The Cat in the Kitchen(For Donald Hall)
Have you heard about the boy who walked by
The black water? I won't say much more.
Let's wait a few years. It wanted to be entered.
Sometimes a man walks by a pond, and a hand
Reaches out and pulls him in.
There was no
Intention, exactly. The pond was lonely, or needed
Calcium, bones would do. What happened then?
It was a little like the night wind, which is soft,
And moves slowly, sighing like an old woman
In her kitchen late at night, moving pans
About, lighting a fire, making some food for the cat.
I met Robert Bly 30 years ago. He did a poetry reading at my college, the university of Connecticut, one night, and I was determined to attend. I had a strategy: sit there in the audience while he spoke, then linger afterwards with the coeds who had to courage to approach the old lion. I needed ancient male wisdom almost as much as i needed beer.
This was in the day when he’d caused a bit of a splash with his iron john, a book my hippy sister had sent my way . It was about reaching the hairy wild man inside. Bly was doing workshops where he took men out in the woods and…well, I don’t know, made them open up after ecstatic dancing and drumming and whatnot. The feminists were alarmed by this. Men reaching their ‘inner wild man’ was not something they particularly appreciated, and they made this known with savage criticism of his nascent “Men’s Movement”.
I arrived too late for the reading, but not the after-party. Lovely sensitive men and cool Lit Chicks were in a circle around him. I joined. I had been drinking at a local bar, to get up my courage to meet a legend, so I was in fine fine form. I swishy swished my way in, taking on a kind of dylan persona.
Bly looked tired and cynical and angry. He spoke to these kids in platitudes, I thought. I had to get his ear,and of course I did. I would love to tell you what I said, but that is lost to the mists of abandoned memory. Whatever it was, it perked the old man up. We continued conversing in between inane repertoire with the kiddies. I think I actually winked at him.
The result was that he wanted to continue the party. He said, “let’s get pizza, go back to my room.”
We acquired pizza from a chain place where Bly was suitably silly and quite the attraction. The pizza guy didn’t know Bly from any other old college professor, and was used to his product being insulted, certainly. We left in a cadre of maybe 10. This is gonna be good, i thought. A genius talking to me, maybe even caring about me?
I remember Bly collapsing in his motel chair and eating some pizza, while throwing out uninspired advice about how our education was corrupt, we were all a bunch of money grubbers, this was not our fault , our culture demanded it. I got very bored. And very drunk. Because Bly had beer .
At home i had a dad, a father, declining but still magnificent. All the dad a dude would need. George. Cynical, sure, exhausted & defeated, but...a goofball. Not a "know it all" as he warned me in direst terms against...
I was not impressed with Bly:Damn tired old man. Had inspiration once, in an earlier time. But he knew nothing of the new challenges we 90’s kids faced. I sure tried to educated him , but he kept deflecting me, focusing on the stuff he knew best, the loss of the Father in society, the way we were all forced to be perpetual adolescents, the corruption of the Government, etc. Blah blah. I knew this shit already.
Got in my car, tanked, and tried to drive home.
A cop stopped me at a light, and inquired why I was just sitting there. I grew immensely polite and told him I had been to a huge event at the college and was a bit exhausted. He bought it. I drove home up the woodsy highway to collapse in bed, saved yet again from being pinched for driving drunk.
I checked out Bly’s Sibling society today, at the library. A book I know well, from reading it and living it.
The thesis is:”in our sibling culture, we can tolerate no one above or have concern for anyone below us…like sullen teenagers we live in our ‘peer group’, glancing side to side, rather than UPWARD, for direction…we have no elders, no children…we are left with spiritual flatness.”
I gotta agree. That is certainly me and my generation.
First page: “People don’t bother to grow up, and we are all fish swimming in a tank of half-adults…we see what’s coming out of a ‘sideview mirror’ “….
Yeah, no up, no down.
End of sibling society:
we know there is a 7th mother of the house, who is also very small.
Perhaps she is far inside the womb, or sitting in the innermost cell of our body, and she gives us permission to live, to be born, to have joy....
the contribution of the 7th father is a house.
together they grant permission from the universe
To get UP this weekend I am going to cape cod to spend time with sister L and new man G. and the precocious Georgie puppy. I plan to lounge on the beach and devour Mr. Bly’s book. I shall rap with G. about it, if the fucker can sit still. He is always off on a bike ride of 8 miles with my sis. Or a hike.
“L, think he can sit still?” I said.
“Who, Georgie or G?”
“the former. G.”
“I dunno but jimmy I been tryin to teach him…”