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CROSS TALK

Edward Williams

Month

January 2008

29) SPATULA

I would now like to explore the completely fallacious notion that all things must have an origin. I mean it only stands to reason; but that is precisely the problem with it. Back up, give me some space here to do some explaining, before you object. Sorry I have to be the disciplinarian around here. What I would like to do today, class, is consider the assumption that the universe has an origin–and!, as an extension of that, what shall we call it, discovery (out of school), we will tackle the question of whether anything has an origin. Like, offhand, photography, that’s one of my favorites; photography has no origin. It is all a discovery, like my face in the shiny surface of the spatula. That is the everyday origin, captured reflection, happening every minute with all these gleaming surfaces around here. How about streetlamps? When did these all these minor moons come along? And, let’s see, automobiles–they were created out of scrap metal and thin air, no question about that. A pure result of manic ambition, a slavish workforce, and look at the result! Highways everywhere. The only thing I can think of that I once satisfactorily traced to an actual origin is, you guessed it, steamboats! And that is because we did a class project in third grade on Robert Fulton. Who, however, according to a new biography, was perhaps not in fact the original originator of the steamboat. Turns out origins, when looked into further, are always problematic. Tomorrow we will deal with the universe, as that is one thing bound to still be here, tomorrow. Class dismissed.

Good morning! The topic was on the origin of the universe. Is that not a colossal joke! The reason no one can answer the question of the origins of anything, is that they start with the assumption that everything, the whole universe, for God’s sake!, actually has an origin. It’s an epidemic. People around here have an insatiable appetite for philosophy. I can hardly say the word philosophy without getting hives. I want to say, what people should do is ask what the origin of the question of origins itself is. Back up. And then walk forward slowly. They should back up and ask themselves, why do I not just make the coffee, instead of wondering where Starbucks gets its coffee? The first step, when you find yourself wondering what the origin of something is, is to sit down in the ruins (the kitchen), and wonder how you got to be plagued by this irrelevant analytical intelligence. The first step is to ask, why do I suppose this has an origin? The water is boiling, and there is only a certain amount of time to think. Aren’t you happy?

Astonishingly, asking for origins, if you want to be honest about it, people (and I am sorry to be addressing you in this tone) turns out to be a habit. A local habit, it’s like a board game you insist on playing. And that is why this discussion feels like. . . school! But it’s worse, you got it worse. It is not just carried over from school. The fact is this question is plaguing the mind from the beginning of consciousness. It is a kind of preference; it is the kind of world one thinks they would like to live in, one that has causes, origins, outright meaning. Damn it! Happy as we are. Maps, schedules, and streetsigns. This satisfies the intellect, to be surrounded by things that can be theoretically traced to their origins. It is a natural thought at its origin, that spawns a system of thought. Hot chocolate, what is the origin of hot chocolate? Or railroads? Or sugar, or transportation? How about the origin of the solar system? And once you got that, the origin of Venus? Don’t read: Immanuel Velikovsky’s Worlds in Collision. Of course if we can say the whole universe has one big origin, that sort of takes care of everything in one shot. And sets up the game in general. People actually come to assume that all things have an origin.

However, if we start small, like in the kitchen, and start picking up utensils, like a spatula, and hold it under the fluorescent light (what is that kind of light?) and ask, “what is the origin of this spatula, yes, I do wonder who invented this handy spatula!”, then we have a nettle. It is too complex. Better to ask the origin of a bar of soap, that is more elemental. Ashes. Interesting! What is the origin of Silicon Valley? I’ll leave the questionnaire by the door, pick one up as you leave. Class dismissed.

Now, to make an omelet. Proceed with awareness that it is only an omelet. What always happens to me, is that I forget to locate the spatula before the omelet is practically ready, and then I have to race around opening all the drawers that contain the utensils. If we realise that we are victims (happy as we are) of habits of mind, then we will want to cast wider nets, include more of the context of each subject that we gaily treat. We will be forced to ask for the origins of a set of things and the things in a set will include, at the very least, the opposite of the original subject. This we did learn in Logic 101! Withdraw the idea that the subject itself has an origin, and put the idea of origins where it belongs, in your own head, then the subject becomes apparent as ill-defined, artificially chosen. This is what happens, sliding into confusion.  Admitting that the idea of origins is not a given feature of anything, much less the assumed totality of the world, will cause us to relax our focus. Rearrange our categories. At this point you will notice all the decor, and that the kitchen (so to speak) may need . . . remodelling.

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28) Lark

Happily, though secretively, I watch The History Channel; it’s digestible content is hardly more elevated than the commercials studding it; but I am weak, at this hour, hardly able to formulate my thoughts. I know this will not seem like an appropriate diet for a serious author. A man of my ilk might not see it redound to his reputation, in the neighborhood, to be caught with his feet up and a bag of Fritos in front of the television as it pours forth a show called The Fossil Hunters. Though I quickly add that I only feed myself this pablum very late at night, when there is no one on the street, and history itself has become a forgotten terrain, an altogether irrelevant thesis, at best. As if it, history, had–once again, to be conjured up from scratch. In this light, archeologists don’t look so ridiculous, with their flak jackets and thermos, scratching their faces, holding up the cheekbones of their ancestors, or creatures who are so grotesque they could not be–their ancestors. It’s their quandary, not mine–I want to say. I know I am descended from gods. What a lark. Being a novelist (that is what I really am, I insist!), and yet, as is the plight of a novelist, being more than eighty percent of the time between novels, I can be forgiven, eighty percent of the time. For no matter what I do. And it is usually when I have come home from Monty’s Krown Lounge, the bar up the street, that I deign to cave in–literally, to The History Channel. Cave in, did I say? Ha! I am dissolute, I admit that too. Which is to say, out of words at that hour.

Griffins, centaurs, cyclopes, and giants, these fabulous creatures of classical mythology continue to live in the modern imagination, says the voice-over narrator (like reading from promotional copy), through the vivid accounts that have come down to us from the ancient Greeks and Romans. But what if monstrous creatures like these once actually did roam the earth? And in the very places where their legends first arose? What if these beings were more than merely fictions? This is the “arresting and original” thesis that Adrienne Mayor explores in The First Fossil Hunters. Through careful research and meticulous documentation, she shows that many of the giants and monsters of myth did have a basis in fact. Where, what fact! It is right in front of you, Johnny. In the glass case! It is in the enormous bones of the long extinct species that were once abundant in the lands of the Greeks and Romans. These bones which have been rediscovered, and in plenty, by modern archeologists like Adrieene Mayor. There she is, the one in the parachute outfit! In the television.

The Greeks and Romans were aware that a different breed of creatures once inhabited their lands. (I am splicing this together, God help me.) They stumbled over the fossilised remains of these primeval beings. They developed sophisticated concepts to explain the fossil evidence; well, not sophisticated concepts, but unforgettable poetic concepts expressed in mythological stories that have become world literature, and the foundation of social sciences like. . . um, psychology. The gold-guarding Griffins, dealing with them–they sprang from tales told by ancient gold prospectors, who had observed bizarre skeletons. Bizarre to you, Johnny of Patmos. We now know these skeletons, once decked out with scales and flesh, were of Protocertops, and T-Rex, beaked dinosaurs of the Gobi desert. Like their modern counterpart scientists, but ignorant as hell of what they were actually doing, the ancient fossil hunters collected these impressive fossil bones, tusks, and teeth. And, children that they were, unlike their modern counterparts, they displayed them in temples as the remains of giants, heroes, and monsters from the deeper past, the days of myth. “Long thought to be fantasy, the remarkably perceptive Greek and Roman accounts of discoveries of giant bones were actually based on solid paleontological facts,” mandates Adrienne Mayor.

“I can’t tell if you are proposing this, or mocking this,” declared my barstool buddy, and raconteur, to whom I was venting at Monty’s. Must have been the night after, couldn’t have been the night before . . . Though anything is possible in this life. “What, do you think these are my ideas?” I said. One must pay a price for harbouring paradoxes, speaking in conundrums, and trafficking in black mirrors, I thought. Surely this idea that ancient Greeks stumbled across fossils of prehistoric animals and figured them as belonging to former giant gods and heroes who must have traversed the same land in a Golden Age–surely!, this makes the Greeks into fools, and dreamers. Without benefit of modern evolutionary theory, which knows . . . what? It knows that human beings couldn’t possibly have lived at the same time as any creatures like this roamed the earth. “This must be protected,” I said to John, who was not listening. And why are they ignoring the basic setting of all mythology, which is the sky. But also, why get into it, at this hour? It’s like someone tripped and all the slides fell out of the tray, for the lecture I never get to give. Bones of dinosaurs, and evolutionary theory do not mix. It is impossible that people could have lived at the same time as these dinosaurs. But Greeks did talk of fossils of woolly mammoths, etc. So ancient Greeks wrote like this was the setting of their ancestors, flying reptiles, dragons. Records recently unearthed, or newly understood, show plenty of bones were dispersed in ancient temples, and even museums. All this to help explain the literary record of Homer, Heroditus, et al, which tells of gods and creatures like the griffin, and also explain artwork, cave drawings!, broken statues, of the same time showing these creatures. In summary, finally, it is asserted that these pictorial and literary records, resulting in myths and legends still carried around in knapsacks by college students today, were dreamed up to explain the fossils.

To explain the fossils? Maybe I am still at the bar. Around the corner there is a band playing, calling itself, you guessed it, Cyclops. Very original drummer, seems to have six hands. Memorable, I should look this band up on YouTube. Primarily–I almost said, primordially, I am just sitting in front of my little television in my cluttered office, I mean my cave, at 3 a.m. There is nothing else on, otherwise I could change the channel. The one thing I can’t do, is go to sleep.

27) PYROTECHNICS

“Not to make this personal, but–” I was saying, pausing right at the critical emotional impasse, “But this always makes me shudder, this idea of not being in the world, ever again, like I’ve been blitzed, you know, ignored by some ignoramus of a creator-god, and left to disappear like a dried up puddle on the sidewalk.” That sounds good, I thought, if I ever get to speak a piece before my jailors, at present themselves invisible, due to the light trailing in. And I have written elsewhere, and published extensively on this in a more sanguine manner, of how I feel closed out by just the idea of death, and frightened as any child by infinity, not to mention the image of blank unending non-existence. But for some reason it took me until I was, shall we say, cresting at the top of my powers, in full-swing life-mode, to put it wryly, and capable of comprehensively surveying, with gulping glances whole scenes, like happening across the street–it took me until now, in other words, to glimpse the other absurdity of a historical world that reportedly went on for thousands of years without me. I had in fact reached a great calm, and practically a reconciliation with any future, when suddenly the enormity of the time I (apparently) wasn’t in the world struck me like an insult, like a swinging door hitting me in the back. So now, a new, a very great area for revelatory investigation. (That is how I treat these breakthroughs.) And “Ho-hum!”, say my jailors; and “fie on you,” I say back, “who are but nothing but a twisted construction, and a flapping windowshade.” I mean I know people say life is short, but this is ridiculous. Already sanguine about my possibilities of living forever, I now have only to rationalise having come on the scene (the human race) so . . . late. It is the sandwich effect. Sandwiched between two infinities. Is that not comedic? My big toe caught in these two slamming . . . doors!

Well, now, what is going on outside? Looking out the front window at the scene across the street, where the Japanese girl is unloading some things from her car and carrying them into her apartment, it is apparent–quite obviously!, this scene, this reality, belongs to neither of these gigantic fearful terrains. I will repeat that. Neither of these two gigantic fearful terrains. The world of the future become oblivious of me, nor the world of the past that never knew me whatsoever. Ha! If this isn’t hilarious . . . come look, I want to bring everyone to the window. The Japanese girl is taking things from the trunk of her car. Now she is walking toward the steps, now she is at the door, of her new apartment. Voila!

This is the present scene in which history, indeed, is totally implausible. General history! Right out on my street is the scene that admits of neither stretching, fetching death, nor needs a preamble time for silly birthing procedures. It springs fully rigged and decked out, out of nowhere. And here comes the Japanese girl back for another armful; she takes a flowered cushion, some small lamps, out of the car, and cradles a lightweight box, effortlessly, aha!–she tosses that to her ready-made boyfriend, who I hadn’t even noticed. The two of them are suspended in time alright. You could say here are unfinished storylines, that red car is right out of a commercial, you could begin a movie here, but it is all in the present. You would have to begin it here. For history is implausible in connection with virtually every detail, I see. And therefore, I say, these people are not in that history. I am one of them, I am looking, and our consciousness is in fact larger than all of history. Just so! Our consciousness is larger than all of history, way larger, in fact history is a scuff mark, a label on the suitcase. One blooming iris, affixed to the hair of the Japanese girl who swishes by, just so! None of us are there in the books, and you can’t find us, not people like any of us right here on this street, as . . . stepping lightly, she carries the lamps into the house. We were never in that time the books represent, even the books make it clear.

But what this suggests is more drastic still. And that is that such a medium of time was never there. For the past, whatever it was, has produced no route! The Japanese girl, who is now coming back out of the house and going to car once again, is unbelievably attractive in this scene–she is a starlet; for you see we are innately trained like film afficionados, fascinated by the lighting, the novelty like it were all pyrotechnics of the sun, just now dipped down below the eaves.

Later, I go up to the bar and everyone there is in the absolute present. This idea is working. I just keep thinking, “are you telling me thousands of years happened before God decided to have me born,” or some such handle, with that kind of needling intonation, “are you trying to tell me?”, like I was jibing my jailors, taunting the naysayers, deflating the intellectuals, to get to this image of the unique hour in which we dwell. And when I think like that, the whole bar changes, like I just woke up. Everyone is decidedly delirious, with their own immediate emotions and thoughts, and pleased with their fellows, I can tell–it’s like the center of the universe–because, you see, technically it is, the very center.

“Oh, so now, have you abandoned all your learning?” Who said that! Sure, put life in some context, and it disappears. It is incompatible, this hour–it’s in a different register, another color, materially different, discontinuous . . .

26) Nostalgic

Somehow I have become incapable of buying a newspaper. Worse than that, it never even occurs to me to buy a newspaper; I have to get my news on the fly, or, of course, from television–but the tantalising point here is that somehow I consider newspapers to be like artifacts, something you find when you are out, rummaging around in the world. Even though I say “artifacts” I don’t mean newspapers are now relics, or only of historical interest; I recognise that newspapers are nothing if not current. They belong to today; we all know there is nothing more useless than yesterdays’ newspapers, since 98% of what is in them proves of no blinking interest the very next day. They can be regarded as a supplement, and most people need some fill of them; but the point is, not me–I exist without newspapers because, as I have noted, I no longer even think of buying one. And yet, behold me in the presence of a newspaper spied on a table at Starbucks. I can’t wait to get my hands on it, and if I can get my hands on it I will devour it. I am a kind of saboteur in regards to newspapers; I like nothing better than to read a newspaper, if only I can find one lying around–say, in waiting rooms, at the Hyundai dealer or the dentist, where my person is stripped of pride, and I am like waiting for some verdict and thus have become susceptible, precisely, to headlines. Or I am at Starbucks, which I consider one of my workplaces, and am therefore most pleased to encounter sudden opportunities for taking a break from what are enormous mental labors. Reading a newspaper is both a satisfying and a slothful affair; and by the end of it, having gone through all the sections of the newspaper, even the Lifestyle section, I feel both like a criminal, and a victim of a crime. Both stuffed and empty. Up to date, and hopelessly behind.

Analogies abound, for reading a newspaper is not simple, is no longer routine, but actually an odd thing to be doing. It is merely personal. (Reading news reports on the computer is even odder!–even more arcane, I would say.)

Now as I have said, I never go out of my way to get a newspaper, but am always delighted when one shows up in my immediate path. I’ll even snatch them off tables, if they are unattended, and hasten to a corner table, with my iced coffee, for what can be described as a rendez-vous, a session with an old pal, a kind of tete-a-tete. It is incredible how I react to newspapers. I want to make this clear. If I spot it, I will wait with my eyes trained on some upside down Sports Section headline, and move to get it if it remains unclaimed. And, I repeat, it never occurs to me to buy one, carry it around as my own possession, take it in the car. Or bring it home. I don’t think I have walked in the house with a newspaper in the last ten years! I just react, when I see one out in the world, and can’t wait to get my hands on it, and get diving into it. Of course I treat the whole outside world like some adventure filled terrain, but–that is the larger story. Often I go so far (and you are going to like this, reader) as to fold up and pocket certain pages–that’s right, fold up and put in my jacket pocked or slip into my notebook certain articles I have come across. Heart racing, this is seems like real thievery; and I act like this article (like the one on Tom Grasso’s idea to recreate a section of the old Erie Canal downtown) can be gotten no other way. (Like buying my own copy.) I have even surreptitiously ripped articles out of such a found newspaper, therefore mangling it, just because I took a proprietary interest in that story, then and there. I am a desperate character,I can see that. Always looking for a mystery, or a one-of-a-kind project that might reconnect me to the world. The world!–that I guess I now must feel nostalgic for. Nostalgic for that world of engagement, where, believe it or not reader, I once was a lowly newspaper reporter myself. Maybe that is it! Sheer trauma, being cut off as a result of some catastrophe I cannot reconfigure, has caused this. Something has caused this.

I ask, have you found this out by watching yourself closely, or is it this watching yourself so closely that causes these very conditions, and this behavior, so that only a spiralling despair, or a mounting exhilaration, can ensue? Hmm . . . I am tempted to say, the latter. That is, the super alert watching produces the exhilaration! Otherwise, I am surely finished. Everything I say is the result of having wanted originally to just say things. What could be simpler? I am self-fulfilling prophecy of self-consciousness. Nobody can do backflips like I can. You might think I am standing in front of you, but I am actually running in place. My inability to buy a newspaper is clearly a result of having questioned myself severely in a previous series of purchases. Eventually embarrassed and abased and traumatised by the repeated futility of trying to find out what was going on in reality, I stopped buying newspapers, and could no longer sanction that most normal way of getting them. Morbid curiosity remained, or rather legitimate amazement–that the world even continued. Both interpretations are equally valid and evidence can be gathered for each. Newspapers are commonly lying around like fixtures, part of the setting, I have seen seven or either of them just today. They frequently fall under one’s gaze, and seem numberless, and multiplying, and we are awash in this culture of printed material. Hmm . . . thinking about it from that angle, maybe I am actually acting quite normally.

25) MOLASSES

“Say what?” I said to my jailers, ”What are you telling me? Are you trying to tell me that I just burst into history at a certain point, like after thousands of years had lolled on by, and empires fallen, and then I was added, like kind of shoehorned in, like somewhere in the twentieth century? But all that happened before me, happened without me. Without out me in the picture, even thought of? Though now that I am here I get to feel like I might, at least, be some perturbance, in that whole flatline reality? Is this what you are trying to tell me? That Napoleon, and Socrates, and every person born and died, all of that time just lickity-split or in rollicking succession, or slow as the wheels of hell grinding by, oozing out of the infinite, all of history went by while I was just non-existent?”

I got no answer, their backs were turned. So I went on. “Say it. Say you are you seriously trying to tell me the world existed without me for all that time. Until one fine day, like in 1946 I was added to the human race–though still I wasn’t there, really, because even this I have had to put together after the fact, and admit myself, usher myself unceremoniously, sheepishly, later still into the picture. As finally, consciously, absurdly, existing? Are you telling me everyone has this kind of difficulty? It’s been an unholy struggle, I’ll tell you, figuring out how to reasonably position myself in this life, in this funtime generation, just recognising this stretch-mobile as the one life I have, while in it, prancing and dancing. And now you want to tell me that all of history was just like this, that it is all molasses? That everybody has had to do their best figuring themselves into the human race, in whatever year and in whatever thunderstorm they came tripping along? In all of history which goes back earlier, and earlier. So many people rising up out of the slime, and filing back into the ground. Is this what you are telling me?”

Damn, I thought, as the sunlight came through the Venetian blinds, and my jailers dissipated, this is as frightening and impossible to imagine as the prospect of the same damn indifferent world going insensibly on after I die. Not to make this personal, but . . .

24) Petulant

When my petulant friend insists that, despite all difficulties in establishing the truth of the matter, there remains something that actually is the truth of the matter, he seems to be betting all his emotional stock; he seems to be banking on a reckless assumption. Plainly put, that you can actually ever know this truth, like face to face. Do we not live in a mystery, my friend? No answer. Joviality does not work, I have found out; my petulant friend does not see that he is ridiculous. Instead, he feels it meet (he feels it fit) to quarrel. The big obstacle-fact tugging uncomfortably at him–and we (all of us!)–is that we (and notably him!) can never know anything for certain. At least not while we still have some wiggle room. Which is to say, are alive! And that is funny. What I say, and I am afraid it is plain as day on my face (and that may prove an adjunct annoyance), is that it is always instead incumbent upon us, who know that we shall never know, under the present circumstances, exactly what it is, that has actually happened, to get us into this quandary (life), or any refractory sub-confusion, to proceed with uncertainty in all methods of inquiry. That is what gives respect to the bragging mystery, of what actually happened. And spawns all these adjectives.

For it keeps the unknown. It suspends judgement. And, most importantly this acknowledgement does not confuse the truth with the other category of the actual: the present. It is precisely this sliding together of the category of things that have already happened, into the realm where things are now happening–to us in the world of experience; this is what causes confusion, and all consequent moods of petulance. I like that, consequent moods of petulance. I will save that and use it when I write my next book. Meanwhile, this confusion is used by proselytizers of already established systems of belief, and fear mongers of all stripes, merchants who would have our friend invest in all sorts of dreadful schemes, which unfortunately I do not have the patience to go into right now.

Sometimes petulant people insist that there is a proven scientific reality to what has already happened, spanning all time. This heady thesis is betrayed in jargon often, and sung about in textbooks. Sometimes I hear the drumbeat of pagan religion; which seems most twisted, considering every religion wallows in mystery, and revelation of more mystery. False hope is engendered that one can actually be face to face with the facts of what happened in the past, as if the frenzy of assembling evidence of events can actually replace the event itself–and bring back a vanished world. When it is actually impossible that what already happened could in any way still be what it was. Even the thinking about it, or the remembering of it, adds to it.

Still! The content of what actually happened is in some way eternally valid. It definitely was; and just so, it has become a sacred, irrecoverable terrain. Do you get it? What happened before must be informing our present thinking. Now I am inspired. There is even the possibility that it is capable of a repetition, though we know perfectly well we have not the means to engender such an apocalypse. Nor do we desire it. But we desire emphatically to live in a world that is always new. And yet the same. I get it. The very familiarity of experience, that we live in the same world day to day, depends upon our assumption that it, the world, is at the same time always new. This is time. Blooming, buzzing time.

But just as we can see that what actually happened in the past must be real, we also know that we cannot know what it actually was, just because the fact of our knowing it makes it different. I don’t care how many times I trip and fall. There still is no objective viewing; and it is the recognition of this complex situation that actually respects the reality of what ever happened. But when someone insists that there is a thing that, beyond all investigation and thought, still must be what actually happened, and acts, pugnaciously, like it could actually be found, like brought into the room, it shows they are not going to deal with it at all. They will not take it into their thinking; they are actually afraid to face the complexity of life–which, simply put, is that it is both real and unknowable. Did I say, pugnaciously? I lost the cipher-word; it was petulant. My petulant friend . . . that’s what got me going.

23) EARWIG

This voice of the unhappy critic is like an earwig. Guns are blazing in the blogosphere, trolls under bridges, and pot shots fired from just over the hill, but the neighbors are having a house warming party, and we’re going over there in a little while, though watching silent people talking from my kitchen window across the way, standing at the coffee-maker, seems like probably the real event, for me. “Most people don’t know what you are talking about here, you know. They start to read, and then they go, what is this guy saying?” I’ve been told that if I don’t get another approach, I can’t expect to communicate with people. Yeah, I hear this voice all the time! And what do I do? Disregard it utterly. It’s snipers. People like to hear the sound of their own voices, what’s wrong with that? I get along with myself swimmingly, Jack. People understand me very well; first off, they know I am talking to them, and they forgive me any excesses, or flaws in my delivery. I have such a fan base, I only need to get to them, and the point of the whole exercise is only to deliver some compelling thought, which I don’t own. I don’t own my own thoughts, Jack. But I own up to them, see? Once the thought shows up, it’s all a performance. The unaccountable thief is knowingly in possession of somebody else’s stuff, and therefore doomed. I am waiting to be arrested, I am a receiver. It’s like when a letter gets delivered to your house that is addressed to the person who lives one street over at the same number. What do you do? You get on your horse and gallop over there and make sure that person, to whom the letter is addressed, gets it, even if it is just a monthly statement from his stock broker. On my horse, I can’t help my imagination. I’ve got earmuffs and stock brokers, working at the base level. I should be able to direct the package, and make sure it arrives. I mean we have lived here for twenty years. The whole time the weather has been here and now, if you see what I mean. Year after year, in the radical present moment. Different from anything in history. So there is much wind and sun in my discourse. Nobody ever saw this pale sun and these impossibly thin snowflakes, that I see hit my heels as I walk, and erase the street. You are walking backwards, that much is certain. In this neighborhood everything is only resolved in grey, if that, and now it is just a little colder than expected. I feel this in the arching straps on my shoulders, as I hang from the sky, being an incipient archangel. I know these moods are what cause the secret identities people have. I am paying off some debts, since I don’t feel like I am in the middle of life anymore. Somehow I got on the other side of that middle, even though it was never understood what it was. Wonder when that happened? That’s a new ecstasy. This might just be the heyday of a doubt I have always had–that I wasn’t really alive, yet. If you keep waiting to be alive, having to keep your eyes on the far horizon, waiting for life to really begin–then, one day you are on the other side . . . galloping in the realm of what doesn’t happen. I could see myself as the very one who maintained an intense consciousness. Probably half my writing is about the process of writing, like this very note. And that is not spurious. So if we are always battening down the hatches, is that not part of life? Getting ready. “Where is the objective text?” someone wants to know. How quarrelsome! I do have some early unpublished novels, and reams of poetry. Consider that distinction in The Writer’s Imperative between an author and a critic. The voice of the unhappy critic is an earwig. Read that. Reread this.

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