detail from Labels for Hair Ribbons by Manuel Ocampo a delectable selection of oriental appetizers
Tuesday, March 27, 2001

: . April is the cruellest month… :

I’m turning 26 in two weeks. I grow old…I grow old…/I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled. T. S. Eliot wrote The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock when he was 23 and years ago when I dreamed of becoming a writer I vowed that when I turn 23 I will write something, anything, not quite like Eliot’s Love Song but something, anything of enough substance that I’ll be proud to have written that little something, anything until the day I die. If not…then it wasn’t meant to be. Now I’m turning 26, so much time has passed and so much time has passed when I haven’t written a single sentence worth anyone’s while. It wasn’t meant to be. When T. S. Eliot was younger than 23 he read and fell in love so deeply with John Keats’ poem Ode on a Grecian Urn that he learned it by heart and recited it sometimes softly, sometimes aloud to himself until he tired of it. When I was younger than 23, I too fell in love so deeply with John Keats’ poem Ode on a Grecian Urn and learned it by heart and recited it, though never aloud but softly, just under my breath, to myself. Softly, just under my breath, from the first line Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness,/Thou foster-child of silence and slow time… to the last ’Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’—that is all/Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. Every morning, for almost a month, I recited that poem to myself as I set off for school--the first stanza as I stepped out of our apartment in Jackson Heights and the rest of the stanzas as I walked under the tracks of the 7 towards 74th street where I took the G to Brooklyn. I find Keats’ Ode too sacharrine and sentimental, even politically retrograde these days. Even now my evil Postcolonial, Postmodern, and Post-Structuralist alter ego is digging its cloven foot into the once solid ground, aware that something woefully Problematic needs to be vanquished: What is “Beauty” and what is “Truth” after all, nothing but Social Constructs, conceptual armaments of Cultural Imperialism, and Western abstractions that could never be spoken or written without being quarantined by scare quotes. As Terry Eagleton writes in Literary Theory: "the 'transcendental' nature of the imagination" posited by the Romantic poets "offered a comfortingly absolute alternative to history itself," an alternative "splendidly remote from matters of feeding one's children or struggling for political justice." I couldn’t imagine myself being as in love with words as I was then. I'm much too self-aware of my limitations now, much too worn down by failure, and much too afraid. Then there's the weight of Responsibility and the pressures of my political allegiances. But maybe I should give this writing thing another try. America, after all is the land of second chances, second acts, no? And all the self-help gurus from Iyanla (Vanzant) to Dr. Phil (McGraw) tell us, again and again, that It's Never Too Late. But then again…
And indeed there will be time
To wonder, ‘Do I dare?’ and, ‘Do I dare?’
Time to turn back and descend the stair…
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

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