Category: a céadsearc


“I don’t want to distract you from work,  but I just want to tell you that you’re hard on yourself for no reason I can fathom.”

Why should you be able to fathom it?  I tell people about you, about how far back our history goes, and it probably comes across as if we know each other so well, know levels of each other that might even be impenetrable to anybody else, at least very difficult to get not having been along for the ride the whole time.  Hell, maybe there is a small way in which it’s even true.  I mean, we have memories of each other that predate our graduating from cloth diapers.

But we don’t really know each other.  It’s a nice – and simultaneously, a powerful and painful – illusion that we do.

I know the six-year-old you fairly well.  I know the sixteen-year-old you fairly well.  Maybe even vice versa.  I knew the 25-year-old you for one too-short, stolen night, and I knew the 37-year-old you for another.  But when every meeting is some rare and monumental event, always already being turned into a memory to store up against the long famine ahead, then what’s missing becomes cavernous.  All those years are made up of an infinity of gaps and silences and regrets and postcards and secondhand stories passed on by our parents and siblings.  Your face surprises me every time- not its gradually denser population of laugh lines, not the slow but inexorable imprint of years, but just the full onslaught of your presence, of the depth of your eyes, of how you are at the same time so very real and present and alive but also so many, many layers of images and memories, hopes and dreams and love and sadness and so many unsaid things in all those goodbyes.  At a certain angle, those invisible and infinitesimally thin layers catch a peculiar ray of light, and I see, with a wrench of vertigo, how deep and shifting they are, how saturated with time.

There are ways in which I know you very well, but there are more gaps than images, more silences than words, and my imagination has probably filled in far too much.  While I was getting good at imagining how those blank leaves might have been filled, I was ruthlessly editing others, sometimes daring to write in your margins with pencil but wearing the paper quite through with erasures in my own.  So now, were it even possible for you to see those pages that you’ve missed, they’re likely illegible anyway.  The logic of where I find myself seems poetic, irrefutable, a blunt and ugly fact that I sometimes find the strength to be defiant about.  But there’s really no reason why you should be able to fathom it.  You simply don’t have the backstory.

“Every second I’ve spent thinking of you lately has been more sweet than bitter. The bitterness only comes with pointless internal what-ifs. We’ve chosen our paths and wouldn’t be who we are if we hadn’t.”

No, love – you’ve chosen your path and you wouldn’t be who you are if you hadn’t.  I don’t feel I’ve chosen anything at all.  I don’t see that I ever had a choice, at least not when it came to you.  I suppose it’s a personal quirk of mine that these things which leave me surprised and speechless, because I don’t even see the entirety of them until much, much too late, are less about choices and more about things passing me by because I misapprehend the options.   It’s almost even funny, or would be if it were happening to someone else.  But I censor this, because despite your protests, I know you don’t really want to hear it, cannot in fact endure thinking about it for very long, though I can’t seem to stop.  I censor this because you are at heart so very good and loving and you have found some astonishing way to live inside this complete contradiction we seem to have carved out for ourselves, a clever bit of negative space where neither the laws of physics nor any conventional morality can take hold, and I will not become a burden to you.  There is no particular reason for you to feel what I feel, and no particular reason why you should fathom my censorships and half-truths. I will bite my tongue and give you only the prettier half of the truth, and I will choke on what’s left over – because it is so very, very bitter and because I have cried so very, very much.  I privilege a gorgeous lie when I pretend otherwise, collude silently with you to offer a cruel aporia in place of any real knowledge or understanding at all.  And I pretend pleasure, a sadness that is nevertheless satisfied, at the elegance of our equation.

But outside this negative space, this impossible architecture of history and desire, our two worlds look very different.  You click your laptop shut and turn back to the regular pulse of your daily life, kissing the blond head of your wife and the pink cheek of your daughter, bundling up with them under the comforter to watch the logs crackle in the fireplace, making footprints in the snow as you walk her to school in the morning, hoping you have at least 300 days left in which she’ll let you both hold her hands even though her friends can see.  These days are full of gentle kisses and sticky fingerprints and the hundred precious banalities that fill up the pages of a life.  In a few weeks, my image will have faded again from the forefront of your mind; in a few months, the gentle friction of everyday life will have smudged my pencil marks in the margins.  In a few years, I am mostly forgotten, a few stray marks buried under too many pages to count.  Your daughter will find my name on a scrap of paper falling accidentally to the floor when she is packing her books for university, and no-one will think twice when she sets it on top of the old newspapers and magazines to be carried out in the morning.  The door will close behind you on your way down to the car, and I might be legible, for a moment, in a last peculiar shaft of light from the window as the sun sets outside the empty room.  And then there will be nothing left of me at all.

***

Smithereens – Cigarette

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Homecoming

Cried so much the past few days, and things felt so unmoored and unfair that I let myself get led into temptation. I listened to grown children mourn their mother; the youngest son broke my heart into a thousand pieces. The older son knew just what to do and say to put part of it back together again. We stole some time and sleeping bags and wine and for a few hours we were 17 again and I let the bright stars and half-full moon and bittersweet words convince me I could be forgiven for breaking promises, for having others break vows. That night I stole kisses and beautiful half-truths and remembered what it felt like to be loved fiercely, with a timeless and inarticulate depth that almost promises to subsume its thousand betrayals.  I stole and hoarded every moment, every perfect whispered word, and wanted desperately to stop time, to hold these broken pieces together a little longer, to pretend just a little bit more.  When the sun came up, I saw my spoils in the pale dawn — bitter honey, sweet ashes, an ill-healed scar I’d torn open and its fresh ache — and settled in for a long penance. But I can’t help feeling my sad thefts are merely echoes and iterations of an old, original sin – one I committed when I couldn’t know that I would, with muffled and half-conscious prayers, find myself repeating it for the rest of my days.

Nick Cave and PJ Harvey – Henry Lee

Dear you,

Like you were telling me something I don’t know.  I know exactly when that was.  It was New Year’s Eve 1995.  According to my journal, it was my idea, but I no longer believe (if I ever did) in the integrity of the personal record-keeping.  Regardless, yours was the first face I saw when I woke up in 1996, and I’ve not forgotten, nor have I forgotten that you left the next day for a job in Virginia and I didn’t see you again for years.  I wrote, “Too many what-ifs in the world, and they don’t do any good.”

But it doesn’t matter.  I remember the important things.  I remember the smooth plane of your shoulder, the flat, taut beauty of your belly, the curve of your arm and the softness of the skin behind your knee.  I remember the feel of your hair between my fingers, the feel of your fingers in my mouth, the feel of your two hands clasped in mine.  I remember the taste of you and the way the ground fell out from under me and the years rushed in like an unmanned train when I kissed you.  I remember the mosquitoes and the beer and the darkness and the Naugahyde sofa in the hunting lodge.  I remember aching when you touched me and wishing we could stop time for a while before somebody came looking for us.

You remain, to this day, for me, something of honey and the light at dusk slanting over the top of the barn roof in Citronelle.  You are the smooth coolness of lacquered mahogany worn slick and rich brown from the touches of a mingled generation of children.  You are a bittersweet surprise and the warmth of a horse’s coat in the stable at winter.  You are the scent of amber and the heat of set lights and the taste of tears I will never cry.  You are, now, inextricably, tied up with a few songs I used to be able to sing without thinking of you.

When you lean against the bar in downtown Mobile, thirteen years after I last kissed you other than the European-greeting-way, and say “New Year’s Eve in the hunting lodge – I’ve never forgotten it,” I simply don’t know what to say, other than that I love you, I have for thirty years and I will keep on doing so, and I didn’t kiss you last time you were at my house because I remember you saying, a couple of years ago, that you would never, ever do that while you were with somebody else again.  Good for you.  And good for her.  It’s maybe a little cruel of you to bring it up, considering I then have to play Good Citizen, even though I now know you still remember what I taste like… but that’s ok.  I can be a grown-up about  this.  And I will be.  Even though I can’t look at the velvet mini dress with the cigarette burn in it without thinking of you in the darkness of an apartment that belonged to neither of us.  And I can’t smell amber without thinking of the first time I smelled it on you, after I’d given you a small box full of it as a gift. Even though I can’t think much about my childhood and adolescence without thinking of you — of Notasulga and halved artichokes and houses made of octagons and archery targets and a pot of soup that would feed the whole world… well, you’re in there, inextricably, and I guess I’ll always wonder “what if.”  That’s not so bad.  Our children are getting to know each other, our families are still good friends, and in ten years I’ll still have something of you.  I guess I can live without that something being you.

But I remember.  I remember the important things.

“There are wounds that do not heal with time. Instead they start hurting again given certain “weather conditions”. If this occurs, subconsciously we will withdraw into ourselves in interpersonal situations, or be oversensitive and react in a hurt manner without apparent reason – or we ourselves become particularly hurtful, without actually wanting to. However, if the weather is fair, as it is now, you have the opportunity to bring these painful things to light – preferably during a personal conversation with someone who is close to you. Looking into painful experiences in this way can make you freer in your behavior, your close relationships and your relation with your body. It can also prevent you from hurting others.”

— astro.com

Yeah, whatever.

Saw some very old family friends today, which was nice.  Had to leave much earlier than I would have liked due to transportation arrangements and family obligations.

I am not feeling the sunny weather.  What I’m feeling is probably as close to jealousy as I get, which is fucking odd, and which feels mostly like regret mixed up with self-accusation and a bit of emptiness.  What makes it jealousy, and not a usual in-my-cups phenomenon, I guess, is that I am sticking particular faces onto the feelings.

So, some vignettes.

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So today I’m thinking about signing up for Grad Poetry Writing Workshop for next semester. This terrifies me. I took Fiction and Verse Writing from Prof. Baseball at Montevallo in probably 92 or so, and what ended up happening was something like stage fright. I don’t think I wrote a single poem while I was in that class. I brought old poems to class, edited a few maybe, made the occasional comment on other people’s stuff, and was mostly baffled about the Process of Writing Poetry. I did write one original thing in that class — the first and last short story I’ve ever done (excepting the Duran Duran fantasy and slash fic I used to write when I was 12-ish and before I knew that stuff like that had a name. I used to do awful things to Simon Le Bon on looseleaf paper. I burned all of that when I was … probably twelve or thirteen.)

I’m afraid of a repeat. I’m afraid of putting the Muse to the Test. I don’t know and have never known how to construct a poem outside of that manic flow of whatever that hits. I recognize this as a problem and as totally fucking retarded, but that’s where I’m at. And I’m quite frankly mortified by the idea of exposing stuff I write to the “suggestions” of others. Especially if this class turns out like every other class and has its share of total fucking morons in it. There’s something modest, and virginal, and tentative, about writing poetry for me. I have to writing poetry the attitude that good little christian girls have toward sex. Twisted. Hard to explain.

So there’s fear of that. But this is something I need to do.

***

I was thinking today about the time I went to visit my friend Claudia in Germany, when I was about twelve. (It seems like everything I thought about today tied into Roughly That Time Frame). I was thinking about, of all things, how my dad’s voice sounded on the phone when he called me about five weeks into my stay in Rheinfelden. Of course Claudia’s family spoke English around me, but they also spoke German around me too, and five weeks of being surrounded by the tones and accents and pitches and crescendoes of German had tuned my ear a different way. I wasn’t speaking it, of course, I never could, despite the later three year stint in country, but I could understand *some* and read some.

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