Wednesday, August 11, 2004

A sestina with allusions to "The Nanny"

Disclaimer: I wrote this just now, in about 10 minutes, while kinda watching "Cheers," so I'm well aware that it's not, like, good. In fact, even with endless time and no "Nick at Nite," the results would be about the same, but I felt that a sestina alluding to "The Nanny" was in order. So no one is permitted to judge this blog unfavorably because of the poor quality of this "poem." The poor quality of the regular posts, that, on the other hand, is fair game.
So here goes:


I cut my own hair every night
Snip snip it looks better now
Takes time away from email-
Checking, time away from “Nanny”-
Watching, time away from playing
Snood. It’s time to go to sleep.

Before I go to sleep
Each night
With Rufus Wainwright playing
In my discman, every now
And then Anny
sends an e-mail.

This I must read. Reading Anny’s email,
So bitchy, so funny, is not conducive to sleep.
She’s 9. The moment her nanny
Leaves her alone for the night,
She does things her nanny couldn’t know,
Among them, playing

With Barbie and scissors, playing
Hairdresser, sending me email:
“Come here right now!”
She demands, but she should be asleep!
Seriously, at this time of night…
But I’ll leave such matters up to her nanny.

So it’s one of those nights, and I call her nanny,
Who, it seems, has been playing
Snood—or was it Tetris?—that whole night,
Stopping occasionally to check her email
From a computer in the den, assuming, for some reason, Anny was asleep.
“Well, now,”

I said, “I don’t know
Why you assumed that, of all children, Anny
Was asleep.”
The nanny stopped playing
Or so I guessed…the typing sounds had stopped…nor was she still checking email.
“I am employed solely during the hours of the day, let me be, it is now night.”

“Go to sleep, now,”
I said, wishing goodnight to Anny’s nanny,
Who wished me goodnight, hung up the phone, and resumed the game she was playing, stopping again to check email.

6 comments:

Phoebe said...

Oh, and the lines are all messed up from how it's posted. Ruining an otherwise technically flawless work of art!

Spencer said...

I'm a big fan of the sestina, myself. Though what I choose to do with it is, admittedly, weird & bastardized.

The first one I ever wrote (it's called "& Who Were They To Love Me Thus?") was rhymed & decasyllabic, though I introduced anagrams as endwords, too. In other words, I like it because it's a balancing act of fidelity & freedom. Kind of like dating, I guess.

Nice work. You know this one, I imagine...

The Painter

Sitting between the sea and the buildings
He enjoyed painting the sea's portrait.
But just as children imagine a prayer
Is merely silence, he expected his subject
To rush up the sand, and, seizing a brush,
Plaster its own portrait on the canvas.

So there was never any paint on his canvas
Until the people who lived in the buildings
Put him to work: "Try using the brush
As a means to an end. Select, for a portrait,
Something less angry and large, and more subject
To a painter's moods, or, perhaps, to a prayer."

How could he explain to them his prayer
That nature, not art, might usurp the canvas?
He chose his wife for a new subject,
Making her vast, like ruined buildings,
As if, forgetting itself, the portrait
Had expressed itself without a brush.

Slightly encouraged, he dipped his brush
In the sea, murmuring a heartfelt prayer:
"My soul, when I paint this next portrait
Let it be you who wrecks the canvas."
The news spread like wildfire through the buildings:
He had gone back to the sea for his subject.

Imagine a painter crucified by his subject!
Too exhausted even to lift his brush,
He provoked some artists leaning from the buildings
To malicious mirth: "We haven't a prayer
Now, of putting ourselves on canvas,
Or getting the sea to sit for a portrait!"

Others declared it a self-portrait.
Finally all indications of a subject
Began to fade, leaving the canvas
Perfectly white. He put down the brush.
At once a howl, that was also a prayer,
Arose from the overcrowded buildings.

They tossed him, the portrait, from the tallest of the buildings;
And the sea devoured the canvas and the brush
As though his subject had decided to remain a prayer.

(John Ashbery)

Phoebe said...

No, actually, never seen that before. But as awful as my "Nanny"-poem already looked, putting it next to that makes it look still worse.

Spencer said...

Nah. The Nanny is pretty good. I wouldn't hold yours up to sublimity for comparison otherwise.

Fiat Lux said...

Au contraire'
Bravo, brava, bravo.

Anonymous said...

Phoebe, What a fabulous poem you wrote!
You should watch more television!

E.H.