sorting pages, smelling September again…

Where there once was an abstract landscape                                                                           crossed by quietude, nostalgia, perhaps                                                                                        insufficiently sophisticated but deeply personal ideas                                                           poetic loneliness in doorways, chips in curbstones leaking words                                        visions of the Virgin over floodlit parking lots                                                                            now there are photos of favorite writers- Didion, Colette, Baldwin, Lorca-                          taped up on the wall.                                                                                                                  Insecurities and petty bloodless blood-feuds of a smattering of Others float,                glowing particles, in a neutral pool of days I must traverse.

 

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“I have lived in equatorial America since 1935 and only twice had fever. I am an anthropologist who lost faith in her own method, who stopped believing that observable activity defined Anthropos. I studied under Kroeber at California and worked with Lévi-Strauss at São Paulo, classified several societies, catalogued their rites and attitudes on occasions of birth, copulation, initiation , and death, did extensive and well-regarded studies on the rearing of female children in the Matto Grasso and along certain tributaries of the Rio Xingu, and still I did not know why any one of these female children did or did not do anything at all. Let me go further. I did not know why I did or did not do anything at all.”

-Joan Didion, from the book of common prayer

 

“What I am trying to conceptualize with the help of the philosopher is that which I have already intuited” -Charles Simic

 

“The poet of the Kosovo cycle rebels against the very idea of historical triumph. Defeat, he appears to be saying, is wiser than victory. the great anti-heroes of these poems experience a moment of tragic consciousness. they see the alternatives with all their moral consequences. They are free to make a fateful choice. They make it with full understanding of its consequences. For the folk poet of these poems, true nobility and heroism comes from the consciousness of the Difficult Choice.”

-Simic

 

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Finger-worn and foot-buffed steel and linoleum. Deep knowledge of the insides of occupational objects….

 

I see the Paysage of my near-decade of choices                                                                      it seems a system                                     of baked ochre and orange canyons, entered almost by accident.                                                                                               A place of occasional tedium, doubt, self-doubt, where thirst                                                     has sometimes summoned a feeble, ice-cold spring.                                                                   Twice while wandering up the side-cuts I stumbled on a hanging garden so extraordinary, Edenic, revelatory, that I cried out.                                                                         I’ve learned to smell and listen, to observe and follow wiser, smaller creatures.                   I received a proffered word: Survival.                                                                I picked out a trail when there wasn’t one, and it took me years- seven and a half, to be exact- but I made it to the deepest point, a descent of many fathoms.                                                    I drank my fill from a wide and swiftly running river and then                                                              I rode it                                                                                                                                                   out.

 

 

 

*Drawing by G.F Marlier (the old College Ave. Safeway, right before they tore it down)

 

Ancient Writings (probably ca. 1997-98)

My mother recently found the following writing on her computer. I know that I wrote this, roughly 20 years ago, at roughly the age of 16 or 17, and it is completely familiar to me, yet also completely strange to me. In some ways I am still the person who wrote this, and in many other ways I am no longer the person who wrote this. Many of my pet images and pre-occupations are the same, and yet experience has made me both more cynical and more purely motivated in my (increasingly complex and variable) marriage to language. This week I have been reading Wonderful Words, Silent Truth; essays on poetry and a memoir by the poet Charles Simic. This quote from him was sticking in my brain as I re-read the words of my past self:

“The difference between poets comes down to how they experience the commonplace realities of their everyday life. Whatever ideas they may eventually have come out of such unpremeditated particulars. The poet who loves the wind has different gods than the poet who loves the stones in the earth. What we make passionately ours is what defines us. The possessions of even the greatest poets are small. A few objects, a few vivid scenes and shadowy figures- and that’s all. ”                            -Charles Simic from Introduction to the poetry of Aleksandar Ristovic

 

A series of blue doors that I should choose from, but don’t.

Each one holds an example of what my life should be-hidden mentors that I choose to ignore. I learned to shun opportunity. The apprentice of escapism and occasional despair. Maybe ambivalence, anyway, a definite lack of interest in self-advancement.

My city? Well, it isn’t much. I keep my eyes to the gutter while I’m skateboarding and spend hours watching the sides of warehouses, waiting for something to occur.

I saw two dock workers exiting through a back door, rough men- one with a face pitted by acne (marked for assesment, and for the next turn of time. he’ll never decieve anyone about where and who he’s been )they are dressed in a familiar costume, joking loudly.

An orphan destroying public property, overturning newspaper boxes, ripping the advertisements from billboards and the sides of buses, prying bricks from the paths in parks and slashing at seats, signs and banners with no artistic intent, simply because he is scornful of pride in a community or a place.

He laughs and says “this sacred plot of ground!-

The founding fathers?”
“as if they knew what they were founding!” {no one would, with any forethought, found this}

You guessed it. This is a friend of mine.

Weaving colored ribbons into the spokes of parked hubcaps on the first of May, braiding what’s left over so it won’t drag and unravel, splicing the threads as they fray. I’m meticulous. I have time to be.

A vehicle owner returns with a fist full of quarters to hold the maids off, back to her meeting, quickly, in beige high-heeled sandals and sees me decorating her car. I raise my hand as she approaches, and wave at her, my legs splayed around my skateboard, having just tied off one whole wheel and feeling proud. She doesn’t smile wide back at me and I remember that there’s a hole in my shirt under the armpit which she might have seen.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?”-I explain. She wants to know am I in Art school {I tell her I’m in NoSchool} and is this a joke {I tell her it’s a gift} She says confidentially here’s some advice, go to school and direct my energy and apparently considerable gifts so I don’t wind up homeless {I tell her that technically, I already am}.

 

 

 

“It’s over” he says

 

“what?”—any idea I had about my destination. Because I’m starting to understand that I don’t really have one, and especially not one that I can predict and set my compass on. I’m navigating, sure, but my navigation is a game. These instruments are toys to me. I spin this and chart this because of the mechanisms involved in plotting. I like the way these wheels whir. I like a drawing determined by the stars. It can’t take me anywhere.

 

“I’ve never been” he says

 

“what?”—This person before. This is an unfamiliar body, a strange voice, a vacancy. A mother walks by me with her weak-necked baby lolling in a bassinet, it’s seal eyes rolled to the sky. It’s never been this person before.

 

There is a place that someone told me about a long time ago, before I broke off from my family. It might have been my father, brother, cousin. It might have been a bunk bed good-nite.

Where individualities floated and swam. Where you couldn’t despise something {anything}, because characteristics crept around, entering you like a sweet scent, and to hate something outside was to hate the something inside of the future. I liked the pretty visions of dream-swaps. I liked to know the pearl shellak, the muralled heights, the patterns of someone else. There are other reasons why I decided not to fall in love.

 

I’ve been invited to a festival. I ask this little braided girl

“what kind?” and

“what time?” so she gives me another flyer instead of answering the questions, which is alright. I stand on the corner holding two neon yellow flyers while she runs on her rubber heels after a gaggle of nice looking boys with gel in their hair and fancy watches on their blond-hair wrists.

 

“I can’t” he says

“what?”—-Go with you. Anywhere. But definitely not to this.

 

 

 

 

 

I can’t ever be estranged.

I haven’t seen my mother for two years, my brother for six months, my cousin for a little more, and my father’s left the country, but they’re all right here. I go into a convenience store and the aisles are filled with familiars. The counter is manned by everybody I’ve ever known.

 

As an extension of the original idea; I can never be estranged from my “self”, because I pass hordes of me and weave in and out of me and long to be me in another configuration. Levels of stamina. Stages of development, but one material, one direction and revolution.

 

“will that be all for ya?” Pushing my purchases towards myself.

“yeah.”—counting my change.

“and cigarettes for me” he says from behind my shoulder. So I buy cigarettes from myself in the name of friendship.

 

I skate to the graveyard, stopping at intervals, wating for him to catch up. We imagine, sitting between the markers of the shortest lives, that there is nothing under this trash-heap of monuments, that as a grand joke, a drunk April fool’s day two centuries ago two men said ha ha let’s use our money to fake a graveyard. Let’s make people foolish, weeping over ground that’s never been pitted and planted.

 

“Rich people must have such great April fool’s days”

“what sorts of holidays do you think they celebrate?”

“I would rule out Christmas, halloween…”

“Columbus day, Groundhog day, easter—“

“Saint Patrick’s”.

 

He proposes that rich people have special games that we don’t know about. He doesn’t believe me when I tell him that I can imagine anything in existence, anyone’s games, discarded formulas, fantasies, lunacy. He scoffs and tears up clumps of good green wheat grass and weeds, piling this tangle where the Babylove’s toes would be.

 

I spotted children, ragged and reeling on the roof of a Clubhouse. I heard their schemes from where I perched under the floorboards {rusty nails coming through}. They were practicing cheating at cardgames, using pennies as poker chips. The jack of spades went spinning over the edge and they let it lie.

 

“hey- how are you?”

“you’re cheating! Give me that!”—-my cousin answers in a new voice I know.

 

 

 

 

He wants to kiss me precisely because I’m not the type of person who kisses naturally. I am awkward, pre-occupied, child-like. If I were willing to enter into such experiments, it would most likely be discovered that my nature provides a small expanse of inventiveness- a slight diversion from normalcy- but cannot be satisfied by some emotional playground, under observation, with any permanence.

I imagine my pillow-talk with amusement. What would I say to a {this is hilarious}”lover”? The pillow is a curbstone. It’s dangerous to be naked in my bed. It’s dangerous to be in my doorway-bed at all.

 

Circling a rack of postcards. Castles, cafes, meals posed and flattered by golden light. The art of centuries, photographs of bodies bent and twisted, the faces of authors “so full” so rich with insight “so more than bodies” so irrelevant. Welcome, welcome to the exhibition of correspondance.

“Don’t you want to go places?” he asks. Like where?—I don’t know, he says, picking up a postcard at random—Venice? As charmed as I am by your gondoliers, your spanish bullfighters in their sequined slippers, your meadows and grinning british sheep, your IRELAND…

“I don’t see any difference between there and here” I tell him. He raises his eyebrows, shrugs his shoulders, obviously irritated. He steals a Rita Hayworth,

a San Francisco at night.

 

All across the city as it gets dark people appear on the rooftops, flashing signals. There is a woman pouring dishwater into the alley from her window, and a herd of white horses drags the remains of a caravan clattering through the streets.

 

I want to find the window, door or sewer grate—

Whatever hole I need to go through to enter the system that I know exists. I try to explain that it is different from changing your location {he’s still thinking of Venice, Spain, Brazil}—It would be FLUX I tell him. FLUX is an incomparable place.

I made the mistake of trying to explain it in terms of cancer (fear the conditioned analogy). Cancer is nature attempting to become something better—abusing her instruments, ignoring their mediocrity in an effort to illustrate the law of expansion, of constant, bizarre production. The body as fractal, producing tumors. The body as FLUX, irregularity, adventure. If I could just find that entrance.

I always follow the clues.