Tuesday, May 30, 2017

30 May 2017

'Love your neighbor.'” His last words: “tell everyone on the train I love them.” An unanticipated but well attended death. A woman took her shirt off to wrap him in and prayed. Down a narrow street at a bus stop a man named Christian swigged a beer, yelled profanities at the cops; the man who'd chased him down called him “cocksucker,” demanded the cops shoot him. “He stabbed them in front of children,” he kept saying, as if it were children that were the problem, not the knife or his intent. Muttered something about meth. For one agitated moment, Jeremy Christian is all the lost men of America, screaming his hatred as he paces the bus stop's narrow perimeter. He's wearing sneakers and shorts. We can't see him well from this distance, but who's to say we ever could. He's every last blocked desire, every last casting of blame, every last lost hope for agency this culture has to withhold. His mother can't believe he'd do such a thing. He was a nice man.

--30 May 2017

Monday, May 29, 2017

29 May 2017

Think what you want of this nothingness. On a walk with my dog, I counted my steps. Never got past three cuz she sniffs. It's her forensic investigation of the grass, occasional downspout or bulldog. For want of this nothingness he replaces “integritas” with “Trump” on a stolen family seal. In China, if you possess the seal, you're in charge. Trump follows others in a golf cart rather than walk with them. Our prepositions of the day are: with, in, for, of. All that's left are orders and insistence. Do this, do that, but don't consider it nothing. Build a wall around the sink-hole: Earth mouth hungers for your need. The president's excruciating want is our nutrition. Arrested on a DUI, the golfer graces my screen with his puffy eyes. He wrecked his body pretending to be a Navy Seal. #FakeNews is the enemy, Trump tweets. I am Tiger Woods.

--29 May 2017

Sunday, May 28, 2017

28 May 2017

So I encourage you—bow eagerly to love. A soccer dad in black knee brace kicks his son in the leg, yelling something about a hammer. Ask if the perpetrator is much bigger than you are, if you're in a confined space when you confront someone who spews racism, think about instability and escape routes. Think before you love, CNN advises us. The author of The Cloud of Unknowing was anonymous. He advises me to bow, but I do not. I walk by the man in the Bulls shirt as his son's eyes fill with tears. A coach speaks to his team nearby, says he turned girls down because he didn't like their parents' attitudes. On my way back, I stop to tell him of the coincidence. The president tweets about fake news. As Williams writes, some men die for lack of the real stuff. Others see it, walking past. A young man with full beard is dead in Portland, along with an older man, the one who must have said, “You don't talk to girls that way.” His name was Best.

--28 May 2017

Friday, May 26, 2017

War veterans read Sophocles, off the NYT

I don't usually post material from the newspaper on my blog, but the video in this story is stunning. Not only do the vets reading Sophocles address issues of combat, death, suicide, and betrayal, they also testify to the power of literature if not to heal us, then to explain our condition. I will show this to my students whenever I can, especially when I hear them reading in a droning voice, as if there is no human being trying to speak from the page. These readers get it, are gotten by it. If you do nothing else today, watch them:


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Pre-publication sale


25 May 2017

Feel not merely who you are but that you are. She wove a multi-colored shawl as biography of Anna Akhmatova, enclosed a key in the decorated box. Who we are is clothing. There's a frog on Camus's motorcycle, and it's hurtling toward a tree at excessive speed. Frog, too, feels the problem of existence, albeit without memory or prospect. Only Basho could render the SPLAT well on the page, but that incident at the tree solves the problem of identity (frog) vs. (sentient) being only insofar as it illustrates its end. A green stain means nothing unless you know its history, but history means little unless you know what it means to sit beside the pond and croak at lilies. The pond's water is also green, but only imitates substance while it drifts. The frog jumps in, we remember. But we cannot remember frog.

--25 May 2017

[to be published by Bill Lavender]

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

23 May 2017

Embrace the word whole. “Ze hole in ze text,” Herr Iser intoned, circa 1985. That's where we fall in like babies in a well, before we ascend into the headline, which rests at the top. Tails you find the bottom, where wisdom is before it kills you. Of course you think about suicide, he said, because you're trying to prevent it. I just added the “w” to make the pun complete; the hole had had a hole, albeit without a sound. Being of sound mind, I think out loud, muttering mantras on the plane (“we are experiencing turbulence, do not be worried,” said the Chinese voice, too often to prevent it). Can a canned voice console? Will our robots help us through our griefs, whether of beloved uncles or disappointing friends? Should we can our own words, like blood or peaches? The White House website advocated “peach” in the Middle East. I remember someone put a large leaf over the letters “im,” so that only “peach” turned its skin toward Kahekili traffic. The pun in German is with sex; the word whole is where we're headed.

--23 May 2017

Monday, May 22, 2017

21 May 2017

In contemplation, direction as we know it ceases to exist. We only travel in one direction, my friend tells me, and it's toward dying. What the direction is, the map doesn't show, nor does the map's voice tell us, sprouting from the phone. The metaphor of roots takes root, but seems to mean less and less, when going out's the same as coming in. Shanghai's doors illustrate a leap from one economy to the next; even those that are boarded up (corruption!) retain their numbers. The difference between horizontal and vertical housing is only quantified as direction, not as value. A Buddhist temple sits surrounded by shopping mall neon, though its golden roof tells another story. Twenty minutes before we landed, the video screens showed us how to do tai chi in our seats. To land is to float over marshes and acres of new apartment blocks and a river that would prove full of plastic and the city whose history is one of opium and banks. We pulled up to the as-yet-to-be-completed terminal, then bused to the extant one that took us in. My office is where friendships go to die, though our good uncle died at home, well after the airline refused him oxygen. Something's happening in our culture, a friend says, and we're all going back.

--21 May 2017