Friday, December 07, 2007

A Harmonica Crushed in a Rat Trap

Though they are, they have eyes as piercing as gimlets, 

That shine like those holes in which water sleeps at night; 

They have the divine eyes of little girls 

Who are amazed and laugh at everything that gleams.
I would be plunged in pleasure still, 

Conjuring up the Springtime with my will, 

And forcing sunshine from my heart to form, 

Of burning thoughts, an atmosphere that's warm.”

Beaudelaire, Paysages, Landscape, trans by: Roy Campbell, Poems of Baudelaire (New York: Pantheon Books, 1952)

I wrote down the harmonica/rat trap phrase as I stumbled upon it recently, and now find I have absolutely no idea where I stumbled on it. I do recall that it made me smile, because I thought it the perfect illustration of dreams that have died an ugly death but won’t give up and go away. It also fits with my new favorite song: “How Can I Love You if You Won’t Lie Down” (I woulda said “lay down” but I suspect I’m being monitored by the Department of Homeland Grammar Security, and I don’t want to draw attention to my grammar, or the fact that I should be more careful about attributing quotes).

Xmas brings to the top of my cold mental soup greasy chunks of longing for material things like harmonicas destined to rust in the teeth of rat traps. I want more stuff. As a kid I never really wanted a pony, but all my friends were getting ponies, so I was pretty sure I needed one too. Nowadays I don't really want sparkling jewelry - the kind that sends women in commercials swooning into ecstasies of love. (Instead of a tag line saying diamonds are forever, I prefer the satirical commercial with the tag line “She’ll practically have to!”)

Now all my childish dreams like playing the harmonica and wanting a pony have been replaced. I want to forget what I heard on TV yesterday, in a news story about Iran. A widow covered in black sheets, walking home in the snow, telling the reporter she was worried bout what her children would eat tonight, and tomorrow.

The picture above may, at first glance, look like ripples in a cool, shadowy pool. It’s actually a picture of the low winter sun setting between trees, taken through the middle of a spider’s web. In this season where we dress up in good will and peace on earth, I wish I could buy the whole world a pony, or, if they prefer, harmonica lessons. Or perhaps even a diamond necklace to make little girls' eyes gleam.

As for me, as winter gloom descends and Xmas shopping days dwindle, I already want to conjure up the warm atmosphere of Springtime.

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