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In Memoriam, Denis Donoghue

Denis Donoghue, who passed away on April 6th at the age of 92, played an important role in the early years of the ALSCW, known back then as the ALSC. Rosanna Warren remembers him: “He was a giant in every respect—a looming figure intellectually and physically. Streams of eloquence poured from his mouth when he spoke, perfectly formed periodic sentences, with precise and lengthy quotations from poetry and prose.” If there is a memory here of Yeats’s memory of Wilde (“I never before heard a man talking with perfect sentences…”), Denis would have appreciated it. ALSCW member Anthony Domestico has written a fine tribute at Commonweal. The link is here: https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/%E2%80%98justly-responsive%E2%80%99

In Memoriam, Morris Dickstein

We mourn the passing of Morris Dickstein. Morris served as president of the ALSCW in 2007 and was a cherished friend of many in our organization. His books include Gates of Eden, Double Agent, Leopards in the TempleDancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression, and a memoir, Why Not Say What Happened: A Sentimental Education. He was a distinguished and beloved teacher, and an important member of the ALSCW for many years. He will be missed. Below is an obituary by his daughter, Rachel.

Dogg In Triage

He wakes up in a dream of birdsong and sun-splash through high windows,
And he’s got himself laced to a hospital bed amidst a mess of
Hospital beds that are all—must be his vision–bobbing like rafts
In the sea, stormy sea, with now and then someone in a
……..White coat
Passing by, who’s apparently spent time as a waiter, for how well
He can ignore the clientele, R.L. Dogg in particular.
So many things Dogg’s read about–war and famine and disease
…………….And untimely grief–have failed to happen.
He’s seen them on TV too.
Dafur! Horrible! Sudan! Horrible! Rwanda! Thicks the blood with cold.
And then Dogg wakes up in the a.m. and all is well.
…………….All is well with him.
…………….Dogg!
Then he saw the red and gray pissed-off Corona ball on TV and now it’s him
…………….And he’s it.
…………….He!
…………….Dogg!
…………….Tag, you’re it, Dogg. Dogg’s it!
Triage, that’s what’s going on here. They’re picking the ones
…………….Who’re gonna get tested, treated, rescued from the angry sea
Where Dogg’s trying to pilot his mattress raft.
…………….A sheep and goats situation.
…………….Some will be. Some not.
…………….Dogg wants to say that he still has contributions to make.
…………….And not minor.
…………….He has a letter from his dean!
…………….One from the U. president too.
Dogg sleeps and dreams, maybe sleeps, maybe dreams,
……..That the white coat maître-d’ of a doc stops
…………….And asks Dogg why he should get the cure,
And all Dogg can think to say is “I’m writing an important book, an
…………….Important book.”
White coat seems to take an interest. On what pray tell, on what?
Reincarnation, he says. Immortality.
Which is not in any way what he’s doing.
He’s writing about Ralph Waldo Emerson and the spirit of America.
Which no longer exists.
White coat turns away. Does Dogg hear him mutter:
“Some primary research is coming your way.”
But no Doctor would say that. Would he?
Would he? No real doctor would have that to say!

Quarantine Visit

There’s an old woman on the porch. There’s an old woman in R.L. Dogg’s head.
……..Also.
She turns up—torn dress, clodhoppers, smell o’ rum, late afternoon and wants
…………………………..Money!
She’d also like a bit o’ food, being that she has none. Or says so.
I’ve never seen her, Liz either: we been cooped up, Dogg in Quarantine,
…………………………..And all that.
…………………………..R.L. Dogg, Poet.
…………………………..He’s got rants in his pants!
So we don’t really know what’s up on the outside—food lines, gas lines, social
…………………..Rebellion—death by tedium,
She wants money (Broke, the crone croaks);
…………….She wants food (Starved she squawks);
And Liz and I look over at our Buddha—rare wood, sprayed gold, sitting
…………….Serene on the kitchen counter (marble counter),
There’s a gold flame rising from his head—wisdom, wakefulness.
…………….Gautama looks on.
She’s hungry (in my head); she’s broke (in my head); and is she coming
…………….Some actual day, actual soon?
…………….For money, for food?
The Buddha, compassionate one, so beautiful,
Brought back all the way from Malaysia,
A decoration, beautiful diversion,
Looks at us now, waiting to see what comes next.

Plague Song: Chelsea Boots

My Chelsea boots want to go out and party, have a little fun;
“Dude,” they call from the closet, “what kind of life you got for us?
Are we going to stay here forever, with yr. dead b-ball kicks,
……………Unhiked hikers and lace-up dowdies?
We, my dog, are Chelseas, and we do not sit quiet—we are the meaning
……………Of Saturday night.
And here we are marooned in your closet of a tomb,
They shouldn’t sell us to anyone who can’t dance the carpe diem
Or the deca-dance.
You should have to pass a good-times background check,
To pull down a pair of us.”
I try to explain: there’s a plague outside. I been off-property three times
……………In two months—and those have not been Chelsea times.
People are dying out there and I’d prefer for a while not to be one—
……………So you see.
“With all disrespect,” the kings of the closet call out, “we don’t see shit:
Open the clubs, open the bars, let stream the taps,
‘Open Sesame,’ says us,
Go out, kick up our heels, dance, party, sing, laugh—
Plagues are good times for fun, and (whisper we this) great times for sex;
War zones are hoochy-coochy zones and this sounds like war.
You think you can dance now—put us on—cue your best plague-list
……………(How ‘bout The Cure? Heh, Heh, Heh)
And go to town.
Party all night, party the day through,
Have fun, revel, fuck,
And when the Horseman comes riding through,
On poison hooves,
Keep dancing but—listen up now, boy–duck.”

Homecoming

At the court of the Phaeacians, a concert by the minstrel Demodocus. This is the age of heroes, of myth, and the blind bard sings of just that: of a quarrel between Odysseus and Achilles. With a taut-stringed harp in his hands, Demodocus performs with such skill and pathos, in fact, that the court’s guest of honor—a wanderer recently happened upon them—subtly draws his mantle down, concealing his tears.

Cathars

Their long looks crossing like spiderwebs
cloth. The cloth is beautiful. They stand
in clusters, shaking the snow
from their hoods and hair
though the whole atmosphere
shines with snow, and the ocean
moves darkly under the wind,
and clouds like empty sails.
Clamorous armies are even now
crossing the rivers. We must stay quiet:
the granaries are full. We have to walk
from hilltop to hilltop, we have to think
like stone. Speak like soft white stone.

No Artificial Sweeteners

Flickering so inconsistently in
and into being, footman to the tyrannies
of World Event and Serotonin,
not to mention negative ions, power lines,
digestion, it was very natural
His Darkness should burn a bewildering
percentage of his time trying to self-define.
He measured his usefulness to society
against the baskets of lemons people
leave on the sidewalk in lemon season,
grimaced. It was that season. The moon rose,
the little dogs came out for one last pee
before bed, and above Telegraph, a billboard
flickered: Dave’s Killer Bread. Purpose in every loaf.

West

It is said a plane has no inside,
no depth — just folds and intensities,
but here I am deep inside this Spirit
Airbus, folded into the bosoms
and paunches of the lumpenproletariat,
the Prince writes glumly in his notebook,
even my desire for intensity is weak,
I guess I’ll have some thoughts on the novel,
how it revalues empty time as luxurious,
not full, even as the value of luxury drops—
kill me. The irrigated desert scrolls past
like a mechanical Mondrian, thins to cut-rate Braque,
and it’s true the sunset is very beautiful
when brief, so tawdry when drawn on—