Thursday, December 30, 2010

Shit Could Be A Whole Lot Righter

...Really I began the day
Not with a man's wish: may this day be different,
But with the birds' wish: May this day
Be the same day, the day of my life.
--Randall Jarrell, "A Man Meets a Woman in the Street"

Domino-like, one
"maybe" followed another
until...all fell down.
--Rachel Wetzsteon, from "Among the Neutrals"

Why didn't anybody tell me this shit was over? Couldn't someone have told me that I was climbing off one dying horse and onto another?

If you saw a man heaving one word after another into a casket wouldn't you have the courtesy or curiosity to ask him what the hell he thought he was doing?

No answers required.

No one blogs anymore, apparently. Or only old people do. I'm old, but I'm not that old, and God knows I'd hate to be quaint. There's still plenty of whippersnapper in me, but not enough to know what exactly the whippersnappers are doing now that they're not blogging.

At this point, however, I don't suppose I'm likely to find out.

I'm pretty damn sure, though, that the youngsters are not sitting around with their dogs listening to Bryan Ferry. Perhaps you'll agree with me that no straight man should ever listen to Bryan Ferry unless a woman is present. But there you have it: I am listening to Bryan Ferry. There is no woman present.

It's not the way I drew it up in the playbook all those years ago, but it is what it is.

Bryan Ferry is 65 years old. He probably has a blog.

Look, I'm not expecting a telegram anymore. Hell, I no longer even expect mail. I expect something, though. It doesn't look like the world can beat that out of me. I probably couldn't claim to have great expectations anymore, but I am still --I think-- expectant.

Actually, I can't say. I can't say, and I don't know, and I'm not sure.

Maybe you exist. Maybe you're actually out there, and this is some sort of connection. I'm grateful if you do, and if you are, and if this is.

I am, I can assure you, at least happy to imagine, and it is my one fierce hope that I will remain so, even if this shit is over. Which it appears to be.

If, in fact, you're real, I imagine you are good people, and I thank you and encourage you to persist in being good people. Hold your heads up high when you walk down the street. Say hello to the neighbors. Ignore the actuary and the clicking of his abacus. Seize every opportunity to defy gravity and amortization. And please find someone to dance with, hold them close, and speak some of your very best and most sincere words directly into their ear. Don't ever lie to the one you dance with.


May you be seen and heard.

May you be known.

And may you never, ever be destroyed.

Sweet dreams.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Upon A Time, Once

I am listening to monk impersonators, but if you put a blindfold on me I wouldn't be able to tell you I wasn't hearing the real deal. That's how tired I am and how damn good these characters are.

Listening to the monk impersonators makes me remember the time I was walking along a road somewhere with my dog and heard monks singing. Real, live monks.

There was some sort of monk habitation there, and it looked every bit the part. I also recall noticing that these particular monks kept bees. Perhaps I'm imagining the bees, but I don't think so. I'm quite certain there were bees there, or evidence of the keeping of bees.

I may even have seen a presumed monk, outfitted in one of those bee suits (the kind that look like astronaut suits from an old issue of some science fiction magazine) and waddling across a field toward what appeared to be bee towers.

This, of course, would have been while the other, unseen monks were singing. Or chanting, which may be the proper term.

It was a lovely day in late spring. The windows of the monk lodging must have been thrown open for me to be able to so clearly hear the startling sound of the singing. I recall that there wasn't another soul in sight. I also have an image of blindingly bright linens --bedsheets, I think I surmised-- swaying gently from a clothesline.

Where or when would this have been? Somewhere in Europe, I suppose, in a time when my life seemed to be comprised of nothing but just such wonders and I as yet had no reason --not a single reason in the world-- to suspect that the wonders would ever cease.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Fall On Your Knees

One day soon, if someone asks me I'll say I was never here. I'll claim the last five years never happened, because they didn't. They never happened. These words don't exist, have never existed. Whatever words did exist you won't find here, no matter how hard you look.

I'm not assuming anybody's going to look hard.

If there had been that much time I'd feel something, wouldn't  I? Wouldn't I have some memory of something having happened? But I don't feel or remember anything other than things that happened way more than five years ago.

I know time is supposed to fly, but it doesn't. I'm not denying that there are indeed some things that fly, just that time isn't one of those things. So, no, I'm not one of those flight deniers. There are, though, plenty of things that I'm prepared to deny, and I don't give a rat's ass what anyone has to say about it. If I haven't seen it or can't remember it, it goes right in the 'denial' column.

I fall down. I've fallen down. That's something that I won't deny, but I'm also not prepared to admit it as any sort of proof that the last five years happened. Maybe I fall down in some other dimension. I don't know, to be honest with you, but I do know that I don't fall down in what some of you people will insist on calling the real world or "the here and now."

I'm not going to deny that hamburgers exist, because I ate one recently. Ate the living shit out of it, and almost felt some small sense of gratification simply because a hamburger isn't soup and soup is mostly what's served up in Limbo, if anything is served up at all.

I realize that by admitting to the hamburger business I'm opening the door for folks to say that the very "fact" that I recently ate the living shit out of a hamburger somehow proves that at least ten or fifteen minutes of the last five years actually happened. It doesn't prove that at all, and doesn't have a thing in the world to do with the last five years. Nothing does, because the last five years never happened. The hamburger, the soup, the occasional serving up of something --these things all take place (which isn't to say they happen) in what I call the astronaut creases, these floaty, slow motion interludes that are necessary to sustain a body that is living completely outside of time.

You notice that not a single one of these clocks is in working order? See? That's what I'm talking about. That's exactly what I'm talking about. For five years nothing has even attempted to tell time. Everything has given up. Everything has stepped away from the car and put its hands in the air. Everything is waiting. Everything has stopped and will soon be over.

I'll never have been here, and even if I had been here, I can for damn sure tell you that I wouldn't have been one of those people who thought he was here in any kind of a hotshot, make-a-difference sort of way. You can certainly try to claim otherwise, but you were never here either.

You know that phrase "here and gone"? It means something.

At any rate, happy holidays to those of you who persist in believing that you're living in some sort of precious present, even though you aren't. Please don't think I'm not sympathetic to your delusions, because I surely am.
I can remember how irresistible that whole notion can be, and those memories and flashbacks are never more acute than during the Christmas season, which before the last five years never happened I loved unconditionally. Even in the bleakest limbo there's still something about it I love and cherish.

I can, in fact, describe almost exactly what it is about Christmas that I love, and love unashamedly. I love it for all the things it can still make me feel and remember (those feelings, of course, don't in any way discount my claims that the last five years have not existed; they are feelings rooted in memories of a time before the last five years never happened). And those things are so deeply rooted that I can now say that only the last obliteration of consciousness can threaten them. They are so powerful that it is even conceivable that they will survive beyond time. In a sense, of course, they already have.

I am, in the words of some writer or another, a self-made lonely man. Yet the rituals of the season (which I still faithfully honor even in my hermitage) continue to provide pure, narcotic transport. All it takes is the warm glow of the lights on the Christmas tree and an endless loop of the holiday standards of my childhood and I can travel even further out of time than frankly seems possible, given how out of time I already am.

There's something melancholy about these experiences and memories, certainly; the feelings they inspire, it seems to me, meet an almost precise definition of "bittersweet." They hurt, these feelings, but there is happiness buried deep, deep within them, and I remain grateful to have access to such a powerful store of memories and feelings. They are probably best shared, of course, yet they are so intertwined with memories of shared moments that there is some loveliness in them even in isolation.

I was truly happy once, it occurs to me, and not just once, but on a great many occasions. I was happy and hopeful and possessed of a certainty that there were people to whom I belonged, and a place that fit any reasonable definition of home. This season played such an over-sized role in nurturing my dreams and my imagination; it inspired my love of stories and music and community and ritual. It cultivated wonder. Even now, living in the no-longer present, I am able to recognize that I was blessed to be born into a family, situation, and time that honored such things and made them possible. As a youngster it was regularly made apparent that this was a blessing, and that there were people all around me and all around the world who were not so fortunate as I was.  A proper appreciation of our blessings required that we see these people, recognize ourselves in them, and acknowledge them with at the very least the offering of compassion.

I am in limbo now, but I can still feel and remember all those old wondrous things, and can still recognize and acknowledge those less fortunate and offer what's left of my treading heart to them, and also to the old memories and rituals that once made me such a happy and dreaming boy. A boy with a present, and a future. A boy who hadn't yet fallen.

The world was better and more whole (holier?) once, I believe, before the last five years never happened, but perhaps, in truth, it is only I that was.

Monday, December 6, 2010

In His Dreams He Built The First Ladder

In his dreams, the original creator believed that putrefaction was the beginning of all life. That before there was any living thing there was rot; decomposition before there was composition; that death preceded life and made it possible.

All of his life, for as long as he could remember, he had been blessed with visions.

The first creation of the first god he created was a compost pile that covered the entire earth. From the great compost pile grew the Tree of Life, and from the seeds that fell from the Tree of Life there arose from the earth --fertilized by putrefaction-- all manner of other plant life. And from the larvae and maggots and other blind, squirming things that were born in the putrefaction there grew flies and frogs and other creeping things, as well as, eventually, flying things that would perch in the branches of the Tree of Life and eat of its seeds and fruits.

On rare occasions the head of a raven that nested in the Tree of Life would turn snow white, and from that point on any common brush or shrub on which the white-headed raven alighted would bloom with flowers as red as the blood that would one day flow in great rivers throughout the world.

The original creator believed that the souls of evil men were reborn in flies, that flies were incubators and propogators of evil. These flies were the ultimate cause of the rivers of blood that would overrun their banks and flood the planet, and each time the floods receded a new age of putrefaction would commence and lay the foundation for another cycle of life.

He knew chaos, and believed in chaos, and saw in it both a source of wonder and the origins of order and all beauty, all ugliness, all good and evil. In his dreams he built the first ladder, which allowed him to escape the worlds he created. He recognized that the end was swallowed up by the beginning, the beginning swallowed up by the end. He was androgynous. He was lonely. He was no one. He was a dreamer and a dream, a dream born in the first clouds.

He saw everything, including the first moonlit night, the death of millions of planets and stars. God was born in him, and died in him --again and again, over millennia-- and with each new birth He was a new god, wiser yet more cynical, with a new host of tricks up his sleeve.

But he --he in whom God was born-- was still lonely. In time he got lost in creation; it had gotten too vast, too teeming. He missed the first world, even as the putrefaction seemed to be once again rising around his feet.

He lived in a basement apartment, worked in a copy shop, and kept a large glass tank swarming with hide beetles. He carried plastic sacks in his pockets and would collect road kill --squirrels and rabbits, mostly-- that he would bring home for his beetles to scour right down to the bones.

When he turned sixty he sat down one afternoon and willed himself to stop dreaming, and when the dreaming ceased he was carried straightaway back to the clouds, where his soul became snow and fell all night, steadily and unnoticed, over the North Sea.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The People Who Learned To Hide

The girl who was never asked to Homecoming. Or any other dance. The girl who had never danced, period. The girl who would get up every morning and dress so carefully, anguished, long moments in front of the mirror, turning, scrutinizing, thinking: nothing she did would matter; no one, not one person, would notice her, would see her, would do anything but look right through her. The girl who never liked what she saw in the mirror. The girl who finally let a boy hold her down and fuck her, a boy who left bruises on her breasts and never spoke to her again. The girl who never learned to speak what was in her head, never learned to sort it out, to give voice to it. The girl who never raised her voice, who didn't dare. The girl who wished she could crawl into her old dollhouse and live out her days without ever moving again.

The boy who learned to hide. The boy who had his books knocked out of his arms hundreds of mornings and afternoons at the bus stop. The boy who was always picked last for teams in gym class. The boy who was always the last to undress and shower in gym class. The boy who never raised his hand. The boy who sat alone in the lunch room. The boy who loved Tarzan. The boy whose parents never gave him a baseball mitt. The boy who threw like a girl. The boy who lived in fear of the dodge ball. The boy who sat alone in his room each night filling notebooks with words or sketches nobody ever saw. The boy who looked longingly at the moon from his bedroom window and longed to live there some day. The boy who hoped to be spared. The boy who was not spared, or who was entirely spared.

The single woman mourning alone the loss of her cat. The single man who walks by the playground each day and feels a hole in his soul. The single man who is afraid of actually engaging any of the children he meets for fear of being suspect. The single men and women who stand outside the Super America at ten o'clock at night, intently scratching away at lottery tickets. The single men and women who go through the drive-through at McDonald's alone at midnight. The single men and women who drink alone. The single men and women who wish they were not single, who wish they had children, who talk to themselves or their dogs. The single men and women who believed in fairy tales. The single men and women who no longer care what they look like and no longer listen to music and no longer believe in love. The single men and women who can't think of anything to say to the people who aren't there or the people who are no longer there.

The old man who lost the love of his life and his connection to the world. The old men and women who never found success or satisfaction in their work. The old men and women who no longer dream. The old men and women who eat canned soup for dinner. The old men and women who no longer feel like taking their pills. The old men and women --and the young men and women-- who will spend Christmas alone.

The fifty-year-old man with the newspaper spread out on the floor in front of him, circling unpromising and in all likelihood hopeless job advertisements.

The stutterers, stammerers, and mutterers. The lonely and blank and broken. The angry and disenchanted. The unloved and unseen. The people for whom hope has been reduced to a persistent and almost entirely unpleasant instinct that grows more acidic by the year, yet which remains on some sad human level ineradicable. One connection, one real conversation, one person they could claim as a friend would be encouragement, if not a triumph.

They're everywhere. They feel like they are hiding. They feel like they're invisible. See them, why don't you? See them as they are, but also, if you're able, as they might once have been and --most importantly-- as they've always dreamed of being seen. Because this world is killing them, and they are killing the world, and every time we look through these people we are --all of us-- complicit in one of the greatest and most unpardonable crimes in human history.