Empty Morning Pilgrimage

daybreak over trees and umbrella

She never came to the page unless she had a thought or an idea or had had a note. In that way, she never faced a blank page. In other words, it was a page already written upon, if only a little bit. And that little bit became when she did more to the page a little bit more. That’s it. So she never had to face it: the page. But “page,” anyway, is such a funny little thing. Here, in the United States of America, it is measured 8 ½ inches wide by 11 inches long, or tall. Not so in France. Not so in Hungary. The measurements of this page were different. And a pad of paper elsewhere won’t fit into your usual notebook, won’t fit into your usual binder. You’ll have to buy a new one to fit the new page’s new measurements. Anyway, the whole idea of “a page” was sort of silly. For almost no one in his or her right mind uses them anymore: paper pages. Paper pages of any kind of any measurement, long or short, wide or narrow aren’t used much for writing today. So, the idea of having to “face” one is a little bit amusing. The page itself is a sort of skeuomorphic reminder, the way little blue pixilated images of fake blue manila folders on my computer’s “desktop” are other sorts of reminders, too, of that other world, lost and bygone. Most of that world doesn’t feel forlorn to me at all, not anymore than my listening to a gramophone repeating the sounds of a human voice would be shocking.

I rather in my own life had sought a way, a methodology to be able to get exactly what it was I was hearing in my head down. Dante was apparently lucky to have had a scribe before him (I had once heard) before whom he could pronounce his golden words and they were taken down. In a similar fashion there is the lore of blind Milton having had his obedient daughters do the same. But I could never do that, could never face the rough circumstances of having to hear my own human voice making those sounds. The sounds themselves would barge in and push me off. There never had been anything to face at all. The blackness of dawn begins to change a little bit to light, just a little bit barely gray and the crickets of the night continue their wailful singing for a while. Soon enough the birds will come and cry among the limbs from tree to tree. An occasional car or trudging school bus or labored garbage truck will truck up the hill. This is just how it goes. Just as it is the nature of the black morning sky to soon enough open to become blue or gray or filled with thunderous clouds, that has been my own for as long as I recall. The truth is I had never had a thing in mind before my two hands were magically at work, like the shoemaker’s elves making a pair of boots, doing what they do out of joy and their own holy duty to serve for as long as they remained undiscovered by the poor & honest shoemaker and his poor & honest wife.

Ferryboat Rides

pier

She would not tell her husband about her other man. He said, “Honey, come to the front here, by the bow.” That sort of thing, that sort of lexical insertion—defining words while using them—was one of the things that could annoy her about him. Not to mention calling her ‘Honey’. Dear, Babe, Sugar Plum, when did these ever become okay to use instead of a woman’s name? As if she did not have one, was not “Linda,” and could be called by any of these terms of generic endearment. “I’m down here,” she shouted back, up the stairwell, to the deck. She wasn’t going. “Okay!” he said. Had she been with the other man, she would have gone. She knew that. He was the sort of guy who had taken her to the Island, lit a match behind the cup of his hand when the ship was chugging along, spread his fingers, and when it was blown out whispered in her ear, “I am not the fire but I am the smoke.” Then let the burnt out match fall. But most men, she knew, will go on telling one story their whole lives. And this story they will apply (and they will repeat) to any woman in it. All of them. Rachel also knew, as the ferry was leaving the mainland, that the fate of women was to accommodate themselves over and over to the different men in their lives. To be the same to them. They kept figuring out and adopting themselves to a man’s script. Different demands. Different beds. Different meals. Same plug-in for the men. Different app for the woman. And these became, like ancient memories, though typically silenced, the stories women kept to themselves, sometimes dozens of them. They could keep a whole boatload of them. If necessary. She braced herself for the short, forty-five minute ferry ride, a ride she missed taking now with her other man, and the things he had said to her.

‘We don’t need another narrative.’

deer

There was a time when he had brought her coffee in bed. He had, while she slept, ground the beans, heated the water, mixed the grind in the glass jar, and, after it had sat for a few minutes, pushed the French plunger down gently. Then, he poured her her cup, and carried it upstairs where she was sleeping in. He did not wake her. And, later when she had come downstairs, she had said, “Thank you.” Eventually, he made coffee downstairs for himself and did not carry a cup for her upstairs where she was sleeping in, or weeping, or suffering. Over time, he could no longer bear that. The blandishments of suburban life became like window putty that never exactly dries but which seems to keep out some rain and moisture. Nothing seemed to really work anymore. He would make a second pot even, and await her descent, gauging by how much her mouth was turned down or how straight she held her lips, and by the downcast way her eyes themselves were turned, how bad she was. He became himself sarcastic and honest at the same time, speaking of himself in the third person and how, like finely pre-ground coffee beans in a bag from a grocery store shelf, he had himself become ground down, pulverized to next to nothing. “I’m sorry,” she said, “I don’t want to be this way for you.” “I know,” he said once, and would sometimes touch her shoulder, even though he was a little afraid to.

Anywhere Except Out Of This World

misty mountain

By now the murderers escaped from prison, whose masterful plan was lauded as extraordinary and as sophisticated from those in high office who must know a thing or two about extraordinary and sophisticated forms of subterfuge and deceit, must have been apprehended. Possibly, though, they are tucked away in some nice Canadian fishing town that packs all its tasteless fish into frozen blocks to be shipped off and sold in the United States as some sort of breaded stick or block of reconstituted, once fresh cod. And the two gentleman, one with a Heart of Mexico forever stamped upon his back, and the other with blue inkings on his right hand knuckles, will live out their days, day in and day out, working in an obscure arctic factory, taking cigarette breaks when they have them, and in between shifts, sometimes with each other, sometimes not, going over the old days in their minds or whispered back and forth in the cold frosty breath of winter.