On my way out she's still standing in the corner, literally in a trench coat, notepad in hand, and as I pass by she says she's from the AP and can she ask me a few questions, like what brings me out today and what do I think of the two conservative candidates promising each other jobs if either one of them beats the progressive? The sound of a baby stroller wheeling across the floor, Heraclitus saying you never step in the same river twice. Incroyable, I say, because what else is there? and then she asks me my name and what I do for a living, and I don't say anything, French won't save me, I think of Lamar Smith shot on the courthouse lawn with the sheriff just a few feet off, I think of the images out of Soweto that first time, a tide of people surging over the veld, I think of the women in Iraq in their black burqas, their stained fingers held aloft as if they have dipped them in among the petals of some inky blossom, and has it come to that? like on the radio when someone in a far off place won't give their name for fear of what may be done to them. What will happen will happen if we let it happen. Who I am is who I am. So I give her my name, even the middle one that marks me as an immigrant, and I go about my life of privilege in which I cannot remember the last sacrifice I was asked to make.
Archives for February 2017
Everyone I know drifting around like the little gray donkey in the Hundred Acre Wood— not a cross but a rain cloud shadowing us along our lonely travail, a word derived from the Latin trepalium, an instrument of torture though archeologists are unsure of what it looked like except to say it was composed of the words three (tri) and stake (palus), how the French verb travailler comes from it, the French for to work. Travailler dur, to work hard. Travailler à l'œil, to work for free. Travailler la terre, to work the land. Travailler à, to work towards. What we are all doing, each in our own way though there are times when we forget the universality of the work of the soul, the work of remembering the humanity in each other. How the little gray donkey deep in his personal storm espoused it as such: “It never hurts to keep looking for the sun.”
Now in this new state of the world, you say I move as if there is some inaccessible room sealed off inside me like a sepulcher where the true treasure of the realm is kept shining in the dark. There is no chamber of gold, I phonate, lying. When I close my eyes, a bottle bobs among the waves, a message furled deep in its belly, the glass astonishingly green like the back of a housefly in sunlight.
Just two Saturdays ago I sat on Jan's living room floor and demanded it, said I do not want what the Buddha wanted for us, to live without suffering, this edifying force, because I believe the body needs to know it has been harmed, to know trauma which if a color would be the same shade as blood pooled under the eye, that I embrace pain because the universe is a wonder and I will not deaden myself to anything, even the darkest dark, which means even the photo of the young boy in the arms of his smiling captors, how right there in the truck bed on a dusty road in Aleppo one of them will take what the article describes as "a dull knife" and like a violist sounding a long nocturnal note saw the child's head off, knocking the air from my lungs like the time I fell off a ladder, creating a vacuum at the center of me as I had been doing with myself all summer, me with the money and the time to learn to breathe underwater, on my knees thirty feet deep in Mendota, my body sheathed in two wetsuits, neoprene gloves and a hood, twenty plus pounds cinched around my waist to counter the buoyancy in an attempt to exhibit competency at the basic skills such as taking my mask off in 53° water with less than two foot visibility, the sudden cold like the back of a hand to the face, causing the gasp reflex to kick in, the thrashing like a beached fish as I breathe through both my regulator and my nose, how I stay breathing like that, taking both air and water into my lungs in equal measure only to learn that Kim is right, that as long as I am also taking in air, I can inhale water for a long time without dying, I can live through this darkest dark, the two teenagers in Janesville in full body armor with assault rifles lurking at the edge of the protest against the speaker and X saying they put themself in between the crowd and the teenagers and it was fine in the way things are fine these days, in the way we all just keep going despite, and so I remember that summer moment in the lake, the way I kept going for one full minute, breathing in these two contradictory elements, water and air, desperate for the tiny piece of paper that would certify I can do this, I am doing this.