Self Conscious, the J Eric Miller blog

Sunday, February 27, 2005


What is fucking?
It is our wish to make what is abstract concrete.
To externalize desire.

And not just that old primal desire.
Does anybody over twenty two fuck for that reason?
We’re all too adept at masturbation.

What is masturbation? The sound of one hand clapping.

…Should I be using the word “fuck” as opposed to “make love” or have “sex”?
Any freshman boy who thinks he’s above the prowl on which he’s set, he’ll distinguish those word for you.

Philosophy 101.

I won’t make those distinctions because I’m afraid of peddling clichés.

What is it to be clever? Cleverness is to articulate a cliché in a way that seems fresh.

What is the problem with our culture? We’ve consciously rejected the intelligent for the clever. We fell in love with the clever. It’s easier and more fun.

Fucking, like dying, is an act of animal intelligence.

(This almost clever reference to the petite morte).

…What is a whore? Someone who fucks more than you do.
Though it should be noted, there are places in the world where two unmarried people holding hand are considered dirty.

The question that counts, it is: what is your reason for holding hands?What is your reason for fucking?

…What is the process?
The most important moment in the fucking is not the coming, it is after the coming.

(There is a blue room. This is long ago. The room is blue because the only light on is blue. We had finished. This was before everything really came together. Before everything really feel apart. All things fall apart, like your body, like your fortune. There is nothing so basic to the nature of this world as decay. We had finished and lie together in the blue light. In that moment, the long pause after fucking, in the blue room, the room with the mirrors, I knew it would end. I saw it ending soon.

And I said: What is going to happen now is we’re going to die.
And you put your head on my shoulder and your hand on my chest.
And we were still.
And I said: we are going to die now. Only first, we will have a death dream, and in that dream, we will rise from this bed. We will dress. We will go back into the world. That dream world. We will lead our dream lives. There will birthdays and funerals in this long death dream.

We will lose each other, it is almost certain, in this dream.

But remember, this moment, it is the last one, so it is the only one that counts.

Then one day, decades from now, at the end of our dream lives, we’ll come sailing back.
We will be reborn into this unfinished moment.
Reawaken to this incomplete reality.
Your head will be on my shoulder. Your hand will be on my chest.

You were nodding your head as I spoke.

We closed our eyes. We went into the dream. Later, we rose up and went about our dream lives.
I thought we would part more quickly, but it took us years.

And the dream keeps going.

Perhaps it is true that at the end of my dream world I’ll come back. And you too. And we’ll find ourselves sealed together in the blue right. The room with mirrors. Your head on my shoulder. Your hand on my chest. That moment before we die.)

…I want to believe that love is eternal.
That what we do in our blue rooms, what we say, what we feel, that we are tied to it.
Whatever happens, whatever changes.
What is sanity? Sanity is the acceptance of the rejection of the eternal.

What is fucking? It’s a flesh picture of want. It is a moving muscle structure of need. It is a breathless conversation. Let me in, let me in, let me in… Those almost divine grasps we make for that which can’t really be grasped. The noble effort. The first and the last resort.

Friday, February 25, 2005

…Reading Time’s Arrow, a gift from a woman, awhile ago.
I feel stupid reading at the gym, but I do it anyway.

And this book, I’ve tried to avoid reading it, but now that I’ve started, I find it hypnotic.

(Just because she gave it to you doesn’t mean it’s bad.
And that it’s good, that really has nothing to do with her giving it to you.)

And anyway, that woman is gone, I don’t know where.

You have to careful what you read, what you listen to.
The things that girls give you, these Greeks bearing gifts.
It is how they try to get into your head. It’s how they try to establish territory inside of you. If the piece is strong, if it moves you, if you like it, or godforbid, love it, then she has linked to you through it.

(I know this because I give books. I give music. I stake claims.)

Try to sever that link.

Try to wring her out now, you who are so addicted to wringing things out.

…The first book I got from a woman, a long time ago, it was The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

This is a book that if your capable of crying for things that are outside of you will make you cry.

This woman, she’d written in it, I simply want to give you something I love.

I keep the book, twelve years later, having read it once. I throw little away. I can dredge up her face if I want to. I can imagine that she is alive in this shared world if I try.

Have I told you this story before?

(I know I’m repeating myself.)

…What does J Eric Miller write about?Girls
Parenthood, sort of.

What has his life been about?Apparently, these things and little else.

Everything there is to voice from the limited resources of his mind has already been voiced.

Whatever he is trying to show you about his heart, his soul, if you believe in these things, you’ve already seen it. Whatever value you’ve placed on it, it’s already set. However you’ve damned or praised it, it’s been done.

(Sometimes when my brain talks at night and I can’t sleep for it’s chatter, I just start screaming ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Sometimes I clap my hands against the outside of my skull.
Try it.
In it’s way, its addictive.)

How will he keep his audience?
With some magic tick?
With some promise?
By uping the stakes?

Can he not find new stories, different way to see the world, and different things to see in it?

The situation is dire.
And a sort of relief.
The way you feel when your house has been robbed and all the things you tried to own, they’re gone.

“You get used to an empty room”.
A blank wall.
A wordless bubble.

…The pain we feel while doing things that cause the pain is much less than the pain it will cause us to feel more of after we are done.

…She was thirty something and it was the year before I turned twenty one, wintertime in Montana.

Missoula, that college town. In retrospect, I find it charming. And safe.

I memorized an ee cummings poem I knew she liked.
She gave me The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
And that inscription.

She was engaged to a friend of mine, a sort of friend really, a guy who hung out in my crowd. Or, I suppose, it was that I hung out in his.

(That marriage never happened, but it’s not happening had nothing to do with me. Those long engagements. That sort of silliness).

…Her apartment was a brick building with a stairwell on the outside, open aired, steel step that clatter when you run down them.

I was always running down them.

I wanted her and she frightened me.
I didn’t understand the complications of the world then.
That she and I could seem to be growing closer while she moved toward some white gown date.

(You don’t believe this about me, but once upon a time I didn’t think things could work like that. Men and women, they said love, they sunk into Eden, they waited happily through their lives to die [anyone died one day i guess/and noone stooped to kiss his face/busy folk buried them side by side/little by little/and was by was/all by all and deep by deep/and more by more/they dream their sleep/noone and anyone/earth by april/wish by spirit/and if by yes]).

It was confusing, that we could be alone and she’d want to touch me. That I’d want to touch her was a given.

(I didn’t know then about the exit strategy a woman will try to turn you into. About the transition she’ll ask you to become).

It was confusing that we could all of us be together, her lover and me and her and other friends, bowling, or playing tag football. That we would could go sledding and eating pasta at D’s house and drinking wine and they could be, that engaged couple, so…I don’t know…together.

(I didn’t know about secrets then. Nor divided hearts.
You won’t believe this, but, once, I was innocent. [and only the stars can begin to explain/how children are apt to forget to remember/with up so floating many bells down]).

That strange winter. Dark early. Everything happened beneath the stars. Everything happened with the snow falling softly.

…How she and I would go to the movies.
Meet for lunch.

And I memorized a poem for her. And she gave me a book.

She’d lean into me and I read out loud that book to her, my hand moving up her thigh like it thought it had to sneak.

How patient she was with me.

And how these sessions always ended with me running away. Not just down the steps of that brick apartment building. But out, across the field, all the way home.

…There are many times when I wanted to be young again. When I wanted to unknow what I’d grown to know.

When I wanted to unwant what I’d learned to want.

…I read at the gym. It keeps me from the company of people I’ll never really know and the boredom inherent in the absurdity of all this effort for ten or fifteen pounds more of muscle, something a family of four could eat in a day.

This girl gives me Time’s Arrow and I put it on a shelf. Not letting her in my head.

One day, when I’m safe from her, when I have nothing to take to the gym, I pluck it down.
I begin to read.

Time’s Arrow, it’s about a soul that gets stuck in the body of a dying man, and then starts to witness from the inside the life of that man.

But that life is moved through backwards. The soul it sees everything unwinding, people walk backwards and say goodbye when it seems they greet, for the soul it doesn’t know this is a tale told in reverse.

The soul watches through the eyes of a man who daily grows younger in place that ends in children seemingly stuffed back into their mother’s wombs.

Two people go into that room, that room with the forceps, the soiled bib. Two go in. But only one comes out. Oh, the poor mothers, you can see how they feel during that long goodbye, the long goodbye to babies.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Running Down Memory Lane

I go for a run today, first time in a long while. I go out to see what the pneumonia has done to my lungs.

This is after a haircut. This girl, she hasn’t cut my hair in two years. I was married then. I remember thinking in the pit of my loyalty that she was very pretty then, more pretty than
I find her now.

The way it’s easy to find somebody attractive in the absence of possibility.

Bad haircut, this hit or miss transaction.

..And the storm last night, thunder and lightning, then the ice—they call it hail—falling against the windows, the walls, like something that wanted in.

The streets filling up with water, the water muddy.

Dark. And quite aside from the weather.

It’s the kind of weather in which bad things happen.
If I had bad things in mind, if I were a bad person, this would be the night for me.

Hidden impulses invograted.

The kind of night for murder and museum robberies.

…I wear a hat when I run.
Not always, but fresh from my cut I do.
Pulled down on my face, that traveling shadow.

No butterflies today, the campus quiet, the green perfectly round, and those steps up which I can semi thunder.

…I remember a storm two years ago, Cartersville, that second wife, those few months of hope and maybe even beauty.

(There’s a picture of us from then.
We’re shirtless, embraced, and we’re kissing.
It’s accidentally beautiful.
And the only real proof I have.
Most of the time, I wish I didn’t).

The wind and the rain, Biblical.

We lit candles, but the house was too dark even with them.
The town itself was dark.

So we went driving.

Rain beating the windows. Water swelling up around the tires.

It seemed a dangerous night to drive, but we felt almost safe, the way it is at the amusement park, those rides meant to frighten, those rides from which, occasionally, people really do fall.

The streets deserted.
The houses appearing deserted.
The trees leaning over the roads.
Their branches on the ground, cracking under our tires.

Even the men in their blue lights out there working on the lines, they looked ominous in their overalls and hoods. Sparks flying in the water, faces masked. Hell’s maintenance.

…I go running today, the first time in months.
I like to run. But more, I want to know what’s left of me.

It takes me almost ten minutes longer then it did the last time I ran. But it is a good run, liberating somehow.

This pretty day. In this sun after the storm, my skin pale enough to make a Renaissance woman swoon.

…And I remember my first or second blog came after a run.

None of you were with me then.

I remember what I wrote, that what I need was not exercise, but therapy.

I’m different now.
(Though still in need of therapy).
The way I’m different than yesterday.
(But only from a true artist of the craft, a near genius, not just somebody with a degree)
Most change, it is not sudden.

Most change, you can’t see it even with a stop frame camera.

That late summer, early fall.

Everything was hard then, the ground, my flesh, my heart.

It’s muddy today, my new shoes sinking in the ground.
My lungs, they’re soft, my flesh too.

Pain focuses me. Makes me hard.

What to do with ease, what to do in the calm after storms, when you’re heart’s not fully broken…?

…There was a girl in the front seat of a white limo. It was half in the street and half in a yard.

That was that night in Cartersville when we went driving around, that second wife and me, tourists in a world gone dark and wet, with the radio playing and the heat coming out and the dashboard lights on our faces.

That world we thought we knew but could hardly recognize.

Coming up that narrow street, through that bad neighborhood.

The limo a bit in the yard of that house, a place you imagined people buying drugs and things less savory, it’s broken porch, the men you’d see there in the day, riding past on your bicycle, riding fast.

The limo was white but dirty.

She was thin, sitting alone in the dark of the front seat of it.
The house was even darker than the other dark houses.
Her shoulders were bare.

The lights washed over her and she looked blank and then scared, wearing a thin dress or maybe just a slip, very white, this girl, and young. Her hair blond.

I can see her better now than anything.

What we said to each other, that wife and I, in this moment just before or just after our beauty proven or at least illusioned in a photo, what we said after the headlights had moved past that girl was that she was in trouble.

But we did not stop. We did not get out.

This is a safari, but the animals can still eat you.

Stay in your world and I’ll stay in mine.

…I feels good this run, this post storm proof of survival.
The ground squishy.
The sun warm
I feel strong making it Maybe I don’t have the courage of kick at the end, but I’m happy with myself, coming through the door.

Like nothing can make me not live.

… We went home then, after the girl in the limo.

That night, in the candles, in the absence of tv, of any kind of noise that wasn’t the weather, what did we do, that wife and I, with the rain on our walls and the darkness pervading?

What did we do when we came in, took off our wet jackets, sprung those matches?

It was just us then, us and the dog that is now dead, and I imagine, because I cannot remember, that we could all hear each other breathe.

I try to remember, I try to imagine. That night in the house against the storm, what we did, if we whispered, how we looked.

L Cohen writes, “Let’s be alone together/let’s see if we’re that strong”.

it occurs to me

that anon might not have understand the suicide references in the last post had to do with the death of hunter s thompson.
most of the time, i give my readers not enough credit.
anon, you remind me that sometimes there can be too much.
if you thought you read some promise in the aforementioned post, then read it again. and read it better.
it wasn't a post about me. i suppose that makes it one of the less selfish of my posts, in fact.
for me, that's not even a question. there are too many birds in beriut. too many cats in the bushes. too many dogs at the pound. not to mention flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood.

Monday, February 21, 2005

stay a little longer

lightning strikes.
phone's out.
guy at the gym spots me though i never asked him to. i feel about it the way i do at the public urinal. people should just mind their own business. i don't want to feel your hands suddenly beneath my elbows, thank you very much. what i'm doing here, it's personal.
and hunter s thompson is dead, and somehow, in the world in which i find myself living, this is not huge news.
even for many of the people of my generation, that name rings only a distant bell. and some of them even saw the second movie.
read the hun's eulogy.
she'd never herself call it that.
and the thunder and the rain.
i know that cat is around because the food i leave, it's always gone.
we feed the living the dead.
there's a lot to remember. there's a lot to forget. i'm going to clean my house. i'm going to wait for the phone to work again.
if you wonder about suicide, what you should do is a hold a table lamp beside your head in a very dark room. only, the light should be on so it's not that dark. yet. you should hold the bulb fairly close and you should put your finger against the on/off button. the trigger.

go method now.

this is a gun. this is your personal endofdays. the armaggeden you were always promised. your ability to percieve, that about to end. get in that frame of mind. trigger. gun. trigger. gun. finger. trigger. gun.

(or as my father always tried to teach me, squeeze. squeeze the trigger.)
hear the click. embrace the black.

(and the next time you bathe, sink yourself under. keep saying: what's one more second. no matter how it hurts. stay a little longer. in that other world beneath the water. in that bleary eyes worlf of muted echoes. push it. no matter how it hurts.
stay a little longer.
s, she tells me there is euphoria in drowning.
i think in every kind of death that is not sudden we must find that stage.)

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Rent a Coma. Why Me? Borderline Truths. Dixie Tavern ReRedux. Firewood.

I’ve got a wonderful business idea.
Rent a Coma. The ultimate vacation.

You need beds, the kinds of machines that feed people and monitor their hearts and lungs and brains and you need machines that exercise the muscles.

A person comes in and pays x dollars and is given a very heavy sedative, something that sends one into a deep deep sleep. For one week.

Hooked up to the machines, taking that near death rest.

You go on your cruises, your trips to the mountains, your flights abroad, you come home tired. Not vacated. Just exhausted.

Rent a coma, the real vacation. You wake up ready for the world again.

…Typically, what a girl wants to know at first, it’s why me?
She’ll ask you that in a number of ways.
What I haven’t got a hold of, it’s what’s behind that question in all it guises.

Is it a simple search for compliment?
Is it the symptom of a type of insecurity?
Is it a manifestation of the desire to be recognized as absolutely unique?

And men, maybe I’m wrong, they don’t do they often, do they?
This is, isn’t it, more of a gender issues than a species issue?

If so, if men don’t ask that question, why don't they?

Is it because men take things for granted?

...I hear from a friend in Beirut. The assination of Hairi. The tension in that country.
Suddenly, the US is best friends with Lebanon.

If you think the US wants Syria out of Lebanon for the sake of the Lebanese, think again. The US wants Syria out of Lebanon because Syria backs the Hezbollah who have arms all along the border and can continually put pressure on Israel with them.

And why our interest in Israel, beyond the strong Israeli lobby in this country?
We need that very solid ally in the Middle East. We need a country that needs us.
We need place on which the other Arab countries will focus. A place that will keep them slightly unstable, not fully united, a continual thorn against which they will burn resources and energy.

Protecting Israel = protecting the safety of our oil.
It means keeping one foot solidly down in the Middle East.

Getting Syria out of Lebanon would be good for the Lebanese, if it can be done without sparking another civil war, just as getting Saddam out of Iraq was good for the bulk of the Iraqi people--but that doesn’t mean it’s why the US did it.

We’ve always got our best interests in mind.

Wait until they find huge oil reserves in Africa. Then we’ll really begin liberating people there, too.

…Another night at the Dixie.
I stop for drink somewhere else first. The bartender, an ex student from two years ago. She introduces me to the regulars. They have their names on little brass plaques all around the bar.

It's not fully awkward, that association seemingly so old.

Then forward, onward, not upward.

The truth is, I’m not even in the mood.
This story I keep telling you, it’s getting old even for me.

…You go here out of habit.

As if what you’ve drawn around you isn’t a cocoon.
As if you don’t want to be a butterfly.

Or maybe it is the opposite.

Maybe this is what you are.

Overly solemn either way at the Dixie Tavern.

And the woman whose husband has your name, he’s a loud man, unlike you, they’ve been to a wedding, perhaps it was a long day, for though her makeup seems in place, her hair perfect, her teeth as white as her blouse, she’s got the odor of sweat coming off of her.

It a rare thing to pick up off of a woman.
And it makes me worry that it’s not her at all but me reflected.
(Don’t let me be one of those people that sniffs himself in bars).

The smell, it comes and goes as she leans toward you and away. She owns it. You get used to it.

All this flesh, the girls who show their bellies and their shoulders, the top of the line that divides their asses.

In the right light, everything looks perfect.

You could take almost any girl in here and find her, coming out of a stream, in the deep country in which you are hiding, the deep forest meant to keep you from the law, in this Bonnie and Clyde, this Kit and Holly fantasy, almost holy in her beauty, the water on her shoulder blades, the sun coming down. The two of you against the world and what you like best about her ass is that it is hers. See her in the light, the droplets in her hair, look at the way she smiles.

Or perhaps it is an Eden; you and her imprisoned alone together, beneath the falling fruit, above the growing grass, not quite beyond the eyes of an imagined God.

In all that wild, against your primal sense of the aesthetic, you could find her just …so.

The way arranged marriages work better because people come in knowing they have to make them work. The way in the absence of choice you marry yourself to the present.

And the woman, the one with the odor, she’s got eyes the color of root beer.

There’s a girl here who resents you. And you should be resented. That old and familiar feeling of someone in a room who has something against you. The memory of the girl in LA who was rumored to have you hanging in effigy in her room. This girl at the Dixie Tavern, she positions herself with her friend by the door.

You’re tired and can talk with her or sneak out.

(Eventually, you’ll wait until boys are standing in front of those girls and glide by.
So that she’ll call you at four and on the phone call you out, Why did you just sneak out?

Not just of the pub.

In that late night, from that slumber, you’ll wake and tell her the truth. That she’s right. That it was long ago. That she deserved better.

If we lived long enough, we receive all the absolution we need).

…And the woman with the teeth and the eyes and the odor, at first you think that she and her husband, they must be swingers. That she is working you and he is hoping to be that special kind of witness.

You’ve seen those kind of transactions at the Dixie Tavern before.

And your slightly cold. The night is cold. You’re under-connected, here out of habit, a habit that is not at this moment pleasing you.

Staked out by the door is a girl that resents you.
A student from last semester has come in. At first you can’t be sure but then her two friends are staring at you and then all three come over.

It doesn’t have to be awkward but it is. The things that you bring to bear.

…That couple, it’s not some odd seduction. You realize it is just an attention thing.

He needs it on her and she needs it on her.

…You’re ready to go home long before you go.

And the ride home, that drive, you pass the gas station, see the bundles of wood for sale, want to buy one, not because you have a fireplace, not because you want some flame, but because they are for sale and to buy them, it would make you feel like you belong more.

The way in the late night, when the world is more quite, we all feel everything has gone too much asleep.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Bloggers. Masturbating. The Stories We Tell. A Failure of Imagination.

…Old blogger friend reappears, new blogger friend disappears, and old blogger hater proves he’s still around.

1. Where did Dena go?2. And welcome back Leva Malone.
Who has blogged a story startling enough to make Holly Sargis gasp.
(and if you get that reference…I don’t know…some kind of extra special kudos).
3. And Al (only a few of you have been around long enough to remember Al) how he found some November post shallow and curtly called it writer and all of the people who had commented on it incapable of true emotion .

Surprise surprise, turns out he’s still reading (see comment section for Hair Today…).

Al, this post is dedicated to you. Sure, you’ve been a bit rude, but I have to adore you.
You want to hate me but can’t. Most people, they want to love me but can’t.

And you’ve proven yourself an avid reader.

I thank you for your addiction.
I’m really flattered.

...It occurs to me that you know you’re in trouble when you fall asleep masturbating.
If this happens to you, it’s not about fatigue.
The problem is deeper is deeper than that.

It’s not a problem I’ve had by the way.

I’m much too narcissistic for that.

…I used to have this idea about connections.
Because for me the apocalypse is always visible in the genesis, I know that things will end, everything.

When I say hello to you, the echo I hear is goodbye.

And when you think like that, you either stop, or you find a way to deal with it. To allow yourself to touch when you know that you’re going to have to un-touch.

What I used to tell myself, it was a story. In that story, I met the same people over and over. My lovers, they were the same girl. I never really said goodbye to her, just some particular makeup of flesh and bone, just some distinct voice and eye color.

This Girl, it was her soul over and over. We part and meet up again and part again.

These are the kind of stories we tell ourselves to keep on going. To give meaning to our lives. To make things ok.

Like the stories we tell ourselves about Olympus, or the Rainbow.
Like, in fact, most of the stories we tell ourselves.

…Perhaps the greatest failure we face as humans is the failure of imagination.

So I imagined that when we touch and have to let go that some consistent soul links them all, all the touches. So I imagined that there was never a real goodbye. That was useful in that it let me touch.

And sometimes, it helped me to let go.
What happens when you think like that, you float too far above. You’re half a suicide. This is your death dream.

This is you looking at your life through a telescope. This is you drifting up beneath a balloon, the ground getting far away, the people turning into squiggles.

The stories we tell ourselves and how they lead us astray.
The way our imaginations refuse to try to summon up the truth.

We imagine that the stars guide us, so that whatever happens, it’s destiny. We imagine destiny is good. In that story, Somebody somewhere has a plan, and no matter how things all seem to go wrong, it’s ok, because that’s how the Author wanted it.

Ask Pirandello.

…The near-husband who stands on the alter, he fails to imagine himself in seven years, that slow burning itch. He imagines a love song come to fruition in a world where there is no desire to stray. There is no argument that can’t be simply overcome. How can he prepare for all those hard roads when he’s imagined it all wrong?

That near-wife, same problem. Imaging every love story she ever watched, every fairy tale she ever heard. If she’d only imagine how it will really be, maybe she could do something about it.

Poor woman. Poor man.

…There was a time when I’d look at a girl, and what I’d see, it was a cure for all that ailed me. If I could only see her nipples, touch her vagina, get inside of her. Then we’d sacredly bond and everything would be better than all right.

What I do now is I make myself imagine what she’ll seem like to me when we’ve done all that. When I’ve scratches the physical surface of her mysteries. When I’ve convinced her to surrender and to accept mine.

What will she look like to me then?What will she sound like?
Feel like?

Like Ben and Elaine on the bus at the end, how will we see each other when the excitement of the chase is over?

This helps a little.

This unfailure of imagination.

…When I lived on the rez, city people would come out, grow braids, beat drums, build sweat lodges. They imagined some purer life was to be had with indigenous peoples. They got nostalgic over the times the tribal people had before Anglo contact, before Manifest Destiny, before the devil on the Mayflower.

As the victim is sacred.

As if women weren’t marked by men with knives; as if they didn’t war from one tribe to the other over resources; as if the individual wasn’t plagued by greed and jealousy.

There was never a garden like that.
Only children., bless them, live in that kind of paradise. And not for long.

These credit card hippies with their blond braids, they couldn’t imagine what it really was like in the onceupontime they’d dredged up so that they could believe the world was ever un-corrupted and that it could be communed with in that way again.

We don’t imagine things the way they were or are or will be.
We imagine things the way we want them to be.

And dreamers are lovely, but what little good we do dreaming.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Birds, In Beirut

…There was a bird in Beirut.
In fact, there were two. And to tell this story properly, I actually need three.
Of course, there were other birds than those three, but the birds I’m talking about, they are all that are important to this story.

Two of those birds, they started out as eggs.
Of course, all three birds at some point were eggs. All birds were, in fact, eggs.
But what I mean is that two of those birds, when I met them, they were eggs.

In my sixth floor apartment in Beirut, there were two bathrooms, one with a tub, and one with a shower. They were connected by a single window sill, and each had a window, the one above the bath with a screen, and the one that looked out from inside the shower without a screen. You could open the windows by pushing them out. The screen you could open by pulling it in.

I like to take baths.

This is a story about a Genesis and Apocalypse.

…On the sill, in the little V of space between the half opened window and the screen, a bird built a nest. This nest was above my bathtub.

I didn’t have the heart to knock the nest down, though I wanted to. I had a feeling that something bad would come of this, or at least I remember it that way.

This is a story about the bad things that come when you think they might.

I took my baths beneath the nest.

…Not longer after the nest appeared, I found in it two eggs.

These birds, they were doves.

Of course, at this point, they weren’t anything yet, but a bit of mucus looking stuff and some smear of yellow. They weren’t doves, but maps of doves. They were doves coming together.

This is a story about mercy killing.

…What I thought of those eggs was that I ought to smash them.
I ought to drop them to the parking lot below.
There are good reasons to think like this.

I would preempt the suffering of the birds those eggs were trying to be.
Life, as I see it, is above all things, the potential for suffering.
(Not my life. My life is easy. But I’m not a dove in Beirut or a parakeet with its wings clipped or a chicken in a cage or a pheasant in the mouth of a fox).

And also, how would I bathe if those eggs finished up and hatched?
I don’t like to shower every day. I like to bathe.

This is a story about water.

…What I realized was that some nestbuilding egglaying bird would return to my window sill, and what she’d feel would be pain. Her eggs were gone.

What I realized was that if I’d pushed the nest off before the eggs had appeared in it, I could have stopped all of this. I could have ended this story. But I didn’t. And now it was too late. Now the mother of those eggs was emotionally and instinctually attached to the baby doves they were trying to turn into.

I couldn’t break them.

Later, I would wish that I had.

This is a story about regret.

…In Beirut, there was a family that lived on the roof of my building. Three daughters and a son. The mother, she made me food. They’d gone up there during the war and fifteen years later, they remained, in little furnished edifices, the life they’d created for themselves.

When the eggs hatched, I found them, bald and ugly, two baby birds, doves. I closed the bathroom door and left the birds alone. I begin taking showers, and I kept the shower window closed so as not to overly disturb the baby birds or their mother.

I was a father myself. I am a father. I will always be a father. God, if God created the world, if God destroyed the world, he'd still be its father.

This is a story about parenting. About being the parent of a little bird or a little boy or the planet earth.

Sometimes I’d peek.

The oldest girl, D., she came from the roof to visit me and I told her about the birds.

She wanted to see them. I felt I ought to say no. But I have a hard time saying no to girls.

This is a story about how hard it is to say no.

If you wonder about God, do you ever wonder when God started to realize that things were going sort of wrong?

…We crept down the hallway. D opened the door and went in. She was getting closer and closer to the nest, much closer than I’d been since the first time I’d come in.

I should have said, Stop, but I didn’t.

Then she was standing in the tub.

And the mother bird, she flew up then.
She saw, D, she let out a cry, she reeled, and then she was gone.

This is a story about open and closed doors.
This is a story about how you don’t know if things will come back.

…You know what they tell you. That if the bird mama smell human on its baby, it abandons the baby.

We closed the door. We worried.

Then D left and I worried alone. From the balcony, I watched for the return of the mother. From my bed, I listened for her return.

There was no return.

The following day, I was certain she had not been back.
She would not be back.

If you wonder about God, do you ever wonder if God didn’t hold finger and thumb over the world, consider crushing it as a mistake?

I went and I stood in the tub. Those little doves, they were all bone and skin spattered with a few unwarm looking feathers. They were painfully ugly.

What I thought then was that I ought to kill them.
In the day there was the heat of the sun. In the night, the cold.
And they had no mama anymore.

This is a story about hunger and thirst.

Those are the things I thought about when I went to bed at night.

…On the third day, I imagined ways one might kill a baby dove.
Drowning, perhaps.
That seemed the least messy idea.

And I kept hoping that I’d go in and they’d be dead.

But they never were.
They were crawling with bugs, over the lids of their open eyes, over the eyes themselves.
They were miserable, huddled.
I saw how it was in this world. How it has always been, how it will always be.

I understood the flood not as an act of punishment.

This is a story about regret.

…I did not drown them. I put a jar lid full of water beside the nest.
I tried to imagine they would drink from it.
I tried to imagine that if they did, that wouldn’t just prolong their suffering.

…On the fourth day, I bought food from a pet store.
I made a paste and put it on a tongue depressor. I pulled open the screen and put the tongue depressor close to the baby doves. Their bugs and their bones.

The doves, they were afraid of tongue depressor. I left it sticking into the nest. I smeared food on the sill.

This is a story about how hard it is to feed the hungry.

This is a story about how we are all ignorant.

…Days passed. They didn’t eat the food. They didn’t die. The water in the lid would evaporate and I’d refill it.

The birds were always on my mind.
I was always plotting their mercy killing.

This is a story about cowardice.

I thought about how stupid I had been, not to break those eggs.

I would go in there and stare at the birds, the bugs seeming to eat them alive, as if decay had begin before the corpses were complete, and I’d think about how much suffering my early indecision had given birth to.

This is a story about what happens when you don’t drop nests. When you don’t break eggs.

…They were getting bigger. That’s what I finally realized. Bigger and more feathers. And one day, the bugs were mostly gone.

This is not a story about miracles.

And I knew, I’d been wrong.I never saw the mother. I never heard her. But she was feeding them. Plucking bugs off of them.

This is a story about how some mothers return.

…I closed tight that door.
I would not bother them.
D would not bother them.
I would stand between them and the world if I could.

I imagined, One day, they would go away. I would throw down the nest. The story would be over.

…I like to bathe.
I missed my baths.

The shower beat down on me.

One day, I opened the door to the other bathroom a little. I looked in. The nest, it was empty.

The birds, I said to myself, the birds have gone!

But: One can’t be sure.

This is a story about that. About how one can’t be sure.

Perhaps they were just wandering up and down that long outer sill.

I went into the shower and pushed open the window there. That way, I’d be able to look down the full length of the sill and be able to tell whether the baby doves were really gone.

This is a story about accidents. About how almost everything is an accident. Your good intentions that cause bad things to happen. Your muddled intentions that result in good.
This is a story about chaos. Some people, they tell you the earth was built from it. Some people, they tell you the earth was built of it.

…I pushed open the window.
This is not just a story about opening and closing doors, but also windows.

There was a THUNK.

And everything froze.
The bird, he was knocked off the sill.
That little dove.
And what he did is he beat his wings furiously.

I saw him. He saw me.
He hovered there, beating his wings. I saw his little legs stretch toward the sill. I saw his little talons straining.

He tried very hard, but he could not reach. Nor could he stay in hover. It was probably a second. Maybe one and a half.

This is a story about how birds fall, whether you mean them to or not.

He shot down. Straight down. I watched him tumble.

… S, an urbantribal dancer, amonst other things, asked me to tell her a story about Beirut. This is that story.

If you wonder about God, do you wonder if God thinks the story of this planet is a sad or happy one?

That dove, he tumbled perfectly.

And then, before he hit the ground, he suddenly arced away from it. He begin to fly. It was graceful. He flew up and around and away.

This is a story about how birds fly, whether they mean to or not.

All of this, maybe it took three seconds. And then I turned my head. There was the other bird. Looking at me. He was to the edge of the sill. His talons, they were curled over it. He was leaning forward. He did not like the look of me. He did not like what I’d done to his brother.

And before I could pull myself away from the window and relief him of this stress, he leapt.

This is not a story about suicide. Animals don’t think like that. This is a story about mercy killing.

He hoped he could fly. In fact, he could. His flight was at first more wobbly than the flight of his brother, but he did not get nearly so close to the ground as the first. He flew almost from the moment he leapt.

…I begin to bathe again.
This is a story about water.
And food.

Thirst and starvation and bathing and floods.

This is a story about how no story is just about Beirut. Or just about birds. Or just about the story itself. This is a story about how all stories are about every story.

…You can think of it in a number of ways.
Sometimes, this story, the memory of it, it makes me smile.
Sometimes, I think about the idea that those doves have since died.
I think about the sickness of birds. I think about the heat deaths of birds. The cat pounce agony of birds. I think about the hunger of birds. The windows they fly into.

I know those doves suffered their lives.
I know they suffered their deaths.

I know they pulled suffering insects from safe haven bark. I know they ripped suffering worms from lawns.

This is a story about existence.
It cannot then be a fully happy story.

I think about who I was and who I am, if I can break the egg, about the feeling that once the nest is built, and especially once the eggs are laid, and most especially, once the doves hatch, it’s too late.

The story has already started.

This is a story about helplessness.
This is a story about intentions.

You may see this as a story in which everything worked out as if there were plan to it.

This is a story about two birds in Beirut in the late spring of 2002, their lives and their deaths. That’s all.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Hair Today. Chewed. Sickoes. Nice Ass. X. Profundity.

…I’ve had a good hair day but it wasted on a faculty meeting.
I need some other social interaction to justify it.

…In one of those carts where they put really discounted items at the grocery store, I spot this bottle of pink body wash. What I think is: Son of a bitch, wouldn’t it be cool if that stuff made you smell like bubble gum?

I mean, I knew it wouldn’t. But I bought it. And now, out of the bath, having lathered up with it?

I do. I smell like bubble gum.

This, if nothing else, makes the world feel in order.

…Everybody is sick.
Coughing and sore throating and sniffling and fevering.
Damn it.

I’ve taken enough as of late.
Those magic pills.

If I knew how they really worked, I wouldn’t believe in them.

The same way if I were on the telephone with a scientist and he or she explained to me that our voices are not actually being projected these great distances, but that little electronic things are mimicking vibrations that have been mimicked by other little electronic things, I’d not believe in the telephone any longer either.

Because that just doesn’t sound right.
That means when I talk to you on the phone, if I ever do, that’s not really your voice. That’s electricity mimicking your voice.

I can’t believe that.
I’d have to hang up on that scientist.

…In Star or People, whichever of those magazines have the un-airbrushed photos—and that’s a lovely thing, photos which makes you re-remember the cliché that nobody, not even stars, look like stars—there is a picture of Paris Hilton’s ass in a bikini.

Ass is the wrong word, and if you’ve seen the photo, you know what I mean.

…What happens to me, I’m like everybody, show me a face long enough, tell me that she’s hot long enough, give her a lot of attention, and I’ll end up wanting her.

Ashlee Simpson. Paris Hilton. These girls I wouldn’t spend time with in a bar.
But exposure has made them too my taste. Or made my taste to them.
The way you learn to drink beer.

Anyway, this photo of Paris’ butt, it’s awful.

(I think of a girl in LA a long time ago and how after we finally coupled she put on a shirt but no pants and followed me out onto her porch as I was going, and when I turned to look at her waving it seemed almost obscene [that half nudity midnight public] to me and how when she then turned to go in I saw not an ass, but a butt, and how driving away I was haunted by the idea of how small she was, how insubstantial she, it all, seemed)

And there is Paris, her bottom in a bikini, as if she had back all the way to her legs, and somebody had made a small vertical incision, a shallow line, in her back to suggest two halves.


That’s me sitting in the gym reading People or Star or whatever because I forgot to bring a book, thinking, as soon as I turn the page away from that particular photo: Yes, but I want her anyway.

…My son gets sick on the day he is to fly back with his mother. So he and her and me, we had another day together.

And I realized that for some long time, as good as things are between us, my ex wife and me, as well as we get along, as much as we share about our son, she’s shut a part of herself off to me.

This necessary coldness.
A testament to pain.

The trauma we inflicted there, it was lethal.
Or maybe this is just a coma.

…And wandering around the university today, a gray day, a thought comes into my head.

My head, it is stuffy, my chest, it is a coughy, and I slept too much last night, and not at all the night before; my head, it is made strange by the time of day, a sudden burst of aimlessness, the weather.

I’m waling. And it’s coasting, my brain.

Then suddenly it thinks something so loudly that I say it through my mouth.

That’s me waling, talking out loud, not even to myself.

And my brain, it doesn’t know where that something comes from. My brain, it thinks it channeled it or that it was delivered by angels.

My brain in its fatigue so anxious to believe in truth through inspiration.

So this phrase hatches out of my mouth, into the gray air, over the offgreen grass, this phrase, it hatches right out in front of me and comes back into my ears, back into my brain.

And what I think at first, what my brain thinks, it thinks: Jesusgod, that was profound.
It thinks, You’ve come right up against the mysteries of the universe.

Stupid brain.
Like a drunk brain ready to embrace a t-shirt, a bumper sticker, any catch phrase as the sermon on the mount.

What did it make me say?
It made me say: You’d not be here if you hadn’t come.

Read wisdom into that if you can. I can’t.

(…Forgive me for wanting Ashlee Simpson. I mean, I don’t really. I know what a talentless moron she is. It’s just that I’ve seen her pic once to often.)

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Valentine, 1993
What is this mark on my belly?
Do you recognize it?

As if two people can be bound by the mutual rememberence of a short film.
Of an 80's song.
Of a bad tattoo.

Girls tell me now to get rid of that mark.
That mar.
That stain.

This unburst thing like a bad but working heart.

That's us, stumbling into a tattoo parlor on Valentine's Day one thousand years ago. Stumbling though we were not drunk. Stumbling because we were children, I more than you.

Do you remember the cold that night?
As if two people can be bound by it.
By mutual flesh pain.
By near innocence.

If that was you in the dingy parlor where the wolf was chained and sad eyed, where the man who called himself an artist wore a handlebar moustache and a leather vest over his bare skin, if you remember any of this, if you remember the good intentions with which we commissioned the making of this bad tattoo and your own, slightly better, if all or any of this is familiar to you, then don't you think you ought to find me?

Not so that we can fall in love again.
(There's no virtue in a second love.)
But so that I can believe as if I'm not the only one who doesn't forget to remember the legitimacy of the things that pass between people. However long ago.

So that I can think that not everybody from the past first sees me through glass and then not at all.

(The way everything fades; the way love never seems eternal).

If you know this tattoo, I mean really know it (and if you don't-I don't mean to exclude you-can you tell what it is?), then don't you think you ought to find me?

To validate the promises of people like us, the mashing together of body, everything that is said in breath and ink?

And the doctors, they'll tell you that to be healthy one moves on, puts things behind her, etc.

(Give me then the irrational women, the ones capable of madness, of extremes of jealousy, who are cursed with an inability to un-remember).

This tattoo, what it says: forgetmenot.

And you, that Valentine's date (and ones like you, those later dates), lost in the world, testaments to the idea that every possession is temporary.

That every ghost can be exercised.

...But some of us, we meant every scar and other mark, whatever they meant when we took them on.

Me, I'm haunted.
Consider it a virtue.

To you then, LK, and those that came after and went as well, and the few that came and went before, and those that have recently come and will soon enough go, and those that will someday come and likewise be gone, I say:
you'll be in my mind longer than I'll be in yours.

Consider that a virtue.
Don't those buy one anything?
Posted by Hello

Saturday, February 12, 2005


--An eight hour stint, babysitting, like a very extended play date, the son of a friend, that boy my son’s friend.

The same age, these little boys.

They wear each other out almost as much as they do me.

--I sit on the picnic table at the park, watching them, playing with sticks and toy swords, sliding the slides, swinging the swings, merry go rounding.

Like brothers, the way we’re all brothers, not Biblically, or Quaranically, not in the eyes of any god, and not brothers in arms. Brothers in company, in care, the way everything is reduced for a child.

The way that which is immediate, you accept, especially if you’re young.

And on this Georgia winter day that is like a fall day in the places I’m from, I sit on the picnic table in the weakened sun and I watch them, on the playground equipment, in the leaves on the floor of the forest beyond, and they might as well be brothers.

And I watch other kids fill up the park, and I see how they mingle and how they share. My son handing his sword to a kid who doesn’t speak English, or at least won't speak it now. A bigger kid, but not by much.

At first, I think that the kid will reject it, but then he carries it around for awhile

Later, that kid embraces my son as we are leaving. That simple and sincere communication.

And what I wish for, it is that the world was full of only kids and Catchers.

--Earlier, the three of us go to the store, we buy food for the limping black cat that is hiding in the bushes close to the apartment.

We place the food and disappear, hope that the cat comes out to eat.

Inside, we say a prayer for it, the two little boys and me, that one day it will walk well and that it will not know hunger.

And we look into a marble, a crystal ball, and we think we see something there, the good future of that good cat.

And secretly, I check the food. That cat hasn’t eaten. Who knows where it has gone. Not tame enough to catch and cage and take to some kind minded vet. A cat like many I’ve know for who there is no easy answer. Thin and with that messed up foot, fearl and furitive and desperate. A cat close to that inevitable that we all reach but want to avoid, those final days nobody, not even those with courage, wants to witness.

Something you don’t see in a crystal ball, not if you’re in control of the vision.

--And A, formally of LA, this friend I’ve had almost as long as anybody, this girl with whom I’ve never slept, who has seen me through two marriages and three loves, who knew me before I knew my first ex wife, she calls in the late last night.

Her voice on the machine in the morning: I need to get away. I’m going to come and stay with you.

This mirage of escape I sometimes hear from her. And it’s never been true, but for all I know, she is en route. The way patterns break finally because they must. Because life can't sustain them.

Her marriage, this new one, shaky, those old problems, the same problem over and over. The way we always have the same problems, in some guise or another, with people we try to stay intimate with.

(And so if they ask you: should you really stay married for the children? you should answer yes, because your next marriage, if you believe in marriage, it will reach this point too; this hump, you’ll either get over it with someone or never get over it; [the same thing is always waiting in the middle of the road; you put it there, you ought to know] you’ll either always stop in the midst of the journey and start over again or you’ll finally make it past that stopping point—so why not now, this time, with this person, for the sake of the children; both of you, you’ve got it, that fucked up thing that you bring to dismantle whatever you’ve mantled; you hit that point and say, jesusgod, I better find another person to be with... but you’ll carry that thing with you to that person too, and that person, damn it, that person too will have a thing to put down in the path that you thought was meant for you both; so yeah, for the sake of the kids, really try to get over it this time and not with the next person—either that, or go it alone, give up on that kind of combining [Happy Near Valentine’s Day]).

She calls as she has done from time to time, saying she will come to hide from the world with me.

As if I hide from the world.
Though it may be said I’m quite distant from hers. Maybe that’s good enough.

One of the smartest girls I know, this girl, which makes her one of the smartest people I’ve known, for all the great minds I can think of having known personally are, but a very few, those of women.
Terribly smart.
As terrible as it can be to be smart like that.
All that legitimate pain.

--This girl, she scares me because she is always right about me, the kind of things people tell your about yourself and your situations that you don’t want to believe. But ought to.

None of the doctors healing themselves.

And the old fantasy that we had that I would get rich and save her, this girl I’ve known more than a decade and never slept with, whose mouth has been against my mouth but a few times.

So that we are beyond the question of seduction, that old cycle no longer valid.

This character from an F Scott Fitzgerald novel, this person that lives closer to literature than anybody I know, as awful as that is in reality.

--And the innocence with which I used to believe in what I could imagine:
My back so broad that all the waters of the sea rose and fell against it but no wetness came through to the other side, whoever huddled there dry and safe.

That kind of impossible shelter.

--What I imagine, in the park, but before then too, what I’m always imaging, it’s some kind of a place into which everyone I care for can run.

And, you know, live happily ever after.

The way I’ve come to see it, it’s all steel siding and spike, the only kind of Eden I can imagine.

This trail of women and children. The cows and that limping cat.

--All the kids movies we're watching, all the ones worth a damn, they're built around something sad. The only ones that stuck with me, sad ones. The only ones that made me grow, if growing is good, somehow sad. Tears as nutrient.

--And I know how we’d get bored in there, that spiked Eden.
The children becoming their lord of the flies games.
The women missing the grand swap of seduction.
The cat missing the death of the butterfly.

And me, when I pray for myself, what I pray is not for peace, but that I may find ease in peace. That when it comes to rest on me, as it does from time to time, that I do not have the urge to run, to rock, to dredge up some old tension or create some new one.

Peace for us all and ease in peace.

Friday, February 11, 2005


--What is it that brings me awake at five in the morning?
These cough medicine asleep nights long after the cough is gone.
That and other addictions.

Here I am with the morning stars, feeling rather rested just the same.
Nothing grim in this day to follow, unless you consider Lost Highway grim.
Or showing it to forty students grim.
Some of them still nearly newborn into this un-innocent world.
These jobs we give ourselves, bringing darkness, bringing light.

--And Valentine’s Day approaches.
A day for amateurs, really.
The way a real jokester leaves April 1st alone.

Still, one thinks of love. If candy hearts makes you think of love. If red balloons makes you think of love. If people talking about love makes you think of love.

--True story, and it has nothing to do with love:
The first time I thought I was in real love, the girl in question, we’ll call her Megan because that was her name, she went on a trip.

This was college and what made me start to use the word love was that we’d fucked. And for me, well, that was brand new and pretty exciting.

I was a boy.
Nothing new for her, except for maybe the quickness of it all.

Before me, she’d had a live-in boyfriend.
She was an actress and she performed a monologue about the day she kicked him out of her apartment.

So that spring we ate taffy and had sex and I was always listening to They Might Be Giants and taking long runs and thinking about her.

How young was I? I slept in her bed with he night after night with my pants on.

The way I used the word love, it was like this: I love you.
What she said, it was: Does it bother you that I can’t say that?

You can see how wise she was. She probably knew that I didn’t know what I was talking about, either.
That I was referencing a new addiction.
That I was saying want so much I can mistake it for need but will call it love.

And of course, she was wise enough to see the limits of us. That’s she never even feel that.

It only took her a few months to get tired of a boy that acted his age.
Of a lover who knew nothing about physical loving.
The arts of the body.

She went on a trip, and this is close to the part where I have to remind you it is a true story. She went to LA, and the night before, we were making caramel corn. The way we did this, we went to the grocery store and we bought caramels and popcorn. She popped the popcorn, I melted the caramel’s in a green tupperware bowl in her microwave.

I was about to be 19.
And that was a long time ago.
And yes, I can still see that bowl. Yes, it was green.

When the caramels came out of the microwave, I dipped my finger in the goo they had become. I suppose that the high of the mid spring season did that to me. The high of being in the company of the first girl I fucked did that to me.

I can remember how her apartment smelled. I can remember how her hair smelled.

That night, I just didn’t think very well.
I just thought: Wow. That looks good, all that melted caramel.

And stuck my finger in.

That burns. And you can’t get the burning melted caramel off.
You dance around screaming.

(You were always making a fool of yourself before this girl. Like the time you took her to your father’s house in the country because he was away and you leaned against the electric fence, thinking he’d turned it off, and it shot you forward, flinging her things in the air, you screaming like a girl, and the real unscreaming girl, not amused, but faintly disgusted, watching you kneel on the lawn and try to gather yourself).

You scrape the burning caramel off with a red washrag. It was a long time ago, but I can see that rag.

And the blister that followed.

So I was a kid with a blister and she was in LA for a week and I right away wrote her a letter. How sentimental was I? Or at least: how sentimental did I want to appear?

I wrote that it hurt my blister when I typed certain letters.
The letters that went with that finger. But that it was a good pain. Because it reminded me of the night we spent before she left. A good blister because I had gotten it in her company.

I don’t know how that struck her. She brought me back a Simpson’s t-shirt.

And now we’re very close to the part that necessitates me telling you that this is a true story.

This was mid spring and before early summer, she’d walk, like a good girl, like a wise girl. Not for the reasons they’d later walk, because I’d tell them to, my passive aggressive lunges for freedom.

(L Cohen writes:
I wanted so much, to have nothing to touch
I’ve always been greedy that way.)

She walked I suppose because she was bored of a boy.
And me, well, of course I thought my heart was broken.

What happened to my finger though, over the course of the second night that followed her walking, it regrew that blister. I woke up and there was a swollen pouch, and approximation of my caramel burn, on the tip of that finger.

This new blister, it didn’t hurt. Didn’t feel like a burn. But there it was, just the same, this risen skin gone clear.

--So Valentine’s Day approaches, and I think on this morning of two blisters nearly fourteen years old, the first girl I meant to fall in love with.

If I could meet that me, I’d want to embrace him, like a father embracing a son, I suppose. I’d want him to see how easy the world around him was. I envy They Might Be Giants. Those long jogs. Easy days on the campus. The world, it was open to him. He was young and un-creased. There was a certain beauty to his innocence.

He fretted so much over so little.

I’d want to save him that fretting.

And I know, I know.

Fourteen years from now, when I’m telling stories about the me that is now present, but will then be past, I’ll think the same thing.

I’ll see him in a haze of innocence, all seem in an open world, fretting unnecessarily.

I’ll miss him.

And so through memory we birth and re-birth ourselves, never quite letting it catch up to the moment.

The grass is always greener in the mind’s eyes, and there is no journey so impossible to re-take.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

The Little Prince

--My son and I, we watch The Little Prince.
This is the first movie I remember watching.

It stuck with me so well all these years because it sort of broke my four year old heart.

It is the earliest I remember being sad for someone outside myself.

And The Red Balloon, which they showed us in kindergarten, that’s the second film I can remember impacting me like that.

I’ve not seen either of them since them, but I remember each of them quite clearly.

Saint-Exupery disappeared in a plane over northern Africa after writing The Little Prince, the most magnificent thing, by my estimation, to come out of France.

--Sometimes I teach the book The Little Prince.

I ask my students if the story makes them cry.
Some of them admit it does.
I never tell them that it makes me cry.
They never think to ask.
They understand that my job is to dissect literature, not feel a story.

--When as a kid I'd watch a movie, usually a Western, with my father, I'd cover my head with my elbow if something made me cry.

Yes, Westerns can make you cry. Try McCabe and Mrs Miller. Try the orginal Monte Walsh. Try The Shootist.

And at the theatre, I tried to hide my head in my hood, my father asking my mother why I was crying at the ending of the White Buffalo, a movie about a killer buffalo that had to be hunted down and killed.

It was for the buffalo, my mother told my father.
And she was right.

And my father, that hunter, that taxidermist, he must have worried then tha the was raising a vegan.

--The Little Prince was the first film I remember seeing because it was the first thing I remember happening to me that didn't really happen to me.

It was the first thing I witnessed that did something to my heart.
I was four, crying into my elbow over the little prince.

--Really, what we cry for, even when we are four, it’s not the Little Prince, who falls as gently as a tree, but the pilot.

We cry for the pilot who loses the little prince. Who understands the transitory nature of the world Saint-Exupery has created, who understand that the prince must pass from this world to make it back to the rose, but who is not completely comforted by that knowledge.

Who must mourn the loss. Who must remain as one left behind.

--And later, what we cry for, when we’ve been taught to think of stories as a series of choices made by authors, when we’ve spend time studying and teaching literature and writing to the point where we never totally suspend our disbeliefs, what we cry for is the beauty of a mind able to conceive such moments.

--And so we cry together, my son and I, over something purely imagined.
This story that took place in someone else’s mind, that mind long since quiet.
We sit there with tears on our cheeks.
Hypnotized by the one devastating moment--as devestating as anything in film--the blur of the prince beneath the tree…

Monday, February 07, 2005

Feeding My Arms. Or Something Like That.

--Because I grew up in the age of computer technology, a Tandy in the house when I was fifteen, I’ve got documents—letters, stories, novels, screenplays, assignments—that go back almost fifteen years. I’ve lost a lot along the way, but how odd it is that we can carry so many words on a disc.

All those freeze frames of who we were. Or thought we were. Or wanted to seem to be.

--I go back through folders, old stuff. This is a type of nostalgia.
Sometimes reading something and it feels like it wasn’t written by me.
Sometimes coming across something the context of which I cannot even invent.

--Always writing. No, not always. Since I was ten I guess.
Little stories. The school paper.
Older, there was almost always a girl or two to whom I wrote letters.
These very individualized audiences.

I realize these letters, they were exercises.
My writing, the stuff that I do professionally, the stuff that never pleases me, that’s the actual game. I’m on the field plying my craft. Trying to make do for real with what I’ve learned from practice and whatever it was I was born with.

I don’t write letters anymore. I email, but it’s not the same.

And I blog. Like the letters I used to write.
These exercises.
This slightly wider audience.

--I find these stories, these smears, I called them, for they aren’t really stories, just little expressions, the kind of thing you can type up in class when you are pretending to take notes.

In fact, when I was working toward my doctorate, I wrote a ton of them, and from a few of those grew the collection Animal Rights and Pornography, which was not my dissertation, which was instead my guilty pleasure.

Bad student that I was. Lost in the literature world which made up about seventy percent of my classes, those comprehensive exams looming heavy at the end of three years.

Me, I entered with a master’s in screenwriting. I didn’t even know what the Renaissance was. Couldn’t have told you even the century in which Bacon was born.

I worked my ass off, three years, reading all the time, outside of class.

But in class, minesweeper, letters, smears.

I’m reading them over this morning, before my son wakes up, and I find a few that are particularly telling, particularly consistent with who I am and I suppose have been.

So because I’m busy, because my son is in town, because the day is warm and the sky clear, because it will never see the light of day in other form (and I promise not to do this that often again), instead of blogging, here is one of those smears, those near stories, those somethings that I wrote once upon a time when apparently I wasn’t much different than I am now.

Feeding My Arms
I eat more than I naturally should. It is an effort of will. I am feeding my arms. I feed my arms all manner of foods. They are burning and engorged from repeated curls and presses with weights. I can feel the food squeeze up inside of them.

I have grown to hate food. I do not remember what it is like to be hungry. Hunger is a wistful fantasy. My mouth will not chew for me as quickly as I want it to. It, like my arms, is weary. I say to myself: I have to be relentless. I have to be tenacious. I have to be undaunted.

I imagine that some day my arms will be bigger than I am. You will see them out on their own without the benefit of me or my mouth.

The incredible cut and girth of them will hold your attention.

You will wonder how impossibly hard they can squeeze and of what lifting wonders they are capable.

People will say, perhaps in defense of some small or large wrong I’ve committed, “Yes, but did you see his arms?”

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Help Less

--The phone rings you awake at 4am.
Cough syrup sleep, that slight cold that comes back from Colorado with you.

--The cold that last night made you stick a thermometer in your mouth, something you found amnogst all the meds left by your first ex for your son. The lesson of your most recent sickness: check your temp.
It didn't work, that thermometer.
When you call her, your first ex, and ask her why, speaking around that thermometer that for three minutes will not climb above 93, she says it is not intended to be put in the mouth.

Jesusgod, you say, spitting it into your hand, where then?

Where is supposed to go and where has it been?

--The phone rings a little after four in the deep morning.

And that part of your mind, that part that you kind of hate because it thinks too often, it’s already solving the riddle: who is this, calling me at four in the morning?

Before the second ring, it is making a list.
A, whose emails get more desperate. Whose new husband either has flown the coop or been kicked from it. Who writes as she has for years, as she did with the last husband, as she will with the next, that she needs a place to run to, though she’ll never make that flight, though she is always welcome.

Or the good ex wife, returning at two in the morning from a bad date.

Or J, in LA, who doesn’t know your son is with you and like late night chats.

Your brain is making a list of possible callers before the phone rings again.

And you don’t always approve of this always thinking side of your brain. It should be asleep. But now, all of it, all of you is awake, and the person, she doesn’t say hello, she says: I’m sorry.

None of the above. Somebody other, but you would have gotten to her.

--Last night, it was a cat. Screaming. In rhythm, every six or seven seconds. And your brain telling you, Help the cat.

The other side of it saying, The cat can't be helped. Please, please don't try. Please sleep.

Coming all the way awake. Realizing, that's not a cat. That's your son, his breathing that ends in a high pitched snore.

And I thought of Beirut, the way the cats there screamed through the nights, males fighting and wanting fights and females raped. And all the cats you helped in Beirut, that one winter sickness that wiped them out, the kittens AJ had taught you to save, the hordes of them in her yard half grown, and healthy, and, for whatever it means, happy.

Dying runny eyed. Highly fevered. Beyond the help of anything. Beyond comfort.

The way no life is saved, but only death postponed, only suffering checked for the moment.
The best doctors, those that help you go into quietly.

--This four am, it's the real phone really ringing.

She’s crying. She says, You’re the only person I know who is completely at ease with being miserable.

And you think, Is that what am I?

And she she says, Would you please say something profound?

And you’ve got nothing. You speak through your cough, through your phlegm, these things that prove your limits, and you see the world for what it is.

You see the fragile of every life.

Everyone you love, fragile. Everyone you hate, the same. You make them into fields, into flowers in fields, the faces of men you’ve struck in bar fights and women you’ve fucked and friends who’ve stopped being friends and men who've struck you and women who did likewise and all the people around them and through that great chain of connection, everybody, every thinking thing, in fact, it goes in the field.

Waiting on flood, on fire, on ice storm, on virus.

You couldn’t feel more helpless.

--You think of that old blasphemy, If I were God.


What would you do? Where would you begin?

The things you hate about the nature of the world, how could they be undone and the world still exist?

Do not get me wrong. I’m not endorsing it, but that doesn’t mean I know how to reform it.

But there is nothing to do but take away all the feelings, one by one, leaving only mild pleasure, only satisfaction. That eternal drug sleep. That forever soma.

But your conditioning as a human, it tells you to reject that. It tells you that is the same as death. All the creatures of the world caught in drug sleeps, it is the same as all of them caught in easy black.

Which is death.

If I were God, I’d clap my hands and the world would be between them.
That Assisted Suicide.
That Mercy Killing.

And as much as I believe in it, I could not do it to a planet on which live the few I love.
So then, how much do I really believe in the validity of That Kind of End?

--It doesn’t matter. I’m not God.
God’s not even God.

When a girl calls you at four am, and she needs something, what do you have to give, ever?

Your son, he sleeps. Your head, it aches. The medicine is rolling around in you. Your muscles, they want you to yawn, they want you to stretch, this sickly night when you’ve got nothing, when you need more air, more warmth.

This person out there in it, turning to you, and what do you have?

--You ask her to talk about her night. You try to hear in it the secret behind her unhappiness. What you think you hear, it is that she feels lonely, like the real lonely of the real truth of all our existences alone.

The lonely that follows those ugly moments of real perception when you see the limit of every connection.

This is what she is saying, maybe, though not that way. Maybe that's what she means. Maybe you read her, or anything, right.

The best you can do, you say it back to her, you try to show her that you understand, because in being understood there is perhaps some solace.

What little things we have to offer. What little things I have to give.

She’s telling you it’s ok, she’s telling you go back to sleep.

Over the telephone, through the dark, from wherever she is, whatever part of the night is around her, whatever corner of the world she breathes in.

Say something profound, she tells you to start the conversation.

And you, not God, not anybody really, just another fucking flower in the field, what have you got for her?

What have you ever solved with your words? With your lips. Your fists. Your penis. Your talk and your action, your promises of body and breath.

The way every solution is temporary.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Pop Goes the World

--We’ve returned.
My four year old analyzing Pop Goes the World, the ultimate 80’s song.
His most recent addiction.
This is my doing. You can’t make somebody love something, but you can put those elements in the same vicinity.

These arranged marriages that turn out to be true love.

--When he was two, he’d insist on Video Killed the Radio Star, over and over, until I’d learned to hate it.
But not Pop Goes the World.
That is one of those few songs that absolutely transports me, not just in memory, but in emotional state, that kind of timetripping.

So I’m sixteen and standing in the predawn cold, winter time, it’s center, the rez, my outofthebath hair frozen in spikes; it’s so cold out it can’t even snow, and I’m waiting for the bus which will arrive some long time before the sun, the bus to take me to some wrestling tournament in the middle of the state, Montana really a place of prairie; but then there is somebody in a car, a place for me to wait, the warmth and the radio, and that song absolutely capturing me…

If I can’t afford the album, and I can’t, if I can’t ask my parents for money, and I won’t, I’ll steal it.

The Broncos are losing the Superbowl and I’m driving through a blizzard away from that paindful game on the tv, listening to Men Without Hats, that song…

And that song, it’s Montana winter, it’s soft snow, a lot of it, it’s wind and it’s always dark, but not that deep and ugly black, not that kind of blind; it is winter and I have friends the kind of which I’ll never believe in again, and youth, a certain innocence, and I can get swept away in a song so that it feels it ought to be part of me.

--I always get pangs coming from the airport.
Some of that is false.
Usually I make this trip alone.

And there was the girl, that second wife, it seemed I was always picking her up, taking her there, her long journeys and all that early hope when we first started.

What’s left, that last wife, it’s not real pain, just the memory of pain.

Which like the memory of warmth, that feeling the memory itself is not the feeling of the time itself, but an exaggeration of that period, we call that nostalgia; it’s opposite, the memory of pain, whatever you want to call the exaggeration of it, that is something I mostly keep away from now.

Not not thinking of it, but avoiding it, able to.

That’s me in the snow, the only time it snowed in Atlanta last year, standing in the middle of the road at dusk, my truck crumpled, the snow coming down, the bookstore where she used to study behind me, how it caught my eye and held it too long: was her car there?

And then the wreck.

Like all the shocking wrecks. Of car and relationship.

Me standing in the road feeling the way people feel in movies, when we see them from the outside, like this is too much to really be real, the snow coming down, soft, every flake a quick burn on the skin, head light enough to float.

Like this is scripted.

So calm you could die and really not sweat it.
So distance your only mildly curious.
But like a good audience member, you do feel a little something.

Not quite empathy, but at least sympathy.
With yourself, if that’s really you. Standing in the snow.

--And a year later, you can sort of remember, but with the veil of a greater blackness between you and the actuality, as if it a grave from which you’ve risen and not some life that you actually lead.

--Home again, late at night, me and the little one driving through the rain, singing: “Johnny played guitar, Jenny played bass,Name of the band is The Human Race.Everybody tell me have you heard? Pop Goes The World….

And every time I wonder if the world is right,End up in some disco dancing' all night & day.”

And, as Larry would tell you, there are worse things for him to listen to.
He could be quoting Leonard Cohen:
"I greet you from the other side Of sorrow and despair With a love so vast and shattered It will reach you everywhere..."

--Do you ever think about how that knowledge you’ve gotten of the world, you wouldn’t trade it away, find it necessary and valuable so would refuse if offered to cut it out…
but you’d NOT wish it on your child?

That’s the story of Genesis, of course, and the story of what follows, only told that Biblical way, the father is so angered at the inevitable and at his own inability to keep the child from the world that not even a rainbow can really mend the rift.

And your left with the absurdity of the crucifixion.
As if those red moments really sweep it white.
As if the momentary forsakenness could purify even a single life.

As if God could really be forgiven or justly held responsible for the nature of the world.

--“And Every time I wonder where the world went wrong,End up lying on my face going ringy dingy ding dong”

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

In Flight Blog

--This girl on the plane, she’s lived in LA, in the same place I lived, but a year after I left. Park Lebrea. Close to the Tar Pits and the Farmer’s Market and the Beverly Center.

Park Lebrea, a little east of Beverly Hills, a little south of Hollywood. That big and nearly empty apartment, me and J and A, two girls and a boy on their own in the big city, a place where we had much to learn and to lose and to gain.

And this girl on the plane, she makes the coincidence greater, telling you she lived on the same floor you did.

Big complex, small world.

Very pretty through the mouth, through the eyes, this girl. She looks like what she is, a professional dancer, part of a troupe, she and her traveling companion both; I could tell that about them before they squeezed past me, some specific about their builds, about the way they moved.

And I don’t like to talk to people beside me on airplanes. Conversation up close, with heads half turned, it’s awkward. You learn to hide in your lap top, in books, in sleep, behind a blanked face.

Three one word answers will stop just about anybody from trying you again.

And yet the coincidence of LA, of Park Lebrea, the ease with which she laughs, it makes it conversation not just possible, but desirable.

So you sit there head half cocked trying to put your features at ease.

--And it brings back memories of LA.

LA, that’s where you first begin to learn about women.
You were a novelty there, a pseudo country boy with cowboy boots and the pockets still sewn shut on your sport jacket because you didn’t know they could be open. You hadn’t learned to tie a tie.

This is the University of Southern California, all these rich kids, an Autumn when California was burning, but then again, it seems to every Autumn.

All these rich kids and those of you poor enough to qualify for loans it will take the next thirty years to repay.

And you were a kid from the country, and the girls that came at you, they were mostly wealthy girls.

This was graduate school but you’d hardly grown up.

You might have known something about who you were, but you didn’t know how it worked between a boy and a girl. The way you thought it worked, you saw a girl that was pretty, you wanted her, you sought her, every now and then you got her, whatever getting meant.

That was what you knew of girls before LA.

If anything, LA is where it became confusing. What you really wanted wasn’t as clear as you’d imagined it was before. And there you were in the chaos of it, hanging on to that relationship with that girl in Seattle where you’d spent the summer, that first real love, the last bit of real innocence.

That was you in LA, a late bloomer, if what you did there suggests blooming, if what happens to you there suggests the opening of a bud.

… The girls on the plane, dancers.
They travel around, performing.
They talk about Syracuse, Oregon, New York.
A kind of ease with travel I’ve never had, a kind of which I’m envious.

They call what they do tribal fusion; they call it modern bellydance fusion. You like these names, the way they say them, the way the girl beside you is lit up by them.

They tell you to visit the website and you make a note to plug it.

One of them, the one by the window, she’s reading a book off of which she’s taken the cover: He’s Not Really Into You.

M, I remember, she swears by that book.

And the close girl, you think she’s Irish, but she says Scottish, Scottish and other bloods, maybe a bit of Irish, this dancer with the pretty eyes and mouth, she has a pleasant laugh, a pleasant way of talking.

They play clips of their dances, this tribal fusion, this modern bellydance, on a laptop. There’s no audio, just them on the stage, moving with impossible grace, unnatural control of the body that does not look unnatural as you watch it.

For a moment, you think they must be lovers, because you can’t understand how they could dance that sensually that close to each other and not fall into semblance of love.

The way you sometimes can’t imagine why women don’t always fall in love with women. Or at least lust. There’s so much to lust after in a woman.

--I’m hypnotized, watching the videos.

Caught in the momentary false love of the fan.
The way a woman must feel when she watches a goalie stop a shot. A quarterback throw a ball. The way we admire with a sort of longing an act of skill and inspiration.

The way sometimes when you listen to Mama Cass, fuck it, whatever she looked like, you could kiss her hard and long.

--The girl beside you, you are watching her in a different than real world light, on a stage, in her most perfect element.

Captive audience. Perfect witness.

The way we get seduced by rare and beautiful things, the creators of creations we think no one else can make.

…And I think of LA.

That first fall, before Park Lebrea, the beginning of those girls, especially the wealthy ones that found you a novelty, different than the boys they’d grown up with, gotten undergraduate degrees with, boys as moneyed and certain of success as they were.

V, tall, Polynesian, a girl who had two BMW’s, identical except for the color, the color to fit the mood, she’s in your screenwriting class. And sitting on a bench beneath a palm on the campus with its tall walls, outside of which riots had recently marched and drug boys chase your car down the street begging a sale, she says to you, through her sunglasses, I want you to stop it.

And you said, What?

You were twenty three, but much younger. And so you said, What? and you meant it.

Stop relating to me sexually, she said. I live with my boyfriend.

--LA is where you learn that girls with boys are much more open than girls without them.

LA is where you learn a lot of things, though at the time you don’t know you learn them.

What you learn in LA, you learn in retrospect.

--And V, you’re sitting in the sun before or after class, on a bench, the palm tree above, and she says for you to stop relating to her sexually.

You were young, and we could say naïve, and if we’re being kind, we could say innocent.

And you don’t know what she’s talking about. You don’t remember relating to her sexually. You’re not even sure what that means.

She wears sunglasses, peers through them. Her hair, it is perfect. Her makeup and every outfit she’s ever worn.

You say, Ok. I’ll stop.

--And in your cheap downtown housing, that place you lived before the earthquake freed you from its contract, this one room apartment, with its baby fridge and your thirteen inch television screen, you and V fuck. Her ass is hard, the thing you remember most about the physicality of it, her body with its elongated muscles.

And she tells you to come inside of her and when you do, she says, Why did you do that?

In retrospect, you know that you learned then that she was a little unstable.

You’ve got a girlfriend in Seattle. You’re 23, but younger than that.

And V, she starts to bring you things.
Exotic foods.
Wall hangings.
A sport jacket.

Making you and your place poverty chic.

--Seattle, that Christmas break, you and the Seattle girl, that first love, you travel south, rent a cabin on a beach, make love at the edge of a cliff just beyond a lighthouse, thinking it would be good to die now, the water so gray, the sky so gray, everything so lovely.

(How it bothers you now to not know where that girl is.)

--And back in LA, V has left her boyfriend.
This confuses and frightens you.
But you try not to look confused or frightened.
You try not to seem like a person who has always been in over his head.

Eventually, as she tries to grow on you, you find a way to say no more.
And she immediately finds a way to say she hates you.

--That nightmare that you’ve had of women scorned.
Of the first girl who ever said love and showed you hate.
Crazymad in that dream, in a van with the doors locked, running a chain saw, two children, a boy and a girl, trying to get away from her, and you trying to get in, and the woman screaming at you: You see what you’ve done.

The door won’t open. The children won’t quit screaming. The chainsaw buzzes.

--V hating you.
The way a few before had.
The way others will.
But at a time when you were too young to understand hate, or that type of it.

And then the earthquake. Everything either comes together or goes to pieces then, depending on how you look at it.

--A year later, you see V again, a few times, in her West LA apartment, her hate having subsided, the pretense of love completely replaced by the scab of lust; the hottub on the roof, a place you could fuck beneath the stars and against the fear and anticipation of being accidentally witnessed.

By that time, everything is different. You’ve torn Seattle off your map.
You’ve gotten rid of all the cds that you associate with that Seattle girl, that first real love.

You spend nights in bars, where the novelty is wearing off of you as you’re learning how to tie ties, to cut open your sewn sport jacket pockets, to get rid of your cowboy boots; where you are leaning to be just like everybody else.

You spend your nights in bars where the LA boys, having been sent to gyms by their agents and managers now have muscles they don’t know what to do with and try to come off hard; these bars where you find out how easy it is to get in trouble there, fucking and fighting.

There are girlfriends and wives of boys you’ll not meet, and what you begin to think is that if you had to choose the life of the wolf or of the sheep, you’d take the wolf.

You would make that choice if it were yours to make.
But between the heart and the mind most choices slip into something that resembles both the possibilities and replicates neither of them.

L Cohen write:You who must leave everything you cannot control,
It begins with your family but soon it moves round to your soul.

--Your two years in LA, this is where you learn to relate to women. It’s where you learn a way, anyway, to relate to them. And you learn all kinds of things about yourself.

This is where you learn what the set of the Price is Right looks like, how everything is more flimsy than it seems on tv.
This is where you learn to really drink.
This is where you learn the limits of your writing, and the limits of yourself in general.
Where you quit your CBS job on a lunchhour two brandy decision.

And you believe as you begin to make it in almost every connection you make.

And this is where you first begin to believe in the illusion of the power of being wanted.
As if when someone thinks she wants you her desire will keep her from turning on you.
Finding ways to try to harm.
Her confusion between desire and care is mirrored by your own.

--And, LA, incidentally, this is where you met your wife, the first one, the good one.
This is the city you ran away from together.
And the city, when you were afraid of the closeness with her, to which you ran back.
Only to see it differently, more clearly, LA, yourself in it, the context of liquor and bars and your bed.

On your return there, with eyes clear enough to recognize something like disillusionment, you bought that first ring at the Beverly Center.

Your fist wife.

--You’d met her in a bar, Tom Bergen’s, the name of which brings a smile to the face of the urban fusion dance girl beside you. She knows that bar.

--And this flight, for all it’s memories, none of them truly bad, or at least far enough away to bring about more nostalgia than regret, it’s a pleasant flight.

The girl beside you telling you about what it means to be a dancer.
Telling you about her life in San Diego, her life on the road, her month in Mexico.
These girls at ease with strangers on planes.

--This good flight.
They all are, bringing me toward my son, a trip on which I don’t need to bring sunglasses, for when I return, it will not be alone, but with him, no reason yet to cry.