There was no rain but clouds and Jeremiah woke up sick. One hour later in the bathroom still retching we recalled our favorite scenes from the movies – like when Sam hits the cave troll on the head with a frying pan. How old was I when I had cows. I fell asleep reading Bhanu Kapil Water Damage. I didn’t fall asleep again for a long time, though. I just lay there, a headache setting up shop, wondering what I could do about my sentences.
I used to think the way words sounded was more important than how they moved, the way they arranged themselves over the course of a sentence, and how it felt then following. Now I don’t. It’s true that I read a lot, but I mostly remember in fragments, if I do. By what virtue of weather I can’t say the office windows are misted and the sunny landscape beyond them is blurred as if with veils. I imagine if I’m lucky this will resemble the arrival of my death, the one moment in time I can count on. Well, maybe the way they sound matters, too.
“I thought boys only sat on eggs – I didn’t think they just sat in the nest.” I have no idea what happened to the geese where I used to fish in Chesterfield. The river went up after two days rain and they were gone. I did forget “generative eagerness” but then recalled it reading Kapil but please, don’t go scavenging for evidence. I once said that Bob Dylan could read from a phone book and I’d pay to go see it. I’m fast but it’s a question of what notes, changing positions, and metronomes almost always screw me up but drummers don’t.
Timing is everything if you want to be a hypnotist, a baker, a fiddler, drunk or not. In Galway Ireland I played Pastures of Plenty and a woman came up after to say you’d be better if you could hear yourself, or look for the middle of the song and not just getting through it.
It’s true that twenty sentences is not such a big deal – hell, these took less than five minutes and there’s even a bonus one. It’s when you start thinking there ought to be some Holy Ghost-like meaning contained in them that things begin to get tricky. Especially if the meaning – at least the way you see it right now – has to slip in unawares. Like you’re surprised by it, too. Well, I don’t like saying this is what I’m doing. And anyway I’m not.
I identify as trilingual, though never in rooms where I know somebody speaks either French or Greek. In Greek, I can say “I’m so hungry I could eat a cow” or “Little monkey has a big butt.” I know the words for milk, mouse, mother, father, snake, goat and love. I don’t know the French word for sentence. These are sentences, not lines. That’s a hint.
Yesterday I forget to empty the coffee grounds, which means today is off to a bad start. Plus Jeremiah couldn’t sleep. Whoever delivers the paper spent half an hour counting loose change in the driveway, their headlights sprawling through the bedroom. It was like being underwater on display, as if we were blue lobsters that people pay to see. I can tell he’s asleep by the way his body settles. Something heavy slips out of us when at last we fall asleep. I don’t mind saying it. Dreams are a better place.
The goat meat was dark and glossy, and lay on the serving plate like a pile of bruises. Three bottles of beer appeared in a single hand, each was different, cold, not unwelcome. Orthodox Easter passed with no mention of Christ. When we left it was nearly dinner though who could eat. There was doubt whether the middle child would stay awake until we were home.
Just shy of where the Westfield River crosses 112, I wrote “we are comprised of memory,” and, (intended as ) related, “each day a pressed wafer of bread.” Yet as so often is the case with composing while driving the sentences sound precious when reread, simultaneously too ambitious and bland. I can write letters in my head, everything else requires a tool, a sense of time and judgment not mediated by roads (which somehow suggest to me either that anything is possible or nothing matters). The youngest child couldn’t fall asleep though she did – you have to, eventually – right as we pulled away from the base of Montgomery Mountain. The fjords – “they look like horses elves would use” – were in a pasture farther off the road than usual. For some reason, I thought longingly of the pheasants I used to see so frequently as a boy.
The spinach was growing near the chimney, the leaves looked like green boot heels. Otherwise the garden proper was only dirt with – after we left anyway – frisbee gouges in it. “Generative eagerness” – I won’t forget that phrase anytime soon. This morning, the rain sounds heavy, and corresponds to a desire to sleep for hours. Martindale’s trucks grinds where the hill crests. You finish the coffee and recall that in the dream you are accused of obstruction of justice. For what reason is memory sometimes confused with dreams – what is accomplished thereby?
It took me half an hour to write this, recieve this, relay this, whatever. The whole time I wanted something else but now, thinking I should say just what that was, I can’t, and it seems to be matter of internal obfuscation, inherent misdirection.
He wakes up, starts writing. Pisses, makes coffee and starts writing. The blackbirds are chasing the crows away. Twenty sentences was supposed to be like stretching but instead are like windows. Writing them is like spitting on a dusty pane, pulling your sleeve up, rubbing with your fist. What do you see through the smear. The crows, those thieves, those swooping laughing stealers. Well, everybody needs to eat, everybody needs to die. Why do I care? What does it matter? But I do. I pull for the blackbirds.
Try what he is now characterizing as “the accusatory first person.” Write the stories as if you’re composing a brief for some heavenly tribunal. Imagine you are weighing in on the judgment of other souls. Yesterday, for example, I nearly bought a much-needed loft for the tumblers, then didn’t because of the cost. Yet to make up for the inevitable primal filial disappointment we had ice cream on a park bench in the late Spring sunlight, a family.
And now a goldfinch settles on the lilac just a few feet away (seen of course through a window). Growing up, those lemonyellow fliers were everywhere, flitting like bananas through the dense tangled underbrush. You can be scholastically obsessed with birds or religiously so and I, perhaps not unsurprisingly at this point, opt for the latter.
After a week of sun, slate gray skies. Better hurry if you want to spread fertilizer. They say don’t go to bed angry but never what to do when the required apology is hollow. The red-winged blackbirds are disappearing into the swamp (I mean, “from the back yard” into the swamp). Yesterday a hawk floated slow and graceful over the house and the pigeons puffed and cocked their heads, one eye up at the danger.
My best lie involves New York City. Lately, I don’t think much of Hansel though on the other hand (“and there is always another hand”) when did I ever. The witch always sounded like a lot of fun. The kitchen is my favorite room, too. And look, when you’re lonely, you do what you have to do for company. Imagine if she’d had a good optometrist.
I have been compared to a paper clip, a scarecrow but most often to a bird (albeit vaguely – I imagine a sparrow). Efforts to listen to jazz are usually unsuccessful, though for a summer I did like John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. Maybe I wasn’t being honest when I said I hated Spring. The smell of burning, the ability to read outside, all those shades of green. Or is a question of saying what I think others want to hear.
In an email, a reader says who exactly is this “you?” So I wrote back, “yes.”
Poached eggs on a bed of steamed vegetables and yogurt, constant revisions to the work. I wake up before anyone else, come here, and the sentences – just barely – write themselves.
Insomnia is not pulchritude. One of the dogs chewed on my zafu. The landscape blurs green yet also disassembles as thicker foliage means less to see. The clock in Joyce and for some reason thinking of Nora behind it. How does one avoid memoir and then why.
Work includes: estate planning in thirty grafs or less, pigeon report, pigeon feature. Four or five short stories, three haibun, one long poem and two short ones. Extensive journaling continues though one wonders to what end.
Later it will rain, confounding my plans regarding lawn care. Jack shot an eight pointer on the ridge over in Huntington. Grocery prices rise noticeably and all the way home I’m sad.
Why don’t you just send an email. The absence of topical data here does not reflect the balance of my interests. Friends call about yet another birthday. I forgot vinegar while looking for organic tomatoes. Consider “evolving standards” redundant. Can ghost trains exist independent of ghost engineers.
Thank Christ for the two note spring song of the chickadee! While I prayed last night a yellow moon slipped light between drawn curtains. I know you’re not there (I whispered) but I can’t help myself.
As usual we’re broke. The thunder last night made me think of roses. The flashes of lightening of what it must be like to have heard Jesus speak. No, I’m making that up. Mostly these days the conversations are about money, land. A deer running full-tilt last night, so much so I expected a pack of howling dogs to follow. Yes, like that.
I sit a certain way because I’m cold. I’m prone to lists, also to the first person. In last night’s dream, I had to navigate a subterranean river but once I did I found a snack bar. It was all a game. Yet after talking to my sister the same heavy feeling that always accompanies family. Storm clouds are reassuring, as are pentatonic scales.
Sophie riding Solskin like Kevin Costner at the beginning of Dances With Wolves. Arms flung out, head back. M. sort of crawled through the brown grass before pushing upright. I worked on A Tea Thrice, amazed at how the sentences kept shrinking. Carrots burst in the mouth, so much juice one wonders how they hold together. What else wonderful begins in the dirt. Flowers, fruit trees, head stones.
Bird song begins at a little before five. “My dreams are really bad.” “This is my best day in my whole wide world life.” The twenty sentences mean something different to everyone who uses them. Of course the reader is on my mind. That familiar star is overhead, too.
Both dogs out early. Waning gibbous seems wrongly placed on the horizon, like a broken dish set on the table. Pale cirrus clouds like perfectly situated mussels off to the north. Chrisoula tells me to get some sleep. At four a.m. one’s life can seem compressed, mystically so, or as was the case at the window maybe an hour ago, painfully brief.
A rooster. The popping of night crawlers there in the dew. Basically form is a way of dragging my ass to the work when often (counter-intuitively) I don’t want to be there. I used to wonder what the work was. Last night I dreamed I had become evangelical about the work. This mattered mostly to the wife of some guy who was clowning around in search of the work.
And now at last sunrise lightens the sky like slow-spilling melted butter. Yesterday we found an intact owl wing out in the forest. The heat made me dizzy and the landscape rippled, as if I were in a cheap horror flick where something awful was about to happen.
Well, I look forward to them, even though I also kind of fear them. I know you’re out there, it’s fine. I want you to stay, I always did. When I woke up, the eastern sides of all the maple trees outside the window were a deep brassy red from the sun rising. Shawn’s motorcycle was idling, was warming up which meant it was almost six o’ clock.
In one dream, at a family reunion in plastic lawn furniture, I said “thanks for sharing but we’re not going to talk about that now” and the resultant silence was like tripping before a rain storm.
For about three minutes last night I thought Jake, the oldest dog, had died. He was stiff and wouldn’t lift his head sprawled against the foundation. I went inside, stood in the foyer until I realized yes, I myself am breathing, then told Jeremiah (holding R is for Radish) to wait quietly for me in the bedroom. I got a flashlight. Inanely, I turned the light in the car off by re-closing the driver’s side door. When I turned back, Jake was looking at me sadly, wearily. He’s too young to die, I sort of mentally whispered, then tried to take it back, knowing as I do that nothing triggers an indifferent God’s desire to play than that sort of sentimental (and entirely inaccurate) tripe.
But listen: in how many directions can one’s mind be pulled before we say okay okay I’ll turn off the computer and stop ordering movies from Netflix. Writing on a legal pad in the front lawn recently was almost ecstatic. But then – unrelated I think – the writing itself was void of the physical detail – that sense of landscape – that makes Handke so satisfying, deepening the sense of peril inherent in navigating any spiritual crisis.
In the end it’s the counting of sentences that gets me down. Yesterday a young cardinal – or a small cardinal – flew from the red maple to the lilac and then out of sight in the direction of Bob’s house and feeders. A backhoe is parked at the air strip and backhoes always signify change, the bigger the better. You send me these short emails – so kind, so formal yet full of feeling – and then later I see you out walking, a strangely marvelous encounter.
A few things. My blanket has two holes in it, has grown thin as the felt the kids use. I don’t eat soy sprouts so who are you trying to hurt here. The table I had as a child is still sturdy, holds up my computer, while the one we bought for our wedding is already falling apart. What do you want me to dream about?
Who is he? Hi, I’m Mr. Third Person. And, by the way, he has a fine pair of shoes – he only goes barefoot by choice. Yet if something happens in the writing that’s effective – define effective – hold on, I will – then what’s wrong with it. Effective = writing that surprises even the one who writes it, that doesn’t feel like jamming too many clothes into one drawer.
Ticks falling like rain in certain forests. A telephone call with a warning. Smoke from yesterday’s fire lingers but where. The last log literally evaporated on a bed of hot coals. That’s how you cook outside, said the scoutmaster through and around his rank cigar. That was one party I didn’t get asked back to. Yet I love pumpkins, though carving them scares me. Two days ago the scored body of a dead mouse dropped by the oldest cat made me dream of severed fingers.
Say, have you ever thought about writing horror? I write about family and local history all the time (he answered).