diminuendo*

One feels a certain compulsion to vanish into incomprehensibility. To pack up meaning into a suitcase and shove it under the bed. Nothing said or written can be understood. Therefore I understand nothing, and yet I am no longer concerned. The questioning strain withers on the vine. The inquiring train stops dead on the tracks. This concern of yours is no longer mine. Neither is mine yours. What concern is or ever was. Definition, please (irony!).

Concern (noun): (1) something that relates or belongs to one; (2) matter for consideration; (3) an uneasy state of blended interest, uncertainty, and apprehension (Source: Merriam-Webster [truncated from original]).

Imagine a life lived in this uneasy state: perpetual ‘concern’ over various undiminished ‘concerns’. Imagine this state existing inside a stopped train, or clinging to a dead vinedangling from said vine, about to fall but never indeed falling. Imagine inhabiting an indefinable state while trying to define it. For what purpose.

An enormous sense of loss yawns following a century of troubled sleep. I stick my finger in its cavernous mouth as a joke. It is not amused. Down my throat this finger crawls to oblivion, causing grave intestinal distress. The gut: canary in the coalmine for all imbalance in the bodya dark coiled mystery we prefer not to unravel (think about how long it is). When what happens in the gut stays in the gut we are in trouble. Serious trouble.

A portrait materializes of a mind in a state of atrophy. Stare upon it, cock one’s head to either side (it doesn’t matter which), place one’s chin upon one’s fist (your choice), and consider the mind’s half-life. When it fails to half warning signs erupt. At this point one must choose the route of optimist or pessimist. The half-life point. Mind semi-intact. From this point forward one can lead a life half-lived or not lived at all. Half-lived is better than not lived, right. Or what about living a life half-filled or empty. What is it like to live a half-filled life. Filled with what. Quality over quantity is preferred, is it not. Emptiness is not.

Welcome home to what’s no longer home (or welcome, for that matter). Adjust to institutionalized maladjustmentthese building blocks of lifeelements assembled from a dusty kit unknowingly on factory recall. Build a nest inside the trap. Line it with a soft layer of denial. Once comfortable forget what has never been remembered. Forgetting in advance lessens the pain, though it will still require tending. Pain always requires care and protection. Songs of the past frighten off intruders. Sing yourself to sleep. Ignore the ghosts wandering the halls. They want nothing from you.

*1987 LP recorded by Scottish band Lowlife

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.”

to me, it’s not better than the weather

Waning, waxing, waning, waxing: the rush and the push of mood from hour to hour to day to day to week’s end and to the moon. Reading F. K.’s diary night by night…sinking fast in the horror bog of familiarity. A morass of similarities. [Will I also get TB. Where’s my Swiss sanatorium.] Writing, not writing, writhing, writing, not writing, the endless breakers rising and crashing against this battered cranial jetty. The crushing repetition of my own inspiration. Heat’s ebb and flow, the dying summer exhales rank and humid rattle-breaths as it’s painstakingly strangled by the coming fall. An ugly death, for sure. The work not done around here could fill a hundred empty trucks, on standby, prepared to haul off a life’s accumulated evidence of avoidance. I, the weather-crazed architect, survey an empty expanse of years, so carefully orchestrated, so carelessly implemented, and on every day I rested. And on every day I rested. And on every day I…clamp down on the cause of defeat with mighty waxen jaws, summer’s flame licking holes in their false walls. Caving in on itself, everything is. Last night again was epic dreams I failed to describe accurately in my journal. Just weak fluid flowing from my pen, sketching a toothpick framework for what is becoming dangerously close to more exciting than what I describe here. That is, intricate nothingness. That is, blank walls of clear shellac taped off and rollered with exquisite care, attention paid to the most glaring lack of any details…a veritable Sistine Chapel ceiling of nonexistence. So proud I am for the big unveiling. [Sound of emergency exit door slamming shut.]

Now I drink yerba mate out of a wooden gourd. Now I reflect on how cigar-smoking guy had a lady friend with him today. Not a loner for long. They sat in those weird half-chairs that have no legs. Just a seat and a back and nothing else, maybe arms. What will they think of next. Cigar-smoking guy was not smoking a cigar. His bike was there, but his lady friend must have walked. I sat on the other side of the locust trees flipping through some literary journals I’m supposed to review. The air felt drained of moisture. This pleased me. All around, bands of men in monkey suits capered about in the grasping thralls of machismo, no doubt bandying their latest conquests in the spheres of sex and business. Strip off their power suits and we would all laugh. Or would we cheer. Or arrest. Recall the Naked Rambler. Corporate embrace of full nudity: I’d like to see it. Level the playing field. No more power coursing through expensive Italian fabric. I’m nude, you’re nude, let’s close this deal and go get drinks. High fives all around. See you at the bar.

possible kalopsic casualty

Last night I swam in a sea of almost-sleep, drifting in and out of almost-lucid dreams, all of which evaporated upon waking. It was the fan, I think. The fan instead of the A/C. What was I thinking. The Siren song of dropping humidity dripped its sugar-sweet serum into my ear holes. Damn you Weather Sirens. It is Wednesday now. My bird-of-the-day calendar displays a sleek Green Kingfisher. I replaced the bulb above my office plant. We are getting new green carpet; it smells bad and looks like it was torn out of some swinger’s 1960s basement rec room. I cringe at the thought of it creeping in all molester-like into my personal office space. My feet will never be the same. Violation! Violation. I am listening to the liferaft again. So help me, I cannot help myself. Do you know what i mean. Do you. Do you really know. I attended a meeting this morning. I was 9 minutes late on account of I was waiting for the coffee to stop brewing. Also my coworker and I were busy trash-talking the last 4 years of our professional lives. I am back to drinking too much coffee again. But I drink the special tea after lunch to try and repair the damage. It appears to work, but maybe not since there was the almost-sleep and that is a heavy consideration. i am eating my lunch now and not smoking a cigar. But I bet that guy is. I’ll bet he is. The liferaft has segued into the bedside table. That is where I keep the 5 books I am currently reading, most of them Kafka-related. But there is Jung, too. And Tessimond. All of my dear friends stacked in a pile within easy reach. With my Moleskine. Sigh. Last night while out walking Farley we saw a cat. It was not a metaphorical cat that might or might not be in a box, dead or alive. It was a real cat and Farley was interested. He stared under the car long after the cat had run back across the street. I want a cat so bad. Nearby to where I live a train went off the tracks in the dead of night. Two college girls were up on the bridge tweeting photos and they were buried under a mountain of coal. They died. I’d like to think this exposes the ills of social media, but I’m not sure. I feel bad about this. That’s why I listen to the liferaft so much. It makes the sounds that I feel inside most of the time. I am perhaps a blurred model of myself. I walk outside and brush my hand against the lavender blooms and surreptitiously sniff. Hey, it’s that guy who is always sniffing his hand. Yes, that is me. I enjoy touching things in nature that look soft. I find them irresistible. I find much of what is around me irresistible. The rest of it can fall off the planet for all I care. The Internet ruined my concentration. I enjoy chasing rabbits of information down their hidey holes. That is really what I do. Often. Sometimes I pass on what I find to others. Sandy Berman taught me that. He is a good man. We used to write letters back and forth. I was an over-excited new library school student. Now I just search for stuff on the Web. My idealism is easily trod upon into a gross paste that I plan to smear on the molester carpet when it arrives leering and panting outside my office door. What you don’t know is that I was just outside touching the lavender. Literally. Between that one sentence and the next. What do you think about that. My hand smells so fucking good right now. Outside there was a truck with bins on the side dispensing free energy bars. The orbs and their blobs were shoving their fleshy flaccid fingers in those bins so fast. But they are healthy nutrition bars. Ha! That is a fucking good trick! I feel so alive today. It made me walk fast. Surf the mania. I am 100% alive and 100% dead ALL THE TIME. I am petting the cat and its back is arched. I’m an out-of-the-box solution, suckers.

why does this channel play such a peculiar strain of white noise

Your shoulders bend forward to keep out the world. I see it. What is the point. Why do we insist on throwing ourselves out into the fray. Retreat! Climb onto this liferaft I have constructed from a few termite-riddled planks bound together with the discarded hairs from your head. It’s all different but the same. Longing and self-denial: our life’s work, the unrequitable nectar from which we feed, desperate fools that we are. I can’t bear to look.

Today I took Farley to Spiderweb City. I heard a Black-billed Cuckoo, a bird I identify with. Common but secretive? Rumored to predict rain? Maybe not. I came home, ran around inside the house with my paint bucket, sweating, the futility of it all welling up inside, allegro. Mainlining futility, hoping someday for the pure uncut junk that blows your mind.

Later: party time. An invitation not refused. Perhaps the strangest party I have yet attended in a lifetime of suffering strange parties. Now here I sit, a party of one. Freebasing dictionaries and dreaming of foreign scents. The window is open to let in the rare cool night air. The city crickets patch together their ragged symphony. I am restless with the other music, but not drowning out the crickets. The stage is set for insomnia. Cue white noise…aaand, ACTION.

Observer versus participant in the steel cage match of life. Who wins. I wish I knew. Not that it would matter. I can’t change now. I feel like a bad character actor playing myself when I go out in public. The superficial bumbler. Kafka talks about being alone and how it restores himself to himself. How he comes alive when alone. The noise in his head quiets. He says, “Being alone has a power over me that never fails. My interior dissolves […] and is ready to release what lies deeper.” When two people are together in aloneness it is a curious thing. In some ways it is liberating. I think it may be the best we can hope for, but I still can’t see how it ends.

So we are afloat on this rotten raft held together by your hair. And I reach to pull your shoulders back but they no longer move. Like my spine they are stuck out of place. It’s dark now and the sea grows rough. I know the morning will come, but what does that even mean. At what point did the day really end. Some weeks stretch like taffy. Others make Friday the pin on this grenade and you’re stretching your long thin arm to it all week but it’s always out of reach until all of a sudden you’re yanking the pin out and it all blows up in your face. Or it’s a dud. Either way you lose another seven days. The box of grenades is not bottomless.

The rain is falling now, again. Like the cuckoo sang it would. Rain crow, rain crow, sing us a shower. This bird is killed by pesticides; this bird collides with TV towers, with tall buildings that house banks and corporate overlords. Let us all share the blame for killing a bird that sings when it is about to rain. For there are few sounds so soothing as gently falling rain.

from the amalgamator’s observatory

In the city summer after the trashmen have driven off with the week’s waste, a trailing fetid odor stagnates mid-street. I ride through the rank air and it feels so oddly cool and clean. A young man asks if it will rain today and I shrug toward the dark clouds moving towards us from the south. A neighbor stares through me from behind dark glasses and I wonder why, when before she used to say hello. I believe things shifted when she bleached her hair. Perhaps she bleached out more than pigment. In the close quarters of rowhouse life, we are farther apart than in the rural countryside where being a neighbor means more than someone to avoid eye contact with. There it means sharing and helping, a way of life. I like my space and freedom from the noise of others, but I prefer a friendly understanding to rude avoidance. What if, like Bartleby, we all preferred not to. That said, I have my aloof days. I do have those.

And so…summer’s confluence of days spreads farther into time’s watershed, like tiny feeder streams losing their autonomy. Warm water mixes with cool and thus blended seeps through me. I am a slow cracked flagon, never empty, never full. Plagued by seeing all the wrong things, agreeing to mistakes made in advance. Orchestrating release of the next batch of tics, twitches, compulsions to soothe and smooth. Periods of mania descending to flatline. Elaborating on the never happening.

But wait! It’s never just the weather, is it. Isn’t it. Yes and no. This is getting repetitive. Instead let’s go word diving. It’s like pearl diving, but with words, and less dangerous. Fun fact: the average university-educated native English speaker’s receptive vocabulary size is around 20,000 word families (a word family is a base word and its inflected forms and derivations). Receptive size refers to the number of words recognized while listening and reading. Productive size refers to the number of words used in speaking and writing, and is often understood to be half the receptive size. To put this in perspective, the OED defines roughly 600,000 words. So dive deep, the bottom is farther away than you might think.

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