Thursday, December 24, 2009

What Kinds of Resolutions

What kinds! Here in the windy gap between birthday and new year, I'm conjuring all kinds of low-key resolutions in a coffee shop. It's a sort of slip-in-time, a no-man's zone, these 6 days I have before the new year comes & knocks, and says its time to go. It's not yet.

How shall I resolve? Plan ahead, & know your enemy, that other self. Know him through compassion. Forgive the past. Gather up your many creaturely guests, & love them unabashedly.

I've been resolved at the smaller end of my twenties -- the twenties are a cone, taking you in, minimizing, stabilizing, simplifying. The sheep has been shorn. The sheep has been taken to Sacrificial Hill, and nearly killed -- but at the last moment, spared! Left alone on the killing block, naked and trembling. Alive. Glad for it. Confused. Whose whole purpose was to die, and now? Now, what kinds of resolutions!

You're not dead, Alice. Look in the mirror and see that mad-cap other world; Dorian, and see what you've become. Medusa.

Narcissus, lift your pallid mug up from the lake, and look! The wide world, the real world. The world of your thirties: smaller, dryer. Smaller and dryer than the will.

Which, in this case, is a word of hope. That you ought to have died, and did not die, and now your will is that of any creature: enough to fuel movement, outwardly.

By the law of the quiet room, the quieted heart, stand then upright in the world of wind & light.

So: Narcissus, the door. If "I is another" as Rimbaud says, then leave him to his juvenile lake-lapping, and go find a sunlit clearing, a lovely wood-nymph, something else! Something. Else.

All that awaits those who overstay their welcome in the land of self-reflection is convention or worse.

What kinds of resolutions, then? To leave this coffee shop. To never come back.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Meditation on Rain

I’ve decided to remind myself
that I’m going to die. It seems appropriate
given the fact I’m turning thirty this year
and my life still shows of continuity.
Like something that can end. Besides,
it’s been raining all morning, silver fits
that fall for twenty minutes
then blow away completely, and isn’t that
a little morbid? Light falls between.
Last night at dinner, three friends
spoke of consciousness over dumplings
and I kept silent, imagining a thin wire
roped around a rosy-cheeked version of myself
and spooling out through time and space.
It carried one particular wavelength,
one long, continuous note, like generations passing.
My grandfather wasn’t afraid of death.
He saw his mind extending into God’s light,
lifting up through perfect blue sky—
to all of us below it grew bright, then vaporized.


Further proof, as if I needed further proof, that I am a vain man: I received back my Gre Lit scores, and they weren't awful -- not nearly as awful as I imagined they would be -- and suddenly today I'm able to do my work 100 percent better. Not because the decent scores will help me get into the programs I want to get into -- they won't really, as most of the programs I'm applying to don't want to see the Lit test scores anyway -- but just because I've been affirmed in a small way. I feel smart again. My ability to work hard, apparently, stands in a parallel relationship to how special I feel. I want to feel special.

Looking out at the rain hitting the pavement, I'm filled with a desire to describe it in an extraordinary way. I want my descriptions of it to be as extraordinary as Robert Hass' poems felt last night, when I was reading from his new book. My favorite of the poems is called "Consciousness." It makes me love myself again, in the un-vain way-- a love that is born in the overflow of wonder at being alive. A love that wants to describe the rain, but not just to be heard-- instead to share the wonder of it's beauty with someone else. These two impulses, a desire to share in wonder and a desire to be special, have done a confusing little dance within me since I was a boy.

Now, I say: I don't want to feel special. I want to love you. If you find yourself close to me, and I seem awkward, or I seem reserved, or whatever the hell I seem, know that I want to love you. And I don't know how to do it. As I watch people engaged in loving each other every day, badly usually, but then in some lucky moments, spectacularly well, I feel a terrible loneliness and wonderful gladness.

I'm about to turn thirty, and as it seems like a perfectly cliche time to reflect upon my life so far, I'll recall to myself again the fact that 15 years ago I wrote on a little slip of paper that the goal of my life was to share with other people the hope and wonder that are in the world, in existence. I've not escaped the diction of my adolescent self. It's still true: I want to write in a way that makes people feel as wonderstruck as I feel when the rain comes and then goes, making way for a little light, which falls and gives to the shiny asphalt and suburban trees a sudden gladness.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Thoughts in a Peet's Coffeehouse

Everyone is alike: we all use language (sometimes timidly and sometimes obnoxiously) to feel out our existence, our relationship to our world and to others. We act, and measure the effects and meaning of those actions through language. What has the world said about what I do, and how has it made my actions meaningful?, we ask. Here I am, awake in the language debris that's washing through a coffeehouse. Washy, washy. A poet, almost thirty, a woman who is so cold, a man who calms a cold woman quietly as he hands her a steaming tea, and a tattooed coffee-man, offering commentary on the Shawshank Redemption, keeping up an airy banter with the other less-articulate coffee-man, whom I can't hear very well.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Two Kinds of Love, pt. 2

Even this second love-- a love that’s died
and been reborn, a love that’s refused to look away--
even this love rises every day to clouds or sun,
coffee and a bowl of cereal. Both loves
meet their blear-eyed loved ones in the hallway,
at the kitchen counter half-asleep, mumbling
their love. Familiar morning meetings
when nothing comes to mind, none of the nights
spent sullenly, none of the grave-digging
or rebirth -- all forgotten. Even this love
whose name is Resurrection must wait
as the coffee drips. When the days are just normal,
when we don’t remember death. It isn’t hiding,
and maybe it’s okay. It’s what we have.