Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A long moan

This is my own mown lawn, courtesy of our grandson.

A Mown Lawn

She hated a mown lawn. Maybe that was because mow was the reverse of wom, the beginning of the name of what she was—a woman. A mown lawn had a sad sound to it, like a long moan. From her, a mown lawn made a long moan. Lawn had some of the letters of man, though the reverse of man would be Nam, a bad war. A raw war. Lawn also contained the letters of law. In fact, lawn was a contraction of lawman. Certainly a lawman could and did mow a lawn. Law and order could be seen as starting from lawn order, valued by so many Americans. More lawn could be made using a lawn mower. A lawn mower did make more lawn. More lawn was a contraction of more lawmen. Did more lawn in America make more lawmen in America? Did more lawn make more Nam? More mown lawn made more long moan, from her. Or a lawn mourn. So often, she said, Americans wanted more mown lawn. All of America might be one long mown lawn. A lawn not mown grows long, she said: better a long lawn. Better a long lawn and a mole. Let the lawman have the mown lawn, she said. Or the moron, the lawn moron.

By Lydia Davis from The Best American Poetry 2991, edited by Robert Hass, page 67. This short prose piece originally appeared in McSweeney's Quarterly.

People have recently been making a great fuss over the short pieces by Lydia Davis; a new book of them has recently appeared. But as we see here, she has been a master of the short piece for quite some time. In this work she pushes a lot of our alarm buttons such as feminism, lawlessness, ecological consciousness, Americanism, the View Nam war, sadness and mourning and finally the mole let loose in the uncut grass. I could have done without the moron, but this wasn't my poem. 

This is one of those works that makes my head ring, and which is completely outside my powers to imitate. I even avoid puns, for instance, whenever possible. "A pun is the lowest form of humor," my father used to smile as he made another one. I have the Lydia Davis book on my Kindle now, and every so often I take another bite or two. It is a book for thoughtful investigation. Are you a punster, or wordplay devotee, dear reader??

No comments:

Post a Comment