He took it with him everywhere he went,
The small green notebook with the lock.
He wanted to compile a permanent
Log of the pillow talk,
Endearments, jokes, evasions, gentle lies
And not so gentle ones, mute clock-
Watching, brisk whispers, shrugs, outbursts and sighs
From every argument
Couples engaged in right before his eyes.
He had decided on nothing with designs,
A notebook unbedrecked or -jeweled;
As for the paper, some folks wanted lines,
But he preferred unruled.
He’d riffle through a paperback for cover,
Hoping he had the barroom fooled
(Just reading . . . ) while his ballpoint pen would hover
To catch whatever wines
Or whiskeys might elicit from a lover.
Soon couples stumbled out—pansophic, sloshed—
And nights packed up. He’d head for home,
And there, amidst the mismatched forks, unwashed
Boxers, and Styrofoam
Go-boxes seeping in the fridge, he’d think
Of an enormous marbled comb
(Brown), empty glass (blue), soap (tan), matchstick (pink,
Yellow), and brush (brown) squashed
Inside—and thereby dwarfing—a rinky-dink
Apartment too much like the one he had;
Magritte had called it Personal
Values, but could have called it Bachelor Pad
For all that it was full
Of looming objects—eerie, bulksome, sly.
He worried that he lived his whole
Life in his notebook, and he wondered why
That didn’t seem so bad.
(Sometimes the room looked more like open sky.)
Often he’d scan his notes as though they formed
A star chart, score, or recipe,
An atlas of lands battered and bestormed,
Or an anatomy
Textbook (we’re all one body, he has read);
And whether lost in bodily
Desire, on lush paths, in rhapsodies of dread
Or soups he’d barely warmed,
He hummed his praise for starlight overhead.
His notebook boggled: proverbs, quips, wish lists,
Points, counterpoints, élan, chagrin—
Everything from the televangelist’s
“Single begins with sin!”
(But so does sing, he couldn’t help include)
To Tillich’s key distinction in
A timely sermon: for days we brink and brood,
Our loneliness exists;
For hours of glory, we have our solitude.
O, fond farrago, book of quodlibets,
You awful gallimaufry plumb
Full of hysteria’s careless ariettes,
You solemn omnium
Gatherum of God’s wisdom, sottisier
Of teasing bits’ bêtises, you come
Down to this question—will love’s gets outweigh
Love’s quod erat regrets?—
And how to answer that, he couldn’t say;
But from that blitz and clutter, his helter-skelter
Homage, he prized a single image:
A couple. Thick rain. A tiki bar for shelter.
The girlfriend stared at him,
Her boyfriend—blabbering as he chased a benny
With vodka, bar-wise to the brim—
As though he were a wishing well, and when he
Paused, somewhere in the welter
Of copper wishes, she sought her lonely penny.
He couldn’t judge the lovers with their cosmos
And appletinis, none of them—
Men numb with Maxims, women lost in Cosmos
Dog-eared with stratagem—
He loved the whole damn lot, since he could see
The grounds from which their longings stem:
Forces as grave, expansive, dark and free
As any where a cosmos
Begins in utter singularity.