Saturday, September 7, 2019

Brad Waters, on the event of his funeral


Brad Waters

The last time I saw Brad, Anne and I had just driven him home from the hospital. I offered my hand as he got out of the car, but he ignored it. He walked up the stairs to his house, clutching both railings to maintain his balance. (He always did that, my kids told me.) And then, for me, he was gone.

On one of the Over the Hill Gang hikes in 2011 we were hiking above Pearl Ridge (I think) when the trail suddenly ended. Instead of turning around, we bushwhacked down a very steep incline, full of plants and rocks and pukas. Brad gently lifted Zoe down some of the steepest boulders. The walk up the other side of the valley was also steep, although there was a path. Brad moved up the hill svery lowly and deliberately with his dogs. He met us later at the top.

There was this quality of loving persistence to Brad. When he looked at plants on the trail, he looked carefully. He could name each plant: in Latin, in English, in Hawaiian. He knew each plant’s history, its uses. Often, he took a photo. When the photos had been downloaded, they were often surprising. A fern at such close proximity you could see lines of spores, some open and some closed, running down the vein like natural Pacmen. His photographs often made the ordinary world seem strange, so you could realize that it is.

There is a poem by the Japanese zen poet, Ikkyo, from the 14th century, about living and dying. It goes like this:

Empty-handed I entered the world
Barefoot I leave it.
My coming, my going--
Two simple happenings
That got entangled.

I’m grateful that my two simple happenings overlapped with Brad’s.


Sunday, September 1, 2019

Stage of grief


"It's not color that I see, but I see." (Etel Adnan). It's not the past I see, like a mental diorama whose dusty zebras cross the veldt. S dreamed his grandfather kicked us out of the house so he could clean up some leaves outside. The mango tree has been cut since he died. You can see Molokai now on a clear day through palms and over roofs. R pronounces "roof" like the sound a dog makes in print. Lilith chases the singers of cock-a-doodle-doo, the gulch opera.


I get a notification. Must remember to turn them off, and the beeping. S says he was surprised his instructor told him to watch video games, think about them. The course is on video game design.


I tell B I don't usually suffer guilt, but I do. She had gone gray, gone thin, gone abstract, but I didn't call. It's a sticky word, "call." Less sticky, though, than "death." Do other miracles hurt as much?


The verb "to pass." She passed for. She passed you on the highway. She passed along her kuleana. She passed the test to get into "standard English school," because she knew "bolocano" was pronouned with a "v." She passed last Friday.


Hurricane and mass shooting make our president go golfing. He's less dangerous that way. The road from Midland through Odessa leads to El Paso. I am suspicious. Remember the pronoun "they" in Pynchon, how it peppered the dense, paper bound text? Remember how "they" were always making things happen but we never heard who "they" were? This was not a "they" in transition, a "they" who passed from one to the other pier, but "they" who organized our mysteries for us. It was a more delicate time, at least symbolically.


I know what the distress flag means, and I know the Kingdom flag, the splintered paddle flag, yellow and green. But I don't get the state flag that's not in distress when paired with a Cleveland Browns flag. Or the bed of a pick-up, two state flags waving right side up (is it?), an Oakland Raiders sticker beneath the black window where I see a flag and a royal palm.


Her new book mixes poetry and performance. We fold the book outward, watching the raised cardboard push into a dimension we can touch. S enters to say everything is going well in the game, except the Cards are behind and the benches did clear. There were benches at the pond, one student reported after our slow walk. One man was eating his lunch. They all saw French fries, and one assumed hamburger, but I'm pretty sure it was fried fish inside his dull bun.


You don't stop thinking, you release what you think. What you think does not burn, but you don't want to hold it for long. If you want to hurt yourself, try putting an ice-cube in your palm and closing your hand. Strong sensation without injury. Or imagine a hot plate and your hand opening to let it go. Lilith has us in the palms of our hands, as we reach to pet her stomach.


If language were not absurd, it couldn't save us. A brawl during the mystery play clears the chairs and reveals the altar, emptied. Where alteration finds, I promise to remember you.