Objectively Speaking

A meditation on the difficulty (for me) of practicing Buddhist non-attachment, in the style of “The Night Before Christmas.”

Starting at left, going clockwise, of course,
I survey my study with nauseous remorse.
Here's the black gaucho hat from the Nashville boutique;
and the garish sombrero with bandito mystique
that covers the face of a portrait of me,
serene, in my thirties, by an artist, for free.
Below is the bookcase with tomes I've not read
about poetry, transcendence, history, being dead,
the Marquis de Sade, and right livelihood,
Andrei Codrescu, and the concept of Good.

On the floor, on the rug, books lie scattered about,
under papers and pencils, and notebooks spread out
to reveal a few sentences, labored and dull,
abandoned the moment they sprang from my skull.
A file cabinet at an angle contains little more
than broken-down cameras and computer cords.
A small wooden cupboard (a Boston antique)
holds obsolete floppies, and tools for a geek,
like staples and scotch-tape and labels and tacks,
and string and stray paperclips stuck in the cracks.

The calendar on the cork-board at least says November,
but the cards and the notes I hardly remember.
The face of a man on an ancient newspaper
is someone who's dead now, my old English teacher.
Notes for my thesis, and some sort of graph
reveal such ambition, I just have to laugh.
And over it all dangle Mardi Gras beads
suspended from wall hooks that nobody needs;
but I filled them—they cried out for more scarves and hats—
until all hooks were laden with bright artifacts.

The desk where I'm typing now, that's quite unsightly
although I'm compelled to stare at it nightly.
There are letters I won't answer, but want to have near,
and a diary and a radio too crackly to hear.
Orange folders containing things of import
languish with memo pads, a little to port.
To starboard, more letters, and a boxful of zips,
and a zip drive unplugged, and a glass for my sips
of wine or of beer; and mugs for my tea,
with the teabags still in 'em since 2003.

At my feet is a scanner that's missing a part,
and the staunch surge protector, the electrical heart
of the digital gizmos that help me commune
in ways slightly cleaner than those of baboons,
but not always clearer, though that's not the point
in a world that's gone nuts and a time out of joint.
The four-drawer in the corner, now, she's quite a peach
if only I'd alphabetize the piles within reach,
vacuum the inside where dust-creatures lurk,
and make use of those hanging things stolen from work.

A bookcase on a coffeetable sits right behind,
mysterious boxes and postcards I find
reside on the bottom, dictionaries on top;
but the table itself is strewn with a crop
of insurance papers and retirement plans,
and printed-out photos of exotic lands.
This study is great; it's got built-in shelves
upon which I've placed decorations and elves,
and camping equipment, and scrapbooks galore,
and art supplies, frames, and incense in store.

Two excellent treasures from years quite remote,
an extended-reach stapler and my reed-basket goat
(that contains all my sewing stuff, such as it is),
are always on view for moments like this,
when a poem is unfolding and calls for some focus,
and the chaos seems endless, likely to choke us.
With that stapler I published a poetry 'zine
that I sold on the streets when I was a teen.
That goat gave me comfort when I lived alone,
though not very cuddly, it was something I owned.

Now "owning" is moot—these objects own me.
I see myself in them, without them I'd be
in identity crisis, or so I imagine, but
maybe that's stretching it, after all, what
do I have to fear from a clean, empty room?
Its obvious resemblance to a cold marble tomb?
Like a magpie I've gathered, and furnished a nest.
Am I better than a bird, or a squirrel, or the rest?
They’re mnemonic devices for ego trips; maps
showing memories, mysteries, mirrors, perhaps.

Corporations have archives, museums collections;
history is touchable, not just reflections.
The things I've been given I can't throw away;
I'm encrusted with stories I cannot relay.
Like kudzu, these "meanings" just cover me over.
The shape underneath becomes darker and lower,
and when it is gone, I might not even know,
the vines and the brambles resemble it so.
I cling to the hope that I won't disappear,
and like Midas, take count of these objects so dear.

November 2006