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A Very Nice Suit And Woman's Jacket


The young woman arrived first,
then the young man. They did not kiss
or shake hands, their sleek features
unbroken by any recognition I could see.
His dark navy blue tie pulled aside
and carelessly knotted.

A quarter inch of white shirt visible
at the wrist and tight at the chest
the way a towel clings to a swimmer
emerging from a pool; the unwrinkled
suit unphazed by the cramped cab ride.

It was obvious both were known
and liked by the waiters.

I sent them a drink, she lifted a white
chrysanthemum hand and smiled directly
into my eyes.

You expected them to dance well,
to know about fine art and car racing.

I lowered my head, Paris and Anais
appeared; she was an illustrator
for a magazine; her fat blue fountain
pen marking across butcher paper
or even a table cloth when driven
by an idea. We danced at a cellar club
named The Yellow Dog that Sings.

Sundays we rented bicycles;
she hitched a ride hooking my belt,
skirt billowed and rapid fire English
lavished on the summer air.
   
In the flower district we drank hand
squeezed orange juice poured over
a fist of ice.

I slept late and worked afternoons
selling American bonds.

We lived in a Faubourg Saint Germain
flat. She favored black sweaters,
gray skirts that matched the color
of her leather crafted high heels.

We shopped together for my linen
summer suit at Dior; he made each
patron wear a tie and we purchased
two pictures from his art gallery;

in the evening we said good night
to each other and to our pictures.

I went with Anais for her fitting
at the Coco Chanel store, a maroon
jacket almost Japanese.

The war had not yet begun,
Chanel not yet a traitor to France.

It was the last year
being Jewish hardly mattered.

Last edited by Bernie01, Jan/12/2013, 11:58 am


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Fall

Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
Jan/10/2013, 12:12 pm Link to this post Send Email to Bernie01   Send PM to Bernie01 Blog
 
Katlin Profile
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Re: A Very Nice Suit And Woman's Jacket


Hey Bernie,

This is not a critique, just my first reaction to reading your poem:

You've got a novelist's eye for detail and pacing. Hemingway's sleekness and focus in this poem.

Sometimes they say of a good actor, s/he could recite the telephone book and make it interesting. I think you could write a poem using the Sears Catalogue and make it work. Damn. I'm just sitting here, marveling and shaking my head. Laughing too. In a good way.

I'll be back.

In the meantime, I'd like to know:
where the heck is everybody?
H-e-l-l-o? Is this thing on? emoticon

Jan/10/2013, 5:28 pm Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
Christine98 Profile
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Re: A Very Nice Suit And Woman's Jacket


hey Bernie,

Very cinematic, sets a great mood and I'm right there, observing the arrival of the young man. Might be back to pic some nits later...but I doubt it,

Chris
Jan/11/2013, 12:35 pm Link to this post Send Email to Christine98   Send PM to Christine98
 
vkp Profile
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Re: A Very Nice Suit And Woman's Jacket


Bernie, The details are wonderful. I love the attention to fashion and the lucidity with which you see everything -- the man, the women, the clothes, the places.

I sometimes had trouble with the pronouns or basically who's who in the narrative, though you help the reader by naming the woman whose company the narrator keeps.

The editor in me has one nitpick -- you wrote "unphased" but you meant "unfazed."

Lovely poem.
vkp
Jan/11/2013, 2:03 pm Link to this post Send Email to vkp   Send PM to vkp Blog
 
Bernie01 Profile
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Re: A Very Nice Suit And Woman's Jacket


K---

C---

V---

thanks guys, cinematic i'll take any day of the week. (Bergman or Woody Allen...LOL)

hell, i'd take Walt Disney---seeing the delight and entertainment his studio brought to my little daughter.

V---thanks for that spelling/usage correction.


thanks to all three of you for reviewing this poem---i hope the clothes and other descriptions appeal and interest a reader, but it is those last few lines that rip and savage the heart---certainly mine.


bernie




Last edited by Bernie01, Jan/11/2013, 9:57 pm


---
Fall

Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
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Christine98 Profile
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Re: A Very Nice Suit And Woman's Jacket


hey bernie,

those last lines definitely gave me pause-- sorry I didn't mention it...I wonder why,

Chris
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Re: A Very Nice Suit And Woman's Jacket


Hi Bernie,

I hope you didn't think that my laughter yesterday was an indication that I didn't find the ending of your poem moving. I did. I also found it astonishing. I didn't see that ending coming. The build up to it was so lightly done, so nonchalant and disarming. Now we know why Plato outlawed poetry in the Republic, n'est-ce pas? So why the laughter? A palimpsest of emotion: beneath the heartbreak of the poem, joy at the possibility of poetic astonishment.

Last edited by Katlin, Jan/11/2013, 7:16 pm
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Bernie01 Profile
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Re: A Very Nice Suit And Woman's Jacket


C---

---


oh no, i never doubted---you are my best and most perceptive readers---less important that you like a poem, more important the insight your seem so effortlessly to give. means so much to me.

and if ever i am the least dismayed by something, trust me to instantly bring it up for conversation.


thanks again,

bernie

Last edited by Bernie01, Jan/11/2013, 9:55 pm


---
Fall

Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
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Re: A Very Nice Suit And Woman's Jacket


The Diary of Anais Nin


1939-1944 this poignant description of what Nin experienced as the difference between Parisians and New Yorkers —


In Paris, when entering a room, everyone pays attention, seeks to make you feel welcome, to enter into conversation, is curious, responsive. Here (New York and Los Angeles) it seems everyone is pretending not to see, hear, or look too intently. The faces reveal no interest, no responsiveness.


she died in Los Angeles---the anniversary of her death in just three days. her Delta of Venus was a blockbuster---it greatly influenced my sense of story telling, character selection and sensibility.


Overtones are missing. Relationships seem impersonal and everyone conceals his secret life, whereas in Paris it was the exciting substance of our talks, intimate revelations and sharing of experience.



and here, Simone de Beauvoir on New York winter fashions, circa 1947:

During the night, New York was covered with snow. Central Park is transformed. The children have cast aside their roller skates and taken up skis; they rush boldly down the tiny hillocks. Men remain barehanded, but many of the young people stick fur puffs over their ears fixed to a half-circle of plastic that sticks to their hair like a ribbon — it’s hideous.




bernie




Last edited by Bernie01, Jan/11/2013, 11:18 pm


---
Fall

Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
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Katlin Profile
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Re: A Very Nice Suit And Woman's Jacket


Hi Bernie,

I meant to say earlier that in addition to Hemingway, this has a Fitzgerald feel to it. I thought of Nin when I read the name Anais but wasn't sure what to make of the connection. Is the N remembering his life before the war or imagining himself into such a life by reading Nin's notebooks now? I think the troublesome pronouns vkp mentions adds to this mystery. Personally, I don't think it matters and I kind of like not knowing, but I fear there may be an obvious clue that I'm missing or misreading. For example, the Faubourg Saint Germain flat seems like a rather specific reference. Is the N meant to be speaking from the POV of one of Nin's real life lovers? I read a few of her notebooks years ago but regret to say I remember very little, so please forgive my ignorance.

One minor change to consider:

Reverse the order of S2 and 3. I think the poem would flow better there at the beginning if the descriptions of the couple and their clothing were kept together.

Jan/12/2013, 8:27 am Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
vkp Profile
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Re: A Very Nice Suit And Woman's Jacket


Bernie, The specificity of that name (Anais) made me wonder too -- but without knowing if you meant Nin, the poem still had power and beauty. It is odd that at first none of us mentioned the closing lines. Hmm. They are incredible and though they end the poem, read almost as an aside -- the punch line literally a throwaway that stops the heart.
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Bernie01 Profile
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Re: A Very Nice Suit And Woman's Jacket


VKP---


oh, that comment means so much; i'm not so insecure about writing, i am prepared to fail and do so often, but taking someone else a long with me is sobering indeed.

if i were accused of using history, i would be crushed beyond repair.

so, especially your comment gave me calm.

and thanks for the suggestion to flip those two verses, done and the change posted.


bernie



Last edited by Bernie01, Jan/12/2013, 1:09 pm


---
Fall

Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
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Re: A Very Nice Suit And Woman's Jacket


K---

oh yes, Hemingway and Fitzgerald. from Hemingway i studied his declarative sentences, short and clear. Fitzgerald is the poet, provides the lyric, but always strong, elegant and fresh---both writers teach through their work.

The Great Gatsby:

quote:

"He took out a pile of shirts and began throwing them one by one before us, shirts of sheer linen and thick silk and fine flannel which lost their folds as they fell and covered the table in many-colored disarray. While we admired he brought more and the soft rich heap mounted higher – shirts with stripes and scrolls and plaids in coral and apple green and lavender and faint orange with monograms of indian blue. Suddenly with a strained sound Daisy Bent her head into the shirts and began to cry stormily. “They’re such beautiful shirts,” she sobbed, her voice muffled in the thick folds. “It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such beautiful shirts before.” (Fitzgerald 87)




The opening from The Sun Also Rises

quote:

Robert Cohn was once middleweight boxing champion of Princeton. Do not think I am very much impressed by that as a boxing title, but it meant a lot to Cohn. He cared nothing for boxing, in fact he disliked it, but he learned it painfully and thoroughly to counteract the feeling of inferiority and shyness he had felt on being treated as a Jew at Princeton.




And a description by Jake of Lady Brett:


Brett was “damned good looking.”
She wore a slipover jersey sweater and a tweed skirt, and her hair was brushed back like a boy’s. She started all that. She was built with curves like the hull of a racing yacht, and you missed none of it with that wool jersey




A favorite:

“Brett’s face was white and the long line of her neck showed in the bright light of the flares.”


so much great writing around, novelists and poets. one can be happy all day.

no attempt to tell any tale about Anais Nin, but she died here in Los Angeles more than 30 years ago and i am under her influence ---an anniversary of her death in two days. she died at the same hospital where if i am lucky, i will get a liver transplant this year.


bernie

Last edited by Bernie01, Jan/13/2013, 10:04 am


---
Fall

Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
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Katlin Profile
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Re: A Very Nice Suit And Woman's Jacket


Hey Bernie,

I see you have added this line to describe Anais:

she was an illustrator
for a magazine

Very good. Although the name Anais will still make me think of Nin, I won't try to read her directly into the poem somehow. That the name makes me think of her will be enough.
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Re: A Very Nice Suit And Woman's Jacket


PS You piqued my interest in Nin and I did a little reading yesterday about her life. Another writer whose own life reads like a novel.

PPS May you be lucky. Very lucky. I'll pray for that. Keep us posted about the liver transplant.
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Re: A Very Nice Suit And Woman's Jacket


Yes, please, Bernie.
Jan/13/2013, 8:35 am Link to this post Send Email to vkp   Send PM to vkp Blog
 
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Re: A Very Nice Suit And Woman's Jacket


K---

VKP---



yes, her life was about as full as life can be---you may not have seen this story about her, about her novel The Four-Chambered Heart.

she died on a January---January 14. she was 67 and lived in Los Angeles during her last years. My little daughter and i often fed the ducks and walked around the small lake below her house.


Delta of Venus was her great bestseller, later the Diaries.

but she also wrote

The Four-Chambered-Heart, a novel documenting her tempestuous and destructive 10 year love affair with her great love, she called him Rango in the novel. alas, a charming jerk who became less charming and just a jerk as the years wore on.

Finally, she could see clearly:


“how I turned to this sick sick sick primitive for fire, and who had this useless, raging, blind, destructive fire in the center of his being…this fire leading nowhere, a wasted, destructive fire.“

 
“Rango” the pseudo name of this lover, contrasted with “Paul” her later husband, Hugh Guiler.


“[Rango] was driving the image of Paul into another chamber of her heart, an isolated chamber without communicating passage into the one inhabited by Rango. A place in some obscure recess, where flows eternal love, in a realm so different from the one inhabited by Rango that they would never meet or collide, in these vast cities of the interior.”

she would be thrilled to know we still treasure her memory and talk openly about the details of her life---


as for the liver transplant, yes.

you pass from your own doctor to the liver transplant network---selecting a medical center from this group and you become their patient, their management concern.

since Thanksgiving, my liver has given me the day off---that is i feel much, much better; the 25 pounds i lost, coming back and with it the energy level. the recent decision to stop pill experiments---which left me dizzy and with a confused brain and a disappearing memory bank---and to think now only of a transplant is a blessing in that regard; i have no experience with alcohol, but it must be like that when a longtime drunk achieves sobriety and with it---mental clarity. poems i once knew by heart, disappeared. But now they are coming back, hooray!.

the post-operation is a year long recovery process, as punishing as the illness. so, if i could idle at this level, i'd take it and let some other poor devil take my place in line.

thanks for asking. i've had 50 years of iron strong, perfect health, Kathleen and my family say the same thing---tough guys like me have to learn how to accept a little help and above all how to share and talk with loved ones about evolving health issues. other liver patients have shared very openly with me the details of their illness and this has been critical for me to help map my own treatment ideas.

once again, thanks for asking.


bernie












Last edited by Bernie01, Jan/13/2013, 11:45 am


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Fall

Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
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Re: A Very Nice Suit And Woman's Jacket


Bernie, Thank you for sharing some of your journey. It sounds as if, in the midst of one illness, you have claimed and reclaimed health in other ways. Recapturing your mind is a glorious thing.

All the best best best.
vkp
PS You gave me credit for suggesting the strophe switch, but that wasn't me! Don't want to take credit where it is not due.
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Terreson Profile
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Bernie, this is the kind of poem that points to your true strength. Your narrative bent. I sometimes think narrative poetry has for long been unfashionable, rarely committed to. Other times, and in a caustic mood, I think poets, in America at least, have lost the imaginative capacity for story telling. What I really think is that the incapacity points to cowardess. You, sir, are no coward, as your poem proves. So tell me your stories, textured in the way you incline to. Give me the glorious detail, as you do here. When you think on it, poetry's themes are limited, only 3 actually. What makes the difference, carries over from you to me, is the glorious detail. But for one limitation I have no crits of your poem. It satisfies my senses and my brain. I think what is most clear is that you are in love with your subject(s) here, giving the kind of sympathy to place you inside said subject(s).

About the Nin lore. Pleased and surprised to find another Nin student. When I first read her she was still alive. I a bit worshipped her, certainly fantasized about her, and learned certain mechanics from her. Two women writers who have influenced me the most are Nin and Colette. From Nin I got her sense of thinking, what informed her syntax. I remember reading one editor of hers, this was decades ago, that characterized her way as Heraclitean, the pre-socratic philosopher for whom fire was emblematic of the first principle. I can go with that. Nin's fire pointed to her conviction that all is change and that change is transformative. Her Cities of the Interior is considerd her major opus. It showed me a way usually unavailable to men writers. But I have always thought her best work is her extended prose poem House of Incest. That is the work that stands her between the two worlds, upper and lower. "All that I know is contained in this book written without witness, an edifice without dimension, a city hanging in the sky." That is what she said about her House.

So in your poem the narrator is a worker in financial bonds. I am assuming you had in mind Nin's first husband, Hugo, whose job was exactly that.

Then there is the other side of Nin, a side your poem glosses over or ignores, and I think it does so to the poem's detriment. While in Paris, before the war, she cheated on Hugo with regularity, almost compulsively. No other word for it. She was capable of seducing her father, well, it was mutual, who was a handsome concert violinist from Cuba. At the same time, the exact same time, she had four or five other affairs, what included her analyst, Artaud, Miller, and a guitarist from South America. After she and Hugo returned to America she became a bigamist, marrying a man on the West coast while Hugo kept to NYC. His name was Rupert, a forester by training I think. She maintained the two marriages for something like 20 years or so. Neither husband aware of the other. This is the part your homage leaves out. I would argue it is the bigger part, like the submerged portion of the iceberg we all conspire not to see. A house of incest indeed. I don't know. Maybe she could not have come to her comprehensions had she not been such a user.

Good luck with the liver search. I hope like hell it resolves itself in your favor soon.

Tere
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Bernie01 Profile
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Re: A Very Nice Suit And Woman's Jacket


Tere---

thanks for a very stimulating discussion.

i didn't intend for the poem to become a closet bio---to me, the poem is not about her at all. when my daughter was still entertained by feeding ducks---the ducks at Silver Lake in the heart of Los Angeles and just below Nin's home, we walked there. she was and still is a reality for me, not just a literary personality. and yes, like you, i adored her.

but what interested me in this poem was the love and joy the couple exhibited as they unknowingly stand at the edge of a volcano.

but no attempt to rewrite this heartbreaking poem from Celan:


quote:

by Paul Celan
translated by Jerome Rothenberg

 
Black milk of morning we drink you at dusktime
we drink you at noontime and dawntime we drink you at night
we drink and drink
we scoop out a grave in the sky where it’s roomy to lie
There’s a man in this house who cultivates snakes and who writes
who writes when it’s nightfall nach Deutschland your golden hair Margareta
he writes it and walks from the house and the stars all start flashing he whistles his
     dogs to draw near
whistles his Jews to appear starts us scooping a grave out of sand
he commands us to play for the dance



narrative. the narrative poem, even the prose poem. not so much my cup of tea.

for me, a narrative must be embossed with rich details, eloquent, haunting images.

a sample of images i like from my own work:


My wife asks if I saw the leaves
burning with orange and ruby colors
as though branded by cattlemen.
They fall from the acacias in clouds
absent minded, guileless and wistful.

They fell all morning, blown south
where I’m told there is endless heat
and women wear only their sunglasses
and welcome visitors with French kisses
translated into English.
_____________________________________________

Chen paints with her face held
very close to the canvas,
like a woman at the mirror
with a contact lens….Shampoo circa 2006
_____________________________________________

I am an insomniac in the purple,
airless morning of the dice pits.

A shiftless, migratory bird looking
straight at you. The cortege
of saris and high heels, the hands
speaking in henna tattoos.

Smooth tideland of your belly,
the stern look your eyes give out;
your face is full of rupees
and barely sixteen years old.
_____________________________________________

And here, a jilted Chinese girl’s narrative describing her lonely walk along a lake---

Reeds wave like bandanas
along the dyke, glazed at this hour
like the face of a girl with her lover.
_____________________________________________

Japanese Woman, Page 17, Life Magazine 1941 (Sans Parsol)

I saw your photograph in a magazine,
wistful as a heavy girl in high school,
violet parasol blown sideways
in the Zephyr wind, a rainy languor
as you read the iris-white pages
of the Osaka Shinbun news,
metal glasses like the goggles
of an Imperial pilot sighting
American carriers for the first time.



great discussion you began here and thanks for the encouragement re the liver.

bernie


 

Last edited by Bernie01, Jan/19/2013, 7:52 pm


---
Fall

Bob Grenier: the leaves / falling / out of the / water by the / table
Jan/19/2013, 7:14 pm Link to this post Send Email to Bernie01   Send PM to Bernie01 Blog
 


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