Protest the passing of the world. Mark and erase and paw and taw your way across the infinite palimpsest. An isolated instance of time seems to tear and pull apart to reveal the timelessness behind it, but that perception too lasts only a moment, not for, as you had hoped, ever. Anyway, who bothers to describe a thing except when they cannot attain it, when they have already lost it? To write at all is to embrace the passing of the world. A whirling embrace, stuttered solecisms.
There is no sun within the mind, yet everything is visible. Delphic renditions create a more or less 1:1 analog of more or less the world. For every dot there is a naught which, in turn, in reflection, interiorly, is a not-dot. A scratch on the black painted mirror-back would reveal some light but there is no consummate understanding, no great ideal to be gained from it. The light we see with is the same as we see without.
The sun, consort of continuity, sets on an unsettled day. Trapezoids of electromagnetic radiation slide across the floor.
There are no dull moments. They have simply melted across the depressions of a life not fully understood. Containing oneself in a singularly contrived version of reality, on which no other system can overlay, is the only enlightened path.
Existence is frighteningly untenable yet so easily accounted for by those who exist.
Do not try to imagine me. Being self-conscious, one does not wish to be guessed at. Lacking self-consciousness, one does not wish to guess. It is important to resist attempts to imagine anything. The process of ideation must remain muddled, the mechanisms below hidden, their singing muffled.
Protected against mysterious empathy, time dies in an elevated moment and we continue on with calm immediacy.
Do you know these lamp posts? Only at this time of night.
What we consider a chance meeting, an autonomous idea, is really a path by which we get from here to there inside of ourselves. Self-consciousness is other-consciousness, the constantly rearranged amalgam of all the various ways we can be.
When we get where we’re going we can have a drink and come to some arrangement.
That there are at all different and separate versions of ourselves points to a deeper divide between us and the world, and reveals the inherent wounding nature of being in the world. But for all that there is some insistent instinct for whiskey and talk.
The truth is, I can’t stand talking. Our attempt to connect through relatable experiences must occur on a ground of fixed symbols which cannot help but contort and confuse the idiosyncratic nature of acutely private perception. What I mean to say is, we will not understand each other.
I know this from experience. We gain insight only into ourselves. Language both illuminates and baffles the intellect. We gain only ourselves. Anyway, here are we, chained to this moment, sending a signal into the void, signifying our relationship to the existential. More? Up, up. Down, down. It is only an idea. Furthermore, it is only effective as an idea once it has been uttered. We must be together, however briefly, describing our encounter, such as it is.
This is our tiresome way. We must hold it to account, with or without answers. All that nothing – it is the sort of nothing that potentiates everything; pre-Logos ylem, opaque chaos. If a response does come, then our thoughts can no longer exist un-uttered in the mind. When a response comes, that is who we are.
That is who we are – proclaimed with uncertainty. In using that lack of certainty, and using that lack of certainty, block, and using that lack of certainty, open, to uncover the ideal conditions in which we use language, a language reserved for confusion, confusion and disintegration, disintegration and erosion, erosion and entropy, entropy and null. Fractions of the whole multiply an individual. An individual fractures into fractions of the whole. An individual is not individual. An individual is null. The human life is endlessly divisible. Movement, sensitivity and duration are divisible. Cognizance and remembrance are unstable. True or untrue? Supposing all things are one, a singular thought can move in a straight line amid distraction. Supposing all things are one, here is a singular thought, in the midst of everything, in the midst of all our thinking, there is nothing. What you perceive that to be, it is. It is everything but what it is to you, everything but what you think, but still yours, everything but not the thing, not true. It is you, not true. It is you, not true. You, not true. A singular thought proclaimed in the idea of the conditions of the proposition, which, being explained, express the ideal conditions in which we use our language, explaining, confessing through the lack of explanation, the truth. The language can lie, and you lie with it. The language can lie, and you lie with it. The language can lie, and you lie with it.
Delineating nothing more than a portion of the wall itself, the picture frame is empty. The absence of imagery comforts me. The attraction of the wall, and of the frame, is of a continuous nature. The wall within the frame is of a different quality than the wall outside of the frame because my appreciation of it is also of a different quality. The universe is mostly empty yet we, being things, only notice other things. If an image fits within a frame it can also fit outside of it. Whether in one place or another, a qualifying emptiness is implied. To be sure, all things will be in one place or another, and then another, and always then another. The world of things blurs and sharpens in the variable intensity of a million small failures; the inevitable, devastating effects of time.
Varicose veins, pealing paint, spilled gasoline evaporating sunward, the slow flash of a distant line of trees caught in a mist of indigo half-light, torn paper edges, evening thoughts, chipped glass, accumulations of dust, magnetic interference, malfeasant algorithms, the speed and spectra of media, a loss of vitality, landfills, invisible poisons, rooms of panic and paranoia, daydreams of entropic doom, the attachment of love to objects, the disassociation of love from reality, neglect following depression, belief without utility, skin that dries up, bent and softened bones, soft tissue calcification, violent induction of subdural haematoma, the greening of bronze, the yellowing of curtains, phobophobia, a purple thistle cushioned in the velvet folds of an inward-turning mind.
We must be willing to recreate the world, again and again.
In the abandoned clear-cut and secondary forest that filled an obscure gap in zoning and use intention, a maze of bikes trails, trash heaps and goldenrod. Tiny yellow flowers stripped between fingers, captured in the palm, then… scattered away. Others must go there still, pulling nature apart to see what’s inside. From such pulling apart we grow. They are hiding in nature too, not thinking to look there, inwards.
The photographic image, itself an imperfect representation, replaces the recollected image and becomes the signifier of a more idealized and evocative memory.
Physicality becomes process, an unravelling method. Any revelations that seep through I will turn inside out, consuming and depleting them. When finally empty I will have the look of one suffering the end of the world. Certainly the world ends, but it is hardly noticed. It is boring. Looking upon the endless ending we only seek beginnings. Walking backwards into the unknown we describe what is already done and gone.
The naming of things is the all-consuming preoccupation of consciousness – the cruelest simulacra, an interference pattern that dimly points to sensations stripped of context and origin. There is something obscene about a name, so stale, almost accusatory. By naming a thing, we falsely claim it; it is not ours. Soon everything appears similarly, as if by design, blurred, and we lose the ability to focus. Our eyes limp from scene to scene, pained, glancing backwards, wanting to lie down and daydream. It is not the solidity of things that we must be wary of, but the ephemera that lies beyond. Black letters in the sky black above the black trees. In that shapelessness which we have made, our image is made shapeless.
In the form of a word a thing has no form at all.
Language constructs ideas of itself. It permeates the mind and alters our modes of perception. Its shapes shape us, move us, keep us still or hurry us along. The means of communication, the particular reasons particular ideas develop, how we take in, how we put out, what we refuse or allow to take in and put out, what this does to us… all of this is part and parcel of the true influence of language, which has become, after much bellowing, the ostensible a priori designator and deciphering of identity.
Break apart the senses until nothing matters anymore and time becomes instinctual, not measurable. The comings and going of things are a potent distraction. Do not look. Objectivity is disillusionment. Embrace solitary moments, points of departure.
I have thought so much of so little. I have allowed the effect of words to radiate through me, infecting every environment I enter. I become lost in a place where there is no actual knowledge, only descriptions used to conceal life’s ugly sensations; false phenomena that sink into a limbo of memories and desire. Though I do not wish it, I always find myself in that same abstracted place.
Within this world within me, transfixed by its specious wayward revelation, I cannot be and I cannot leave. Held in place by its indeterminate terminal edges, the boundary of the universe incomprehensible, ringed in by forest and orchard and innumerable houses with windows boarded or clear – I come to in anxious dreams.
Once, by this window, in a half-second of tiredness and light, I saw a garden, maternal but past its season. Nothing beyond the black iron fence. Within it the entirety of time. A leaf at the bottom of a pool. Clouds, pine cones, black earth, a child’s blue ball, puddles, crying, impatience, darkness, burnt wood, porcelain figures, glimpses of skin, sweat, fear, gravel, photographs. None of it existed, not even the photographs as I remembered them. The moments in which they were taken were as imperceptible as someone else’s pain. The texture, thickness and weight of the photographic paper – I suppose it is of little interest. What you may care to know is that I do think of such things.
There is a house, the fourth house from the left in a row of six. Held in place by those just like it, removed from its place between the others, the others removed from their place on the street, the street removed from its perpendicularity to the avenue, itself a long line fading in a narrowing compass arc, a spiraling line falling back on a center, a fixed point, a place removed yet fixed in my mind. A house both real and imagined, the reality and image both remembered and created, the memory and creation both real and imagined. A house on a spiraling line that crosses perpendiculars and falls back on a center.
The walls and floor of my room are not level. Two bookshelves stand side by side, tilting away from one another. The window frames are skewed and have been painted over many times. Slicing through layers of off-white, mint green, a deep red, lilac, I pictured the tenants that had come before me, and I judged them. The combined physical and temporal depth of the paint became the measure of my patience and when the knife slipped and opened a neat ellipse behind my thumb I channeled my rage into an expedient if messy success. The stiles have loosened in their joints to the rails, but up they go, little by little, back and forth. I often leave the window open and stick my head outside to inhale weightless air into hot lungs. There is nowhere beyond the sky’s reach. All is a gray fold, a convolution behind my eyelids, obstructing vision.
Trying to regain familiarity with what had been written before. Every moment seems to be a short black mark on a white page. Everything starts off dark and dense, quickly fades into a gray blur, then nothing. A definite end to an unexpected start. When I do not have to, I do not bother to dress or to do anything at all. The window remains open. I sit at the desk, returning again to what was written last. The days move in silence, full of menacing thoughts. (Not knowing where thoughts came from, they seem menacing.) An unwashed china cup sits by the sink in the kitchen. Every morning I fill it with black coffee, sit at the table by the window and stare out at the trees. The trees fascinate me. My relative position to the tree closest to me is about halfway up the trunk, just about where the branches begin to diverge from the main. Through the density of branches and leaves I watch fragments of green and blue and gray. The sky is a shattered bowl seen through the trees. When I finish my coffee I leave the kitchen. The feelings that image generated in me remain.
A letter arrives for me from a woman I’ve never met. Enclosed is a photo. Written on the back, “Do not try to imagine me.”
It is hard to concentrate, imagining phone calls, disasters, attempts to pull me away from the endless blank page. I am bothered also by thoughts of where I am in relation to others. I have an image of myself, here, with my elbow on the table, defenseless to the drift of buildings and monuments, leaving only their foundations cut into the cold earth. The table I use is gone, and the chair as well. The labyrinth has vanished. Must everything be put to this test? I imagine an endless continuation of phenomena and sense where it becomes possible to write the past, present and future all as one. There would be no room for interpretation. As it is, to write at all, absence must supersede presence, like a stone dropped into a pool of water. Space opens, is sucked down, then closes back again to define a gentle parabola whose lip copies and expands across the surface.
So it is with the things themselves which we remember. The shell of a cicada that is kept in a small, clear plastic box on a shelf. An aluminum canister marked FLOUR that has been handed down from someone else’s childhood. All that can be said to exist of these things is just what I have written.
Restless hours pass. A vine has attached itself to the mesh of the window screen. Its young leaves, translucent with light, throw off a green aura. The world at large is separate of this, further back, pale and hazy. It, with its receding neighborhoods, cannot be real, not like the clear lines of my room. There is something more immediate about the glass with dust and light falling through it. The dust floats in the light, the light in my eye.
At the beginning of spring a scrap of paper can take on the appearance of a diaphanous leaf, and there are other illusions as well. Days lengthen. In the mud there are turtle eggs, sleeping beetles, and careless seeds, all of which will come out when the surface cracks and soaks again as winter boils away. Everything is set into motion. Blood thickens and clouds rise higher, lighter. The snow is reclaimed, crystals buzzing hotter into gasses that climb invisibly, building endless white towers that traverse the land, rising, falling, scattering, rebuilding again. Litter tumbles down the hillsides, filling every gully and crevice. There is no end to the treasures that can be found; months of nothing which washed clean become claimed memories. No one is immune to this more or less secular law, the shifting magnetism of organic earth. Rivers, dumps and arbors, spreading, spilling, rising on and through, on and through, the whole planet screaming through the mouths of cicadas, worms, buses, and half-emptied glasses. Churn, churn, endless organism. Rise and fall, suns. Burn, suns. Stars and ships and fuel, spew your insane gasses, your chemical rebirth, your light and water. Start again and again, all as one and one on top of the other. I will follow Shiva. I will follow this pitch and roll, this face-up sun-blind Black-eyed Susan sounding vowels up, up.
Afterwards (there is always an afterwards) I find more reasons to remain. The cognizance of time, the perception of light and dark contrasted and mingled to infinite degrees, perpetuates a unique awareness of lines and pits in my flesh, creases and wells of thought, the knowledge of non-specific pain and the voice it lends me. I explain to myself again that what begins will also end. The knowledge of dull and sharp pains ends; the application of pressure ends; days end; conversations end. All is of measurable duration. Forty-seven minutes at the bar drinking. The descent of a snowflake. My patience. However long it takes to forget, or to remember. Some small suffering. Keystrokes. Erasure. Waiting for my mind to fill, to blank; for words to come and for words to leave.
Through the window I watch people stumble through a labyrinth of streets, struggling against time. A silent wind moves the smaller branches of catalpa trees across the street. This movement is my only understanding of the wind. The further I look into the world the further it moves from me. A young woman bends down to tie her shoe. She takes her time, seems distantly aware of something. Her expression says that she is looking for something, expectant. What does she wait for? I watch her slip down the road, drifting beneath motionless clouds. I leave my room, the windows, and try to follow her. I run up the street. I come to the corner and stop at the avenue. I can hardly see for the sunlight. The streets consume me in a refracted diffusion of light and warmth. I am assailed by the quick flash of light and shadows off buildings and cars. The woman has vanished into this chaotic pattern of black and white, down one of these streets. I do not try to follow. I am afraid that I will become lost in all this sudden illumination.
I return to the house but do not go in. On the shaded porch I am safe from having to record any of this. Across the street the bare limbs insinuate a measurable sky. From the uppermost branches fall long wayward shadows, dividing the steady compass of the sun into an irregular, arboreal negative. It will not be long before these branches fill with sprouting leaf buds vying for the light. Perhaps I will still be here to witness it, me on my shaded porch, they on their sunny branch. The young leaf bud knows what light is, moves towards it, is filled with it, consumes it and thrives. A plant is sensual and witless. Man sees darkness as something equal and comparable to this. It can be entered into and felt on its own terms. It too can be sensual and attractive.
I fall asleep and the sun is almost down when I awake. I have been hoping for other distractions. Tonight I will go deeper into the city and seek amusements to keep me awake and aware.
I understand that I have been, or should be, somewhere else. I cannot remember burning my tongue, though it has obviously occurred. There is a definite tenderness, nearly numb, that I can feel at its tip.
I look out the window again, towards the bus shelter. There is an oak tree and a yellow bulldozer on the property of a stone church. I am blinking quickly, absent in my thoughts. The scene flattens out until the tree appears to emerge directly out of the bus shelter and the bulldozer becomes two unique shapes separated at the fore by the oak’s trunk. Further up, the same trunk cuts through a snowy slope, a line of skinny maples, and a row of houses before spreading thin, bare limbs into the sky. I become aware of myself blinking self-consciously and I leave.
I have been changed, irresistibly.
The depth of my life is no more than a remembrance of who I am. In the meantime I have been writing from beneath a thousand thoughts, all the same: I am not who I am.
The labyrinth cannot be folded back so easily. There is no ladder of light to lead me away from the endless intersections, corridors, closed doors.
All is of measurable duration. All that seems the same is different. When our thoughts shift it is because we are effected by a thing. When a thing is changed it is because we too have changed. What begins will end, effecting more beginnings. The assumptions of words contain me, animating this process. Dim meanings become bright fires.
A multiplicity of real events is due to a multiplicity of unreal desire. I have been overwhelmed by opportunity and time and spent every moment projecting myself through various scenes into another existence where I might once have been or may soon be.
The ecstatic spirit is static, elastic, a revolving door of dense impressions stripped from the body, tripping away from the body, echoing the body, an endlessly repeated genuflection that mirrors flight. Passing through all extremes our flesh wears itself down until it perceives nothing more than the boredom of purgatory. Once in that unchanging state bodily disintegration accelerates. We rebel. We sculpt life into stone and try to make it bleed, but we are not immortal and we are not great artists. Purity is a light upon the bodies I have seen in a funereal procession. It is a light that attends not absolution, but the knowledge that what happened was meant to happen.
My mind is wet with thoughts. Each one stems from some other, and that from another. What is expressed in language when language is nothing but a rock along the shore? We pick it up and whatever wetness clings to it soon dries. We throw it back in, hoping it may return to the source.
I remember a belief in my childhood that I was God. The idea grew within myself, unprovoked. This splitting, doubling of self-awareness eventually evolved into something else… something blurry along the edges of the mirror. Aberrant physical manifestations. Entropy of consciousness.
Having crossed the boundary, the edge, the imaginary line of a door between two rooms, one in which I sleep, I sit and face the other. It is the time of day when she is often there, sewing or drawing, listening to Corelli. From the edge of the bed, with eyes unclosed, not open, I am lost amid my surroundings. I remain aware of, though not preoccupied with, her absence. That non-presence is like electric light cast against the sun. Any form can be coerced to fall away. All that is meaningless can be measured against the length of a wall. I see – as one sees lighter shades of paint where a sign was taken down – a desk, a window, a lamp, a chair, a stool, a dresser, a bed, a mirror, a doorway. First, the lamp, ceramic and so uninteresting that I cannot describe it. Only this: pink flowers and thin, olive-colored vines. The desk was given to me when I was ten. On the desk a mirrored tray which holds small articles: cosmetics in bottled and tubes, a brush and comb, a small, handheld mirror in a silver, molded casing. These items I first notice in their reflection in the large mirror in a swivel frame at the back of the desk. The chair, found in the trash along the road, sits pulled away from the desk. Some clothes are stacked on the reupholstered seat. Also the stool that my mother gave to us, I remember from my childhood. It is a vague recollection with no particularly pleasant or catastrophic phenomena attributed to it. The desk, chair, and stool all rest on one of several inexpensive oriental rugs in the room. The rug might remind you of a painting that you might have seen, somewhere. I have several good photographs of this room, and mine. The mental image I hold now is possibly based in part on these photos.
Malec’s room was on the first floor. A tattered cloth hung loosely in the large window facing the street. Malec didn’t have proper furnishings, only those things other people had discarded – dysfunctional chairs, ugly lamps. Wooden planks on cinder blocks served as a bookshelf. A heap of comforters, blankets and couch cushions was his bed. The room didn’t have a closet. Two large recliners were heaped with clothes – one clean, one dirty. A hook on the back of the door held his coats. The floor was hidden beneath an array of personal effects – books and papers, a record player and albums, boxes of junk, halloween masks, hats, socks, pens, a laptop, boombox, medicine bottles, tissues, empty bottles of whiskey, ashtrays, toiletry items, gadgets and gizmos and anything else he had picked up along his haphazard way. At various points in our acquaintance there could be found bags of wet clay, deer skulls, dried flowers and potted plants, another battered old chair pulled out of the trash. On the mantel Malec kept his most treasured things (besides his books) – a large hooka, a brass candelabra, a yellow rubber ball sitting in a ceramic bowel, bird feathers, pictures torn from magazines, plastic action figures of aliens and such. Despite this menagerie of clutter my friend always made me feel welcome, hurrying to clear a spot to sit, offering whiskey, cigarettes or a book – and of course his endless conversation sustained by his indefatigable, manic personality.
I am on the wrong side of things. In a room, during a heat wave, all the windows open, I sit at the keyboard, stand and pace, sit and type, lost in pages written years before, critical then bored. I have tried to recall in my words the blank sheet that preceded them. I don’t know why. The entire process seems paradoxical and meaningless. Write it all down. Too, too ridiculous. The world and everything in it.
Thoughts, once ethereal and emancipated, settle into my spine. They have been light and dust, stones and alters, the womb, men. Thought becomes flesh, but flesh also becomes thought. The cells of my mind are sensitive to the phantom inhabitation of another consciousness whose far-reaching hand, like a needle in its shuttle, inscribes the corporeal cloth; every fold, the lie of the purl, outlined with fine, silver thread. I am the light that sweeps across the rippling cloth. Yet I am anxious. Threads stretch, stitches disengaged. A rag unfurls, torn and useless. There are holes in the once vast, smooth fields of tight-knit thread rows. It doesn’t take much to realize that every tear and fray belies an imperfection that has been there all along, latent, its destructive effect inevitable.
Of the threads that tangle around me, there is one long one twisting upwards through the clouds. The days when I stare after it, lost in a daydream, are fewer and fewer. I know the other is still there, a kite at the end of this silver thread, a flash of fading color, moving much faster and further.
Wandering this topography, I observe and alter it with my presence. All of my movements are plotted against this map, locked within the coordinates of city, book, mind, body, pain and imagination. This spinning is terminal, axial tilt jacking my orbit like an upper cut to the face, leaving me to wobble through the repetition of seasons.
Change takes time for a chemical body driven by electrical functions, but not for the stripped down, sense-sensitive body – not for the skein of film projected across this burning city – not for this quick-witted shape slipping in and out of someone else’s monologue. Everything is plastic, malleable. I force a few inches here and there. Every box and body is connected by an omniscience from which I cannot hide – my own big idea hanging around my ears, gravity stronger than the love of others – all the differences in the world tangled up inside until something comes to an end and I am left with the whole deal, the nameless thing, somewhat larger than before but forever within the bounds of city, book, mind, body, pain and imagination.
Though I may cease altogether, here I persist? To write a line is to hinge the door to the frame. It is to fix time for one moment before it subsumes all truths into another.
While the physiognomy still enables me I will replace myself. The corpus reciprocates, alleviating pain while embodying eventual death. I become a ghost, vanish, haunt a daydream. A trap doors opens, drawing me down passageways of flesh, nerve and bone. I pass through cavities and corridors collapsing under their own weight. What was once perfect in its blind, self-sustaining efficiency suddenly wastes away before me. I become old, aging years in the span of seconds standing before my mirror. My body is escaping me, leached away by various chemicals, by the end or beginning of love, by sudden realizations, sudden forgetfulness, sudden remembrance. With this dying body I am writing, dying to make myself again to make myself again.
* * *
Hand to handle hammer to anvil pounding whirling fire up opalescent skirts into her seamless belly dancing in a whorl of recognition she is about to break brightly through the silence of white stockings that tear and fly like dandelions or scattered snow flakes moved from sleep driven across adulterated senses in a strange room where she leans forward open with a distinct loosening of the knot in her gut an ocean of light like the buzzing of wings singing each of her desires one in the same with the world of objects culminating in time fire hips and snow with my tracks erased coming back just as she pulls inwards great gasps of air thoughts draining out on the dirty ground by the tracks running lost past tall dry grasses with raised one wing down in the dirt fingers sliding in between my fingers into my thoughts submerged in fire and heated gasps grasping at straws one for each of our mistakes in place of the place where I left my imprint fingers waiting for a strand of saliva to collect that movement of wetness lost in the movement of tall grass echoing return but for us there is no beginning middle or end time comes and goes pulling back to reveal some interference in my mind where I see your face and know you at last for flesh I only know flesh which has never known anything else your serious heart ruins the possibility of all but the dream the wet dream the daydream of polished mirror-like flesh neck cheeks and forehead and coming closer the shallow creases around your mouth and eyes so relaxed focused precariously sculptural mannerist not my eyes not as I know them when they’re half closed amid flashes of black and white still frames of imagined marble lips echoing the inverse image of a singular shape the tangent of a spiral spiraling hard off the page.
Green tea in a china cup. Fragile sips. Lavender stripes, white stripes. Walls between us. Her in another place, practicing the cello. Somewhere else, but not so far for a sob to go unheard. Pause. A breath, a sigh. I raise myself up, listen. The second sob is quieter than the first. I count my steps to the doorway. Every part of me is attuned to a sound: my footsteps, her sobs, the world outside the window. The world outside the window is a single sound, a drone. The sobs cease. She hears my approach. Does she fear me, herself, or some malfeasance? On whose part? She raises her bow, but the strings are suddenly as thick as tongues. In the hallway I count the black tiles, but they merge into shadow and are lost. My eyesight is like the fold in a curtain, the lull in simple thoughts, easily dispelled. She is closing up her case, snapping snaps, preparing for the night. My presence remains in the hall, pressed into the darkness. She expects me, doesn’t expect that I will leave her, cannot believe that I do not remain somewhere close. I spin my own bed sheets. Time is dying, nightly. I feel how suddenly the sun has dropped into the forest. In my chest, the sunlight explodes. Autumn is brighter than gleaming icicles. Where is this temperate place, where oak leaves decay in the gutters, dust and mushroom-studded moss and fine, rainbow tinted cracks in each window?
Three months pass before I find the letters in the desk drawer. It is too late. They should remain there forever, like the A string, the condom and the blood; relics of passion and doom. At about the same time I find that I am talking to myself. When or if I notice it, I feel compelled to answer. To save myself from the inevitably irony, I state the obvious again and again. I want to know the answers before the questions are asked. Other people talk to me too. I hear, “this is truth; that is a lie.” I stare at the sides of their faces, nod and smile. I survive these momentary glitches somehow. As long as we have an equal share in this destruction I will remain unnoticed and have a place among the ruins.
Love is impossible. As a word, as something to talk about, composed of the most fantastic and unbelievable attributes, love is impossible. It moves and every one of its movements is observed through supposedly transparent layers which stacked to infinity reveal an opaque composite of minute flaws. The absolute can only be hinted at through such humility. It is true that we are more affected in the soul by abstract perceptions than in the body by their consummation. Unable to measure this, we imagine that we can reach further than the compass of the sun, and time slips in the way tears slip out.
We like it when the windows steam up and the street lights fall in puzzled patterns across the pavement. We fall into mindful reveries over crumpled napkins and contemplate love’s cosign in an arc across the city. A line of fuzzy light running away.
We like the floors silent, the doors well-oiled, our homes not far from anything. I’ve been painting in the kitchen, lining up two planes of color at the corner. The cat is at the window, by the coffee tins, cautious and tense.
Hours in my room, a book on my chest, un-remembering what I read, unaware of what I think. I like it when the room loses its shape at the end of the day, when nothing is broken or lost between the world and myself. All is sense and indefinite oneness.
In time I take myself back and bend in thoughtful doubt over a number on the nightstand. Will time allow anything more?
This doesn’t explain why it happens at all. Days passing, unrelated. A vial of sand miles from the sea.
I wanted to capture her in an image, place it in a frame, catalog it with other images. Because her face was beautiful I did not see it. Because I did not expect it. We isolated ourselves. Three December nights passed. Three times falling asleep together, three passages, three times waking. Sunday morning, listening to La Boheme. Her flesh had the quality of an ancient map. My comprehension of her was utterly false. Was there ever really a moment that I truly wanted to know who she was? Traces of line and color, etched upon fine-textured plant skin, a lost Eden. There, centrally, adorned with fabulous creatures, bloomed the fantasy of an incomparable world. In the weeks following we used each other as a mirror and vanished in furtive mythology. The full spectrum of existence, the heights and depths of ecstasy as we stupidly imagined it. The more we meditated upon each other the more intricately detailed became the lie; illuminated manuscripts infoliated with images that danced like fire towards distinction. I collapsed at her feet… her, me, mine, not mine.
We went on together like this for many months.
Alone, I feel for my face. Like an unexpected gem glinting, half-buried at the bottom of a shallow pool, a congregation of sense, eyes, ears, nose, mouth arranged in close proximity to one another, holes in the skin, some filled and bulging, others gaping and empty, skin creased and lined from frequent repetitive movements, all exposed, taken for granted, used without thought. There is much beyond my control. The focus of arguments and desire, contempt and adoration, moving about on top of a sighing body, smiling, scowling here and there, unaffected inside or out.
A vertical strip of light wavers in my periphery, in the direction of the bathroom. She is there, washing her face. The bathroom door does not shut right and every evening I lay here, confounded by the vertical strip of light and the woman washing her face in the bathroom. Any number of things might cross my mind in this time: the day behind or the day ahead, the arrangement of our furnishings in the room, something I read, a conversation I had, a letter I received, how long we have been together, how we met. I hear the water shut off and I close my eyes. We are told that the universe is expanding, which makes it possible for us to follow it backwards through time to a moment when it was very small. The answer to the question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin can be determined here. Inside this pin head I see only dead energy, compressed static, nearly motionless, as cold, silent and pure as a field of snow with no one to trudge across it. I come to this point in my visualization again and again, incapable of continuing it any further. I am no better than an instrument that peers backwards through space, time, everything, and settles at last upon the limit of its sense; not the beginning but close enough. I approach this concept armed with tentative images of nothingness; a still void – black, white or clear, and vast. Occasionally think I feel it, or feel I think it – in the sense that I am merely perceiving an absence, like the phantom weight of an amputated arm. It is still here and there, like a memory. No, it must be neither vast nor small, empty or full. It must be unlike any idea my mind can hold. I lay there and try to form the thought anyway. It is constantly slipping away from me. Proximity brings apprehension. The light goes off in the bathroom and she emerges. I can hear her coming towards the bed, climbing in. I open my eyes. We talk awhile, kiss goodnight and turn our backs to one another. I drift off, the snow field spreading out endlessly before my shut eyes. I know I cannot cross it, or move at all unless I dissolve into it, which would mean the end. Then something happens. The field erupts before my eyes and it is gone. My eyes are also gone. I can neither hear nor see, but sense myself moving at incredible speeds. For the longest time there is nothing, then a light is switched on. I fly past as another light comes on, and another. Then there are suddenly countless lights all around me, and within each of these are countless more. I am slowing down, leaving the lights to shrink and grow dim behind me. Some go out completely. Others appear, and one of these grows larger and brighter, pulling me towards it. I am moving very slowly, almost stop completely. I move in a circle around this light. I am no longer cold. I can breath. The hairs on my body tingle and sway in the breeze. Molecules gather together for warmth, mingling and sighing together until they are alive. Animals roam across the surface of my skin. A man builds a room and waits in bed for someone to join him. They build an alter from my stones. They eat my vegetation. They join together and have children who spread across my body, build rooms, eat animals, join together, multiply and divide themselves. I am slowly turning in on myself, stealing momentum from the tumbling of stone and dust under the endless pounding of human feet. I emerge from a woman, fourteen billion years old…
I am awake, in the same position as before. She is breathing next to me, asleep. I cannot see the clock. The furnace clicks on and off. It comes to this, I think to myself, being born, struggling, bloody and crying, out of one of billions of holes in this shipwrecked craft to become a small circle of living matter possessed of the dim memory of light and dust, stones and alters, the womb, men; a living mind imprinted with the phantom weight of other, discontinued states of being which once culled together attain form and belie a consciousness that is separate, older, larger and more dear to us than self-conceit. I see she is coming to. Strange how we always know when the other is not asleep, how we cannot rest easy in our own isolated dreams. She turns towards me, heavy and sighing, her breath full of stale night air. We are both naked, our skin warm under the sheets. This moment is not yet so familiar as to be meaningless. There is no question of attraction or permission. In our closeness we are no better than two blankets full of holes, trying to keep the cold out. Together we stitch each other up, pull each other apart, on and on. I realize that it is only when I gaze through one of these holes that I can begin to understand the whole. This is what it means to be, to be effective as a being, to live in a world of unceasing change, to see through holes and be aware of things that are yet beyond the scope of my knowledge. It doesn’t take much to realize that every tear and fray tells of a necessary imperfection that has been there all along, its destructive and creative effects latent and inevitable. From the very beginning of our relationship I had sensed the path we would take, its final destination, and the inexorable process we would go through to get there. I had seen it all and chosen it anyway. She is wrapping herself around me, pulling my threads apart, unraveling me even as I wish it otherwise. I avoid her mouth, irritated and unwilling. She knows that I am not with her but she won’t stop. She slides off and continues to rub her crotch against me. It is wet and seems to bite my leg. She rolls away. The sheets are off her and in the darkness she arches silently. I watch. The sun must be out because just now I notice the window. Our bodies are illuminated, pale and blotchy here and there with flushed heat. She seems unreal to me, as I must seem unreal to her just now. For the moment neither of us are anywhere near the other, but soon we will be out of bed, starting another day together. Everything taken apart comes back together again.
Undressing in her room with the door open.
Listening to the dresser drawers open and close.
The sound of a green, knitted sweater.
I moved into the doorway. She was buttoning up a white blouse, the one with tiny blue flowers on the collar. I spoke. She shrugged. Discomfort crept into the room. I glanced at her bed, then walked over to it. The sheets were disordered, but clean, white and cool, suggestive of something just out of my mind. She sat at her desk, clipping dark hair up with little plastic butterflies. The colors seemed appropriate to her, to my previous mood. Already, no trace of uneasiness remained.
Standing at the edge of the porch, she lit a cigarette with flamboyant gestures before leading me across the walkway. At the corner I paused, glancing back at the burgundy, blue-gray, and dimly lit silver forms which lay one in front of the other. First was a compact aggregate of six units, each three narrow stories high, one of which was our home; the spire of a Catholic school; the more brightly illuminated retirement home from whose dumpster, on the occasion of some tenant’s passing, fresh flowers could be retrieved. Even in the icy gloom about us, I sensed some remnant of summers past. There, my eye to a crack, watching, as one would a rehearsal to a play, a woman’s fingers splayed through curly black hair, holding a mouth to her naked crotch. Michael consuming a mouse from head to tail. It happened so fast, a matter of seconds. When I held him up to my face his breath reeked of blood. A friend that I sketched against a backdrop of sunflowers and tomato plants. Others too, people who no longer matter to me. I have few sentiments for that time now. It took years before I could see myself properly, act deliberately, be sharpened through a sequence of precise moments.
We crossed the street. The night air was still, thin, frigid, clear. I lagged behind, watching her breath mingle with exhaled smoke. Despite her coat, her shoulders hunched, she looked cold. Catching up, I put my hand into her pocket. Shifting the cigarette from one hand to the other, she slid her right hand into the pocket, twining her fingers with mine. Something silent and ancient unfolded around us; an ancient city beneath which flowed an ancient river. We passed the black stones of the Church of the Ascension, then gray and beige apartment buildings. We crossed streets lined with bare limbed trees. I walked with her in her black coat, bright, plastic butterflies in her hair. I walked with her, my hand in the pocket of her black coat. It was February, three and a half years into a relationship that would not last through the summer.
For a long time we lay together, back to front. In the darkness I kissed her shoulder. We lay in silence and I thought of another. Nothing more than color lost within motion, and still she was going to be my reason for leaving. I had written letters full of assumptions. I said the most tiresome things, repeating myself because she never really answered.
I didn’t know what I was doing. Reach out for what is most immediately attainable, and still let go? Therein was pain. The continuous, slow release of pain from within. This body is near and nearly constant, but I am compelled to push it away. Meanwhile, the other is only a shadow caught in meaningless correspondence. I began to fall asleep.
At her drawing table, she leaned over her work, hunched with concentration. I watched the subtle movements of her back as her arm moved the pencil. I could see a bit of the rectangular hole in the front of the desk where a drawer should have been. The desk was painted white, but once had been red. What was she thinking while she drew? It was mid-April, but felt like January. Things were different everyday. I no longer felt the world was stagnant. It was as quick as my perception of what I wrote. Alone in the house, where was she? Struck by the impulse of solitude, I believed that I had always been alone, that I had always been lost to even myself. I felt that was the reason I wrote.
There were pages in which that I said things too purposefully, or thought much too clearly, in absolutes.
We lived in our rooms, isolated and together. Attempts at rational communication despite constant dissonance. Constantly interrupted by the cries of the city – cars colliding, disembodied screams, a phone, not ours, constantly ringing, echoes of angry conversation, fragments of music. I do not recall sleeping at all, laying restless and fragile, diurnal birds competing with night’s ambient clamor while my own thoughts clanged into Saturday morning listening to someone calling over and over, “John… John…” A woman’s voice, outside, calling, “John…” Five seconds, then again. “John…” A longer silence, then again and again. “John… John…”
She sat next to me on the bed, crying of pain and heartache. There was no explaining that away. I felt nothing. A long silence. “John…” An urge to speak, constricted by the distance I had deliberately placed between us. “John…” The moment swelled and passed the point of being unbearable. I felt like I had resisted. I could no longer hear. A pit opened in the floor at our feet, the room spinning around its rim. We remained suspended above, staring down. I wanted to send us both tumbling in.
There are very long waiting periods, hours and years of staring, unable to focus or call to mind what it was that drew me to my current state. Something I cannot remember. I am simply here, drawing lines in the gravel, half-heartedly tossing rocks at passers by. It is not what I seem to be doing. Nothing I actually do is seen or known to exist. There are reasons for writing things down.
Why remember any of these things… embroidered saris, random experiences with strangers and other people slightly, only slightly, more familiar? Silver utensils, broken book spines, words leaking out, mingling with the lime and the detergent? Thoughts of friends I never phone? I need a new pair of shoes. Blank pages. I remember nothing. Every time I look in the mirror.
Moving from room to room, I see things differently or not at all. I don’t even bother to fill in the blanks. I enjoy the luxury of forgetfulness. It is the seed of all abstracted potentials. Magical idealism.
I start smoking. One cigarette a day. That’s all I can handle of this inane disillusionment. Things that make sense need to be counter-balanced. I start smoking but only in winter, only out in the cold with the wind in my face. I hold the butt in my right hand like a pencil, like a stick, sticking it in. I am compulsive. If the cigarette is lit, smoke it. Things are meant to be done with. I am quick, quickly sucking, blowing hard. Already sick, my brain hurts, as if I had the thing poked into my forehead. What’s another hole in the head, breaking sense to pieces? No slight stimulation, this is the humiliation of knowing. Any creation story: quick birth, forever dying. Living half-dead amid life’s continuous explosion. And the kicker, kicking us, is that we remain lucid, aware of the pain.
The story’s penultimate phase, the one which brings realization and release, is the journey to the sea. This is a lie that I have lived through three times. Called to suffer our self-inflicted fate to its proper end, we trudge the topography of fairytales even when the plot has gone off the rails.
In the days proceeding, I had to tell her, or suffocate if I did not, “I do not love you.” I watched then as she flew away from me, unfettered by this nightmare. Twice in a summer this howling of blood and brokenness. Heartlessness wasn’t easy but it felt necessary and impulsive. The slow building of guilt was also necessary as a form of responsibility that I grudgingly accepted.
I attempted to piece her back together, to diffuse the catastrophe. My thoughts were incessant, paradoxical. The night before leaving, laying against her in my bed, I was afraid. Was she leaving me? I was pushing into places I never imagined I would have access to; all my perversions came alive. Sensing an ember of desire, an inextinguishable carnal need, I took advantage. Arousal for the weak, pathetic woman I imagined she was, for the woman that I could not love, pounded down through my guts, because I knew she would not allow herself stop wanting me. She held an untenable position, but weakness was within me as well. If she had cried out, or shrunk away, I would have stopped myself. I may have become a giant, but my inherent roughness necessitated compassion and control. When my lips drew lightly upon her nipple, everything was different. I became aware of both the inside and the outside. The echo of, “I do not love you,” entered back into my mouth, consumed by a more cogent, honest expression. The inner voice, the one which comes into first contact with thoughts, was replaced with tongue and lips and teeth. Her flesh was steeped in maieutic offerings. Her skin tasted like water tapped through a copper coil. Her moans, broken by long, uneasy pauses, left a wet, salty residue.
The sea, intersection of direction and space, where the walls of the Earth fold against each other.
I never felt as alone yet weighed down with some tremendous urgency. My thoughts went like this: we will crash. She will be killed instantly, gone in a flash of red. I will remain to phone her parents, send letters to her friends, to absorb all hatred, every sadness, even sympathy. Then I will begin to feel for her again… No. I will kill her myself. Here, along the highway, in a ditch… No. At the beach. I will I will I will. There will be a storm, a hurricane. Seized by it, she will run, dance into the ocean, laughing, defiant. She will drown. No. Don’t listen to it. Pass the time. Talk to her. Anything at all. In the corner of my eye she floated, buoyant, separate. The shadow of indifference wedged itself between us until I ventured to place my hand on her thigh. Without hesitation, she moved her own hand across mine. Mine was an act of charity, hers of love. I tensed in anger and disgust.
Sometimes my affection was real and made our time more bearable. I often returned to her body, which seemed unaffected by the surrounding drama. The gains and losses of our time together could never be measured by the insincerity of our love making, yet it was the only thing that continued to make sense. Unable to feel close to each other, we could at least feel close to something. All the rest was a bad joke.
Once at the beach, I removed myself more completely. I was waiting for time to end. I could no longer remember how we met. It seemed unimportant. I watched as she walked ahead through the surf, aware and afraid of me. I tried to reconcile my growing solitude with the sea. I pretended disinterest as her shadow fell across the surf, as she, in her white dress, seemed to vanish and reappear in each shattering wave. The image was broken by the gleaming evening sun, the tale and mouth of creation. What could I do but stand beside her and put it all together?
Before the waves, beneath the sky, we knew the momentum of history would ebb slowly. She and I came from separate worlds, seeing differently, knowing differently. To either side of us, the beach did not end, but our senses escaped the scope of it. In the descending blackness, the wave’s crashing became a disembodied moaning. I remember trying to imagine how long the night would be.
I wrote a letter, pathetic and desperate to erase one thing and create something else that replace it. Would I have nothing to comfort me?
The letter delivered, I returned home.
She asks, “What do you need?”
“I don’t know. Just time.”
“I will give it to you.”
That was all a lie. I lay alone, wanting all things. How does the flesh reconstruct its desire? The body is but a thing, as needful as a child crying. I sought an image out, held it close as I remained awake in bed, shivering with the fear of being alone. I wanted no comfort. If the pain faded for a moment, I would stand and try to pass time in flashes of confusion.
Waiting on her porch, she was changed, taller in a dress that I had not seen on her before. Our immediate contact was familiar, not intimate, and it did not take long for me to understand that things were irretrievably different. Along the railroad tracks, between narrow swatches of goldenrod, milkweed, and Queen Anne’s lace, I was reminded of true time, which moves faster than any life can be aware of. Not long before, she had been insecure, desperately wanting, and unable to see beyond the fears that I helped make real. But among the frail, drying weeds beneath the bridges, I knew that it was because of our love that we would not be understood. We had changed in secret ways. I said to her, “There is no struggle now to say what I feel. In my letter everything came from my heart.” She did not react. Despite the intent, neither of us trusted the words “my letter… my heart.” She placed my arm around her, allowing my hand to slide easily down her side. That body, so unlike any other, was new to me again, while my own had eroded like sandstone. But what life I suddenly had then. Never was I more conscious of happiness, discovering free desire again. My hands skirted her waist, ascended to her living breasts where one thick nipple bit my palm. We seemed more sensitive than ever before. On the dirty ground by the tracks, lost within tall, dry grasses, she raised her dress and masturbated for me. When I slid my own fingers inside, even my thoughts were submerged in the clear, hot fluid. Gasping, laughing, she came quickly. I left my fingers inside as she unzipped me, then spat into her palm, waiting for a strand of saliva to collect there. The movements of her wet fingers echoed so many uncertain desires, like the undulation of moonlight on the sea. When I came, she cried out, “yes, yes!” We rested for some time there. In calm waves, the tragedy of the past months ebbed through me, spreading like semen and clouds.
About three months pass before I find the letters in the desk drawer. It is too late, and they should remain there forever, like the A string, the condom and the blood; relics of passion and doom. Also during this time, I find that I am talking to myself. When or if I notice it, I feel compelled to ask who am I? To save myself from the inevitably irony, I state the obvious again and again. I want to know the answers before the questions are asked. Other people talk to me too. I hear this is truth; that is a lie. Staring at the sides of their faces, nothing they say gets in. Then I nod and smile, and it’s all there in a sudden flash. I survive these momentary glitches somehow. I survive them because no one understands. The ones who talk aren’t listening either. As long as we have an equal share in this destruction, I will remain unnoticed, and have a place among the ruins. The others will be as much a ghost as I. They will continue speaking and I will stare always at the sides of their faces. This is how it will be, the blank page getting bigger, an empty reflection of the life it means to explore. Some will say that the job is already done. The blank page is a finished novel, a perfect description of all this. Write it all down. Too, too ridiculous. Is it any wonder this is how I must go about it? The world and everything in it… a place where escapists catapult themselves back into reality. And why? Because it ends. When you’re truly finished, then even the beginning is an end. The whole thing becomes an isolated incident. It begins with disillusionment and ends, after much noise, with disillusionment. Yes, that makes sense. That is real. There are very long waiting periods, hours and years of staring at blank pages, unable to focus or call to mind what it was that drew me to the page, the urge to write… what? Something I cannot remember. Just moments after inception my thoughts have vanished. Trying again to write… maybe it was something like this… there are reasons for writing things down. What reasons? Why bother when it is only to repeat, to regurgitate? And to drool. My words are a thin line of spittle trickling from a numb mouth. Easy to let it dribble here and there, as it likes. This is how I feel. A dead beat headed towards a dead end. Finding myself already there, threatening myself that I will stay forever, or, sometimes, that I will leave. No one wants to hear it, and I don’t blame them. I am simply here, drawing lines in the gravel, half-heartedly tossing rocks at passers by. It is not what I seem to be doing. Nothing I actually do is seen or known to exist. Regardless, with absolute conviction, I am going to continue. There are reasons for writing things down, and with conviction. If I do anything differently it will be because I came here purposefully seeking the dead end, starting everything again from this point in a hopeless moment of disregard. Yes, who cares? No, don’t say it. As long as there remains silence I can go on. There is only this one thing, myself: a thousand-million and just one. I am without intent. I am without purpose. Who cares? Go on. With all lack of conviction I falter beautifully. It is only natural, as human as a reflex, a dream that forces me to wake. Why remember anything? There is nothing there, only reflections. I go on, but just moments after inception my thoughts have scattered, diffused. Thoughts of… what? Lost loves? Her? Her and embroidered saris? Random experiences with strangers and other people slightly, just slightly, more familiar? Thoughts of ideas borne on clouds of reason? Yes, soft clouds of reason, changing, dissolving. Thoughts of silver utensils, broken book spines, words leaking out, mingling with the lime and the detergent? Thoughts of friends I never phone? Thoughts of I need a new pair of shoes? Blank pages. I remember nothing. Every time I look in the mirror. This is how one thing leads to another. I am moving from room to room, seeing things differently or not at all. I don’t even bother to fill in the blanks. I enjoy the luxury of forgetfulness. It is the seed of all abstracted potentials. Magical idealism. I imagine the non-existent so well, so casually. I start smoking one cigarette a day, because that’s all I can handle. I have a weak brain. It can’t stand for too much smoking, hard liquor, tactless stupidity, disillusionment. Things that make sense need to be counter-balanced. I start smoking. What does one cigarette a day signify? A well deserved headache and afterwards, a tangy stench on my clothes, hair, mouth, hands. I am fearless of embarrassment. I am willing to masquerade, to trump up an alien style. Only in winter, only out in the cold blasting my face, right hand holding the butt like a pencil, like a stick, sticking it in. I am compulsive. If the cigarette is lit, smoke it. Things are meant to be done with. I am quick, quickly sucking, blowing hard. Already sick, my brain hurts, as if I had the thing poked into my forehead. What’s another hole in the head, breaking sense to pieces? No slight stimulation, this is the humiliation of knowing. Any creation story: quick birth, forever dying. Living half-dead amid life’s continuous explosion. And the kicker, kicking us, is that we remain lucid, aware of the witless pain. I condone breaking apart the senses until nothing matters anymore. I’ve stopped being aware of causality, and so of time as well. Time is instinctual, not measurable, but the comings and going of things are a potent distraction. I do not look, for pure objectivity is disillusionment. I embrace solitary moments, each a point of departure. I have been feeling unnatural, affected. Therefore, lulled by such restlessness, I find myself trudging through a snowy cemetery. To come to this place I had to leave the café of past and future. I was doing nothing there anyhow. I took to winding back streets that seemed to narrow ahead and behind. Then I followed a long, uncertain, tree-lined passage towards the sentimental moment. The source of my restlessness is always the same. It leads me again and again to these places: graveyards and dead end streets, always in moonlit neighborhoods with a boot step snapping a twig and a mad ghost dog somewhere just out of sight. I giggle at the pretentiousness of stone, which is the pretentiousness of people. I laugh once, audibly, and cut myself short. There is no return. The bare, bent trees don’t dare make a move. I hear only the wind against my ear and my own heavy, trudging steps. I circle the cemetery loop, eye a couple of obelisks and feel alarmed by their rising, dark profiles. That is sufficient. I am beginning to feel pleased with myself. Despite the monuments, the cemetery seems small, isolated. I snuffle my face in my hands, breathing the acrid perfume of an earlier cigarette. I sense my throat drying, mucus accumulating within. Sharp inhalations, sharp thoughts, everything like a knife. My legs heave and the rest of me follows forward, half stumbling back towards the car. Again, as many times before in this my recent life, I am like a clown. A happy clown with a sad face painted on. Things were never like this before. I used to be full of living, and now, still young, I have lost some bit of that spirit. The force of certainty and consciousness lingers, obscured further by my reminiscence. Mine were the fantasies of preexistence, that is, of the spiritual end of things. I fancied myself a deity of sorts, something willful, though innocent, and yet inquisitive… qualities which when put into practice long enough will destroy each other. More than once all my systems and structures would collapse due to their own reduplication; a mind full of whimsy-whamsy, a life nothing more than a flimflam. That is why I am alone in cafes and on streets with an absence of both direction and reflection. Memories and desire have failed me, and they were to be my salvation (I almost had a plan, and I almost pulled it through). Remembrances and longings were my only happiness, though truly it was a barbed, sadistic joy they offered. Now I walk with wet feet, slogging up and down dim avenues to nowhere and nothing. No, it isn’t sad, it isn’t sad at all. What it is will be lost and forgotten even as it happens. It is to that vacancy that I respond, as a clown, gleefully depressed, happy to be broken. I can laugh or be filled with sad recognition (then laugh anyway). Nearly impossible to escape any reaction at all, which is what I strive for when my friends become obscenely self-occupied. I too am self-occupied, but it is obscene to project our preoccupations for the benefit of pity or mock understanding. Isn’t it obvious? I have tendered what I view as an authenticity of self, that is, a complete lack of emotion. All my edges blur, homogeneous, deceptively tranquil. However, this blankness, this vacancy of caring, is beyond my control, even my recognition. I never know what face I make. There remains something deeply wounding about her eyes, yet she is more natural to me than my own life, and beautiful. How strange that I should notice that at this time, when I am most at ease with myself. I used to note her directness and attribute it to some fear. I found her unwilling to accept any help beyond what was necessary to survive through one day. I cannot pretend to understand her, and besides that, I love her. As I have from the start. I remember our very first moments, those few minutes on the street. Like springtime itself, my recognition of her was immediate and profound. How can I describe it now? My recollection of those days lingers somewhere between ecstasy and numb fear. Sometimes it is an unbearably perfect sensation spreading across my senses like sleep, but different. I am not letting go, I am being let go of; water rushing towards the lowest point. I will offer her small gifts, but otherwise leave her alone. Her nervousness worries me. I will have to be careful. Contrition is an evil thing that makes liars of us. Moments don’t exist. If they seem to, it is only because we have paused in our hearts at some perceived understanding, from which a memory is made. Only half a circle, and better left incomplete. There is no point in the way my thoughts hit here, like rain against the surface of a lake. I notice my moods, and how they dictate what of life’s details I see: varicose veins, pealing paint, the smell of car fumes, a million small failures, the inevitable, devastating effects of time. Suddenly enough, I cease to see at all. I bide my time considering fantasies of better worlds, searching for their equivalent of the truth in this one. I must discern myself, tear apart the most sacred of my gifts, and express the difference between an object and the emptiness it implies. In that duality is potential. There is no point here… only the somber lines of a landscape. Some features are focused more than others. Clouds blur or sharpen in the variable intensity of the morning sky. The inescapable light. I remember the sun, especially at twilight, when the world seemed to appear and disappear in slow flashes. There were lines of trees in the distance, caught in a mist of indigo half-light. The sight of a purple thistle could turn my mind in upon itself. The evening could curtain my thoughts, asking me to forget where I was going, to remain lost in images. As a child, I used to play in the old, dry fields behind the drive-in theater. Others must go there still, pulling nature apart to see what’s inside. They are hiding in nature too, not thinking to look there. Goldenrod’s are stripped: tiny yellow flowers captured in the palm, then… scattered away. From such pulling apart we grow. We must continue tearing into our own essence, seeking the subtle mysteries. We must also be willing to recreate the world, again and again. I find it difficult not to see life as boring and repetitive; a near impenetrable mesh of experience punctuated only rarely by some keen insight. Months ago, in the days after Mar left, I heard an owl hoot. I went out to search for it. It was a long evening at the end of an Indian summer. I did find the bird, sitting like an omen (was I its prophet?) on a chimney of a great stone house. It made not one sound, and was magnificent. It had called to me, and I recognized it. There was no message, just the owl itself. This is how I remember it, and how I remember most things. I am in the bookstore café now, writing. Words are a facsimile of vision, which itself is the reproduction of visionary experience. Let me begin with that, with what is caught in my thinking. I am relaxed, observant not oblivious. Objects create pools of space upon which my eyes float. I am waking in this intimacy of humanness, and I am content with myself in the world I know. I remain however only half aware of the intricacies of the view through the café window. The totality of the scene is subtle. It blurs all of its parts, lending each segment a unique characteristic of the larger matter. The cafe is filling with people, but I recognize no one, which is as usual. I am always amazed at how few people I know. Strangely, I cannot remember burning my tongue, though it has obviously occurred. There is a definite tenderness, nearly numb, that I can feel at the tip of my tongue. I am concerned, as usual, that I am in the wrong place at this time. The people I would recognize are elsewhere. I look out the window again, towards the bus shelter. There is an oak and a yellow bulldozer nearby, on the property of a stone church. I am blinking quickly, absent in my thoughts. The scene seems flattened out until the oak appears to emerge directly out of the bus shelter and the bulldozer becomes two unique shapes separated at the fore by the trunk of the great tree. Further up, the same trunk cuts through a snowy slope, a line of skinny maples, and a row houses before spreading thin, bare limbs into the sky. I become aware of myself blinking. Self-consciousness envelops me, and I soon leave the café. Then, as before, there are days and nights, and I am lost among them. The cognizance of days, the perception of light and dark contrasted and mingled to infinite degrees, perpetuates a unique awareness of lines and pits in my flesh, creases and wells of thought, the knowledge of non-specific pain, and the voice it lends me. I tell myself what begins will end. The knowledge of dull and sharp pains ends; the application of pressure ends; days end; conversations end. All is of measurable duration. Forty-seven minutes at the bar drinking. The descent of a snowflake. My patience. However long it takes to forget, or remember. Our suffering. Keystrokes. Erasure. Waiting for my mind to fill, to blank; for words to come, words to leave. With words I have thought so much of so little. Allowing the effect to radiate through me, it infects every environment. I become lost in a place where there is no knowledge, only poetry, descriptions. These I use to conceal my inhibitions; life’s ugly sensations masked by words; momentary phenomenon sunk into the limbo of memories and desire. It is my task to facilitate that inevitable destiny with words that confiscate liberty. I surrender with much reservation to my task. I have already written so much, but little of it remains in good form. Constantly drawn to false beginnings, I conjure labyrinths which cannot be folded back so easily. I find myself always in the same abstracted place. Six years have been darkened beneath the stones of my text. In that time there have also been ladders of light through some few cracks. These alone could lead me away from the endless pursuit of an intersection, another corridor, or a door. When our thoughts shift, it is because we are effected by a thing. When a thing is changed, it is because we too have changed. What begins will end, effecting more beginnings. Mui’s absence connotes some presence, though it must be hidden. I don’t see it, cannot feel it. Imagination fails to realize it. Right now I thought Mui might call. She won’t, of course. I have forgotten her voice, but not what it is to listen to her. With my mind I listen, as when the eyes follow the score to a well-known melody for the first time, and this changes it, and it changes the mind.
Anything but indifferently she wraps her jangly spider legs around me. In the bi-fluvial run-off, phosphorous filaments, her legs, photosynthetic skin radiating green veils, the aurora borealis cascades in thin lucent skirts. I unwrap the beaded scarf that binds her belly, leaving marks, a shade redder than the lips of her smirking, proud mouth. I unbutton, slip down, slide off and am clean. I look at her wishing for an entity, not identity. I hope for peace not a piece of mind, for my own sake and hers. Looking at her I realize that she is complete throughout. She dreams with her nerves, with her vessels, pumps, and valves. She confesses with her tendons, joints, and marrow. She fills the world with her hair. Her jugular is going for mine, practically sobbing. I know there is more to it than this because I have done it too. Wherever I lay: de facto altar. There are sons in my scrotum, knives under the mattress and God is summoned in that last, lost moment of lost control. All senses funneling into one I vanish and reappear. In that instant of absence sacrifices have been made. This give-take is too much and so much less than the obvious fantasies of flesh. I want to take it outside with the other animals, into forests and swamps, to sink into the mud: Dust, not stars. Solid, not song. I want the real music, the sighs, slaps and suction, gravelly grunts, grinding teeth, toothy grips, quick inhalations punctuating every tremble, trying to keep it together, desperate for the falling to pieces, that mess of life we imagine is more like death. What a myth. She contorts, rigid then loose, ejecting an unnatural injured voice, unwilled and directed at no one nowhere. This is not how people die. Still, I can’t help feeling my own projected end when she twines her legs with mine, tugging me in like a drug, a trap, a real Venus proffering hemlock and stolen golden apples. No, no, it’s all wrong. I can’t get it out of my head except when she stops, wide eyes pleading for just as she gets. There is no sacrifice, not if I am right about how wrong it is. Not if that is the very reason, the only reason, I am here. I am dangerously close to that decision to sustain that last lost moment of lost control into the rest of my days, to drag it kicking and screaming, swearing oaths and promises that would smother me, to make it last, to turn into her. To make it, in a word, right. What is the point if my selfless end has a selfish beginning? Can’t I just stop? End it at the beginning, right now? I can no longer ask these questions. She is irresistible even while telling me that it is hopeless. Could be’s are good enough. I’d rather not think about it and once wrapped in luminous sheets, I don’t. Years of pressure, undisciplined release, a multitude of little mistakes… why not one big one? Her skin is already under my own, her voice already slinking around in my brain, leading me around that misty labyrinth, her comfortable, imperfect flesh stripping me down to the bones, so powerful, so real, scaring me out of my wits. I am tossing in bed like a brick tossed at a glass house. I throw and throw and every stone is swallowed up like nothing. I rest uneasy at the bottom of a mirroring pool, looking up at no one.