Sunday, February 2, 2020

A Certain Malignant Angel

It takes hours to write even a few poems, not one of which broaches what seems to want to be said. The themes of the past month's writing (which I admired and felt helped by) are exploded by a day with my mother. By traveling to where I can catch glimpses of the sea? Oh Sean, don't make it harder than it has to be. The poems insist on their creation, you didn't ignore them and were lifted a little thereby. So the god who attends these ceremonies keeps muttering "meaning ain't my jurisdiction, pal," so what?

After the coffee, a cup of tea. After the tea, this.

Yet meaning does attend, if only subsequently, and only to argue (persuasively) for the virtue of surfaces and skimming. There is no law that says joy and peace are only recovered in the psyche's muddy depths or by those who strip naked in the public square. Why make it harder than it has to be? Why pretend Jesus is even related to the symbolism of crucifixion?

My mother put on makeup before the visit began while I watched a seagull swallow a chicken thigh bone right there in the Starbucks parking lot. I worried it would choke but it didn't, reminding me yet again that perception of crisis does not equal crisis. Maybe it doesn't matter who comes to our funeral, nor where we are buried, nor whether we are memorialized at all. Is the "I" the dead used less viable than the "I" the living use?

Well, an intensified combination of elation and despair anyway. The writing approaches warily, as Irish fishermen in the 1860s readied their boats under the watchful eyes of English soldiers. Icicles melt on east-facing eaves and I feel an obligation to work them into the writing not as images but metaphors. Yet the real work - the serious work - is to not hurt my own kids or wife after a long day in the familial hurricane cesspool. So the way I chose didn't pass Dad's grave, so what?

Oh, fuck all this anger! Fuck all this confusion! Fuck all these tides I have never been able to do more with than admire at a distance. Bless the snakes who slough off their skins, new but not different. Bless the coupled swans, bright against the cold dark sea. Bless the little cranberry bogs I treasured by not mentioning. Bless unsolvable traffic patterns that somehow bear us onward. Bless my coffee and bless your tea. Bless our clumsy truce, which holds despite our shared inclination to forgive nothing by remembering everything.

Bless the man driven to his knees, face planted in the dust, greeting happily the worms and toads and beetles. Let me take my place in the low banks of heaven, in the far corner of the choir. Let me let me.

Near the middle, Turtle said "brother thank you for seeing me" to which I replied "brother it was my honor." Nobody else heard, being attentive to different gods. As a child, the crown of thorns reminded me of barbed wire which made the calves bleed when they grazed it, and I was angry at the Romans and also angry at whoever's bright idea it was to iconify pain. Will my sorrow never end? Will yours?

Turtle clears his throat - am I Turtle - and says, "there are no motherless gods, there no godless children."

And it helps a little - it does. A certain malignant angel briefly shuts up, as if embarrassed by its insistence that grief and suffering are identical. We learn what we learn, we learn as we go? Forever is such a long time and all our memories are hungry and have teeth.

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