Friday, September 1, 2017

Happy Death Day, Charles

Dear Charles,

I have been meaning to sit down and post another entry of this rambly scrawl of a journal, this omnium gathered of pips and pops, drawn out squibs, you might have called them. But life has been either too hectic or fun to do so. But then I realized it was your death day. My unknown and only-half friend, how could I not stop a moment and salute you with a respectful grab of the crotch?

I raise a glass to your Precious Notes:

1. Do, every day, what duty and prudence dictate.
2. Always be a poet, even in prose.
3. The grand style (nothing more beautiful than the commonplace).
4. First make a start, then apply logic and analysis.
5. Even hypothesis demands a conclusion.
6. To achieve a daily madness.

(from Intimate Journals, Trans. Christopher Isherwood)

As you would approve, I cherry-pick from your tenets. I am not you, and no longer seek what we see of your shadow alleys. I allow you to be you. I am only now beginning to know me.

On this, another Day of Your Death, I speak of change. I will speak of it in the bourgeoisie style you despised. The cassette tape Voltaires of your Paris. My gift to you.

I am changing in a foundational way. I try to stay cognizant of the world within and without, assessing the changes and turns and inflections of tone, heat, and distance. Visions of the past and its playful, ominous ebbing flow from these shadows I am beginning to create in this, the second half of a life. The present, how it earns its keep by posting constantly, getting paid for advertising yesterday in new clothes, for never ceasing to remix its own songs in an endless stream arranged (and now DJ'd) by cutting edge AI. Administrators available by email only. And all the while I preserve my rituals, my childlike but necessary attempts to crystalize the fluid, to make concrete and holy the fleeting moments that perhaps are as ignorable as they are important to me. The way I feel I am almost able to hold back the tide (my gray is almost entirely on my face), but my body feels heavy for the very first time, as if gravity has suddenly increased just for me, making me nearly the same weight and cumber as any other human. Strange that this would seem strange to me, for it is without hyperbole that I say that, before now, I have always felt either my immortality, the martial training I underwent in my virginal years (or, likely some marriage of the two) somehow afforded me a lithe, acrobatic dexterity that belied the years I accumulated as heads-up coins in the street. Perhaps, once one distances himself so far from either a mental or physical state of purity, of velvet-sigh carte blanche, entropy feels itself free to doggrel atop our weakening figure. Purity, the treasure made unnatural naturally by nothing more than time. ###

That is all, dear Charles, for this time. I have given you enough to laugh about and share with those few with whom you now raise your glass. Enjoy, rearrange, improve, destroy. Indulge in all your favorite annihilations. You've earned it.

I close with a song for you. Walk your now and forever streets. May they despise you perfectly.



With only a half-bow,
Michael

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Shadows and Shade (cont.)




My mother is the single strongest, most loving and graceful person I've ever known. To this day I cannot tell if she is some kind of nature spirit or a coffee-addicted martyr. My whole life she has given when there should have been nothing left to give. She always had hands to hold a child's teary face, to fix a million meals, to tuck in the unsleepy, and to never strike in anger. By pure example she showed my brother and me the meaning of Love's immeasurable well, with any reference to such downplayed as an act of necessity. So it was no surprise it was the same when it came to the fire.

It was a muggy day, the kind of day which seemed to fuel my father's a) frustration, b) testosterone, and c) confusion about his youngest boy. I don't remember what I was doing at the time. I just remember my father's hackles raised in search of me. Upon finding me, I was to learn that a great chore needed to be completed, a task of titanic proportions, and one whose existence would test not only my strength and courage, but my merit as a human, and, more importantly, as a man. He grabbed a pair of work gloves and headed toward the woods behind our house. Snake den? Worse? Further down the hill was too steep for anything I could think of that would need to be done. Past that was the creek, and he never concerned himself with anything there. Only I did that. My secluded cloister. My sanctuary from the insecurities of school life, the hollow victories at home lay at those waters, down just a ways to the second waterfall. A ledge on which I sat many an afternoon listening to the million sounds from all around, trying to single them out, in vain, at the same time trying to feel a part of all of them. Just trying to feel a part.

We stopped not twenty feet from the treelike, where he pointed beside the derelict treehouse we had started five years ago. It looked like a gnome's hermitage, windowless, and far too heavy for any branches in the vicinity. The idea had come to us shortly after moving to Kingston Springs from Nashville, and the bucolic image of fireflies and clubhouses for the boys grew strong in my father. So we built it, and we built it poorly. And only upon its completion did we look around and wonder where the hell we thought it was going to go. Every time we entered the woods, there was this look on my father's face when he saw it. Very small and some unnamed thing between shame and shock. He pointed to the huge pile of brush that had been created during the summer. Branches cut and stacked from cutting firewood (why we chose to cut firewood during the absolute hottest part of the summer is still beyond me. Heatstroke Central) and from clearing out the woods to make it more pedestrian.



"We need to get rid of that brush. Burn it. Stay with it and make sure it doesn't spread. Bring that hose down here. We don't need no forest fire."

Fire. I can get behind that, I thought. I brought the hose down and soaked the surrounding area, lest my pyro tendencies got the best of me. He left me to it to grind some valves for the Duster. I gathered some things and took up my post to get this job, by God, done.

About an hour later, my father clomped back down the hill to check on things. His face screwed up when he got within eyeshot. Suddenly, I could feel heat coming from more than the flames in front of me.

He mustered enough control for a single question: "What are you doing?!"



...to be continued






Friday, June 30, 2017

Change

Remember? Remember when that thing happened and the stuff in your lungs was replaced with thick fire? Each right cross pang catching you chestwise

breaking lines in your
thought
feel
day
nights of nightlessness

That one time you considered harm. It was something you floated in, no sign of land. Lost seas of midnight. You gave up. You died. You came back. You blinked. You slept.

And one day, against the plan, you laughed.

You shrugged it off because you remembered to be sad. Find the rut, climb back in. It's shaped like you, after all, and cold and hard and that's what you get. Dinners are made, somehow. Work. Thanks for showing up today. Very small things transpire.

And, like an unwatched kettle, it happens.

A different place. A new time. Words like 'chapter.' Laughing and crying take turns having their way with you. The trees change clothes and some summer night you see that the stars never stopped migrating. It all keeps going, and your not the center after all, not always.

Spring has become summer, my friends. Let's raise a glass to change. We're still alive to experience it. That's something. May the changes happening with you now be ones you can acknowledge and appreciate.

And you know what?

I hope they are fucking awesome.


Perfect musical accompaniment, courtesy of someone who gets it.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

We're Expecting

We all have them, and we love to feel smart by convincing ourselves we shouldn't or (better) eschew them for flexible happiness. But it's silly. Of course we do. Of course we wield them like children. Some are healthy and essential for the day-to-day.  But we are spoiled, as a culture, a species, as individual bits of grumpy dust. Give us an inch, and we expect to be promised a mile with dividends. We are not a happy lot. Meet our expectations, as we are content not happy, content. Did we not plan for them to be met? Even Steven. Many of us are fortunate enough to have food, air, shelter, pleasure even, as though all of this is some kind of payout for a bet well won.

But it isn't, and we didn't.

Each thing - a step, a smile, a meal, a kiss - these things are bonuses. Boons! For we were promised nada. No legally binding blood oaths for a stretch to live long and prosper. An aneurysm, while running. Peaceful in your sleep. The unfortunate target of dark alley random selection. It's all fair game. Tragic, yes, but only because of the accepted expectation that this will not, should not happen. We have been promised nothing, and each breath, is a gift given by *insert belief here*. Somewhere in the next town over, someone has just been hit by a car crossing the street to visit a friend, a brother, a lover. He or she, in an instant, will never walk again. Life is changed forever. For your feelings of inadequacy, bad luck, what have you; that person would give anything....anything to be able to be in your shoes, if even for a day.

I forget this all the time.

Big things. Small things. I truly believe that a major key to being happy on a regular basis is not to abandon expectations, but to manage them the way we do all the things, manage them with common sense, perspective, compassion, and emotional intelligence. Try to avoid the deficit perspective - seeing your situation and taking special note of all that is missing. That is I. That is what I have struggled with for years. It comes from a shadowy place I continue to explore. What in the world would I do if I found myself happy?

So,  here and now, I'm making yet another renewed pledge to stop looking for problems, appreciate what I experience, and do my best to move forward in love and respect for all of it, including me.





"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not seek answers, which cannot be given you, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything."

~ Rainer Maria Rilke 
from Letters to a Young Poet (trans. Stephen Mitchell)

Sunday, May 28, 2017

In Praise of Fire



Flame (n.)


a. a glowing body, generated by fire

Hot. And warm. It affects the things it touches. A nourishing heat, an indelible singe, complete consumption. Proper distance is the key to survival. If met by another of its kind - growth. And it does require. Attention and sustenance and respect and also air.



b. brilliance, a state of burning brightly

Figurative, literal, measured by means, lit by spirit. Some kinds can show the way. Others cannot help but to blind.



c. the contrasting light and dark figure seen in wood used for stringed-instrument making.

The trained eye finds the form, feels its weight, understands the value of the thing itself and how it reflects what it is not. He works, knows not to force, finds that balance between what he wants to create and the perfection of its natural state.



b. an object of passion

Elemental. Strange and like water. Light and lit approach. Curious. Hungry. Feeding.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Weather Report

Good morning. 

Here just off West 7th in Saint Paul, it's cool and cloudy. The winds are 12 miles an hour from the past, and wistfulness is at a steady 72%. Around the corner a story is having fun folding and unfolding for your pleasure. Meetings take place. A beautiful face, pillow-framed and sated. Children laugh by the water. Someone's heart stops somewhere, while another beats like never before. 

The universe if often portrayed cold and neutral, and through a telescope, it probably is. But I've always sensed emotion there, some small patch of green imbued in the grey. A town tired from the night sparks a smile that flares before falling. A slow morning shot through with fever and silence. And somewhere close a happy fool seeing a little more, draws pictures in the air.



Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Fresh Feeling





THE SHIFTING WEATHER plays a shell game with the aging.

With each missed guess, the walk gets harder. It's a type of wearing down, cheetahs and gazelles, coalitions of the quick who know how to outlast the tired and tiring. Little nips, jabs really, that take away your legs in the end. It's worse than a storm. Slow exhaustion that doesn't test your chin, but the old man strength you better be cultivating all the while.

Half asleep, a thought. My strongest emotions, welling up, seem to always drain into sadness. I wonder why that is. Good fortune my way, but the shadow looks for conspiracies, tears it down, as if looking for proof of its architecture. But not this time.

It stands. It reflects light. That's enough for me.
That will be enough for me.

Learning to convert shade into shining might be the best thing I'm finally learning to learn.

Happy Wednesday.