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).


I picked up some kind of spring bug…it hasn’t been that bad so far, but it’s got me down.  I haven’t been sick since early last fall when I had a mild cold.  The law of averages finally caught up to me, though.  I stayed home from work today, mostly because I can’t stand when people go to work when they’re sick and spread their germs around for all the rest of us to breathe in. 

On Friday I went to Philly to see Screeching Weasel on their reunion tour.  They played most of the right songs, and they played them well, but it was all very mechanical.  Ben Weasel exhibited asocial behavior during the show, never changing his expression and speaking to the crowd with a level of aloofness I’m not sure I’ve ever witnessed from a punk rock frontman.  I never saw SW back in the day so I don’t know if he always acts like that on stage, but having read Ben’s columns in MaximumRocknRoll, I always suspected he wouldn’t be the type to effectively demonstrate genuine enthusiastic gratitude to his fans.  Sure, he thanked us and all, and maybe he was being sincere, but it seemed very cold and calculated.  I told my friend afterward that I felt more like I’d just closed a business deal than watched a punk rock show.  The Troc is a really nice place, though.  I hope to see some more shows there in the future.

On Saturday, I lurked around out in the countryside all day, visiting flea markets and auctions, and liberating abandoned trees and shrubs from a nursery’s dumping ground.  It was good times with old friends, and long overdue.

Last night I woke up at 3:40 AM and a robin was singing.  I knew they started early, but I’d never heard them at that hour before.  Interestingly, scientists in the UK published a study that showed urban robins sing later (or earlier) based on the levels of ambient noise they have to compete with during the daytime.

Meanwhile, migration is really heating up.  The birding discussion list I subscribe to overflows with reports of returning warblers, while I am sick and/or have to go to work.  NOT FAIR!  Also, this time of year is rapidly becoming the one rare period where I sometimes actually wish I did own a car.  Being city-bound seriously limits my birding options, and the easiest spots to bike to haven’t been that great so far this spring.  Losing the hour or more necessary to ride somewhere farther away crimps my plans when the most productive time spent in the field is usually in the morning.   I’m thinking that maybe next year I’ll just take the entire month of May off and go birding every day.  That way I won’t feel so bad about missing so many bits and pieces of prime time.

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