Monday, December 29, 2008

Last Few Days of 2008

Usually you have your youth to reach over and touch in times of existential worry -- well, (you might say to yourself), at least I'm still young. And then suddenly, it's four days after your 29th birthday -- still young, granted, from many perspectives, but I guess what matters is your own sense of when your free-pass license of youth is all used up. And, for me, it suddenly feels like it is; at least, I'm reaching for that familiar box of inexhaustible do-overs, and not finding it.

And so I'm trying to get a taste for these last few days of 2008. Though I've forgotten nearly everything of consequence I ever learned, some residue has remained, and this strange post-Christmas space between two years is slick with the wetness of knowledge lost. Also, the wetness of the downpour of rain that fell earlier today, while I sat in Portland, sipping coffee and feeling romantic. Feeling a heck of a lot.

And I like feeling. My body seems made for it more than it's made for retaining verbal information. What exactly "verbal information" means, I couldn't quite tell you, and though I'm interested in trying to figure out how, right now I'm riding the feeling-wave of the song that's echoing from my ear-buds; and I'd rather feel it, than figure it out. Than make a system of figures for it. Organize that system -- literalize it. Whatever that means.

My stomach is full, and I'm 29, and 2008 is about to sputter out, a candle flame, wet with waxy residue, flapping like a tattered flag. I salute you, banner of those who keep their minds mostly free of entangling alliances. Who like to feel, instead, the free association of a world of moments, disconnected but by a certain simple animal-faith. Let's shake hands and admit that as far as we know, we're alive, and we're dying, and we have a little time together. And that no one has ever figured out more than that, and that it's enough. That all of the faith one needs in life is packed into that little seed.

And there are a hundred men and women like me tonight, earbuds sunk in waxy-wet time-canals between two years, typing out their heart's expression. Thumos, as the Greeks said -- logic of the gut-heart.

And we're all original, those of us typing, those of us sleeping, eating, urinating, making love, watching television, looking at cats, rubbing our feet across lineolium, laughing, reading magazines; we're all located somewhere in this world, doing something that's never been done before, in exactly the way we are, by someone exactly like us. Performing it for the first time, in time. Theme and variation.

Everything is new under the sun, Solomon. Everything, that is, except for the age-old whining about not being able to know anything. But no one has ever whined quite like me, so fine, so free.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Winter Sonnet?

Working on these is a mostly meditative practice, and as that is true, I feel for them as one feels for ones neighbor's pets: very little indeed. And yet I post them -- which is an interesting psychological event, is it not? No, no it's not.

Stuck in snowy ruts, then at intersections
fish-tailing, as they say, between the icy banks
in an unhorsed black sedan, we spent the day
wasting it. Christmas shopping, we called it,
and why you went, you couldn’t quite say.
A backseat hotshot, pouting in your borrowed coat
while nit-pickers picked on pointlessly
about which way to turn, which time to take.
A theoretical believer in free-will, now losing faith,
you inwardly recounted the ways you were
coerced to act against your nature – today,
and since the womb. Which was a thought, of course,
and buzzed cathartic. Determine this,
you said aloud, gesturing, and no one cared.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Sonnets, V

Suppose the sleet keeps falling all afternoon,
and suppose I continue having nothing to do,
until I picture Dante mounting the stairway's
ivory steps -- the steps he climbs to see you,
Beatrice, standing at the high end of the embattlement
all dressed in white, and snow-white all around you
falls gently, and still through the near blank slate
where light makes any black seem brilliant blue
your green eyes gleam. Oh, any mundane room
and cold-footed waiting through a dreary day
will suddenly take flight. Oh, I’ll speak in couplets,
oh I’ll get up from my chair, and walk down past
the kitchen lights, and stare awhile at Dad,
at Mom knitting by the tree, and think of you.

Winter Sonnets, IV

After a morning of sorting through some music,
of waiting for some feeling to accrue,
white maybe, on the sill, the snow has pushed against
the house in drifts, and sleet has fallen, and I
haven’t made much progress. Mom and dad
are clanging pots in the kitchen, making lunch,
and my brother, the youngest, is killing electronic
warlords. I’d help, but I’m bent on finding songs
to make the melancholy lift, like my dad said
the weather won’t, at least today; he presses
his face against the back window to see
the spears of ice. He smiles. And now, my mom
tries to come in, but the door’s stuck – she taps:
“Justin,” she says, “It’s ready.” And maybe it is.

Winter Sonnets, III

A guest in my parents house at twenty-eight,
and still no mortgage or child of my own,
I’m up at two and picturing the tree
still bright at the house’s other, warmer end,
still gently raining red from it’s star-crown down,
making the heap beneath the bottom branches
look huge. It always did. These gifts, this year,
aren’t for the pink-cheeked hopeful version
of myself—no, he’s gone, and in his stead
two little Christmas angels, my brother’s,
asleep in bed, will be at the downward end
of the yuletide avalanche. I’ll say it’s clear
up here, Children— it’s fine. But I won’t say climb.

Winter Sonnets, II

The winter’s slick white hand rains down the glass
and slithers five blurred streaks, that bend in five
the lawn’s gray face. Half-white, half-snow, the grass
looks limp, looks up at least, and will survive
the winter. I’ve seen it do just that most years,
though none as hard as this— and none so cold:
my bedtime water froze stiff on the sill.
That was days ago, and now the melt spears
the pane into murky limbs, one lit dull gold
as something like the sun begins to spill
into the corner. The lawn looks happier.
Once, it was, I had to march out, mud-gilled
and dig a grave beneath a too-dead yard;
I’ve done it for myself. It isn’t hard.

Winter Sonnets, I

There’s no reason to believe that after this
there will be something; except that always before
it’s come: something else. I’ve woken to it daily:
a new set of conditions, a new pattern
of clouds stretched across the sky. I’ve never
been surprised by it – by my father coming in
and saying the silly phrase he just concocted
coming down the hall; new, for the fact
that never before has anyone who looks
like he does, right now, hair speckled silver
just so, glasses askew at 5 degrees, with that
body, that sweater, leaned in this guestroom door
and said those words, just the way he did.
And who says death won’t bring its one word more?