Listen:

I am at the door even if I have not come to the door, or while I’ve made it to the door and done the things to open the door when I am there I am instead encountered. Or when you’ve entered the door and you’ve poured a drink I will have been by the sink where I have been drinking, where I am told I have been unreasonable. Or in bed where it is like a thread has unwound from a mouth and I have been coiled, and I am unable to unsnare all four limbs and am told It is in the right place, your heart the same way as They are by the door, the keys. And when you are near the sink and the flood and I am blamed I will have turned the faucet handle one or two or three times, and you have left five, or six, or seven. 

* * *

Barthelme, The Explanation

Q: Are you bored with the question and answer form?
A: I am bored with it but realize that it permits many valuable omissions: what kind of day it is, what I’m wearing, what I’m thinking. That’s a very considerable advantage, I would say.
Q: I believe in it.  

* * *

Q & A

Q: What do–

A: Idiot. 

Q: What?

A: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and on. There’s no cure for it. The question’s stupid. 

Q: Then–

A: Listen. At thirteen my old man tells me he’s dreamt I’ve started three wars and killed so many men. This is your question. The same. Take all I’ve done wrong somewhere else in their dreams and then know there’ve been no wars, I’ve killed no men, and nothing is changed. It isn’t a consequence.

Q: So–

A: So we’ll take your answers and wrap them in swaddling cloth, carry them down to the river to hope they make it to another’s shore. But in all this time you’ve forgotten they’re stone. You drop them from your mouth, to the river, and they sink to make the smallest ripple. The world is shaped no differently. 

Q: So instead?

A: Instead: there are things alive in this river. Find those. 

* * *

Q & A

Q: What do you worry about?

A: Lately I am not-things: not staid or needy or acutely bored or solitarily dealing with a cloudy swollen ego, not tired or overworked– something like stepping away from an outline of yourself still feeling the pressure of the chalk around your limbs. M calls, early early morning, and I’m not old enough to panic yet, and he wants to talk about what he wants or that he’s been sick lately or both and I will. The decisions to make now are what to be full of, what kinds of liquids and when, and that it isn’t sponge-like or drain-like but instead just another kind of bowl or a jar. Early morning is a hard time to walk quietly to such a loud thing, and I try not to touch the objects we own, disturb them, because nothing else asked to be a part of it. I’ll keep my voice as close to nothing as possible, practicing delicacy. In the mornings when I wake up that’s chalk dust on the sheets. 

Q: But what is it, the worry.

A: The same. I’m trying not to hurt anything. 

* * *

Q & A

Q: What do you worry about?

A: Today on the train an older man had made it barely through the doors of my second stop. I don’t know what they call the people that drive the trains. Drove? Conducted? The conductor. The conductor was friendly and reminded us cheerfully to let the elderly and disabled have the seats. I didn’t know if our cheerful conductor would have considered this man old enough to be elderly. What the conductor really said was that if we are young and vigorous we should let the elderly and disabled have our seats. The day had been long. At the end of the day someone had asked if I was tired which means I had conveyed that I was tired. I think I had rubbed my eyes, wearily. If I had let the man have my seat he could have looked at me and thought young, perhaps, but not vigorous. He had barely made it through the doors and when he crept through he had become much younger. Vigorous, even. What slight danger does to a body. 

Q: And the seat?

A: It is rare to get a seat on this train. 

* * *

Not to cause any alarm

but there is a contestant on Make Me a Supermodel named Salome although the way the host pronounces her name is something like sal-OH-may or sal-OH-me which veers slightly closer to salami than to the the bearer of John the Baptist’s head.

“Salome,” answers the young man,
“I wanted them to bring me your head.”
       He said this jokingly.
And the next day one of her servants comes running,

carrying the blonde head of his beloved
on a golden tray.

-Cavafy, Salome

* * *

HOSPITAL WAITING ROOM

-After his stroke Nick’s father used to think he knew Chinese.

-Not the same.

-Right. It’s more offensive.

-Easier managed.

-She’s still alive kid. Still knows who you are. You’ll have to readjust.

-The nurse said that when she accidently spilled her water she told her to fuck off like she’d just answered the phone. The sweetest fuck off she’d ever heard.

-It’s a switch flip. Knocked to tell her to yell when she’s fine and coo when she’s mad.

-Yeah but the volume I know what to do with. It would happen with age anyway. What it is is the way her face twists with normal conversation– she’s telling me about her garden, what to water, the sound levels notches too high and the total rage in her forehead. The shape of her mouth. If I don’t look away I feel like no matter what she’s saying she wants nothing more than to tear out my heart right there. Words completely impartial– lilies, noon– heated from some place of absolute fury. It’s backwards. I have to learn it all again.

-You have to take it. She’s still there.

-I know. I know. Makes fights a little easier. Hard to be angry when she’s telling you everything you’ve done wrong in the voice of nun.

-Sure. Absolutely. And when she says she loves you you never won’t hear it.

* * *

Revisited

Griel Marcus on Astral Weeks: “You can hear these moments of invention and gasping for air, and you reach your hand and you close your fist and when you open your fist there’s a butterfly in it,” Marcus says. “There really was something there, but you couldn’t have seen it. You couldn’t have known.”

(Bangs’s was perfect, but this is nice too) 

* * *

Dwelling

A million years later I’m off the couch, stealing spotty internet at a new place with two floors and an impossible parking space. I have a view from this deck now of an old hotel which is mainly why I’m here, and in my head moving means playing music too loud and drinking beer and standing in empty spaces: enough empty space, I guess, for all this romanticism to echo wildly off the walls. It’s like inhabiting an expectation.

This view, though. The moon hangs right above the ancient sign for the hotel, named less an actual name and more just a string of nouns– a geographic term and three different words for buildings. Too there’s a mosque and a mostly empty parking lot and my neighbors have a garden. It’s space.

On my lunch break today at the Galleria a pigeon flew from one side out the other which isn’t weird because it is a kind of open-air version of a strip mall/food court and so completely plausible, but it is weird because that’s straight out of Bede. A bird through the mead-hall. Life as the brief period of light between the two windows. It’s a perfectly fine metaphor except for how airy it sounds: a bird through the mead-hall leaves out the massive pile of stuff being accumulated, stuff I’m currently moving up three flights of narrow stairs.

“You are sitting feasting with your ealdormen and thegns in winter time; the fire is burning on the hearth in the middle of the hall and all inside is warm, while outside the wintry storms of rain and snow are raging; and a sparrow flies swiftly through the hall. It enters in at one door and quickly flies out the other. For the few moments it is inside, the storm and wintry tempest cannot touch it, but after the briefest moment of calm, it flits from your sight, out of the wintry storm and into it again.”

* * *

Well roared lion, gluey atmosphere

FiveChapters serialized John Cheever’s Of Love: A Testimony. Cheever has been and probably always will be the giant watermark on anything I write. The man knew how to start and end stories and use words everywhere.

He looked up to where she was standing, speaking so rationally. He saw her long limbs in the serge frock and the hollows at her shoulders and the thin, pale features and that fair hair. He noticed in hate every detail of her dress and figure, noticed her in the same way he would with gratitude or desire.

On the NYT website Dick Cavett posted far too little video of Cheever and Updike on his show.

Updike: It’s a gift of quickness: John is in excellent touch with America in many of his details. I feel that John understands how men make and lose money in a way that’s almost divinely intuitive.

What a bizarre yet accurate compliment.

*

(photo)

picture-41

There is a new Burger King going up down the street and nobody cares. In a couple of days when it’s finished everyone will think it’s been there forever

The two reasons I won’t go to IHOP anymore:

1) After the game– won in the final seconds–  there wasn’t a lot to say so I talked about the orange juice, a new study or a new fact, but he said after that game he didn’t want to sit here and talk about orange juice. There was still adrenaline and we were wasting it.

2) After a show we sat in the booth when the ceiling started leaking onto our clothes and seats and food. We were rude.

That’s enough disappointment for one place.

*

To be able to write an ending to a story with such an understanding of the simultaneous inconclusiveness and inevitability of endings in real life will never make sense to me. In the end Cheever doubles back to the middle of Of Love, turning the end into a memory of a moment that already happened, the exact words used from another part of the story, as inconclusive and inevitable as it gets. Talking about orange juice I knew that it had been over or was over or would be over, and every ending from that point out has been just as expected and only a part of becoming something else, but I wouldn’t know how to make something out of it.

“As we grow older we read an end into each situation and out of these we build our values and form our expectations. The older we grow the more we know until at maturity we are far, far from fear.”

* * *