“I have wasted my life.”
The last line of James Wright’s poem “Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota” has always frazzled me.
Is he talking about the moment itself? Unlikely. His life is elsewhere. Lying in hammock is a moment of leisure, a departure from life as it must be lived. Plus, there’s barely a speaker at all in the majority of the poem, just an eye: the poem decidedly plants “I see” in the first line. And it’s a loving eye, at that.
Is he talking about his work? Possibly. It is William Duffy’s farm, after all. Our speaker is a guest. And although Wright the critic would be loathe to conflate speaker with writer, Wright the poet is just as guilty of erecting this false curtain as anyone.
Is he talking about poetry? Somewhat. There’s a good deal of horseshit in the poem and not just the kind that “Blaze up into golden stones.” Some Mod, maybe Elliot, more likely Pound, hopefully Stein, said that literature is above context, that any two items place beside each other initiate a comparison. Presumably that includes observation followed by proclamation, which is all this poem is. Poor reader that I am, I am not allowed a non sequitur.
And neither are you, which brings me to tomorrow’s contest between Alabama and Tennessee. I’m using the strict denotation of “contest” here because, if our number-crunchers in Vegas are to be trusted, the game will be uncontested from the Tennessee sideline, which is understaffed and under siege.
Most of the offensive players the Vols were counting on to contribute this season can’t stay healthy long enough to get on the field at the same time, and the atmosphere in Knoxville is turning toxic. How bad is it? Well, it’s not quite “newly hired Athletic Director offers beleaguered coach a public endorsement” bad (See: Arizona; fired; Stoops, Mike), but it is “coach’s momma calling radio stations to say leave her baby alone” bad.
This may not be the worst Tennessee team in a generation (that was last year), but they may be playing the best Alabama team in a generation, at least on defense. Thus, the Crimson Tide enters their third consecutive conference game in which they are favored by more than three touchdowns. The Great Leader is so concerned with a slow start that he has drifted into paranoia, telling his players that while the press is lauding them and their performance to date, Tennessee is “going to come in here quietly and kick your ass.”
If he is found wandering the halls of the athletic department talking to the portrait of Frank Thomas, then we’ll confirm his full descent into Nixonia.
Some idiot, surely not Stein, possibly Pound, hopefully Elliot, once said that indifference, not hatred, is the opposite of love, that passion can push people together or pull them apart, but it’s the same fire heating different cauldrons. One becomes the other depending on which way the flames blow.
Where would Alabama be without its rivalry with Tennessee? If the SEC expands to fourteen teams, will we find out? Where is a rivalry without hatred? Are we finding out already?
How many years, how many games, will discard their role as tradition and become mere history? What will be left but the sallow numbers of the scoreboard and the treacherous voice of poetry?
I have wasted my life.