Notes on M Train

M Train

M Train by Patti Smith

P. 9 … reading Mrabet’s The Beach Cafe. A young fish-seller named Driss meets a reclusive, uncongenial codger who has a so-called cafe with only one table and one chair on a rocky stretch of shore near Tangier… Like Driss, I dreamed of opening a place of my own. I thought about it so much I could almost enter it: the Cafe Nerval, a small haven where poets and travelers might find the simplicity of asylum.

I imagined threadbare Persian rugs in wide-planked floors, two long wood tables with benches, a few smaller tables, and an oven for baking bread. Every morning I would wipe down the tables with aromatic tea like they do in Chinatown. No music no menus. Just silence black coffee olive oil fresh mint brown bread. Photographs adorning the walls: a melancholic portrait of the cafe’s namesake, and a smaller image of forlorn poet Paul Verlaine in his overcoat, slumped before a glass of absinthe.

P. 25 Without noticing, I slip into a light yet lingering malaise. Not a depression, more like a fascination for melancholia, which I turn in my hand as if it were a small planet, streaked in shadow, impossibly blue.

P.86 Not all dreams need tone realized. That was what Fred used to say. We accomplished things that no one would ever know.

P.87 Fred finally achieved his pilot’s license but couldn’t afford to fly a plane. I wrote incessantly but published nothing. Through it all we held fast to the concept of the clock with no hands. Tasks were completed, sump pumps manned, sand bags piled, trees planted, shirts ironed, hems stitched, and yet we reserved the right to ignore the hands that kept on turning. Looking back, long after his death, our way of living seems a miracle, one that could only be achieved by the silent synchronization of the jewels and fears of a common mind.

P.93 I opened a book called A Wild sheep Chase, chosen from its intriguing title. A phrase caught my eye – a maze of narrow streets and drainage canals.

P.94 Dance Dance and Kafka on the Shore followed Sheep Chase. And then, fatally, I began The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. That was the one that did me in, setting in motion an unstoppable trajectory, like a meteor hurtling toward a barren and entirely innocent sector of earth.

P.129-130 He especially liked old wooden boats, and on one of our excursions in Saginaw, Michigan, we found one for sale: a late-fifties Chris Craft Constellation, not guaranteed to be seaworthy. We bought it quite cheaply, hauled it back home, and parked it in our yard facing the canal that led to Lake Saint Clair. I had no interest in boating but worked side by side with Fred stripping the hull, scouring the cabin for the windows. Summer nights with my thermos of black coffee and a six-pack of Budweiser for Fred, we’d sit in the cabin and listen to Tigers games. I knew little about sports but Fred’s devotion to his Detroit team obliged me to know the basic rules, our team members, and our rivals. …In the winter we covered her with a heavy tarp and when baseball season opened again we removed it and listened to Tigers games on a shortwave radio. If the game was delayed we would sit and listen to cassettes on a boom box. Nothing with words, usually something of Coltrane’s, like Ole or Live at Birdland. On the rare occasion of a rainout we would switch over to Beethoven, whom Fred particularly admired.

P. 209 We want things we cannot have. We seek to claim a certain moment, sound, sensation. I want to hear my mother’s voice. I want to see my children as children. Hands small, fee swift. Everything changes. Boys grown, father dead, daughter taller than me, weeping from a bad dream. Please stay forever, I say to the things I know. Don’t go. Don’t grow.

P.233 Anxious for some permanency, I guess I needed to be reminded how temporary permanency is.

P.243 Why is it that we lose the things we love, and things cavalier cling to us and will be the measure of our worth after we’re gone?


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