In your backyard is a jungle, if you only look . . . Jazz by telemarketer . . . Two writers walked into a bar . . . Poetry by Keats after a night out . . .
The jungle out there . . . Brilliant move by the missus to get sunflower seeds for the bird feeder. Cheaper than the gourmet stuff that's gone in a day or so. This is hearty stuff that draws cardinals, finches, sparrows, and squirrels, sometimes feeding in close proximity as long as the squirrel stays on the ground. He doesn't always. When he climbs to the feeder, up a thin pole like what firemen slid down in Smokey Stover cartoons, the birds scatter.
I take a break from my reading sometimes to shoo Squirrel away. Sparrow, Finch, and Cardinal have left, of course, at the first sign of incursion. At first jiggle of porch door, Squirrel is down the pole and halfway across the yard. He turns and looks, munching on seeds.
I am part of the landscape. If it weren't me, it would be some furry marauder, though I'm not sure which (a) would bother with Squirrel or (b) could catch him. As for his fine-feathered friends -- to use the W.C. Fields phrase -- they are no problem, as we have seen.
Somewhere there may be an eagle or hawk to swoop and grab him, but not in this back yard, not even in the alley. So it's the two-legged centurion to be concerned about, and he lacks the squirrel rifle of frontier days. No Hawkeye I. Hell, I can't even read Keats without my bifocals.
All this jazz . . . Telemarketer catches me at home, 8:30 a.m.: "Hello, Jazz?"
"Who do you want?"
"Jazz. Jazz Bowman?"
"Nobody here by that name. What number you calling?"
I'm on a list as Jas. (for James) Bowman. He was asking for "Jas," poor soul.
Success formula . . . Two writers at table discuss success. One: "It all depends on me." The other: "Not so. There are editors out there who don't reply, pay little" etc. First one in reply: "It's your fault if you write for them" etc.
Upshot: the self-dependent one seems bulletproof against failure. The other is vulnerable.
Hanging in there . . . In "To Charles Cowden Clark," John Keats, feeling uninspired and "not oversmitten" by what he has just written, adds, "Yet, as my hand was warm, I thought I'd better/ Trust to my feelings, and write you a letter." He goes with the flow, trusting his warm (hot?) hand. Like the three-point-shooter, basketball's unique practitioner of confidence and skill; make half of them, you lead the league. You have to be good and trust yourself.
What friends are for . . . Keats wrote poetry after social outings, flushed with the joy of them, as in "On leaving some friends at an early hour": "What a height my spirit is contending!/ 'Tis not content so soon to be alone."
Or leaving his friend Leigh Hunt's cottage, in “Keen, fitful gusts are whisp’ring here and there,” walking five miles at night to his own lodgings: "I have many miles on foot to fare./ Yet feel I little of the cool, bleak air."
Or in "To my brothers," where Keats and his brother Tom, 17, sit at night in their lodgings, one composing, the other studying: "And while for rhymes I search around the poles,/ Your eyes are fixed, as in poetic sleep,/ Upon the lore so voluble and deep. . . . Many such eves of gently whispering noise/ May we together pass and calmly try/ What are this world's true joys . . ."
My professor for "Romantic Poetry and Prose" in my second year of university (waayyy back in the day), was one of the top three teachers I have had in my life.
He would pepper his classes with interesting facts about the times in which the writers about which we were learning, lived (did you know that they believed that barnacle geese grew on trees?)
Every one of his classes was riveting. He was erudite, articulate, passionate, and kind.
So. When we started in on Keats, he gave a biographical blurb about him, and then said:
"Keats' poetry is sloppy."
"But it's glorious."
I've never forgotten that moment, from that day 'til this. The light in his eyes, the way the word "glorious" rolled off of his tongue - a slight lengthening of the alveolar "L" in glorious.