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

more data in the imaginary spreadsheet

Yesterday cigar-smoking man was again observed sitting in his chair and smoking. He had a bike with him, though a different bike from his original bike. Meanwhile, someone wrote the word ‘WEED’ in multicolored chalk on the brick promenade. There are now many tourists, both of the large and confused varieties. They approach anyone around them with desperate pleas for directions to destinations that tourists frequent, such as restaurants where they can attempt for a time to assuage their unending hunger. They walk around talking about when to eat, concerned that a late lunch will push dinner back too far. Managing one’s meals whilst vacationing is difficult. It requires careful planning and continuous discussion.

The fake pirate ship drifts into view and executes a tight 90-degree turn in the channel, as the few customers on board respond with halfhearted movements to the ‘deckhands’ capering to the awful pulsing reggae music.  It may be an elaborate game of musical chairs, but the distance is too great to permit an accurate, detailed report.

A police helicopter incessantly buzzes overhead, an unusual occurrence in this sanitized sector of the city. Perhaps it makes the tourists feel protected.

One-sided exchange overheard between two restaurant employees who were setting up outdoor seating:

“[…]”

“No, I would say I’m spiritual, but I don’t believe in organized religion.”

On a certain bridge, someone scrawled ‘It feels so good to do it’ with spray paint. After a while, the graffiti clean-up squad covered it up with neutral paint. Several weeks or months later, the same scrawl appeared but this time it said, ‘It feels so good to do it again’. The clean-up squad covered that one much quicker, only for the scrawl to reappear a few days later as ‘It feels so good to do it again and again’. No one will win this war.

In Winterreise, Nagl has moved on from thinking his life is still lying ahead of him:

‘Now that life is no longer ahead of me, now that it’s really started, there’s nothing else but senseless thoughts. I’ve done everything almost automatically. I made it a point of honor to have everything I did look as if I wanted it. In reality, it just happened.’

Is it the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning.

a knoblike process

Creeping crepuscule, descrescent light, harbinger of dreaded return to EST, where darkness dampens day’s early end. Decumbent drone diminishes daily, drowsy in the drawing room. Sip long from murky melodies, muddy froth spilling forth in rivulets, dirgeful delights diverging in drone’s ear canals. Mellifluous miasma of musical melancholia!

Dismantling of outdoor seating commences! Desperate attempts to affect staring at nothing continues. Doctor Chumply the Mouth Breather appears, Mickey D’s in hand, heart-attack-in-waiting, following with tiny aggrieved steps the trail of nitroglycerin tablets strewn across the decking. Take the elevator, not the stairs, for they are locked, despite the sign in the kitchen encouraging good health through stairs-taking. O, Dr. Chumply, what will become of you, will you follow those tablets to the Haunted Wood™ where the witch stokes her stove as she awaits your fleshly delights.

[But Christine, what of loneliness, standing there behind the invisibility cloak, always working, always writing, what did engagement mean for you, O Invisible Author, did you drape yourself in a duvet woven with words…]

Glossary

lumpfish: Any of various fishes of the family Cyclopteridae, especially Cyclopterus lumpus of North Atlantic waters, having pelvic fins united to form a suction disk and a body bearing prominent tubercles.

tubercle: A small, rounded prominence or process, such as a wartlike excrescence on the roots of some leguminous plants or a knoblike process in the skin or on a bone.

Quick now! Homophone challenge question: would you rather your words resonate or resinate. Think about it while staring into the clouds.

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.

the bus to paradise passed me this morning

Some people never stop talking about their plans. They are dead serious. Just you wait, they say, as if they know you are already silently doubting them. Or perhaps it’s because they’ve been scoffed at so frequently before. Regardless, their plans are solid. However, according to my own sloppy research conducted using keen observation techniques backed with unscientific predictive modeling, these people never actually go through with their plans. But…there are questions. Is it the constant talking about the plans that keeps them from hurling themselves off a bridge? Does the mere daily mention of these grandiose plans sweep away the dark cloud of futility hovering nearby? Are they in denial? Does the bus to paradise ever stop to pick up these passengers?

Other people keep quiet about their plans. They may mention them in passing on occasion. But there is no big to-do about it. When you ask them about their plans they are sometimes evasive. Rarely do they go into details. It’s as if they don’t want to curse the plans by talking too much about them. In the meantime, we grow complacent about these people. We expect them to remain in stasis. Sure, in the back of our minds nests that tiny kernel of knowledge that these people do indeed have plans. But the infrequent or even non-mention of the plans lowers our guard. Therefore, when these people suddenly follow through on their plans everyone is flabbergasted. How did they do it. We didn’t even know. She seemed so quiet. He kept to himself. And no, I’m not talking about mass murderers, although it’s possible the same theory applies. When did these people get on the bus? Were we not looking when they slipped out the door, paid their fare and boarded?

Are you ever overcome by a feeling of being left behind? All my life I have plunged forward with only brief stays in the morass. But the longer one lingers in one place, the more departures one suffers. Now, I certainly understand the value of living in the present and how that factors into this discussion. I’m not interested in plumbing those depths for the eight thousandth time. I also recognize that I am a person to whom satisfaction does not come easily. I’ve made a lot of progress in coming to terms with this. As part of the process, I’ve developed my own specialized coping skills (note: available for hire). This is what we’re supposed to do as we get older. Learn how to live the day-to-day. If we don’t, there is trouble.

I fear this has now veered off-course. I did not intend to get confessional. Let’s blame it on the bus, broadcasting its glowing word of promise above the driver’s head, passing me by as I neared my destination, teetering on the edge of the always tenuous cliff of Monday morning, hastily rigging together the tatters of my ragged hang glider, preparing once again for a flawless take-off into the unknown.

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.

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.

a philalethe and a panmnesiac walk into a bar

Scripturient fugues scrape at this summer torment, as I sit saccadic in my seat, genuflecting to twin telescreens, the slim dark overlords of these waking hours. Glistering dreams spawn from stem and cortex under cloak of darkness; if not coaxed out quick, consciousness crucifies them upon the day’s brutal y-axis.

Late at night I hail the sidewalk slugs, grown fat on summer’s bounty, no longer convening, but navigating solo in their slow deliberate way, yearning perhaps for a more saltigrade life. I try to lead Farley’s falling paws away from their soft yielding bodies, but theirs is forever a doomed existence in this urban setting. I can only do so much.

Revulsion spawns in less innocent corners, as I perceive the proboscis of humanity probing at inappropriate places. Get thee away, proboscis! See how your callous actions rub salt in your own wounds, spinning on until one day you’ll all lie screaming, salted strips of dried-out flesh stretched on a burning hot bed of asphalt. Or something…ahem.

Never mind, it’s time to molt this dacrygelotic husk. It’s time to cram these junked-out hours in a dirty suitcase and hurl it in the harbor. The air is like bathwater and I will yet swim in it, for I have no choice. And yet the psithurism of the autumnal approach beckons. I still hear it, muted and steam-wrapped as it is.

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