Denis Johnson

Denis Johnson
Denis Johnson 1949-2017

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Happy Birthday Dad ! Here's to your 83rd year on this planet and iceberg lettuce!



Meeting at an Airport

You asked me once,
on our way back
from the midmorning
trip to the spring:
“What do you hate,
and who do you love?”


And I answered,
from behind the eyelashes
of my surprise,
my blood rushing
like the shadow
cast by a cloud of starlings:
“I hate departure…
I love the spring
and the path to the spring,
and I worship the middle
hours of morning.”
And you laughed…
and the almond tree blossomed
and the thicket grew loud with nightingales.


…A question now four decades old:
I salute that question’s answer;
and an answer
as old as your departure;
I salute that answer’s question…


And today,
it’s preposterous,
here we are at a friendly airport
by the slimmest of chances,
and we meet.
Ah, Lord!
we meet.
And here you are
asking—again,
it’s absolutely preposterous—
I recognized you
but you didn’t recognize me.
“Is it you?!”
But you wouldn’t believe it.
And suddenly
you burst out and asked:
“If you’re really you,
What do you hate
and who do you love?!”


And I answered—
my blood
fleeing the hall,
rushing in me
like the shadow
cast by a cloud of starlings:
“I hate departure,
and I love the spring,
and the path to the spring,
and I worship the middle
hours of morning.”


And you wept,
and flowers bowed their heads,
and doves in the silk of their sorrow stumbled.


Taha Muhammad Ali
1930-2011

   ***


The Iceberg Theory

all the food critics hate iceberg lettuce.
you'd think romaine was descended from
orpheus's laurel wreath,
you'd think raw spinach had all the nutritional
benefits attributed to it by popeye,
not to mention aesthetic subtleties worthy of
verlaine and debussy.
they'll even salivate over chopped red cabbage
just to disparage poor old mr. iceberg lettuce.

I guess the problem is
it's just too common for them.
It doesn't matter that it tastes good,
has a satisfying crunchy texture,
holds its freshness
and has crevices for the dressing,
whereas the darker, leafier varieties
are often bitter, gritty, and flat.
It just isn't different enough and
it's too goddamn american.

of course a critic has to criticize;
a critic has to have something to say
perhaps that's why literary critics
purport to find interesting
so much contemporary poetry
that just bores the shit out of me.

at any rate, I really enjoy a salad
with plenty of chunky iceberg lettuce,
the more the merrier,
drenched in an Italian or roquefort dressing.
and the poems I enjoy are those I don't have
to pretend that I'm enjoying.

Gerald Locklin


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