Saturday, January 08, 2011

The catastrophe of my personality

Now I am quietly waiting for
the catastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again,
and interesting, and modern.

The country is grey and
brown and white in trees,
snows and skies of laughter
always diminishing, less funny
not just darker, not just grey.

It may be the coldest day of
the year, what does he think of
that? I mean, what do I? And if I do,
perhaps I am myself again.

— from "Mayakovsky," by Frank O'Hara, in Meditations in an Emergency.

I first heard this bit of poetry quite recently, and it's probably the first I'd ever heard of Frank O'Hara, and I'm sure it's true for many people, when Don Draper recited it at the close of an episode of Mad Men.

It's not the first time Mad Men has inspired my literary pickings, and I'm sure it won't be the last, but something about this recitation made me gasp, and cry a little, and want to know everything about Frank O'Hara and the bar he sat in while writing it.

I think this stanza did all it could do for me, and then some — one beautiful television minute, lingering and working through my bloodstream. Weeks since I first saw it, I think about it every day.

But I ordered this collection for my sister straightaway (happy birthday Ivonna!), because, well, I don't know why. There is no emergency, no urgent need for meditation, not beyond the daily emergency of life. Not for her, I don't think, and not for me. It may be the coldest day of the year, that's all, and we should meditate some.

I think about becoming myself again.


Frances said...

The thought of becoming oneself again really resonates with me. All of our relationships in life that ask something different of us, forcing us into roles we did not see coming and could not possibly of guessed what those roles might demand. Sometimes "emergencies" are far quieter moments than generally assumed.

Meredith said...

This post resonates with me, too. Sometimes I feel that I was more in touch with myself as a child. Less preoccupied with what tries to grab my attention now: knowledge, achievement, even accolades. That's not really what I want. My heart searches for the essential: peace, wisdom, grace all under the umbrella of faith.

I love Mad Men. I hadn't found the quotes and authors you have, but that show never ceases to make me think. As well as remember my childhood.