Tag Archives: prose poem

Myopia

As he passed the tall windows that constituted the long wall spanning both the living room, the dining room and the kitchen of the apartment that clung to the outer edge of its building, he thought suddenly that it felt like weeks since she had gone out, leaving only a short note on one of the self-adhesive sheets they kept near the phone on the marble counter. The phone that they hardly used and which never, ever rang save for occasional telemarketers plumbing out-of-date registries bought on the cheap.

It had actually only been a few hours, he was sure, but it felt as though whole days had been passed in solitude there in the empty apartment, still and alien without the movement of her feet across the dark, dark wood of the floor or the bellowing of television voices or clattering of keys as she fiddled about on the Internet.

Then, pausing in the white glow of the diffuse afternoon light from without, he wondered if this might not be his best self. The him that existed when she was gone, but when he was still alive and in love with the idea of her, just as at that moment–with only the solid white wall of nothing visible from the windows and no sounds of the bustling streets below able to rise up like heat cushions to his ears–there was only an idea of the city outside.

Any other state would require him to engage his too-too sensitive gaze or attention on the reality of one or the other, such as the red blotches at the back of her heels where her overly tight shoes rubbed raw the underpink of her naked feet or the vague rotten meat flavor of the air on a summer day when the city’s thermostat had been rifled up too high. And then, in confronting those bits of reality, his temper might grow short, or he might make some offending remark that would reveal to her and to the city that he was just a cad at heart, that all sorts of pettiness stirred inside him, making him unworthy of either.

And there would be quarrels and bickering, and sheepish grins to try to ingratiate himself again.

But not now. With both remote and only remembered, he regarded them in perfect majesty, in the beauty of absence.

courtesy

The light has changed, but the first car in line has not seen it, and he would very much like to go, especially knowing how short this particular light stays green, but anticipating the obnoxious noise of the horn he cannot quite bring himself to press the center of the steering wheel, as it would just seem too rude somehow, but apparently this first car still hasn’t seen the change because of an incoming text message or a particularly good song on the radio or god-knows-what, and really it is high time to be moving forward before the little illuminated arrow turns yellow and he is trapped at the intersection for another three minutes, so that he finds himself wishing that cars came standard with two horns, the usual one that seems to yell “get the hell out of the way” to other vehicles and another, softer one that communicates something more akin to “pardon me, but might we be going now,” but, knowing that any such innovation is years away at best, he decides instead on a short pump of the horn in the hopes that the brevity of the sound will communicate, somehow, his reluctance to use it all and that the other driver, having lived through similar conundrums at some point during her own life, will understand.

Harvest Moon

When I start awake–suddenly and while the sun is still hidden somewhere out there in the world–I can feel I have been to the border of something great, something transcendent, the sense that I have seen lines at the edges of being that no one else has understood. I see me there with my beloved, born together on a barge along the once-crowded river of souls, apotheosis just ahead where the rest of the traffic dares not go. It’s all there in the haze of half-knowing and, like always, I want to hold on to it, keep it there in the shallow dark before dawn, before slapping children into minivans, quick-ironing of slacks, and the hum-drum mundane in-out of living in the world made of wood and obligation.

Flowering

Banksia_seed_pod

a feeling of lightheadedness, like reading a page where the words swim in themselves, and the heart shrivelshrinks like a pickled beet, that feeling that made the ancients think it was the seat of our emotions and not some limbic knob buried deep in our skulls, but you didn’t know you could get it when you’re not inout of love, that it could sneak up and attack you in the most mundane of moments, that the feeling could attach itself like a single louse bigger than the host, a living anchor that makes you reach into your sack, forlorn, brushing the ridges of burlap, finding nothing but the sour taste of easy success and beneath it all there’s the memory of a dream from years ago, the dream where you’d murdered someone and felt the dread paranoia of the unalterable interwoven into the sinews of you, like a new step on the ladder that you know will give way

On Reading Sartre’s Nausea

Synesthesia: the table begins to boil and I smell the blossoming dawn.

There is me, and past my borders are others. Human billiard balls.

Clinking.

The confident stride through the parlor, impervious to time and doubt. They smoke the long cigars and dole out advice, expecting only to be needed absolutely and nothing more. See him: Within the fibrous husks of his bones, existence is bleeding away second by second, but he tells himself, “No, I shall endure,” because, after all, anything could be and nothing is ever proven one way or another.

So when the man in the street warns him, “A great menace weighs over the city.” He does not–cannot–look up to see the tentacles snaking down from the cloud bank, wrapping themselves like frenzied lovers around the spires and the citadels. That is not the way of things.

You must remain cool and collected. Smile. Nonplussed (in the American sense of the word, naturally).

Oh, sure, me and these others will be wracking our fragile, egg-shell thoughts to pin little names on everything like lepidopterists after a thunderstorm–struggling mightily to delineate the rules of the whole affair before the record scratches across the last groove and the soulful voice blinks out of being.

But pay us no mind, because if you see the game clearly, then you’re the worst player of all.

Inertia

What I don’t get is the surgeries. Bariatric stomach-stapling gastric-bypass banding of the digestive reservoir surgeries. Why? It’s intellectually dishonest. It runs counter to the whole direction of the enterprise of Western Civilization as exemplified by the American Dream of mass consumer consumption.

Take the blue bins. Recycle. Recycle? Why would I bother recycling something? This morning I ate a processed food pastry out of a cellophane wrapper. A machine in a plant somewhere in Singapore wrapped this individual three hundred calorie gastric bomb in its own little plastic sleeve just for me. This thing was not a Twinkie, mind you, because there are no Twinkies now and I cannot wait for some company to buy up the recipe and start stamping Twinkies out again in their nice, little static hydrocarbon packages. So anyway, I take this supposed food out of its plastic and of course the creme-smudged, razor thin wrapping cannot be recycled. It’s trash. Trash that’s looking, sniffing like a truffle pig, for a hole in the earth so it can burrow in and later be back-hoed over and rest in darkness and seclusion for eons until some evolved octopus archeologist digs it out and holds the precious Twinkie logo-emblazoned cellophane in its suckers and wonders, “What is this wondrous thing?”

I gave that gift to some nameless future archeologist-thing this morning. If I’d recycled it, what would he/she/it have? Nothing? And would humankind be any further from extinction? Of course not. It’s too late for that.

Or best of all, let’s look at the cup. After the Twinkie, I drank a soda. I drank a big cup of brown, semi-toxic sludge through a plastic straw poked through a plastic lid. This whole ensemble was made of the miracle material of the twentieth century–old dinosaur goop turned into a 7-11 Gib Bulp Supreme cup. Miracle! This plastic will last for ten thousand years. Nothing can erode it. Nothing can consume it. Even the sun–engine of all creation, the sun–can only hope to fade out its logo, nothing more. It is eternal, this cup. It will outlast the fucking pyramids.

And you know what I did with it?

I threw it away.

This thing that would endure for generations if I let it. This thing that my children’s children’s children could revere as a family icon–the cup he procured on the 21st of May, two thousand and thirteen, in the time before the great rising seas and before the coming of the octopus overlords! This miracle of engineering.

I threw away.

What else was I going to do? Suddenly treat it like the blessing it is? Suddenly ignore the whole thrust and velocity of my drive-thru, buy-buy, buy-some-more lifestyle? Go hippie and treasure the earth? Waste my breath shouting at hordes of placid consumer cows about the fragile world we live in and resources and all that crap?

No, of course I threw it out.

What do you take me for?

 

The Lost

I’ve been reading about the lonely. The ones that wander off from the fence lines and the safety of the herd. They tuck Thoreau or London under their arms, fill their heads with half-plans where they are the only souls for a thousand miles and live fortnights away from any electric light. They’re lost to us, to civilization, to the ones who move through channels cut in the rock of day-in-day-out. They’re alien souls.

And yet I know them. I’ve seen through their eyes. Atop the rocks, out past the city limits, in the granite outcroppings. It’s all pretty safe there. Rangers just a city block’s worth of wilderness away (laterally) and yells and hope could bring helicopter messiahs in no time.

But up there, with only the wafting of the hueco pools and the sneaky bits of green that have clung to the margins of the tiny canyon below, I’ve seen out into the great flat sheet of the desert, where the city is only a distant oasis blur, and I have wished–as these pilgrims into empty spaces must have wished–for a world without lines, without Nazca roads imposing order on the brown shrubs and tan patches of barren dust, for a world with only unnamed shapes and without purpose.

Pure beauty. Art outside of art.

On Reading The Chosen

Talmud. Kabbalah. Sanhedrin. God says unto man, “Read. And read more. Labor over every intonation, every possible meaning, until your eyes go dark,” and they obey. Young men trying on their fathers’ shoes; they live in the words.

In study.

Deep study into words and the numbers of things, codes from God’s finger, gossamer strands behind creation–a coming-of-age through inert toil, exhausting, mind-breaking toil over the page.

And you are left in a world of words. Over the landscape, Freud is a tower–a dark sentry post–and beneath the verdant hills lie catacombs of analytic logic–branching tunnels of if’s and then’s beneath the disordered graveyards of nephilim.

Worlds within worlds–all standing still.

On Reading Absalom, Absalom

But in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty: from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him.  

And if you are that beautiful, you must revolt, you must be more than the father, more than the molds from which other men are cast. You must dream larger, more fearsome dreams. Sutpen was more Absalom than his son who turned on him. I see him and Gatsby, together, spiraling Roman candle wild into some invented nightscape. Possessed by a vision, they wanted to remake the world. Simple plans. But they allowed the plans to consume them, envelop–or did they absorb the plans? Swallow them whole until they were defined by the shapes inside, like kite struts.

And both stories told from without. Faulkner watching Sutpen for us through Quentin’s sprawling investigations and Fitzgerald only able to look at Gatsby through Nick’s eyes. You never look directly at the sun, even in eclipse. Both must be told from without, because there is no conflict in beings of such pure will, whatever their purpose. A man possessed, fully possessed, by a single vision isn’t a man anymore. He’s not a frail, weak, conniving human being. He is transformed. Transformation.

We can only understand him from the outside, through other’s eyes. Because if we were inside his mind–even through the page, even for a single page–we would lose ourselves in the completeness of the dream.

On Reading As I Lay Dying

The author, as if abnegating the halcyonic imagined vision of some better state, some better causally constructed world in fiction in favor of the effluvia of decayed civility, the trace of something that might have made someone once believe in something noble but now is only putrescence, weaves a world more real that real, more depraved than even the most corrupt shell of a half-wished country. You forget the way a great book can worm its way into you, find a niche and live in you–half-parasite, half-Jiminy Cricket. Faulkner builds everything from that frail beauty of something horrible that cannot be helped.

I think it’s an allegory for the whole human race, a family of unthinking, torn, stertorous, half-buffoons, half-martyrs, lost in thought and ripping at one another with dull, aching teeth, driven on, servile and bound by a purpose we barely understand, a promise that ultimately means nothing because it was made to dust, all in service to a mother who is a god who we worship, we orbit, we revere, the power and the center of all the things we have done, cathedrals and bridges across fords at high flood, and yet we toil on not knowing, unaware of the lack in her godly heart, we imagine ourselves beloved, served by the architecture of our world, but she hates us, would hate us if hate were anything but a word, and still we go on, always, forever, on and on and on without sense.