Sunday, June 06, 2010

A Brief Poetic Interlude, Via Stephen Vincent Benet, of course, of The Devil and Daniel Webster. This one's for Lance Mannion and anyone else who's suffering through this heat spel.

From "Metropolitan Nightmare":

There wasn't any real change, it was just a heat spell,
A rain spell, a funny summer, a weather-man's joke,
In spite of the geraniums three feet high
In the tin-can gardens of Hester and Desbrosses.
New York was New York. It couldn't turn inside out.
When they got the news from Woods Hole about the Gulf Stream,
The Times ran a adequate story.
But nobody reads those stories but science-cranks.

Until, one day, a somnolent city-editor
Gave a new cub the termite yarn to break his teeth on.
The cub was just down from Vermont, so he took his time.
He was serious about it. He went around.
He read all about termites in the Public Library
And it made him sore when they fired him.

So, one evening,
Talking with an old watchman, beside the first
Raw girders of the new Planetopolis Building
(Ten thousand brine-cooled offices, each with shower)
He saw a dark line creeping across the rubble
And turned a flashlight on it.

"Say, buddy," he said,
"You'd better look out for those ants. They eat wood, you know,
They'll have your shack down in no time."

The watchman spat.
"Oh, they've quit eating wood," he said, in a casual voice,
"I thought everybody knew that."

—and, reaching down,
He pried from the insect jaws the bright crumb of steel.

Happy Sunday. The Siren returns tomorrow with other news.


Karen said...

Dang. That's brilliant.

And yeah: what IS up with this heat spell? I'm not supposed to wish I actually had A/C on June freakin' 5th.

The Siren said...

Did you read the whole thing? It is so fucking prescient you could DIE. And cinematic as all hell.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Heat Wave? Cue Jack Cole and MM!

Karen said...

I have now. Geez, no kidding.

So beautifully written, too. Even without the reference to Heywood Broun, you'd know exactly when it was written, wouldn't you? This fits so beautifully with the piece I'm writing, too. How did you burrow into my head?

I love that crack about the terribly clever Macy's ad, on the Widow's Termite. NICE.

Linkmeister said...

" There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen."

Red Wind -- Raymond Chandler, 1938

Vanwall said...

Ross Thomas called it "bread-knife weather" in "Briarpatch" - the first thing a housewife in extremis reaches for.

I will refrain from commenting on the weather at the present, it wouldn't be therapeutic for those not in Dago. Altho as a former desert rat, I sympathize with the heat afflicted, and more so with those on the sweaty end of the scale. Hope a cool breeze wafts its way soon, with a cold French 75 on the balcony table.

The Siren said...

Linkmeister, I love it!

Yojimboen said...

Me? I’m…

Rollin' down Imperial Highway
Big nasty redhead at my side
Santa Ana winds
Blowin' hot from the north
We was born to ride!

Roll down the window
Put down the top
Crank up the Beach Boys baby
Don't let the music stop
We're gonna ride it till we
Just can't ride it no more…

Randy N
I Love L.A.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Oh ho wI love the Santa Ans!

They're one of the mains reasosn I left New York to come to L.A. in 1976.

That and the men.

DavidEhrenstein said...

I interview Tilda