This is my half, closest to all that waking light and also closest to the neighbors who generously shelter homeless dogs (anywhere from 5-8 at a time). So about 15 feet from my bed and this window, on the other side of a wooden fence wrapped in ivy is a rotating cast of barkers, scratchers, matted whiners, and diligent diggers, all just waiting for the right family.
Most of them get relocated within a few months because Bloomington is a big-hearted town. But one particular shaggy red dog (who doesn’t have a name—the neighbors always refer to him as “He”) has been living next door since before we moved in. No one will adopt He because he’s always barking while trying to dig his way to freedom. He wants out of that yard and it’s the most important thing in his world. Not getting adopted, not making friends with the other dogs or the people fostering him. He doesn’t seem to eat or sleep.
He and his posse of barkers are why I don’t work in bed. No writing, no reading, no thinking about writing or reading. And if this sounds like a complaint, it isn’t. I’m with the work/rest divide and the necessary performance of it. John Cheever used to get dressed in a suit and ride an elevator to the basement of his apartment building to write. Part of Cheever’s move was performance: he wanted to pretend he was a 9 to 5er instead of a novelist. The other part is the work/rest divide. It’s best (for me anyway) to put in work in a separate space from where I rest.
Instead, I listen to music through my oversized noise-cancelers. Miles Davis’s In A Silent Way or E.S.T.’s Viaticum or Nicolas Jaar’s Space Is Only Noise. Last night, I listened to Frank Ocean’s elegant new album Blond, which turned out to be closer to work than I usually like to get in repose.
Many of the songs on the album are a different kind of poem, one that is put together with heart beats and sunrise-style strings. And Andre 3000 showing why he’s Q-Tip’s successor. And an uncredited cameo by Beyoncé on one of the most strictly poetic cuts, “Pink + White”:
If you could die and come back to life
Up for air from the swimming pool
You’d kneel down to the dry land
Kiss the Earth that birthed you
These lyrics push both the imagistic ear and the emotional one. There’s nostalgia in his words that is only amplified by Pharrell Williams’s piano and production. And as if on cue, the song ends with “Bitch, I might like immortality. / This is life, life immortality” and the sounds of birds chirping. At that exact point, He started (or probably had been the whole time) barking so loudly I could hear him through the noise cancelers. “Yes,” He barked, “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.”
No matter how big my headphones, no matter how poetic the music coming through them, there’s the bed and then there’s everything around it that makes a bed a bed—walls, reading lights, various dust bunnies, protests, and discarded socks. Poetry live in the spaces both He and Frank Ocean live in, the very spaces that make a bed so necessary to begin with.