|Compartment C, Car 293|
Edward HOPPER (1882-1967)
by David Ignatow
As I reach to close each book
lying open on my desk, it leaps up
to snap at my fingers. My legs
won't hold me, I must sit down.
My fingers pain me
where the thick leaves snapped together
at my touch.
All my life
I've held books in my hands
like children, carefully turning
their pages and straightening out
their creases. I use books
almost apologetically. I believe
I often think their thoughts for them.
Reading, I never know where theirs leave off
and mine begin. I am so much alone
in the world, I can observe the stars
or study the breeze, I can count the steps
on a stair on the way up or down,
and I can look at another human being
|Judging a Book|
it is for the sake of politeness.
Nothing must be said of estrangement
among the race and yet
nothing is said at all
because of that.
But no book will help either.
I stroke my desk,
its wood so smooth, so patient and still.
I set a typewriter on its surface
and begin to type
to tell myself my troubles.
Against the evidence, I live by choice.
I think we live in an age of separation. Too much connectivity and the ease for which we can communicate has, perhaps, sequestered the need to really communicate meaningfully. Social media and online chat Apps have turned communication into more of superficial conversation. We connect via cords and Wifi signals, yet we fail to connect on a deeper level. If you disagree, ask yourself: when was the last time I had a true heart-to-heart via Snapchat? (I personally never have!)
I recently completed Selected Poems by David Ignatow. This particular selection of poetry seems to mirror urban city life. He often demonstrates how well the paved streets connect us to each others doors, yet how easily they walk us into opposite directions. Published in 1975, long before the internet (and the general use of computers) opened gateways of communication (which were probably unimaginable back then), it seems that the author sensed an oncoming separation between people.
How sad some of the classic great authors would be had they known that one day email would replace the need for letter-writing. Even the interpersonal act of writing and mailing letters is considered a lost art these days! Doesn't that make you sad?
No wonder so many of us (myself included) turn to great works of literature to find pieces of ourselves. To understand and converse and interact with a world which really speaks (even when that world is imaginary!). I've also wondered if, just maybe, the world is losing more and more (or creating less and less) of the deep thinkers. Entertainment is so easy to get these days, distraction is paramount to deep mental reflection. Maybe we have entered a time when the only thing left to connect us, truly by the heart and mind, is the arts!