[A Footnoted Manifesto for Midsummer's Day]
If I were poet laureate of America, I would declare Midsummer’s Day to be the day when everyone finds a stoop around 8 o’clock at night (it can be 9 o’clock in places like Michigan and Sacramento where the light seems to last longer) and sits quietly.(1)
I would resurrect the obsolete phrase “has but a mile to midsummer““to signify that a person is somewhat mad. (2) And by elaborate math (3), I would declare June 8th to be “I Have But a Mile to Midsummer Day” and encourage people to make somewhat crazy decisions, as practice for the truly mad ones that will take place on the 24th, on which day, some puckish character would have destroyed all the self-help books in every library, bookstore, and well-meaning friend’s house“and suddenly our problems would be all our own (4), no mirror to be found.
I would make the extra bit of light, the extra uneven minute of pre-twilight, into a pocket, and you could put whatever minute you want in that pocket and it would be everlasting. For instance, your child singing. (4)
I would also make it a day of mourning“for from here on in, the days are getting shorter. Perhaps everyone could take a ceremonial swim in a quarry of sorrow, which contains dark but vigorous waters?
(What do these things have to do with poetry? Such a silly question. I only hope these remarks are not held against me in the years to come, during my confirmation hearing.)
(1) We cannot all go out in a boat, or sit atop a mountain, but surely a front or back stoop is a democratic solution for all. I will manufacture extra stoops if necessary. For, as I think further on it, it must be a stoop! Naturalists, don’t all throw the tomatoes at once, but isn’t there something puerilely escapist in going away to find solace and reverie and a perspective? No, no, you cannot leave your life, even at Midsummer, so find what you must on the front or back stoop, amid the noise of your neighbors and cars, and the smells of cooking.
(2) Tho bestys that thys wroughte to mydsomer haue but a myle.
(3) There are approximately 16 city blocks in a mile, and 16 days before June 24th is June 8th…a mile to midsummer.
(4) All our own, but perhaps not of our doing. Perhaps partly due to a little western flower, all milk-white, now purple with love’s wound…
(5) It would not go the way of Krapp’s Last Tape either. Not if you recorded another’s voice, others’ voices, a woman dancing on a subway platform…a minute outside of your self.