A homeless man named Brother Kevin once gave me a business card that simply read:
This is the beginning of a new day for me to use as I will. I can waste it or use it for good. What I do with today is important because I’m exchanging a day of my life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever, leaving in its place something that I have traded for it. I want it to be a gain, not loss; success, not failure; in order that I shall not regret the price I paid for it.
I have carried this card for a decade. Today, I take it out yet again.
THE OUTLINE I INHABIT
1. IMAGINE WHAT PAIN SAYS
In the ghost-making fog the phone rings.
Sure, I’m unnerved, but I listen.
I strain for meaning. So when I hang up,
everything’s sore. When I hang up,
I have to write down everything
Imagine what Pain says:
I’ll keep in touch.
2. THE ENTRIRE NONEXISTENT CONVERSATION
In the ghost-making fog I lose the outline
I inhabit so well. I get so stoned
I have to sit with my imaginary head
between my fantastic knees. I get so stoned
I get so stoned I forget the entire
3. THE ENTIRE NONEXISTENT CONVERSATION
Did I tell you I think I’m in love
with a certain type of cloud? Did I tell you
that now I’m dreaming solely
in Yup’ik? Did I mention which syllables
I’m starting to distort?
4. A DULL HUM
It must have been too much.
I must have blown an eardrum.
Because first there was all that dreadful
music and now there’s nothing,
a dull hum.
My brain sounds
like an old refrigerator.
First, all that vibrating.
Now, a lone drone
on the left side.
5. NOT DELINEATING
Walking down Chief Eddie Hoffman Highway.
I’m not thinking about composition.
I’m not delineating anything.
Walking down Chief Eddie Hoffman Highway.
I’m feeling terrifically heavy.
I’m feeling as well grounded as the dead.
- Olena Kalytiak Davis
Something continues and I don’t know what to call it
though the language is full of suggestions
in the way of language
but they are all anonymous
and it’s almost your birthday music next to my bones
these nights we hear the horses running in the rain
it stops and the moon comes out and we are still here
the leaks in the roof go on dripping after the rain has passed
smell of ginger flowers slips through the dark house
down near the sea the slow heart of the beacon flashes
the long way to you is still tied to me but it brought me to you
I keep wanting to give you what is already yours
it is the morning of the mornings together
breath of summer oh my found one
the sleep in the same current and each waking to you
when I open my eyes you are what I wanted to see.
( via thefranticsearch)
I think I was probably thirteen or fourteen when I had to read The Catcher in the Rye and really the only memorable thing I took away from the book was how intensely I hated Holden Caufield. But here I am fifteen years later and a friend’s been pressuring me to revisit the book and I thought, you know, what the hell, I mean I’m twenty-nine and I’m not exactly a fan of that thirteen- or fourteen-year-old who purports to have been me and who so intensely hated Holden Caufield and so the chances are pretty good that that little brat was wrong and I may as well give it the old college try.
So here I am reading it again and much to my surprise I’m really bonding with the thirteen-year-old me because it turns out Holden is just as despicable now as he ever was. He’s just so easy to hate, everything about him, this privileged little prep school snot who honestly believes the world is out to get him and that everyone else is a “phony” and—and god help me that voice, that grating, disrespectful, childish, infantile voice—has there ever been a more offensive narrator in the history of Western literature?
I continue reading and I keep right on hating him with every turn of every page but I trudge along anyway because I told her I would and I’m racking my brain the whole way trying to figure out why this guy has endured for so long and how a character so shallow and so bereft of anything even remotely resembling meaning could be so widely lauded and so universally celebrated and I’m reading this screed and thinking, my god, if history is any guide then fifty years from now people are going to be talking about Bret Easton Ellis the same way they speak of Salinger today.
But I do my best to try to understand this character and detect his weaknesses and locate his flaws so that maybe I can get a handle on what all the craze is all about, but he’s just so relentlessly shallow, so obviously flawed, so trivial to deconstruct, and I’m really starting to worry that no matter how much effort I put into this he’s just not going to develop or mature in any meaningful way and that I’m just wasting my time because, I mean, a bildungsroman without any bildung is just an angsty teenager’s LiveJournal.
So I keep right on going through the motions and, yeah, the kid’s got issues: anyone caught being even remotely human or carnal or falling in love or being afraid is just plain “mad” and he’s got a mommy complex and he’s all kinds of self-conscious and mostly just doesn’t want Maurice to see him in his pajamas and isn’t about to hurl himself through a hotel window because he doesn’t want to look like James Castle—at least not if anyone else can see him—and he hates cinema and theater and actors because he loathes any representation of human emotion just as much as he avoids the genuine article and—well, the list goes on.
And then he flips out on Sally and has a little bit too much to drink and embarrasses himself in front of Luce and then goes looking for the ducks again and I’m like Oh, yeah, the ducks, pretty much the closest thing this book has come so far to quality imagery, and it’s then that I begin to realize that the pages remaining between my right thumb and forefinger are quickly dwindling and I get that sinking feeling in my stomach that this book is just going to end on me, without any sort of a payoff, but then he’s talking with Phoebe and at last he’s at least somewhat fucking endearing but still I’m thinking he’s got a long way to go before this afternoon doesn’t feel like a complete waste and then he hits me—
Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around—nobody big, I mean—except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff—I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be. I know it’s crazy.
—and that’s when I fall apart, that’s when all of a sudden I actually care about this kid, because all he wants is his childhood back, all he wants is a little taste of the old innocence, back when Jane was just a checkers partner and not just another girl in the back seat of that Buick with Stradlater, back before the impressionable young boys were sent off to school to form their tribal little cliques and be trained by their elders in what girls were for and why flits were bad, and that’s why I was so upset when he runs out on Antolini, because he’d already been corrupted too long ago by the likes of Luce that in the moment when he meets his very own catcher in the rye his only instinct is to run, and by the time his thoughts caught up with him it was already too late.
And so I started thinking about how maybe everything I ever hated about Holden is everything I ever hated about myself, and how maybe the only reason I get so angry with him every time he breaks down and cries is because when I was his age and I hadn’t yet been so thoroughly desensitized by the steady torrent of disappointments of life that I, too, I could still cry back then, and even though now I know all the cues and I know when I’m supposed to no matter how much I try I just can’t bring myself to do it, to do this, the most primal of human urges, the very first thing I did when I entered this world and yet the last thing I seem capable of doing today.
And I think of how what Holden wants most of all is to protect his mother from bad news, and how when I ran away from home at eighteen I didn’t call my mother until six months later from a pay phone in Lake Tahoe, and I think about how many sleepless nights she must have spent worrying about her son, how mortified she must have been to learn that I was 3,000 miles away, and how guilty I still feel all these years later because she’s my mother and I was supposed to be protecting her from the bad news.
And I think of how we’re basically destined to spend the rest of our lives second-guessing ourselves and constantly turning over in our minds every last “what if?”, and how this exercise is only going to become all the more oppressive the longer we live, and how every passing year puts a little more distance between ourselves and the time in our lives when we never had to speak those two unfortunate words, “if only”.
And I think about how this must be why we have kids, because of how cruel this distance is, and how easy it is for us to treat someone else to that singular, momentary joy.
This is a quality post, to say the least.
I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.
The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
- The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused - nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.
This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast, moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear - no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anasthetic from which none come round.
And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small, unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.
Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can’t escape,
Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.
I’ve been reading this slim volume of poems written for the Ruined American City. These are two shortpowerful pieces which add punch to the obvious accomplishment of the long title poem which may be found here: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/19645
and which ends with this line:
When one is the site of so much pain, one must pray to be abandoned.
If you respect the dead
and recall where they died
by this time tomorrow
there will be nowhere to walk.
We love the stories of flood and the few
told to prepare in advance by their god.
In that story, the saved are
always us, meaning:
whoever holds this book.
You called, you're on the train, on Sunday, I have just taken a shower and await you. Clouds are slipping in off the ocean, but the room is gently lit by the green shirt you gave me. I have been practicing a new way to say hello and it is fantastic. You were so sad: goodbye. I was so sad. All the shops were closed but the sky was high and blue. I tried to walk it off but I must have walked in the wrong direction.
I believe there is something else
entirely going on but no single
person can ever know it,
so we fall in love.
It could also be true that what we use
everyday to open cans was something
much nobler, that we’ll never recognize.
I believe the woman sleeping beside me
doesn’t care about what’s going on
outside, and her body is warm
which is a great beginning.
Reading one’s own poems aloud is letting the cat out of the bag. You may have always suspected bits of a poem to be overweighted, overviolent, or daft, and then, suddenly, with the poet’s tongue around them, your suspicion is made certain.
- Dylan Thomas