APR 19 2015
Staring at the back of a wine bottle. Sunday, early afternoon. Thought about you the other day while eating a sandwich in the park. It was sunny but cold and I walked there underdressed. I watched as mothers and maids pushed children by while odd, expensive dogs intermingled. Planes passed overhead and I could feel the subway cars clink and screech beneath me. Park Slope is nice and easy; a quaint limbo. Feels a bit strange to have ended up here.
Went into town the other day to see a Tàpies show. As it turned out, the show ended over a month ago. Ah, I said, and turned on my heel to walk back out into Manhattan. The buildings I saw around me were aged department store chains, fashion icons, nameless spaces huddled around plazas. Upper East Side. I felt alien. How could I have forgotten what month it was? Do I have moss growing on me? You’re laughing. I’m not. And I don’t mean to be solemn, nor do I plan on taking up too much of your time, it’s just that I was thinking of you and decided to reach out. Despite our disagreements I still consider you a close friend. One of the closest. Even when you are vague, you are straight with me. You are calming through your constancy. I respect your aggressive honesty.
It amuses me that I should end up in this nook of a bay window, three quarters up the slope; I’m literally suspended above the sidewalk with my back to the world. Not that I’m unreceptive to it, on the contrary, I am listening to everything it says, shouts and whispers. This is a good phase of life, I’m aware of that from the start. Don’t let my solemnity lean you otherwise. I’m just being honest, tired, sincere. Perhaps I’ll have some lunch, take a walk, take in some sun. Perhaps I’ll write some poetry or draw up some ideas for fabric altars. I’ll do anything for the sake of Art, even the grand task of getting over myself. I like this new writing nook; it reminds me of a place I’ve never seen.
Piedilupo, Provincia di Pavia; a Barbera, in case you were interested. I’ll probably finish the bottle tonight. The evenings are special in this place. They are pink and filled with breezes that sweep through with the scents and sounds of the neighborhood. They calm me like you do, with joy and agony. You’ll have to join me sometime, have a drink, take in the moment and reflect.
MAY 12 2015
Waiting around for my mother to call and tell me that my childhood cat, Lola, has been put down. Hottest day so far, humid as can be, but I’m still having tea to help with the anxiety of not being there. Aside from not wanting my mother — a highly emotional one — to deal with the scenario alone, I love that cat, she means very much to me. She turned twenty-one last October, and through those years lived solidly and well. Was always an odd cat, very simple, very stoic, had little interest in the outdoors, in playing, was never into mischief. Yet she wasn’t plain or dull, she seemed to have her own specific take on things due to an inherent centering; kind of as I imagine Bruckner once had; and while the comparison makes me chuckle now, I’m sure I won’t be chuckling when the phone rings and I know for certain that I will never lay down again with her on my chest, all nestled neatly and purring with her yellow eyes barely open, looking down at me with thoughts I can’t think. Lola, she was a good one.
As I mentioned, it is warm and after it is known to me that she has passed I’m going for a run through the park to mount and fall the slopes with a sheen of sweat and mind quickened into oblivion. I just walked through the park to get out and see sights but the pace was slow and my clothes clung to me like a fevered membrane as Jamaican women held plump, pink babies and pollen swept from the trees in sheets. I sat on a bench with thoughts of fine tuning a poem and became uncomfortable; after five minutes of listening to that rolling, steady cadence of Jamaican speech, I packed up my things and headed back that same anxious, winding path. On my way everything became some sort of symbol: a two-toed pigeon, a pot-bellied man, a tied up bundle of sticks, a milk-laden mother, a discarded pencil sharpened at both ends. Everything spoke to me in this way and I’m sure without a doubt that at times I was visibly taken by my surroundings. The need to run then came over me, as did the thought to write you. I know we don’t know each other but I know at least your work. I look at a photo of you and instantly feel the comfort of looking at the sea together, your silence comforting.
A fine feeling. One to help, to calm me. I sit here in my robe watching these lilacs in a vase practically wilt by the second; their limp leaves fluttering minutely like a wounded elephant’s ear. And the city sounds stir from outside, yes life will go on and one day someone will be waiting for a call about me; and when they do I hope they too think about Lola, my little companion who always kept me calm, always kept me from doing any wrong while in her presence. Like some moral lighthouse, my time spent with her meant home, meant safety, meant the welcoming arms of the harbour, where peace and contentment was resting, eating, drinking, living, being just, being calm, being centered. In fact, the thoughts of her feel similar, they grant similar impressions. I rest in body without her, in mind I am docked to her little mound, bobbing softly at the shore to a warmth implying presence.
I picture you there too,
MAY 12 2015
Wrote Derek — Jarman , not Hamilton — earlier today as I waited to hear about Lola’s death. My mother called and we weighted what to do, whether it would happen, whether or not I should come down to the Shore to spend the day and bury her. It ended up that I should wait until she felt things out and took Lola to her longtime vet, Dr. Lorenzo. We went into that office last time I was home; he and his assistant Chris were good people, both honest and kind. Felt alright letting her go it alone for the time being; heading into the city to catch a train down to the Shore would take some time though so I was still undecided. I didn’t want to dramatize it, force a decision of death, but I wanted to be there for my mother and to see Lola one last time, regardless of whether she was alive, or dead.
Perhaps I should have gone; the day, everything in between seemed a wash. Today is tumultuous, wild winds with high humidity, pollen whirling around with dirt and cellophane striking you, filling your lungs, dominating your thoughts. Was a lot like the torment of indecision with its scrim of muffling haze that taints all you see in ways you don’t want to see it. Prospect Park West was remarkably unpleasant; a chore to simply walk along. After a half an hour of aimlessly wandering, looking at my phone, retreating into my head, taking a minute or five on some bench swept with the yellow spray of pollen, I returned home to my place which faced me as it had many times before: the smell, the still, the white wall angled with white and black and meddling greys took me in both novel and similar ways. I guess it was a new experience in a familiar setting. My phone rang within the hour and my mother told me Lola had passed.
Being miles away I felt helpless and removed, kind of numb. I was sad, am sad still and will be so next time I come home. Having witnessed death occur in both animal and human and hope and trees I’ve learned to weigh each tragedy in ways proper to who or what has died. They are first, I have learned, everything else involves the void, the silence, your questioning. You have a lifetime to deal with that. The less you question initially, the easier their passing is. There is nothing to question with Lola, she was a little mystic with long-lasting, simple ways. I loved her and feel fortunate to have had her company since my thirteenth year. Her face, her ways, her essence remains and will easily remain until I too, leave or leave solved the questions of my life and interactions. Should I have the opportunity to leave my contacts as content as Lola left me, I should leave a last breath pleased.
And who should hear my last breath as it concludes this life? Will I be alone? With unfamiliar or familiar company? Not sure, may never know and it certainly doesn’t concern me much now. My thoughts are on the melodic winds and lull and hush of my lungs at work as I tinker with the abstract measures of finality; like a shattered mirror I mind the lines as they bevel to the prism of this, that and evermore. I’m glad our living reflection is so broken, for in the intact shards escape the boredom of seeing always, the same thing. I see me split, infinite, yet I am whole in knowing; and that to me is comforting in life’s lovely chaos. Why be less than I am, less complete, among such jagged ways?
MAY 23 2015
On the road. I’m in the back of a car en route to Pittsburgh. Been staring out the window for hours now. So many distractions, so much fault in what should be bliss. Can’t say I like cars, or driving, or the interstate system. We keep passing by these tasteless office complexes: boxes with tinted windows and ambiguous titles scrolled across their peaks like jewels in a crown; and like such preposterous headgear they obscure normality for the sake of conquering it. An unneeded struggle. An eyesore too. My apologies, I’m sure you picked up on my mood. I admit, this is not at all my element.
I wish I were back home running; my breath and foot pace within my mind and the green trees dusted yellow. So alone I feel within the park, within a great city speckling where land meets water. Less of a fleck I feel, more like a component. Right now I feel like chaos’s thumb could blot me out at the landscaped throne of the fill-in-the-blank-fidelity building. Who are all these people stationed out here with such extremely dull accomplishments? How many have children? How many are concerned, dejected, prospering? How many are aware of us who pass through their outskirts, their lives? How many will I never see?
I often wonder about the look of this land in four, five hundred years. I wonder if certain issues will be dealt with properly, or if they will build upon each other with more feats of folly. The relative youth of this nation, coupled with its sheer size, sets an aesthetic apathy that had unfortunately become a trademark. Ruscha liked it. Can’t say I do. A painted trollop of a diner gleaming in an arid desert doesn’t provide a pleasant lunch for me, nor is it even good-looking to pass by. Some of our scenery here, perhaps due to the lack of any interest outside of financial gain, leaves things looking — to me at least — like extraterrestrial outposts; it’s all so disjointed. How little these people listen to this land. With insectual flair they colonize in the most aggressive ways. If the alteration of shelter is secondary in life’s hierarchy of needs, why shouldn’t it be considered in the initial choice of habitation? Why are people lazy enough to live out here? Why don’t they build something worthwhile with the elements? A rain repository? An efficient train line?
Just passed a Red Carpet Inn, and now some cramped compound of linoleum sided rectangles scattered about some thinning woods. Is there away to appreciate this as something transitory? I’d like to think so, but that’s just me, trapped in the back of a car, heading from city to city, attempting to believe this country cares.
Here’s to my failure,
JUN 06 2015
You know I’m not complaining when I write you that it has rained all day. While it’s not actually pouring, the moisture hangs in the air, coating all beneath it. It’s cold too, for June. Mid 50’s. I’m enjoying it. Aside from one rather pointless outing, I’ve been inside, thinking about the world. I’m scanning now the faces I saw on my walk; thinking more about those that did not acknowledge me or others, or even the environment around them. Are they through with walking, with life, with obligation? Were they wrapped in thought, inspiration, depression? It can be a lot to bear; being in this world makes for quite a fundamental bias that is by default, charged. What exists undermines existence when thought of this way. Sometimes I want the faces to stare, sometimes I want them to look away. All of this due to the waves of being. Forceful or tepid one must keep pace. Right now I’m floating, excluding much of these things.
I thought of you as I sat silent in this sparse room. Figured I’d write to thank you for last weekend. I haven’t spent much time upstate. Been to a string of towns on the way to Canada, but aside from last year when Risha and I went up, I’ve never really settled down for a few days to take it in. Was a good recommendation on your part, and I thank you for driving. You know it bores me, as you know I like looking out the window. Transience is an invigorating feeling, a very fine place, virtuous too with its ease and dedication, trials and shifting relevance. It’s as if the feelings are less conflicting; your existence is more along the lines of what exists, your life is less like a lightning rod stuck within the storm, and more like all that’s swept within the cycle. I enjoy the feeling; at times it feels more natural. No doubt you enjoy it too –most especially the virtue– but as we discussed on our trip, this is more or less your norm. Personally, I feel that being hunted by several nations would take the serenity out of it for me; but, unlike you, I’m not an ideologue. I answer to nature’s immutable laws, there’s nothing to uphold aside from creation and understanding. Many times I’m not creating and I’m misunderstanding this or that, losing an opportunity in my transience. This can chip away at one’s nerve, make them desperate to control their ways, and this desperation can manifest in may ways. It has throughout history in every little corner we’ve inhabited.
Take for instance the museum you enjoyed while on our trip. The Shakers attempted to establish control through understanding, patience, dedication. Exclusion of extraneous elements was necessary for them to do so. This lead to a mild extremism but it also led to objects and a lifestyle recognizably beautiful and peaceful to anyone who allowed it. I can still see you stroking your beard, nodding your head in an attempt to stifle your amusement. When finally you did laugh and exclaim that the room was handsome, tranquil, I too was wishing I could simplify life so that every day was spent perfecting its vital qualities, and that when my transience did end I would know I had spent all the time I could with it, not on the past so filled with retrospect and scripture, and not on the future so filled with thoughts of me, but of what exists of existence. You were right, they were clever. Would you have ever thought to hang a chair on the wall?
I’d go back and get a print of the quilt you liked if I actually thought you’d keep it; perhaps, instead, you will attempt to remember those images by tracing them in the sand. Either way, I’m glad you enjoyed them, their work, my mutterings. I wish a line hadn’t been drawn so definitively by nature’s same immutable laws; it carved our minds much the same, while circumstance set in place our roles. I wish we wanted less. I wish we all wanted so much less. I picture a well-fed world without wont or guidelines with moveable homes of woven fabric, with animals among them and complex theatre passed on through memory, spontaneously revised to remain relevant, always. A lovely world, neither here nor there but in my head.
But at least you and I had our weekend. Tell your friends about the tilted chair, the rolling bed and cabinetry embedded within pine walls. Pine here is plentiful, strong, humble, and good looking if you know how to use it. They did. Whoever thought of hanging a chair up on a wall?
JUN 03 2015
Dianna Bedwell and Cecil Knutson,
Sorrow appeared earlier today. First time at the new place but we picked up where we left off. I had two bouts of dreams ridden with anxiety: Risha and I woke early, about five-thirty, and I asked for ten more minutes. Didn’t help much, and I was pretty much out of it from then on. To find Sorrow at the door hours later didn’t help much either; we just sort of sat there together, not saying or doing anything. Time seemed to go by with lethargic bounds,
I never felt like things were moving along that quickly but by the time we would check in with one another, an hour or more had passed. We both felt weak, kind of lost, barely communicating or getting anything done. It’s just me now, writing you this letter. Sorrow is gone. We are sorry to have heard about your misfortune.
But please don’t take offense by my writing you during this melancholy state. It’s not that the sadness and despair of your situation prompted me to send off something to you, more like I felt like I met you somewhere along the haze of blurred emotions and was close, very close, to you in a way.
The sun has passed over our side of the block; children are out with their parents; cars speed up twelfth street to get to where they’re going. I’m finishing this bottle in a giant, linen shirt with a face shaved to strip whatever was upon me. I can envision you two, the sun unravelling hope just like a spool of frayed yarn. It is a sad Wednesday, no one can argue that; the sadness aches in these arms.
So I’ll attempt to move on, bring to court a jester, a seer, or something in between. Something or someone to calm these tides of bitterness, so dry and desperate with misfortune. Why is the search for some, the same as simply waiting? Why does the shadow of choosing wrong not supply someone with shade? The jester drops his sticks; the seer has lost her words to the wind. I look up to the sun and attempt to be comforted by its ways, as well as come to terms with the haze where all is lost and what is irreparable is gained. I feel one day that I might see you, sand falling from your hands. And I can’t promise I won’t run, apologize, run far away, but I’ll still be with you, we all are with you, in the mistakes that we will make.
As I mentioned, Sorrow arrived today and has been sitting here in this room with me doodling in my pad. With proper timing the drawing that has been brought over is as esoteric as always, it is mostly shapes, one flat, underlying, with squiggles crossing through it on their axis; above there is an amorphous shape which seems to stretch outwards for some reason, leaving me to believe that it was at one point a large orb. And in the very top left corner, almost small enough to miss, is something drawn that made me grasp with forefinger and thumb almost like I was turning a page but I held it, never understood it distinctly, never knew what it was; but it made me pause, look again at all the whole picture, and I feel the calm of uncertainty as a guide.
Until we almost meet again,
JUN 17 2015
Felled trees have been my backdrop lately. Seems like I can’t escape the act. Granted, I do spend much time in parks. I’m in one now, Fort Tryon, after having an afternoon wandering around the Cloisters with Joshua who was in a mood. Guess I am too. My grandfather is ailing, money is tight, life’s prospects are foggy and my back teeth ache. Just had them worked on six months ago, another reason I’m broke. And yet, another, more acute reason is that I don’t really work. I got a job editing text books a good eight years ago. Not sure if you recall but I was still out in Oregon. I met a guy in a bar who turned out to be hiring for a small company in the process of merging with a larger one in Manhattan. I lied of course about everything I knew and the next thing I did know — hold on, mosquito — the quasi position of editing books from home was mine. This position with very little restraint swung wide the door to days like I am having now: walking, seeing things, writing, drinking tea, alcohol, enjoying travel, running, visiting, drifting, writing more and more; basically, being very aware of being around. The job has never paid much, no coverage for my heart, my lungs, my teeth; but it put money in the bank to support a simple life of creating. But now as I sit here I wonder what it is that I’ve really done. I found Risha, created page after page, lived in and visited pleasant locations; and while I respect my written work, respect what it took to make it, I still feel defeated somewhat by my thirty-five years.
I don’t strive for much outside of creating; never truly have. I’m like the sand lion waiting for fitful ants. It can be a shame. I know that now. I can scan through a wealth of expressions that in retrospect show faces incredulous: professors, friends, lovers, family and to some degree, strangers. How careless I’ve been with ambivalence. I am both repelled by and envious of the self-promoter; they spend much time nearer to the self they want to be.
I came to the Cloisters on your recommendation. I’m even considering volunteering here too. They have garden work and monthly events where works are viewed and discussed with those who have dementia. Seems therapeutic to be up here with them; I think I would be thankful for it. I could use some interaction; I’ve become such a spectre. Which is in part why I ventured up here; to see if I might fit. Is that not an oddity? Perhaps so, perhaps not. These sort of critiques are what hinder me. I think of the art of acting and the immediacy of movement, not that it isn’t cerebral, not that thought isn’t at acting’s forefront, or core, but it is dependent so much on movement and gestures and their duration to keep all afloat. At times I wish I could contain and release my creativity like that. Instead I walk alone through different environments thinking about myself and supplanting my woes in armless statues. But this is my fault; and this I’m trying to tell you while perpetuating my addiction to sorrow. I’ll stop now, I’m tired, but in the right way. I thank you for the recommendation. Had you been here or just read about it? The unicorn tapestries were haunting. I’ll let you know if I end up volunteering or not but you’ll see me either way, crafting my stage, being more my chosen self.
JUN 19 2015
Was just chipping away at the most boring poem. Mine of course; one about three masks. I’ll keep it as it is, perhaps finish it right one day. Not normally how I work but it does have some parts worth keeping. It’s a warm Monday and I’m up in my writing spot in the bay windows. The day itself has been drab; I awoke, had a few minutes with Risha before she left for work, I drank some coffee, had some yogurt, went to the laundromat, cleaned, ran, had lunch and talked with my mother who is returning from a week long trip down in Florida tending to her father who has been diagnosed with an aggressive, late-stage cancer. Almost forgot, I spoke with my dentist too to set up an appointment for a root canal. After this I’ll take some antibiotics and listen to the workmen’s’ radio playing faintly out back.
You most certainly understand why I’ve been thinking of you. Everyone has that person they greatly respect from which they sap energy. You are mine. Did you just find your day drabber from reading that? Did your previous want to practice your craft give way to a need for ice cream and Mad Men? If so, I’ll relent, with you I only need a little. It has been so long; not since Savannah. How have you been?
I believe I wrote or texted that we moved to New York. Brooklyn to be precise, Park Slope to be moreso. A nice area, close to the park, the train, shops and tree lined streets. I walk around a lot, run through the park, go into the city on off hours and generally, just wander around. I know so little of this town that everyday uncovers something I’ve never seen or heard about. There is the underlying stress of logistics: my phantom job, family woes, uncertainty of the future, the fact we aren’t even on the lease and that the rent is more than we can afford. It amuses me, the reactions of people when told that we live in this area; they usually alter their stance and say something along the lines of, “oh, it’s nice there.” I echo that it is and leave it at that. When they ask me what I do I say, “oh, nothing really” and that’s pretty much true. I feel and see and create poems but as far as what I do, well, that’s more along the lines of eating, sleeping, breathing. My, this letter is boring too.
I’ve been writing a collection of short, potent works about short, potent experiences in my life. Say for instance the other night: Risha and I spent hours talking over wine about life and longing and poising yourself; I grew weary of the whole thing but felt content with how it was resounding. My jaw had begun to ache so I took some Advil and just felt very light but also weighted and at the same time free of dread. I walked into the bedroom to shut the blinds before turning on the light and right at eye level through the slats, above the jagged roofline that fronted an ominous sky lit so specifically by lower Manhattan, was a crinkled balloon skimming the chimneys and satellites and air conditioning units. I felt for this balloon, stood staring as it made its way towards the river and eventually out of sight; it never went up or dropped down, it just trailed on its roofline path. That was all there was to it, no doubt looks like a greeting card on paper but at the time it struck me deeply and I consider it akin to many other instances of chance that jolt my perceptions of living. Some call these the subtleties of life; I call them grandeur. Within that stale balloon was muse, wonder, many questions, many answers; its relativity to me has standing, my internalization of it led to a frame of reference that now lives on this page, as well as within me. The contents remain the same, the gravity relies on the reader; but for me, the pioneer of a nothing moment, the event had much gravity. I felt this as I got into bed and went to sleep.
And perhaps I’m trying to stir some things, hone my perceptions, reminisce, fill a page, all could be equally true; my point, like most times, is that it’s something I like to do. And this, to me, is fortune, for I’ve watched such urges within others dry up. Perhaps it wouldn’t have if they cultivated feelings and emotions and kept their eyes busy with the little things. This too could be true, but we can’t have everyone writing about stale balloons, hawks up in the air, and peering at the park upside down; would leave us with a flood of boring writing, and myself, with nothing to do.
Except of course, write you,
JUN 22 2015
Thinking back on a day we had in Florida. You were performing that night and it was hot as hell and we sat under a palm with a pair of oscillating fans. You remember this? Was my brilliance, I confess, to ask the bartender if we could use the fans but it was no doubt her liking of your records that actually got them to our table. Before that it was sweltering, but afterwards, as pleasant as could be. We got a bucket of beer, a little something on the side, and we tossed pebbles with our bare feet.
My grandfather rang the bar, at that point he was about my age and still living up in Jersey. I talked to him briefly and then passed him over to you. One of his favorite voices, he told me, and then you two talked for some time. I would silently laugh when you laughed thinking about him laughing on the other end. The ocean was beautiful that day, all crystal like and layered flat like a rippling sheet. After you hung up the phone you sat down and told me that you thought he seemed a swell guy. I agreed, although I hadn’t been born yet, and I never knew that I would never get to know him truly well. And we should have talked about that, but we didn’t, we had some more beers, talked about piano and then got ready for your show. A show I enjoyed, indeed. If I remember correctly, you had to pretty much drag me from the bar. On the ride home you asked if I wouldn’t mind the causeway since it cleared your thoughts some. I agreed of course since you had rented that long, black convertible and we rode around the waterways of Tampa. We were quiet, no talking, no radio, just the sound of us pulling from our cigarettes and our ties flapping in the wind. Must have spent an hour or more just coasting around and when we returned to the hotel you said something about Savannah and then we went to our rooms. Was a good sleep I had; I dreamt about larger things.
Years later I happened to be living in Savannah and was having what hopefully won’t be my last beer –a pilsner it was– with my grandfather. We were living in a gorgeous house and he, Risha, my mother and grandmother were sitting there feeling the breeze sweep through from Gaston Street. I would sit down and get up, sit down, get up and they told me to stop playing host. I acquiesced, said sorry and then asked if anyone wanted to hear anything. He made a request right away and I went to the stereo smiling, thinking of that crystal water.
Thanks for the show,
JUN 23 2015
On a train. Always makes me think of you. Our meeting that day on the platform has always stood out; I remember fondly the conversations on our way down to Baltimore. I remember having tea, hearing about your second wife and seeing a photograph of your first still pressed within your bible. I remember hearing about Newark, your writings, your civic interests, how you would match your age in push-ups every birthday. Don’t think I could do eighty-something straight.
I feel that you have passed on. It’s now a decade later and although you were undeniably spry you would now be nearing a hundred, plus, I emailed you three or four years back with no response. I still have your work on Socrates and I’ll keep it safe; it’s not going anywhere. I also of course kept your book of the World’s Great Letters that you mailed me as promised. I adore it, have read it through, and at times pick it back up to reread this or that. Such an undying concept, so austerely done; treated with just the right amount of sentiment. Curating such a book must have been a pleasure; I would love to do something similar one day.
Just passed through Newark by the way; looking rugged with bits of vinyl sided section eight’s poorly filling in each block’s wounds. What ever will happen with this place? Therein lies no ark of the covenant, no commandments aside from those resulting from dysfunction and neglect: thou shalt not prosper, thou shalt not seek reprieve, thou shalt not live. But one simply does, as these trains rattle through brick husks with whistles that must sound like moaning carcasses; eyes gouged out from what they’ve seen. If this is the new ark, I think they’d much prefer the other. But back to the book, back to the letters, this letter and the rest of them. While in Penn Station earlier, disgusted that I had missed the train, I began to think about who to write as a way to express myself, my worth, my ideas. I’ve always been so hidden, so away from it all but there is always a letter to be sent; just one letter can alter the course of a life, yet I know my hopes shouldn’t rest on solely this. After all, how many letters left the hands of that woman in white? Was she just too entangled with herself? Was she content with treating every day the same? Perhaps. One does get used to the comfort of discomfort, it’s obtaining comfort through discomfort that people find so arduous.
Sometimes I’ll sit, almost comatose, mind wandering through scenarios of being discovered by some scholar. After receiving my letter, they inquire about my work and receive it with great interest and I’m freed of finance, instability and the dread that all I’ve created is becoming stagnant from procrastination. There I am being championed by so and so and I’ve used acclaim to blossom and reinvent, build upon what I’ve done and I can feel the momentum so thoroughly that reintroducing myself to my solitary reality takes time, and most often never comes with much joy. Yes, it’s nice to have the peace of mind to write to all of you but it can be sad too, the unrequited life. But I smile because you seemed to have understood me and I’m most thankful for your memory. I trust you impressed others throughout your long life. Maybe they’ll remember you as I do; as the man who trusted in himself.
Thanks for the book,
JUN 23 2015
Headed home for a couple days. A hot week so I’ve brought linen towels and trunks. I need time in the ocean, badly. That first stretch of repose on warm sand after swimming in the cool water is going to be more than ideal. I think back to last summer; the hours spent in the sun and water, on the beach, in the bars. Makes me somewhat jealous of myself, although, I wasn’t too happy then either.
This is often the case, you peer back at yourself through a one-way mirror, rapping on the pane in the interest of the other. I want next time to look back at that man and know he’s doing all he can for me. I’m trying now, I’m trying to shed the weight of circumstance that I’m so mired in so that I might look back fondly, appreciatively. How I yearn for that water.
It’s been so long since we spoke and I’m still uncertain of why you won’t answer me. I’ve gone over the events of our last evening together: the drinks, discussions of Byzantine arts, the bar, the couple we spoke to, the woman that offended you, our exit and ensuing conversation and our time spent sitting there on the beach. I remember jumping in the water in my underwear while you sat on the beach. In a way, when I emerged we were never again to share the same element. I miss you but after so many unanswered questions I had to move on. Perhaps I’ll try you again sometime, sometime during this summer. Whiskey and beers with you, looking through your photos. Listening to your interests has always been beneficial to me; you’re so eager to study life from every angle that it always surprises me that you cannot master it yourself, or that you would let a friend that loves you, as I do, do so all alone. But I cannot say that I don’t get it given my understanding of you. I’m not writing this to assign blame, I’m writing it because I still think of you from time to time.
Moving on a day…
It’s now Wednesday morning and I’m on the Avon boardwalk taking in sun on what will be a gorgeous day. I awoke at six to the sun climbing over the ocean, aluminum extension ladders clinking their way up to next door’s dormers. Asbury was handsome this morning, all manicured and primed for the season; and Avon, as we’re all aware, is always so. Even the raked beach looks lovely, almost like crop fields. Ships are passing, the bridge is up, the boards are gently massaging my back from the footsteps of others. At nine the lifeguards will flip up their stands and this all will be people packed into the horizon. For some reason — now, at least — this doesn’t bother me. In fact, it actually makes me a bit pleased. Today, I’m giving everyone the benefit of the doubt; even this plump clown wandering about with a metal detector.
It’s amusing, before my stop on the train yesterday halted this letter I was about to expound on the poverty and sadness that found permanence in our lives here at the Shore. Those of us who have been pushed out towards highway 35 by property tax and development know it very well and have little voice to express ourselves. Some don’t even care to since in some sad way they think they’ve made it. But this all seems so meaningless to me now. I have to believe, I have to know that I deserve more because of what I can and will provide. If not, I’m stuck out there on 35, all alone with my issues, the ocean far out of sight. And perhaps that’s harsh for all those doing just that; you know I know how doing so feels, which is precisely why I’m being so forthright. No one should have to live out on 35, and absolutely no one should feel like they justly deserve it.
You know I am your friend still, always will be, and you know I will always be the ally of the everyman for I was one; but as an everyman I know and knew that it is solely what every man decides that divides or binds those two words. I disagree with forfeiting interest for solidarity in a life that lessens the possibilities of being myself. I like it down here with the ships and the water and the seagulls; it is a feeling that each and every man should be able to for themselves, provide.
JUN 25 2015
Thinking about a recent day when I wandered around the Cloisters. A lovely place. Joshua was with me but we were pretty much silent as we went through the cold stone rooms with their endless visions of the tender balances of life. Can’t speak for him but I do like some religious works of art despite the stigma of the cultish attachments. The audacity of these people has always amazed me. Their search is so intensely inward, so contradictory to a definitive peace that I am humbled when one of their works actually achieves it. Usually it is architectural –or commissioned to a heathen– but there are many examples otherwise. Dante being a sterling one. But I still have to consider –as I did this day uptown– all of the human experience they omit, oppress, and simply do not allow themselves to know. It has always amused me, the flatness of those medieval works; I’ve always found it fitting that they were incapable of reproducing a three-dimensional perspective of life.
And I thought about this and many other things as Joshua and I walked the halls and out to the lush courtyard to take in the sun. He seemed caught up that day, dizzied by turmoil that confounded us both. In the past we’ve disagreed some, talked in circles long into the night but there was always an egress. I sat and drew grotesques that crowded the top of a pillar as he calmed himself by breathing slowly. At one point, I thought I heard him crying. I was affected by this but didn’t want to compound it by letting him know I knew. Perhaps I should of.
After awhile we decided to wander more and ended up in a room full of floor to ceiling tapestries. They were wonderfully done, all the same hues, a seven piece depicting the hunting of unicorns. We didn’t realize this at first, we just sort of went on detached as we were to these ancient images and practices, then, a unicorn, more unicorns, and following were men set out to kill them. And they succeeded in gory fashion with several hunters to each animal, slashing and piercing their clean, white bodies. I was repulsed and said something to that affect, to which Josh did not reply; he stayed, fixated on the last tapestry of a single unicorn no longer dead, reared up on its hind legs within a tightly fitted, circular pen. I felt helpless, I could practically feel his pain, his determination to be at peace was palpable. If anything, I felt more helpless than he as I stood there looking at him taking in what that tapestry depicted.
There are many answers to the question of what makes us need to conquer, dominate and own. Each one, right down to the basest description of our role in nature leaves my hope diminished that we will truly progress. I feel like a link in a long line of regression. Out in the world, right now, one of our kind is depriving themselves of sleep or love or seeing the sights so that they might master the reproduction of organs, or better social systems, seas, or transportation; while at the same time others are out torching homes, burning books, hacking blubber and ivory. There will always be hunters entering the woods, there will always be those who act out of misunderstanding. Whether they misunderstand their relevance to another or misunderstand the other themselves, they believe they have the right to judge and act upon their judgment; a right wrongly understood. It is both the shield and the sword, principles, post-understanding. The brutal prison guard, the cut-throat lawyer, of what did they convince themselves to form an understanding of who they are and what they have the right to do? What allows others to believe they are empowered to power others? Why by force does one apply their hand? Do we as thoughtful units still fit the mold of frictional objects with nothing but physicality rolling us toward conflict? One studies another and that observer makes demands; within the realm of principles that observer is a hunter.
It is frustrating to witness the results of such fallacies like in that room with Joshua, with the tapestries; or within the endless reels of intolerance and misunderstanding relayed and perpetuated by the news. And I dwelled deeply on this that day up at the Cloisters. I was dizzied by little food, lots of thought and the fatigue of sun, so when I went to leave the room I was perplexed as I approached Joshua and he didn’t turn around when I called his name and so I paused, thought, and instead of calling, asked
JUN 23 2015
You were there by the narwhale tusk on this day I’m remembering. We were in that tapestry room up at the Cloisters and now, days after the fact, I’m curious about what you were thinking as you looked them over. All was somber despite the beauty, but as you know well, there are sometimes barriers much stronger than physicality to keep one from receiving beauty in the simplest of ways.
Leelah once told me of a time when you seemed to be acting similarly, she said you two went down to a field you often read in and that you were distant, somewhat off, sort of disappearing in a way. She said you both were lying in the tall grass, occasionally discussing everyday things and as some silly, inside joke, always including each other’s names in conclusion or preface. While she told me this, I, in some way ended up envisioning you as one: same age, very close, both caught up in life, yet after our day at the Cloisters I can see what she meant when she said that you, sad-eyed with the weight of lies, wanting the truth, went so quiet that she accepted that you could be another, or no one, much easier than accepting you as yourself. And I know that may be harsh to hear but Joshua, the more time you spend flooded by the oppression of others, the more the ideas you form are not your own. And I question her reactions to you that day, almost as she was cutting loose her burdens to remain with you, yet she did convince me that she, herself, had to leave there without the feelings she felt, at any cost.
Your families, she spoke further, were lost, foolish, and dragging you into these dark emotions. How people can believe, literally, the content of that dusty bible to the extent that it blinds them to the elements that bind them is the result, again, of faulty principles, post-misunderstanding. And I know you’ve said goodbye to her, almost as it never happened, so I won’t try to stir or misconstrue the past as it stands now, but I can say that your relationship, rocky as it was, proved as true a testament to understanding as there can be; and with it all the pain, confusion and courage that true understanding does demand.
JUL 07 2015
So tired. I’m on a train heading back up to the city. Mouth dry, legs strong from a run, head foggy, eyes fragile. Bays and decrepit industrial sites pass by the window. The car reeks of liquor. The man in front of me is balding with unkempt, oily hair and he’s upset about being told to keep his feet off the chair. The man across the aisle is conducting business from his phone, legs crossed, creasing his Dockers; empty bottle of iced tea clamped in his hand like a conductor’s baton. And the men behind me, no doubt contributing to the scent of liquor, have fallen silent; no more jovial talk of women or work or what they’re going to get into next. I look out on Rahway while my mind is elsewhere, thinking about poetry, Risha and the Atlantic Ocean. I’m very much looking forward to taking care of myself.
If you have some, share with me the thoughts you revisit when the weight of others proves too much. After you part ways with a patient that happens to be reclusive, angry, despondent, what helped you feel otherwise? Sometimes when I’m home, deep into family, health and depression, I’ll revisit a thought, a sight, a sort of visual and emotional mantra that provides an egress. This weekend that visual was a young girl I kept seeing at the beach; she was a paradigm of the girls I grew up with: olive, Italian, calm, rarely smiling. She was strong, wore a one-piece suit and would emerge, hair back, ink black and then go back under. She swam more than she sat with the family who provided no one nearing her in age. I enjoyed her enjoyment of simple pleasures that I remember at that age seemed so large.
And her white teeth and black eyes and aloof ways got me through as I grappled with all that was on my mind. Did such nostalgic, unclouded thoughts help you when your feet struck pavement after an emotional bout with Eugene? Don’t know why it stuck with me so when I read you were there as he died, but it did and I decided to write to you about life, as tired as I am.
A hot day today, so hazy,
JUN 11 2015
Frances A. Yates; or, the Contrails of Amelia Earhart,
This morning I awoke from an odd and visceral dream: I, at my current age of 35, had to drop some things off at the house of an old friend. I hadn’t been to the place since high school and being there felt strange, plus, the house was slightly different in that dream sort of way. His mother and sister were there entertaining guests, all of which were women, middle-aged. His mother directed me to put the box of belongings — I still don’t know what they were — upstairs. I removed my shoes as I did when I was younger and climbed the carpeted stairs. As I turned the corner I saw through the bathroom door ajar, a young girl drying herself off, encased in steam. Undoubtedly underage, I felt awkward seeing her bent over, breasts hanging while she toweled her hair. I did not turn around but tried to move past quickly to place the box, but she noticed, gasped, and shut the door somewhat, but not closed. In a dark room I placed the box full of items as I thought about her. I knew it wasn’t right but it was burned into my mind and I squinted my eyes, head shaking on occasion as I envisioned her hair, wet under the bangs and around the ears, her pony tail damp down over her collar bones. She wore a delicate necklace which shimmered in the dull light; it hung between her tan-lined breasts, all swollen with youth and moisture.
As I made my way back, just feet from the stairs, she called out to wait and ran down the hall in underwear and a tank top which sporadically concealed breasts circling from her motions. I was unnerved by this and froze as she came to put her arms around me, eyes fixed on mine. They were somewhat crazed, old in a way, yet as she smiled and spoke flatly into my ear there was an undeniable truth when she said she was sixteen. I kissed her softly on the lips, then removed her arms from about my neck. She looked at me even more crazily and I mechanically said sorry. After this, I woke up.
It was early, somewhere before six and the sun made its first and only appearance of the day right below a thick and vast cap of clouds. The room was grey except for the pink slice hitting the white wall and I lay under it, thinking about the dream until it bled into a waking one about some sort of apocalypse. I was out west, right on some fault line that began to react from millenniums of friction; it buckled, giving way to a massive earthquake that in turn surged the ocean. I and most everyone was crazed and weathered by years of fear of this. It was me, it was this world, but many years from now and in some alternate way. I finally understood the phrase, to have one’s heart in their throat as I, with eyes bloodshot, broken nails, high pitched gurgling in my throat and no thoughts on anything but survival made way towards a mountain range. Horns and helicopter blades set the sound for the event along with dogs barking, people screaming and sirens non-stop.
The land off in the distance with higher elevation seemed so far, so false, but I ran and ran towards it with many others around me. This seemed to go on for some time, with people dropping off silently or screaming for help. I was filthy. I was tired, but filled with adrenaline. In my head there was a sort of synthesized ambience all flat and devoid of feeling; going further into it slowed me so I winced and moved on across the darkened fields.
By the time the incline began I was sore and fatigued in mind and body but I met the mountains like a mangy cat in a bourbon barrel; eyes burning, clawing with every limb at the moist, diseased earth. Others too were around me, some normal, some horrible to look at. I swore one’s skull was exposed, thick and bulging from his forehead, flesh hanging from his gaping mouth like crab legs, another, with a piercing scream, toppled as her reddened, stilt-like legs snapped with the sound of saplings cracking. I told myself this couldn’t be true, nor should it matter if it was, and kept on ascending. I looked up to the tree line and even further above it; no birds in the sky, just a nothing-haze above our rattling world. I paused for a second, as did several others as the continual honking from Interstate 5 went silent at once, overtaken by a hungry ocean.
This heightened my clarity, my body burning like I had never known it to as I bounded upwards into the tree line that housed many horrors. I saw a smoldering cabin with a naked man outside, licking his television. I saw two one arm boys fighting with plastic swords. I saw a hairless dog mounting a pile of indiscernible flesh that it also ate. I saw a woman with legs filleted by a sharp fence dancing atop red coals. I saw snakes braided and tied into a noose, encased by tar. I saw a quiet couple clipping ivy from their stone gate, the sharp tips sparking like flint. I saw a stillborn in a hammock of painted foliage all white, while it was powdered, lace dress, hands and feet tied. I saw a cage with an open door, a wolf sitting quietly inside. I saw organs and straw, ground into a kind of paste. I saw a young girl alone, darkly smiling, half dressed in a football uniform. I saw a wheel-less car filthy and steamed, screams coming from within it, I saw a link of dead birds attached by their wings. I saw a half buried door being used as a tombstone, pasted computer keys spelling out the screaming sentiment of a mute. I saw rocks painted red next to trees lit on fire. I saw possums feeding on bowels of a still bleating goat. I saw small cities of mushrooms that I trampled as I went. And as I turned I could see the sea approaching effortlessly in total.
And I thought about this as I lay in bed and furthermore as I got up, brushed my teeth, washed my face, drank some water. Images of my flight came in cycles to torment but oddly empower me as well; in there, the whole world had gone to pot and the energy was as true and as raw as could be. I could feel myself feeling it as I ran upwards from the ocean all filthy with cars and trash and thousands of broken people and I could feel, clearer than I could the taste of my coffee, the urge to get away. And if did, I thought, what then? After the horrors that I faced, horrors not fully unknown to man but more so compounded by death’s visions, what would be my chain of actions in reconstructing a sensible life? Would thoughts of my ascent through that hellish mountainside haunt me everyday? How does one see these things and afterwards, brew tea? Hell, I thought, my climb wasn’t even done.
So onward I rose through the ranks of degenerates as children chewed on harvested wasps asphyxiated with sap, and chained dogs shed legs slowly for the families that once pet them. I clamored and clawed, cursed aloud the pain in me as heard the Pacific unfettered, rumbling upwards. And I stopped looking back, stopped thinking about the regressions and violence around and as I went the cluttered trees became less so and gradually more sky shone through the overlapping needles. This is when I thought of you, my shoulders dropped and I ran even faster, bounding towards the peak with thoughts of that nude girl in the hallway with fearless, crazed eyes. I could almost feel the damp, clingy feel of her underarms, the smell of her breath, the warmth of her chest and I closed my eyes to that, took her embrace for whatever it was worth. Took yours too. I know you cannot hear me now and this grants comfort; I would never want you to.
JUN 17 2015
Finally, the first thunderstorm of the season. It’s right overhead, the rain is torrential. I can feel the fragments of drops against my back as they break on the windowsill. My fan is on, cooling me further, fluttering this page. Thunderclaps spaced by half-minutes stretch to me. I glance to my right, further down the slope, and see water rushing beneath the parked cars. I also see lightning light the scene white. These windows are closed; the rain meeting the panes in much needed sheets. Not a light is on in here, no noise save the hum of the fan and the typewriter. I’m barefoot and alive, no music in my head or thoughts on my mind other than the current clash of climates. The rain has washed the windows completely and I feel deep within some glorious stasis, like a frog beneath an umbrella leaf.
Yesterday my anxiety ruptured and I wandered around listless and sweaty.
I kept liquor and wishes at bay and took unfulfilled sobriety to the chin.
I daydreamed of death, dreamed about flying away from these issues and it only brought me to this, still here but calmer. I’ll take what I can, a day by day thing, and I’ll gladly accept this storm as a means to do so. Like countless others, storms have always been compelling to me, very personal. I have always give them my full attention once they are near. Yes, at this particular moment I’m writing, but I’m writing about it, lending it to you. There is nothing really I can add to our relationship to storms that hasn’t already been mulled over; the soil has already been toiled, plot to plot.
What I can say though about a storm’s importance to me, is the vitality of the present moment when one appears. I was doing this and that earlier this morning; I read the news, dismantled a table, drank some coffee, ate an egg, my mind was on the past, the future, outlying issues in my life many years or miles away, but as soon as the storm begun all of that was vanquished and an impervious moment grew. I was transfixed, fulfilled, magnetized to vitality, clarity came to me like light cast on the floor. Nothing intrigued me more than the moment I was in; it was as if I were on stage, one where every nuance counts. I could describe myself with movement, with speech, with full understanding of my being; I was the conduit to a moment created by the alchemy of nature, the storm was a traveling orchestra illuminating pure drama.
Dare I say that I’m the diva of this particular moment, thrashing against the void with these descriptions to you; So as you sit, the relevant recipient, receive this thunderous moment that I had no choice but to relay mute to you.
Make it your own,
JUN 17 2015
There’s a space I’m envisioning: all angles and planes, natural light, lines of light dark and medium tones. Sort of like slabs of sheetrock leaning up against one another but you can’t back up far enough to see the edges, just sharp eggshell textured planes creating a space, a nucleus, somewhere you’d want to lay down, take in the scent of newness and give birth to an idea or two; ones you could stand by, ones that could parade through life with you. A nice place I’m envisioning; fictional in physicality but not so in essence.
We most often know immediately when a space is not a room, or when a room is just cluttered space, or when a room is just a room to rest between spaces. We build them, destroy them, seek them, are haunted by them; spaces are strangers, rooms are friends. There is something to the walking spin one does upon entering a space that has always been inspirational to me. I like feeling that way and I like watching another feel that way too.
A room is a cloud, a space is a storm; you can take or leave the room, the space on the other hand, takes you. And I don’t just necessarily mean great architectural works, winding stairs, spanning plazas or somber tunnels, I mean the spaces that are formed from complimentary and contrasting things. A studio is a space, yes, as is the hollow neath ivy or a shimmering triangle of lichen created by rock and sea; but it is first and foremost the studio I speak of, the kind where windows and walls speak of silence with a gentle violence, not unlike waking moments. The kind of silence that warms your eyes.
And I think about such space as I write in this room and it is so ethereal, so vast and pure. And it is not to be owned, yet begging to be used, and it is always changing like the phases of the moon. Such space is ideal to me, so specific in conversation, so full of gravity; each one is like a book filled with predictions, not history; a place where vision thwarts demands. This space sheds a whiteness from sun center shone through Midwest curtains, or the edges of balled cotton caught upon a fence, or even the feel of swift departure from something very unpleasant. And it’s important to me to imagine these spaces when I am not met with the means to use them. I sort of exist in their negative, encased in possibilities and am grateful when they do come my way. A pleasure it has been to create a space in this letter to you.
JUN 19 2015
Giorgio de Cherico,
Past me went a woman with black hair, her belly protruding with child. For a moment I thought she glanced over as she passed but now I’m doubting that she saw me, silent, sitting in the shadow of an alcove in a long line of alcoves stretching along the square toward towers and the harbor. I’m in a strange city, one full of ambiguities and Greek statues and displays of strong shadows and muted tones. It never seems too large in any one place but every time you look off along its streets, plazas or alleyways you get a strong sense of infinity. It’s a very silent town too, no sirens or alarms or horns or planes or screaming, just the sounds of distant, hushed conversations, trailing footsteps and distant waters.
I like the town, as unoccupied as it is, and I like sitting silent in this alcove at night. Sorrow and Spring Is Here are with me to get me through the night. Yesterday I walked spinning a wheel around the statue and then went to the water, then walked back and forth through the shadow of the tower and watched as the sun cut clean pie like slices out of the surroundings soon to engulfed by the night. My favorite time, actually, came afterwards when the sun shone gold against the cityscape’s deep browns and blues. Each time I witness this the lines of reality are blurred. And often I’ll think of you and your seriousness, your wine, and your fireside salon. This day was no different; I thought to write you when I returned to the alcove, from there with lines blurred, I began,
Giorgio de Cherico,
I see myself on the edge of Prospect Park, the sun coming through the maple leaves onto my shin, the page, the pebbled walk. I see myself detached to the many who pass by on foot, by car, by bicycle. I see the bench long, two of them adjoined, with a woman on the other end; she is silent, writing, face kept from me by hair black. Little birds beg at her tired feet she keeps rubbing, the soles blushed and swollen, the tops vein-less and brown. A child cries off in the distance, people yell about newspapers, radios blare, sirens wail. I see myself among this, writing a letter to you. It seems a rather pleasant scene from here, in this dark. It seems as if I got up and chose to do something I could do anything I pleased. The mansions and buildings and Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Arch are enough to inspire one with sight, but I see myself looking down, laying words upon the page. This intrigues me and I look closer, past the clouds and planes, the birds, buildings, trees and people and see the blurred sunlight on the paper, on the paper it begins,
Giorgio de Cherico,
It has been so long since we spoke, I’m here with Sorrow on Prospect Park West without a word spoken between. Next to us on the other long bench is a younger woman with black hair who sits quietly writing in a well-worn composition book. I wonder, have wondered for the last half hour or so, how her words begin, how she keeps them lasting and true, she’s as still and committed and as silent as we are and has been here just as long too. The train is nearby — in fact I can feel it rumbling beneath me from time to time — I could catch several lines, take any into the city where I could meet anyone, see many things, go anywhere from there: to the airport, to any country, but instead I thought of you, your cities, your statues, your quietude, your alcoves; there’s one I particularly like, would love to settle into it come evening. Why shouldn’t it be as pleasant as sitting here like this? In fact, right now I see it, quiet, recessed and dark, facing a wide open space where an occasional person walks. I see a young woman with child, silent, with black hair. From here her face is hidden, as was it when she appeared. She turned quickly as she passed an alcove; must have liked the shadows that lingered there.
Think I’ll take a stroll,
JUN 22 2015
I’ve had a string of quiet, contemplative days leading me to now. The days, my mood, like any state are a result of a collection of things, yet within these days, at the core of this mood, there is a deep melancholy from having thumbed through my old journals. Risha and I put up bookshelves last weekend and after the paint was dry on Sunday morning I lugged up from the basement my boxes of books and began looking through them. Walter Benjamin was with me as we passed back and forth certain novels, essays and photography books; he was very fond of several of them but I could tell he thought I had some library building to do. At one point in the afternoon I heard him put away a box and start in on another; he fell silent as I heard pages being thumbed. From the silence came a very loaded chuckle, from which I too became quizzical. When I looked over he was holding a raggedy teal book, the edges dark and battered by time and travel. It was my first journal.
I probably laughed, probably said something self-deprecating, and I am saying probably because now I can’t remember. I do remember going inward, growing quiet. Walter was struck by this, thought me wrong to be dismissive, thought it only natural for my interest to be piqued; he even offered to leave or let me sit back and review them but I declined and we spoke no more of it for the rest of the afternoon. Though I certainly thought about them as we finished unpacking and had every title up on the shelves.
Afterwards, Walter, Risha and I sat at the kitchen counter and opened some cold, white wine. It was, like today, very hot and dry and as they talked about life, science and podcasts I watched the light that sprang between leaves glance with flickering brilliance against the kitchen’s bare, off-white wall. I had already begun to feel detached as my mind surveyed the years within those journals. Or should I say behind? Yes, years lost came with sad sentiment, flooding towards me at once as I dwelled on inevitable mistakes, tokens of frustration and the loss I was bound to encounter within those pages; I also, with perhaps even more trepidation, thought of how I would react to my previous joy and aspirations at this current point in life. After all, when I began I was a student not a year into college, was to be met with my own evolution in thought, writing, drawing and experiences; the idea of coming across my documentation of certain accolades, fortune, foreign travels, aspirations and loves was somewhat intimidating to me. I felt a sort of torment knowing they were just sitting there awaiting my eyes. After a good hour or so of this, Walter and Risha scolded me for thinking too loud and demanded I go with them for a walk to get some air and also, my mind off of things.
I did join them but my mind still strayed. The blocks of Park Slope, darkening by the setting sun, were picturesque, comforting, though I was occasionally yanked from such mental leisure by the presence of those books. We walked all the way to the Arch that night, said our goodbyes and Walter disappeared onto the Q. Risha and I walked home through the growing dark, counting gas lamps and discussing our future.
A whole day passed before I even picked up the journals. I had begun cleaning the place, starting with our bedroom; I shifted all the lamps and plant stands onto the carpet and cleared the surrounding surfaces of objects so that they might be dusted and then I did so, watered the plants, swept and washed the floors and then, with the exception of my desk, put all back as it was. On my desk I lined up the seven journals, and some ice water and a fan, then I sat in that bay window thumbing through what used to be my life. It actually started off lighthearted, with the numbing rush of memory. I was thrust into chicken-scratch tales, hints, lists, poems and drawings surrounding college in Baltimore and a residency in the south of France. I of course remembered this well since it was not too long ago, but yet it was in fact fifteen years and that in and of itself was something to me. So naive I was of what was to come, so incomplete was my preparation for a life I wanted to live, so selfish was I, so selfishly did I live in the moment; and this, Shawn, despite fifteen long years, has little changed.
I flipped through France, through cringe inducing realizations of someone so sheltered from the arts as I was. I would come across a page with something scrawled like, “look up Kurasawa” and would tilt back my head slowly, a wince on my face. Who am I missing now? Should I look up Ancient Greece? Brecht? Deborah Kerr? But I moved on from this without much grief, and even smiled warmly here and there as if these writings weren’t me but some sort of little brother me so thrilled to be seeing the sights, feeling the rush of planes bounding over the Atlantic and the channel, trains descending down the boot and back up among the flamingos of the Camargue and Spain. And this carried me through even as I began to collect sporadic fragments of sorrow patched in among the growth. By the third journal I was all in, with the weight of want without action glaring from page to page. I admit right off that I am being hard on myself but I am also correct to have seen documents of a young man so addicted to sorrow that he was/is paralyzed by it. There are lovely sketches and poems, yes, but that is all; the poems aren’t even that well done — see my earliest collection, Calendulaceum. What an insult all this was to find, how disappointing a discovery for someone already disappointed.
I must take a moment, calm myself and look around this park. Yes, I’m in the park, these are the days of the park pretty much. I wouldn’t know what to do without this park, I spend more time in it than the city. Walking here I took 8th Ave to 3rd street and entered through the two lions, across the road, and up the steps to my bench along the great lawn. On the way, through a small seclusion of wooded area I heard birds shrieking from above. At first I thought this was due to my intrusion but as I looked up, the sun nearly blinding me through the small opening above, I saw a Hawk at the very moment it fell upon a smaller bird. The thing lay still atop the branch, within the talons, as several birds like it fluttered helplessly around the large raptor barely shedding feathers from their attacks. It steadied itself, looked down at its prey and dug quickly, heavily into its beating breast. The scene was vivid from down below as I watched blood and feathers spurt from the withdrawing beak that now held dangling meat. I watched as the bird’s head went taut, then fell back, swinging like a time piece. Even though I was mildly disturbed by this I couldn’t help but to look on. The smaller birds kept up their attack and finally the predator took its leave; the little carcass with it as it stretched wide across the open field of sunbathers.
And now I sit, thinking of you, those journals, and a phone call I made this morning. You wouldn’t know this but I’ve always had a fascination with public statues. In fact, I applied for a Fulbright back that would have been a comparative study of the public statues of Berlin and Chicago. At the time I was in Baltimore, doing stationary videos of the many statues around town that I found Interesting. I would set up a camera on a tripod, perhaps at a specific time of day — say, Poe at dusk — and let the imagery do the rest.
Looking at a photograph one mostly, if not only, thinks of either the artistry of the photographer or the documentation of the statue itself; with a medium that demands thoughts on movement, capturing these statues takes on much more life, allowing the essence of them, the essence and relationship one would form in person, come through in ways sometimes more specific or compelling than viewing the actual statue in person.
So I was thinking about this and decided this to call the head of Arts and Antiquities of the NYC Parks and Preservation. I did so as I heated up some coffee and spoke to the man for ten minutes; it started off oddly but we began to discuss certain things; he immediately brushed off employment or knowledge of how to obtain research funding and eventually he let me go. Before he did, and as I was watching the half and half in my coffee curdle, he asked what I was doing right now; I paused for a second thinking he might want me to come in for a face to face but then he clarified by saying, right now as in with your life, and was I just out of school or something. I had to laugh and said no, no wasn’t fresh out, that I was older than that and looking for an occupational or artistic transition and he just kind of let that fall flat. Then we got off the phone and I poured the spoiled coffee out.
And now I’m here, trying to untie this emotional knot. In doing so, I’ve struck up this letter to you, an old inspiration of mine; and also, I’ve been thumbing through a different kind of book, an old Modern Library of Shaw’s plays. I found the book on the sidewalk for free in a cardboard box. The book belonged to a Jane Kelley and she was one to underline segments of personal importance. Now I would never buy a book with such underlines but I do happen to find them interesting in terms of the book’s history. I include a few for your enjoyment:
“Pardonably vain of his powers and unconsciously pleased with himself.”
“With a sadness is a luxury to a man whose voice expresses it so finely.”
“An honest man feels that he must pay Heaven for every hour of happiness with a good spell of hard unselfish work to make others happy. We have no more right to consume happiness without producing it than to consume wealth without producing it.”
“I like a man to be true to himself, even in wickedness.”
“How I shrink from having to deal with strange people.”
“Only that I have been making a fool of myself here in private whilst you have been making a fool of yourself in public.”
From Caesar and Cleopatra:
“In the little world yonder, Sphinx, my place is as high as yours in this great desert; only wander, and you sit still; I conquer, and you endure; I work and wonder, you watch and wait, I lookup and am dazzled, look down and am darkened, look round and am puzzled, whilst your eyes never run from looking out — out of the world, to the lost region — the home from which we have strayed.”
“Cleopatra watches her submission eagerly.”
“Then I consent to stay, because I am asked. But I do not want to, mind.”
“Might not the gods destroy the world if they only thought we were to be at peace next year?”
Surprisingly, not one thing is underlined in Pygmalion.
From Heartbreak House:
“Give me deeper darkness. Money is not made in the light.”
“They wear out their souls and bodies trying to make a success of them. They’re what you call enthusiasts.”
“It’s prudent to gain the whole world and lose your own soul. But don’t forget that your soul sticks to you if you stick to it; but the world has a way of slipping through your fingers.”
And I’ll end on this one, “Heartbreak? Are you one of those who are so sufficient to themselves that they are only happy when they are stripped of everything, even of hope?” Wise words from Mr. Shaw by way of Mrs. Kelley. And on cue, somewhere nearby but not in sight a banjo, or some small stringed instrument, starts to strum, the light is low and the moment begins to feel somewhat cinematic, somewhat hopeful. One can imagine many things, conquer many thoughts from the contemplative haven of a park bench. I see the sun setting and I smile as I imagine the transcendent videos of statues that I haven’t made, the poems I haven’t published, the sculptures I haven’t erected, the masterpieces I haven’t mastered. I pause, are these letters the new journals to haunt me in years to come? Will Walter break open a crate of complaints come 2030 with a smile on his face? Not a bad question. This banjo nevertheless brings me some peace.
“In the little world yonder, Sphinx, my place is as high as yours in this great desert; only wander, and you sit still; I conquer, and you endure; I work and wonder, you watch and wait, I lookup and am dazzled, look down and am darkened, look round and am puzzled, whilst your eyes never run from looking out — out of the world, to the lost region — the home from which we have strayed.”
And so here we are. My apologies for the delay in explanation. I write to you since I was thinking about my youth, about the instillation of hope. You were by far my favorite basketball player, your grace, talent and disposition left me no choice. I related to you in some unexpected way. I believed in you too. I hoped that on the court and in life that you would get your way. Can’t recall the year, ninety-seven perhaps, somewhere around then, you lost to the Bulls I think, in game seven. I remember the night well, I was still a teen and my mother worked nights so I was home by myself, shades halfway drawn, air-conditioner on, my drawing pads scattered about since I would doodle during fits of anxiety. I remember making some pitiful dinner, watching the pregame, and just being downright nervous about what was to come. How can I put it any more plainly? The game was of the utmost importance to me. Even now, as much as despise sports with what I see as their endless negative impact, I can relate to that level of hope, that level of investment; I hadn’t felt it before, and I sure haven’t since. I sat half the game on the floor, Indian style, rocking front to back with my stomach in a knot as the game went on, and commercials elongated the drama.
You, as you often seemed to be, were calm and collected on the court; you had all that stress — not to mention the annoyance of that histrionic blonde — but you were clever in your way, and you were adept at understanding mind games. There was so much to that game for me, I was so invested; so many intricacies and elements, so many nuances to watch for and dread, be relieved by and to be grateful for. I truly understood what it is to root for someone that night and I, like thousands of others rooted for you. This, I’m sure is of no real consequence to you, it is a default element to the game that you no doubt understood and took for granted by the time you were in high school, but to me it was a revelation. To me, that night, all the belief and hope and goodwill you had instilled in me throughout the season was at its breaking point and you and the other men darting around within that blurry television screen were the only ones able to control it; my irrelevance to the success at the end of hope had never been so glaring. And then the Bulls won; you walked calmly off the court.
I don’t remember what happened after that, though I’m sure it had something to do with turning off the television and after awhile, going to bed. I was sad. And you? What did you do after the lights and the cameras, questions and sounds died down to nothing and it was just you and a room? I can only imagine. One of the reasons I so appreciated you was for your personality; you were slyly stern with transparent issues, soulful eyes. While basketball seemed everything to you at the moment, it never to me seemed like it always would be and I believed you knew that from the outset. Am I wrong? What was on your mind that evening?
Chance taught me a lesson that night the Bulls walked off with the title; it was how brittle hope can be when it is overextended and left to the actions of others. How I ended up so affected by your loss became perplexing to me; I had let so much of your life in, as I had earlier this week with myself five, ten, fifteen years ago. I stopped with the journals around the time I met Risha, in fact, the last drawings are some nudes of her. The end of this sort of writing and sketching didn’t bother me at the time; actually, that’s when my writings got better, that’s when the cultivation and curation of moments and meaning began to be crafted in instants from my fingers to the page atop my simple, little desk. It became a distillation; the journals had become a dilution. Perhaps one day they’ll start up again; but for now, I remain unconcerned.
For me now, the young man I encounter in these journals was a slave to himself, a tightly wound mound of genetically determined strands. Had I looked up from the book, from within my convoluted self, I might have seen the peace my heart needed, the cells that rushed to tend to stress when they could have been unwinding me on the basest level, forcing me to change, truly change, to be a me I built as opposed to the me that was born, began to walk and was heavily bestowed upon. It was as if I believed my life was written as some vital tragedy with memorable, thought provoking lines of poetic tenderness. The catch was that it turned out to be, but because I was watching instead of living it. And you know what those journals proved to me in relation to all of this? That those lines I spent so many nights memorizing, they weren’t well-written at all.
So I get up from this bench to walk, to breath, to see, to know less of who I am and more of what I do, more of what will be done; my unwound strands I see releasing from one another like squid limbs from an anchor’s chain. No hope exists for us now and I do believe that’s a good thing, a fine encounter, a happy thing. We are sufficient to ourselves.
I thank you for your grace,
AUG 03 2015
The Hunters Enter the Woods,
Upon the wall hangs my silhouette in crisp lines. Flat shapes form my shoulders, neck and head; two wavering tree branches appear as well from the noon sun projecting off a parked car, all dusty and hot. I look up to the silhouette and it beckons my engagement like some will-o-the-wisp. How could I, on this insignificant day, explain this further to you? Can you imagine the scene, my thoughts, the moments passing as the sun slips down the windshield to vanquish all I feel? You yourself are aware of how much can transpire within a moment, are aware of the differences of realms. You are also one to stay silent, distant, to never once respond.
This morning I sat quietly on a rocker thinking about folklore, about legend-tripping. I was alone in the bedroom, fan on, windows shut, as my mind sought the legends and practices of old. I thought of my relationship with tales of the sort, of how they made me feel when I first heard them, and how as a man, they make me feel now. I remembered walks through the dark in which I would mull over humanity’s darkest tendencies and I put into focus my reasons for doing so. I thought of the inclement stage on which we search for others, ourselves and other things. Folklore seemed little else than amusement coupled with some fundamental search for uncertainty. An uncertainty filled with impulsion, fear, violence and of course, beauty; the lot of them entwined like tree and vine. And I sat in that chair, in silence, with thoughts such as these, a blank wall before me, clean like a page. And now my silhouette lays upon this blankness as I sit here writing to you, and it lingers, intermingling with my thoughts of life and simple living.
How are you doing all the way uptown? I picture you hanging there with all the other tapestries, quiet, mostly still, at peace with yourself up in that cold, cold room. Your essence seems otherwise warm despite your ominous depictions of things to come. Things man’s downturned eyes have always dreamed to say.
Remember when we met? What was it, middle school? I remember being in class with you nearby, over my shoulder as I thumbed through a generic book of world history. Strife and malice of course stood out as wars and oppression arose from each page. We saw those photos, still ingrained within me with their pixelated, contrasting tones and violence, of dogs and fire hoses and police attacking other humans who were simply demanding equality. But simple it wasn’t, and the thought of an inherent belief of supremacy broke me beyond repair and I was instantly taught to think less of myself and my species. How were those images so recent? How had we come to such a state? How now, a good twenty years from when I wondered this, could I be coming across scenes so similar? Hunters, so many, with so much game within the woods.
You are fortunate to be different than what it is you depict. I look again up to the wall with my sun-seared silhouette and shadows spoke of by spontaneous reflection and find the image almost punitive in the fact that it’s impermanent. At thirty-five I have walked the woods so many times that I can barely recall how they first appeared to me. I do remember the smell: dusty, large and open, and an ambiguous luminescence that hung in the distance of all that darkness. There seemed something virtuous in the search for peace through mystery; the mechanics of understanding were never seen easy acquisitions but they were available, that much I knew, there and forever so. I gathered them in the dark to the distant bellows of laughter and as I came across deranged man after deranged man with deranged beasts chained to their side, I began to question what the search for understanding might provide me aside from distrust and lasting cynicism. Was this getting to know myself? And if it was, should I unlearn what I had learned to be something other than I loathed?
We worked up a fire that night in the woods and I remember having you spellbound with macabre tales both true and untrue. You begged me to retell the tale of the young couple making love in the old car off on the side of the road. I told of their rumpled clothes and static filled hair charged in the fogged-up station wagon, and how their supple lips at first wet turned dry and quivered as the radio relayed the county-wide notice that a dangerous mental patient had escaped from a nearby hospital and was, with a hook for a hand, insane and very dangerous. You cringed at the thought of their bliss being disrupted but you were also thrilled by the thought of the inconsistent, heavy breathing and scratching atop the roof of their car. I too remember feeling thrilled but sickened as I drew out the tale to extend the suspense and terror that we inflict upon each other; but as a human I relished it too. Projecting terror can be so therapeutic and I held the suspense through silence and detail and gestures until we were both practically crumpled on the forest floor. And then, just before the big reveal I ventured into a lull where the noise, the source of their terror, died down and they, with screams in their throats, bounded from the backseat to lock the four doors and drive hastily away.
And then all was quiet on the road except for the blinkers and their staccato breaths. I told of how they passed the football field, reservoir, gas stations and other scenes of Americana; and when you were relaxed enough from this, I concluded with the scene of the boy getting out and rounding the car to her door, and you buckled from the thought of her seeing his face go pale through the window as he took notice of the bloody hook hanging from the handle. I too was disturbed by this but still loved the act of thinking it. The starlit sky didn’t seem too high that night, it was more like some low-lying canopy.
At some point the stories stopped and we grew silent, the fire dim. I twisted a piece of quartz before the flames after cleaning it with creek water. An opaque little menagerie devised by chaotic elements. Somewhere in there were opposing characteristics that made it such an object. You told me not to but I reburied it and went to sleep with thoughts that fell upon me like teeth to crippled prey. You mentioned years later that I feverously spoke during that sleep. What was said? My apologies if I’m boring you with recollections and contemplation of human nature, it’s just that you are an egress of sorts, as well as a friend, and you were with me that following morning as we rounded the limber saplings as they gave way to larger trunks that partly hid hounds and men that appeared to be searching. They wore a similar red that seemed to be an undercurrent that linked everything around, like blood. I didn’t trust them, but I trusted your knowledge. You understood them, what they were doing, what they depicted. You were older, wiser, and at times seemed to reflect upon the scene. The more and more we wandered, the more of them we saw. So much of them I despised. They were unpredictable in the eyes, their bodies harsh and toned by habit. We pressed on in our paths, bristling at the thought of having to encounter each other repeatedly. I became agitated and thought of what led me there in the first place. An inclination of sorts, an invitation that from deep within, I sent to myself.
A disconcerting relief befell me as the sun, like now, loomed harshly overhead. I saw my shadow wavering intermittently against the darkened forest floor. You went on solemnly about your relation to it all: to the woods, the men, the hounds, the hunt. You went on with zeal, leaving me with many questions to answer in the ensuing years. Years that taught me much, years that hardened naiveté into cynical skin. While I owe much of my understanding to you, I still have so many questions.
Perhaps we can meet again one day by the fire, within the woods before morning comes. And somewhere during that night you can answer my questions, dismiss or invite my hopes, and we can be gone from our place of slumber –ashes smoldering in the sunrise– before those hounds and men appear, before what always happens, happens, before what is depicted, is depicted, and most certainly before
AUG 07 2015
The Unicorn Is Found,
Found out last week that Mohammed Omar has not only been pronounced dead, but has been dead for years. This means that he, like those Buddhas of Bamiyan, is nothing more than dust and memory, existing only in ideals and beliefs. It also means, more immediately for me, that our wintry trip upstate never actually happened. This affected me, perplexed me, as it left me lone with my memories of the drive, the snow, the tea and biscuits and arguments about humanity and textiles and clever usages of pine. I enjoyed that trip, I felt like we actually transcended our usual bickering and emotional stand-offs, so to have it suddenly erased by a third-party headline like some chalkboard swipe left me feeling defeated, dusty nib of chalk in my hand, a complex formula to rewrite from what belittled memory I had. What was I seeking? What was he seeking within the woods so far from me?
I wrote you the other day but decided not to send it. In the letter, I spoke more about Omar, our trip that never happened, I even fit in a condemnation of Porgy & Bess. All of it was filler, just a kind of meandering through the superficial layers of expression –except for, of course, my disgust for Gershwin’s patronizing stab. I decided to begin again while keeping to the nuances of these last few confusing weeks. Ever since I thought to write you I was lost in expectance; it was as if I simply wanted your reply and had no real sentiment to express beforehand. Comprehension seemed so close, yet behind an abstract scrim of sorts.
I’m listening to Vivaldi’s bassoon concertos. His work always reminds me of my father, his house, the early mornings there. As a child, spending summers with him down in the mountains of North Carolina was an emotional experience for me. I wasn’t at all used to the country, to he and his wife, to their way of living. I still enjoyed being there though; seeing them, roaming around the woods, the fields and mountains and little towns but I missed my life at home too, and often times I felt very alone in that cabin settled down in the holler. The evenings were stage like to me; the windows black, nothing outside to be seen, the lights indoors were theatrical and low as they illuminated all our actions in each parcel of that open floor plan: in the kitchen we cooked, at the table we dined, in the living room we sat after a long dinner discussing our lives and the world. After a while we would go up the stairs to our rooms after turning off the lights one by one. Were I watching from outside like some live audience, I would imagine the upper level to be nothing but plywood spaces with smoking actors out of sight. But it wasn’t, and in my room I lay in bed thinking and sleeping and listening to twigs snap, the creek run, and crickets sounding throughout the night.
Come morning the night prior was like some confined dream given way to a grandness where anything could be discovered or experienced and the fluttering notes coming from the stereo below my room augmented all of this. The notes, Vivaldi. It’s satisfying work. Buoyant to me as anyone else. My mind has always been receptive to the way Vivaldi heard. As a child, it provided me much mental space where I could think as one would wander the coastline or sway, ghostlike, through the sundried lengths of hay fields. In short, at my core there was a centering while my mind sought the possibilities within life. I’ve never found anything negative in his work; there is turmoil, violence, tremendous stirrings but nothing wrong and by no means nothing mentally stunting. Quite the opposite. So, it is fitting I should have been drawn to him now as I sift through the lengths of my perplexing, confining mood.
The trains were somber earlier today. I scanned the faces of those around me as I creaked along on the L, and then the G. Joy felt distant. Mindfulness, elsewhere. I too was in my mind, eyes looking and locked away thinking about where I left the key. Nothing there could free me. No eyes, no thoughts, and certainly not the plastered start-up ads that spanned the length of the car as relentless as propaganda. Are those the arrow tips that befall the encroached upon? Do those so-called innovators not respect all that roam the woods? I doubt they do, and yes, these are ongoing trials, I know. I’m just another hopeful within the city typing out complaints to all who are born. But these I thought were different, as they lead from me, to you, to
AUG 12 2015
The Mystic Capture of the Unicorn: Fragment One,
I see a face peering from the woods to a statue just outside the tree line. It is still, stone, a face forever shadowed. I make mention because it is on my mind, and also, because it is complete. Much unlike you or me. We exist in life differently, much differently. I am typing in the dark to you, an experience not unlike walking away from a promise, or swimming nude in the ocean at night. I hope this resounds. I want nothing more for this understanding to reach you, then unto me, and back again. Perhaps I’m simply reaching through the unfinished dark in the hopes of feeling the face of another.
And would you at some point reach back? Would you reach to me with understanding of the unattainable? I feel like you are one of the few I can write to at this dark hour. One unfinished, one unable to do away with casted shadows, just like that stone symbol I mentioned above. The one Saint-Gardens built for Clover Adams.
I wrote Henry years ago. He wasn’t listening, wasn’t interested. I should have known before I sent it. The letter itself was drab. Was my fault, I was writing just to write and the result was something less than worthwhile. I doubt I can repair now. If I remember correctly it was something about a shooting down in Virginia. An act of mass violence that has now been overshadowed by many other such acts. I paid less attention back when I wrote Henry. Could my tone have been due to a fatigue already setting in? Most likely. How tiring violence and its regressions can be. A shooting here, shooting there, overblown coverage, magnified despair, vehement responses in opposition. The same stagnation for the sake of sticking with ideals to the detriment of a cause.
And at these times I also think of the daily dead in impoverished areas throughout the country undiscovered by this sympathetic sentiment that so resounds through hyper-produced newscasts. Perhaps Henry, the deft sifter of echelons, would have perked up more from this discussion. I quite respect him, as you know, so I felt a painful yet understanding twinge when he so rightly never responded. I hope he, I hope others, are thinking past what talking heads and writing hands are telling them, and that they write or speak nothing in return that is not thought through, understood. Until then there is silence. A silence that empowers me. This, my friend, is what I call fortune; a fortune I one day may exchange for a deeper silence, a deeper peace.
Eunice discussed her thoughts on each artist’s duty that day long ago by the lake; she pushed me to care about one another, be diligent in my attempts to keep such sentiment afloat, to hone my perceptions of the world’s justice and injustices; and yes, I agreed to some degree. I think of her face now as I sit alone at this machine in all this darkness. I see those lines of anguish around her eyes, along her mouth, that fate carved with such insistence. How frayed, how beautiful, how distinct she became by doing and saying and believing in her gifts; they were such strong and useful tools yet they left her unguarded to other elements, elements that bored by way of neglect, like rust, like termites, and they gnawed while she sang her songs of sweet and heavy winds that eroded the false facades that shadowed her. She sang herself and others right through this darkness, tormented all the while.
When did she became whole, not some fragment of a thinker? When was her Art, mind and purpose unified? It certainly wasn’t that day by the lake, our thoughts on Evening Town, but the components were still all there, floating within her in jagged fragments that came to her in jagged fragments. We’d sit there and nod, juggling these emotions in the shade, but we were young, lost in love and thought and possibilities and never thought that life could fulfill in the ways that it does. And in it juts now, an immovable shape within the darkness: not a wall, but a horn, of which I am only at its tip. Outwards it splays in conical dimension to a base of living almost mystical. I sharpen perception, lift my head to the wind. Does quelling life by living include a quest for understanding, for unification, or is it just a self-inflicted thrill of the hunt? The mystery of the hereafter speaks to me of undone things. They are complete in this dark room, just currently lost to my grasp. So, I reach to this machine, forge what I can from the darkness onto this crisp page of white. It is always unfinished, a bit of light within this dark where one can always end, and or begin.
And yes, I know you know these mysteries, we’ve discussed them through the night, in the bars, during lunches in the park, through the very woods where wisdom went; and we’ve looked to each other –two fragments– for actual completeness. For us there can be no other, since at the source is where you build, where you stabilize, where you mend. I’ve learned such worth from your broken tenderness, that I thought I’d offer some of mine in return. And here it rests, in the form of a meandering letter. Take it well, as you always do.
I look forward to our next meeting –say sometime this coming Autumn– where we can seek the subtle delights of wandering this city through and through. We can read Henry and sip rum in quiet bars, and still, most important of all, distance ourselves from our trailing threads. For such indecision and fretting only leads to more of the same, to somewhere far from the completion of ourselves, from our Art, from each other. It leads and leads only to the darkened, disquieted grounds where no seeds are sowed, no fires are built, no flowers grow; it is a place to lose oneself, it is a place to avoid, it is nowhere, nothing good, it is where
AUG 31 2015
The Unicorn Is Attacked,
The surroundings were rich with color as we tracked through the woods, our hounds obsessively following the scent. At times we walked in groups, sometimes in file, other times we would break off from one another, make modest camps where the hunt was discussed along with talk of our lives, the unicorn, the pastries and ale of Liege. Most of us had been assigned the task of bringing in the beast within days for an event we of course would not be attending. A few volunteered, and others joined by way of talent, trade, or sheer proximity. None of us seemed to take pride in what we were doing, yet if there were in fact misgivings, not one of us let on; our actions though, our actions were sluggish with hesitance and dismay, in some cases, dread. I for one wanted the hunt over as soon as it began, but I in no way wanted to see the beast slain. Part of me didn’t even believe that it existed. Less than a third of our party claimed to have ever seen a unicorn, and aside from our guide’s pointed knife handle that he swore was unicorn horn, there was no real evidence of the beast save the King and Queen’s demand.
There is much I took from those days in the woods, on that hunt; I can still see the wildflowers in dense, low patches and the tree trunks swaying slowly like masts all lined within the harbor; I can still feel the fear and misunderstanding I felt, the many anxious moments, the nausea, the bluejays mimicking hawks and our competitors, the wolves, mocking our hounds underneath the heavy, moonlight.
It was a bad time for me. My sister Leelah had taken her life back home and our brother Joshua had gone missing. There was a heat too that battered us that summer and a lot of the forest, and our men for that matter, were stifled and crazed by it. Being sent off to kill does something to a person; there is curiosity, a liberation to some, to others it is more humbling, a duty, a curse. At any moment one can change course, desist, but often times they don’t. There are consequences, yes, but they are less morally severe than what will be carried out, never to be undone. There is a push and pull to lethal orders and we had the misfortune of living among them, our thoughts upon death as the long summer days extended.
So, for days we mulled over what was to be done; our minds cluttered with instinct and conscience, duty and distant memories of benevolence. I alternated from feeling close, to detached, to both that unicorn and myself. Why we were hunting it was beyond me, and I agonized over how I became a component in a scheme so grotesque. How did it happen? I could explain slowly, specifically, just how it all played out, but never could form an explanation I could digest; or at least an explanation to make my darkest thoughts in slumber leave me alone. All of us groaned and whimpered at night as we slept. We had things to figure out, that itself was a certainty. The woods were like our minds: shadowed mazes, forever shifting. I was deep within mine, chasing beautiful beasts.
The men, myself included, grew more and more unkempt, viler. The heat and still of the forest wore us down, as did spoiled berries, creek water and rancid meat. I by no means was an exception and at times I winced with shock as I looked down to see my reflection in the water. Relief came when my filter sack shattered my semblance and I would try my best to forget I drank the flavors of bugs and grime. Not much did quench our thirst, and the men stupidly drank more wine which only made them drunk, thirstier, then careless, tired, and ultimately irritable. Again, I was no exception, and I occasionally stabbed the trunks of trees as I passed. We fed mostly on rodents and root vegetables as the hounds scared off larger things. The old venison we brought began to taste like my fingers, metallic it was, completely disgusting. One day I took aim at an injured pheasant and held my bow until my arms trembled. I was more than happy to kill it, to eat it, my inside ached for nourishment, but instead I shot a leaf in the shape of a jagged tongue, the arrow passed through it with a speed I wished my own death would take. A crisp portal of light flapped quietly through the hole. The pheasant looked up, spread its wings and flew away.
That night I slept alone in the thicket, just within earshot of the men at the camp. Through a bare patch in the tree canopy I could see some shape of the sky. I can still picture it now, as familiar as the great paintings in Brussels: it was long lengthwise, shaped like a moth, and through it I saw the heavens scrolling like running streams; occasionally a star would accelerate — askew to all the others — and before I could fully fixate, would fade, falling into a space untraceable. This made me melancholy like one wouldn’t believe and I nodded off to thoughts of my brother and sister.
I had visions of my siblings, all vague and hazed in twilight fog. They acted differently with me, almost with pity, and seemed to assume some sort of command over my understanding of the situation. They were eerie as they went, malleable, nude, shifting from one another, then suddenly cloaked in the mist. I got up and followed and by the time I truly came to I was upright and steps into an untried path. It was barely there to one unknowing, but I followed as I imagined my siblings tumbling forward too. At last I heard a distant trickle and I followed and followed and followed until the foliage parted onto a tiered fountain all aglow in the moonlight. On it, faces spouted water along with other ornamentation, it had brass initials dangling that clanked softly in the wind. From this fountain, on this particular night, I felt that all things flowed. I disrobed and washed and drank from its simple white basin, red flowers creeping up the sides.
This fountain eased me considerably. Aside from the fresh water and much needed washing, I felt the ease one feels when they have found an attuned position in life. I felt as some society of one; in a sense, its foundation. It was a sensation very high, a feeling threatened to be divided by emotion. Though the fountain with its steady flow, held me steadfast in feeling, and like its basin, a vindication filled within me. Without doubt or fear did I picture it, unquestioned, and so deep in this serenity I was that I was unaware of dawn’s approach.
The birds’ stirrings snatched my attention forth and then came earthen bass cracks of nearby roots. The bushes around me shook, I smelled mud and urine and could faintly hear the devilish wave of hound yelps approaching. I took to my feet and found them weak from my daze so I used my spear to stand with blurred eyes focused on its well-worn tip of dark and light. So lost was I in this that by the time the rush of beast and man burst forth from the bushes, behind that edged tip, I had by instinct put it straight through the unicorn’s white throat, coloring red the nearest man with blood clear across his face. And he too sunk in his spear, as did another and another; as did the hounds with their teeth and all stabbed and gnawed at the unicorn’s flesh to extinguish what stirred within. At last everyone was called off, the hounds beaten with brush, and we washed the blood from its slain body with the pure fountain water that flowed.
I struggle to tell you of the ensuing violence I witnessed as our grotesque party made its way back to the castle; the fights, the revelry, the drunken men grunting and falling upon each other in the concealment of the night. And I struggle to express the pallor this event has cast over the rest of my days. My companions begrudgingly gave me the blade to sever the unicorn’s spiraled horn as I was the first to strike and since, as they saw it, the animal had been distracted as it observed me bathing in profundity. I looked to my reflection in the sword before I swung it, and I tell you now with strong assurance that I’ll never see that man again. Nor will I ever know his thoughts, yet I’ve been granted much more than the sad, sage knowledge of just why it always is that
SEP 13 2015
The Unicorn Defends Itself,
Yesterday I went out running in a storm filled with conflicting elements of tumult and release. One great analogy. The surroundings weren’t pleasant — four lane roads in Florida — but it was a relief nonetheless. The palms tossed from the gulf winds, lizards scattered across pavement darkened by millions of fresh drops that still couldn’t seem to make the surroundings wetter. The days prior filled with humidity, liquid abounded, liquid in dreams, liquid in holes, liquid in lungs. Each day has hovered mid-nineties with the sun glowing diffused like an embryo in formaldehyde up on a kitchen window ledge.
Yes, you guessed it, I’m seeing my grandfather off during what most likely will be the last weeks of his life. I’m at the same house you and I visited when we flew down from North Carolina, all young and wild and just recently introduced to the ways of poetry. We guzzled up his liquor cabinet and discussed with him many things. We reflected on the past and all of its mysteries, joy and dysfunction. He seemed to be so at ease here with Arlene and her family. I felt very proud of him for having gone off and done his own thing, forged his own life. I remember you and I frolicking drunkenly in the pool as I laid on the bottom while you unfurled up on the surface, spreading endless sun-colored light downward onto me like stained glass. A beautiful memory. Now I sit alone by that same pool, all dimmed and rippling with rain.
Yesterday was difficult. He was in pain first thing, his lung was filling with liquid and the only option was getting it tapped at the emergency room, or waiting two days, maybe more, for his doctor’s office to take him. We went to the hospital and sat there half the day. It was the regular circus, with roving hospital personal popping in and out with varying questions and levels of compassion. We all were half-awake and freezing from the air-conditioning, listening to the alerts and pulsations of the surrounding machinery. What is it that they call the point in which machines prevail? Singularity? Anyway, my grandfather, quite understandably, was irritated with any and everything, though he kept mostly calm, except for with me. Mind you I’ve only been here for a week and we’ve had no disagreements whatsoever, and at times we’ve just sat there on the couch, no television or music, just holding hands. That however has turned, with him attacking my every word and as I approach or pass through the room, giving me a searching eye clearly formed by a sneer.
We’ve never actually argued in life aside from an occasional rift due to my listless, artistic temperament, but we’ve always got along and I feel complex reasoning for why he is acting this way now. Does he resent mv youth? my stage in life? the fact that I am here? The fact I don’t have benefits? a family of my own? The fact that I’m drinking all his Chivas? The fact that I don’t smile when things get awkward? That fact that I bored instantly into his indifferent doctor’s soul? Or is it quite simply that the day after he is laid to rest I will be walking here among his family, sharing their lives, their laughter, their moments on Earth?
The day I arrived he and I sat here by the pool with a couple beers as he described his belief that he made the tail-end of the greatest generation. I sat there nodding, knowing the two of us would never see eye-to-eye on many things. Not that I’m disagreeing on generational worth, that’s not the case, the disagreements seem more fundamental than that. My generation, to me at least, has never introduced itself. I don’t plan on having it over any time soon, and certainly have no interest in joining its clever start-up. What it is I want is what he wanted; and my want is not soon to end. Perhaps this is what he resents in me. Regardless, it’s taxing, and was extremely so this day. Once we got his lung tapped and back to the house to rest, I tore out into the streets, running wildly through the storm, looking up at water towers backed by the darkest grey skies, How I wished a bolt would have pierced them, gushing water forth and onto the trailers and terracotta rooves. But of course, one never did, and I ran far, sweat and rain covering me, until I could not take it anymore.
I returned to the house and the sound of a football game met me, as did a darkened house with central air. Too cold. I stepped into the living room and saw my grandfather stretched out in his recliner, oxygen tank sounding like some ethereal locomotive, with my mother curled up next him, a plaid blanket strewn across the two of their bodies. This hurt me and I began to ache as put a beer on ice. I went out the sliding glass door and slid directly into the pool.
It was still raining and the sky was low and heavy with birds hunkered down discussing life muffled in the trees. I thought of that scene we spoke of on our return to North Carolina, the one of my tall, lean grandfather, hand-feeding that tall, lean Egret. The bird came back today for food, but my mother and I went out to feed him instead. A lasting image, my grandfather concentrating serenely on serenity so that the bird would take the food from him. I can recall it jumping up, flying softly to him with such precision to take the food from his still fingers. Flesh and bone. I thought of this as I sought the pool’s base, as I spun round, looking up at the world from that simple basin, rain drops rippling from my plunge. In such chaos I felt relief, no harm, no tragedy. The weight of water, the ways of water, gave me great comfort and I kept myself down there as long as I could. Such are the moments that settle into memory from the level of awareness from when they actually occurred. They are ingrained by heightened circumstance, but also from one’s attempt to emotionally catalogue them. It’s one thing to remember a sight such as my grandfather feeding that bird, it’s another to physically bottle how it felt to be losing him. At this point I have gallons of it kept.
I’m awash with the sentiment of loss, of losing, of every hour feeling much heavier than water. I cannot answer the grocery store clerk’s inquisitive salutation without seeing the grand and abstract wings of death. Each scanned item sounds the pulse and cadence of an oxygen tank; each rolling thunder rolls with opening and closing of the old man’s throat; each paper laying daily, wet in the driveway, is not to be taken by his hands, nor are the worldly events that conjure our timely relevance going to reach his mind. He’s three-quarters into the void and I’m holding his trembling hand. This is all falling apart, or is apart. How quickly it comes to be, in fragments. How much more do I near, then feel distant in understanding. How apt we are at letting life drift into
AUG 26 2015
The Mythical Capture of the Unicorn; Fragment Two,
Afternoon. Hope the day is treating you well. I’ve been up since the early hours, watched the sun rise over the trees and brownstones and lay there with thoughts of you, our past, our differences, and how you are now. I was calm, the only real discord was not having you near to discuss these things. Guess that’s what happens before most letters are written. I kept the feelings, the urge to write you within me, like some tyrant suppressing a societal urge. It’s late in the day now, four or so, I went walking through the city and after an hour the right vacant bench appeared and the pen came out. But only after a small bird approached and sat still, requesting a feeding. It perched on a wildflower reaching wildly across the sidewalk, and as it sat within arm’s length, its minuscule chest feathers flipping up against the grain with the delicacy of paper ash. Observing this scattered my underlying discord enough to send some words to you.
When we last spoke I was seething. My apologies. It’s difficult to witness insecurities forming anger and how that anger then disguises itself as personal rights, justification; vindication of harmful actions. How a day much like today — sun, breeze, free time in the city — have turned to such emotional degradation is beyond me. Or at least I’m pretending it to be. That day I walked through the Whitney to see the new space. I had been to the old location once, a good fifteen years ago, and pondered why the hiatus. Upon entering the new space, the sunrise turned to memories of the old museum and eventually, to an understanding of why I never visited it again. From the dull renderings of our country’s vile industrial past, to the postmodern ghosts that inhabited those same steel carcasses as they set out to pump a heart with mind, no blood, I was reminded of how drab and histrionic American art can be. If the cause was to detach from the old formulas of Europe to start again, anew, they certainly did so with a trite, patriotic gusto unconcerned with lineage or anything post-them. While taking aim at our loose and shameless ways, they simultaneously took advantage of the affordable space economic dysfunction wrought so that they could flesh out their brittle egos for all the world to see. I walked around making mental notes of the works I did like: Walker Evans of course, Charles Burchfield was oddly nice, Bill Traylor, an Adrian Piper by sight alone, one de Kooning, a Kara Walker (thanks to the titles), Hans Haacke is usually rigidly amusing.
And for an hour or so I went through thinking about what I was seeing and how I was perceiving it. I wondered what portions of my understanding was unshakeable and how that stubbornness could both help and hurt me. In truth, I should not want to gag from Bruce Nauman, nor any of the other scraggly, bearded-mind-men with their shortcuts to answers hidden in the shadows of their dog-eared Derrida. I tell myself that its due to my own frustration, that the world could use each and every artist’s interpretation but it is often no use. As was the case on this particular day, and I walked the Whitney’s halls with a deadened face.
Afterwards came the outdoors, with all its solitude and inspiration. I was welcomed by the city with its noise and advertisements, but I was also met with morphing clouds and my own footsteps on the polished old stone of the West Village. I peered into old homes, small parks, restaurants, and on occasion, myself. The anger was building and I didn’t know it. I wanted to decimate, but all I really thought I wanted was a walk.
Art is a most vulnerable realm. It is by default personal; it involves ego, egress, struggle and commitment. Commitments to make, commitments to avoid. It is a balancing act that demands consistency and that consistency is tested daily. That consistency has worn down, through grinding, my very bones, my very teeth. Above I mentioned an egress, a component of creation that of course is most important. I’ll elaborate: some think of the egress as creation itself, that once the form is chiseled, the bow is taken, the last word sung, that all is released and settled until one begins to churn it all within, again. Yes, this can be the case, sometimes it is, but for some nothing is ever settled or ever to be left alone, and I’ve come to appreciate that for myself this is most certainly the case. I realize now that one can be unfinished, that they can stand testament to circumstance, beauty and all of the uncertainties of time. I’m just another living person to be eclipsed by all of this; aside from my actions, uncertainty and circumstance form my environment, beauty itself is my gravitational pull. Grand schemes, yes, laughable, yes, but this is what I felt, this is what was so tautly wound within me as restaurant patrons paused their lifted forks to think or feel for a millisecond the harsh alarm of discomfort that chased me past their window. And then they swallowed veal.
And that night in bed life sunk its teeth into my back and I saw crimson seeping through the dark of our bedroom. I was told I had been a drag that day and with one last thrust I shook for some release. It never came, nor was I expecting it to. I went to sleep frustrated and alone, held very close to sleep’s surface, agitated, muttering
AUG 10 2015
The Unicorn Is Killed and Brought to the Castle,
Across the road a limestone building is being power washed. From its chiseled details of ledges and archways and columns, streams of water fall. The clash of the stream against the windowsill catches sunlight in vivid ways. Behind the surrounding shrubs and leaves below, the sound of falling water takes place in shadow. The smell of it is summer, the feel of it is life. The terracotta roof is dry and dusty, the dental molding beneath it, mint; and the sun races against it in reflections from passing cars, the water that washed it dries, soaks into air. The brittle Sycamore leaves among it bristle against the damp facade with each and every wind and I feel that we are the only ones to take notice of this simple, yet most fruitful event. And the peace of god that passeth is under the feet of man today.
Walking here I took my preferred street, President. It’s shaded with slate sidewalks occasionally vaulting from protruding tree roots. The homes, architecturally, get more interesting as you continue up the slope until they crescendo at the park’s western side. It’s a fine place to sit, write, draw or just look around. I do so often, as I am now, as memories from my walk carousel through my mind. Like now, I recall a window from a grand home with tall, broad details surging with organic forms like pearls and shells, the glass for each window old and wavy. One of them, obviously some child’s room, had animal stickers stuck in an arrangement of one large mass. In it I saw the adhesive sides to familiar shapes: a crocodile, a bear, snakes, wolves and horses.
I pictured what the child thought as they hoisted each one up onto that vital plane. A pane of a childhood window holds a compelling trajectory for life. It is the view from which both mystique of life and trajectory of living are both studied and overlooked. What do you remember from yours? What of your life now do you remember seeing? I remember some sand soil evergreens waving steadily against a distant sky. My windows were high, drab, aluminum; the room not unlike a bunker since it started out as a garage. It was for inward thought and planning, not to take in the view. This is not a complaint — sure, President street would have been better — but the view of looking up from that box perhaps prevented dirt, so to speak, from falling atop my head. My view is better now. And what do you see? My view has much sky, the tops of buildings, trees and one horn of a spiraled steeple. I look at it dismembered, body eclipsed by all that goes on below it. The view from these bay windows that I write within, I am fortunate to have them. I seek some sort of deliverance in there. Does this make sense to you?
Last week my mother was in town and we all went out for lunch. Sunday, oppressively hot, and everything took forever. We put our names in for a table, perused a farmer’s market, then a store, then I sat alone in the shade sweating as they wandered. I was annoyed by this way of life. I wasn’t concerned with driving, shopping or eating food in a room with other people. Eventually we sat and I began to relax. Towards the end of the meal a storm snuck in. It was swift with heavy with rain pounding down. People were leaping and dashing in clothes that clung to their bodies. I turned to look out as everyone else did, and I immediately thought about the open bay windows at home and whether all that water pouring in. My typewriter sat safely up on my desk, but below, on the floor were my writings, a pile knee high. I sat imagining all of that water reaching in, soaking the pile, circling the base with a puddle profound. I pictured the fibers of paper melding into adjacent sheets, the dried ink reawakening and escaping my sentiment in unreadable, murky clouds. I imagined it deeply, the whole scenario was thought out through and through. I took a deep breath, sat back, had some rye toast and ice water. I felt worried but liberated that all could be absolved by what is answerless. And I finished eating, kept up conversation with grunts and hand gestures, and followed everyone out once the rain stopped.
The sky was again blue with rich, rolling cumulus. Water ran in the streets along the curbs, pooling around clogged grates. I was in a bit of a daze as we made our way among this. But that too came to an end once got home and I saw the wet floor, chair and rug, with my pile of writings simply damp but not ruined. I felt relieved by this, intent to carry on, the day was not to bring the end of things, it clearly showed that
AUG 24 2015
The Unicorn Is in Captivity, and No Longer Dead,
The cicadas sound loudly in alternating choruses. I like them, they call to mind the end of all summers: the feel, the heat, the scents, humidity, fatigue, delirium, tomatoes, peaches and corn. I like this realm for it is less like a time of year than a state unto itself. A song of threnody for summer. With such deftness, the cicadas’ soon to be hollowed husks describe the life that howls through summer’s lungs all filling up with haze from autumn’s fugue. This radiance of dying light defies what I know of moving on, for I feel that it exists amongst another sphere, another plane, one with different laws and arrangements.
So, you see I’m feeling quite relaxed. Quite at home. I feel otherly in this humid sphere of complete sensations; detached from the depths of winter, the violence of spring, the recklessness of June and July, the silence and thought of October. Where I am now upholds the silence of wisdom with concentrated pause, not a gasp. A remarkable place, complete with the beneficence of having nothing as it was. And my thoughts too, they defy, they entice, they do not confound. While they remain in the circular sty that is my cranium, they seem replete with these same sensations that come with these end of summer moments. They join the cicadas in their loftiness, their virility being felt and heard, not seen.
As was the opposite in a vivid, silent dream I had the other night. I was on an old shipping boat heading up towards Cairo and Alexandria on the Nile. The boat was dusty and flat, used for transporting stone and timber and it moved slowly over waters that I had always heard about but had never seen. The sights compelled me in both unique and complex ways. I myself was somewhat dirty, perhaps from work or long days on that boat travelling up the river, loading from the banks. The dream took place one night, the river hues of black and blue with brittle and broad reflections of jittering white. I looked into the eyes of those that passed on other boats; some were accepting, some were not, and I felt within a situation of instinct, that all would occur direct from impulse, outside of habit. I had a shawl, faded and dusty and I wrapped it around my neck as the temperature dropped, the sky broadened black, upwards into infinite stars.
Much of the dream went on like this, the boat slowly taking me upriver. I saw others out on the banks, I saw the moon rise in orbit, flits of crocodiles and fish and other things within the river. I felt very alone but not frightened. I was curious of the year — it had to be ancient — but this thought was never too overwhelming, just different, and potent; there was so much of this era that interested me. Although I never left the boat, I saw from it great torches that lit ropes and pulleys that hoisted rocks onto rocks; the details of the scaffolding and workers and their techniques were so articulated. I could see their belts, their sweaty arms, their thick sandals coated in mortar and sand as they broke skin, drew blood, to assemble a civilization. And on occasion flares would lift high into the night sky to cast strong light for the workers, and from them I could see more, further into each town, with the distant buildings heading into darkness.
At one point while I was watching this, transfixed by the act, a young girl tugged my sleeve and looked up to me with sad eyes. I was unaware of her beforehand, and after our silent introduction, we said nothing, did not introduce ourselves or explain our travels. Somehow, I understood that she too was unaware of how she got there. We watched these acts of building together. She shivered so I put my cloak and arm around her. We watched as the towns grew larger as we made came closer to Cairo. And the moon hung above us, nothing like a metaphor, but as a crescent with the dark side slightly visible and we stared at that pocked portion too.
Below, so much stirred within from witnessing this grand scale of burgeoning human feats; it was so awesome to me that all I could really do was stand still, warming the girl, while my mind wandered through humanity like some abandoned palace. All that befell us before that moment, and all that was to befall us after, and further still, centuries beyond my death, it all seemed to be propelled by the mechanism of our drive; and from such momentum, species and societies would sprout, be scorched, be cultivated and plucked. One big machine, humankind, with so much of our own components stuck beneath the wheel. I wanted to shout across the banks, shown them the same pain in the muscles of their future, so that they might take time from their tools and demand to understand our part in it all. Maybe they were.
And from this agony and delight colors came into my vision like light spots, swirling along that rich night sky; and they augmented the fires of the torches of the towns and became more inflamed by them, encircling wildly and widely into waves of undulating hues that then broke apart like sperm, or tadpoles, or mercury from a palm. I looked down to her, brown eyes aloft as she watched the colors too, skin stained by the lights that so beautifully soaked us. Deep reds, dull teal, hot whites, antique beige and pink and crimson and canary yellow threaded and leveled and clashed against one another with varying velocity and effects. And we watched this, lips dry, understanding. I studied her. She was dead in the real world, at once I understood this, and she was taking in these universal gestures as if they occurred within her. Society was just some afterthought, but being near to my warmth, my pulse, was not; and she linked my place in being with the elements that so complexly crafted our machine. It was only right that we were silent, the bubbling waters parting from the passing of our filthy ship. I pressed her closer, rested my chin atop her head as our dream of life faded through those many colors, away.
And then I woke up,
SEP 26 2015
The Ashes of Maya Plisetskya,
I’m up above the Gulf as I depart Florida by plane. In our ascent I saw over the areas of Tampa, Clearwater and Dunedin where I’ve spent the last three weeks caring for my grandfather Robert, as he slowly succumbed to the cancer in his lung. He recently opted out of further therapy since it trounced his immune system, and at the age of eighty-seven, concluded that he had lived long, fully and well. His will was strong, his heart was healthy, and it took him into an ethereal mind state of timelessness and ambiguities; he saw and felt things, his mind confused by the body’s state.
I never knew when would it would be right for me to leave. I eyed dates to come home, to tend to my own life, but it either never felt truly right, or something here would happen to deter me. I couldn’t leave my mother and Arlene alone to care for him so I never did. Earlier this week he slipped into a mostly comatose state and with the help of everyone here, I resolved to leave this weekend and booked the flight that now carries me. I never thought he would have lived through the week and was in disbelief this morning as I sat next to his gaunt, distressed body attempting to say farewell; my right hand on his left shoulder, silent, with intense feelings keeping me from speaking. I had nothing really to say that he and I hadn’t discussed this long and vivid September so I simply gave him a kiss on his temple that was beating wildly with his pulse, said goodbye and that I loved him and with my still and calm pulse tried to calm him. Then I got up, held Arlene and put my bags into his Buick.
My mother decided to bring me so we left alone, together. The ride was uneventful; the roads were quiet being Saturday morning. I saw last sights of Palms, Osprey and Egrets, Pelicans, Parrots and causeways stretching across shimmering waterways lapping with the gentleness of soundly slept eyelashes. The ride was a sort of somber coda to my visits down there with him and I took in every second of it. The car stayed mostly silent. By the time my mother and I parted and I made way through the airport to sit numb and alone at the gate, Arlene called and calmly told me that he was gone.
I took with me his large, wool sweater which encases me now, and two photos of him taken years before I was born. In one he stands suited, contrapposto, in front of Monticello, a building I know I’ve bored you with stories of; its genius, beans, quirks and abundant ladybugs. Strange flowers reach to him from the left of the pebbled walkway. He looks strong with piece of mind, several shades of blue. In the other photo he stands content, brow somewhat quizzical or perhaps altered from the sun’s light. It is a bust view, the frame taken up by his large shoulders, head and spanning sheep’s wool collar. He is justified to the right, behind him at the picture’s center, a tall, broad fir. It is evident by clothing, light and hare branches intersecting that it was winter and he was still up in western Jersey — Boonton was the town — I never brought you up there. I love the photo, love his look, his face content, pneuma glinting within his eyes. As I stare out at this vast layer of sprawling, ongoing towers of cloud I find my love for him unmatched by any time before, and most likely after. Is this how love uplifts? Is this immense feeling the unmatched product of bonds? It certainly feels so. My body feels heavier, more full, as if another rock was added within this wall, or another edge to define my prism.
A verdant dream I have from this personal, tropical September of love, loss, sun and anguish. I wish the world well from up here. I thank it for being the lasting vault for all our bodies, and I think of you, your ashes, spread across it swirling and lively. He too will take your form, and turn grass, air, the blue ocean grey until they, with their limitless hues remind my eyes that all is right in living, and all is well again.
To a mindless light,
OCT 01 2015
On the train down to the Shore. It’s in the ninth hour, morning, so across the tracks of every station, I see commuters lined up and waiting for their ride to work. They stand still in coveys, some flip through their phones, some through their bags for breakfast, almost all have headphones and cups of coffee. I’ve got my pen, this paper, and an almost empty car. My mind quests to fit this industrial, grey landscape. The steel skeletons of Newark and Elizabeth, the track rubble laying in untidy piles like little victims. Under vaulted, concrete bridges derelict train cars lie on their sides with cracked glass and plant life inside them. Within the next dozen stops the landscape will change, under-develop, break apart by way of water and sea-salted soil and leaning willows, and there will also be sprawl metastasized across once beautiful land. Places with composite brick and nonsensical old English names like Fox Trot Pointe or Olde Silver Meadows on the Ridge, will begin to sprout and sun and seagulls will descend on each and every little shore town. Boats rock high in the turbulent waters. A hurricane approaches.
It’s my mother’s birthday. I’m headed down solo to take her out to a quiet dinner un in Rumson. Nice and dark over there by the river with the Oceanic Bridge lanterns lit like luminescent vertebrae. Probably have a couple at Barnacle Bill’s, then onto dinner elsewhere. Why am I telling you this? I don’t know. I’ve written you before, yet I don’t know you. We’ve never had dinner or wine; I never knew John. I play Backgammon by myself. See, I guess I just wanted to write, to elaborate, to communicate in this time of deep reflection.
With my Grandfather’s death I felt — still feel moreso everyday — a removal of my own foundation. This has put me in an odd state, one where I feel stronger within but less relevant out here in the ceaseless currents of time. I watch as the remnants of transient camps show along the backsides of these little towns and inlets. What transpired there? What was shared, discussed? By whom? These thoughts are nothing new to wonder, but now the context beckons too, roping me, my grandfather, my family this life, into transience. His last moments still echo in memory like spectral, smoldering embers along these tracks that all have abandoned. And as I write I pass by the cemetery that holds the body of his daughter, Nancy. Quietly, that plot, stone and earth will be swept over by the oncoming storm. Makes me want to lay there on the wet grass just to be there in solidarity. At least I’d be there, that’s more than I can say for me here, nowhere, now.
This foundation I should mend. Counter this with that, dark with light, light with dark, lies with truth, loss with love. And along such lines, among some loving others, Risha and I decided to push our anniversary back a month, to October, and wed upstate with a quiet ceremony out on the Hudson–Athens Lighthouse. We’ve been meaning to do this for awhile now — although not in this specific fashion — but the last month of spent in Florida pushed us from our norms into the need of being there for one another. The deathly circumstance held me there, held September 24th from us; so let it take it we did and effortlessly we shed the date from what it means while we planned, anew. And now we look forward to our own time spent broadening the strength of bonds. We will honor them there, ours and many others. And why should you know this? Perhaps because you’d feel that way too.
And now I pass over the Navesink, the river I’ll again be looking at with my sad, tender mother still aching from her loss. Maybe I’ll bring you up in conversation; she too is an admirer, she too is happy to have you around even though you’re not really, aside from in theory. Guess it works that way sometimes. But anyway, the grey, the dusted ghosts and power lines of Long Branch are here so I must switch to a diesel train and head down to Asbury. Perhaps I’ll speak to you soon, perhaps I won’t. I’ll hold your pneuma near regardless, like a lasting feeling, or the scent of some nostalgic smoke.
OCT 24 2015
I’m looking down at the wide pine floorboards as they trail off into the window’s bright white-gold reflection. I write you from the flat we’re renting up in Hudson. You are here in spirit but of course were not invited because no one really was. This peaceful room is just for Risha and I as we calmly share each another for the weekend. We wed in an hour out on the Hudson–Athens Lighthouse.
I know I should have told you earlier. Maybe have even invited you to come by, sit by the fire to pass around Calvados but alas I didn’t, and I can live with that. Pretty sure you can too. Just sit back and read as I from this wood and plaster room describe the moment to you. I’ve showered, been ready for an hour or so. I ran early this morning down to the river and remained at the Parade Ground looking out over the waters and behind them, the Catskills climbing into the slate grey sky to tumble onwards, out of sight. There were workmen repairing and replacing docks below and they congregated around a crate that had doughnuts and coffee. The perspective from above with a flattened viewpoint was very Brueghel, and I stood watching them through my white breath feeling very connected to all who stood with beating hearts. I looked beyond them and saw a boat — perhaps the two men preparing the lighthouse for us — heading out towards it. The boat’s wake spread wide like the tail of a skunk, or a peacock, or perhaps simply like water in a boat’s wake. Today is not the day for metaphors. Regardless, the moment was stabilizing, lovely, memorable and all of that.
I awoke this morning with a surprising amount of nervous energy so the run, sights and cold, crisp, still air was helpful to me. I turned around after my moment overlooking the water and ran up Union street to the railroad tracks on Seventh. And now I sit here in this chair with my pen and this beautiful light. Soon enough I will see Risha come from the bedroom, decked out and alive, with my look of love on her face — and I in turn, will show mine — and we’ll step into that cold air and celebrate ourselves in a quiet ceremony out on this historic river. Our mothers are here as witnesses. A small, sentient Welsh woman, Sacha, is our celebrant. I think now about how Risha will look, how she’ll see me. I think about her happiness, her contentedness, her vitality’s importance and this event grows in stature to me, but not tall or isolated, but wide and sound. I know this woman well, but this animal of us remains most compelling. It is by both work and fortune that I observe and nurture it.
As I was a child I knelt and turned the soil, smelled its fragrance and longed for deep understanding such as this. A bond compelling. A life truly shared. It is not our wedding that has done it, but it is this upcoming hour that presents the accomplishment, the work, the joy, the chance and honor of opening eyes and seeing so many times a face that is your other. And I long for that face fulfilled, I study its nuances for they are of the utmost importance. So as it stands, as all is now, I smile deeply for I can sense the joy in that face upon entering this calm room and seeing me here.
So please, forgive me for the lack of invitation and the abruptness of the news. I know you’ll understand: and of course, we will adjoin somewhere after this to do what we always do. But until we sulk I have something to enjoy, something to give to myself, to share with my other. You know she’s going to look like my wife when she opens that door, you know we’re going to be painted by that grey sky like we do. And yes, one of these days I’ll think of you as I am now, on our wedding day, but we both know that when I go, when she enters, these thoughts will vanish. And that’s not because they’re worthless, nor is it because I no longer care, it is for the simple reason that my attention, my mind, the very most of my being will be at one with hers, tugged together as if by lines connected to what we’ve made.
I hear the sink shutting off, I hear her gathering her things. And I pause because I forget why I’m even writing you. Just put this down and go draw something, go hunting, or sit back and think about your friend. After today, after these vows and lovely tumult, you know I will be the same, just more complete in my findings. Be contented to know that for this man, for a lifetime, Sorrow and this woman, will continually do.