for Joseph Salvatore Aversano
Thank you for inviting me to this inaugural reading in The Visiting Human Series. And thank you, Veronica, for the lovely and flattering introduction. I will echo Veronica’s remark about how the auditorium this evening is filled with ephemera and I thank all of you for taking time out of your draining lives to travel however many miles to be here with me tonight in this space that Veronica observed is slated for demolition next year. Ah, poor redwood rafters. As many of you know, Veronica herself is the author of eight books of poetry, three novels, a book of literary criticism, and a memoir. Therefore, I blushed when she called me prolific.
I want to begin not by reading you a poem but by telling you what happened tonight when I was eating dinner with Veronica, her husband Marcel, and her daughters Caroline and Cara. I am a vegan, as many of you know because I have been accused of mentioning that in my writing incessantly and I plead guilty incessantly. I never take the fifth.
In addition to fixing a vegan quiche for me, Veronica roasted a turkey for this evening’s dinner because she worries about Caroline and Cara not getting enough protein in their diet.
When Veronica presented the wishbone to Caroline, the eldest, Caroline asked Cara to pull it apart with me rather than her, in order that I may have the opportunity of, for once, having a wish come true. Caroline is astute. She also claims to have read every one of my books. But I pointed out that being invited to this Series has been one of my dearest wishes and it has come true. Nevertheless, Caroline pleaded with me and so I grasped one side of the late creature’s furcula, the fusion of the turkey’s separate clavicles, and Cara held the other side. I should add that Veronica had removed the furcula, prior to roasting the turkey, to allow it to dry out a little.
I got distracted, I must admit, as Cara and I were attached, so to speak, by the furcula. I thought of the Etruscans, who 2,400 years ago also split wishbones and pulled them apart. The Etruscans believed turkeys are sacred and possessed power and for that reason it seems that at first they didn’t break the furcula but gently stroked it and made a wish. My mind racing, I wondered who it was, so many generations ago, who first suggested that the wishbone be broken in a sort of peculiar match that would often deprive a person of a wish. Some speculate the tradition of breaking the wishbone began when there weren’t enough turkeys. Maybe.
Veronica asked Cara and me to close our eyes before we began to pull. I obeyed. I can only assume that Cara did too. Then Veronica informed us that we should begin to pull on the count of three. As she started to count I remembered being a child at my dinner table with my brothers and the many times we would be on either side of a wishbone. When Veronica said three I confess I didn’t pull. I wanted Cara to have the luxury of a wish. However, the wishbone broke in equal halves and both Cara and I were granted the privilege of wishing.
Sometimes I wonder if before I was born I wished to be born and, if so, I wished to be human.
To be redundant, I have already had a wish granted, to read to you tonight in The Visiting Human Series. And now I will begin with a reading of my untitled two-word poem, which I have never consented to explain.
Q & A (After The Inaugural Reading in “The Visiting Human Series”)
Thank you for submitting your questions on the index cards you found on the floor under your seats along with the sharpened yellow pencils. Veronica has informed me that because I read for 92 minutes (I thought it was 89 minutes, but I’m sure she’s right) there’s not much time left for the Q & A. I will randomly choose three cards from the cards that Veronica deposited in this circular fish tank that, until recently, was home to Cara and Caroline’s late goldfish.
The first question: “May I take this pencil home?”
The second question: “In your poem about the articles a, an, and the, you refer to a poem you wrote about prepositions. But you didn’t read your poem about prepositions, and it doesn’t appear in any of your books to date. If you have your poem about prepositions with you, or on you, or near you, that is, this poem written by you, would you read it to us?”
The third question: “Did you really write that poem dedicated to Veronica’s daughters on the 11-minute car ride from their house to the auditorium this evening? And, if so, were you in the front seat of the car or the back seat?”
Yes. Back seat. I wrote it in this notebook with a green cover that Cara, who is six, gave to me after our early dinner tonight. Tom Raworth often composed poems in his head and wrote them down later without revision. I believe he thought of small groups of lines and was able to remember them word-for-word. What a mind. If I don’t write down words that come to me as they arrive I’d lose them. Not a big loss. What’s a big loss? The death of a goldfish you love is one example.