On The Lost and Found

On The Lost and Found

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Maxwell Ryan
Jan 28, 2005

As Elizabeth Bishop famously remarked, "the art of losing isn't hard to master," but the art of finding can be more challenging.

For old-school beachcombers and Dumpster divers, resources like Craigslist and Freecycle are for tyros: to a purist, nothing rates but a real, 3-D world, serendipitous find, that perfect thing you come across when you didn't even know you were looking.

Not every find is successful: I once brought home a street-side bookcase that turned out to contain a nest of roaches. But a real find, from perfect river stone to winning ticket, can make it seem like the world itself is giving you a wink....

That's the feeling James Wright means when he says, in his poem "Milkweed," "Whatever it was I lost/whatever I wept for/Was a wild, gentle thing, the small dark eyes/Loving me in secret."

Once, on a late-night walk in Brooklyn, a friend and I came across a six-foot leatherish Jaguar-interior-green fainting couch, which we managed to drag back to my Boerum Hill garden to surprise ourselves with in the morning. I passed several summers drinking iced rosehip tea with rum on that couch, until finally the Naugas went feral and it sank into a heap in a corner of the yard.

During my college days in Ohio, I was lounging under a buckeye tree when my hands dug up not another half-buried nut, but a small figurine of a buddha carrying a fish on its back, a charm which now joins me on every plane ride I take.

And my parents love to tell the story of how, in the lean and early years of their marriage, they found themselves with enough money either to eat for the rest of the month or to go to the movies. They sensibly opted to take in a film, and--as my dad tells it--nearly tripped over a huge pile of bills while walking down the darkened aisle: there in their path was nearly ten dollars, more than enough in those days to keep them fed until the next payday.

In this season of single mittens and broken umbrellas, I keep the Hungarian poet Sándor Weöre's poem "Dice Game" hanging in my bathroom, to remind me each morning to check the city's vast lost and found bin. Here it is, as translated by William Jay Smith:


		Dice Game

to be lost then found again
my whole life has been that way
it was good to sit beside the sea
to let the waves wash over me

my whole life has been that way
to be lost then found again
to let the waves wash over me
it was good to sit beside the sea

to let the waves wash over me
it was good to sit beside the sea
to be lost then found again
my whole life has been that way

it was good to sit beside the sea
to let the waves wash over me
my whole life has been that way
to be lost then found again


What have you found lately?
(SGH)



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