poetry, prosetry

The Light That Sometimes Increases the Wisdom of Joy

Sometimes I’m alive. Look at the sky. Feel the breeze. Read Dante. Write a poem. Love/lose someone. Have hope/despair. Good morning/night. Enjoy a meal. Ponder existence. Learn a new word. Paint a dream. Hold your breath. Ride a car. Drive the train. Run. Be here. Get somewhere and make it strange. It’ll be hard to take anyone along with you on this, he said. You have no faith in medicine. No, oxygen—the peaks are craggy and daunting and altitude sickness will make fools of the best of us.

Sometimes my mind is a run-down tenement with a sparkle inside where best friend and worst enemy are principia interchangeabilia. It’s not art that’s at stake, it’s identity, slipped in with faux-Latin. It’s not art, it’s identity. I do not so much insist on that as acknowledge it, I swear, though there was a time when insistence was all I had and let’s not go back. The question is now, whether to hide behind or live through. To live through identity, live through creation, or get mixed up in the matter of the mortar for adding more bricks to the wall.

Sometimes seeking specifics, I wonder: how often do you like who you are? Fact is, I like who I am to you, enjoying the pleasure at being a cause. Seeing myself in the reflection from the liquid in my cup one morning as slivers of sunrise slipping through the cracked blinds marked my multiform alliterations with what was left of dreams of humble harmless hands around my neck slowly squeezing the life into what I write, I again chose to remain out of focus, glad nothing is still a thing sometimes.

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poetry, prosetry

Pinned Like A Note On A Hospital Gown

Wednesday at 8pm on the back of a plain white business card, the address below. 4256 N Ravenswood, the ominous Brothers Grimm-ness of which is not lost on me though any sense of numerology very much quite most certainly is.

That’s today’s first certainly is, and it’s after 7:00. The next two are that the street is split by train tracks, and it’s the west side I want, southbound, quite certainly, because south is down and west is away from my shadow. Dial intercom 242. 2-4-2 on the intercom upon arrival, that is, more properly. Meet 3rd floor, less so.

Well at this rate I’ll be there by 7:50 and the sun will still be up over this the great shared world and isn’t it just beautiful and don’t you just want to smile? You better, because each and every single last fucking one of us is hurled nightly into a sleeping world all our own though I bet you didn’t know I just stole from S. Ocampo to say it so who’s to say whose is whose.

In transit, I consider language and liberation, considering that language may in fact be liberation and yet all I can seem to think to scribble are stories of how we’re living and obscure directions to other destinations.

That’s the problem with seeming to think. Better to just go on and do it, and leave all that seeming to the wanting, particularly the wanting each and every thing to be the thing, because we only get one shot before the next transmogrification.

So, taking mine, I push the envelope into another envelope and insist this time I will be delivered, now that I know the address. The sun has been fierce today and I wipe the fear from my brow with a no less fearful forearm, an act which merely smears the beads into streaks of misfortune.

How absurd it is to try so hard to be so tame when every single very last pore pronounces total freedom.

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life, poetry, prosetry

ventilator to the good darkness

And then there were those open spaces of my youth, stretched out between memory and oblivion like a birthmark. The mitochondrial spaces of summer, lush with hazy green vitality releasing isoprene that like magic mixing beauty and pain braided here and there to make the hills blue when you looked like we all did through air thick with sunshine and easy unknowns.

Spaces of forests explored and persistently wild with thick undergrowth cut through by streams and fauna and man, spaces of battlefields where we’d passively imagine finding traces of those who only a simple span of time before emerged from the stoic treelines to fight less for the glossed-over ideals in our second-rate historybooks than for old farm land by the snaking river that for millennia preceded the highway’s bifurcation, still holding claim though not through ancient custom or rite but through the anachronism of thick books with delicate pages that they eagerly yet without intention allowed to limn the past an impossibly remote, ever-present matter of romanesque words from a language other than their original and it’s all still there, still that, but I am not and never was though like those words I’ve been old and other all my life.

And the years advance simply, without us, like the soundscape of those spaces, humming a song that needn’t be as sad as it sounds, as it fades and I keep learning to speak.

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prosetry

tabernacled in flesh

It’s the keeping in that makes my heart palpitate because it’s not telling the truth and then I’m in a hospital bed being nothing but honest about the white in my beard. Football (or fútbol) or baseball (or fútbol). Boxers or briefs. Scotch or whiskey (or wine or beer). Blondes or brunettes or both or whatever. It’s this or that, to be a man, and sometimes life or death—but you saw that coming.

Poets are soft i.e. effeminate and I’ve been told I have both but definitions are fluid and you wouldn’t know it to look at me. All that matters is right now, he said, stoically, warm with stern tradition, and I’m constantly surprised to be here, tormented at times by possible selves and seeking an appropriate rendering of manhood to stick to.

Today I am the type who folds over the corners of too many pages of too many books, parturient with the power of what words have done to me and holding fast to the strange singular spirit within.

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prosetry

like a shadow burned into a wall

It was a week of work, my first in over two months. Funny how you can tell what kind of day you’ll have in the first ten minutes of wakefulness. Is sensitivity something we learn? It’s hard to emulate the idiomatic and constitutional, but easy to hide behind it.

Thoughts of authenticity the other night after watching “Atlanta” connected themselves to others about lived experience, my life, and Charles Johnson, who is from the town in which I now reside and will be here again to give a talk in May. This is apparently worthy of transcription.

Self-conscious self-criticism always “kept me honest” while I sought ways to raise myself up out of the everyday, confused, predictably romanticizing “just making it” and being afraid of dependence. Writing isn’t the application of forms, it’s unfolding. I’ve made my truths, fiction et non, and still going.

Really I’m not my past, but I can get back to it like Theseus to Ariadne. Peter and the Wolf gave me a glimpse of heritage as a child and I made it my own mythology. Peter was the violin and my middle name and all was quiet, all was well.

Russian fur hats and black boots and military jackets and good-natured young boys and protective grandfathers I never knew, if I had to pluralize. Now I write prose poems because they’re somewhere between rap and short stories and because I’m from somewhere where that makes sense, working for a living and working on a novel about belonging that I might should maybe call The Clew and the Minotaur but I won’t tell you who’s who.

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fiction

A Carapace for this Irredeemably Querulous Nature

I step out of the office and into the hall for an hors d’oeurve taste of corridor’d freedom, industrial-carpeted and fluorescent, tans and grays and whitishes with a texture at once abrasive and numbing, unsatisfying like a tease of a snack on a toothpick that’s been sitting out too long but is better than no food a’tall, and head to the men’s room.

He’s in there again, turning from a urinal and zipping up, and my heart does that sinking thing because I don’t know everything but I know what’s coming, and I want to rush over and clap my hand over his stupid mouth before either of us can make the human people word sounds, maybe just choke him out and be done with it, then drag the body to the back corner stall, whistling elfish and cheerful while I wash my hands and walk out like nothing happened because nothing did, just a little murder.

But I’m already speaking, before the anticipation and the thought form an action, homicidal or otherwise, and a single Howyuhdoin slips out of a mouth I thought was under my control. WELL THANKS HOW ARE YOU, his voice booms, clear and commercial, a parody of our unfortunate ability to locute, all enunciation and no heart like the words are big wooden blocks he’s arranged with infantile pride in some inchoate effort at communication, and I’m furious at the futility of being soft-spoken and hard-thought in a world full of empty-headed broadcasters so I kick his stupid fucking blocks all over the place and say I’m good.

My only wish is to evaporate so I stand there and hold rabbit-style still watching him without breathing in case that’s how that happens, thinking there’s strength in non-doing, weakness sometimes in action. It does not—quite. He looks at me quizzically and I wonder if he knows how to spell that, with all those z’s and l’s and such, because I always thought it had just one “z” the way “kat” only has one “t.” He probably does, because no one but a good speller could SPEAK IN SUCH NICE WORD BLOCKS and no one but a broadcaster could manage to look quizzically at another being without even a shred of a hint of curiosity, only an otherer’s sense of abnormality sensed and I’m at least placated for a moment, standing there motionless, staring, blinkless, my mouth slightly open, physiognomy frozen. I’ve got him cornered as a kat, door behind me, man against man.

But he breaks the spell and steps up to the sink and begins to roll up his cuffs. I abscond to a stall where I sit on the latrine to use it as a perch from which to watch him through the crack in the stall door. He talks into the mirror as he washes his hands and inspects his visage, talks about sports or the weather or politics or something, something immediate and mundane and I flush the toilet over the little deluge of nihility cascading from his facial orifice, imagining his words getting sucked down the drain.

Have you considered therapy, I ask, cutting him off. Honestly, for a year I was completely mental. The cost, the trouble of finding a decent therapist. What a nightmare.

Yeah, he says with utter dispassion.

Yeah, this is a nightmare, I think, contemplating the décor—all beige-brown, but almost warm-seeming, like someone who cares but has no taste. I stand, lift my trousers, zip and button them, fasten my belt, flip the latch, and open the door. He’s drying his hands with those sandpaper towels, facing the room’s far wall, the back of his dress shirt wrinkled and crinkled from all day in a desk chair with no breatheabilityness.

Oh, excuse me. You were talking. That’s what I say.

Oh, you’re fine, he says, without turning around.

You’re fine is something people say when other people apologize but it sounds less like acceptance and more like giving someone permission to exist, I think. Anyway, I said I was good, not fine.

Have you ever read Foucault’s History of Madness, I ask him in italics.

Foo-calt, he inquires?

Yes, Foo-calt, I say. It’s all in there.

What is?

Everything, all of it. You should pick it up sometime. But just open it, and be sure to do so in public, so people know you’re smart. Otherwise there’s no point.

He smiles, and I see him smiling because he’s facing me now and I’m facing him and it’s just like it was a few moments before, before I dashed into the stall for cover from a threat that didn’t seem to have the first clue that it was threating. He’s facing me but he’s not looking at me, still, again. Well, he’s looking at me but it’s as if he’s not seeing anything and I think of something Dany Laferrière said in an interview about being homeless—because he was once—about being looked straight through like it’s something people have always seen, with compassion, perhaps, but without the slightest surprise or recognition. I suppose it’s all in how we experience, how we choose.

Still smiling, he says alright, sounds good, and makes a move to walk past me and leave as if some manner of routine continuance would reestablish normalcy and what do I do but smash it all to bits by initiating the people-passing dance and stepping in the same direction.

Excuse me, he says. Shifting to the other side.

You’re fine, I say, sliding myself in front of him again. Right, left, right. I swear a brain circuit shorts and tiny puffs of smoke emit from his ears. He looks me in the eye, uncomfortable, perplexed, futilely soliciting an explanation like a dog when you take its toy away and hide it behind your back. It knows it’s there, somewhere, but isn’t too sure what you’ve done with it.

Ah, you see me now, don’t you, you fucker. But I don’t say that; I just look back, returning the perplexity, thinking yes, I see, this is the way to be visible.

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poetry, prosetry

Fortitudinal

Had an idea. I’d play on what “better” means. Mix it up with the categorical imperative of the should, a played-out life theme of troubling externality, but tied to illness—of mind, of heart, the usual. Weary of weariness, that sort of illness, I thought, anxious my abstractions would never get me out of the gate, recalling Pound and characteristically reading too much into things like when someone says too little or too much.

Is anyone worried I’ll succumb again? I am, sometimes, but I have confident things to say this time. Responses, I’d call them. And recovery, but unclinically. The benefits of solitude, together with you. It’s not thoughts that are dangerous, but thought patterns. The dream is more than process. I’ll still love you when you’re fat on Monday. Taken out of context, these things make sense.

“The unforeseen, improvised and fatal, fascinates me.” That was the Muse, again, making so much sense that there’s little left for us to… carve. What about another category of word, one that doesn’t seem to follow “making” so intuitively, so simplistically—that’d be poetry. This was supposed to be poetry. A centered column of left-right justified text of maybe eight words per line. If I knew more about language and the written word I’d know whether there was a proper name for that or not.

Time to get _____. Takes _____ to get better. Take all the _____ you need. Get _____. Do what _____ need. Take _____.

Time doesn’t come back around again like my poems do but seasons seem to make me think it does, and that’s more than just more language. This winter is unforeseen; it won’t be like the last, no matter how many words I throw—or don’t throw—at it. Thoughts, merely, and I look to the Muse, even though she was there then too, and ventriloquize alternative patterns so I’m not the only one speaking.

Not everything means something, says something. Not every moment is to be learned from, only learned, presumably with better grammar. I do the dishes with a whole new gnomic outlook. Whose word count am I exceeding and whose stylistic and formal sensibilities am I offending. Ezra, I hope, and all his acolytes. The more the merrier. Mencken said that in a letter to Dreiser in the past but he didn’t mean it the way I do now. I put the silverware to dry handle up. I mean I realized that the dream is process, held together by trust, the way one time in September—in a September—she said be better and go, trusting I’ll take what I need.

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