The Geography of the House

Somewhere along the line I usually put up some Christmas lights, in a spirit of “there I did it — now shut up.” Displaying them outside is not an option, but I have a sneaking fondness for the spectacle of miniature lights against the inside of a dark window or near anything that is likely to sparkle; I am queer for light and prefer as many colors as I can get on a string.

This year, the whole season being even more than usually annoying to me for some reason, there seemed only one place to put them.

You figure everybody goes there sooner or later, and it’s about all the light you need, really, even after the sun is down.

My clients are used to me and few of them have even commented.

It brings a focus on simple pleasures back to the hysteria and inanity of Christmas and New Year’s. I close 2009 with this reading from Wystan Hughes Auden, possibly the most humane and haunting poet of the previous century.

(for Christopher Isherwood)
Seated after breakfast
In this white-tiled cabin
Arabs call the House where
Everybody goes,
Even melancholics
Raise a cheer to Mrs.
Nature for the primal
Pleasure She bestows.

Sex is but a dream to
Seventy-and-over,
But a joy proposed un-
-til we start to shave:
Mouth-delight depends on
Virtue in the cook, but
This She guarantees from
Cradle unto grave.

Lifted off the potty,
Infants from their mothers
Hear their first impartial
Words of worldly praise:
Hence, to start the morning
With a satisfactory
Dump is a good omen
All our adult days.

Revelation came to
Luther in a privy
(Crosswords have been solved there)
Rodin was no fool
When he cast his Thinker,
Cogitating deeply,
Crouched in the position
Of a man at stool.

All the arts derive from
This ur-act of making,
Private to the artist:
Makers’ lives are spent
Striving in their chosen
Medium to produce a
De-narcissus-ized en-
During excrement.

Freud did not invent the
Constipated miser:
Banks have letter boxes
Built in their façade
Marked For Night Deposits
Stocks are firm or liquid,
Currencies of nations
Either soft or hard.

Global Mother, keep our
Bowels of compassion
Open through our lifetime,
Purge our minds as well:
Grant us a kind ending,
Not a second childhood,
Petulant, weak-sphinctered,
In a cheap hotel.

Keep us in our station:
When we get pound-notish,
When we seem about to
Take up Higher Thought,
Send us some deflating
Image like the pained ex-
-pression on a Major
Prophet taken short.

(Orthodoxy ought to
Bless our modern plumbing:
Swift and St. Augustine
Lived in centuries
When a stench of sewage
Made a strong debating
Point for Manichees.)

Mind and Body run on
Different timetables:
Not until our morning
Visit here can we
Leave the dead concerns of
Yesterday behind us,
Face with all our courage
What is now to be.

WH Auden

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6 thoughts on “The Geography of the House

  1. I loved this reading, so true and so cogent. What a great thought to leave the old year with.

    People should not scoff about the importance of regular bowel movements, by God, try living without one!

    I am inspired. Next year there are going to be lights in my bathroom.

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