Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Husky Boys' Dickies - Jill McDonough

WTF texts Josey, and I text back OMG. We had to tell Maggie what LOL
meant - it's not Lots Of Love, though that almost always fits. Major
emailed LMAO when I assumed his inbox gets dealt with by an underling,
some undergrad, assumed it was Major's minor who invited me to read but
"can not pay much sum of monies." Sum of Monies? I emailed back.

Who wrote this? Your assistant's a Nigerian prince? WTF.
For a while we just played with these, joking, like I tried on
Wicked when I moved to Boston, called Lisa Liser, pizza pizzer, said
Fucken, wicked, pissah, dood. But before you know it, it's part
of how you talk, how I talk, fucken guy. Dude. When my ex

student saw me she said Sick a dozen times, amazed, delighted, meant
it's super I've moved back, and whoda thunk it, come in to her cafe.
She checked out Josey, my instant street cred. Josey bought new pants
for work with a cell phone pocket; the cell phone pocket pants
are Husky Boys' Dickies, which I can't get enough of, laugh every time

I think of them, or try to name them out loud. Josey wears
Husky Boys' Dickies. My darling, my husky, my husky little boy.
Hey, Husky, we say, around the house, just waking up, just bumping
into each other en route from basement to garden to kitchen. Hey,
Husky, do you want coffee? Hey Husky, Hey Bunny, Hey Hon.

When I'm helping my students translate Sappho's Fragments 1 and 31,
I get them to make a list of many-colored things, so they don't feel stuck
with colorful throne. One girl can't think of anything but Skittles. Terrific, I tell her,
you're breaking product placement ground. Then I ask them to think of voices
they love, the voice of someone they love. It's hard to describe a voice, but

I ask them each to try, put his or her beloved in the place of Sappho's, make her
theirs, more real than just sweet-voiced and lovely-laughtered. You have
three minutes. Get something down, I tell them, some adjective or comparison,
even if you just write the same word over and over again. 5:47 p.m. on a Wednesday,
me saying Do your best and You could just say husky husky husky husky husky.

A while back, I said it's important to read poetry and poets you don't particularly like.  Well, it's important for me to follow my own advice, and here we are!  Pretty much every aspect of this poem, from its text style abbreviations, to its subject matter, to its utter lack of poetic device repel me.  Despite that, it has value to someone, and I'd be a bad poetry blogger if I didn't look into it.

I will admit, I did enjoy the way the author captured stereotypical Boston slang.  Fucken wicked, kid.
Moving on, the poem reads like a fairly simple internal monologue, reflecting largely on the way we use language to signify meaning.  Beginning with the abbreviations, it ends in a meditation on what it means to use language descriptively.  Despite the teacher's sarcastic remarks about a girl who can only think of Skittles as a multi-colored thing, that's valid.  It can be very difficult to describe things outside of our comfort zones, to imagine ourselves in someone else's place, to describe the voice in words of our loved ones.

Making a text one's own is a good technique for giving insight into a text, but also a touch dangerous if one doesn't keep it secondary.  We as readers must be able to relate to a text even on a more abstact level, but for a first way to engage with a text, it's safe.  While it may be hard to imagine Sappho's love object from just phrases like "sweet-voiced" and "lovely laughtered" it's much easier to imagine the laugh of the apple of your own eye.  Coming up with your own phrases for that will help you understand the love and consideration that went into the original descriptive text.  That's what language is about, after all, communicating meaning and feeling.

Husky Boys' Dickies is indeed a funny phrase.

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