Wednesday, August 17, 2011

One More Stop, plus 60 miles


There's a way that I've been pretty anti-poetry lately, anti-writing. Maybe it's burnout, maybe it's recognition that starting in a few weeks and for some long time, I will be expected to "perform" (i.e. write). Or maybe it's some current need for unfiltered, unfettered experience. Maybe I want to see things, feel things, do things without any thought for how to translate anything into anything "meaning"ful. The thought of all that exhausts me. Even just sitting down. To tell you what I'm seeing, feeling, doing. Not to mention the parsing out and piecing back together.


What the flashing LCD light says. As I write this - in a notebook, my computer not having been turned on in days - 3am on the train outside of Hutchinson, Kansas, where I lived as a very small child. I watch two small, unaccompanied children gather their things. They are probably 6 and 9, about the age my brother and I left this land already too familiar with caring for ourselves, each other, our mother. Already too familiar with "adult things." I wonder as I watch the younger child shake his brother, pointing to the land outside, dark fields, scattered streets at 3am, if there is something to this land that ages children prematurely. The conductor asks "are you traveling with anyone?" The older kid responds "no, sir."


I remember the heat, the dust, and then the snow drifts in winter, scooping up to the roof of the house. Where we could climb there. Everything extreme. And slow. Days spent corralling toads and digging ditches just to watch the creatures get nervous in a crowded bucket, just to watch the ground blow by from under it. And the trees caked with dry ivy we climbed in. Sometimes poison ivy. That I made my brother eat. I did it. I was not allergic. Sorry. Everything unattended. And when we fell, we fell. Trees and red splotches. Wounds and underwater.


Grandpa knows none of this history, though some he can guess from when we were younger, even younger. The condition we were in sometimes when we were "dropped off" for a day, a few days, a week. Until Grandma said No More Of This. That she wouldn't deal with my mother, the loose, loose cannon wrecking my father, her only child. Or deal with the children - chapped, bruised, silent, bleeding - who were never part of her.

I don't want to write about any of this. It might be days before I turn on my computer, before I post this from the tiny Public Library, the only place in grandpa's town with wi-fi. I will walk five blocks through 115 degree heat to check email and to maybe post this. Right now as I fast approach the town of the 3am train station (now 4am train station, train late for the crazy weather in western Kansas) I just hope my rental car is there. I haven't more than napped in about three days. And I've got a long dark drive yet to go. I will take a few minutes in my overtired to learn the car's controls. Find the lights. Find the windshield wipers. Find the FM stereo. The radio will be playing what was playing when I left in the early 1980s. It always is.

Monday, August 1, 2011


“Listen. I may not be much, but I’m all I’ve got. Maybe you need a magnifying glass to find my face in my high school graduation photo. Maybe I haven’t got any family or friends. Yes, yes, I know all that. But, strange as it might seem, I’m not entirely dissatisfied with this life. It could be because this split personality of mine has made a stand-up comedy routine of it all. I wouldn’t know, would I? But whatever the reason, I feel pretty much at home with what I am. I don’t want to go anywhere. I don’t want any unicorns behind fences.”

[Book #95 for 2011]

Innovative structure got me thinking about the duality of living multiple lives. Like the way we move through the world as it is, but then when we're (or I should say, when I am) in the middle of a writing project we are also simultaneously moving through that world. Sometimes time moves similarly in both worlds, sometimes not.

Every time I read something with a fantasy / surreal element to it, I think: sure, why not. And then for a while that's what will make the most sense to me. Unicorns. Walled cities. Shadows cleaved from bodies. Subconscious shuffling of numerical data set off by a sequence of tones. Underworld with flesh-eating inklings. Hot librarians. And the end of the world. But I don't believe a switch will be toggled for permanence in either field.