Adrian Charles Beckwith

nyc reservoir walking

I had listened to the waltzes of Chopin. I had listened to the preludes and études. And in all the world seldom had I heard a show off who had so much to show off. Having so much fun, such a little man with such a wild esprit. I could not forget laughing and kicking up dust when we were flâneurs lounging in Szentendre. When you had visited me last night, I was not confounded nor was I surprised to see you again just as young. Nor, I old. You called me your “faithful friend” and made me worry not a moment again. You’ve died a thousand deaths since then long ago, not one death dying a coward, each time falling in my dreams. Last night I lay wide awake and you had simply urged me to carry on. So Satie, Brahms, and B. B. King I’ll play today. These records, LPs, like books, had been piled up on your couch in Tudor City. Thirty years ago, you had reminded me once in New York, both of us leaving a service for the late Joe Turner, that Duke Ellington of Louis Armstrong had said, “He was born poor. He died rich. And he never hurt anybody.” You reminded me of a million million great things, things I never knew, and never would otherwise have ever in my life known, exclaiming with your arms held wide open to the great city streets of our youth love for all this seething humanity.

A Gnomic Warrior Foresees His Death

I confess: there was nothing left to do in the world, but jump. I had given away all my meager understandings to blue hyperlinks anyone in the world with a forefinger or a thumb may follow.

I had given away my bed to women surrounded by an ocean of warmth to console their lonely and broken and weary hearts. (And meanwhile tucked my body inside a shoebox properly sized and constructed for the dimensions of a dwarf.)

I had chatted with strangers who opened themselves up before me like cuckoo clocks (who otherwise kept and were keeping time with atomic precision, from the day the minute hand struck adulthood ‘til the moment the short hand had hit the final hour of their death.)

Before scores if not hundreds of children, born with as little hope as a rose planted in a desert, I gave them songs of sand, songs of sea, and songs of land to sing by. And of this I am most happy. I can’t say a word more there.

Before the rising sun atop a mountain’s ledge I opened my eyes until they hurt a little bit, and before its setting, closed them until I saw no more. And I admired that all, however much and however little my mind was placed in history’s little thimbleful of time which my single human life had already filled.

I gave away my lovers, my bed sheets, my time, and all my possessions—even my tiny ivory elephants who fit inside a little red bean, a whole herd of them. All remembrances of me, even a hand-carved, wooden plaque bearing my name were given away, burned, laid by the roadside somewhere, or gone.

And I remembered thinking: this is how Jean Sibelius must have lived and how he must have been during the last thirty years of his life when he had composed nothing, not even a note on paper bearing even one sound of a song. Songless sparrow, depart!

And when I had died, I realized that none of this, in truth, was any suffering at all. The entirety of it was mourning. The loves, the cuckoo clocks, the contraband knick-knacks stolen out of Africa, the weary human heart—it was all, all of it, from our beginning to our end, a period of mourning.

Gentle Goes The Day, And Gentle Goes The Night

There are so many things when I am walking that I no longer touch. I may see a leaf or I may see a stone, and these objects in the woods are so lovely I want to take them home. But I have learned to keep my hands still at my side. I have learned to see with my mind better, and look with my eyes. Even dead forked sticks that have fallen from far above, once I had sought to clean them up as I might clean up debris. But these suspended branches are really just hanging there in balance for a time. Nobody could position them as they are. Human hands are really no good for this. Instead, how long will this be so? Instead, what breeze is that? Instead, what life will bring a man at times to walk like this, and what events befallen him just as softly, gently sometimes to his knees?

Doing Nothing At All

nyc skyline

…and from what I know and what I’ve seen so far, much of the time it’s just fumble. Some, an argument went, would not know the difference between a pine cone and a grenade. Such folk might roll them, either one, back and forth against their knee. Others just fail to see the difference between the blossom and the bole. And so it seemed to him that getting too stuck to the belief of a cause often leads to some kind of ruin. It is akin to the way small children will destroy a busy anthill, except that children are forgiven their childish attachments to careless play. They leave behind a sandy heap their mother sweeps away. Which is strange, because it means that to be that man standing at the bar, nobody can tell him, and nobody knows, whether standing there, coming or departing, he is somehow better off. He prevaricates so. And to do that, doing almost nothing, nothing at all, is the way to be, the way to go. Just fumble. Well, Christ! I would not be Schrödinger’s Cat for a million bucks, living and dying shut up with a radioactive isotope, all my days (or all my nights). But neither would I be the one to pull the bomb’s pin, nor the one to have all that sticky sap now stuck to his sappy palms the rest of the afternoon. Can any more thinking make the dilemma of poor chatty Prince Hamlet more comprehensible, if not more complete, who cannot find a clearer way to free himself from what he’s been and all he sees, than a kind of clumsy, pointless death…