The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Tuesday

In Otto's Basement
By Louis Simpson

At the meeting of the village board
last night in Otto's basement
when they were discussing a building violation --
Why hasn't the building inspector reported?
The village lawyer is waiting to hear from him.
The inspector has to be told to "get off the pot" --
a picture drifted into my mind
from some Latin American country,
of men tied to posts, about to be shot.
Or perhaps it was Africa, or Afghanistan.
So we endure it. This is what Jefferson
and Lincoln had to endure,
sitting and listening to people
argue . . . the cost of conversion from oil to coal
and the statement by the tree-trimming committee.
If you want to know what freedom cost
look for us here, under the linoleum.
Dig between the end of the table
and the wall of some brown material
grained like wood, with imitation knotholes.


One more from Poet's Choice in Sunday's Washington Post Book World. "Without Simpson, the class to which many of us belong (middle) would go grossly underrepresented in American poetry. Simpson's suburban characters lack the urbane sheen of the upper crust, the melancholy grit of the factory hand, the squalor of the welfare mother," writes Mary Karr. "Watching candidates scramble for the presidency in these past months, I couldn't help returning to Simpson's poem about the cost of democracy. The process exalted by Jefferson and Lincoln is made up of endless, basement-level arguments...for me, the wood paneling cinches the final image. It's the perfect, Chekhovian detail -- embodying Simpson's understated precision."

We spent Monday mostly at the beach with my friend Lynda and her son Jonathan, plus my brother-in-law David and his wife and kids, though I barely saw the latter on the beach because I went with my kids and Jonathan to climb over Point Dume to see the tide pools and although it's probably a quarter mile if you could walk on the shore, it's about a mile climbing up the path and steps to the boardwalk over the dunes and then down the other side! Despite wearing 70 SPF, I managed to get sunburned again (as did Lynda, which made me feel marginally better since I'd been thinking I must be too stupid to live in Southern California). And we saw dolphins diving over the waves, seals out on a rock and various sea birds and mole crabs!

A starfish in a tide pool at Point Dume State Park.

The view from the highest point on the trail over the cliff to the tide pools, overlooking the beach.

We saw cacti in this desert climate... well as little lizards that seemed to be the same sort that we saw at the Santa Ines Mission.

Dolphins leaping off the coast.

I'm not sure what these flowers are but they were blooming right out of the sand.

Pacific mole crabs!

Lunch with David, Molly, Lukas, Jamie and Maddie.

After we got back from hiking, we went out to lunch at Follow Your Heart, a vegetarian food store and restaurant in the Valley. It's been two days since I've had any meat, poultry, eggs or fish and all I can say is that if someone would cook vegan for me all the time like the food I've eaten this weekend, I'd be vegan -- yesterday we had about 10 appetizers, then I had "chicken-fried" saitan and potatoes with some kind of awesome gravy and we had chocolate souffle and some kind of creme caramel except of course not really creme for dessert, today I had red pepper soup followed by chicken-style tandoori and basmati rice. We came back to Lynda's house for swimming and showers, then the kids had pizza...I was still too full from the late lunch!
Tags: trip west 08

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