Sweeter Than Any Silken Losses

oven birdWhat else could it have been, my little friend, that you had gone away so sweetly? The voyage to Mont Saint-Michel never occurred, and the northern sands of Carthage must, too, be blown away. Instead, some old snow shoes in a rusty shed had had to be returned, and I trekked the hills alone last February without you. I can’t even say that I had shown you even the smallest part of my record collection. Most of the things I grew you ate. Few of these I remember your hands, your fingers, planting beside mine. The cords of wood we stacked together, they were burned more than two winters ago. The chemises, silk camisoles, and dress I once bought for you are crammed on hangers with oddly fashioned jackets from the 80’s in my back closet where every so often I go inside and throw out whatever under plastic has grown any mold. Though I re-did by hand the gravel in my driveway for you and me, I think you pulled up beside my car once. I’ve even switched the side of the bed I sleep on; yours was so much firmer. I’m out of all sorts of things. Almond butter. Fish oil. Sardines. Walnuts. Hair conditioner. The reach up to the shelf to buy them is too high for me alone. And I do without them, do without you.

Mitch Böcklinfeld

dilapidation

The paper wasps’ home was shredded. And my love affair with life had ended, crumpled up in tiny spheres on the ledge of my piano. I did not know where I had put last month’s bills that had not been paid whose fines I had weaseled out of again. Dissolute and empty-bottled, I knew that Spring would greet the morning soon enough. Though cameras strapped in the trees had watched my antics and peccadilloes, I had been innocent as any pauper accused of public hoarding. Rooting through my neighbors’ bins, I had found the twine-bundled news retelling the stories of last century’s politics that really, in the end of days, meant a straw to the passing wind and me. I continued to decline the several invitations I had had—and continued to receive—to play my mandolin, which joy I had once known, and time ago had been well-known for, locally and elsewhere abroad. Who could now subscribe to such vanity? As for my relentless, unrelenting sweet tooth, such a habit I kept almost like a practiced virtue unto myself exclusively, and had chosen not to share the faintest fingertip of my thinking—or any other thought—which I might have had with another living anywhere. My pulse, my blood, it was—it had become—like a private magic that I was holding within, that I could not explain, like a walk I had had to take to the end of my snow-bedusted driveway, having risen from my warmed bed sleeping, just to go there in the middle of the late blackened night, emptied of the heavens’ own eyeless stars.

Kaspar Levanti

park workers

Most of my neighbors past had moved to Bécs. It seemed like a particularly empty place to go. After all, in December the capital is quite empty. Mozart’s little memorium lies in the grass or in the snow unnoticed in the park. And all the buildings with their inhabitants fled to the villages and towns outside the main must be even colder over Christmas, even with leather gloves on both hands. Boulevards would be more deserted than usual. I stayed in the meantime near the Elbe on one side of the nearby brook where a small wooden ferry pulled pilgrims from one side of the water to the other, watching the ferryman plying his almost silent trade. That was the work of a ferryman: awaiting travelers needing to move themselves from one edge of the land to the other without having all their belongings soaked. Aeroplanes soared overhead. Wayfarers from hordes in faraway cities sought their escape between one border and another. I would hum a folk tune, one that Liszt, who had fingers reaching across fourteen keys on a piano, had re-set. The old empire he came from had been quickly divided into a table-puzzle between other sovereign nations at hand, once it was swept away. I lay in the sloping grass of the shallow hills singing to myself memories of Arabia in the 1890’s many green summertimes ago.

 

 

Red Blaze Is Still The Morning

In my little hut of tomorrow there is a little earth there. My meaning and my message, spent. The scratches of my boot heels in the floor are nearly constant. I am restless and uneasy. Songs no longer come easily to me. The thrush’s voice, once heard, a woodland memory. Other things, I remember entirely. So, I make nothing at all at my table today. Shut within, shut inside, I know the wind is blowing, and the light grows more at my single glass window. Outside the abounding world must prevail. And this here had once impelled me. Feeding the fire of my stove, warming my hands, touching my cheeks with their palms, I felt human enough.

Time ago it was, and it also was not, that my days of solitude, like mourning, were sufficient. They had fed me alone like zsir spread on toast. In fact, I needed these to hear the trumpets red cry blaring. From these, two years were spent like the snap of my finger and thumb. And I had felt the angels of history. They were nearly the perfect company, and, besides my wife, I scarcely was in want for any other.

This sentimental heartbeat, this picturesque illustration of days recalled passed, had been sacrificed for almost the entirety of my life. And I go there, farther and farther back, it seems, to some illusory, originary moment I seem to hold onto like a lugubrious locket of my beloved’s hair. I enter another man’s life and poetry as though ‘twere my own. And I am suddenly vacated, absented, traumatized by the death of Peter Sellers, dead when I was ten, and he merely fifty-four, a man, I read, with no personality at all, just, I thought then, like me.

Day beyond day, I hold back. I refuse to compose another Requiem. Non serviam. Another crime, another criminal, another transgression, another man with loopholes for an ax inside his longcoat, perhaps. But I am certain the killer inside me is another pair of legs that steps beside a patch of violets, who heard the music when the voices were gone, who, boarded up in his icy rusticity, almost comic for the late nineteenth century, had dwelt a while, and for another yet there lingered.

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.

Lost Cat Scratch Records

bleached lost notebookclosed lost notebook
lost notebook
tattered lost notebook flyingShelves and time and maybe a cat had pulled on Billie Holiday. The poor, young handsome Glenn Gould, too. All these great geniuses, not the minor kind. The kind that shoot across the nighttime sky, the horizon of time itself, once in a thousand years. My records inside their sleeves, inside their thin cardboard covers, they were mostly good. Maybe the White Album was a little trashed. Everybody’s White Album should be a little trashed, its middle fold holding a little spent shake even after all these years from someone rolling weed. So many of the records, LP’s as they get called now to distinguish them from something else quite meaningless in comparison to them (IRS records, medical records, police records, etc.), and from other media (downloads, mp3s, CD’s, etc.), but I myself never called records anything but records—they’ve gone the way of basement floods, the whirlwinds of Sandy’s destruction, and just the progressive whim of moving on to the next big thing . . .

Once I had had a party, and it was quite mad, and so was I, and I had all my records playing laid out flat on their covers on their sleeves on the floor. And after everybody was gone I couldn’t find Blood On The Tracks—only just the black record itself—to put it back. It was just gone. That was twenty years ago and when I went to confirm with a friend the other day which album Bob Dylan had sung his line about keeping on keeping on in, to end the curiosity that had popped up in the middle of our conversation, we pulled out my copy of Blood On The Tracks to see the record inside it was gone. Shelves and time and maybe a cat. Robert Frost might say, these had not done it, exactly, but something wild and bombastic and crazy once upon a summer’s eve had. After turning down a $15 vinyl copy of it at the flea market the other day, and even when the vendor had offered he could do it for me for ten (because I had wanted just another five dollar copy of it), I said no, but I appreciated it. Charlie tapped me on the shoulder a little later on from behind and gave me the CD  for nothing. That was sweet. “Another guy here just gave it to me, and I’ve already got one, here,” he had said, pulling the $8 sticker off the plastic case. Next week when I was making my rounds, I gave him a sack of vegetables—chard, kale, tomatoes, cucumbers—grown from my backyard vegetable garden. “I like vegetables, thanks,” Charlie said, and I wandered back off into the market and town again.

Glowing Sky On Mountains’ Water

sunset over water

Whatever things come so, too, he knew these same things must depart. And to have ever believed that the comfort of one day could be predicted to remain the next, was only a mistake, though a human enough one. Time ago, he had wanted to have the belief that his mornings and evenings would be once a song of joyfulness and twice a prayer. They were neither that. Nor did they ever become any less or more predictably those committed to sorrow and grief. In darkness when he woke he could put on the wailing madness of Maria Callas singing as she would for the decades to come her mad lament—“Oh gioia che si sente e non si dice!”—and feel dawn’s private beauty. To music’s sweet betrayal, he could let the cat slip out the back door’s screen slid partially open. He could hear the water burbling just under boiling. The ferns would continue to march underground and spread their fronds. The birches would die. Crashes came at night. Clouds made cover. Whatever he felt, the day alone brings light to itself alone. Just so for the billions of all others all waking and sleeping elsewhere. No adhesion nor repulsion to anything. As for the birds flying back and forth from their feeder to nearby limbs, which once a week or so I filled with new seed, I saw I was to bear some witness to for a while.

Giving Up On Your Favorite Color

family

Having almost completely displaced the world now, we can look at it, almost like a discarded object at a yard sale for others perhaps to buy. It is like, as a past lover had sealed within an envelope for me to open later in Berlin, enfolded about a piece of her own dental floss, a handwritten note that read, “Like me, a little bit used, though still good!” She had wished me safe return. But the willingness we have to spill the most intimate, the most personal details of ourselves, like a solitary sailor, who spends the facts of his life like small change on strangers, his coins scattered on a bartop, is nevertheless alarming, or, at any rate, to note. For who can remember anymore stubbing her toe on the raised, wooden planks of Fire Island? And who can recall the sweetness of seeing the purple majesty of the Rocky Mountains jutting up immensely and suddenly on that flat road? Before even having felt really a thing at all, before having tasted salty or sour on one’s tongue, before having divided the difference between what is bitter and what is acrid, the possibility of these human moments is automatically transferred elsewhere. Really, little more than the joyful tap of ‘the ability to send this’ is experienced right now.

Perhaps an old, leftover expression itself such as ‘like a hot potato’—which stands for ‘the thing’ to be gotten rid of—does remain. But the chairs, the music, the people? All that delicious randomness, fun, and chaos? Everything that goes with, that went with, the hot potato . . . Gone. They are gone. Fled, like the gods fled to the woods, long ago, according to some. To dwell ever alone in grief? Gone. To live even a lost cotton candy moment by oneself in carnival bliss? Gone. To immerse oneself and to be burned alive in a Blakean fiery pit of anger? To feel these all too human things, things that are ours. They have very nearly, like a mathematical formula underlying it all, become objectified—either in the digitally silenced words we transmit on the fly, or the 2.4 MB pictographic scans of our next or more recent flat tire by the roadside, that tiny deflated cry that does not say, “Help me!” even, but: “Look at me in this position of distress!” Even the exclamation point itself has become just another way to announce the multitude of our many assertions, rather than as a human marker marking our plaintive, lonely cry for succor and much needed assistance, when truly or sorely needed.

Along with our distresses, our glories we have tossed into convenient, easy-to-predict categories to be ‘consumed’ by those we do not know, (and those we do!) We have created, too, the illusion of stumbled-upon, scattered breadcrumbs—digital clues—whose organization is actually very carefully organized and thought out. What had been important once—to feel the bee sting—that is become obsolete, if not soon to be unknown altogether. That unknown moment of terror, that moment of pain, that frightening lasting instance of running into the kitchen to have one’s mother pat down the stinger’s reddening inflamed spot with a poultice of her own homemade wet baking soda, and thus to feel soon better, and thus to be relieved, saved by her, this belonged to another world. I am not arguing that this is a ‘bad’ thing. I am only observing that the ‘human element’ has become nearly irrelevant, and that we have become the almost perfect, inhuman observers of the skies, heavens, and ourselves on this little blue marble, like players at a casino who play the exquisite game well, even perfectly, without caring about winning or losing.