On the Way to Becoming a Pile of Glass

I bike to and from work one of two ways. The decision to go one way or the other is made by the simple act of taking a turn or not. A binary option of avenues. No detectable forethought goes into this turn or lack thereof. I just do or do not turn.

My idea of the life and the universe is that everything is happening as a result of momentum from a giant explosion at the beginning of time. Our actions are decided just as the jar that fell is already broken. Absent deus ex machina, we are watching ourselves take actions that we have decided to take responsibility for but which were already decided. We’re at the theater yelling at the character to not open that door but we know she’s going to open that door and she’s already dead. That’s OK.

I bike to and from work one of two ways (which is really a total of four ways) and I like to imagine that the decision I make not to ride the way that I did the day before, to make that split second decision to turn instead of not, will change the direction of my life, however minutely. Even within one of those four ways to or from work there are slight alterations to the route.

Take a right at 65th then an immediate left on 7th one time and I might make eye contact with a stranger on their porch taking tea or a beer, which might make me feel invigorated and awkward leading me to think about the interaction for the remainder of the ride home. This memory could stay with me for many years and I may see them on the bus a few weeks or months on, seeming familiar but out of context, stare at them too long or ask them a question or forget about them after unsuccessfully trying to pin them down in my list of casual eye contact people.

If I slip up a different street, the one that passes the grocery coop, maybe I think to grab a sixer and some radishes (to clean at the sink, salt at the sink, and eat at the sink). My life changes, if just a little.

I like to think these things as a challenge to my idea that the jar is already broken and the girl is already dead. It’s just as possible that my route rearrangements are just the movements of a scripted character unchangeably walking toward certain doom (presumably an analogue less gruesome than death by the inevitable chainsaw or butcher knife or ax). We are all walking toward certain doom (if the idea of inescapable death at some unknown juncture is your definition of doom as well).

I am not hoping to escape said doom but to express the hope that at least some of my actions are movements outside the written narrative (while still within the general direction). On the way to my certain doom, a level of personal autonomy is appreciated. Whether or not I am truly exercising this autonomy is outside of my knowledge, necessarily. The act of writing about it does no more to solve the query than does the act of turning. But, by the act of turning (or not), I may by multiple iterations try to initiate changes against the life I would have lived locked into the same route.

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Thoughts on Flight

It’s difficult to get over the idea of air travel once you start rolling through it in your mind, after all the rush of conveying your possibly overpacked bags through the airport, into the shameful meat grinder of security–shoeless, beltless you being marched through like benign cattle for scanning and tagging and the suspicious eyeing over. After everything, after you deal with feeling violated by an over-macho security state, you settle into the waiting room for your flight tube. You begin to think about said flight tube. Continue reading

as idle hunters we followed the stalking sun, horizon to horizon on its endless chase behind the unwary moon. we have guarded it’s ears as our own, shielded our wandering eyes together, silenced our collective tongues against the sins of the day but opened wide our mouths to the vigils by night. we did not sleep then & as the dawn slumbered on we lay traps in the sand & drove dreams between the narrow forks of trees. our star lit sacks were full then, our bodies slack under the deceiving murmur of rustling leaves.

as reluctant warriors we sharpened the tips of spears & arrows on the sidewalks of foreign cities, on the temple walls of villages without name. marching shoulder to shoulder with the armies called down from the morning, burying calloused heels into the soft earth with the dog soldiers, naked but for the sound, crisp & papery, of borrowed feathers & shaky soliloquies, do not loose your arrows into the voices of the wind.

as scribes, fitted with inattention & ready hands filled with details & steady stylus. we scratched incantations & the whispers from the dark, or else nonsense, & the madness of the day. all of this, between the lines of codices & the tidy ledgers of greedy merchants. all f this, under the auspices of dark, iridescent birds lining the rooftops of adjoining buildings & courtyard walls.

as homesick gypsies we unburdened our heavy loads in the places we left behind, saving our laden hearts for more wearisome journeys, more festive evenings. we allowed the wind blow our sun kissed shoulders to the borders & unmarked edges of things, as it compelled us onward, we too drew from outside the lines on the flimsy maps we carried at our sides.

as sinners, reposed & thoughtful , still against the pull of night. our courage calls down the sliver of moon to the fullness of our bellies. our sainthood teeters on the edge of a knife & leads our indiscretions around the room, by the nose & yoked to the dreams of last night where we tucked our memory in with a passing blanket of clouds.

 

shouldered weight brings a stoop to the gait & a strength to the least of breath.  the way flesh looks in black & white, stretched upwards on rumpled sheets, the way it flashes in recorded light , forgotten shadow.  women’s work & men’s to sorrow, little hands to mend & give away tomorrow.  i would like to talk with the giants from my childhood, towering there still.  i could call to them as friends might, but i’m afraid they would not recognize my shrinking voice, looking instead to the swallows, dipping their forked tails from swaying, empty telephone wires, one, by one, by one.

Painters and Poets Sharing Walls (Part 3)

All things must end and so must this series. We had three paintings and three poems. This is the last of them. It felt good to have my work displayed alongside such stunning visual art. Maybe it will happen again someday. That would be nice.

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“Red Flower” Anne Petty (click to enlarge)

 

               I Used to Ride Bicycles

I remember bleeding on the pavement of my childhood streets, 
my soggy lip pinned earthward, 
my straggling eye looking toward sky, 
toward roof, 
toward the intimate thatching 
of human spectator, 
toward gaping wet holes of sockets and lips, 
toward fields of thought and folds of reality 
that are more right now than they were right then, 
toward futures that lay before me 
back then but before now, 
of colleges and sex organs 
and tiny fungal top hats 
that proclaim to show truths of divinity 
and do show truths of divinity 
and harpsichord vibrations 
telling things words merely offend 
and that tree that one time in sophomore year 
indented across the sun 
and in turn indented across me,
(I think it was an Oak,) 
the labyrinthine avenues of my neural synapses 
and my brown-haired brown-eyed Maria, 
toward my house on the corner, 
toward hope of immediate respite, 
toward the closed-eye undulations of dream.

remembered

winter sun turns polished brass to golden honey on the wall.

hearts break at the memories that stick,

flimsy ones a nervous mind fashions of rags & threads

that it hoards in mountainous ruin.

our stories breathe without living then,

they speak in hoarse wind whispers,

for the benefit of ears pressed to moth holes.

 

your hands seemed so large then,

they hold so little now i wonder where it is

that thing they have built is hidden.

we have forgotten how to speak,

words winding round sun lit spires,

coiling like Eve’s serpent

beneath the tree we would all rather forget,

the one we never carved our names into,

or the one you planted before your children were born.

 

on the grass below sunlight dances with shadow

& our ethereal hearts, our feather light feet.

the dark clots around collective sadness,

presses it’s inky palms into faces.

phosphene burns behind our eyes,

sinister in the daytime, so much faerie dust

in the hush of shared bedrooms.

 

early rhododendron blooms look like clusters

of deflated, pink balloons in sheaths of green.

clouds fall like insubstantial blankets we share

but belong to no one, our childhood amnesia hides

beneath them, it’s tiny laughter, redolent & unashamed.

 

The Demon Winter

Winter is a demon, but necessity precedes its existence. The skies here are the ubiquitous dull gray of hibernation. We don’t get to sleep for months though. We must work. Cycling or walking or driving through the insistent peck of drizzle, you turn the music up and pop an extra Vitamin D tablet, in order that you don’t commit some serious felony against yourself or others. Winter here describes the content of the drab stuff of existentialism. Sad Camus sitting at the toilet, listening to the rain rail ceaselessly on the ventilation shaft that leads to the roof of his ramshackle apartment. Something like that. It’s necessary though, and you have to keep telling yourself as much. It is necessary that we suffer. You map it out on a line graph. The low points are directly proportional to the highs, and vice versa. A single line running linear through the middle is unacceptable. Breathe deep to maintain. Only months to go. Beyond the gray stuff of cloud, beyond the months of precipitation, there lies a future of sun and leisure. You’ll toss your Vitamin D to the back of the cabinet, and repeat “Be here now” in your head like a TM mantra until it loses all meaning and the big gray head of fall comes into view again.

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This is depressing, I know. But to meditate on it allows us to escape from it. It’s definition creates delineation. There it is and here is all the rest. Beer, wine, sleep, books, entertainment, coffee, etc. This is where we can live until the pressure lifts. Life is absurd. To know its absurdity is to see the levity. Here comes Camus again, from the Myth of Sisyphus:

“Yet a day comes when a man notices or says that he is thirty. Thus he asserts his youth. But simultaneously he situates himself in relation to time. He takes his place in it. He admits that he stands at a certain point on a curve that he acknowledges having to travel to its end. He belongs to time, and by the horror that seizes him, he recognizes his worst enemy. Tomorrow, he was longing for tomorrow, whereas everything in him ought to reject it. That revolt of the flesh is the absurd.” – Camus

I am thirty now. I will soon be thirty-one.