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In Drear Nighted December

July 22, 2011

The crown on the Statue of Liberty is 110 and they’re not letting the tourists in. How hot is it? My friend Jeff fried an egg on the sidewalk. The sweat forms like ticklish snails growing heavier sliding down my cheeks and chin, my purple shirt darkening. I’m someone who likes to walk in the sun and I’ve not been. I can still breathe with unhampered lungs but my eyeballs have dried up with floating city dust, eyelids getting stuck, unstuck by the sweat oozing into them. My eyes sting! I have blinking burning eyelids.

This week for the first time in thirty years big fat black flies appeared I guess through the crack I leave opened in my vertically narrow bathroom window, too narrow for any hardware store window screen to fit. Every summer the window was open and every now and then a fly flew in. But look at this? A hundred or so buzzing along the ceiling and at the windows especially in the kitchen settling on the lemons, bananas, pears and peaches I left out ripening. Now everything’s in the fridge but the bananas tied up in a plastic bag away from them. I’ve closed the bathroom window and to catch the flies bought those adhesive strings people used to use when I was a kid. I started to pull one out of its waxy cylinder but it tore and then I pulled another one and that one tore as well. So I read the directions blinded slightly by the sweat. “Pull cord slowly with twirling motion,” it says. I do just that hanging the sticky death trap at the corner of the window frame in the kitchen with the tack given and flies at once adhere and die and buzz blacker and blacker and black.

A guy at the gym is talking on his cell phone, which you’re not supposed to do, but it’s too hot to bring it up and argue. He’s complaining about someone. “All he says anymore is ‘I’m hungry” and ‘I gotta go.'” I guess it’s his teenage son. Unconsciously longing for the cold I thought of In Drear Nighted December a poem by John Keats I memorized in my early 20s when I was still a kid. I loved Keats so much back then he helped me know how to write not by anything he taught but by how much I loved him: that love osmosis really sank in reading him. I read the poem again remembering in Stuyvesant Park. A bag woman broad and black lay face down on a bench, her cart of stuff by her side, much of her back bare in the sun slotted by the branches of the trees where suddenly a red-tailed hawk comes swirling down among scattering pigeons and squirrels who all avoid the bird returning up to the branches again, opening and shutting its sharp beak like it’s gasping for breath as it looks this way and that, unnoticed by all the junkies and the crazies resting here after their Beth Israel visits, nodding in sleep or looking at the ground in front of them. Another man, a gray black man older than me who is writing interestingly enough like me looks up from his book to watch the hawk just like I do the mirror image of him till I look down at Keats and reading through the poem I seem to have memorized it again. Or wherever it was it has always been. I close my eyes and recite enjoying each word that comes out absolutely where it should—oh the words feel so good! Stuck in this heat, moment of permanent sweat, it’s hard to believe it will ever be drear nighted December again.

In drear nighted December,
Too happy, happy tree,
Thy branches ne’er remember
Their green felicity:
The north cannot undo them
With a sleety whistle through them;
Nor frozen thawings glue them
From budding at the prime.

In drear nighted December,
Too happy, happy brook,
Thy bubblings ne’er remember
Apollo’s summer look;
But with a sweet forgetting,
They stay their crystal fretting,
Never, never petting
About the frozen time.

Ah! would ’twere so with many
A gentle girl and boy!
But were there ever any
Writh’d not of passed joy?
The feel of not to feel it,
When there is none to heal it
Nor numbed sense to steel it,
Was never said in rhyme.

One Comment

  1. When I saw the video today while looking at others impressions of this poem I at first wondered why one would read this echt December poem in July. Now I see. Your story is kind of like Wordsworth’s Daffodils. It isn’t about Daffodils, it about remembering Daffodils.

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