Thursday, February 21, 2013

Teardrops and Coffeespoons

    T.S. Eliot’s J. Alfred Prufrock in The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock  “[has] known the evenings, mornings, afternoons, [and] measured out [his] life with coffee spoons”. I think I have measured my life with teardrops.

    It seems a lifetime ago since attending Penn State but I remember well my part time job tending bar at the Phyrst, a rathskeller-type college bar one flight below street level with a brass headboard at the bottom of the stairs. It foretold of an atmosphere transitional between the Beatnik era and the Hippie generation.

    It was as popular for quiet-corner-thinking-about-next-paper-due as it was for drinking and socializing. It was there I had the pleasure of spending time with a young lady whose middle name was “Darby”. I thought that a most poetic and artistic name and quite appropriate for her since her major was the Fine Arts.

    We first met on the bus between Lewistown and State College for the final leg of the return to campus after a holiday break. She shared with me some delightful philosophies, encouraged me with an observation and invitation “You have a lot to offer. Come along and be happy,” and introduced me to Erik (sometimes Eric) Satie whose Gymnopedies and Gnossiennes are still as musically pleasing as they were from the first. Mysterious and haunting but pleasing in spite of (or perhaps because of) their mysteriousness.

    It was at a table at the Phyrst where I wrote a poem about the butt-encrusted floor and stale beer smells and Prufrock-wise observance that my life could be measured with beer bottles and cigarette butts.

    Fast forward to now, remaining mindful of the fifty plus years of beer bottles and cigarette butts, and the observation has changed to poetry and song lyrics. A poem is the “spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings; of emotions recollected in tranquility”. Poems quite often are the substance of songs which become popular because of their resonance with human experience. It would be presumptuous to conclude that all human emotions have been sung about in one genre or another but it is hard to think of an emotion that has not been sung about.

    My life can be measured (or described) in lines from a poem or lyrics from a song. The pictures painted in words by poets provide song writers the connection to the emotions we all experience in life — love, fear, frustration, disappointment, rejection. The emotional resonance or sympathetic vibration aroused by the tempo and the tune is what gives us our joyful or tearful remembrance of feelings past.

    In my recent karaoke experiences I have come across a spectrum of emotions expressed in song by Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Leon Russell, Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, and many more. Sinatra’s lyrics alone cover a lifetime’s worth of living experience.

            The titles hint strongly at the emotional content:

                Something Stupid
                    “and then I spoil it all by saying something stupid like,
                        ‘I love you‘.”

                My Funny Valentine

                Memories of You

                I Can’t Believe I’m Losing You
                    “Is this the way our romance ends?”

                Didn’t We?
                    “This time we almost made the pieces fit, didn't we? “
                Cry Me A River

                Here’s That Rainy Day

                Drinkin’ Again

                You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To

                Love’s Been Good To Me

                It Was A Very Good Year

                Send In The Clowns

    Even in poetry never committed to the lyrics of a song there is an emotional component unreachable by ordinary prose. My recent heart-breaking contact with a woman I only knew a short time has brought to life the words of an e. e. cummings poem, somewhere I have never traveled.

    Excerpted from “somewhere I have never traveled” :

        your eyes have their silence:
        in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
        or which i cannot touch because they are too near

        the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
        compels me with the color of its countries,
        rendering death and forever with each breathing

        the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
        nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

    Her eyes had their silence. I felt enclosed by her most frail gesture yet could not touch because she was not close enough. For a long time the phrase “the power of your intense fragility” caused me wonder because I had not really experienced it until after meeting this young lady. After discovering our attractions were neither mutually strong nor directed toward each other I retreated to the outside-looking-in so to speak.

    I saw her a day or two ago, from a distance, and the power of her intense fragility finally led me to know and understand that sensation.

    I no longer wonder. I now just simply wander.

            “I have been a rover.
             I have walked alone,
             hiked a hundred highways
             and never found a home…”
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