Thursday, September 29, 2022

Misplaced names


Was she in a class I took over at UH? Was her granddaughter on a local soccer team? Clearly, we know each other. Her husband's from Michigan and had some MI friends over the other day. "Trump should have fired everyone--military, civilian--everybody," one had said. His mistake was he wasn't a politician. She had to leave the room. Her husband voted for Trump. What did he find appealing about him? She doesn't know. Her dog Sophie tried hard to play with Lilith, but Lilith's a bit skittish around puppies these days.
Sangha called. His work involves a lot of driving, and he likes to call while he's driving around the DC area. "Mom, have you ever been to Rock Creek Park?" he asked one day. He'd seen a deer from the car and knew he'd passed the zoo. He's reading a book about Virginia ghosts, many of whom lurk around old battlefields.
I saw my baseball fan friend coming, so Lilith and I crossed the street. He's the one who worked on Air Force 1 under Reagan. Turning 61 tomorrow, he said. He relayed some baseball information his son told him about the Dodgers and the Cardinals. I mentioned that I'd found out that Aaron Judge was adopted. "I was in 32 foster homes in California," he said, "after being born at Tripler." He'd worked on farms in central Cali, picking grapes and other fruit. They took the Hispanic kids out to work on farms to keep them out of trouble, he said. Ran away from his last foster home and lived in the Oakland Salvation Army for a while. Worked his way through school. Played football, baseball, ran track; really kept him focused. 22 years in the Air Force. Then he became a teacher on the Big Island (his wife's from Hawai`i; her family calls him a "coconut"), and a principal. "You must have been good with the kids," I said. "I worked with them, I did. It felt like my obligation to help." I told him about my attempts to give back to young people suffering depression.
I'd misplaced his name. It's Daniel.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Cubs for Christ


We walked across the parking lot to pick up a poop bag. A neighbor I seldom see was getting out of his car. He was wearing a blue cap with a C on it. "Cubs!" I said from beneath my red cap with STL on it. "Sometimes it's Christ," he said. "He'll get me to heaven." "Not the Cubs?" "Well, at least they won once in my lifetime."

Sunday, September 4, 2022

There's a lizard on the louvers

4 September 2022

Tragedy resides in sentences; comedy in words. Comity of meaning unspools like old tape, tangled in the rewind. Always change the gerund to the verb's active form, unless you’re in a desert where nothing seems to change. Changing seems abrupt, when the desert blooms a billion ants with nothing to eat. Nothing is not gerund, though it might be. The ongoing of nothing as nothing. Thing as the mother of all repetitions. If you want the words to come closer, I’d say my back has a dark cave between hip and lower spine, that in that cave numbers run 5-8 on the pain scale, that there are no fire shadows upon its walls. No forms, no memories, just the present ache. The present tense precludes ambition, which is why I like it here now. The I doesn’t bother me so much as its use as a comparative object or subject. I and thou can't compare. That’s the beauty of pronouns; they are not the comparisons so many sentences foist upon them. I more than thou cannot work; more is a wrench. My father was given a monkey wrench when he retired. We remember others as faces, though his hands told as many stories. The bent finger, the finger nearly torn off when his brother turned the washboard on. They ached, he’d say. The past re-presented as stiffness in the joints. Now mine jibe with his, but he’s beyond compare. Our conversations have the one-sidedness of tape, rather than occurring, they recur, which is occurrence on repeat, like a used-up technology for sound. We’d walk the canal at a good pace, when he was my age. There’s no content for our speech now, just a soft container. I tell my student to distinguish modernism by its nostalgia. Eliot wished his washing machine worked, and Pound fought the radio’s static. Later poets took photos of the dead machines, which rust had rendered beautiful, like an old cigarette on a hinge. If nothing exists out of context, then what is this but a context expanded outside itself, where the use value of cigarette evaporates in the humid air, replaced by found sculpture. “Why do that?” the men asked, when I told them I take photos of tools. How to say that they are tools beyond tools, assuming the role of grace notes to other constructions. No longer a level, the ruler with a window inside it becomes aquarium, mirror, wading pool. In a world that’s all projection, subjection almost sounds appealing. Let me be subject to the tool as object, to the sentence as pronoun, to this life as a dancing fly.

Thursday, September 1, 2022

The shooters


1 September 2022

The subconscious isn't armed, but the armed act theirs out. Hardly an instant between a door opening and a black man/woman dying. We see their smiling photos later. Time’s revision, micro-space between seeing and shooting by way of a trigger that takes its own time. Does the trigger have an imaginary life, like the fantasy life of boulders? Those boulders looked awfully sturdy, but the trigger’s another thing. It requires us to pull it, lest we get thrown into a nightmare of bad rugs and top secret documents. He wasn’t sloppy with his stolen documents, so don’t set him up like that. If you watch the rug’s patterns unfold, you’ll discover the hotel’s dream life, wanting to be punctured with high heels and watered with gin. It doesn’t lend as much to interpretation, perhaps, as his dream of a tent with holes in it; through the holes stormed an army of chickens, when the real problem was ants, millions of them in a desert. What does an ant eat in a desert besides our occasional toes? The chickens may have been there to eat the ants, but the dream was his, not the chickens’ or the ants’. Fine ants, fine art, the canvas with multi-legged paint dripped on it, still moving. Still moving is a paradox, no? Moving still is a movie. The surfaces are so busy it’s hard to imagine the depths, but they’re there, awaiting the critic with a Go Pro to find tears in steel sheets through which to shoot a blurry car. The car is your feeling, the hole is not. It takes off down the road, away from the chickens and the dogs and the kind young man who gave you a bottle of water. It’s inside of you, jostling your organs, chipping against your arteries and veins, spreading in invisible bruises throughout the infrastructure of you. If you feel pain, it can’t be seen. If you see another’s pain, it can’t be felt. This is a big problem, isn’t it? The crevice between the poem and the poem’s reader, who is not inclined to feel the poem unless the poem says “Feel!” then runs off the tracks of pain into more paint across the canvas. You’d get the bends, if you attended too much to the suffering of words like ants upon the page, even if they’re only agents of another’s feeling, having infiltrated the grand hotel with its horrible rugs, finding feeling as envelopes of top secret documents scattered amid the magazines. No, I can’t situate my allegory of feeling there, where there’s so little that doesn’t transact. I pay so little mind, a flower has emerged on the lanai, light red against the brown paint, faded black barbeque, green broom palms, white clouds and azure sky. I was told skies are plural. My daughter thought traffics were. To be trans- is to be plural, at least during the middle passage from one to the other gender. You might come out blind, but you’ve traveled through the middle way, the dark wood, and that was an epic.