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July 8, 2010

Mr. Spy and I have been discussing the painting in the photo at the top of this article. We both like it, but both think that we are not maybe so fond of Pablo Neruda verses that we want them writ LARGE on our wall.

“We could make something like that,” I say.


“I can do calligraphy and you can paint. It might not look like this, but we could do it.”

“Hmm. We could hang it over our bed.”

Mr. Spy and I are always talking about ways to make our own art, but are very seldom doing anything about it.

But I’ve always loved words on walls. Before I curtained off the narcissitic mirrors that line one wall of my office, I took a white China marker and wrote on them in long cursive lines, much like a negative of that painting. I loved the way it looked, but I couldn’t figure out what I wanted it to say. So I wrote random words. And then I erased them.

“What words would you use,” I ask Mr. Spy.

“Not Pablo Neruda.”

“But what?”

“The only poet I like is Jack Gilbert.”

“Who’s Jack Gilbert?” I wasn’t sure if he was joking. He looked like he might have been joking. But he wasn’t. He disappeared into his office and came back with a red folder. Inside were photocopies, saved since college, of two of Gilbert’s books.

I pull one out and hold it up. “Monolithos?”

“The Great Fires is better.”

And so I abandon the dishes to read poetry. I like it, but I don’t love it. It’s very literate and intellectual, maybe too much so for my taste in poetry. I like intellectual, but not at the expense of emotion.

I like this one:


When I hear men boast about how passionate
They are, I think of the two cleaning ladies
At a second-story window watching a man
Coming back from a party where there was
Lots of free beer. He runs in and out
Of buildings looking for a toilet. “My Lord,”
The tall woman says, “that fellow down there
Surely does love architecture.”

But not really the thing I’m after.

Here is another one I liked.


I never thought Michiko would come back
after she died. But if she did, I knew
it would be as a lady in a long white dress.
It is strainge that she has returned
as somebody’s Dalmatian. I meet
the man walking her on a leash
almost every week. He says good morning
and I stoop down to calm her. He said
once that she was never like that with
other people. Sometimes she is tethered
on their lawn when I go by. If nobody
is around, I sit on the grass. When she
finally quiets, she puts her head in my lap
and we watch each other’s eyes as I whisper
the mystery. She likes it best when
I touch her head and tell her small
things about my days and our friends.
That makes her happy the way it always did.

There are many poems about the poet contending with the death of his wife Michiko. Those are the ones I like the best. They are varied, but most dealing with small things, like searching his home for his wife’s hair, some evidence that she had been there. But I think, after reading the book, that the real reason these poems don’t resonate with me as much as other poem is that these are poems of image, more than sound. And I’m very much attracted to sound. Gilbert’s poems are more like tiny stories.

Mr. Spy added, “I also like John Donne.”

I know this. We both like John Donne. On the first Valentine’s Day we spent together, I gave him a small book of his poems. Perhaps we should look there.

What about you? Are you the type of person who would write on a wall? What would you write?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. July 9, 2010 7:16 am

    It would bother me a lot to have writing on any wall I had to look at often because I’d always be reading it, and it would always be the same. I don’t like anything short that much.

  2. freshhell permalink
    July 9, 2010 7:55 am

    I have never done it but it’s an interesting thought. I think, though, I’d never do it only because I’d never be able to think of something to write that I could stand to look at for a long time. Just like what Jeanne said.

    Dusty, though, was given free reign with a paint brush in our art/laundry room before Red was born. We were just discussing painting over some of it and letting the two of them repaint a wall or two. I need to prepare the canvas, though. Maybe I’ll do that this weekend.

  3. readersguide permalink
    July 9, 2010 11:09 am

    Hmmm. I think I would only like it if it was in a language I didn’t really understand. But then, that might drive me crazy, too. I like the first poem, but I also don’t love it. It’s sort of a joke, which I like, but it’s just really a joke.

    But the apartment — what a good idea! How very clever to make a great apartment with the idea that one of you could live in it without the other. How I wish my mother-in-law had been so forward thinking. Hmmm. I’m going to keep this in mind.

  4. July 9, 2010 2:39 pm

    I’m not inclined to “write” on the wall, like words, but once in a while I think of doing little henna-like doodles.

  5. Ron permalink
    July 9, 2010 9:44 pm

    Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate.

  6. July 11, 2010 5:30 pm

    I have the same problem with paintings — what do you want to see everyday? And then I end up with nothing, but perhaps we should all consider some kind of artwork rotation. In any case, if Neruda’s not your thing, what about Borges, Lorca, or Mistral? They’re all Spanish (and I have a bias for that language), but perhaps worth a shot.

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