“Provide, Provide”

by Robert Frost

 

The witch that came (the withered hag)
To wash the steps with pail and rag
Was once the beauty Abishag,

The picture pride of Hollywood.
Too many fall from great and good
For you to doubt the likelihood.

Die early and avoid the fate.
Or if predestined to die late,
Make up your mind to die in state.

Make the whole stock exchange your own!
If need be occupy a throne,
Where nobody can call you crone.

Some have relied on what they knew,
Others on being simply true.
What worked for them might work for you.

No memory of having starred
Atones for later disregard
Or keeps the end from being hard.

Better to go down dignified
With boughten friendship at your side
Than none at all. Provide, provide!

 

********************

When I first read “Provide, Provide” I was little more than a child and was enchanted by the triplet rhymes.  I think that a bombshell actress from the 1940’s ended up mopping floors but now of course I cannot recall her name.  It was not Betty Grable but it may have been a woman with a similar name.

Of course it’s better to go “down dignified” but so many of those who made “the stock-exchange” their “own” are unethical and repulsive people.  I’d rather be alone and unprovided for than to have been on the top of the financial/food chain.

So I rely on “what [I] knew” and turn more and more to poetry and music to accompany me.   I could never “buy” a friend.  I can’t afford it. But good books and music are better than most friendships I’ve had.

More than anything else I miss my memory.  I’ve lost a lot of my hand to “Arthur Itis” and my legs and neck like to spontaneously freeze.  My skin gets papery.  Most of all I miss having a trustworthy memory.  It was my biggest pride.   Watching Jeopardy! is a moral teething for me.  I garble syllables.  I have to search deeply into my mental encyclopedia to retrieve anything of help.  I sometimes get 19th century presidents confused.  Did Polk come before or after Pierce?   Why was Chester A. Arthur president during the 1880’s?  I would have guessed the 1840’s!

I have never really entered the 21st century.  While I am out of place in this new dispensation, time whizzes by at warp speed.  My only remaining goal is to vote in the 2020 election in 364 days.  And the futility of my vote washes over me.

Who wants to live in a world where Buffalo Wings allows a racist to determine who gets seated where for the weck?  A world with republicans and their hostility to anyone who is not a billionaire is a dangerous plutocracy based on the fundamental American evil–the Eurotrash of the 15th and 16th and 17th century blithely spreading pox and measles and effectively creating a genocide?  A world gleefully continuing its ecocide…..  It’s time to check out indeed.

My #MeToo moment happened too early….

My #MeToo moment came decades too early

My 14 year old sister, Andrea, used to make a small amount of pocket money babysitting.  I did the same thing.  But the men I babysat for drove me home asking me innocent questions about what I was doing in school.  Andrea was driven home by Professor Donald Preziosi, then of Yale University, and he parked and raped her.  He and his wife believe that she seduced him.  She was 14.  He was much older.  Apparently he suffered from “blue balls” because his  wife, Patricia Getz Preziosi, was pregnant with their daughter, Alexandra.  My sister, Andrea, had been baby-sitting for their toddler son, Tarquin Preziosi.

Andrea told her story and was reviled by the people of the Wooster Square neighborhood in New Haven for making moves on the husband of a pregnant woman.  He, evidently, could not help himself.  These 14 year old girls are always in charge of the situation.  My father and mother were going to call the police but Andrea coldly said that she would kill herself if they did.  Furthermore, my parents held out hope that Donald Preziosi would marry Andrea—based on their own feudal fantasy, no doubt.  My father, the chauvinist, believed that Andrea was now a “fallen woman”.  In any event, she did end up killing herself when Preziosi broke up with her.  My father almost immediately died of a fatal stroke (he was 54 years old) and my mother began a painful downward trajectory.  That’s the kind of thing that happens when your 14 year old daughter has been so unwise as to seduce a much older professor.

Professor Donald Preziosi went on to have a successful career.  He has taught at Yale, MIT, Cornell, SUNY/Binghamton, University of York in the UK, and UCLA, where he is a retired emeritus.  He’s received accolades for his pioneering feminist approaches to the history of art.

I knew that my sister, Andrea, now dead, was unlikely to be the only teenager he would rape.  So decades ago  I called the police in New Haven, Ithaca, and Los Angeles.  I was brushed off. Because the girl was dead, they believed that no real crime existed.  The police in New Haven said that since he had moved, they could not do anything.  The police in Ithaca and LA said that since the crime had taken place in New Haven, they could no nothing.  This was a long time ago.

And those liberal professors?  I wrote to every member of the Art History professoriate at UCLA including the Dean and the Chair via email when that became viable.  Only one person bothered to respond, saying simply that “your email has shed light on a mysterious colleague”.

Do you know Donald Preziosi?  Has he been near your daughter?  Right now he lives in Marina Del Rey at the so called “Marina City Club” along with his most recent enabler, Claire Joan Farago, who is actually only 7 years younger than he is.

This is paydirt for a paedophile!  Having a victim who obligingly  kills herself.

I am disgusted by all of those people who aided and abetted that sham doctor, Nasser.  Please remember that pedophiles are not those dirty little guys slinking around alleys.  They often present as people with a Ph.D. from Harvard or an M.D.  They can be parents themselves (waving to Tarquin and Alexandra here).  They can be married (yes, thinking of you, Patricia Getz Preziosi—how much easier to blame the 14 year old babysitter than your husband).   And an entire Department of History of Art Professors—that would be you, Yale, and you, UCLA, can neglect this information.

And Donald Preziosi once whined to me that he did not get tenure at Yale because he had a 14 year old mistress!

See the picture?  Andrea is the one holding the book on the left.  I am the oldest.  And there was another, yet to be born.  It was taken only about 11 years before Donald Preziosi raped her.  Her hair was long and blonde by that point.

And if you doubt me:  It would be an illegal calumny, a slander, for me to post this with so much specific information, wouldn’t it?   The painful deaths in my family have led me to be as scrupulous as possible about the truth.

 

 

Grief is the Thing with Feathers

Grief-is-the-Thing-with-Feathers

This is a remarkable book, the first by Max Porter.   It’s bound to appeal to all sorts of readers without being facile or treacly or academic.   The poetic story ranges into all sorts of diction.

A woman has died.  She’s left her two sons, the brothers, and her husband.  The books is divided into short segments in which we hear the voices of the brothers, the husband, and the Crow, who has come over from the book by Ted Hughes to talk this family through—as advisor and savant and a “doctor or a ghost”.   The father/widower is writing a book on Hughes, and the parallel story of Hughes  and his two children losing Sylvia Plath pervades the text as a diatonic underscore that never seizes control of the main dirge.  The book is entitled Ted Hughes’ Crow on the Couch:  A Wild Analysis.

As the mourners have left, the main speaker, the “Dad” is left alone with his mourning.  But the crow comes to call:  “There was a rich small of decay, a sweet furry stink of just-beyond edible food, and moss, and leather, and yeast”.   The Crow tells Dad that “I won’t leave until you don’t need me anymore.”

The brothers try hard to be cleaner and nicer.  But sometimes they are overwhelmed with the impulse towards bad behavior.  “We used to think she would turn up one day and say it had all been a test.”  “We used to think we would both die at the same age she had.”  They fear that their Dad will die.

“The one son went for drawing, furiously concentrating like a little waist-high fresco painter scrabbling hands and knees on the scaffold. Thirty-seven taped-together sheets of A4 paper and the full rainbow of crayons, pencils and pens, his front teeth biting down on his lower lip. Heavy nasal sighing as he adjusted the eyes, scrapped them, started again, working his way down, happy with the hands, happy with the legs.

The second son went for assemblage, a model of the woman made from cutlery, ribbons, stationery, toys, buttons and books, manically adjusting – leaping up, lying down – like a mechanic in the pits. Clicking and tutting as he worked his way around the mosaic mum, happy with the face, happy with the height.”

Crow himself has known grief:  “I lost a wife once, and once is as many timas as a crow can lose a wife….He flew a genuflection Tintagel-Carlyle cross Morecambe-Orford, wonky, trying to poison himself with forbidden berries and pretty churches, but England’s litter saves him.  Ley lines flung him cross-country with no time for grief, power cables catapulted loose bouquets of tar-black gone and feather and other crows rained down from the sky, a dead crow storm, a tor top burnt bird bath…Blackberry, redcurrant, loganberry, sloe.  Damson, plum-pear, crab-apple, bruises.  Clots, phlegm, tumours and quince.”

As a grief counselor, Crow lets Dad know that there is no “moving on.”  “Any sensible person knows grief is a long-term project.”

At a spare 115 pages, this book reads like both a prose poem and a riveting thriller.

I don’t know if the references to Hughes and Plath are essential.  I don’t know Hughes’s crow, nor did I feel I needed to.

Porter has added a fresh, original voice to the literature of death and grief.  The book is generated, in part, by his own experience of losing his father when he was a 6 year old and of his fascination with Hughes and Emily Dickinson.  I recommend it highly and know I will reread it.