Lost in Anglophilia

“Footloose and fancy free” didn’t describe my young adulthood

Saturn sternly stationed me under the shadow of his scythe

I was dour

Unpreoccupied with love’s sweet bower

A scholar for the ages

Ever waxing in her analytic powers

Hie me over to England, then

Bastion of Literature’s gleaming towers

A sophisticated girl of twenty

I clipped my way down Oxford’s cobbled streets

Barely pausing to admire the dome of the Bodleian

Or that memorial to some martyr on Broad Street

 

The Bodleian Library's distinct dome graces Oxford's inspiringly neoClassical skyline

The Bodleian Library’s distinct dome graces Oxford’s inspiringly neoClassical skyline

The gargoyles and grotesques giggled from their lofty walls as

I maneuvered through the throngs of

Fresh-off-the-boat Italians,

Who marveled at my unwavering

Efficiency as a pedestrian

“Americana! Americana!”

I ignored them

Green backpack smacking against my coccyx

No way would any digression or interaction

Preclude me from punctual arrival at my class

 

I walked a great deal then:

To and from my dorm room for classes

Scrambling for scrumptious baguette sandwiches during lunch breaks

Sojourns into the working-class district (east end)

To buy discounted books for my reading pleasure

Sunday strolls to the tiny Greek Orthodox church where

Scottish bishops trilled the r’s in their sermons

And, of course, our Friday out-of-Oxford excursions to study

History, political science, art and architecture, theology, literature, and philosophy

The crowning achievements of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance at

My Olympus camera’s disposal

(Salisbury Cathedral has the best flying buttresses)

Those were times to imbibe the power of place

With classmates who became fast friends

How I loved our stimulating discussions of the poetry of Milton and

The Great Chain of Being

That expanded our minds as our bus

Hummed along the motorways

A dizzying array of sights to delight the heart

The Cotswolds

Salisbury Plain

Blenheim Palace

Glastonbury

Hampton Court

Windsor Castle

Byron’s death outfit in Greenwich

I felt compelled to wave at passersby

And they

Like that blond construction worker hovering over his bowl of stew

In the rain somewhere in East Anglia

Always waved back

Those tales of the English being rude or unwelcoming were unfounded,

I noticed,

As strangers were always engaging me in chatter

Inviting me to picnics

And mentioning that I must have brought Chicago’s heat and humidity

With me in the late summer of 1994

In a babydoll dress I boarded the deck of the Cutty Sark

In an ankle-length cotton dress with floral print from the Gap

I leaped down a wall to exit Glastonbury Abbey

To the clamorous delight of the handsome soldiers stationed at the base

Whose main gates were directly opposite me

So with smiles and cackles

Proper BBC or slurred Cockney dialects,

I was made to feel welcome

And I deemed those outlandish tales of cold inhospitability

To be American anti-monarchical propaganda

Born of Nietzschean bad faith of the errant colonist to his cultural master

 

And another myth debunked:

The food was pretty damn good,

At least for my vegetarian sensibility

Healthy and cosmopolitan

Were the delights downed by my esophagus

It was my wont after dinner

To meander through University Parks

And feed some ducks

And watch some cricket tourneys

And crunch along the graveled way parallel to the River Cherwell

Where punters lowered their poles and ducked below the Rainbow Bridge

One evening I kept on wandering and found myself in an old cemetery

The light of the setting sun could be seen through the

Eyehole of circle’s boundary at a

Graveside Celtic cross

With hushed breath I faced west and tingled to the commingling of energies

And past and present,

Myth and history,

The temporal and the infinite

Merged within and around me

A long-tailed pheasant rustled in the grass to my right

And a flopsy hare sought shelter from the impending night owls

How apt right then and there to literally bump into Kenneth Graeme’s tombstone!

What a lovely revelation from the Wildwood

 

I didn’t drink alcohol

Went to pubs for inexpensive meals

And I never noticed if any Brit boy’s sidelong glances of interest

Were ever cast my way

Daughter of Reason

Virgin armored with academic gravitas

Like aloof Athena-spawn

I kept my Self intact and unassailable

Unapproachable

Unencroachable

To those who dared defile the inner sanctum of Mysteries

 

Oh, all this was twelve years ago!

Twelve years—a prolonged cycle of zodiac animals marching

An unendurable conference with each Apostle as a keynote speaker

I was a maiden

Svelte and unwrinkled

Confident that I would make my mark on the world

But instead world-weariness has marked me

Tedious hours in buildings under fluorescent lamps

In a false community of partnership

Uprooted and transplanted in environments unnatural

Vapid machine churning towards false understandings of value

Pedestrian linear thinking

While inside

The summit of winters

Frozen, unyielding compartmentalization of self

A disconnect spanning vast ice ridges

Between the bright-eyed nymph of the nineties

And my jaundiced scowl of today

 

It is a thing to dread and discontentedly lament:

To age and die fully aware that youth was unspent

Now long gone

Never to be called back

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