Cover Up and Say Goodnight

Between us, I suppose did all the feeling. The inherent disobedience of singing our contrapuntal song above outside around the din was to me in my youth like tying dreams to kings and great things, though knowing better than to presuppose any manner of nobility coursing through our line of magnetic men of middling, modest talents and infernos for intellects, consumed by sublime, contemptuous ambition like true artists, was of course in the nature he so vigorously bestowed, father to son.

Then one day I felt a feeling of his. The effortful suppression, the stifled idealization harvested from exiguously-tended fields of experience, finding it easier to form a new habit of staying from the choppily selective remembrance of what it was like to “go there” than to actually still continue to try to (let myself) go.

Well, it’s about being, I’ve come to realize, after so many years of fevered, young becoming when there was always somewhere else to be. The line ends here, though, I say; I say I’ll be the first of us to release my grip on this familial melody and allow my ends to fizzle into truly new beginnings, and in the saying sneakily suspect I hear faint echoes of this verysame tune I now find myself singing, wondering if he’s heard them too, knowing I’ll never ask, finding contentment in a discordance I with feeble bliss presume to be my own.



The sun was low and melting through the palms and garish columns when we arrived after flight and frightful drive along winding shoreline lanes in a bus too large for such turns and twists.

We approached the front desk in the open-air lobby and I heard the ocean, fancying it was music, or heard music and fancied it was ocean, and for a moment I attempted in vain to consider the virtues of solitary companionship, nevertheless wondering why I hadn’t come alone.

Days later, I would walk out into the sea through the waves till they became eye-level swells and my feet no longer touched the soft sand beneath; I held my breath and sank in the ease of dissolution.

I should just keep going, I thought as I lost all touch and all taste for judging, suspended in merciful indifference, the undulations of the blue-green water washing away any remaining fear of what I’d learned and who I’d been and what I might become in the great vastness of the permeable and possible.


Peculiar Times

We live in peculiar times.

We speak Nadsat without realising, and are surprised and disappointed when others don’t understand;

start a new ashtray in a plastic yoghurt pot instead of emptying the big glass one that’s fit for purpose but overflowing, then repeat until your entire room has turned into one giant tray of ash;

wake up totally exhausted after 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep;

rely too heavily on answers garnered from an upturned glass shifting gracelessly across a ouija board;

take 133 tablets of psychiatric medicine every week and still feel so terribly unwell, like if your brain doesn’t kill you first then kidney failure will;

wonder how you still have room for all the painkillers, vitamins and narcotics that also allege to make you feel better but take them anyway, then hear them rattle inside you when you shake;

judge people based on the type, style and colour of the material covering their feet and be cruel to strangers solely because of their eyebrow shape;

feel more inspired standing outside the house that your favourite writer killed herself in than at the house in which she lived;

live and die without a single person knowing you;

drink a can of coke and then eat a mento mint and marvel at the fact that your stomach hasn’t exploded;

take our old selves for granted and then kick ourselves when we discover that we’ve lost our best self and can’t get her back;

feel offended about every single thing, all of the time;

cause offense to those who think you should be offended and are offended that you are not;

cause offense by opening our mouths;

cause offense by keeping our mouths shut;

drive to the middle of nowhere and engage in primal scream therapy;

buy a pack of 500 bobby pins and only have 6 left in your possession two weeks later;

go from an immense feeling of relief when the pregnancy test is negative to an immediate sense of utter horror when you realise if you’re not pregnant then you’ve just gotten fat;

throw away the (perfectly good) first and last slices of a loaf of bread;

pick green fur off the remaining slices;

feel unreasonably angry that the picked-at bread is taking so fucking long to turn to toast under the glowing amber grill;

hear our friend’s voice from behind us say with such solemn sagacity, “A watched bread never toasts,” and laugh and laugh and laugh until you smell burning.



These finite, constant minutes of mine–
he says we have to make ours count
but I just count them down
more concerned with surviving them than living them,
with tolerating them than filling them,
watching the spokes skip around the Death Counter’s dial,
studying the friendly face of my bedside clock,
knowing that the meaning of life is that it stops,
it stops
but not soon enough for me
(too soon for most though, apparently).


Our love died when I lost track of time:
we thought we had so much of it.
But while I’ve been writing this
the clock stays in my eye line,
and you’ve inched a minute closer to your death,
while I’ve leapt a minute nearer to mine.
Oh, we had the time of our lives, all that time, all of the time.
(It’s really nice knowing that neither of us will make it out of this alive).


In the hours when I cannot bear to be alive,
I just sit and watch my watch,
watch my future decreasing, watch my past growing,
knowing that I can always find comfort
in the movement of metal hands,
in the glow of green lines shapeshifting
in the corner of the darkened bedroom,
watching you sleep away your minutes,
while I think away mine.
Every minute propels us forwards,
toward a good thing, or great things,
a tragedy, an opportunity,
and our deaths, ultimately.
(It’s only a matter of time).


I stand outside the jeweller’s shop
and stop
and watch
the clocks–
High Street Hypnotherapy.
I light a cigarette and press my forehead to the glass
and watch the clocks, trying to catch one out for being too slow,
or maybe all the others are fast?
But they move like,
they move like fucking clockwork
and so I remain with my head against the pane,
killing time in the rain,
in pain, killing time,
literally watching time disappear.
You’d call this a waste of a time
but it’s not, it’s progress,
it’s necessary progress,
staying alive until the time comes to die.
Now that I’ve typed this
I’m three minutes closer to that time,
and now that you’ve read this
so are you
(closer to your time as well as mine).



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.



Maybe one day we’ll meet and neither of us will know what to say for no reason other than. It’ll sound like the weaponization of awkwardness, imagined future meeting imagined present, imagining all those incomplete sentences and overanalyzed gestures, till I go and spoil it with answers (I imagine) because I love to believe and love even more to explain—at least till I go and hate myself for it later—and you cut me off, knowing how things play out, to talk about finding words that are fuller and fewer and sharper and less noisy and I say I tried, answering, exaggerating, for this lifetime I tried, knowing you know better.

You’d roll our eyes, and I’d peculiarly change the subject, or seem to. Chapter V, “Beta, The Disappointed Lover,” I’d say, dangling it out there to speak for me less noisily. It was marked, you’d recall as if on cue, by a folded up printout of Wisława Szymborska’s Nobel address, of all things, and we’d get on about how neither of us remember doing that and about how dragging two Polish poets into this like this is like the start of a joke only Polish poets would find funny. And there I’d be, a little disappointed you didn’t have more answers than I but happy to be on the same page. 111, I think it was.

For now, as I sit in a quiet café across from the presumption of you, I distract myself from thoughts of our little rendezvous with seemingly comparable thoughts of starting a literary magazine out of the blue with a troupe of fringe-dwelling strangers called The Against because sometimes a little carnivalization is better than the silly sum-seeking rum-running of being for something before burying my nose in a worn copy of the Oxford Companion to Music that I got for a few dollars at a summer book fair at this city’s greatest bibliothèque of the humanities for no reason other than that they were there, library and book, and me, full of pent-up irony, as though it might contain answers to questions I don’t yet know I’ll want to ask.

The air outside is cold and the cold outside starts to remind me inside of all the fancy things I thought before I started sticking to the present and ceased to ruminate in caffeine-whiskey pools upon my moony captivation with the lofty side of experience like it was a new neighborhood in a new city I might move to. Laferrière said “the more I try to get close to myself, the more I’m hiding something. There is nothing more fake than real life.” I think I’ll stay here, it’s the only way to get anywhere, speaking of dualities. It’s only life. It’s only everything. I’m only me, now and then. I only stop so often because it’s so hard to begin, but beginning’s like holding an unread book, you just want to carry it around a while, inobjectively, reveling in the elementary allure of possibilities and all their exquisite contradictions.

I close the Companion and look across the small table at your empty chair. Never have I envied you, never have I even feared, only imagined a certain oneness, a wholeness of experience of the sort they say we find in sickness, in violence, in the invasive presence of others, in words.



The blind old gypsy man grabbed my arm as I walked past and said quietly, “You’re in pain.” I said, “How d’you know that?” avoiding looking into his milk-glazed eyes, and he replied with a wry smile, “Anyone can see you’re suffering. It’s obvious to a blind man.

His friend across the table said to me in a broad accent, “Why? What happened to you, girl?” The blind man and I replied at the same time. I said, “Nothing.” He said, “Everything.

Several seconds passed and it was as if the earth had got stuck on its axis, skipping on its turntable, the same intense moment fluttering on repeat before lurching forward to where it’s supposed to be. The old boy dropped my arm and I scuttled away, trying to shake off the sensation of what felt like a snake writhing up my spine.

In the safety of the ladies toilets I stared at my reflection in the dirty mirror, seeing myself with my own eyes looking at my eyes with my eyes. Was I that obviously broken? How can it be that those closest to me with perfect eyesight couldn’t see how much I was hurting, but this blind stranger could? I thought then of the old saying that the eyes are the window to the soul and then thought about why I always wear sunglasses, even when it’s dark, even when it’s raining. I always thought it was because I didn’t want people to see that I’m drunk or hungover, but maybe it’s because I don’t want anyone to see my pain, maybe I don’t want anyone to know me. For reasons that I couldn’t quite grasp I felt certain that that encounter would go down as one of those highly significant, if not pivotal moments in my life. I wanted to talk to this man some more. No, I didn’t want to: I needed to. I had so many questions. Too many.

I rushed back out to the floor but his table was empty. There was no sign of his friend either. Just an empty whisky tumbler and the frothy remains of a Guinness dripping down the inside of its glass. I pushed past the crowd at the bar, out the door and onto the street. I looked up, down, across the road, frantic. There was nothing, there was no one. It was as if they’d vanished.

I haven’t seen the blind old gypsy man since, but I can still feel the weight of his bony, weathered hand imprinted on the skin of my left forearm, its peculiar temperature that was neither warm nor cool, his grip so surprisingly heavy, saturated with a lifetime of wisdom, the gentle squeeze that said, “I know you,” and the fingertips that said, “I know.” And I know for sure that that strange old gypsy man is the only living being on this earth that truly knows me.