ stint as Poet Laureate and his Poetry 180 Project. The book was meant to encourage her to read a poem a day; we’d read one in our separate cities, we’d connect, and it would be all literary mushy-feely, like Fievel and his family wishing upon the same star in American Tale. But there’s a reason the song doesn’t go “Somewhere out there, beneath the reading lamp.” It didn’t work. It was more like Poetry 360. We came full circle.
What makes my mother a complicated country mouse is that every week for the past ten or so years, between ironing and Oprah, she’s written a letter to her older sister Betty Sue. I know plenty of 20 something hipsters who log onto Library Thing and Good Reads and obsessively update their virtual shelves, who can effortlessly pronounce Jhumpa Lihiri’s name at parties. My mom can not. She still orders a latte as “lay-tay.” But how many literati getting their exercise by carrying around Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows have written as many letters as she has?
Here’s an excerpt from the letter Russ wrote me.
An artist friend of Victoria’s Lived in New York for many years and had children by four different women. He was one of her favorite people. I think he was a theater person/painter (not sure–I’d already had 3 glasses of wine when I heard the story). He came down with cancer and wanted to die in New York. So he went back to Budapest, put on a nice suit and laid in a coffin so all of his Hungarian friends could come and say goodbye, have a wake for him—while he was still awake.
I didn’t get a chance for a Lunch Poem today because several of our camp Psychology field trips fell through and I found myself making last minute calls to Sleep Institutes and Art Therapists (never trust an art therapist whose website features a Rococo cherub painting little flowers with its wings). But Russ’s letter got me thinking about hand-written journaling, something I don’t do anymore. At times I resent my blog for its publicness. I need a paper place to go with all my friend gossip and personal insecurities. I need Boss and The Bearded Whorl to have real names.
Last August, when I traveled through Brazil and Argentina, I wrote only one poem. One poem in four weeks. I felt overwhelmed and crippled by the page. The one poem I did manage I wrote in Recoleta Cemetery.
The malnourished cats paw at death,
tango up to stone. I dream
of quilts, remembering your breath
and the prayer of an eternal
avenue, tree-lined, gilt. How
I miss you’s more than parenthetical.
Must I remain a monument?
Evening falls like breath.
My prayer is spent.
The malnourished cats paw at dream,
tango up to death. I have quilt
my missing into stone.
Please keep sending me Lunch Poems!