It is ten o’clock
and those with jobs tomorrow
are going to bed in lilac,
marigold, shamrock pajamas
hoping dreams will not bring
periwinkles, baboons wearing
lacy socks and beaded belts
or those terrible tigers
who fight in red weather.

A salty old vagabond
homeless and drunk,
asleep in his stiff boots,
snores, smacks his lips
to taste the movie playing
on the screen of his shut lids—
a dream of white nightgowns
descending spiral stairs
to kiss him goodnight.

In Connecticut, a poet
crouched over his business
necktie, blotter, desk,
dips his pen deeper, ever
deeper into the bottomless
pit of precious obscurity
to feed a hunger for
another definition of what
disillusionment is like.

74 responses »

    • Hello M-R….I appreciate that ‘amazing and wonderful’, as you can imagine, but…. effortlessly? Um…er..uh.. (Hope your opus magnus is going well. I’m looking forward to the results!)

  1. Very thought provoking.

    Ultimately, the working stiff, with his cup of joe, is the one most trapped by Father Time. Vagabonds are freer, but to no avail. The poet, neither employed nor eating out of a bag, remains aloof, and this he brands disillusionment.

    • I can’t believe how close you come to the ineffable impetus for this poem. The aloofness of certain poets can be a kind of parochialism of the privileged, and you are right: they brand things—disillusionment, for example—outside of their ken. It is tempting, then, to introduce them into their own works, and perhaps to have their original perspective turned a few degrees in another direction. Thank you very much, Prospero.

      • And since it is such an interesting topic, can I have a 5,000 word essay on the artist’s status and function in society on my marmoreal desk by Monday? I am amenable to granting extensions, but only in rare cases (plagues, asteroids raining down on our terra firma, labor disputes in the public sector, et cetera).

        • My dear Prospero, you have flashed me back to my days of taking and giving assignments like this—a nightmare, as I see it now. I will stand on the privilege of my dotage and say: YOU KNOW WHAT YOU CAN DO WITH THE ASSIGNMENT?….I’m sure there are loci, especially on magical islands, where the sun don’t shine. πŸ™‚

          • There’s nothing like striking fear into the heart of an erstwhile pedagogue, and yet it is a great shame that you should decline to write such a piece, as I am certain your readers would all chafe at the bit to read with great Γ©clat your sonorous and oh-so-sensible pontifications (and certain-to-follow epexegesis) on such an extraordinary subject.

            • For me to write at length on the status and function of the artist in society would be to try carving my initials in your marmoreal desk.
              I have pondered the topic all my life and have too much—or too little—of value to add to the topic as it has been, ad nauseam, battered about for centuries. In brief, the status is exile, and the function is scapegoat, most of the time. (Though others, like P.B.S. would add things like “unacknowledged legislator of the world.”)
              It must be worth the candle, however, since there always seem to be some who continue in that role and function, and others still aspire to it. The entry-level requirement, of course, is to demonstrate an ability to say “epexegesis” very fast, three times in a row.

              • Try saying bysshe, bysshe, bysshe in rapid succession. But it should have been ‘unacknowledged legislators of the word,’ as that would have been more Wittgensteinian. Are your thoughts molded by words (the way they sound, the way they lend an exotic flavor to the mundane) or are words representations of your sonorous or carnavalesque thoughts? As a devout contrarian I swear by the former. (He gently nudges the discussion into the philosophical realm, leaving the artist behind with no alternative for him but to contemplate this or that bestiary.)

                • I am totally with you, in that I continue to believe poetry is primarily and most deeply language about language….even though the fashions of image, emotionalism (confession), philosophy, social criticism and story telling come and go. The music of speech is also an important part of it. For me, almost every poem starts with a word or words, and the words unroll layers of life and thought. The mother tongue is a genetic inheritance, and its history still lives and moves us, whether we recognize it or not. It’s what we have in common. But I do go on. As the French say: “d’accord, mon ami, d’accord”.

  2. Well, if this is a disullusioned poet’s dream then I would like to be one. I love the fantabulous dreams. I would want to dream all day. The only part that would no longer fascinate me is having a job.

    • But you don’t need dreaming, Cindy! Your photographic travelogues are testimony to that. Why just this morning you had me looking at your shots of a stork eating a catfish and surfing a hippo who was napping underwater in Africa…how fantabulous is that!

  3. Oh, how I love it Cynthia! I’ve always been very drawn to Wallace Stevens. This is a wonderful response to his poem and a fantastic elaboration on his own life. Thank you!

    • Those tigers in red weather make a wonderful image, don’t they…of course I had to use them, since they really belong to Wallace Stevens and added yet another color to my tale of the dreams and pajamas that was different from his. Thank you for your lovely comment!

    • I started adding audio to my poetry posts about a year ago, Laine, and many readers seem to like it. I have no special software. I record my reading on a small hand-held recorder, plug it into my laptop and then add it to my draft on WordPress as part of the “Add Media” option. It is pretty uncomplicated, I assure you, or else I wouldn’t be able to accomplish it! There are probably several other ways to go about it, but this is what I do. Thank you for stopping by!

  4. I agree with others who appreciate the images, the contrasts you have created in this poem, and I continue to just love the voice of the poet offering us the full creation. I, too, am curious about how you do that, Cyn. One of these days, I take a Maine vacation and have you help me set up a wordpress blog for my musings, though not as fancy and fantabulous as yours!

    • Oh dear, my dear Julie, this blog is one of the most un-fancy of possibilities on WordPress. And if I could do it, anyone can! Just jump in….and play with it, is my best advice. There are WordPress helpers along the way. Or, come on up to Maine, anyway, when you get a chance. I warn you: it’s a god-forsaken long ride from everywhere πŸ™‚

    • This poem is a response to a poem by Wallace Stevens entitled “Disillusionment of Ten O’Clock”, so I can’t take credit for all the images, though some of them are my own. I wanted to see what he saw, but differently. Thanks, Barbara, for coming to read it. πŸ™‚

  5. Such a special skill (gift) you have, Cynthia. Loved this.

    Of course, some of us with jobs tomorrow go to bed at 2am. Probably in a vain attempt to avoid those dreams.

    And now I have an urgent desire to buy shamrock pyjamas.

    • Well, MoSY, there must be different kinds of two o’clock also. Pajamas..pyjamas….I think a certain shade of shamrock would go very nicely with your complexion….

  6. Again your words bring imagery of reality, Illusion… and a certain quirkiness and style which is all your own – even when when written in relation to another’s poem! – and always a meaning /message in the depths! Ever so much to explore and find in your writing. Love it Cynthia. Thank you!

  7. While I’m not much familiar with Wallace Stevens’ life or work, your excellent poem (and a number of the comments from your readers) led me to read up a bit. I have a deeper appreciation of the references now.

    I suspect Wallace may have stood to benefit from admiring the kind of imagination that he espouses (or at least appears to espouse): no doubt there would have been fine print in the insurances he sold noting that injuries caused by drunkenness or fighting tigers in red weather are not covered.

    • I had a good laugh over that bit about insurance not covering the fighting of tigers in red weather. I’m glad the poem led you to know a bit more about Wallace Stevens. I find him a “difficult” poet in the sense that he–like Eliot—takes for granted a certain kind of education in his reader and tends toward an aestheticism often unbalanced by simplicity and ordinariness. He does spin and weave some beautiful images, though. Thanks, Brad.

  8. You’ve got poor ol’ Wallace standing on his head here, Cynthia: lilac pyjamas and dreams of goodnight kisses in place of all that gloomy profundity! You’re incorrigible β€” thank goodness! Very cleverly done.

    • “Poor ‘ol Wallace”….that has a nice possum-ish ring to it, though he was a lot more posh than possum. I love many of his poems, but this particular one—from his earlier years—seemed open to a rejoinder. Apparently, it’s now in the public domain, and appears everywhere as typical of his work, which I don’t quite think it is. Anyway, it was fun, and probably tapped something “incorrigible”, as you say, for me to write it. Thank you, as always, John. (I haven’t had time to research the difference between pajamas and pyjamas, if there is one. πŸ™‚ )

      • I suspect Wallace Stevens is less well known in Britain than in the States but there are 3 of his poems that I like a lot and return to: Key West, Sunday Morning and Mon Oncle. Ten O’clock I didn’t really know although it’s in my Selected. You’ve introduced me to it in effect Cynthia and I quite like it, although I think I shall never read it now without chuckling over your rejoinder.
        Now to turn to the really interesting question: pyjamas or pyjamas? Darn it! Every time I try to type it the American way my British spell checker takes command and insists that it knows best!

        • I also like the Stevens poems you mention….and, of course, “The Emperor of Ice Cream” and “Thirteen Ways of Looking At A Blackbird”.

          Yes!! My spell checker won’t let me type ‘pyjamas’ …here it goes again I’ll have to send it to you underlined in red, alas.

  9. Exceptional Cynthia in that you take us on the beginning journey of a nights sleep, enjoying the imagery of pj prints! But then into the world of the vagabond and closed-lid action movies – love it, wow – not only see the imagery, but hear it as well. This reminds me of when I have a re-occurring dream, as my friend in Ecuador who is suffering with dengue (2nd bout) and dreaming the same dream over and over again, it’s either totally exciting or laced with scary anticipation.

    An enjoyable start to my Saturday – have a lovely weekend.

    • Sounds like you’re familiar with some of those closed-lid action movies, Mary! (I hope you keep away from that terrible dengue…I’ve known it to be around in Mexico, as well.)
      Loved your comment on Prospero’s blog. You have a lovely weekend too!

      • Oh yes, many a night. I mentioned my friend because she been having re-occurring dreams while going through this period.
        You liked my comment on Prospero – I like teasing. Happily raining in my part of the world ~

  10. I read this once, then the Wallace Stevens poem, then this again a couple of times. Now I can’t get white gowns and red tigers out of my head. I’m not quite sure I’ll ever love Wallace Stevens – ‘bottomless pit of precious obscurity’ is about right to me, but I enjoyed your rejoinder.

    • Stevens has his moments, but I too doubt I shall ever cherish him as a poet. I’m beginning to recognize that a certain personal character is something I seek, in a poem, underneath all the preoccupation with language—a certain “kindred soul” stuff. I can sometimes find it in some of the oldest poetry ever written, and sometimes not at all in the latest prize-winning laureate. Glad you like that ‘bottomless pit of precious obscurity.’ In the process, it sort of wrote itself.

      • I’d agree with that… Technical brilliance isn’t the be all and end all. My favourite poets are people I think I’d like to go for a beer with (or awine, or coffee, or just a ramble).

  11. You have lifted to the front of our minds three of the true universals of the human condition – the particular hours of the day we all pass through, sleep and aspiration. So as I read your poem I feel akin to every other human, no matter our surface differences.

  12. Those with jobs, an old vagabond and a poet, each stanza very enjoyable, the last one especially for me. It’s approaching 9:00 and I’m off to bed. Glad to have read this poem : )

  13. Such a very good poem again, and thank you for introducing Wallace this way to me πŸ™‚ ps I suppose going to bed at ten is rather early for most, but I usually do πŸ™‚

  14. I had not been familar with that Stevens poem, so responded to your poem twice: Before and after reading it. Am I a dullard that my response was fairly similar both times? I still found the “red tigers” line funny (at the first read, I chuckled aloud)–all those secure 9-to-5-ers and their precious first-world fears–is it that I’ve missed your point entirely, Cynthia?

    The second stanza brought the same pang for the the man who escapes to dreams of a life that may have been, or never could have been. After the Wallace read, your snarky twist alleviated the pang somewhat, you naughty woman.

    That last stanza: Upon the first read, I took it as critical of…certain poets, and poetry. The kind of poets of whom a subset believe poetry read aloud must be read with that odd “Poetry Is Being Read Aloud” intonation where every phrase is monotone except for an identical rISE at the eND (Have you ever sAT through thAT?).

    Upon the second read, I took it exactly the same way, although wondered if Wallace were from Connecticut.

    So, Cynthia: HAVE I missed your point? Reading the comments of others, I am not certain.

    • I had a good chuckle over your description of readings aloud…yes I have sat through some terrible ones. Wallace Stevens was from Connecticut. He was an insurance company executive. His poetry is very much praised in academic circles. I have enjoyed some of it—he can come up with some wonderful images—but yes, you’ve picked-up on my bit of snark. The usual take on his poem “Disillusionment of Ten O’clock” is that it paints your ordinary working joe as a person with no imagination, and the old sailor romanticized more sympathetically. I’ve always had a problem with privileged aesthetes (like Stevens) characterizing classes of people to which they do not belong and know little about. So, I added the third stanza to put poor old Wallace into the poem too. It was fun, as an exercise, and seems to work as a poem in many different ways for different readers. Thank you so much for spending some time with it. I always enjoy hearing what you think.

      • As long as you’re not tittering with that enjoyment. On second thought, titter away. Whatever I can do to bring more happiness into the world that doesn’t cause actual harm, what the h#ll.

        • Not tittering, at all, Babe. I don’t titter…I always say what I mean, and mean what I say, despite the fact that I am often surrounded by people who cannot believe that. I can only conclude they are judging me by their own behavior. …and I know that’s not you. πŸ™‚

  15. Maybe late … but nonetheless here. πŸ™‚ …. the first thought that came to mind was, 10 o’clock is a moment in time, but with many people, it’s different for everyone. …. By the way, the images/eyelids/screen phrase .. big thumbs up!

    • Celebrity always arrives late, Frank. And you’re not late by any means. I only post once a week. First of all, because I need time to write, and secondly because it gives me time to enjoy responding to comments and visiting other blogs. Thanks for that thumbs-up! πŸ™‚

  16. I am so glad Bruce nominated me along with you for that award. It meant me finding you! Brilliant!!!! You have a new follower. πŸ™‚

    • Thank you, Ryan. I’ve been to your site and plan to return, when I have some time, soon, to catch up on the El Gringo series. I don’t cotton to WP awards, usually, but this has turned out to be fun. Besides, the first thing I did was to ask Bruce if there was any money in it. He said,”Heaps.” So now I’m waiting for the check. It’s probably in the mail. πŸ™‚

      • ThereΒ΄s money in it???? He told me there was free beer! That was enough for me! πŸ™‚ You donΒ΄t have to read of word of my drivel. Of course, if you do, it will be greatly appreciated. Hugs!

    • Well, then, this is a “mutual admiration society”. πŸ™‚ I admire the wonders you accomplish with pen and colored pencil—one of my favorite art media— for its simplicity, lyricism, and beauty.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s