IN THE SEASON OF A DAY

Whan that morning with its Brit’ney shoots
The Dolce’d night Gabbana suits
And Versaces in swich Brad clothes
That L.A. Maybachs i’ the roads;
Whan Disneys on some Frito day
Rood Buicks al the Coast Highway,
Booties Blahnik’d on the Rayban meed,
Beautee Malibu’d as Agnès B’d,
So longen them to Cher the route
That on this Chevy’d idyll fruite,
And line with Burberry the store
That sich summer pastorals Dior.


This poem strikes me as perfectly obvious, which means
that it probably isn’t.

I had been quite annoyed by a best-dressed list where
the nebulous celebs and Celebes were asked their favorite
shoes, stores, watches, jewels, etc. Of course, I read it
closely. A fix to last until we made it back to the States. I
was driven crazy by the endless branding. Why don’t we
sell the rights to the months? Why don’t we brand the minutes?
Why don’t we just sell time? Half past Britney. Buick
season.

I remember reading Wordsworth on one of the few
lawns at Columbia, in front of the then-Carman Hall,
under Columbia’s only tree, and it was the juxtaposition
of even such faded beauty against the bloodless concrete
which permeated the spirit of the campus that made me
decide, in a flash of grimy urban lightning, to be a poet.
On the first days of spring, my thoughts still wander out
of the room wherever I am and sit under that floating dogwood.
The blight that eliminated all such trees, and with
them Keatsian summer and my floreate childhood, made
me determined to bring those Acacias back, to return from
hell with the spring.

Cathy and I had taken a rowboat through the Dordogne
(a river was involved, rather than four panting campers running
through towns with a dragging canoe), willows hanging
over grassy banks edging onto flowered fields leading
up to old farms, all of which stuck in my mind as the proper
window dressing for poetry. Whatever we read to the buzzing
of bees, must be poems.

Behind its Jabberwocky façade, the poem is one of
those verdure-draped, glistening-grove, midsummer
night suspended silences in the bucolic tradition of the
Idyls of Theocritus (c. 280 B.C.), the Eclogues of Virgil (c. 42
B.C.), and Auden’s Lullaby: “Lay your sleeping head”
(1937), which he came very close to leaving unpublished.
It is also a demure invitation to the reader to read the book,
as is Frost’s “The Pasture” (1915), Lewis Carroll’s “All on
a Summer Afternoon” (1865), and Merrill’s “Nightgown“
(1966).

Rather than raking leaves or floating down the Thames,
my less passive readers motor down the Pacific Coast
Highway to Malibu. Instead of bees, they have Agnès B’s.
Disneys I imagine to be like Barneys, wannabe surfers or
Mouseketeers, preteen half-time rhyming cheerleaders.

“Chevy’d” invokes the car but also MacLeish’s “mind”
in “The Learned Men” (1948): “chivvied by flea and dog,/
Baited by love and rage.” “Store” means “lavish self-replicating
natural surroundings,” as in Keats’s “To Autumn”
(1819): “Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?”

Gabbana, Versace, Maybach, Blahnik, Agnès B, Cher,
and Dior are verbs today. Burberry is a fashion line, but
suggests berries. Maybach is a pimped-up Mercedes, but
combines May and Bach, the latter of which being a composer
and a Welsh term of endearment. Beauty is just as
soon lured to Malibu as dressed in Agnès B. To Dior is to
make the day golden, both words (“di” and “or”) nestled
inside the initial Fabergé matrushka. “Garland” would be
a good synonym.

The form itself is Chaucer’s, from The General Prologue
to The Canterbury Tales (1387): “Whan that Aprill with his
shoures soote.”

If I could paraphrase it: When candied night is covered
up by the crisp British buds of morning, which dances in
this elegant disguise until the whole city seems to march
May-like through its gardens, when young girls in the pink
of spring drive up the PCH, feet espadrilled and bodies
convertibled, their beauty just as soon beached as frocked,
they long in fact to share the paths that bloom on such
roadside mornings, and line the highway banks with just
the fabulous berries that summer poetry kindles. Cathy
adds, Ada-like, “Dolce et Gabbana est pro poesi mori.”

In the season of a day: the way the first notes of a
Beethoven sonata dictate its whole, a day is a lifetime in
miniature. It is its own season.