Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Ezra Pound Wasn't Just An Anti-Semite; He Also Liked To Knit

A friend of mine--a big Pound fan--was down in Hailey, Idaho, about six years ago to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of Ezra's death. The week-long festival thrown by the town's business council included such non-literary events as a barbecue (hamburgers and hot-dogs), a hayride, and a competition to see who could spit watermelon seeds the farthest (the winner of which received a bushel of corn).

It was at the barbecue that my friend got caught up in the free-flowing excitement, and by five o'clock on the great day he was half-drunk on Cockspur rum. He was sitting on a picnic bench, eyes fixed on a church spire about five hundred yards away, when an old man walked over and sat down beside him, his back resting against the table's ketchup-stained top. "You want to know about Ezra Pound?" the fellow celebrant asked him. "Sure," he said. "I'll tell you something about Ezra." "Great. Go ahead."

The man, about eighty, looked at my friend, took a bite of his wedge of watermelon, and licked his lips. "That boy could knit. K-N-I-T. Knit."

My friend laughed.

"Mind you," continued the wizened old man, "I didn't know him well. But it was my mother who taught him. The Moss stitch. The Windmill. The Garter stitch. Large Diamonds, Double Seed. Close Checks. Chevron. Seafoam. It's like it was yesterday. I remember listening to her talk about knitting. Yeah, she used to talk about him all the time. I bet you had no idea."

"About knitting?" asked my friend.


"No, I didn't."

"You know he knit his own shroud. Big, must've been ten feet around. A big, blue-fringed thing with a nice big swastika right in the middle. That's the goddamn truth. Couldn't stand Jews. Why? He never forgave them for stealing the bagel. Making it theirs. Sonuvabitch was a real bastard. Oh, even my mother knew that. Knew it when she caught him pulling himself...you know...in a slice of warm bread. My mother baked all her own bread. A boy of twelve masturbating right in her kitchen. Now what kind of boy does that? Yeah, but she got him. Made him eat the bread. What do you think about that!"

"I don't know...What kind of bread?"

"And now people come here for his poetry. Never liked it. But it's good for business. I own the drug store 'round the corner. I'll tell you this: I've never sold more condoms in a week. Condoms and vinegar. Go figure that!"

Finally my friend begged his leave, saying that he had to find his wife. The stranger clapped his hand on my friend's shoulder and bade him farewell. But just as our Pound fan was almost out of earshot, he heard the thin voice yell "Wait a minute!" My friend turned. "I've got one box left," the druggist said, "if you need 'em."

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