The fingers want to run away and join the circus.
Thumb says Stay put. He's so fat.
No future here, only backward.
One cloak for each finger.
We need some things in here besides cloaks,
like an African jar, a potted tulip,
Spanish doubloons, a thermos,
a wooden clock, a clam shell,
and a clothesline tossed over a wall.
Thumb says I can make the ears of the donkey.
Hand says I can latch wings together.
Fingers say we can be an old man's eye
and the tassels on his cockscomb hat.
Better yet, we can all be crabs coming out of holes in the sand.
Hand, check the mailbox. Behave yourself. Don't point knives.
Imagine two white gloves against a black velvet background.
One glove is named Marsha. The other is named John.
Marsha says Oh John. John says Oh Marsha.
Oooooh John. Oh, oh, oh, Marsha. And so on.
Rilke was inspired to write The Duino Elegies while watching Jackie Gleason
on The Honeymooners. It was his favorite show. He and Lou, his girlfriend,
would sit up in bed in front of their TV.
This was at her place and her bedroom was full of dolls she had won at fairs.
Rilke did not like the dolls and Lou always had to make sure all the dolls' eyes
were closed when he came over. Otherwise he would think they were staring
at him. Lou had been a patient of Freud, and she would try and get Rilke to
talk about why he did not like the dolls.
He did not want to talk about the little dresses he had to wear when he was a
child, or the dolls his parents gave him for Christmas, or the fact that his
middle name was Maria.
The sound on their set was not so good and he did not know English anyway
so he thought it was a serious show. He liked the way Art Carney would
make exaggerated gestures when he was about to sign his name. He adopted
that affectation when he signed his books at poetry readings.
One night Jackie Gleason raised his fist to Alice and threatened to send her
to the moon. Rilke interpreted the gesture as a plea for celestial intervention.
Just at that moment the eyes of a doll that was on top of the TV came open
and stared, it seemed, right into his soul.
As Art Carney came down the fire escape and climbed in the kitchen window,
the sound on Lou's TV went out. Rilke thought of angels descending through
the empty silence of the universe down a fire escape of stars. He thought of
angels climbing in the window, of an angel writing something in a book with
exaggerated gestures as if it were conducting a symphony.
Get up off that couch. Flap your arms. Do the Chicken dance. Do the
Chicket. Do El Pollo Loco. Go out into the yard where the bamboo grove
leans on its side, and the wind, spinning in a circle, goes clack-a-clack-a-
Pretend you're dodging bullets in slow motion. Now it's time to become a
famous painter you admire, for you have stepped into a painting of the back
yard; each blade of grass stiff with intention, each blade of grass awaiting
Now jump rope and flap your wings. Say, Miss Mary Mack Mack, won't pay
you back back back. Jump like you're doing easy-overs with your best pal,
Okay, go back inside. Stand in the middle of the room, in front of the
television. I know, it's broken, but turn it on so you can hear it swizzle, swish
and hiss. Now make like you're Anthony Quinn in La Strada. After a year of
not even thinking about her, you hear that Gelsomina, little clown who
played the snare drum, who loved you so, whom you mistreated, is dead.
You're at the beach. Kneel in the sand; beat the cold water with your big
wings. Stand and stumble around in your chicken feet and cry, cry like
you've never cried before.
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