I wouldn’t like to be one of the walrus people for the rest of my life but I wish I could spend one sunny afternoon lying on the rocks with them. I suspect it would be similar to drinking beer in a tavern that caters to longshoremen and won’t admit women. We’d exchange no cosmic secrets. I’d merely say, "How yuh doin’ you big old walrus?" and the nearest of the walrus people would answer, "Me? I’m doin’ great. How yuh doin’ yourself, you big old human being, you?” How good it is to share the earth with such creatures and how unthinkable it would have been to have missed all this by not being born: a happy thought, that, for not being born is the only tragedy that we can imagine but need never fear.
No matter what life you lead
the virgin is a lovely number:
cheeks as fragile as cigarette paper,
arms and legs made of Limoges,
lips like Vin Du Rhône,
rolling her china-blue doll eyes
open and shut.
Open to say,
Good Day Mama,
and shut for the thrust
of the unicorn.
She is unsoiled.
She is as white as a bonefish.
Once there was a lovely virgin
called Snow White.
Say she was thirteen.
a beauty in her own right,
though eaten, of course, by age,
would hear of no beauty surpassing her own.
Beauty is a simple passion,
but, oh my friends, in the end
you will dance the fire dance in iron shoes.
The stepmother had a mirror to which she referred--
something like the weather forecast--
a mirror that proclaimed
the one beauty of the land.
She would ask,
Looking glass upon the wall,
who is fairest of us all?
And the mirror would reply,
You are the fairest of us all.
Pride pumped in her like poison.
Suddenly one day the mirror replied,
Queen, you are full fair, 'tis true,
but Snow White is fairer than you.
Until that moment Snow White
had been no more important
than a dust mouse under the bed.
But now the queen saw brown spots on her hand
and four whiskers over her lip
so she condemned Snow White
to be hacked to death.
Bring me her heart, she said to the hunter,
and I will salt it and eat it.
The hunter, however, let his prisoner go
and brought a boar's heart back to the castle.
The queen chewed it up like a cube steak.
Now I am fairest, she said,
lapping her slim white fingers.
Snow White walked in the wildwood
for weeks and weeks.
At each turn there were twenty doorways
and at each stood a hungry wolf,
his tongue lolling out like a worm.
The birds called out lewdly,
talking like pink parrots,
and the snakes hung down in loops,
each a noose for her sweet white neck.
On the seventh week
she came to the seventh mountain
and there she found the dwarf house.
It was as droll as a honeymoon cottage
and completely equipped with
seven beds, seven chairs, seven forks
and seven chamber pots.
Snow White ate seven chicken livers
and lay down, at last, to sleep.
The dwarfs, those little hot dogs,
walked three times around Snow White,
the sleeping virgin. They were wise
and wattled like small czars.
Yes. It's a good omen,
they said, and will bring us luck.
They stood on tiptoes to watch
Snow White wake up. She told them
about the mirror and the killer-queen
and they asked her to stay and keep house.
Beware of your stepmother,
Soon she will know you are here.
While we are away in the mines
during the day, you must not
open the door.
Looking glass upon the wall . . .
The mirror told
and so the queen dressed herself in rags
and went out like a peddler to trap Snow White.
She went across seven mountains.
She came to the dwarf house
and Snow White opened the door
and bought a bit of lacing.
The queen fastened it tightly
around her bodice,
as tight as an Ace bandage,
so tight that Snow White swooned.
She lay on the floor, a plucked daisy.
When the dwarfs came home they undid the lace
and she revived miraculously.
She was as full of life as soda pop.
Beware of your stepmother,
She will try once more.
Looking glass upon the wall. . .
Once more the mirror told
and once more the queen dressed in rags
and once more Snow White opened the door.
This time she bought a poison comb,
a curved eight-inch scorpion,
and put it in her hair and swooned again.
The dwarfs returned and took out the comb
and she revived miraculously.
She opened her eyes as wide as Orphan Annie.
Beware, beware, they said,
but the mirror told,
the queen came,
Snow White, the dumb bunny,
opened the door
and she bit into a poison apple
and fell down for the final time.
When the dwarfs returned
they undid her bodice,
they looked for a comb,
but it did no good.
Though they washed her with wine
and rubbed her with butter
it was to no avail.
She lay as still as a gold piece.
The seven dwarfs could not bring themselves
to bury her in the black ground
so they made a glass coffin
and set it upon the seventh mountain
so that all who passed by
could peek in upon her beauty.
A prince came one June day
and would not budge.
He stayed so long his hair turned green
and still he would not leave.
The dwarfs took pity upon him
and gave him the glass Snow White--
its doll's eyes shut forever--
to keep in his far-off castle.
As the prince's men carried the coffin
they stumbled and dropped it
and the chunk of apple flew out
of her throat and she woke up miraculously.
And thus Snow White became the prince's bride.
The wicked queen was invited to the wedding feast
and when she arrived there were
red-hot iron shoes,
in the manner of red-hot roller skates,
clamped upon her feet.
First your toes will smoke
and then your heels will turn black
and you will fry upward like a frog,
she was told.
And so she danced until she was dead,
a subterranean figure,
her tongue flicking in and out
like a gas jet.
Meanwhile Snow White held court,
rolling her china-blue doll eyes open and shut
and sometimes referring to her mirror
as women do.
“Just got paid, Friday night Party hoppin’, feelin right Booties shakin’, all around Pump that jam, while I’m gettin’ down”
That, ladies and gentlemen, is the poetic chorus to “Just Got Paid” by the immortal boy band *NYSNC. What words of wisdom. How else would we know how to spend all of our hard-earned salary in the matter of hours? And on Friday night, too— way to keep the weekend sacred, boys. Particularly after a week of hard work and heavy thinking, Fridays and Saturdays are the perfect time for workers and students alike to blow off some steam and get rowdy, right?
Actually, Cambridge disagrees. As you’ll soon learn, Cambridge always has to be different, and nights out are no exception.
Before you assume that this is because Cambridge students are so studious that they never see beyond library walls, I will say this: Cambridge does know how to have fun. To a scary degree. Drinking could easily be a major here, along with dancing at clubs. From an outsider’s perspective, it’s actually quite impressive.
But, apparently Fridays and Saturdays are too mainstream for Cambridge. After all, several programs have labs or lectures on Saturdays, so it’s not as if a romp ‘round the town at 4:00 a.m. is the wisest life choice. Instead, everyone goes out on Sundays. And Tuesdays. And Wednesdays. And Thursdays. (And, hey- on occasion, Mondays.) Not only that, but certain days are reserved for certain clubs: Wednesdays are spent at Cindy’s, and Thursdays at Life.
For instance, last Sunday, I put on some lipstick and danced for a little while at a cocktail bar to celebrate my friend Liz’s birthday. And then I went back to my room to finish up my essay on Arthurian legend. (Don’t worry, Mama and Daddy. My supervisor praised the paper. I CAN do it all!)
Me, Sunday night. After a fair bit of dancing and before an even fair-er bit of writing.
“This warrants a tweet,” I thought. (Just kidding. I never think in terms of exciting words such as “warrant.”) So: “Cambridge is all about ‘work hard, play hard.’ Not necessarily in that order. And sometimes within the same night. Lesson learned.”
Lesson learned, indeed. I’m working on my essay tonight and tomorrow (yeah, Friday and Saturday) to avoid a self-inflicted curfew when we go out again on Sunday.
Nice try, *NSYNC. At least you got it right with “Pop”!
“Sick and tired of hearing All these people talk about, What’s the deal with this pop life And when is gonna fade out? The thing you got to realize What we doing is not a trend We got the gift of melody We gonna bring it till the end!”
Edit, 7:12 pm: I literally just heard outside my door: “You’re going out tonight? On a Friday night? …Why? Where?” Point proven.
Sometimes I write like that, especially on my study abroad blog (can I interest you in a follow?). Colloquial, with plenty of y’alls and I’mmas to spare.
And other times I write like this:
In this essay, I will engage in conversation with other critics, ultimately challenging them with my argument that Gawain’s character is neither inconsistent nor a trope for the Round Table itself, but instead is only human and thus powerless to uphold the ideals of Arthur’s chivalric code. Thus, honor and duty are rendered transcendent of human capability, even for the knights of the Round Table…
But it’s been much too long since I’ve written in AP style. Going to begin writing for a newspaper here, I think. It’s called The Cambridge Student. Who knows? Next month, I might shoot for a novel. A story about airports, Facebook profiles, and curbside prophets. A travelogue, and a history. A tale in which place becomes character. Not a philosophical statement- just a bit of vagabond fun.
I’m not good yet, but I’ve enough love of words, words, words to spend hours reserved for sleep with pen and paper in hand.
Can we just talk about how Suzanne Vega is by far the best lyricist alive today? (yeah, better than the Mountain Goats. I said it.) I dunno, maybe I’m in a real girl-power mood after the essay I just wrote pretty much venerating Morgan le Fay, but, my goodness, Suzanne Vega, writing a such a brilliant song from the perspective of one of the most infamous temptresses in literature…
You know how you’re supposed to used the word beautiful sparingly so that it means something? Yeah, this song is beautiful.
Like, seriously. All they do is mope and talk about how crappy everything is.
WELL THEN. Please allow me to explain!
When you really like something, you find yourself putting yourself in its presence more and more.
The more you see, the better you understand.
The more you understand, the more distinct your preferences become.
Through time, given enough built up preferences, fewer things qualify.
The less you like.
BUT those fewer things that you like, you like in a much more complete way.
Inside, it’s balanced.
Yes, yes, Evan. I agree completely. It’s a matter of style, taste, and skill. It’s the reason that Gaga has made me consider ramming my face into a wall (give me poetry and substance, not a faux commentary on creativity, thank you). Now, if I could contribute my own take on the art debate…
We must remember that refining artistic taste is sometimes a luxury and sometimes, well, difficult. The film major whose parents will be supporting him financially for the next twenty years might feel a sense of entitlement due to the mere fact that he’s graced the world with his presence. For others, studying something like English requires sacrificing stability and money (read: me).
Studying art is not practical. It’s not a smart life decision. But you’ve got to love it, I think, in order to survive. And those are the things that you “like in a much more complete way.” Not everyone, though, is lucky enough to pursue such loves. True, I’m here in Cambridge thanks to my own hard work, but without the support of my parents I would probably be studying pre-law in Missouri. So, yes, I am lucky.
In essence, I think it’s important for artists to be thankful for their circumstances. It’s perfectly all right for happiness to make an appearance in mopey artists every now and again— particularly in the form of gratitude, whether you owe it to your God, or the Good, or your family, or simply chance itself.
Let us praise good workers (you know who you are) Who come gladly to the job and do what you can For as long as it takes to repair the car Or clean the house – the woman or man Who dives in and works steadily straight through, Not lagging and letting others carry the freight, Who joke around but do what you need to do, Like the home caregiver who comes daily at eight A.m. to wash and dress the man in the wheelchair And bring him meals and put him to bed at night For minimum wage and stroke his pale brown hair. He needs you. “Are you all right?” “I’m, all right,” He says. He needs you to give him these good days, You good worker. God’s own angels sing your praise.
- Gary Johnson.
Found on the Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor.
notes: There aren’t too many posh jerks at my college (Homerton) here in Cambridge, but today I took a walk around King’s and I couldn’t believe how many kids had their heads so far up their own asses. I need a job in town so that I can keep myself grounded; I aspire to be a Good Worker. (…Also, I’m already almost completely broke.)