What can I say? Mary died. Happy Mary.
So did Molly.
Molly dressed up in fine clothes and shot herself with a gun she had bought at a local store. It was a curated death — like Kleist’s death with Henriette Vogel on the banks of the Traunsee.
It was staged and meant to be seen. Molly left a note for her young husband — so he could come out and find her — crushed flower at the field’s edge (Catullus)
She was so pretty. Everything about her was pretty. Her long blonde hair, her retro pastel clothes, the cakes she baked in the forms of flowers, terrariums, musical instruments — whatever you wanted.
I used to wonder — is prettiness a cover? Is making things beautiful an attempt to lighten our own souls? Does it help? Is it worth trying?
Once, I told a brother of mine, “I am a good person.”
“Nobody is either good or bad,” this brother said. “We are good sometimes and not good other times.”
This reminded me of Michael Che talking about Black Lives Matter. “We only said we matter,” Che said. “We didn’t say we are awesome.” Something like that.
Recently I wrote to the same brother that I was happy.
Happiness comes and goes every day, he answered.
You try too hard, Paul Dodd once told me. And he might have been right. We none of us have anyone to please, anything to prove, anything to be.
Outside today, mid October, one tree is green as sage. Another is fiery as Mary’s daughter. Mary adopted her daughter from Russia, taking her back to Michigan as a baby. Her daughter now is fourteen and has bright red hair and is an orphan again.
My students are writing about Robert Frost. They are pretty good on Frost but weak on titles. They write titles such as An Analysis, or, A Modern Poet, or Modernism.
These titles will fail to win them the full five points I am allotted to give them for titles.
I suggest to them this way to pick a title:
Go to the poem. Pick a phrase from the poem. Call your essay:
Nothing Gold: on Frost, Nature and Modernism or
Eden Sank to Grief: Robert Frost and the Fallen World or
The Leaves Give Way, Frost as a Modern Poet.
Perhaps the best title my students presented this week came from a young man from Texas named Octavio:
The Hollow Men: Scarecrows, Corpses, and Overwhelming Hopelessness
At least they know what they’re up against —Beware of darkness cloaked in light —
That’s the Bible —
It’s the light that plays tricks on us, don’t you know? George Michael did. He died also — but we have the music.