“There were hints of sunrise on the rim of the sky, yet it was still dark, and the traces of morning color were like goldfish swimming in ink.”― Truman Capote, The Muses Are Heard
“I imagined the wind moving through all these places, and many more like them: places that were separated from one another by roads and housing, fences and shopping-centres, street-lights and cities, but that were joined across space at that time by their wildness in the wind. We are fallen in mostly broken pieces, I thought, but the wild can still return us to ourselves.”― Robert Macfarlane, The Wild Places
“It’s better to look at the sky than live there. Such an empty place; so vague. Just a country where the thunder goes.”― Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Three Stories
“We all commit our crimes. The thing is to not lie about them — to try to understand what you have done, why you have done it. That way, you can begin to forgive yourself. That’s very important. If you don’t forgive yourself you’ll never be able to forgive anybody else and you’ll go on committing the same crimes forever.”― James Baldwin, Another Country
“All the bright precious things fade so fast, and they don’t come back.”― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
“At their very feet had been the river. The boat came breasting out of the mist, and in they stepped. All new things in life were meant to come like that.”― Eudora Welty, The Optimist’s Daughter
“The average personality re-shapes frequently, every few years even our bodies undergo a complete overhaul-desirable or not, it is a natural thing that we should change.”― Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Three Stories
“Oh! The long, long walks, way into the nights!–in the afterhours—sometimes lasting till two or three in the morning! The air, the stars, the moon, the water—what a fullness of inspiration they imparted!–what exhilaration! And there were the detours, too—wanderings off into the country out of the beaten path: I remember one place in Maryland in particular to which we would go. How splendid, above all, was the moon—the full moon, the half moon: and then the wonder, the delight, of the silences.”― Walt Whitman
“Life need not be easy, provided only that it is not empty.”― Lise Meitner (1878-1968), physicist
As juke-box skies flame in a maze of trenchant light and sun-blotting days brand neon-frenzied holes into this guncotton mind, my grey stubble-feet dig deeper into the gelatinous ground.
What happened to me? I pulled out my own vertebrae somehow. My hands are sticky-brown, the bone is smiling white. There’s a saturating scent emanating from somewhere…
I became a flaccid unformed creature, self-entombed, scraping along the primordial murk of life on a truckling tide of apathy.
“My characters are drifters and searchers and they look for something. The journey is a state of mind for them.” -Wim Wenders
So many things can be used to build an enclosure…planks, steel-mesh, vanes, feathers, shadows, rage.
My legs are corked with lavender peelings of armadillo skin and punch along monotonously.
“The mind is its own place, and in itself Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.” -John Milton
I seep and writhe and scrabble about, tracing the arrow of time, completely unfelt. Through the years, I snuffle, mulling over decades, with gobs of mud dripping from milk-spot eyes and unwanted blotches of memory microfilming in the margin, I can hear the whirnow and then.
“It all looks the same. You can’t imagine anything anymore. Above all, you can’t imagine any change. I became estranged from myself. All I could imagine was going on and on like this forever.” –Alice in the Cities (1974), screenplay by Wim Wenders and Veith von Furstenberg
Look at all those swarming micro-worlds beating against a drop of swamp water…feel the endless coquetry of the prancing night sky. There’s that rancid stench, again, all over me like a mucid skin. And I can see a maw wedged open, now, revealing the densest blackness I have ever seen.
“I want to remember that the sky is so gorgeously large, I feel stranded beneath it.” -Anis Mojgani
I was nineteen when my mother died, but I started stepping out long before then, retreating to the zebra-shadowed dusk beneath the sagging porch of childhood. The stagnation of grief only made it easier to inhume myself there.
When I was four, my brother did a strange thing to me in the summer’s panting heat, his eyes intent and empty. He said we were just like animals.
“This is YOUR world,” sang out from the television screen, lurking somewhere in the background.
“Today was a gloomy, rainy day without a glimmer of sunlight, like the old age before me. I am oppressed by such strange thoughts, such gloomy sensations; questions still so obscure to me are crowding into my brain- and I seem to have neither power nor will to settle them.”- Fyodor Dostoevsky, White Nights
The smell, the smell, the wretching stench! It saturates her coarse dying-sheets, now blackish red and shining. She’s hidden her wedding ring between her legs…I can still hear the mewling cries she made, lost in a Roman candle of pain. “It’s safe, it’s safe,” she breathed, staring at the ceiling. The ring that would ultimately join a nest of others in the glitter of a pawn-shop display.
Like sun-burns on the bracing waters of an autumn lake.
How does one step out of the perennial gloaming and begin to disentangle from the overgrown nettles and mounds of grime, to disengage this automaton-existence? How does one fashion a new beginning after such a prolonged sentence? Years of existing as a mute with no face- a writer divorced from language, an artist who burned all his creations in a self-maiming tantrum that lasted 15 years.
“Some people turn sad awfully young. No special reason, it seems, but they seem almost to be born that way. They bruise easier, tire faster, cry quicker, remember longer and, as I say, get sadder younger than anyone else in the world. I know, for I’m one. – Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine
How does one dare to look up and meet the gaze of another, again?
The black maw is her mouth craned-wide in the shock of the final moment. I’d placed a white feathering of shamrock blooms and a bulbous, sherbet-orange-crested cactus next to her bed, just two days before. For the first time in months, I played her favorite music, and tears hovered in her eyes. A few hours later, she died.
Change. It is a vital thing.
“Over the years, I became,you might say…a haunted person. I really wanted to see him again. I never did.”–Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983), screenplay by Nagisa Ōshima and Paul Mayersberg
There is a dull thrum tip-toeing through my mind as I gaze upon my big brother, his prone, plasticky body sinking deeper and deeper into the paunch of his hospital bed. It surrounds him like a cradle. His chest is bare and heaving slowly. His eyes are like clay, his face pocked and about to bleed in places.
I give him phone-numbers he’ll never call, an email address he’ll never write.
“I don’t take care of myself. I think, if I don’t take care of myself and I sit still and I don’t move, maybe they’ll forget about me. But then I’m scared of that too, because I think maybe if I sit there too long, maybe when I want to move, I won’t be able to move.” –Mikey and Nicky (1976), written/directed by Elaine May
“Caine was like a father to me,” he says more to himself, “When he found out I was fucking around with coke, he drove me out to a parking-lot one night and had me get out of the car. ‘Stop messing around with that shit!’ he screamed at me, then kicked my head into the pavement. He beat the hell out of me. Blood was everywhere, the cops came. We said we were just wrestling.”
His vacant eyes filmed with bitter tears, “I didn’t stop of course…but he was the only one who really cared.”
“I can feel myself dying,” he said, shortly before dismissing me with the twitch of his arm, that strong, familiar limb that would prise my own smartly behind my back, or fling me about like a rag, or barrel me up in a violently jovial embrace.
As I blinked in vanquished silence, he added:
“I can’t hug you this time.”
So many things have no resolution, abandoned to the scattered scree of the past. Entropy surges through, scrambling all that would be tidy and neatly arranged…if I had defter hands, a more obdurate determination…
No. I’d have to be a deity for that…and I’d much rather be a human being, as bizarre, brash and delightfully haphazard as they are.
“…if you laugh at somebody, you’re going to have to be connected with them…When friends get together, they laugh at each other. When enemies get together, no chance, baby. No laughter. Comedy is more interesting to me…because there is more life, more possibility in it. More different feelings.” -John Cassavetes
“We all talked about leaving, but only one of us, one morning, without a word to a soul, actually left.” –I Vitelloni (1953), screenplay by Federico Fellini
A little over a year ago, I traveled north and did something I’d never done before. I toured a series of universities.
Abiding inside the sodden clam-shell of coastal Florida for well over a decade, I choked on the euphoria of my own torment and watched my aspirations bleach and feather in the roiling sea-wrack.
But I never lost those aspirations.
And somehow, I still remain on these two stub-feet. A little askew, with flecks of white in my sea-ruffled mane, leaning on a gnarled walking-stick with just a dram of possibility pulsing through the mist.
“There is really no better word to describe what electrons do than dancing, and it’s not embarrassing or random dancing either; they follow a beautiful series of patterns and steps that were laid out by a single mathematical equation, one named after the Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger, who did extraordinary work in the field of quantum theory. These dance steps vary, and the electrons never tire, and no two will follow exactly the same steps, something known as the ‘exclusion principle.’”-Ella Frances Sanders, Eating the Sun
Time for a new beginning.
“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” – Søren Kierkegaard
“A solitary, unused to speaking of what he sees and feels, has mental experiences which are at once more intense and less articulate than those of a gregarious man. They are sluggish, yet more wayward, and never without a melancholy tinge. Sights and impressions which others brush aside with a glance, a light comment, a smile, occupy him more than their due; they sink silently in, they take on meaning, they become experience, emotion, adventure. Solitude gives birth to the original in us, to beauty unfamiliar and perilous – to poetry. But also, it gives birth to the opposite: to the perverse, the illicit, the absurd.” – Thomas Mann, Death in Venice
“-I visit this room every night… -Visit? -The blind always live in the rooms they live under.” – Peeping Tom (1960)
“There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.” – Alfred Hitchcock
“- I think it’s a pity that the beautiful old houses are being torn down.
– They don’t bring in enough rent.
– The empty spaces look like graves. Like house graves.”
— From the film Alice in the Cities
“Life is a series of suicides…”
— From the film Love Streams
“And break through dark;
It’s acrid in the streets;
A paper witch upon her sulphured broom
Flies from the gutter.” — Dylan Thomas, Time Enough to Rot
“If only I could so live and so serve the world that after me there should never again be birds in cages.”
— Isak Dinesen (penname of Karen Blixen)
“Will I always feel this way? So empty, so estranged?”
– From the song “Empty” by Ray Lamontagne
Shadows spill in green tendrils across oiled waters. I probe the murky, moschate depths with a long, soggy stick. My hands are black and muddied. Reeds whistle beside me. A seagull mews somewhere far away. Minims of sweat glisten and drop from the end of my nose. I can taste the paracme, the tongue-slitting, nascent edge of the end.
A frog burbles to the vitreous surface. Two aurific eyes shimmer at me, bright as egg-yokes. With a gulp, they vanish. I can smell slime. My fingers balter through the mud. I am waiting. I am always waiting.
The sun spits in my eye and I turn away, longing for the tenebrous clouds of the foggy North to sidle down and cast me in a casket of embalming gloom.
I am addicted to desolation. I ache for darkness, cold and decay.
And then a cool wind finally came. Its chilled fingers ruffled my hair and it made the back gate moan plangorously against its flaking hinges. I reveled, I pranced, I forgot my little pain.
A mouse came in the night. He settled himself in a soft, grey ball beside my feet, nose nuzzling the coarse, back-door rug. I watched him take slow, solemn breaths, his sable eyes squinting, mordant. He died in the wash of a final sunrise that milked across a violescent sky, on the dawn of Halloween. Creatures come to me to die, sometimes.
The ants are burrowing into his raisin eyes, now. In a week or three, his tiny white mouse skull will be decoration on my desk.
There is always a glimmer through grief.
“Walk on down the hill Through the grass grown tall and brown And still it’s hard somehow to let go of my pain On past the busted back Of that old and rusted Cadillac That sinks into this field collecting rain” – From the song “Empty” by Ray Lamontagne
I saw a coyote last night. There was a tattered hole in his left ear. I almost missed him, perched there on the porous sidewalk, his lemon eyes glazed in the orange glow of the streetlight, his tumbleweed tail thumping soundlessly.
I shuffled on, my shins swishing like plastic bags.
I noticed a glint of black blood on the pavement. Just a drop or two.
They shoveled up the rest of my remains, yesterday morning. I listened to profanities slung by the strident tongues of the Grey Men. They chipped at the concrete. I listened to their shovels scrape and scratch.
“Smells like hell but at least I’m not coughin’ up flies,” one said to the other, his shovel dripping.
“I ain’t seen a single maggot,” the other agreed, and nodded, digging back into the heap.
There was a groan and a metallic suction and crunch accompanied by the blinking back-up beeps of the garbage truck.
I felt a seizure welling up.
A mockingbird attempted to conquer the din. Ten years swam by. Hoarse and vanquished, I watched him fly against the watery-brown sky and vanish.
I once held a baby bird, a couple summers ago. The tiny creature, lighter than a fistful of sunflower seeds, quivered violently with life and burned my hand. I dropped it. Just before the cat pounced, I plucked it up again and set it in the sink.
Its eyes, like two drops of midnight, leered up at me, its pale neck of string nearly snapping- and with a peculiar rictus grin splitting its face apart, it commenced its screams for sustenance.
No harm done.
Some scraps from my corpse never quite made it into the truck. Some pieces were never going to budge.
A slurry of vultures descended for inspection. They poked and rasped and then looked at each other in disgust.
I watched them shrug and mount the bilge-water sky in a flurry of razor-black wings. Even the scavengers reject my remains.
The sun is pooling on the horizon now, in the garden of ales. Bottles glitter, poking up from the mud like stakes. Another wistful twilight hanging, the air sharp with the scent of broken twigs. The faceless doll in the background keeps spinning, dangling from the thumb of a branch.
The moon sweeps over. Distant lights yawn. The clouds are shorn by a gust of oven wind. I see the coyote again, stretching in the middle of the road, his ear whistling. I whisper a muffled apology to him- though, I know not why.
He gives me a lopsided look, his lemon-ball eyes in slits. A carnivorous smile swims across his inky lips.
A hiss of headlights reflects on a fleck of bone. I become encompassed in a warm deluge. I stare up from the bottom and allow myself to drown.
Olitory rain; a rain-forest in the kitchen, again. Time for a change. Time for an adventure. Time to let the ceiling-cascade water the counter-top-basil-and-sage.
Time to escape.
“Time runs along a linear plain, they say. Nothing remains the same. Thus, we can never turn back, again.”
Pompous, highfalutin windbag…
Another dull interplay as Traffic Light refuses to change.
“You see, this is known as the arrow of time, which describes the asymmetrical nature of Time, and…”
Bunched traffic left in a puddle, behind.
What am I doing? What have I been doing all these years?
Unraveling like an old sweater.
All my life, pushing quaint little notes under the slouching fence. But I see no familiar, vibrant-faced recipient peeping back at me through the shadowy gap in the moldered boards. I only see darkness.
She must have grown up and moved away.
How pretty mold can be, as it glitters in the rain.
She used to snack on fistfuls of buttercups in the field and make her eyes turn white. She liked to snarl like a mountain bear and play basketball on roller-blades. And how she loved wild toads.
I have found it- another abandoned place to jauk about, dispensing disheveled, nullibiquitous thoughts out into the ether.
Let the leak in the dysphoric sky wash me like a houseplant. How lovely to watch each drop scatter the dust.
That liminal phase- I wander through a succession of tropical depressions, a soggy bindle sagging over my shoulder.
A golden-eyed hobo toad searching for a secluded little hovel- preferably filled with mud and rain and, preferably, beneath a mossy stone.
A snort of lightning- a sniffle in the clouds- a sneeze of wind.
When is that point at which the pain of change is less than that of remaining the same?
“You’re beautiful,” she said, “and as gentle as a gale.”
The other day, I noticed that I was missing another tooth.
I keep digging under that same old soggy fence, searching for her bones…
I scuffle away, lutose and mildly bemused. The usual state.
Time to face the traffic. Time to shuffle on back, back to the swampy garden on the counter-top. Back to unraveling into a stringy bundle on the floor.