Friday, July 23, 2021

Inverse cocoon


23 July 2021

Rust’s gentle. The rain forest a reverse cocoon; trucks molt back into earth. No wings, just a settling in. Like a slow motion tourist, a dying butterfly, the hip bone of a pig beside the road. If you put a can in Tennessee, it works on its own absence, organizing nothing. The workman next door, 68, hates Trump, but has never had a flu shot. Mention of the new vaccine makes his face pucker. Some patients with COVID beg for the vaccine as they’re dying. Rust’s a perpetual lateness, like a sun slow to set. Unintentional art that oddly celebrates decay. The word “deconstruction,” I tell Bryant, didn’t start out in a cook book. Nor did it start in a yard full of rusted cars, the occasional fern growing from a wheel rim; rust and green complement each other, though each turns to each. In one yard, there were two old bathtubs, the kind with feet. On one end of one bathtub, there were three circles, approximating mouth and eyes, through which you could see the tub full of water and dead sticks and fronds. Laughing at its own apocalypse. The feet had feet, curled claws, a crooked smile above. Who needs a torso when you’re a tub with feet? They were part of my depression’s inventory, these tubs, along with newer, American Standard types. I see those in yards, too, but not as decorations, just junk. I didn’t have you pegged as crazy, a friend wrote to me. A neighbor’s truck sprouts ginger and ferns on its roof; the front grille resembling torn lace. Chaos in process is form. The landlord gestured toward a “formal chandelier,” which made us laugh later on.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Time management


22 July 2021

I spilled water on my shoes as I left the room. My role had been the hooded teenager who wished only to be left alone. Depression’s a cocoon; I grieved when I left it, knowing it to be my central fiction. I pulled my hat down over my eyes, which stared at the floor. Another woman was trying to get through to me, asking questions I refused. To be in the moment when it’s past is its own genre of hurt; to be there when someone caused pain to make his pleasure is to rehearse the play until you can’t get out of it. All the stage doors have been locked; not even the audience (who is you) can get out the back entrance. You will run in circles until you fall to the floor, panting like an old dog. Let’s hope the circle gets broken, if only so we can re-trace it with two edges jagged, blues and blacks surrendering to white paper. You say “I should have known” in the present, which cannot forgive the past. The difference between a bad memory that was made to happen, and the accidents of brain chemistry that know memory itself as a form of suffering. It’s not a difference in the time sense, but in the intentions of our bodies, ones we ascribe to pronouns or those for which we can find none. The mind cannot see itself, except as discursive thought, which lies about time, makes a fiction of our photographs. Bryant called it the Red Roof Inn, the tiny rusted shack off Hilina Pali Road. It yielded rust silhouettes, rust abstractions, a white FIRE sign whose I was mottled with black. An empty cache, as it turned out; nothing there with which to fight a fire, just the color of fire framed against Mauna Loa, off an asphalt ribbon two pigs had sprinted down. Linear memory only works at a close remove, or approximated in grammatical sentences. Give this two more days, and nothing is left except staccatos. Detail flees like the pig, who finally turns into the forest to the tune of a whimpering dog in the back seat of our car. The beauty of rust's material forgetting itself, making topo maps of weather conditions that come and go. The plaques and tangles acquire a lovely shape we cannot see, even when we concentrate on our mid-brain or let time fly out the top of our skulls. The bones that ran the show now stand in for breath. Alternate nostrils to make a circle, then go back the other way.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Student driving


15 July 2021

Re-turn: another circle around. A student driver (his car marked student driver) attempts to parallel park; one Prius wheel meets curb. Photograph of a missing car side mirror with yellow fluff in it, like flan, someone writes. Or of signs erased by sun, less negative now, and more mysterious. Eternal return is too grand for these loops, so we inventory the players, knowing they’ll pass on like the homeless guy pushing his burgeoning shopping cart covered by black tarp. He’s in a mystery play, like the others. One man asked an east African cab driver (first I’ve seen) at Long’s for change; others pop up at the Post Office, disappear with their towels. Return without release; a woman refuses help from a social worker at the door. I tell her to trust the other woman, but who am I to her? Those who occupied Kalama Valley in 1971 had houses to return to; the occupation's now of necessity. The taxi driver gave the man some change and I handed him some toiletries, the better to get him to the next morning. There’s nothing gentle about circles, unless you pull them out of circulation and re-install them as screen-savers. You can’t see the brush strokes, the way they vary in height and density, only flat splashes of color. A father held his phone up so his baby could watch a video while he and his wife watched Van Gogh’s paintings dissolve and form again as sunflower or bandaged face. The still points were shining screens, turned to record other screens. Then we left to confront the red BMW Sangha wished were black. It gets 30 mph when it’s not parked at the convention center beside the sign to “Gogh here.” We agree we're not writing much these days, just getting rid of things.

Monday, July 12, 2021

A dog's dementia eyes


12 July 2021

At the top of the circle at the back of the cemetery, flush up against the Ko`olau, two young women pose for photographs. One stands in their black rented jeep, head and torso thrust through the sun roof, arm ending in a shaka. A young man who’d just taken a photo of his own shadow, stops to take them together. His father, walking a thin light dog farther downhill, talks on the phone about a film being made about Kalaupapa, “the leper colony.” Harry walked in circles last night in Anne’s living room, not as tightly coiled since he got Dramamine. His body began to quiver, tail pushed between his legs, ears falling to the sides like a Papillon’s. Tottering a bit, he paced to the end of the hallway and back; “lights on but nobody there,” said Sangha later. We sat around the room, our eyes directed toward the dog at the center, his dementia eyes. There was a light circle in the young man’s shadow. The poet who takes photos of shadows must recognize the necessity of light, even as he calls his work a study of shadows. Tell them their stories are their own, my friend says, that they don’t have to take on the others. There are moments of rest in the illness; you grow accustomed to its circles, frayed at the brush’s end where time bleeds like a leaky water bottle. Look at the splashes of light, the way shadows deepen the light, render it like an eye open to brick or sidewalk or construction shed. A yellow helmet sits on top of a rusty refrigerator. A sun-dimmed sign includes the word “safety." Nearby, a blue plastic cover has the word HOPE on it, even if it’s HDPE. I can’t tell, so I choose the first, pencilling in my small circle, looking for white spaces where no questions or answers are. Bryant hopes Harry quickly gets better, or worse.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Screen memory


11 July 2021

The difference between insurrection and resurrection is smaller than you might think. At least if you believe those who claim Trump will be back in August, having won recounts in all states, literal and metaphorical. On the committee, she said NO and NO and NO, which clued me in to the power of negation. McConnell’s hardly a poet, but he knows the shape of an o after a hard consonant. The novelist’s “so it goes” articulates inertia and acceptance both, with a twist of irony that teases your lexical palate. Invisible illnesses earn invisible best wishes; we’re scared of what we cannot see. It’s like living in the hotel in The Shining, where each corridor caresses horror like wallpaper its flowers. Guilt is hallucinated control; what we don’t have can only hurt others, then redound to ourselves like a tennis ball slammed against a green wall. The green screen makes everything possible, but that shade of green isn’t natural, not like a rain forest’s stunning-in-its-sameness green. East coast greens are more various he said, on seeing them for the first time. Our greens are layered only in space, not in hue. An orchard of ferns embraces the Buddha, but who embraces Lee and Jackson, except the arid crust of a museum’s air? Put them behind glass. Though we see through it, glass enforces distance. This is old, it says, without making a sound. To see through is different from seeing, though it’s better than thinking Honolulu is paradise. What is paradise once the window-washers get to it? Advertising copy puts it elsewhere in time. When I came over the dune and saw Kailua Beach again, I thought how beautiful this is. Then I saw a tourist take its image with her phone. That image will find its use, apart from sand.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Running Girl


8 July 2021

As I got to the top of the stairs, I saw Running Girl go by. Running Girl! We’d just been talking about her, how many times around the mile loop she goes, her brief stops to check her splits, the way she withholds eye contact. One guy has a thing about Running Girl, but of course it’s platonic. She’s the perfect runner, running by the clock, counterclockwise around a clock-shaped circle were it cast by Dali. One guy says his wife thinks Running Girl should just stop, and I propose that she’s not happy. Her right leg kicks out as she goes up hill, but only slightly. Not getting anywhere seems a spiritual task, but not getting there always in the same way is perhaps something else. If there were not Running Girl, we’d have to invent her. She’s just what we need on a ordinary evening to remind us of time—not the exact time, but our sense of it circling into history, trying to evade straight lines, but coming back on the hill that makes the circle for a moment square. For 24 hours, he says of his Trump-supporting wife, there was quiet on January 6. An interregnum before Fox told her what to think; for hours she felt confusion, unsupported by words. She hasn’t noticed that he won't respond to her statements, and it’s been years now. Or she has, but fails to tell him that. The cemetery is another loop, where families visit their out-of-time relatives inside the weather, which is time on an etch-a-sketch, aching to be erased. There’s a rat running in my memory maze who stops abruptly at the wall like Dylan Carlson or Richmond Street, being blind. Duck blinds mean the ducks are blind, not you, hiding in your canvas room, aiming your gun at marsh grass and clouds. Love is blindness, sings U2. Love blinds both, or none. It is you I run back to, not meaning to get anywhere except back to the weather.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

The Neoliberal University / Mental Health Care / Photographs

Laura Hinton has edited a beautiful issue of her journal Chant de la Sirene. I have an essay on mental health at my university, a couple n+7 administrative memos, and lots of photos in it. Here's the link.