Fifty seven years ago it was 1963, and I just noticed the date. Today is the 57th anniversary of the assassination of John Kennedy. Remembering this would be a reminder that I am very old, if I needed any such reminder. It also reminds me that in 1984, a mere 36 years ago, I wrote (for a creative writing class at Pasadena City College) an essay which was set on the day of Kennedy's funeral. It seemed like such a long time ago then. 21 years! More than the lifetimes of many of my fellow students, who were half my age. I hope those kids are planning for their retirement. It comes up pretty fast.
It's supposed to cloud up this afternoon, after a sunny morning. It will be colder today, at 62 degrees, but slightly less cold by night, when it will get down to 41. The reduced temperature range will be an improvement. 41 doesn't seem so bad anymore, after 34 years in northern California, but I can remember living in Los Angeles, where such a night would have me shivering under five layers of clothes. I still shiver, but don't need as many layers.
Dinner (post nap) was a peanut butter and marmalade sandwich on toast, which left nothing to be washed but a beer glass and a butter knife. Seems like a good deal to me. It would have been nice to go out and get a hamburger, which nostalgia has had me craving lately, but such things are no longer possible. I don't think Wendy's is in walking distance for me anymore, and even if it was I wouldn't want to go there. What I really want is a hamburger from about 1958, but fresh, of course, and time travel is not available. If it were, I'm sure 2020 would be half empty by now.
There doesn't seem to be any point in trying to think anymore tonight. Something has gone and replaced my brain with what feels like a loaf of stale bread. I'm pretty sure it's sliced. I'm going to grab some vodka and toast it.
by Charles Baudelaire
February, peeved at Paris, pours
a gloomy torrent on the pale lessees
of the graveyard next door and a mortal chill
on tenants of the foggy suburbs too.
The tiles afford no comfort to my cat
that cannot keep its mangy body still;
the soul of some old poet haunts the drains
and howls as if a ghost could hate the cold.
A churchbell grieves, a log in the fireplace smokes
and hums falsetto to the clock's catarrh,
while in a filthy reeking deck of cards
inherited from a dropsical old maid,
the dapper Knave of Hearts and the Queen of Spades
grimly disinter their love affairs.
More than if I had lived a thousand years!
No chest of drawers crammed with documents,
love-letters, wedding-invitations, wills,
a lock of someone's hair rolled up in a deed,
hides so many secrets as my brain.
This branching catacombs, this pyramid
contains more corpses than the potter's field:
I am a graveyard that the moon abhors,
where long worms like regrets come out to feed
most ravenously on my dearest dead.
I am an old boudoir where a rack of gowns,
perfumed by withered roses, rots to dust;
where only faint pastels and pale Bouchers
inhale the scent of long-unstoppered flasks.
Nothing is slower than the limping days
when under the heavy weather of the years
Boredom, the fruit of glum indifference,
gains the dimension of eternity . . .
Hereafter, mortal clay, you are no more
than a rock encircled by a nameless dread,
an ancient sphinx omitted from the map,
forgotten by the world, and whose fierce moods
sing only to the rays of setting suns.
I'm like the king of a rainy country, rich
but helpless, decrepit though still a young man
who scorns his fawning tutors, wastes his time
on dogs and other animals, and has no fun;
nothing distracts him, neither hawk nor hound
nor subjects starving at the palace gate.
His favorite fool's obscenities fall flat
—the royal invalid is not amused—
and ladies in waiting for a princely nod
no longer dress indecently enough
to win a smile from this young skeleton.
The bed of state becomes a stately tomb.
The alchemist who brews him gold has failed
to purge the impure substance from his soul,
and baths of blood, Rome's legacy recalled
by certain barons in their failing days,
are useless to revive this sickly flesh
through which no blood but brackish Lethe seeps.
When skies are low and heavy as a lid
over the mind tormented by disgust,
and hidden in the gloom the sun pours down
on us a daylight dingier than the dark;
when earth becomes a trickling dungeon where
Trust like a bat keeps lunging through the air,
beating tentative wings along the walls
and bumping its head against the rotten beams;
when rain falls straight from unrelenting clouds,
forging the bars of some enormous jail,
and silent hordes of obscene spiders spin
their webs across the basements of our brains;
then all at once the raging bells break loose,
hurling to heaven their awful caterwaul,
like homeless ghosts with no one left to haunt
whimpering their endless grievances.
—And giant hearses, without dirge or drums,
parade at half-step in my soul, where Hope,
defeated, weeps, and the oppressor Dread
plants his black flag on my assenting skull.