Out of town for a very long day yesterday, delivering youngest child to college. Very tired. A little sad. Looking for a respite in a simple, short verse. Finding instead a cascade of associations and musings.
Brautigan's poetry can be sneaky. It looks so simple, almost childlike. Then you look again and you start wondering what he saw, what he means, how this or that strange line came about. Here's an example:
From "Loading Mercury with a Pitchfork"
NINE CROWS: TWO OUT OF SEQUENCE
Yes, that is the entire poem. A trifle, you say? A little hippie weirdo bon bon?
Look again, my friend. Who can look at a line of crows and tell their proper order? How could it occur to anyone that there might even be a proper order? This poem, like a lot of great metaphysical poems or abstract paintings or modern sculpture, can be almost anything.
Some readers like me are sorely tempted to hang meaning on this poem like flys on a trout fisherman's vest. Lets, see....there are nine innings in a baseball game; nine black-robed justices on the Supreme Court; nine is a significant number in Icelandic lore; it is the final whole digit in the "base 10" system. Yet Brautigan most likely chose the number at random. The poem would be just as enigmatic with five crows or seven.
And crows! They are like ravens, which of course are mysterious and enchanted. Think Poe and Hitchcock and Native American totems, and.... OK, stop, deep breath. Though crows are a recurring image in this collection, wouldn't the poem work with bluebirds or cardinals or sparrows? No?
Anyway, you get the idea. The poem -- just this line of numbers -- is a window or a looking glass or a dream or an echoing well. It is so much more in the mind than on the page.
Damn you, Richard Brautigan.