Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Isn't absurdity situational by definition?

When I was a rookie, I frequently bemused myself with the running monologue of what seemed natural to me that was clearly either verboten or demi-social suicide with my new 'brotherhood' of firefighters. Such as being a vegetarian in the world of meat-and-potatoes and reactionary, muscularly anti-sensible eating habits. Or being friends with my wife. Or despising the moronic drivel of KQ's morning show, which was, and remains, the fount of witty shop-talk for most 'blue collar' dudes. My left-leaning, anti-racist, multi-lingual personality rendered me suspect--at best. As did having a degree. And having been a teacher (not a carpenter) prior to being hired.

Which is pretty much bunk. Many of these folks are very smart, intelligent, educated...they choose to be the way they are (disproving that a healthy dose of liberal pablum washes away all 'wrong-headed' impulses).

My vocabulary has always been strange. Read too many books when I was young--but never learned to pronounce things correctly. I read the dictionary for fun, then revisited it after reading Autobiography of Malcolm X. I saturated myself in Beckett and Joyce and Woolf and Faulkner. Oh, there was Faulkner in the bloodstream back yore, when polysyllabic miles-long sentences mixed with booze and despair. Even when I was teaching, my word choice has been arcane and my thought process as effortlessly prolix and circumlocutory as they come. Working with guys who were rigidly anti-intellectual heightened my awareness of toning it down, or providing definitions reflexively, seamlessly, without making anyone feel condescended to. I never talk down to people, but I'm a dork.

Racing up the street one morning before dawn, to what turned out to be my first full fire, I marveled at the descending moon in the summer sky. We reached the corner, saw the three-story house fully involved, and my reveries were broken. Until about two hours later, when we were blasting it still from the outside, several crews actively surrounding the diminished conflagration with multiple hose lines and master streams. The initial adrenalin has subsided, the scurrying actions and tasks have been completed--whether successfully or not remains to be seen--and there's little to do but watch as thousands of gallons of water blast the building.

The burned-out roofline was revealed, and, beyond it, the salmon-pink sky breaking dawn over Wisconsin and bearing down on Mpls. I marveled at the juxtaposition, thrilling at my new job and the crazy wonders we experienced, and as I stared at the blackened, smoldering shell of the house and the sky showing through its skeletal frame, I paused. Searching my mind for a term, I flipped through images from lit. classes over time, trying to capture the context for the word, the term, the setting. I turned to the guy next to me, 'Hey, you know what they call a poem written about dawn?' I could almost see the word, form it on my tongue. 'Like, a poem about morning breaking, or the end of night--generally a romance poem, of lovers parting and one walking the streets, heart and or loins full of the previous night--or what is lost or missing...' I trailed off. The firefighter stared at me. 'What the fuck are you talking about?' I actually tried to explain again, then caught myself. 'Nothing. Just some shit passing through my brain.' He laughed. I laughed.
As we were picking up hose, soaked and sweaty and filthy and beat, I smacked a mosquito on my wrist, splattering its (my) blood in a smear of soot and mud. Aubade. I said it aloud, to no one by the dawn and the remains--soon to be bulldozed--of the house: 'Aubade, a poem to or of the dawn.'

1 comment:

  1. Jerm...this should be the germ of something longer, book-like...amen brother from another...