When I look by the seaside, my seaside or any other, I look out to the horizon and imagine the earth falling away over the edge. I have done this in Senegal, Greece, Mexico, Canada, and California. The effect is the same, but when I am away from home, I imagine my fingers skipping over the water to the place have come to belong. Being away from home is already on the same plane, though I am filled with excitement about being in this new place, seeing what I am accustomed to and things I am not accustomed to like feral cats that nobody ever feeds, vendors who press their watches to your face, and women who seek to impress you with the fact that they are second wives.
I keep meaning to write about Senegal. I have let you down on this. As time passes, I will make good on this.
…free. My mind stretches over the cactus, the Joshua trees, the yuccas, and the sage to the mountains and dunes that surround me. Sometimes I stretch to the thin line of the horizon. All is “hollow, hollow all delight” as Tennyson wrote. Hollow in the best way. I could live here, a hermit in a stone house with thick walls where I could keep cool in the day, not cold at night. I would rise in the morning and take in the views, the light as it changes during the first increments of morning. The flow of the light until it floods the sky. Then the fall of the Sun to the west, the flames of the end of the day. Satisfaction.
Not everyone feels as I do about deserts. A friend who completed the writing exercise at the same time wrote about how she hated them — the heat, clunk of the air conditioner, etc.
The morning has been at the eastern face of the building for several hours. The cactus on the deck grab whatever light they can from the slim triangle that the angle of the sun allows in winter, but I am still sleeping. Then the world turns, my deliberately obnoxious alarm sing-screams, and I open my eyes. My cat, who has been with me, sits like a sentry to ensure that I don’t fall back asleep again. I pet her as the light bounces off the walls across the street as I let the glow soak into my face. Then I sit up, let the old man’s dizziness leave my head, and walk to the kitchen to check my blood sugar.
You are the strange uncle suspected of dementia before your time, the family member who relatives shun, who they change chairs to avoid at holiday tables, and whose views they question based on the simple fact of a break in a chromosome. You hang your head over your succotash or your cranberries or your stuffing, listening as they spout their crippled certainties full of confidence that they are not the ones who should be questioning their thoughts.
Mysteries arrive in the mail every few weeks. I never know what is in them even if I myself placed the order. I open the box and memory comes back. Ah, I say, it is that. Why did I order this? Too many boxes can mean too much stuff that ends up down in the garage in a larger box, this one without the postal markings that came with the first box. What will we see in a few months? They become strangers or long lost friends in a cardboard or plastic waiting room. Oh, that is where you have been! I have been looking for you!
Sometimes I wonder if women are aware of the pressure white men come under when they are not around. My wife had to run out to the car. The store clerk began talking to me in a conspiratorial tone about “our new president.”. You damn well know he chose the moment when my wife was getting the grocery bags. Anyway after dealing with his attacks on Obama, I finally told him that I did not come to the store to talk politics, pointing out that I hadn’t brought up the subject before. Oh, ok…
White men know what it can be like to be alone “with the boys”. No respect for race, sex, gender, etc. We are all expected to march the same march. And these same whine about political correctness! I have never felt as policed for my political views as I have been around white men!
What about the rest of you guys? Have you been running into it?
They make nights like this to crack our ribs.
We stomp the floor
until the moon sets in the dark and we have nothing
except our despair of the Titan made by television.
We escape from the twenty four hour idiocy of the news
through streaming videos which do little to calm
the nausea and the muscles shaking through to the bone.
The rest is chatter by cable television trolls
about a two-toned jigsaw signaling victory
of an electoral blunder which sharks
women living alone with their writing books,
women living with husbands made of fists,
African Americans living under metal jacketed authority,
Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs branded as having one soul and one face,
Latinos with calloused hands and many jobs,
Asians who do not want to be inscrutable or studious,
gays and lesbians who are what they are,
the good men who must defend all from beasts.
My cat does not understand my mood.
She and I have worked out a language
that none but ourselves understand.
But it is limited: I cannot explain
my wife’s grief to her,
why she went to bed crying,
burying our Boston Terrier under the covers,
and waking up repeatedly
until dawn screamed in her eyes.
We have lost the ability to talk about our country;
our sense of it has become apocalyptic
complete with the shattering beat of four new horsemen
who ride backwards.
Too clean. My mother spent hours raising the scent of Comet throughout the house. Her eyes squinted and her mouth frowned in a face that reminded me of all the times she had scolded me for sloth. I feared this visage and hid from it because it was accompanied by a litany of things I should have been doing if I was a good son. No one was ever tired except for her even though I had spent the long day in an un-air-conditioned school and walking a mile over a steep hill in the heat twice a day. When I did volunteer — or when I was pressed into service — she did not find my work up to standard. If I left a hardened speck unscrubbed by the steel wool, she scolded me for laziness and made me spend minutes or hours getting it right. And there was always another spot.
Photo by jennypdx
Someone slipped into my truck and left a razor blade on the passenger seat.
I stared at it, contemplating what to do, until the hours of shock subsided into the moment that had actually passed.
It was an artist’s blade, with a long cover on one side to make it easy to cut without savaging your finger.
I did not want it there reminding me of that day when I texted my last will and testament to my wife before sitting on a log to study my veins.
This piece of steel sharpened to lacerate was a sick joke played on me by a stranger.
The gray rectangle was not a ghost.
I handed it off to a worker at the Wellness Center where I had parked my truck. He put it in a hidden place for disposal.
A classnmate once described pain as sliding down the edge of a long razor blade. That memory drew blood from the empty spaces between the neurons.
This strange, ecstatic man
ponders the journey of the stars,
the debris of the Universe
that crashes coughing into the planets
and mars the stripes of Jupiter.
He contemplates comets
with the intensity of a cat
lapping up gravy.
Though I have had shingles, a gastrointestinal virus of some kind, pulled muscles, a fatty liver, and a basal cell carcinoma — a minor form of skin cancer –, I have not had an episode. My blood sugar was too high — in the two to three hundred range — and I had some visual hallucinations because of it, but these shadows in the corner of my eyes have vanished as my numbers came down. So I am well and caring for myself.