Monday, October 7, 2013

The Stuff of Tragedy

When I drove by, I noticed a chorus of gods and goddesses outside of the Launderland Coin Laundry this morning, a couple of Renaissance men and a monk or two. They had come marching south, down Vermont Avenue, disgruntled by the dry air, the crackling wind, the voices discontent. Rich people lack empathy, a wise man noted. Not to mention their difficulty getting through the eye of a needle. David flexed his muscles, held on to his stone. Venus took her hand off her mons and flicked back her hair. Donuts were passed hand to hand. The cars rushed by, their inhabitants intent on misery.

Heroes. Victims. Gods and human beings.
All throwing shapes, every one of them
Convinced he's in the right, all of them glad
To repeat themselves and their every last mistake
No matter what.

People so deep into
Their own self-pity, self-pity buoys them up.
People so staunch and true, they're fixated,
Shining with self-regard like polished stones
And their whole life spent admiring themselves
For their own long-suffering.
Licking their wounds
And flashing them around like decorations.
I hate it, I always hated it, and I am
A part of it myself

-- the Chorus, from Seamus Heaney's The Cure at Troy, A Version of Sophocles' Philoctetes


  1. Not terribly long ago, that statuary stand (or a kin, cuz at the time it actually had a little shack at the center) was hit by a car, leaving plaster bits everywhere. The fact that the guy re-opened such an unlikely business in such an unlikely place is a source of joy to me....

  2. There is so much in this post. First- that poem? I read the whole thing thinking, "Oh god (haha). That's ME!" I think I do spend a lot of time flashing my wounds like decorations. I will be thinking of this but it probably won't change me. I'M LIKE A GOD IN THAT ASPECT!
    Wow. What a poem.
    Also- that picture (which you wrote so stunningly about, my Lord, Elizabeth) reminds me of places in the south which sell bait and lawn statuary and pots imported from Mexico and trees and bushes to plant in your yard and fishing licenses and yeah, maybe even doughnuts, maybe even used appliances. We all need these things, even statues of the David. Even statues of old gods whom we maybe never actually let go of, no matter what we tell ourselves.

  3. I love your keen observations about LA culture and life. You need a column in the LA Times! Get your publicist on that, would you? XO

  4. You have a talent for presenting these wonderful poems you love against the backdrp of your life and the sights that capture your interest. Fabulous. Really.

  5. Like Ms Moon, I saw myself in that poem...disturbingly. I didn't see myself flashing wounds, but in the lines about being staunch and true, fixated. Yikes.

    Love the photo and the observations, and the fact that the display brought this poem to your mind.

  6. Leave it to an Irishman to write so beautifully and accurately about long-suffering. If my Irish clan had a family crest it would be The One Who Suffers the Most Wins. And your writing about the statuary, oh my god, so wonderful.



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