field report: bridges

For once the speakers outside Hard Rock Cafe are playing a song I want to hear so I stand leaning against the bricks and listen to the lengthy bridge from ‘How Soon Is Now?’ It’s the part of the song I have always particularly loved. Just as Morrissey starts to sing for the last time ‘I am human and I need to be loved’ a generic man in fancy slacks and blazer walks by mouthing the words. The song fades out and I walk to the suspension bridge that always buckles in the wind. As I reach the bridge a man visibly down on his luck addresses me. He asks me if there is a mission where he and his wife can get a hot meal and I tell him there is one on the Fallsway. He replies that it’s closed. So I say there’s also one on Gay Street. He responds that it too is closed. I have no money with me so I tell him I can’t help him and wish him luck. He says nothing and turns away. I continue across the bridge and then I walk across the map of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, sometimes cordoned off and sometimes not, that is etched into stone in front of the fish prison. I make a halfhearted attempt to look for birds in the habitat islands but I feel like I have experienced way too much in the past few minutes so I return to the office and read a few more pages of Konwicki.

10-point plan to make america great again

  1. Establish a colony for alt-right white supremacists and their apologists in the Texas/Oklahoma region. Evacuate the existing liberals (mostly urban-dwelling) and erect a 20-foot wall around the entire territory. The alt-righters will then be free to establish martial law, shoot their guns, maintain their genetic purity, etc.
  2. Legalize marijuana in the remainder of the country. Immediately establish a network of public-private partnership clinics to transition opioid-addicted indiviuals over to marijuana use, with an eye toward eventual tapering off the marijuana. Exceptions to this tapering process will be made for those with legitimate chronic physical pain and those in need of palliative care due to chronic disease such as cancer, glaucoma, etc.
  3. Release all incarcerated drug offenders with only nonviolent convictions on their records from prison. Use the billions of dollars in cost savings to establish comprehensive re-entry programs for these individuals.
  4. Establish a review board system to examine cases of all remaining incarcerated individuals. Those approved for release will be transitioned through a network of rehabilitative programs in rural areas employing a variety of agricultural and animal therapy techniques, with the eventual goal of reintegration into society. Note: It is expected that a certain percentage of individuals will remain incarcerated. This would include those who show no remorse at all for their crimes and no potential for rehabilitation, and instead display a strong inclination to harm others again.
  5. Create training programs within the now-burgeoning legal marijuana industry for all individuals involved in the illicit drug trade and any interested ex-offenders. Opportunities will be available at all stages: growing, harvesting, packaging and shipping, sales and marketing, as well as in peripheral businesses such as creation and sale of edibles, paraphernalia, etc.
  6. Gut the vacant prisons and jails and renovate them into free housing for people without homes, complete with community gardens and on-site health clinics.
  7. Using tax revenues generated from the marijuana industry in combination with more of the enormous savings from closing most jails and prisons, establish free and easily accessible health care to all those who need it.
  8. Institute a robust nationwide program to divert edible food “waste” from landfills and instead use it to prepare meals to feed those who are hungry.
  9. Restore all ancestral lands to remaining Native American tribes. Form partnerships between newly resettled indigenous Americans and current residents with a long-term goal of restoring the natural balance between humans and the environment.
  10. Initiate planning process to dismantle capitalism in favor of a cashless barter economy, thus releasing the country’s citizens from the bonds of corporate control established and maintained via the insidious promotion and facilitation of mindless consumerism.

‘to reduce the fever of feeling’

Outside the wind howls. Inside a trio of snowmen converse in the vicinity of a conference of paper birds. Last night the ‘artsy’ neighbors continued their grand tradition of slamming doors and other unidentifiable objects against floors and walls for several hours between approximately midnight and the archetypal 3 AM hour. Result: current state of apathetic grogginess. Desire for absence of shared walls swells with each passing night of lost sleep.

Days less measureless than before. Crystalline structure of incipient routines inches out beyond the borders of a now worn and tarnished impersonation of L.B. in Rear Window. Except there never was anything even vaguely menacing to observe, only a sea of moment-waves rocking gently against the fragile hull of this origami sailboat.

Return to Pessoa’s words: no novelty in the universal, no comprehensibility in the individual. The old ruse of intentional obfuscation falls flat. But still the urge to fit words together roils inside. Maybe to do it, like Pessoa says, ‘to reduce the fever of feeling.’ Yet if all is unimportant (which it is), why bother describing any version of it. Unless perhaps to merely locate and handle the words themselves. To dive to the bottom, seeking words buried deep in a consciousness whose mirrored surface rests fathoms above undisturbed layers of sediment. Yes, perhaps it is for that reason: to extract anything worth contemplating from the granular level, to slip some small truth from the interstices and examine it from all sides, even if only to then return it unseen.

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

disordered chronology of movement

I.

Failed recollections to begin with. Slow-creeping toward habit. A giant round metal head. Sudden velocity. Sudden inertia. Pavement merges with gravel. The emergence of a tentative consciousness, neither hard nor pebbly. Vexation of unidentified raptors. Vultures soar over open sore in ground. A blast. Winged assassins. New commonness of thrashers in the street. Feet to pedals. The river like a swollen artery choked with plaque. Ungroundedness. Slow mounting keen of a train not far off. Dream rivulets running off a dry and calloused cerebellum. The importance of a second floor. Eye contact with strangers. Avoid building awareness of a presence. A body imagined close, a body far off yet close, a body buried in dry soil, a body husking a soul. A dipping line, looming and drawing back, tangled in the hanging moss of a halting lifetime.

II.

The exultant dismissal of everything. A hitching-up of trouser legs above this rising level of foreign liquidity. A spreading out tempered by a wish to gather in. Weathering. Rusty rooftop with greenery. The futile accomplishment of deletion. Southern hospitality. Sensory overload. Sensory deprivation. Every atom split to populate a neverending shell game run by con artists connotating the building blocks of life. It’s so casual is what it feels like. An unseemly seeming accidental existence. And yet people fly planes. Against near-white skies. This is a reason not to listen to all the best songs in a row. This is the reason time means nothing. Look out, the fuse is lit. See how it sputters, this heat seen and heard, racing on its journey to a black-powder shattered shack. Every early morning blink of a first-opened eye, this fuse is lit. And wetted fingertips flutter to pinch it out quick.

III.

Bird on a wire, sing your song, lift your wing to the world. Swoop down and over this set of fleet footprints filled in long ago. Expectations of nothing can never be unfulfilled. It’s a something-nothing to believe in, at least. An anti-ideal to carry stuck beneath an idealist’s forever-sweating armpit. Relish the freedom of solitude in public places. Deny detours diverting detritus. Pick it up, handle it, determine meaning and value, discard when done. Don’t look back but for inspiration. Forward motion fuels freedom. Reminders come free.

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).

tuesdayish

On Walking Backwards

My mother forbad us to walk backwards. That is how the dead walk, she would say. Where did she get this idea? Perhaps from a bad translation. The dead, after all, do not walk backwards but they do walk behind us. They have no lungs and cannot call out but would love for us to turn around. They are victims of love, many of them.

–Anne Carson, Plainwater

Couples who walk around with their hands in each others’ back pockets proclaim a clear statement, I think. And that statement is, we don’t mind you watching us grab each others’ butts.

There are ghosts. And they haunt us. This can happen in nontraditional ways.

People work harder to make their lives easier.

At work we now have the same meeting every week, but every other week it is called something different. This, I believe, is some kind of trick.

I am waffling over something, and this makes me hungry for waffles.

Sometimes a piece of mail can frighten you. Imagine the worst, then wait awhile to open it. I don’t advise this.

Plans make me nervous. Once I’ve made a plan or been made aware of a plan that involves me, I often secretly wish for it to unravel. I’m not sure why.

Open statement to any UK policy-makers landing here as a result of a Google search:

Please don’t cull the badgers.

astigmatism of the central eye

Sometimes at night I hear the train whistle rise above the sirens.

But the whirring of the police chopper’s rotors drowns out all else.

Makes a sound like an industrial drill boring a hole in your skull.

Makes a feeling like Winston Smith working at the Ministry of Truth.

I have been rewriting history for almost seven years.

And in the silence following we count our heartbeats.

And in the following heartbeats our silence counts.

And following in the heartbeats counts our silence.

There is selective silence between the history I rewrite in my mind.

Only a few others hear it. We shouldn’t be there. It’s time to move along.

My mind rewrites silence between the selective history.

We shouldn’t hear it. Others move along. Only a few, following.

In the silence we will move along, writing our futures, following no one, our whirring heartbeats rising above, drowning out history.

corner seat upstairs

It was the way the trees spread out like outraged arms toward the sky. The grey in your eyes and everywhere else we looked. A dog barked and the mail slot clanged. Home again where visiting hours have begun. They never end and you never leave. Walking the streets late at night brings that yearning, the restless implants below your skin, bumping up at inconvenient times. The other ones make slow improvements when what you need is the now, your chest swelling with cold air, salty tears torn from your eyes, the pine needles to deliver something worth breathing in. No one asks for any of this. The cold flow of unattended life, the blank faces, the purchases and receipts.

It was the way rain fell across your face, eyes wide and shining. The cracked and swollen sidewalks, the screeching of your bicycle’s brakes. A leaking roof, a broken dryer, the things that need fixing when so much else is broken. We learn to survive through failure, leaving wreckage in our wake. We forge ahead out of desperation, armed with scraps of what we think worked before. Will the sky ever clear, or will the roof cave in on our heads. Does it even matter.

It can be the rubbing away of a greasy brand. The slipping off downstream. Evolution of the day-to-day, a smoothing out. The cracks, the breaks, the swells, the leaks, all of it stuffed in a burlap sack. Hurl it from the roof and watch it sink heavy in the rain. Watch it loosen the knot across your chest. This fraying will be our salvation, it will be our last rite.

  • Recent Posts

  • Navigation Station

    The links along the top of the page are rudimentary attempts at trail markers. Otherwise, see below for more search and browse options.

  • In Search of Lost Time

  • Personal Taxonomy

  • Common Ground

  • Resources

  • BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS