Monday, August 25, 2014

History

Sometimes people seem like blobby, bumbly gray ghosts to me, bumping against each other like balloons. Or like particularly stupid flies who can't find their way out of the open window.

I want to say: think! Think about what you actually want. Not what you're supposed to want, and not what you crave at the moment as a release or a respite. No: what's your heart's desire? I think in most of us it distills to a few simple things. We're making it a lot more complicated than it has to be.

Still. The morning comes quick, with jagged sun splinters, and the day ratchets up and kicks into life, and the momentum of all my past compromises and makeshifts sweeps me into motion, and there I am, running with the tide of it, a little phototropic creature leaning to the sky, but moving always slantways with the current.

I am not big on fresh starts and new beginnings. Americans are too fond of them. "If only we could escape history first," they say, "then we could get on the right track." But we are our history, we are nothing but our history. Our past is all we have to work with. I know the impulse all too well, but I think we had better abandon it. No. instead, say "what is it that my heart wants?"

And do the same with the people you love. You don't have to give them what they ask for. You have to give them what they want. A far harder task, but a far more rewarding one.

Inquire, inquire, inquire. Ask again. Don't assume you know. You don't.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Prospect

Well. We will walk on the long empty beaches, and climb the headlands.

Captain Cook named ours Cape Foulweather: apparently he arrived on a typical day. Foulweather's profile is as familiar to me as my wife's. He rises from a lagoon of sorts -- successive rings of black basalt worn down into bracelets -- and lifts his head up into the sky. We have a gorgeous sideways view of him from the balcony. Often the clouds are low enough -- or the fog is high enough; these terms lose much of their meaning, at the Coast -- that his head is lost in it: you just see his black throat, muffled and wreathed, fading into a bare loom, and then vanishing into the pale shifting gray.

This is all prospective, you understand. We're not there yet. At this rate we won't even make it today. Who cares? I'm on vacation. I am unfolding my time like an origami goose. --Well, I admit I don't really know how origami geese unfold time, but I'm trying to do it as like them as possible.

I have been working hard and steadily for many months: I'm happy for a break.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

An Essay on Love

Joy
comes toppling from the crest:
it starts at the full, and by the time you realize,
it is different, dispersing, differentiating,

falling. It is not the more
or the less real for that.

If we are careful
we will not confuse
recollection with collection,
but we need not be persnickety.

It is by design that most of love
is caught in the nets of memory,
shaped, formed, reformed
by the pressure of the mesh.

Don't fuss too much.
Don't insist on priority
or authenticity. It's all real:
just real in different ways

at different times
for different purposes.

Friday, August 22, 2014

He Neglects to Come

It is the splintering, maybe, that is hardest to understand;
when one comes to us, in the guise of some
ordinary, off-hand goddess, we do not at once realize

who came or what they intended --
listen, then: suppose she came carrying in her hands
everything you ever wanted, and she said: the price is,

you will have to carry it forever. I think 
even the most cavalier would pause. And then 
with a lurch of thunder and a whiff of lightning

the goddess would leave in disgust, and you saying,
"wait, that God?" -- I am sorry to be flip, 
but these things are unendurable if serious,

and I still hope to sleep tonight. 
Listen: the full sweet song of
the crickets. If you woke, here, now,

the enormity of trust might daunt us:
as if I stepped forward, meaning to hand you
some sweet morsel from the pot, and

I stumbled and the whole tureen of my heart
dumped scalding in your lap. Stay sleeping, dear:
we are already learning more than we dare know.

-----


"I will explain in detail. It was a religious song. I placed myself in the position of a milkmaiden. I say to Shri Krishna, 'Come! come to me only.' The god refuses to come. I grow humble and say: 'Do not come to me only. Multiply yourself into a hundred Krishnas, and let one go to each of my hundred companions, but one, O Lord of the Universe, come to me.' He refuses to come. This is repeated several times. The song is composed in a raga appropriate to the present hour, which is the evening."

"But He comes in some other song, I hope?" said Mrs. Moore gently.

"Oh no, he refuses to come," repeated Godbole, perhaps not understanding her question. "I say to Him, Come, come, come, come, come, come. He neglects to come."


-- E.M. Forster, A Passage to India

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

August

It's all right, you said:
all your life you have been hurt.

All this sky
and the wafts of winter that come
from gray canvas clouds, like
exhalations from the lobbies of hotels
when you walk sweating by the doors
in August (this month, the month
when the guns spoke and were silent) --

A cool air, a vacancy
where the heat has been taken away,
and you lean in toward the riches
that can afford to spill even this
absence of heat --

As the better sort of servant
I have been everywhere:
the dressing rooms, the spare
refrigerators full of champagne;
the poolsides with fires that dance
on top of sparkling heaps of white quartz.

And I know this: that under the silk
and the terry robes, there are bodies just the same,
scarred and suffering, written over
with the charact'ry of pain.

But this sky, where we began --
this August sky speaks
of winter high up and long ago;
of snow sifting down, and its light
has no kindness.

The fine white criss and cross
might have been written anywhere:
I learn to read with difficulty,
sounding out the words with my fingers.
It's all right, you said. 
All your life you have been hurt.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Dangerously Full

A dark gray morning, promising rain. We have not had a good heavy rain for a long time: and though that's not a really a problem here, at this time of year, it makes me deeply uneasy. So I'm hoping the rain will really come down when it rains, and wash the whole world. I have superstitious conviction that all those unrained rains are accumulating up there, weighing heavily in the sky: something somewhere is getting dangerously full.

It's a strange interim time, neither this nor that. Everything rolls along. My massage schedule is full of regulars that I adore; things go like clockwork at the office. Whence this unease? I accidentally took a video of myself with my phone, and it revealed a grizzled old man with something of the Badger about him, rather than the Mole: loose-jowled, unshaven, bright-eyed; amused and ornery. I have no idea who he was.

In this phase of my life -- whatever it may be: this will be one of those chapters my biographers will fret about a title for -- I have largely given up needling myself about whether other people are right after all. No: they're just not. The way I see it is the way it is.

I can't read novels these days. I think to really fall into a novel you have to have the conviction that its author, at least in his writing persona, has a deeper understanding of the world than you do. I can't find that conviction. Nobody knows shit. I read history, which is a humbler endeavor, and I read poetry, which is humbler still. But before I'm going to read several hundred pages of dense prose about something the author just made up out of his head, I want to know: so what makes you so special? What makes your made up world more worth paying attention to than mine? I've lost that curiosity and humility. I really am a different creature: my phone saw true.

A client in tears about Robin Williams' death: I put my arms around her and told her things would get better. I don't know when I got so clumsy: that's the kind of comfort Ron Weasley would offer. I used to walk around thinking I knew how other people could be happy: now I know that I don't. I don't know that. Oh, I can see it clearly enough: "you are locked into your suffering" -- as Leonard Cohen crooned it -- "and your pleasures are the seal." But diagnosing is one thing: curing quite another. It's probably good that I no longer think I have anything to offer people: that man, Mole, with his squinty glasses and his velour coat, was genuinely dangerous.

Trucks and buses rumble by on 39th; a bearded man in a tattered parka pushes a grocery cart down the sidewalk; a girl wearing khaki shorts and a backpack hitched high, who no doubt thinks her bottom is too big, walks rapidly but unsteadily across the crosswalk; a young man with three-days' growth, carefully cultivated, and a neckerchief --  a neckerchief, for God's sake -- lounges against the telephone pole by the bus stop and manages an apotheosis of fatuity. No, I am not in a generous frame of mind: I'm not inclined to ask my fellow-man for answers. I have my own fields to till.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Scrawled Heart

The trouble with feeding baby mammals
with an eyedropper or a syringe
is that the formula is likely to end up in the lungs
and pneumonia ensues.
The pet clinic gave us a smaller syringe free.
One cc. Easier to wield. It was wrapped
in pink post-it: "for baby squirrel,"
followed by a scrawled heart.
He is naked, the color of
a pair of gray velour shoes,
and his snout is strangely dragonish:
he is blind and ungrateful,
but he wants desperately and entirely to live,
and maybe we are hoping he will someday tell us why.