Three Sonnets for Rust Hills

by Harry Mathews


This age that’s seen the Superego die,
   Involvement and disorder, as we know,
The occupational identity –
   We all should have been in jail long ago.
There is nothing worth really caring about.
   You can be surly as Ahab in Moby Dick
But when the moment finally comes, reach out
   And seize not just the day but the hour, the week
And finally actually delight in them –
   “...B&M beans, peas, New Eng style (molasses),
New Newsweek in? (if not got in AM)...”
   You have to make virtues out of your vices.
      I just couldn’t go on the way I was.
      It wouldn’t work anyway. It’s not us.


In a depraved mountain town in Mexico
   Called San Miguel, an “artist’s paradise”
(It is much harder in solitude to know),
   We were always soliciting advice.
An ordered schedule-system ought to work,
   But let us be as honest as we can:
Unless he’s also willing to be a jerk,
   A man can’t preen himself on being a “man.”
And I was getting lonely anyway.
   There is a sort of basic righteousness
That a man freckle and fleck himself this way
   – O melancholy, sadness, sweet tristesse!
      “You know I’d like to go to bed with you.”
      I’ll take at least a year off, maybe two.


When work is like the prime defining thing,
   Then writing is a lot like heroin.
The Fussy Man was also listening:
   “There’s no way to establish discipline?
“It’s the ‘sensitive’ ones who want to write?
   “Return all above things where they belong!
“The basis that what you like to do is right
   “And that what you don’t like to do is wrong
“(If what you do represents your own thinking),
   “C’est la vie quotidienne extraordinaire !
“No drinker wants to have to give up drinking.
   “And all that unpaved wilderness out there -
      “Rig every line and sail! Let search run wills!”
      (And let his cars run well.) Here’s to Rust Hills.