On hate

hate suits him
better than forgiveness.
Immersed in hate
he doesn’t have
to do anything;
he can be
paralyzed, and the
rigidity of hatred
makes a kind
of shelter for

– John Updike, Rabbit, Run


  1. ‘And meanwhile his heart completes its turn and turns again…’

    Do you know Updike’s poem, ‘Ex-Basketball Player’?

    Once Flick played for the high-school team, the Wizards.
    He was good: in fact, the best. In ’46
    He bucketed three hundred ninety points,
    A country record still. The ball loved Flick.
    I saw him rack up thirty-eight or forty
    In one home game. His hands were like wild birds.


  2. The Updike poem is brief, and wise.
    This poem’s a little longer.

    Born Again by Brownyn Lea

    After the divorce he sold his house
    by the beach & drove his Volkswagen
    into the desert to die. He was gone
    a year. I was living one vertical mile
    above the desert floor – where he slept
    in his car – in a house that overlooked
    a great sweep of rocks & woodlands.
    Instead of dying, god spoke to him.
    God forgave all his trespasses. But I
    didn’t forgive his trespasses against me.
    My heart was a long ledger. One day
    he returned to collect our daughter.
    My house was snowbound. I left him
    to stand in the weather while I gathered
    her things. It took a little while. When
    I returned he was gone. Typical.
    I looked around. Sparrows scratched
    at the snow looking for seeds. I saw
    a figure kneeling by a large granite
    boulder. The ponderosa above him
    was weighted with snow. The knees
    of his jeans were wet. Snow drifts
    on his shoulders & backs of his shoes.
    Snow collected on his upturned palms.
    I felt its coldness. Such intimacy
    we had never shared. Sometimes grace
    comes like that, it falls like snow.


  3. @ Chris: many thanks for that. I haven’t read that interview before and it was wonderfully enjoyable, particularly with a warm mug of chai.

    @ André: yes, it’s wonderful isn’t it! Have you read his essays on golf in ‘Higher Gossip’? Best thing I’ve ever read on golf, and it helped my game more than anything else has too.

    @ Pam: Thanks for sharing that poem, and for introducing me to Brownyn Lea’s poetry. I must post her ‘Catalogue of People’ sometime. BTW: the words from Updike are not a poem, although I have presented them as such. They just seemed to belong in that form.

    Blow it, I’ll post ‘Catalogue of People’ here and now:

    There are—

    those who write literature of praise and those who write
    literature of blame. Both reveal an impulse towards life.

    those who see the cup half full and those who see it half
    empty. Neither dare drink.

    those who like to sit by oceans and those who like to sit
    by lakes. Both admire water birds.

    those who fear intimacy and those who fear abandonment.
    Rehabilitation, for both types, is lengthy.

    those who see life as suffering and those who see life as worth
    suffering for. Rarely is either type native to the tropics.

    those whose 2nd toe is shorter than their big toe and those
    whose 2nd toe is longer. 9 times out of 10, athletes
    are made from the first camp.

    those who like Wordsworth and those who prefer Coleridge.
    Both are predisposed to owning cats.

    those who like Tolstoy and those who prefer Dostoyevski.
    Usually these people are similar in temperament to the people
    who like Wordsworth or Coleridge respectively but are more
    widely read.

    those who bring strawberries and those who bring blueprints.
    Both types are equally likely to be female.

    those who believe in chance and those who believe in fate.
    Nobody knows how anyone got this way.

    those who can roll the edges of their tongue and those who
    cannot. Both enjoy kissing.

    those who believe god lives and those who believe god is
    dead. Both believe.

    those who do not eat animals for reasons of health and
    those who do not eat animals for reasons of compassion.
    Neither hunger.

    those who’d make professional mourners and those who’d
    make professional celebrants. Both professions fill a need.

    those who say they are afraid of intimacy but are really afraid
    of abandonment and those who say they are afraid of
    abandonment but are really afraid of intimacy. Hope is held
    for a cure.

    those who blame their misery on big government and those
    who blame it on big business. Both have bad table manners.

    those who read the book and those who wait for the movie.
    These types are likely to intermarry.

    those who refuse to apologise and those who apologise too
    readily. Neither party understands forgiveness.

    those who speculate about two types of people and those who
    speculate about continuums. The latter are caged in a paradox.

    those who talk to the gods with their feet and those who talk
    to the gods with their heads. The former have better rhythm.

    those who are turned on by cutting edge technology and those
    who warm to it only once it’s obsolete. Often the latter exhibits
    great affection for electronic typewriters and vinyl records.

    those who are afraid of prairies and those who are afraid of
    the insides of elevators. Both delight in cut flowers.

    those who write poetry and those who write about poetry.
    Both are susceptible to untruths.

    those who give to beggars and those who do not. Religion is
    rarely a factor.

    those who fight for the individual and those who fight for
    society. Both are abstract thinkers.

    those who like pigeons and those who do not. I like pigeons.


  4. Yes, I’m enjoying reading Bronwyn’s poems.

    ‘Cheap Red Wine’ is a beauty (and will make you laugh – guaranteed).


  5. Many thanks Pam. I found ‘Cheap Red Wine’ and, you’re right, it did make me laugh. Might pay posting here sometime soon.

    You do find the most wonderful wee snippets, don’t you Pam ;-)


  6. ‘Cheap Red Wine’, by Bronwyn Lea

    After Galway Kinnell’s ‘Oatmeal’

    Most nights I drink cheap red wine.
    I drink it alone.
    I drink from a Baccarat crystal wine glass
    of which I have only one and that is why I must drink alone.
    Popular wisdom tells me it is not good
    to drink alone.
    Especially cheap red wine.
    The dank and cloying aroma is such that a feeling of sorrow
    can too easily twist into despair.
    That is why I sometimes think up an imaginary companion
    to drink with. To ward off the despair.
    Last night, for instance, I drank with Charles Baudelaire.
    He drank from the bottle
    owing to the single Baccarat wine glass.
    Charles (he begged me to be familiar) said he was grateful
    for the invitation.
    He hadn’t been getting out as much as he used to.
    I apologised for not thinking
    to invite him sooner and asked after Jeanne Duval,
    if he had seen much of her lately.
    He sighed. Dans l’amour il y a toujours un qui soufre
    pendant que l’autre s’ennui
    . In love,
    there is always one who suffers while the other gets bored.
    I nodded and refilled my glass.
    Charles read to me from Fleurs du Mal,
    as the evening breeze blew through the open window,
    and I confessed to him my anthophobia,
    how sometimes the scent of flowers can fill me with unshakable dread.
    He nodded gravely.
    Such a feeling, he said, inspired him to write
    the lines: arrangements of flowers encoffined in glass exhale their ultimate breath;
    and, I prefer the autumnal fruits over the banal blooms of Spring
    He shuddered and finished off the bottle.

    Deep into the night Charles read to me,
    and as I fell asleep in his arms I had the idea
    that communing with the dead needn’t be a mystical activity.
    It may require no more than a glass
    or two of cheap red wine
    and listening, intently, to the bodily meanings
    of ghostly words.


  7. I actually think the Rabbit series messed with my head. I found it really terrifying… like maybe that’s life. That’s it. Maybe Updike got it right and that’s all there is.


  8. @ Dan. I wonder if we read precisely because we want to (even know that we need to) have our heads messed with. I’m still in recovery (if that’s the right word) from my first reading of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment some 18 years ago.


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