the passing of time

You know two months have passed when it’s time to buy dog food. You know six months have passed when it’s time to visit the dentist. And speaking of the dentist, against your will you have now endured another session with the aggressively chatty hygienist. What happened is that the dentist’s office called you up while you were out birding on an (extended) lunch break, looking for an elusive Sora to be precise, and so you were distracted and had trouble understanding the person on the phone but managed to grasp that there was a cancellation and did you want to come in tomorrow. You weren’t sure, not particularly liking to make such decisions in a rushed manner (or at all), but also not particularly wanting to continue the conversation, so you said sure, okay, tomorrow is fine. You hung up and another birder pointed out the Sora which was good but then you went to the dentist the next day and it was the chatty hygienist instead of the one you prefer who has a Polish accent and does not barrage you with personal questions while probing between your teeth for plaque, but with whom you did have an enjoyable (short) conversation with six months earlier regarding the hospital seen through the window that as you were sitting there was being torn down, literally at that moment, and you both laughed about how you hadn’t even noticed when you sat down that it was now mostly gone, but after which you were made aware of it provided plenty of visual entertainment during your cleaning while a worker repeatedly employed a wrecking ball with vigorous effort in the demolition process. So now six months later there you are in the chair again and the chatty hygienist immediately begins her assault of questions, growing quite sassy in no time at all, perhaps a new record even for her, necessitating an accompanying increase in sass on your part, for one must maintain a similar tone in this type of repartee or else it swiftly fails, making the situation rather awkward and, let’s face it, if this person is going to have her hands in your mouth for the next 30 minutes it’s best you go along with the banter even though its personal nature is now increasing at a furious pace, as if she is now testing her ability to raise your ire, but your ire will in fact not be raised, it will actually refuse raising altogether because your ire is not easily raised and she is beginning to sense this and clearly it intrigues her, leading her to make verbal note of it, and so she keeps upping the ante, as they say, to the point where it does begin to grow rather tiresome leading you to hope very much for the appointment to end soon so that you can exit the building, get on your bike, and ride in the late afternoon mist the four miles uphill through the gathering traffic to your house where you must walk your dog, prepare dinner, eat dinner, brush your teeth, read a few pages in whatever book you’re currently reading, and go to sleep. And finally it does end, this intense scraping session with accompanying interrogation into your flossing habits coupled with theorizing on topics such as whether you are perhaps a mouth-breather at night because that tends to harden the plaque on the back of your lower front teeth and did you say you do use an electric toothbrushyes, you are eventually freed from this verbal bondage, but not before a certain amount of psychological damage is incurred, though nothing permanent, just enough to make you wish that the stealthy Sora had not distracted you in the first place leading to a split-second decision without full consideration of the possible ramifications, namely that you may, in fact, by taking someone else’s appointment other than your own, be unwittingly sabotaging yourself, directing yourself onto an alternate course whereby you are now penciled in for the duration of time with the overly chatty hygienist, after having just extricated yourself from somehow getting onto her schedule and having subsequently returned yourself to your proper place on the reticent Polish hygienist’s schedule where you in fact had long been penciled in, literally for years beforehand, and still can’t understand how you had suddenly been removed from in the first place. But alas, you won’t know your fate in this matter until another six months have passed, during which time you will have purchased another two, possibly three, bags of dog food, depending on how the calendar asserts itself.

inside a person another one

this life in parallel there’s always been, inside a person another one, what do others do, deny it i guess, or maybe it’s not there, for them it’s not there, and i see it all before me what will never come but what has happened, what is happening, inside a person another one, it’s been there all along, and it keeps growing, keeps expanding, so many layers, painstakingly detailed scenes, every time some spark strikes, the line of tinder crackles, the fuse is lit, i can’t put it out, i could never put it out, there are ways to try, and i know some other ways i’ve seen others try, each one ends the same way, we all know how it does, yes, we do, and do you know how when you’ve done things so often, day in and day out, and then one day you do something a little different and it throws you off, it pushes you off onto another track, but not enough to shift you into the parallel life, no, not that far, just enough to make you stop for a minute and think about it all, about that other life and where it’s going, the people in it, the way they’ve come into being, likely so different than how they are in this life, the way you act, the way they act, whatever happens, and what if the two converged even for a day or just an hour, what then, what then for the person inside the person, the two people now, who looms larger, a dried-out husk of aloofness wraps around the hot soldering iron trapped inside, look out, fire hazard, i smell smoke, i’ve seen the others burn themselves up, i know how it all ends, it’s near halfway and i see the hazy shapes down below resting on the sea floor, so many split halves, so many discarded broken parts, a graveyard of misshapen lives.

possibility of foam

If buried all but traceless in the dark in its energy sitting, drifting within your own is another body—Anne Carson, “Seated Figure With Red Angle (1988) by Betty Goodwin”

There is something about living in a city, and it has to do with the surroundings being artificial, constructed by humans. Here we sever ourselves from real nature. Here what nature there is persists under duressit may even seem to be a thriving minority, but it will always be the minority. The muted signs of seasonal change vagulate. The constant reminders of the hubris of so-called civilized people swarm in smothering tones. Callousness blankets us. The automobile serves as master and slave. I am concerned.

There is another body inside of my body.¹ And it is drifting. And it is all but traceless in the dark. Whose body is it. Is it mine. Or does it belong to someone quite different.

It is an unfortunate thing to recognize that you are not one who is meant to live in such close proximity to other humans. And yet here you are, aren’t you.

John Stabb from Government Issue sang:

In that comfortable rut again
Goals for the talking man
Outside lies a presence
But a lonely spirit’s walking rut

And he can’t get out
Man in a trap

Deeper things getting direct
Empty social life’s a wreck
Weather and insects tonight
Happiness in black and white

And he can’t get out

Sometimes we come to embody the lyrics we listen to in our youth. This is neither here nor there. It is life. I think we’re all a little bit surprised when we get there. Or here.

Let’s find more creative ways to fail. And write about those ways in more creative ways.

Anne Sexton wrote:

The silence is death.
It comes each day with its shock
to sit on my shoulder, a white bird,
and peck at the black eyes
and the vibrating red muscle
of my mouth.

Anne reminds us that silence can be as menacing and intrusive as noise. A reminder that we are all out here flailing about. And some of us don’t make it. Like Anne herself. Some of us sink beneath the surface, our lungs filled with shards of the little brittle things in life. The ones that drifted beyond our reach, slow or quick, only to be breathed back in with fatal heaving breaths.

Recently I spent a fair amount of time writing up a review of a show I went to the other night but I lost interest. It suddenly seemed unimportant. Literally as I was writing it, I felt the words spelling out into nothingness. The only point of interest remaining when I finished was a question: What do we want from our rock stars? And do we even want them to be stars? I don’t go to see live music much anymore and rock music even less so. But this question startled itself into my mind and would not leave. Music once loved can be tainted. And how a band presents itself to its audience can either win me over or leave me cold. These are the lessons I learned. Outside the womb can be harsh.

There is foam² spilling out here. As winter prepares to wrap us in its icy sharp arms, I am awash with foam. And it may never dry.

___________________________________________________

1. See also: this post

2. For more on foam, see Anne Carson’s essay “FOAM (Essay with Rhapsody): On the Sublime in Longinus and Antonioni,” originally published in Conjunctions 37 and reprinted in the book Decreation (2006).

yes, wednesday night is movie night

When you watch a film it’s full of so many intense moments and none of them are real because life is not really made of those moments. It’s full of different ones, many blanking moments between a handful of sparking others that brighten and never wane in your mind, only in your heart. And it’s not the moon. It is ever the sinking sun. On the rocks, the desert floor, the pink and orange and blue, like that trip so many years ago. A film is a distillation of all these things, it is a prickly intensity of which we are not so used to in our daily lives, at least not in later years. In youth life can be like a film, though we lack the perspective required to appreciate it. And I imagine the people who make the sorts of films I have been watching make them because they want to see their lives like a film when they are young, but with the perspective that allows them to see it for what it was.

Tonight I was excited to go walk in the warm night air, even though it is October and it should not be so warm. The crickets yet fiddle and when I touch the inside this night it does not feel so tender. And yet when I talk to someone about his plans to leave this place, even though he’s been around awhile, he’s still a decade behind my next curve in the road. So maybe you can grasp the urgency I feel snaking around me. And if you can grasp it perhaps you could do me the favor of wrenching it off me so I can breathe lighter and freer.

Everything is profound in the late hour. It bears down upon you with a ferocity daylight would never allow. You start thinking about the beginnings of endings and the ending of beginnings and the brutal flatness of middles. You think about contours on a map and start seeing your life through a cartographer’s squinted eye, with those squiggly lines circling around you and they’re all the places you’ve been, the walks you’ve chosen to take, the daily ribbons of flayed flesh stripped from your shrunken sides.

This is not to say…anything, really. When I start typing nothing is ever as it seems. Words touch other words like hot wires and who am I to pull them apart. This hovers before me like a psychiatric tinderbox into which to dump the fantastic and the absurd and what torn shreds are left of the real. The box is metal to minimize the explosive risk? Not that any match will strike and catch this fire.

There is never a conclusion to reach and that appears to be the point. Which is fine, I guess. But can a person reverse evolve? I think I’m becoming a mollusk. Or a bioluminescent dinoflagellate. Foxfire! That’s it. I want to be foxfire. I want to be the green glow you see hovering in your woodpile as you gaze out upon it one evening through the icy windowpane.

of dic·tion·ar·ies & den·tists

© 2012 S. D. Stewart

This row of dictionaries looms over me as I work, though I don’t have occasion to consult them as much these days. I used to do a lot more translation work as I cataloged. But my job has changed over the years, perhaps for the worse…it’s hard to say. I leave the dictionaries there to comfort me. I do still use the English one a lot (favored escapist technique). Sometimes the French and Spanish, rarely the Portuguese, and never the Swahili.

From the edge of the deep green sea, we open our arms, raise them high and trust, even when apart. Cut to end. Many nights, many years ago, I fell asleep to that. I like to think it informed my dreams. These days it’s everything.

It is Monday and I have a dentist appointment. Every time this happens I am unsettled by the bracketing of my life into six-month periods between dental appointments. I look back and wonder at the flatness of it all. Is this the right way to be going about it. Is it. Isn’t there some wormhole I could squeeze into instead. Some squirrely nautilus-shaped thing?

People are always leaving. And I miss them in a slow aching way. It’s been some time since I was the one leaving. A long time, actually, when you consider how often I used to leave before. It is doing something to the typewriter ribbon of time, I think. The dental appointments, the ink fading with each tap of the keys. The things we do at the changing of each season. Subtle adjustments absorbed, tarnishing the new, loss of notice to the details.

I like my dental hygienist. She is Eastern European—Polish, I think. I went to Poland once and in the short time I was there I found it to be a sad and beautiful country. That may have been due to my choice of activities while I was there. I like my hygienist because she’s quiet. I come in, we exchange cursory greetings, and then we get right down to work. Or rather she does; I just lie there and stare at the painting on the ceiling of a rowboat floating in the clear blue shallows. There is no banter. I hear the other hygienist and patient nearby chatting up a storm and I wonder how they can carry on such steady conversation while one of them has both hands in the other’s mouth. I wonder about my hygienist sometimes. Does she have a family, what does she do in her free time, that sort of thing. I often find myself wondering in this fashion about people with whom I have a narrow single-faceted relationship like this. But I would never dare ask her these things. And besides, most people’s lives are less exciting in real life than in imagined life. I hope they don’t take my hygienist away. At my last dentist they were always switching hygienists on me and it irritated me to no end. Then one time I totally spaced on my appointment because I always count on those reminder calls and they didn’t call this time. I realized about two weeks later or so that I’d missed it and that they’d never followed up. So I figured if they didn’t care that much about me as a patient that I’d find a new dentist. So far I’m pleased.

If I left, I’d have to get a new dentist and therefore, a new hygienist (I care less about the actual dentist because one rarely sees much of one’s dentist unless one’s teeth are terrible). If I left, someone else would claim my stack of dictionaries. If I left, these particular mosquitoes and their vile descendants would find someone else to bite. If I left, I’d be somewhere else, like I often think and dream about, but it wouldn’t be somewhere else for long. It would be like here, except there, because that is always what happens.

enter title here

As a child, Ravel’s Bolero touched me deep. Something about the repetitive melody building as it does to a climax. The drumming particularly struck me, so primal, stripped-down, staccato. And isn’t life so like this for a bit, at least. A crescendo to a climax, but then…a plateau. And what then, what then. The topography of the flat plain bewilders. The plain en plein air. The air all comes at you at once, with no rises to slow it, or alter its trajectory. This tundra is of our own making, sculpted and smoothed over time. Or is it. Maybe it is a figment of a voracious imagination, one that eats a life up one slavering daydream at a time. Perhaps this merits further examination. Or not. This isn’t some academic treatise. No one peer-reviews this blog, that I know of.

I drove past the flea market today and they had a new professional sign installed atop their sign pole. It read: Internet Sweepsteaks. I remembered a couple miles down the road that I had my camera but I did not turn around. Hence I can offer no proof of this gaffe.

I have a memory of lying on my bed as a child, listening to Bolero come through the wall from the hi-fi in the living room. But let’s not get all Proustian here.

I chased a bird today. I said I would not do that but I did. So I didn’t find it. I did find model airplanes. And in one of my phagocytic daydreams I shot them down with my model machine gun. A kingfisher objected to the model airplane. Well, of course. It flew overhead, calling in fussy agitation. In my head I am flying a model fighter jet from the cover of a waterbush. My jet is fitted with tiny model machine guns operated by tiny model soldiers. My tiny model army shoots down all the other model planes and I continue birding in peace.

Someone is singing fake opera down the block. This is unfortunate. I am listening to Nine Inch Nails for some unknown reason. Ah, I remember now. I came upon a NIN album in the car’s CD player. I turned it up loud as I drove slowly down The Avenue with the windows lowered, like I was 17 again. So I’m listening to that first NIN album now, because that was a big one back in the day, I won’t say which day because we’ve got to keep our occasional secrets haven’t we. And I’m trying to drown out the fake opera, but it is persistent fake opera and it refuses to be put down. Also, I’m finding that I’m not really into this album now, especially when he kind of fake-raps. In fact, I would postulate that this was a grave stylistic error on his part. But we all do things in our youth that we later come to regret. And so, perhaps this fake opera singer is also young and will undoubtedly come to regret the torture she put us all through one late September day.

And to paraphrase a sample from a Man or Astroman? song, “well, that’s all over now.” I took a break, between last paragraph and this, during which various events occurred. For example, I watched an episode of the new BBC Sherlock Holmes series. Oh, and I went to the arboretum with Farley. Now it’s just crickets, I’m afraid. Crickets and slugs, as per usual. Plinking out some tunes on my alphabet piano.

I enjoy aggressive music as much as I enjoy quiet melancholic music. It’s essential, you see, to achieve a balance. To be stale, it’s the yin and the yang. But really, each person has its halves. Call it what you will. Semantics notwithstanding, let us not deny our dark sides, or for that matter, our light ones. I embrace both, though it may not be obvious to the general populace. But I am not concerned with them. I am concerned with touching the thing inside. It requires a delicate touch. And it is finicky in what type of delicate touch is required.

I used to go to parties. In my experience, that was a mistake. End of story.

I am now listening to Teeth Mountain, a defunct local band whose tribal drumming and frenetic guitars I enjoy. Again with the drumming. One or two classically trained musicians were involved, I believe. Now said musicians play in another band, Horse Lords. I am interested in musical noise that transports one’s headspace into alternate galaxies. I support purveyors of such racket. I support many things, quietly and unobtrusively.

This may be over?

we cut our visions with two eyes

I do get bored, I get bored
In the flat field
I get bored, I do get bored
In the flat field

Observe the subject with one hand covering the right eye. There is no movement. Not a flicker. Nothing. Whatever is inside leaks out, gurgling, gargling, a choked-up phlegmy mess. A valve would be…useful. Or would…it. There are many emails. Please refrain from using Reply All, people, for the love of Peter, Paul, & Mary (not my love, mind you, but still). So many pointless useless emails. A flood, if you will. And I delete them. But this is not what I am talking about with the leaking and the choked-up mess (though I can see cause for confusion there). No, that was just an aside. Let me tell you a story. A long, long time ago, it seems like maybe it never happened or it was someone else, I was lying on my bed and I was making discoveries that I knew were important. Altering the trajectory of a lifetime of troubled thinking, of inward pointing. It’s hard to say, yes, it’s hard to say what exactly altered the arc de développement. [Now I don’t really know much French, but I love words of all persuasions…I do not discriminate…I am not a word racist {internal note: that doesn’t even make sense given the meaning of these words (words are not classed by race, although they are classed by class, a different kind of class from that which is sometimes tied to race, though, with less political overtones, perhaps), but that’s okay…consider it a colloquial use…or something…and I see that I am falling into ellipses again]. Anyway, as the breeze blew my curtains around and my red carpet screamed up at me, why am I red, oh, why am I red, what sudden alarming effect am I having on the growth of this boy into a man-something, I wrapped my head in paper, poked holes in it near my ear-holes, and opened them to new exciting sounds. Inside of me often felt weird and funny and I knew, I knew there was something there. Something only I could touch.

And in the words of S.E. Hinton, whom we should all know and love, that was then, this is now. I am alone here. No one comes to visit. My superior is away and suddenly I realize she is one of few who visits. I’m not doing anything. I am lost. I don’t know what to do. This is not groundbreaking research, mind you. No one is selling this nonsense to the corporations and getting rich, I assure you. We’ve been through this before. I just wandered off into the weeds somewhere back there, maybe 20 years ago or so. Or was it 20 minutes. My years and minutes frolic together. What really happened in 20 years, or 20 minutes. Very little. A lot of touching the thing inside. That’s about it. And now it is spilling out, sort of like slippery entrails only people on the fringes savor. I cannot stop it. But you should know that nothing remains the same. I’m in here changing the words around. Everything is in flux. Parenthetically, flux is a good word. I like flux. Marty McFly reports the flux capacitor is fluxing. Marty, you bastard. I am old. Where is my red carpet.

I find it exhilarating to erase my own words. Huge swaths of thoughts I may have deliberated over for hours, gone just like that…I am giddy over this. Maybe there are too many words in the world. And taking them away is important somehow. Everywhere people are vomiting up words and few people are listening. They may listen for a bit here and a bit there, but they move on. The news cycle is like REM sleep. Eyelids flickering, your lips shuddering, no noise emitted, no recollections of what went down. I feel sick from it all, gagging on dry word chunks clogging my throat.

We are at large. That came into my head, just now. It’s like they say, the suspect is at large. But really, we are at large. We are out there in the world, large. We are bloated, like the giant helium balloons floating above a parade. There we are, large, waddling down the streets, a few feet off the ground, full of ourselves. Other smaller people, in other countries perhaps, are running with sticks below us, propping us up, praying that we don’t deflate.

At work the IT team eats in the lunchroom. Very few people eat in the lunchroom, I think. Well, they are in there being all rowdy, expressing their opinions loudly to each other. This is not how they are while embedded. Only amongst themselves do they feel free to expound on their theories about Kanye West, for example. In meetings, they are meek, quiet, often sullen. In the hallways they nod, perhaps say “Hey” but nothing more. None of the effusiveness displayed in the lunchroom. None of that. They save that only for each other. How nice it is to belong, isn’t it?

Yes, indeed. Now the time has come for me to hurl myself outdoors to forage for cookies. Please leave a message at the beep. [Psst…I’m back. It smelled like mulch outside.]

In my yearn for some cerebral fix
Transfer me to that solid plain
Moulding shapes no shame to waste
Moulding shapes no shame to waste
And drag me there with deafening haste

*Title from Misfits “Cough/Cool.” Prelude and postlude from Bauhaus “In The Flat Field.”

yes to sloth reincarnation

I see everything. It’s staggering. Many things are ugly and sad. A few things are beautiful in a superficial way. Some things are ugly in a beautiful way. Or sad in a beautiful way. Or neutral seen through a colored lens of your own choosing. Re: The sky is a lovely shade of cornflower blue / The sky is boring, why is it always blue, but sometimes white / The sky makes me sad / The sky overpowers me with its vastness / The sky enrages me.

Flaws are necessary. Imperfections abound. Everything is so strange. I don’t understand what people are doing. How they are living, existing. Where comes the drive for them to do something. I think I need more sunlight. The darkness slow-kills me with eight-hour stab wounds. My daytime cave smothers me. Who are these people. Don’t tell me. Maybe I need them. I’m not really in a rush.

I can no longer walk ten feet without writing something down. I keep waiting for a lamp post to approach me with violent intent. The suddenness of everything happening around me is electrifying. I’m a festering open sore and the world is my penicillin. But wait, I am allergic. Look out, I’m rejecting the transplant. Maybe I like being alone in a crowd. Maybe the reincarnation is almost complete. Routine comforts and horrifies me. I want it to be different but I’m afraid.

Today was the ice cream social at work. A group of awkward people convened to eat ice cream in a cramped meeting room. Our leader thanked us for doing a good job. It was uncomfortable. We ate our ice cream in silence. Some small talk scratched a flint but the kindling never caught. But there was vegan whipped cream! And organic vegan sprinkles! And vegan chocolate sauce! I ran outside when it was done! It was too late for cigar-smoking man. But expose-her-shoulders-to-the-sun girl was out there. And some bike messengers. I secured a good seat, read another piece in Zone 3. I took the sun and held it close.

As I rode through the supermarket parking lot on the way home, I saw a hearse. Its back window was painted in a colorful stylized manner with the words Girls & Corpses. Soon after, I saw some young runners. I felt a thrill. I felt the sun leave me. This is a true story.

~ FIN ~

anagrams = an arm gas

There is a Grand Prix auto race going on in front of my work today. Cars that reach speeds of 175 mph are driving on the city streets. That’s a good idea isn’t it, isn’t it. They sound like giant alien mosquitoes, whining at high pitch. Where is my giant fly swatter. Oversized things are always funny. You should know this. Any object that is much bigger than its normal size is innately humorous. This is some sort of natural law, I believe. I’ve seen forks that are like five feet long and I immediately fell on the floor seized by paroxysms of laughter. There is no denying this. Think about those giant foam cowboy hats. They are not funny because they’re foam; they’re funny because they’re huge. Let’s just agree to agree on this and I won’t say anything more about it.

As you’re pondering very large things that are usually smaller, here are a few anagrams:

EVERYTHING IS IN EVERYTHING = THE TINY GREEN IVY HIVE GRINS

AMERICAN HANDBOOK = A MOAN CHOKED BRAIN

ELF GENDER = FERN LEDGE

Today is Thursday and I just ate some pretzel sticks. This means it is the last day of work for me. Hooray. I feel the shackles loosen. Soon I will hulk out and roam unshackled for four five whole days [just made an executive decision to also take Tuesday off]. I thought about taking today off, too, so I could go birding because it’s been awhile since I’ve visited my bird friends. But I decided to come in and make anagrams instead. Plus the creeper carpet is creeping my way and I have a few last minute preparations to make. I am sure I will see my bird friends this weekend instead. Or Tuesday.

This afternoon I plan to drink yerba mate again and do some things. After that who knows. I might write a short play. As F.K. would say, don’t touch my chains.

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