Lucien Aberdeen Entwistle II

red bull

I might as well as have been building tiny ships in tiny bottles. I might as well as have been filliping the tiny clippings of tiny fingernails clipped from tiny fingers the whole while. I might just as well have been pooling tiny frogs from a tiny pond into a tiny bucket all the time. And while I might as well as have been not doing or doing all these things, everyone else grew up. The boy had. The girl had. The father of the girl he got older. And the mother of the boy she got older. Both parents got older as did both of their children. And me, I might as just as well have been a shoebox of cedar shavings kept full of cedar shavings all the while, all the time. Oh, I had gotten older, too, but nobody it had seemed had seemed to notice. And, indeed, were I to have died while the boy and girl had grown up, I would have been interred off to a plot of the cemetery to the side of everything, to the side of everyone, somewhere over there, a spot in the green where neither unnamed paupers nor regal ancestors had ever belonged. And in that death, my wife would have glanced across her former husband, and their two children at both of them, from either side of my plot, and as the funeral party had walked away, the ground would have closed up forever upon me.

Casey Skaarsgard

mountains & telephone wires

None but I had ever voted. Most of us, my kin, believed we had deserved the government we got. Choosing our leader to lead us was against the bone. It cut against the grains of many of my centuries. I did it myself as a lark, thinking to myself that I was placing a bet on a piece of penny candy, really. I bet, I thought to myself, that if I write this name on this slip of paper and push it through the slot, that I will pick a candy of this flavor. And, I thought to myself, if I write a name that differs on this same piece of paper, I will pick a candy of another flavor. I was instantly apprehended by the authorities as to having no right to be there at all. To vote was prohibited. And they said it was all owing to a mix up which, they insisted, pertained to my nationality. When I insisted back to them that it wasn’t that at all, they laughed; it was the border, I exclaimed. “It is the border!” I said to them. And the whole bunch of them tossed me and my heavy pack onto the track. It was the last time I would attempt such tomfoolery, and would go live by myself within the pine forest, among women and men of my kind.

Songs Of The Sea & The Earth

Everything I had known, and everything I had held dear had deserted me. And, unlike Yeats’ circus animals whom he claimed had deserted him, what remained for me was an incandescent flame, a vivid, hand-held torch with which I had always and will always hold aloft. And it is by this light of God that I will see the paintings on the wall where for fifty thousand years people haven’t since traveled before. By this I will even view the perfect moment John Wilkes Booth saw like a red maple leaf fluttering down while shooting and killing Lincoln in his theater box. The crimes and sacred moments of humanity, life, and sometimes glimmers of my own death, I have caught these like melting snowflakes falling into my autumn fingers.

To me, I have felt the sorrow of being the common cook whose food had accidentally poisoned the great Buddha. But I have also felt the rope breaking the neck of a bewildered Saddam Hussein. That I have no friends to turn to, nor scarcely any possessions, even an empty dresser drawer to slide in and out, I don’t even have that simple enough human pride of such wooden ownership to stand beside and claim as “mine.” My destiny had become to be a shipwrecked sailor to be cast upon another sea, to drift without craft, and to all my life wander from land to land in search of a numberless people who do not exist, whereupon, like the curse of Odysseus, giver and receiver of pain, my oath was to plant my alien oar.

One, Two Buckled, My Shoe

two white metal chairs

He had had one hundred thoughts in one hundred and one days. That meant that there were one hundred thoughts less, or properly speaking ‘fewer’ to have. Those days and those thoughts were gone. With regard to such counting, whether forwards or backwards, brave and young Stephen Dedalus claimed that he was lucky to stumble upon a good thought once in a fortnight, or every two weeks. Likewise, in Fitzgerald’s Gatsby, there’s no six piece thin affair but a gigantic orchestral hullabaloo about every fortnight, too. Again, then, with regard to the former, that doesn’t seem to be a whole lot, in truth, especially in the age of adolescence, that newfangled notion that is time’s comfortable muskeg people get stuck in between childhood and being grown up today—ever since the average human lifespan became rather ridiculously long, attenuated to the slow decline of sloping downward into a near horizontal buzz along the manmade asymptote of near nothingness for decades of palliative discomfort and some peculiar kind of peering out somewhere. As to the latter, having a festive lawn party under a tent with a couple hundred uninvited guest who come in from nowhere, that seems to be obscene in its frequency, as was the intent of Fitzgerald to display and Mr. Gatsby to purposefully have, to drag in the diamond dregs so as to perchance collect his lost pearl Daisy, if not purloin her. As for the ticket-taker whose story begins this lacklustre note, he had taken to mind once as a child that numbers themselves worked like this: you start with 1; you double that and get 2; and after that (3) you’ve got many. And, while he also, with his little handheld penlight ushered others into the movie theater velvet quietly to their seats when they arrived a bit late for the show, and was very helpful to them, he kept, like a bushy-haired, gray-tailed autumnal squirrel losing more than half its acorns due to luck, fortuity, and nature’s misfortune, his remaining day’s comments mostly to himself.

Hungarian Story (1985)

hungarian apartment building

The sun was gray. I was getting dressed. My socks were dirty. I left home. I forgot to eat breakfast. At Batthyány tér, I took streetcar number 19. How many stops did I go, could you tell me? I think five. I didn’t recognize the street. Soon I found a tavern, but that was disappointing. Why? The conversation I heard, I didn’t understand.

Pardon me, do you have a light?

Of course–I said.

Thank you.

Okay, okay, I spoke. This was a big triumph. I don’t want praise, just a little small talk. Am I conscious of my purpose? I was almost numb. I’ll go. The rain is soft. The pigeons are chanting. I know that melody well. It’s always the same.

(translated from Hungarian by Egbert Starr)

This American Life

many dc tourists

When he went to the movies, once it was going and the crowd had pretty much stopped eating snacks and popcorn and slurping their sweetened drinks, he’d turn around in the movie-theater darkness and look at the people. There, they were all still, all the same. They could be old people. They could be Chinese people. They could be kids. They could be men. They could be little or big. They could be white people. They could be Cuban, or Slavic. They could be any people. They all faced the same way, quiet and all together. It was all very peaceful like that. He’d been sitting once on the Fourth of July in the grass outside. A Vermont band was playing Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. To get the best seat, he had come early enough to be able to sit in the front row. The cannon went off. It aimed at the Green Mountains. The whole thing was over. When he stood up to leave, he saw the whole crowd of people, half of them with their right hands over their hearts, had been standing. It could have been 200 people, it could have been 500. He was the only person who’d sat through the whole thing and never risen. It had never occurred to him to stand, to salute, to honor the fallen, to commemorate the heroes, to have become part of the sea of patriots on their feet for who knows how long now in the soft country grass. He had not seen them and what they were doing, when they rose together like a sudden tide.

At The Other End Of Love

She had had a family once. And they were still alive, they were still living. Presuming nothing offhand and terrible had happened. She had had a magazine subscription once. And it got canceled or just ran out. And then it got canceled. But the waterfalls of Niagara, the ash of Pompeii, and the tidal wave that washed over the coastline of Southeast Asia are not the same. Not with the lives of people and what people make. Things get washed over and destroyed; so many people continue to live on. And her children, well, they got on. Somewhere and somehow. And besides, the father of who had been her children, he’d get to have somebody to give his money to now. Soon enough, the three children would get that. And that was a good thing for him. Getting to decide where his loot went, besides it all going to the government and several charities people use to avoid that. And, too, avoiding ever having to split his fortune between her and them. She was done with all that. That wasn’t her thing. Beth had just woken up one day and said to her husband, while he was still sleeping, out loud, “Hank, I’ve have eaten my way to the other side of love, and all that’s left is the husk.” And she went. Didn’t sign any official papers declaring this, or declaring that. Just like that.

“Family” was not so different from “bank account,” or “hurricane lamp,” or “spinning wheel.” They were all things, and just as good as any of them. And Beth knew that for most of her life they had given, it seemed, purpose and meaning and value to that life. And of all things, the hardest had been family. It went practically without question. Family, she understood, looking over the old body of her husband asleep in matching plaid flannel pajama tops and bottoms like a kid, was the hub of a gigantic steel wheel that turned over, rolled over, climbed over, mounted and crushed everything in the name of itself. You could love, murder, avenge, justify, promote, deny, explain everything in its name. And it did. It was going to. And it had. She had had a boyfriend once. She had had a pet canary. And they are gone now. Whooshed to another time, a time that one does not, and longer belongs to. In fact, you can put anything in the pluperfect, the past perfect, and things disappear just like that in language. In the language she used, things had just disappeared one day just like that.

Crooked Lamp

crooked lamp and holga

None of the heroes that had ever appealed to other boys appealed ever to him. Neither men who walked on the moon nor basketball stars. Neither famously frumpy scientists nor blind-eyed musicians. As far back as the string of his memory went, he loved the lore of robbers—thieves, burglars, bandits. Whether they were popping their heads out of a green pea soup in a children’s story set in France, or blowing the heads off bankers somewhere around the Ozark mountains in the 1860’s, that was the life for him. He read Franz Kafka for his mind’s sharpening, and Kundera for bravado. And as far as smut and licentiousness went, he never went further than “Ten Indians,” penned, as it were, by Ernest Hemingway who probably banged it out on a typewriter. Before he was shot down in cold blood by the police themselves, his wife was recalled to have said, “He was right there a moment ago. He was right there,” though the timing of when she said this exactly and when he was fired upon remains in some doubt. Mistaken for another, he had been mentioned in the newspaper that printed the notice to have been literary.

After The Gold Rush

misty sea

In the most gorgeous places I have been, there are pictures of near nothingness. Everything that is normally seen—the rocks, the boats, the seaweed, the early morning fishing crew a-sea—is wiped out, wiped away. None of these is either dead or really gone of course. The mist just pulls herself, if I can get away with saying that, across the declaring light of day. And the mind, too, will have then another mist pulled across itself. These moments of retreat are not everlasting, anymore than a nod between one fellow passing another fellow along a sidewalk can be. And rather than the usual connotations of blurred understanding and mixed up comprehension that might seem to go along with this ‘mistiness’ or ‘fogginess’, there is an immaculate clarity, a surrounding calmness everywhere, greater than the eye can see. If there is indeed somewhere the sea and sky be visibly welded together without a joint, this earthly peacefulness extends itself far beyond that.

But as for confusion and fearsome uncertainty, that is why Alfred Hitchcock hired Salvador Dalí to design the dream sequences of his films. Terror and the menace of violence has a pellucid, and exacting quality to it commonly known to every human nightmare, which is precisely why a champion maker of those surrealistic visions of heinous genius was employed, rather than filming a set filled with puffs of smoke or steam, or going for the once fashionable hazy, dreamy, soft look of lenses with a gob of grease or gel spread by an index finger around the perimeter of the glass. Creating the ubiquity of peace, restfulness, and safety is altogether another thing. Had Hamlet perhaps perched himself along the Danish shoreline and looked outwards towards the sea’s offing, rather than bearing his princely gaze inland looking so inwardly, he might have seen something akin to the luminous gray horizon surrounding us all and him, rather than a smoky weasel up in the spare clouds or some other rodent or grass-land creature he had caught scrambling there, and had to catch, in his trap of antic fancy.

Written On Water

boy

His friend had once declared that he had had the fantasy to remove by his death any evidence that he had ever existed. Imagine, the friend had once said, how in the past people strove for immortality. Now, he insisted, everybody—from the day people are born—they are followed by and create strings of numbers, identifications, and identities by which they will be known down through the ages. Poets, politicians, philosophers, the people who live next door, everybody who’s moved away! The whole world! Everybody’s immortal! What everybody used to strive for today is unavoidable. And the friend’s laughing friend would say to whomever he had managed to collar when the two friends bumped into each other in public: My friend here wants to erase every trace of his existence! Then, he would kiss his embarrassed friend on the cheek, and wander off, still laughing.