poetry, prosetry

How The Surrender Happened Inside

I feel something when my eyes see that I don’t want talking to shatter. Always desiring, but desiring desire, wanting inner access, past the gate, but only for the simple strange something sake of getting in, never really wanting to stay, hedging to the vague side of the street to scramble any alterities of signal and noise over the din of found moments and too many persons, a few (maybe the two?) of “us” unnecessary selves popping murti-bings for the imagination of health in the midst of ills, excepting on the basis of the stories we like to tell about who we are and how we’ve arrived coming being becoming here, forming connections, finding meaning, postulating purposefulness for the Great Convenience of ascribing conspicuously high meaning to extraordinarily low probability events, hell-bent on pointing fingers at ingeminate abstractions as though blame will provide some refuge from the usual.

Are you distracted yet, I wonder? You who are enigmatic, cavernous, and irradiating, while I side inside with the alluring separateness of closed doors and sometimes wide flung open windows, thoroughly flouting the principles of plausible deniability. Those trees out there, they are just so much thinking. They sway, and there’s no such thing as absolute right and wrong, only right and wrong now, only ever right now. And wrong now. And what’s wrong now, what’s wrong now. What’s wrong now is this fantasy, you see, perfectly out of focus, this vagary of simple conjunctions tying my very disparateness up in a shoestring-strung stream of apparent consciousness and like all my fantasies it starts with silhouettes and secrets, some extant, desultory presumption of publicity to obscure dreams only a true pathologist could reconcile with reality. I’ll only tell if you truly wish to hear, I whisper from the margins, hounded by an insatiable hunger for definition, and only if you swear promise to keep that of me which to you I do entrust.

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life, poetry, prosetry

all i’ve ever known is true

Suppose life is just one big missed connection and post an awkward public notice to the young man inside.

I saw you walking down the uneven sidewalk on Tuesday night with your head hung low and hands in your pockets, exhibiting all the telltale signs of dejection and I wanted to offer something vaguely inspiring like sometimes there’s nothing to say so do what you can and trust your voice. Past action is the best indicator of future behavior, or so I recall when it’s convenient. Mentality is what mentality does and doesn’t that sound armchair rationalist. I know you didn’t ask—you didn’t even see me—but mine’s forever somewhere between gathering and telling and there’s a self-addressed open envelope on the drafting table with an undated note inside that says something Wittgensteinian that you might’ve once written like look, without explanation, without trying to remember the words, and try trusting that you’ll find the feeling and they’ll come together to form meaning that is free of fear or self-approbation. And maybe one day you’ll be lucky and cursed enough to lay like James Wright in a hammock at William Duffy’s farm in Pine Island, Minnesota when he realized he’d wasted his life and you’ll know you’ve wasted yours if this message ceases to reach you.

Post it, and see who responds.

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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

Keep Before You The Swift Onset Of Oblivion

The grass is patchy with indecision, or so I project, but the morning doves don’t seem to mind, pecking away with perfect indifference to the fact that the house smells of old painted-over plaster because that’s what it’s made of on the inside, but with new appliances like transplanted organs that haven’t yet taken to their host, much like me.

I struggle to write a poem. The neighbors are glad to have the day off, simply, making breakfast and coffee and planning cookouts for miles around, existing out of sight and half out of mind till a window is opened across the street by a pair of hands and diminishing arms. Partial existence is too easy of an analogy for beauty in this the golden age of rhetoric and armchair expertise, so I slap myself on the wrist and offer some superfluous indentations instead, privileging form over function and hoping no one will notice.

Everything we do, we do as an unnecessary consequence of something done before. A man in a white tank top smoking a cigarette at the foot of his front stoop says “there’s got to be something better than this, got to be something better than this going on somewhere.” I take it personally. The hateful sound of the ticking clock. I don’t want it to be impartial, but I understand.

 

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prosetry

Invention/Charade

Till it all falls away and nothing’s left but a great teeming swarm of perceiving subjects treading holy water somewhere out there between the infinite and the madness in us all, our immortal content.

That’s a beginning, he hopes, nodding to nothing, sitting on a city sidewalk bench in a city full of sidewalks and benches you can’t sleep on, sitting going on and on in media res in a month in a year in a lifetime, sitting there in the middle of a lifetime of specific individual looking and this time of all times looking at the cool kids with the old cool so old and crumbling away under the silky illusion of every new beginning as if they can’t be bothered to do the Ambrose thing and read it on and in and through themselves in maybe just a little bit of silence.

As he sits and looks he imagines his gaze weighs on their pretense just as times and stares and yearning sticky-fingered hands have worn down the surfaces of ancient sculpture, feeling for meaning, wondering how they do it and if oblivion laughs at us, if falsity is falsity no matter how good it looks, wondering how truth sleeps at night, how they do (soundly), being a truth they’re so truly sure of they don’t even have to tell and shouldn’t because the telling is decay.

Decay right then and there the moment you touch it or tell it like when you first holy roll the car off the lot, so he shuts himself up and turns to the unknown human at the other end of the bench and says I don’t even have to say the first thing about how doing’s just easier because it’s tricky, you know, to carry yourself with dignity.

And trickier still to be in these midsts, he hears. So he rises and heads up the stone steps into the museum thinking I don’t really like portraits anyway—they make me feel I have something to make up for. Give me landscapes and skylines and dark streets and rivers and seas and deserts and myths where the people are little more than marginalia free of any immediate anthropologies coming down hard on all this why.

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prosetry

Proclivity

Let’s perform this procedure and run these tests and hopefully then be done with this. Oh yes, and your heart can go on beating. That’s what the cardiologist said in a dream I had in August, not in real life, but it was nevertheless a relief, albeit late.

Camus, in real life, said “You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” I should’ve asked the doctor about the possible side effects of semantics on one’s physiognomy. But one rarely reasons in dreams.

It’s a good thing I’ve gone from documenting my brain patterns and emotions like so much abstract-realist reportage to actually simply merely finally really trying to tell stories, without so much cognitive noise going on. A good thing indeed.

Who else can I appeal to? Well, Ali Smith said novels are about sequence and short stories are about all that’s unsaid. “There is structure, but you know that there’s life somewhere in it, around it, free from it.” Saying without saying, living without looking. Albert, Ali, and expressionism, with an abstract look on its face.

If I had a writing teacher instead of a cardiologist he(?) might applaud that sentence. But one night in September, awake, I realized that no longer does my apparent fate seem to hang in each sentence’s balance, and no longer do I desperately hurl “my” words against the confines of presence and circumstance. They’re just structure for the story of life somewhere in it, around it, free from it, happy and living.

I close my eyes and sit on the edge of the bed and see thoughts as a tangled pile of string needing to be unraveled and pulled taught and I enjoy that double entendre without thinking myself clever. I can’t find any ends, which might just be how thoughts do, and my heart goes on beating.

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fiction

Seasons’ Spell 2

Part 2 of 4. Read part 1 here.


She sits in her chair at the same small square table by the same open window, a sultry, hazy sky beyond, air like bath water in both hue and temperature and stillness, air soaked up by the same hills and trees, same curtains, same oxalis, same tablecloth, now still and languid, though, same newspaper, but now laid flat, flat and folded on his side of the table. It’s how she feels too, she thinks, folded and flat, as she looks around the room with an almost purely peripheral gaze, almost at the paper, almost at his empty chair across from her, pushed in, then completely out the window, staring without seeing into the spaces around her.

There and with those thoughts she sits in her white cotton sun dress, a favorite of his, her thin arms crossed, long black hair held loosely up over her slender neck and lithe but sturdy shoulders. The day is waking hot and thick, soon to swelter. The heat’s ubiquity acts as a level, she imagines, aligning her with and to all the rest, and she feels ok enough, sort of, tells herself, for the moment, perhaps, looking up at the photograph on the wall above his chair, the small, dark-framed black-and-white photograph of a sidewalk along a foggy Paris avenue from the Past. It has been hung high at standing eye level so he, tall as he is, can give it a for-granted glance or even stop and peer in for a moment when he comes to sit or stands to leave. Sometimes he will gaze at the photo, lingering, caught, she often mused, by the cimmerian figure of a girl and her little white dog about halfway to the image’s vanishing point, standing and looking back at the viewer between a row of bare trees to the right and a corresponding line of store- and housefronts to the left, together forming a corridor of sight with the sidewalk as its floor, leading straight to the girl. Its origin unknown, he has carried this photo with him for years, and where he hangs it is home, marked.

It must’ve been winter there, she fancies each time she looks, or late autumn, perhaps. The trees are bare and a cold-seeming mist hangs, obfuscous, and a presence of something about three paces short of sinister seems to lurk, just a sense of what if, what if the frozen moment were allowed to play. What would we see? He never talks about the photo, never describes it, never says anything more than that it’s “one of his favorites,” keeping the rest, whatever it is, to himself in his customary self-keeping way. He has never been to Paris, she knows that much. It’s something from inside him, she thinks from time to time, and then placed on the outside, hung on the wall, open to view and most likely best left untrammeled by common language.

It is summer Now, though, no matter what it was in Paris or inside him Then, and her gaze drifts to the window and out to the sky, still thinking of the photograph, losing herself in the vapid, smoky blue marked with incidental clouds, some whisping, some cottoned, all hanging above inert treetops and a thought occurs as a crow swoops through the frame. Chekhov and necessity. “If a pistol appears in a story, eventually it’s got to be fired,” he said, she recalled, and it stuck with her the way her arm feels stuck to the table in the heat, the way she feels stuck now, though she knows implicitly that the stickiness has no meaning beyond itself, and is glad for Chekhov, glad someone has thought thoughts before, glad for thoughts of function and relationality, for necessity, for something more concrete than morals or principle. She sits, ruminative, and time hangs, floats, drifts, slow and quiescent, detached from space.

The dog barks outside—three times, two, then one—and she rises from her seat, draws the curtains, and slips on her shoes.

*

Afternoon now, late, but still not dark, and she sits on the sill in her white cotton sun dress, feet bare and dirty and knees tucked up to her chin, looking, just looking, and hearing without listening to the low, unpunctuated hum of the World. Her gaze drifts down from the clouds—fewer now, and their sky deeper and bluer and yellowing with early sunset—and settles absently on the hills and treetops extending as far as Forever and she wonders where he could be. Wonders, imagines, begins to fantasize that he’s lost in the great wild wonderland on some great wild wonder-adventure, even worries a little, for comfort’s sake, oh familiar and trusty concern, hoping he’s safe and well-fed and thinking of her, longing for her, hoping against a deep gnawing knowing that it’s just foolishness, but a sustaining foolishness nonetheless, she tells herself, her thoughts becoming as boundless as the emptiness she’s beginning to sense within and without. He should’ve been back by now, should’ve been back, this is not like him. But something more than nothing tells her he’s not coming, not all of him anyway, and in her mind their wonderland begins turning to mere land, coarse, tangled, verdant, and overgrown, as if a switch has been flipped in a dimly-lit room and the thin gauze of their swoon-myth evaporated.

No, no, breathe, she tells herself, breathe, remembering she needs a reminder, something essential and constitutive, a mantra against the nothing around and rising dismay within. She inhales and hears it fill her, thinks about the air in her lungs, how it’s hers and she’s captured it, how it gives her shape and for a few seconds she’s an origami swan floating there in the viscid air, then it’s expelled and she’s folded and flat again, like the newspaper still on the table, still untouched. She swings her feet to the floor and leaves the window behind, padding off to busy herself, must stay busy, make sound, motion, life, something against this slow summer crawl of time, this boundlessness. He’ll be back and it’ll be ok, like Before, air in and out, remember.

In the evening he returns, just past dusk, and a pale midsummer moon sits low in a star-flecked sky of majestic blue-black through the window. He is troubled, solemn, and distant, not himself, not at all. She is in her chair again; he does not sit, leaning on the doorframe instead. A few small words are exchanged, a few small glances, then he goes off to bed. She remains at the table, feeling smaller than small and still breathing small breaths, and the world Out There comes In Here and suddenly it seems that there are strange trees growing right up from a grass-covered floor, ivy snaking up the walls, and dark bushes in the corners with little eyes glinting from within, the room’s lamplight hushed and outshined by the night sky ceiling. There is a long howl somewhere off in the distance and a slow-stammered hoo-HOO-hoo-hoo in the branches and she feels the crickets in her bones. Afraid to move, almost afraid to breathe, it is all finally too much for her, and then she goes too, to join him, small steps with small, bare feet, almost silent, hoping the truth won’t hear her and follow and she can at least have the night.

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