This Graceful Suspension Of The World

keys and lock

He had a secret wife once whose marriage to they nobody told. Even when her family all journeyed on a five-day ocean cruise together to celebrate her maternal grandparents’ fiftieth anniversary, the husband in name, he stayed at home. That’s how secret she was. Once, another time, she had returned from taking exams upstate. And the exam she took was computerized (not on paper), and while she took it, it learned her learning rate. It gave her very quickly, she told him afterwards, more and more difficult problems to solve, and each ‘one more’ difficult problem submitted on the screen to her, she got right. The testing program recalculated itself, and, with the secret wife’s having rapidly solved correctly such difficult problems as which the program could ever propose, it released her from the testing grounds in twenty minutes with an “800”—a perfect score. Almost ninety minutes had been shaved off her testing time, her sitting time, her being there. That’s how time and testing and the algorithms had worked.

The spatial reasoning his brilliant secret wife could perform with ease at astronomical rates of speed is not the way, in general, anything else works in life. The massive hero Ajax, for instance, that great, lumbering Greek warrior, battles and battles everyday, fighting off the Trojans. And before he rejoins the battle, Achilles sulks in his tent for months, unable to convince Agamemnon to give him back Briseis, his war booty, in all that time. And who can really tell how long, how many decades and years of accident and misfortune, how much lasting grief it will take and all the many dead there will be when spacecraft really do fly and land to colonize the desiccated, lifeless planet Mars.

Today an argument could verily be made that the man who’d had that secret wife long ago, far away, is one day close to his death. His wits are down. His love forsakes him. His cat is gone. His cupboard in nearly bare. His pile of winter wood is wet. For him, all the world’s diseases and sicknesses and misfortunes have fled buzzing like flies into the air. The only saving grace the world has ever known, however, is not “hope”—that miscreant’s negative creed of dissatisfaction, of being against the way reality actually is—but “anticipation”—which, though syllabically awkward, is the better translation of the Greek word “elpis,” of what actually remained in Pandora’s opened picnic basket. It means to simply wait for, and to be able to wait for, the next thing to come. And that, the love-broken man knew, trembling in fear asleep and living in a perfect equation of anxiety awake, by the multitudes of stars which over the span of all eternity shall have opened their eyes at night and closed them during the day, was all there ever was.

Parcheesi Picture Postcard

cactus mountains

She played a game of Parcheesi by a certain set of rules that were her rules but not all of them. And beside the swimming pool, he played with her for years. One day, after he had proposed his taking a little swim, she promptly then decided to fold the board game up. As he had come back dripping and looking for his towel, he was surprised to see their time for playing had been declared over. She wept and told him about the rules he hadn’t played by, and he was loath to say, “My dearest love, but these are not all the rules the game is, in fact, played by.” He could hear that in her mind she was making up her heart. He could see she was creating for herself a Parcheesi picture. He dried himself off completely and refused to disagree. Who was he to decide another’s rules? He was nobody to rule that. And, besides, it would have done no good; it would have neither advanced nor prolonged their poolside game. Still, he was quite disconsolate. Parcheesi, with its little, brightly colored wooden pawns whose tips felt just a little too small for his hands, and the same went for the dice, was certainly his favorite. The sound of luck tumbling in the knocking cardboard shakers was something he would always remember. Swimming laps now back and forth will help forgetfulness.

Purple Mountain Wood Stove

mountains arizona

Already, my wood stove is burning. I stacked the cords myself. I fear six cords of wood may not be enough. Winter is long and full of deep snow. I had once had another pair of hands to help me. But they are gone. That was a time I do not regret, and have not seen that in a while, a life like that when the tandem knocking of each piece of wood laid against the growing long stack our wordless work kept the coldness of winter out. And I get on, je me débrouille, because I now must. That is the way with things, with spiders nested in the corners of bathroom shower stalls, soldiers stationed on a foreign front, or men and women somewhere listening to an easy-going book as they commute back and forth between their city office buildings and glass-lit evening houses lit up and down the streets. In any case, I’m not sure there’s enough wood to sustain me before the tubers in the ground have all grown (or rotted). I had better scour the deadfall with my saw and ax soon. The meager fronds of the ferns are already yellowing. The bears are circling wider and wider in these searching final days before they disappear until May. Cries of geese overhead, these are common. How with my jolly heart and glad-eyed ways I became myself here to be living at the foothills of the Rockies, it is no mystery to tell at all. It is only to be remarked upon, I think, that unexpectedly I made myself saddened by all the passing of everything that I had known and all there was standing once before such great purple majesty.

Sweet Longing From Afar

pilings 2

Forgive me that I am sweet and lonely by myself. And all your treasures forsaken. The boots I got were perfect. And their silver buckles shine brightly. I am filled with many thanks. For now I am living in the meadow. My distractions here are few. And alone I am become a burbling brook almost. Once an uncle showed me an ice cold spring into which a bandit was shot and died. “Right there,” said Uncle John pointing with the handle of his pipe smoking, at the head of it where the clear spring water came up out of the ground. And as a small boy I thought with some disgust and wonder, since this water was the source of all our drinking, had I drunk this bandit’s blood? When tempted by my uncle (and my own boyish desires), I had stuck my hand into the clear spring water, which looked so pure I saw the sandy bottom seven or eight feet down as though it were only inches, and just as fast pulled my burning fingers and palm out in terrible pain. It was that icy, that cold. I know now better that I drank the blood of that bandit, and of the Christ, and of the Buddha, and of another never-to-be-named one, too, along with the drinking water. We eat their dust. We breathe and drink and eat them all. That is just the way it is here on Earth, where everything in time is so commingled, not completely unlike a misty cloud of playfully dancing gnats which seem to be such a bother to us but really are not so terrible. If one day you are passing by this sunny valley on your journey, and can see from afar my smoke curling away from the rooftop of my little cabin, please remember that you are welcome to sleep and rest yourself warmly here overnight.

Goat Song Below The Mountains

tucson sunset

There’s a rainstorm over the mountaintop faraway. The dark gray sky shows the shower pouring down. Were I there, I would be soaking, for sure. Perhaps, if I stood here forever, or a long long time, it would reach me. Of even that I’m unsure of. I can’t tell which way it’s moving; I can’t even feel the wind blowing any direction. Still, I carry on as I have without dread or warning over anything at all, mostly. At times, I must confess, I do wonder and worry some. These anxious moments pass as I watch the orange spots glowing on the sunny morning ground here, or hear the evening insects chanting songs whose names I’ll never know, and look over my own solitary heart right where I am. If anything really terrifies me, it would be the warm rain showers down atop me, and I to be above a mountain now looking down. Until that time may one day come, I roam still among the foothills, half-claiming to myself to be barely a goat-herder with goat songs to sing but not so many goats.

Shining Lake

shining lake

I am stranded without money. I am stranded without guidance anywhere. But that is not a dilemma I am very much concerned with. This is a huge island. There is everywhere to explore on it. I have heard rumors in the nighttime when I am drowsy that there are others here awaiting me, people whose lives don’t even overlap mine in any conceivable way, except that we are all here. None of us has much more than an old-fashioned Mercury dime, a thin silver disc of beauty, which to behold you would not spend anyway it is so beautiful. When I walked alone beside the lake in the morning, I saw a little red dock house on the other, far side of it. But there was no discernible dock. Just a little red empty house. Now of course I had thought it funny, too, to circumnavigate a lake inside an island itself, and it is. When I was walking back around, between the water and me, I saw a muddy ditch, and knew in an instant that that’s all all of this was, and it made me very happy in the instant that I saw and realized that, that shining muddy ditch showing itself back like that to me.

Morning Waves Swell Again

morning waves swell

It had been a danger to look at, and read, the words of a lost love so early in the morning. After all, they usually began—mornings—still black so early. Then, at that time, before time even felt counted, the window was as black as night, and even the fog could not be seen, which was often the first thing visible. Ideas and feelings all loose and unformed and inchoate stirred from his bedside, and really only the whisk of his beloved cat’s tail passing his foot was a little reminder of being quite alive. He’d begin there. To hear the yearning and longing and sorrow and even the gratitude of another decent human being, like seeing a bright, starry pinprick in a lightless universe before the universe itself had become awake, before the heavens were stretched open before the coming brightening day, the sudden human influence upon another human being cannot be underrated. It made him miss things he did not want to any longer miss any longer, love what he could not bear himself anymore to love anymore, and to tend to another he had wished in his darkened little world to be loath to tend to again, as he once did love and tend to her before.