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.

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

‘he walked arm in arm with his shadow’ (éric chevillard)

[note: cursory statistical analysis reveals this blog would receive heightened traffic if it contained more practical advice on ‘all weather bike commuting,’ but instead it chiefly contains impractical, infrequent, and largely unread text such as the following…]

aural darkness in june. a way to refuse the heat. alice. another merciful release. a spiral of silence. another five minutes in this chair. jabès with his name in his pain but his pain with no name. writing about the book and its hold over us. the power of the word. meanwhile duras is looking at the time. ‘it was ten o’clock. in the evening. it was summer.’ and what could maria call the time opening ahead of her…’this incandescence, this bursting of a love at last without object.’

been here too long. here early / leave late / write in boxes / move on wheels back uphill. two legs, four legs, crossing thresholds over and over. sidewalks of daily desolation. tedium in quin’s ‘city where every street declares its defeat.’ consider bernhard and his ‘born barricade fanatics’the shared ‘desire to barricade ourselves from the world.’

but then there is jabès in unwilling exile from his beloved desert. everyone in some form of exilemental, physical, spiritual—feeling incapable of return. like robin about whom the baron thinks ‘there was in her every movement a slight drag, as if the past were a web about her, as there is a web of time about a very old building.’ and yet nora saying ‘robin can go anywhere, do anything, because she forgets, and i nowhere because i remember.’ because what bliss it would be to forget, right, to not always be dragging that chain of keyless padlocks behind. two (mis?)interpretations of another’s experience. dangers of outside looking in. but what of robin. what of robin. on the floor barking like a dog. a shattered mirror. surrendered to expectations. a final transition to conditioned response. or the ultimate shedding of humanity’s heavy carapace.

quiet person day

Today (i.e. whatever day you’re reading this) is the day when we celebrate the quiet person. The quiet person among us is often overlooked and even scorned. This occurs for many reasons, all of which are rooted in the very nature of being quiet. Quietness can be interpreted as a supernatural state. This has caused problems for certain quiet people. Back in the day, the quiet person was often suspected of witchcraft and either burned or crushed to death under large boulders. Throughout history, quiet people have been perceived as oracles, goddesses, world-creators, world-destroyers, saints, sinners, aliens, demons, angels, lunatics, et cetera. An urge to fear the quiet person presents itself. The quiet person rarely speaks unless spoken to. What is going on in their heads. How menacing. Some people think this means the quiet person is a snob. In fact, often a quiet person will open up like a rare flower (e.g., an orchid) when spoken to. Or the quiet person will simply wilt into a pile of rotting organic matter. You’ll never know which unless you try.

Some people think the quiet person has no opinions, but get that person alone and look out! You will not believe the endless stream of words flowing forth from the quiet person. You may wish you had never engaged the quiet person in conversation. At times during this ‘conversation’, it may seem like the quiet person has been possessed by some manic force. When will this person ever shut up, you may find yourself wondering, I can’t get a word in edgewise. However, the quiet person is usually smart and insightful (if you have the right decoder ring), leading you instead to wish you’d not previously overlooked this person. In fact, you may wish you could bottle the quiet person’s wisdom and keep it with you at all times, so that you could take it out when needed and breathe deeply of its essence. Too bad for you that is not possible (yet). Besides, that’s just being greedy! It’s not your place to package the quiet person into a commodity to be bought and sold on the open marketplace, you capitalist bastard. The quiet person will resist the tyranny of your economic systems!

Unfortunately, the quiet person can be perceived as ‘creepy’ or ‘weird’ due to an inherent tendency to hang back and observe instead of participate in whatever inane activity the non-quiet people are currently engaged in. This is blatant discrimination. Quiet people are not all serial killers. It’s unfortunate that the description ‘seemed nice, kind of quiet, kept to her/himself‘ can apply to both sociopaths and non-murderous quiet people. Being quiet carries a heavy stigma, whether the loudmouths among us realize it or not. So step off, fools.

To help celebrate this important day, here are a few helpful suggestions on how to honor the quiet people in your life:

1. Leave them alone. (Can’t go wrong with this one, folks.)

2. Smile and nod at them in tacit approval of their right to remain silent.

3. Refrain from ‘volunteering’ them for public speaking.

4. Do not suggest that they ‘mingle’. They’re leaning against that wall for a reason.

5. Excuse them from any ‘icebreakers’  or other forms of forced socializing (see #4 above).

6. Learn to read minds so that they are not forced to articulate their thoughts.

7. Stop asking them to speak up all the time. Instead consider buying yourself hearing aids.

8. Engage in a ‘not-talking’ contest with them. (And don’t be a sore loser, chatterbox.)

9. Invite them to a mime performance.

10. Do not assume their quietness equates to a dislike for you.

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.

mystery of the annes

Question. Do all the Annes mean something? For many years now, I’ve been adding Annes to my favored author list. It all started with Annie Proulx (AP) and her novel The Shipping News. I moved on from that novel to reading most of her other fiction, both short and long. AP is primarily a Western writer, and her characters are often fringe types, loners, roamers, outsiders. I read her novel That Old Ace in the Hole when I lived only a few hours from the Texas Panhandle region where it was set. I read a lot of her fiction when I lived out there in North Texas and it helped me a little bit to understand my own place as a loner in what I saw at the time as an unforgiving open land.

When I moved here to Baltimore, I started reading Anne Tyler (AT) novels on a sporadic basis. I’ve probably read about 10 of them by now. I wanted to read AT because her books are usually set in Baltimore. I’d never lived anywhere before that also happened to be the specific setting for a writer’s books. It added a special extra thrill to the reading. AT’s characters, much like AP’s, are often loners and oddballs. Often in her books these loner oddballs find other loner oddballs to be with, although not without encountering much difficulty along the way. Reading her books always puts me in a strange headspace, yet one that also seems familiar because of all the Baltimore references. I enjoy this.

The third literary Anne to enter my life was Annie Dillard (AD). I fell in love with her writing immediately. I began a mass consumption project. I’ve read most of her books by now, although I’m saving a few for the future, mostly because AD has alluded to the probability that she won’t write another book (too much reading to do, says she). The ones I’m saving are her memoir and her two books of poetry. I started the memoir once but it didn’t click. The same thing happened with her first novel, The Living. I tried hard to get through it but eventually realized I was bored and didn’t care what happened to the characters. That’s always a sign for me that the book isn’t working and it’s time to put it down. I thought maybe AD’s fiction just wasn’t for me, but then The Maytrees came out and proved me wrong. Still, it is her nonfiction that captivates me most. I know I will be rereading much of it, despite my general tendency not to reread books.

Now along comes Anne Sexton (AS) and Anne Carson (AC). I’ve read more of AC than AS at this point, and I can say that I’m already enthralled with the former while still plumbing the depths of the latter. What I like most about AC is her mixing of genres. A book of hers can contain poems, essays, opera librettos, screenplays, and various bits of unclassified text. I get the sense that she does not force herself into formats that her thoughts don’t want to go. As the writing flows, it begins to take form. None of this, I’m going to sit down and write a poem now. Despite the intimidation I feel at her stunning intellectual prowess, her writing still feels liberating and accessible to me. It feels like reading an academic treatise but without the formal constraints that usually come with such writing. She pulls from so many disparate sources and ties it all together so it makes perfect sense, although often only if I read it closely.

So what is it about the Annes?

Other inputs: My sister was born an Anne and now goes by Annie. She reads a lot. When I first moved to this city my best friend was dating an Anne. I had never seen him so happy. I thought they might make it. But sadly they did not.

Anne is the French form of Anna, which is a form of Channah (or Hannah), a name used in the Latin and Greek Old Testament. In Hebrew the name Channah means ‘favor’ or ‘grace,’ or more specifically, ‘He (God) favors me’. The Book of Luke, in the New Testament, mentions a prophetess Hannah who recognized the child Jesus as the Messiah. Anna became a popular Western Christian name during the Middle Ages because of Saint Anna, the mother of the Virgin Mary. Anne is still a popular name in France. In England it is also commonly spelled Ann. Various forms of the name appear in most Western and Eastern European nations, as well as Russia.

My aunt’s name is spelled Ann, and she is the daughter of Irish immigrants.

I’m sure we all recognize patterns in our lives. I try not to ignore them. Sometimes they are ones yawning behind me I want to avoid in the future so I try to learn from them. Sometimes they are merely part of life’s effluence. And sometimes they appear to be mystical messages encrypted and in need of decoding. I feel like I am in constant search of a decoder ring.

  • 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