I could never explain, to my ageing mother,
the meaning of the word “logistics”.
She would see these huge trucks, whizzing past our car
at dangerously high speed, on the motorway,
“Logistics” emblazoned on their sides.
“What is it? What is Logistics?” she would ask,
her eyes gleaming with curiosity.
She thought, perhaps, that the trucks
carried the entity “Logistics” itself,
within their enclosed, secretive interiors.
I would try to explain, but, next time she saw one,
she would turn to me again: “What is Logistics?”
I thought: this is the onset of Alzheimer’s.
I thought: the circuitry of her brain
is not configured to receive
the speedy delivery of “Logistics”.
I thought of Samuel Beckett’s dictum:
“Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”
I tried again, each time. I failed again, each time.
Was I failing better? I couldn’t honestly say.
I can look back, now, and admit
that I refused to convey a simple fact
to my own stubborn head. A simple fact
that could be the simple truth:
that I was just a lousy teacher.
At any rate, due to my incompetence,
she was still unaware of the meaning
of “Logistics” when she was conveyed
to her final destination.
I hope it didn’t bother her.
I hope she was conveyed speedily, and smoothly.
I got the idea for “Logistics” during the Christmas holiday, but I couldn’t think of a way of writing it, until I read Nicholson Baker’s novel “The Anthologist”, a few weeks ago. “The Anthologist” tells the story of Paul Chowder, a middle-aged poet, and his struggles to edit an anthology of rhyming verse. It is very funny, and very knowledgeable and informative about the writing of poetry. As I was reading it, something to do with the wry style of the novel seeped into me, and I suddenly saw how I could express what I was trying to say in the poem “Logistics”.
I can recommend “The Anthologist” as a highly entertaining and informative read for anyone with an interest in poetry. You’ll find out all you need to know about The Four-Beat Line and Iambic Pentameter. You’ll also come across a number of 20th century American poets virtually unknown to British readers: Louise Bogan, anyone? How about W.S.Merwin? Sara Teasdale? Stanley Kunitz? . . .