A friend writes: “At the clinic some of the people asked after me, and the doc said, ‘Well his routine hasn’t altered one minute. Or one millimeter.’ All of them in stitches—and of course it is true. I have been in self-isolation since age 15— so lots of fun seeing the rest deal with it. I still have a whole load of old Dutch ‘pravda’ newspapers for wiping my arse. ‘Truth wipes best,’ as the saying goes.”
to ward off
Or shall the shitstorm
fry our brains?
the long haul,
I won’t forget to bring
my back scratcher—
with the masks
Another friend writes: “The shitstorm isn’t frying my brains yet but it’s starting with my toes and moving up my legs. I let myself give in to anxiety for about 15 minutes in the morning then I remember the example of Winston Churchill and get myself in gear. I’ve been putting 12-hour days into my job lately just keeping people optimistic and trying to figure out how to navigate through this. I’m starting to think it’ll be 18 months of this scheisse. Let’s keep cranking out the poetry. It lifts the soul without depressing the bank account.”
Postscript: March 19—A friend writes from France: “The French have decided their options as follows: Watch loads of porn—buy loads of sex toys—beat up your wife and eat your children (or beat up your neighbor and spend a night in a cell where you can get a free dose of corona virus)—stay in bed and not wake up.
“I am sure there are plenty more options since the irrational has out-flanked the rational. Meanwhile the swans have returned to Venice and so have the fishes. And above China the satellites show no air pollution. That’s more or less it.”
March 21—A friend writes from Scotland : “As to Zen arse-wipes. While I was up in a Zen temple in the mountains around Takayama, it fell to me to be the one who had to clean the shit off the wooden slipway that carried the fecal prayers of monks into a dark and forbidding hole (not unlike the ones they had been birthed by, I suspect). I was supplied with a bamboo spatula for the purpose, with a prayer brushed on its handle in black ink. I took to the job with enthusiasm.
“As you might know, the most revered post in a Zen temple is the cook. It seemed fitting to me (and fitted me well) that dealing with the other end of the process was equally honourable. The prima materia on its transformative journey, having been exposed to all that chanting and sitting still, had to be possessed of the very highest vibrations; indeed blessed.
“In Tibet, when an attendant monk removed the turds from the quarters of a high lama, they would be placed reverentially on the head. Rabelais, however, would have said, “Squittard, farttard, shittard. Thy bung hath flung some dung on us!” If I remember his divine commentary correctly. But then, Rabelais was of an entirely different religion that didn’t understand or appreciate shit.
“In the Middle Ages, monks used splints of bamboo to wipe their arses. What a material is bamboo: furniture; houses; weapons; vessels for water, victuals, medicines; tobacco; pipes; hats; baskets; pens; brushes; gutters; pots; arse-wipes, and so on, and so on. Finally as philosophical metaphor.
“John Layard always maintained that a baby’s shit was an expression of love. The only thing it had to offer its mother.
“By the way, coronach is Irish/Scots for a funeral dirge. Funny that!
“We’re also in what is now called ‘self-isolation’. I prefer what we used to call it: reclusion. The former is too clinical, while the latter invokes images of thatched hermitages, lost deep within listening mountains, or hidden in forgotten and trackless forests, in those Chinese and Japanese black ink paintings.”