Thursday, August 10, 2017

9823. RUDIMENTS, pt.38

Making Cars
You stand around, let's say, making choices,
thinking things over. I did that all the time.
In Paterson (I'm still stuck here on William
Carlos Williams  -  whom I always thought of
in my strict mental image, as a stern, American
white man and then surprisingly found him
listed as Hispanic, of a Spanish mother, only
half American, and of late actually listed as
Puerto Rican. I guess all these sorts of things
are constantly under shift as society changes.
I wonder what I'd be called?), I'd walk around
a bit, befuddled as all get out. The old gun
factory, gone. The old chain foundries, gone.
(They once forged chains here, huge, with the
Revolutionary War Armies used to stretch
across the Hudson River, in four or six
different locations from NYC to West Point
in between. It was supposed to be a way of
stopping the British frigates and gunboats
from plying the river. The chains failed
but marker plaques all along the Hudson,
and at West Point, tell the story; it's all
part of Paterson's legacy too, through
Alexander Hamilton and his idea for the great,
American, City of Industry he envisioned
Paterson as, with all that water-power.
The vast locomotive shops, gone. The
looming water power and falls, itself now
so diminished, seemed to have lost all
real importance in 1970's America, and the
little city itself retreated into a crazed
blaze of its own nothingness. I was
learning. I had intentions of using all
this crazy mish-mash in my art, once. I
tried to envision a means of bringing
all or any of this back, into the base
consciousness of the hum-drum mass of
humanity now ignoring it all.Then I soon
enough realized, first off, my language was
all wrong, it would have to be some form of
Spanish. Honduran. Dominican. Haitian.
There were flags and festival days everywhere,
all from other places. No awareness of history
or legacy, so no chance of breakthrough.
Amazingly enough, when I lived in Elmira, in
that period of time in the mid-70's there, my
neighbor was an old fellow, an Italian guy,
last name DeSantis. For the time we were there
we just called him our own made-up name,
'Giovinni,'' which we pronounced 'Giveeni.'
It worked; but there's story attached, an
astounding one. This old guy, by the way,
all he ever did in the evenings was sit at the
rear of his house, in the evening sun, and
listen, from the record player, loudly (this
used to drive me nuts) to Fleetwood Mack.
This is true; 'Rumours' was the album name.
Rhiannon, was the main tune, but other stuff
to. I used to be able to sing that crap in my
sleep. Most every nice-weather night. It
was the craziest thing, like from some really
oddball movie or something, mainly because
the guy was way old-school, didn't look
modern in any way; so weird, nearly formal
casual clothes, fabrics and stuff. Not like today,
when people wear anything they choose at all
and the rest be damned. So, I eventually just
gave it all up and started to become friends
with him, and his wife  -  they'd lived there
like 40 years plus, and had raised a daughter
out of the house. They had us over for dinner
one night; a surprisingly nerve-wracking night
for me, but it went OK, and my wife dug all
the old-world cooking stuff and all with his
wife. I'm not being sexist or any of that here,
it's just the way it was  -  they did the food
and kitchen. Giovinni and I just talked. In
his teens, which meant I guess like 1913 or
whatever, he was from Paterson and had
worked the silk mills there  -  which is pretty
much, outside of apple-picking along the
Hudson, one line of work always open for
immigrant Italians back then. I figure he
was born abut 1895, wherever, and hit
Paterson, he said, as a worker when he was
a young kid, I guess 12 or so. Anyway, in
1913 there were huge riots, labor strive,
killings and death in Paterson as the huge
silk-mill industry, which was thriving, got
all taken up with organization, labor unions,
the IWW (wobblies), parades, marches, huge
demonstrations. He said people were being
starved out of work and home, clubbed,
killed, rounded up, jailed. In Paterson. He
had lived through it all, participated, and
ended up in Elmira as the silk-mill industry
foundered, from the strife and rioting. There
were sanctuary homes for the Italian renegades
to flee too  -  far from the trouble, as wanted
men. He knew every inch of Paterson, and told
me about everything. Not one night, not two
nights, but over an entire Summer, as we talked.
It was pretty amazing that I'd stumbled into
that. My flaming interest, of course, in Williams
and the 'written' poetic history of Paterson itself,
I never broached to Giovinni. It wouldn't have
mattered anyway. Stevie Nicks would have
drowned it out. Rhiannon. Welsh witch
and all that.
So, connecting dots, I took it as my later task
to absorb all I could of both Williams and, for 
a time, Paterson itself. The once-grand City all
and downtown area, was on its down-slide for 
sure. The wonderful Paterson Library, in those
days, though still functioning, was more used
as a solid wall than as a portal to anything. There
were bums, sick people, those adrift, urination,
feces, sleepers, and, I'm sure, the more-than-
occasional dead body too. bad scene. I had to
wonder  -  how do you integrate (as Williams
did) a place or thing such as this into a readable
and plausible narrative or presentation? What 
needs to be done to bring it forward, to make 
any of it sensible for a contemporary reader,
most often with little interest in the subject and
most often dumb on any incidentals of time and
place too. Paterson was terra incognito, like
you'd see on those old mariner maps from the 
1400's, with sea monsters and furies lurking.
As I said previously, Williams did it by making 
the falls a man, a sleepwalking ghost, walking the
city, and imbued with all its history and spirit :
translate that, into something. Just alone, in the
first twenty pages, it shattered me to read this.
There was tenderness and lyricism, almost an
eroticism, I'd never before encountered in
reading of 'place' and dream time. Here, to
close, is a sort of excerpt of that 'Spirit' gently
speaking to a woman at the falls, and after 
having also seen two sister-girls in twinned
outfits, perhaps 10 years old, and after talking 
about a local, Paterson minister whose wife 
had by accident plunged to her death at the 
falls, of the rock ledge. He brings, manages
to bring, each of these things all together : 
"...two sisters from whose open mouths
Easter is born, crying aloud...a flower within
a flower whose history (within the mind)
crouching among the ferny rocks, laughs at
the names by which they think to trap it.
Escapes! Never by running but by lying
still. The Giant, in whose aperture we cohabit,
unaware of what air supports us. We sit and
talk. I wish to be with you abed, we two,
as if the bed was the bed of a stream. I have
much to say to you. We sit and talk quietly,
with long lapses of silence, and I am aware 
the of the stream that has no language, coursing
beneath the quiet heaven of your eyes, which 
has no speech; to go to bed with you, to pass 
beyond the moment of meeting, while the 
currents float still in mid-air, to fall with 
you, from the brink, before the crash, to 
seize the moment. We sit and talk, sensing 
a little the rushing impact of the giant's violent 
torrent rolling over us, a few moments. 
If I should demand it, as it has been 
demanded of others, and given too swiftly, 
and you should consent. If you would consent.
We sit and talk, and the silence speaks of 
the giants who have died in the past and 
have returned to those scenes unsatisfied."
Well, that's only a small excerpted part, but I
hope you can get my idea and feeling and gist
from it. Quite magical. Must I say more? That
is what exists, and the loss of those words, in
today's bestial by contrast world, is how things
get lost and forgotten. Consider Paterson.
I give to you.

No comments: