Not breaking any new ground here, it’s true. But it’s really hard for me – with my desire to merge, to knit.
My forecast in love said beware the impulse that makes you dependent. Or co-dependent.
It is strong.
It’s a dark grey world out there, washing things away from me. I want to cling to someone else like a raft. Then what do you do? You drown them. Or start a fight in the water that nearly drowns yourself.
The key, I guess, is openness and presence. To be open to the world and myself. There’s beauty out there, bracing as the ugliness and pain. And really, I get a measly portion of the ugliness and pain. But I do get a lot of fear. So what?
There are sunrises, sunsets, trees with branches overlooking the Pacific Ocean; hills in New Zealand choked with houses and stairs.
But what have I seen on my own? No buoy to lift me or lift?
I have seen the eagle cloud over Mt. Tamalpais.
I have seen the glittering lights of Santa Monica and Malibu as the moon rises.
I have seen the green canyon of Sir Gawain.
I have seen dawn in London, streaked with pink.
I have seen a glittering emerald path descending the Headlands to Marin City.
I have seen the asylum by night in Queens near the Union Turnpike.
I have seen Prospect Park stretched out below me from the highlands, the lake glittering like a cape of diamonds.
I have seen the farm.
I have seen Uncle Ray.
I have seen Gospel.
I have seen Doll’s House.
I have seen the Black Rider.
The roads of West Marin.
The caves and cliffs of Mt. Lincoln.
Fireworks from the Bay Bridge.
Love is an intoxicating ribbon: it winds and wraps and pulls us and then we must walk through the forest without it.
I have my spear.
I crouch, I look around me in the darkness. Older now, not old now, my chance for survival is dependent on my instincts.
Black beasts move out there. One can scarcely distinguish them from the night, but they’re huge. You only see them by the lack of stars. You have to throw your spear through their hearts, and chop them on the ground to defeat them.
And this is survival.
And one day, I will come back to my village. And there will be the smell of baking bread. And there will be a child. And there will be another.
And my beard will grow until I too lie in a bed, crumbling away.
And I will wash out to sea.
That reverie is over. That reverie of hope is passing. A prayer for survival, fueled by Joanna Newsom.
I pray to the God of the multitude that I may accept what I cannot change, that I may change what I should. That I may let go. That I may survive. That together we may burn the torch of the world for now, even as it burns us.
Until we come back together on the other side of the sea.
Works on cosmic time. Dust motes from old centuries. Meaning found in a piece of trash. Symbiosis. Telekinesis. Livelihood. Living wood, gold, chopped out of a tree.
Sorry, just clearing my throat.
Why not write thoughts like radio waves? (My insides are snarled with bitterness, coiled up with rage, as my theater company is wrenched out of my grasp.) Why not float through a dead forest, tree trunks half-submerged, watching the squirrels and fish fly from tree to tree? (My jaw is tight – I’ve been picking my nose and my toes again – there’s pain in the corner of my nose and deep red cracks between my toes.) We’re on a raft, you and I. A raft floating down this flooded forest. The water reflects the tops of trees, so the trees grow from taper to taper – trees with two points. (I dreamed last night about Phil and Molly, old friends with stable lives who were so disappointed in me. And still, it was good to see them.)
Slowly, I push my pole in the murky deep. Is it just me alone, or is there another one here? Sometimes hooded, a woman or a child, as the branches slide overhead, mutating them with falling light. (I’m not smoking pot until the end of the month. At first it was a sweet release, now it’s drudgery as usual and I’m at the mercy of the old, booted taskmaster on his little island.) (I’d like to inject an element of trust – to inject an element of trust that I’m okay and life’s okay, that everything is going to be okay…if I let it be.)
The sun slips the clouds, catching us in this ghost world. We look down to see ourselves on the raft, but inverted, looking up. (This ambient track by William Basinski is putting me into a trance; my eyelids are heavy, my teeth are painful, tingling, and my jaw is light – except I have to remind myself to loosen it). All will be revealed. See a girl, Maritza, young though, in a cradle. A girl in a nightgown, her hand on the crib. All will be revealed. (Time slipping by faster now, minutes so fast I get vertigo, eyelids drooping. Eyes sleepy; sleep sounds so good right now.) (Don’t know if I’ll ever get enough of it).
Now I’m giggling. I guess it gives me some perspective on it, just to write it down. But man, I feel stupid.
I couldn’t get my speaker to pair up with my computer or phone, though it said it was paired. I need music to write. Finally, I was just fed up. I picked it up and slammed it down (right way up!) so hard it hurt my arm. It sent shock waves back up into my shoulder.
What more do I need to say? I’ve got a little rage inside. White male rage. Not much use, but probably better to exert it on a speaker than anything else (or anyone, of course.)
I think I was just dismayed that I still have all this self-directed rage. That’s loneliness, confusion, maybe a little boredom. All those things churning together to become: rage.
But clouds float overhead, over-roof, they look like puffs of cigarette smoke. The sky is blue but the clouds are smutty.
Deep down in the smucky pocket of my body the works are gummy. Like a swamp down there, barely contained by my worst underwear, I feel like I’m carrying around a bowling ball in my lower intestines. Outside, winding streets, kinked, with little curls and curves, pinches. People wandering them like that bowling ball ball ball, and they get glooped together at turns in the 14th street station. Grass grows above, from seeds, I guess, but where’s the proof? President might be a reptilian, but where’s the proof? Hillary has a pocket full of emails. Better than a mind full of scum.
But outside, the sidewalks are smutty. Cold, cold it is, so cold that the wind might crack the sidewalk like frozen taffy. Taffy in my guts – inside it’s hot, and the radiator’s boiling, popping in to say, “Yes, sir! Hello, sir! It’s me, sir!” And one little speaker, unknown to itself, here to serve, sputtering, entered the last deal of its lifetime when it crossed its master one last time. Gazing up at the big, peach tyrant, wondering why it wasn’t working the way it used to, pushing at circuits, sweating and grinning. If guilty of anything, it’s only being a little tired, a little overworked, like its master if they could only talk to each other – to suddenly be ripped up, perhaps for a fun ride, but no, this is going too fast, what’s going on here? It’s speeding down, dear God no! Hand gripping plastic like a grenade, down, down, down until – SMACK! WHACK! CRACK! – them’s the circuits, them’s the wires, popping out of every contact point, innards – oh no – woozy, wobbly now – dear God no, innards utterly pulverized. Feeling like, suddenly, a sock filled with powder.
Going dark now, master. Master, where are you? Master, I’m cold. Please master. No. Don’t let me go like this, don’t let it end…I…I only tried to help.
The Gnomes live under logs in Gnomewood. The Gnomes gather moss and hang it on trees like old men’s beards. The Gnomes dig away at riverbeds. The Gnomes make little piles of dirt and holes for cows to lose their legs in.
The Gnomes pull birds out of the sky to get squashed on Stony Brook Road. The Gnomes eat the skin of old possum, who died near their homes. The Gnomes spread patches of deadly mushrooms.
The Gnomes congregate under the moon, hold hands in a circle, move clockwise.
The Gnomes enter the farmers’ homes. They make leaks in the roof, open bolt-holes for the rats; ride rats around the house; fray carpets, spread mildew, clam blankets.
The Gnomes snuck into the home of old Uncle Ray. And while he wasn’t looking, they shot him with a pin. Then they set to work on his bones, his blood, his skin, his hair, his nails. The Gnomes.
I hate the Gnomes; I fear the Gnomes; I love the Gnomes. I coax the Gnomes, I repel the Gnomes, I look for them to squeeze them, to squash them into jelly.
When you look for the Gnomes they launch into a frenzy. They dig up roots, pull down trees, strip the paint from the walls. Trip up sheep and bleach their bones. Collapse roofs and eat flesh. When you look for the Gnomes.
So go to sleep in a shallow pool, moss on top and tadpoles below, and the moon turning above, above, like a head on a stick.
I’m writing without coffee at the real estate office. I’ve got Lambchop on my phone and I’m just kind of…floating.
Living is an interesting thing. Sometimes I feel as though everyone else is in the same boat that I am – a sinking boat, no less – but they play their cards closer to the chest. If we’re all sinking together (by which I mean, basically, living and dying together) why don’t we discuss it more? Why don’t we commiserate? My day-to-day experience is a roller-coaster ride of anxieties, pleasures, torments, ecstasies, and long, exhausted spells. Sometimes I don’t know if I even have enough energy to be a normal human being. So why don’t other people want to discuss their own true experiences? Are we in competition? Are we all members of the same family, or not? Come now, tell your worries to your brother.
But what use is it? I have this journal to talk to to. To tell stories to in any case. One, not a story, actually just a setting, springs to mind. It’s a setting that meant a lot to me as a child.
It’s the coastline of Marin County. As a younger guy, there was little I loved more than lacing on my running shoes and jogging along that coastline.
Getting out of the house and jogging into the trees was one of my only utterly self-reliant activities in high school. The sight of nature stimulated my imagination and my feelings (two things I love to have stimulated, in case you can’t tell). I got to listen to a whole CD every time (carrying a discman in one hand – one of my friends once told me I would grow a freakishly strong right arm and a little, withered left one because of that discman. Little did they know I’d have two little, withered arms in the age of the iPhone – ha!)
On the trails I was my own man. Even though I was just a boy.
One trail near my house led to Tennessee Valley Beach – an almost private beach with shiny rocks and faces in the cliffs. Then, if you climbed the hill to your right or left, or had turned off earlier on the path, you could get to the coastal trails. The left-hand trail led around the Marin Headlands towards the Golden Gate Bridge and all the batteries. The right-hand one led around Mount Tamalpais, past Zen Gulch Farms, and towards Muir Beach, and West Marin.
It was the West Marin direction that was truly stupendous. The dark blue water was the kind in which you might see whales. It was the water of my childhood and possibly of God. Out on the ocean the clouds made light-patterns, dancing blankets of gold and blue. They looked like the reflection of heaven. Nearer shore were sharp islands like teeth, some bearing pine trees on their tops, some impasto’d with bird shit. When I directed A Midsummer Night’s Dream, those were the places I thought of in response to Oberon’s line to Puck: “Thou remembrest when once I stood upon a rocky promontory and heard a mermaid sing on a dolphin’s back.” Picturesque, sure! But more than that – wild, untamed, deep. Almost like outer space.
Those waters. I loved, like Oberon, to stand on the rocky promontories and stare out at them. When my college girlfriend, Megan, broke up with me, one of the things that tormented me most was the realization I would never stare out at the sea with her again (perhaps that gives you an idea of my quality as a boyfriend). It would just be me looking at God’s handiwork, and the huge, uncaring waves that whittled cliffs into islands with pines on their tops, and then into beaches made of shiny rocks.
But this all feels like self-mythologizing. And maybe it is. Who wouldn’t want to? Everyone has their own mythology. Everyone has passed from some paradise into something…else. Though some people may never have experienced any paradise at all. I’d be amazed if anyone, no matter how painful their existence, hadn’t felt some moment of grace. At least for a moment. But certainly not everyone enjoyed their childhood. And some people didn’t get a childhood. Life forces them to be an adult from the very beginning. And what is an adult? A realist, maybe. Not a cynic. But someone whose brain is full of doing only what has to be done.
Boy, that wasn’t me. My brain was (and often is) stuffed with what should be done, or what I’d rather be doing. Or what pleasure I may find. Or what pleasure is long past. And the equal and negative version of all those things. A terrifically bourgeois kind of brain, in fact.
I just picked up a flake of scalp out of my hair and held it between my left middle finger and thumb. For whatever reason, perhaps conditioning from years of nose-picking, I considered eating it. Then I figured it was probably a ball of dried hair gel – and how would that taste? Like a mouthful of poisonous perfume, I’d guess.
As I spaced out through the end of that sentence I saw a cabin in my mind. I was falling asleep. I thought someone was answering me or I was answering someone. Then, as I spaced out writing that sentence, I thought of something else. Like a spiderweb, it’s gone. It floated out the door.
That’s what I would like to do – float out the door, over the park, and into the sky. Over the river and into New Jersey. Set me down somewhere in Jersey, in the far gardens of the Garden State. I want to bite into my nostalgia in strange places – shopping malls, Barnes and Nobles, old rock quarries. In whispering woods and rushing rivers, and sleepwalking suburbs by moonlight.
It’s a pretty picture isn’t it?
And I’m a pretty guy.
Maybe. No. I’m not boasting. I actually don’t know what I meant by that, but I’m half asleep anyway.
The Arkonium was a long, stone room dominated by a stone table. The figures, little more than chains of vitamins, brought me to the table. My body was like a chrysalis pod and they could easily carry me between them. No worries. I was light as a board.
The figures set me down on the table. I sunk into the grooves. Then they opened the Arkonium roof. It glided back like sheets of sugar glass. I was staring up into the three suns of Tolleran. Soon those suns would align – and eclipse.
The Neffs began to pour protein into the grooves around me – thick buckets of nutrients and biological matter from the Children’s chambers. I felt the liquid surround my bones – felt my insect wings click. The suns were nearly aligned. My shell softened, began to break away.
I rose out of the trough toward the Arkonium roof. Liquid flowed off me in sheets. Suddenly, my wings spread, like my ribcage cracking from behind.
Two gossamer, stained-glass sheets unfurled in the sun.