Monday, May 28, 2007

The Dust That Takes Even Cities. To Garett.


A flock of rain-laden clouds passed overhead yesterday-gray and thunderous- and the sky it left behind as it blew out to sea is crisp and clean and soaked in endless shades of blue and lavender. I lay for hours staring up at the glowing tip of the moon, growing brighter as the light around it dimmed. Birds fluttered through the intangible distance. An ancient church steeple pierced proudly through the heavens; and far off, deep in the city, the blocky top of a financial building rose equally high and yearning. I turned my face from the sky to the book I was holding limply in my hand and saw the mind of a man limited and confined in the strict black lines of logic and conjecture and yet also reaching. Does it make sense to you when I say that I want my writing to be like the wind that breathes through the treetops? When I was a child I thought it was the fingers of God that shook them. Now, as an adult, I know better than to attribute the gentle rustling I heard to some unknown specter. And I also know that the sounds of the leaves crinkling (like discarded newspaper) is only an echo of the words which become more and more fleeting until they have sunk beneath everything that surrounds them.

Have I responded to your last letter yet? Have I asked you if you can hold yourself above it all, if you can find the meaning that exists in each exhaled sigh? Have you really looked for it? I mean in the street puddles as they splash up against the wheels of the passing cars; I mean in the low swooping birds and in the buzzing bees and even (especially) in the deafening din of an excited crowd?

There is no other answer. You will live as you choose to live and then the dust will take you- the dust that takes even cities. They will kick the dirt atop you (as well they should) and they will pile their empty words upon you (as they should never dare). But, it seems now as if I am growing grim. But, I do not find it to be grim, my descent into the earth. Not when I can spend so long peering hopefully into the heavens. Because hope is real my friend, even when the fancies that feed it are not.

Hope lives alongside despair and they resonate with each other. It is always when I am high with hope that I can peer down into the deepest abyss inside me and gaze upon its infinite darkness with an objective and understanding eye. The abyss lives inside us all, Garett, we simply need to keep it in its place; we simply need to keep our eyes to the clouds and to the skies.

This is obscene advice coming from me and I am almost sure that I can hear you laughing already. But, don't mock me for getting carried away with my metaphors. There is nothing there in the clouds which doesn't also dwell on the earth, in our impassioned words and joyful laughter and grasping hands. Can I feed the love of life to you in spoonfuls of words? No. But I see it in you and I simply want to tell you, my anxious friend, that nothing is wrong.

Monday, May 07, 2007

To Father Preston- The Long Shadow I See.

Dear Father Preston,

If you see in what I write, the need to make flesh and blood out of a long dead god, it is only because I write to make objective fact out of subjective experience. Do you truly wake to find some external being staring you in the face or do you merely rise daily to the stark awareness of your being, small and self-aware and filled with life and hope by the indifferent sunlight and negligent breezes? I, too, am brought to my knees, Father, by that bare blue arc which doesn’t give a damn, by the radiant color curved over the horizon at sunset and the soft dust of moonlight scattered from such black and distant depths. I stare up into the stars and see something so immense that it cannot be contained in the moment, something which stretches back to years beyond any human life.

Your God and my literature are both acts of human imagination. Imagination is the way we color the universe in the hues of our humanity. Otherwise, it would be too vast, cold and uncaring for us to live in. Science too is an imaginative act. The scientist subjects the facts of nature to the humanizing force of logic. When the angels doubted God’s wisdom in creating man, God silenced their doubts by asking Adam to tell them the names of things that they did not know. This is what human beings do. We name things and because we name the world we own it and can act upon it. And so we have the courage to walk across the face of the earth in the midst of the wild and empty blackness that surrounds it.

I am not afraid of indifference. When I lie awake under the black and starlit sky, I feel that its inhuman face, lacking benevolence, is yet benign. It's like a stranger nodding to you in the street. He does not know you and because he does not wish to know you then you may both go along your ways separate and complete. You do not need him and you need not fear him. But when the trees shake or when small, angry-squawking black birds scatter across the sky in unknown patterns like something broken and flung up by the wind, I feel called to action. Like the universe which does not know me still demands my participation. The air vibrates against my skin, the light which pours over the forms of the earth travels to my eyes and I understand the shapes that obstructed its path. The birds cry and I look up and they swarm above my head as they swoop wildly falling in and out of trees and behind me at the end of the red, dusty road the sky is turning orange. And I, looking down at the street, am also the form that throws the long shadow I see. I am also outside myself. I am also a part of the universe.

In no need of convincing,

Friday, May 04, 2007

My Black Despair. To Fernando.


As much as I would like to "spit out my black despair", I feel as if I am not articulate enough to engage anyone (least of all you) in what would be mere, useless complaining. You need not fear losing me, friend; for you are one of the few people to whom I speak- in a verbal or written fashion. You help me to remmeber that life is worth articulating but only because I am living it. I don't know that life would be worth living if it wasn't articulated. And that is why I feel that most of my own life is not worth living.

But, I am not complaining, or sighing. I am only saying that things pile up around me and I try to tear them down- to look at them individually- but I am still mired in the memory of all those moments we shared, eagerly awaiting our turn to speak of something literary. It was in those few interactions that I understood the point of all that reading I had done, the point of interaction in general and I spend all these lonely afternoons and evenings wondering if I will find that with anyone else again.

When I write to you I feel I am reaching out for a long gone past instead of seeking out a future. But, I am only being morbid because I am alone. Your letters send me flying (even if only briefly) out of my black despair and I sing out my high hopes to only the sounds of your words echoing inside my skull. I feel again all the weight of possibility and how it is balanced so precariously on the edge of interaction.

I feel the distance I have come, the distance between us and honestly, it makes me long for a long walk with a whistling friend. I read Ulysses again and again and I envy his entourage. I envy those laughing friends I see skipping through the stone streets.

Forgive me for being blunt, for being a nag. It's just that I have lost so much and I don't know where to look to find it.


The Edge Of A Useless Evidence.


Was that some sort of good-bye? Or were you merely worn-out by the senseless effort of a night spent in meaningless interaction? I was a little disconcerted by the sighing note at the end of your letter. I don't want to lose you or your calm and measured words. I told you that I am greedy. To examine your life is one thing, but to articulate it is something else altogether. Sing out your high hopes to me, my friend, and spit out your black despair. You help me to remember that life is worth living. I had hoped that I might do the same for you.

I've spent enough time in dark and smoky places avoiding the glazed glances that glared at me with wordless hunger. I've optimistically sought out the stories of the people around me, pulling their words out of them with my eager attention. I've spun my own stories loudly and cheerfully filling the space around me with my gestures and my sense of self. I've sulked and sunk stubbornly into a sullen silence. I've picked fights and made foolish decisions. I've tried to feel alive while others around me tried to erase the traces of their recent lives.

All the things that mean something to me waver on the edge of what is said; all the things that meant something to me ebb toward the edge of a useless evidence. I always stare at people and wonder what they have to do with me, what they have to do with themselves. And I am always watching for that nugget of honesty that they have been waiting all night to hand someone. And I roll it around gratefully in my palm wondering if they were enriched or diminished by this gift; but suspecting that they have remained irrevocably the same.

When I am alone, I give my helpless, hopeful self to the sun-drenched blue sky above me marked by the soaring passage of birds, to the silently rising trees around me, to the delicate, shifting passage of the wind. I look into the face of nature with a bold happiness. But I know that it is only another human face which can look back and show me that I am also here, shrugged onto this earth like the pebbles on the path and yet complex and purposeful. And if I sometimes confront other people with despair, it is because we are complex enough to lie and to fear and to hide. But I know that it is possible to look into someone else's eyes and see something both sharp and yielding, the desire to understand and to be understood. And I know that it is possible to write and to be read.


To Fernando. A Fleeting Thing.

Dear Fernando,

I received your letter in the midst of a storm that was still as steady as it was when you wrote. It was strange because we don't usually have those connections to bind us together. But, this time, the rain was everywhere and when I read your words it was like the echo of my thoughts. I stood inside a crowded building for most of the rainfall and only stepped outside at the end of the night, when it was slowing down and passing by.

I spent the whole evening prior with people from my work. We went to some cheap bar and sat on rickety stools talking about nothing. My attention was drawn several times to the TV's on my left (and right) and despite how hard I tried not to look at them; they were at least visual stimulation (which was more than I could say for my company). They spoke of the commercials on said televisions and drank their beers heartily, slapping hands after each pint downed. And I sat there and thought of all the other places I might be but for the one person I thought I might speak to.

Needless to say, it was a disaster. And when I got home, drunker than I intended to be and muttering to myself beneath my breath, I caught sight of your letter peeking out of the corner of my mailbox. I inhaled a wet breath and snatched the soiled paper eagerly. And when I sat down inside, full of all the emptiness that I had absorbed, I would have cried if I didn't have the solid, written possibility of really interacting with someone.

I had stood there, infront of the people I know, looking at them blankly while they spoke because they were so passionless and so bleary-eyed. The wet letter I held in my hand was a blessing. You spoke of Catherine, of someone who held you close, who saw you for who you were and afterwards even wrote to you. You are the only person I write to and I hoped that was not the case. You are so daring, Fernando You throw everything you are to the wind and you let that wind carry you into the arms of so many people.They all fall into you so impetuously, blazing with the need to know you, to hold you- even for a short time. You are always so consumed and part of me feels like this might be a flaw but part of me longs for someone to be immersed within, some sort of distraction.

I suppose I had you to distract me from the mudanity of the daily- at least for a brief while. And we still recall those long days of discussion where literature was always number one. Creativity is a fleeting thing. I suppose you must grab it when you can.


From Fernando. All That I Am.

Dear Garret,

I also woke to rainfall, the sloshing sounds of a great gushing downpour and to the ringing laughter of a stranger on the street. A gray, languid light leaned lazily against my window and a wild wind circled the house with howling declarations. I walked into the nearly empty city, huddled in my coat with the collar raised and scraping painfully against my chapped and chilly ears. Raindrops gathered on my eyelashes and drizzled down my cheeks when I blinked. I stomped through puddles in my inadequate shoes until my toes were cold and wrinkled. The pavement was one great shining mirror. Dangling white blossoms tangled as they flew into the air. I crossed the sodden wooden planks of the foot bridge as it waved and creaked beneath me. The beaten, battered face of the river rose and fell in mighty oceanic swells.

I walked into work shaking the rain from my hair and squinting into the flourescent light, exhaling my exhiliration in loud, joyful laughter. And I admit that I wasn't thinking at all about my surroundings as I strolled through those narrow halls grinning broadly with raindrops on my lips. Instead, I was thinking about Catherine, whom I met by the water and who once kissed me in a sudden rainfall while her fingers carved furrows in my soggy hair. She peered up at me, gently, steadily, seeking something of my self. And what she saw she stole away and secreted behind a demure tuck of her glance. And I pressed against her trying to take it back, sweetened as it was now by her innocence. I held her and the days we had together delicately, in fear and hope, because they were precious and fleeting.

But now she sends me her words. They pour out of her with such honesty and strength. She brushed by me like the first gentle breath of spring and faded away like the echo of a laugh. But in words we can find again all hope and passion and the stormy day. Life remains, solid and true, held enclosed in simple lines. I covet her words and yours as well, my friend. I shuffle through them greedily. And I reach in and grab my own words in fistfuls and pour them at my feet. And nothing is lost. And I am whole, all that I am.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

From Garret. Gloomy Moods.

Dear Fernando,

Today started out with the sound of breathy winds and thin streams of rain streaking past my window at a forty five degree angle. The light was yellow and pale, drifting fuzzily down through vaporish clouds. The birds kept shouting at one another contentiously. I rose reluctantly to a seated position and buried my face in my hands, moving my fingers through my hair as my thoughts drifted drearily up through the liquor-laden murk of my brain. The thud of blood against my eye-lids counted out my regrets. I got up anyway, kicking myself out of the mess of my sheets aggressively, and marched to the shower with conviction.

I often find myself dragging myself through my days in this fashion, borne breathlessly behind my determination like a undersized dog-walker stumbling at the end of my own taut leash. I stride into my office each morning running high on coffee fumes, exchanging smiles and greetings and I somehow maintain the forceful energy, the upright stance, the friendly exchanges and clever remarks through eight endless hours. In social situations, I talk and laugh, tell grandiose, hand-waving stories. I raise my voice, I raise my glass, I joke and flirt and I'm always up for just one more. But at the end of the day, I collapse into my quiet: silent and solemn. And when I start to write you a letter I always find myself inclined to subject you to yet another list of lamentations.

I don't want to send you nothing but gloomy moods and anxious self-doubt. I would like to give you something full of life. But I also want to be honest. I want to say something and not merely to chatter. And when I am honest, I am sad. You've always been a brooder and a complainer, my friend. But you also have something truly joyful and alive in you. It is the ability to make something. The ability to smile into the abyss. (Do you hear me growing grim again?)

I stopped drawing when I was sixteen. All of a sudden, I curled up into a fear of my creations, unable to stand their presence outside my own head. In a still moment, when my mind wanders and the life around me dims, I trace shapes with my eyes, form textures with my fingers. I envision sculpting the contours of a fond face. I imagine spreading the colors of the sky across the blankness of a canvas. I want to really grasp the world around me, to enfold it in colors and lines and spaces. But I peer at my reality so uncertainly and reach out so timidly. And I feel less than I could be, less than I am.

I try to be honest with you because I hope that you will grasp me and make me solid. Once I called myself Buck Mulligan in disparagement. But I want nothing more than to stride into the world with the steady, certain rhythm of "Stately, plump Buck Mulligan." I can see the implacable fall of those four words more vividly than I have ever been able to see myself.


To Catherine Five- Lasting.

Dear Catherine,

I sat today beneath a sun-lit sky and watched big, soft clouds roll by slowly. Bumblebees buzzed around my face as I sat in the shade of a sweet-smelling tree with delicate purple flowers dangling down like a willow. I was at the edge of a bright green field and it stretched out before me into the distance. I read and re-read your recent letter and I wished I was on a train. I thought of how quickly things pass by your windows and of how strange it feels to be moving through something and yet to be remaining still, silent.

The last several days have been spent sitting in a bar alone talking to many but speaking to few. The smoke soaked my clothes and I smell strange now, even to myself. It is funny to sit back and watch the world interact around you, to peek out through squinted eyes seeing through the darkness, all the drunken inanity that surrounds you.

I have been thinking about all the things that outlast us- the tall, looming edifices, the streets beneath our feet, the sky overhead. And I've been thinking about making something out of nothing and pullings words-lives-from where there were none before. I watch this happen- even as I write this letter- which did not exist before I sat down to start it. I bask in the possibility which lays itself out before me- almost as a certainty. I know that each day that passes I am offered the opportunity to create something which lives outside myself. I often cower beneath the pressure of my own expectations, my own standards.

I could build a ten-foot tall tower of all the torn up scraps of stories I've tossed away. I could fuel the script for a ten-year long soap opera with all my failed friendships. All the things that build up behind me with each passing day, these things that I often run from and rarely flesh out into words- they are the backbone of my life. It is in these light and easy words I send you, it is in the glances I give to passing strangers and it is there, glaring up at me from the pages of my writing.

I have had the pleasure to watch you build your life, etch it out in words and sent it to me so that I can uncover it, know you. And I cannot thank you enough for trusting your self in my hands. I am a clumsy man, easily distracted, awkwardly unconcerned yet inwardly obsessed. I am trying to make something come alive at my fingertips and I am so happy for the chance to see my own reflection, to see your reflection in the sunny sky of our letters.

The wind is blowing lightly across these pages. It is a brisk wind for early May but brief. It reminds me of those last days of school when the inevitability of summer vacation was almost too much to stand. In those last few weeks of school before the break, I always was acutely aware of the temporary nature of youth. But, by the time summer came I was caught up in cat and mouse games with the lake water enveloping my small, nimble frame. The water was cold and refreshing around me and the sun was hot on my back; my friends' shouts were the soundtrack to my summers, my brother in the background, our mother laid out on a towel. At the end of those long humid days when my brother and I would sit in the cool night beneath the stars, our hair was still sticky and matted from swimming. We swung back and forth in silence on the porch swing and I would think in vague and simple terms: everything is fleeting, brief but boundless and life lays out before us all: a world of infinite possibilities, infinite interactions. I knew then, even with such little experience, that I would not be one to stay still, to irk out a life hidden beneath the cries of the masses. I knew- even then- even under the shadow of my brother's accomplishments (thin and silly- spelling bees- though they were) that one day I would see myself in the midst of all I'd done and I would know that I had done something.

Everything that happens is looked at in the context of everything that came before. You stood in your mother's garden and remembered your youth, those same smells caught in your nose, your throat. Your father, and his father before him and now you, Catherine, carving out the motions of your life and keeping them close. These things are all temporary but lasting. They last because we make them last.

Here's to lasting,

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

From Catherine Four- Linos.


Today I walked out into the warm rain, your letter ringing in my head. I raised my face to the sky and let the drops fall on my forehead and run down my cheeks. The streets were vacant, but there were some flower vendors set up under a tarp and I bought a red camelia and tucked it into the buttonhole of my shirtpocket. I walked on through the rain, my clothes getting wet and I not caring, the breeze cooling my bare arms and neck. The city was quiet and hesitated under the close, dull grey clouds. Everything was shining and silvery and clean smelling in this lovely spring shower that washed away whatever of winter this place was holding onto.

Then I was in a nearly empty train, slowly gaining speed, moving ever faster out from the city. Through the rain streaked windows I watched my world pass. Countless people huddled under hats and umbrellas in what really was a pleasant mist, coming in and out of building after building, each one falling past faster and faster in unrelenting succession. I listened to the noise of the train and thought of what you said about being in love with the sound of people living out their lives. I thought of the dream I had as I slept next to you. I watched my own translucent reflection on the windowpane cast over it all. The eyes were different somehow, they seemed younger, their color stronger than usual. Maybe I was remembering eyes I once had. I held a notebook and scribbled words and murmured them back to my reflection ever so quietly, the breath itself the thing that makes the words condensing on the glistening red mouth of the apparition in the glass. Muddy patches began to separate the city into patchwork, and the landscape changed through my rainswept window. Eventually we were passing mud fields, and everything leveled out and gave to a desolate flatness. I found myself moving above a wasteland of mud, fallen trees, abandoned bulldozers and cranes. Piles of stone and gravel, long columns of cement lay across the soaked and frothing ground like ancient ruins.

And then we crossed a long steel bridge that spanned the river. The sky lightened, I could see the rain was letting up. I watched gulls dip and hover around the bridge, unaffected by the bluster of the train. The river was catching the first light through the cloud breaks and it was glinting furiously. I wrote in my notebook of the gull's cries to each other, of lovers who call to each other from across great distances, who cannot soar over the barrier like a gull but must brave the river and swim to each other. They cannot call in that inhuman, unambiguous cry, but must communicate through words which hold many meanings and can easily be misunderstood.

I grew tired thinking of all these things and I fell asleep. When I woke the clouds were gone and through my window a forest was passing slowly, damp and dazzling in the sunlight with the fire of its blooms across all the branches. The train was slowing and we pulled into the station and I could see my mother waiting for me on the platform. I hadn't seen her for months and it was wonderful to hug and kiss her and feel her there in my arms and know she was alright. She is lonely, I know my visits mean the world to her.

We had lunch and drank tea and talked. We talked about my father. This is something I haven't spoken to you about, Fernando, and I'd like to leave that for another time. But as I sat across from my mother I looked into her eyes, and though we laughed and spoke eagerly I could tell she was holding things back, I could see the absence in her eyes. I miss my father greatly, but I only knew him when I was young, and she knew him her entire life. And he was her world. Have you heard the story of Linos, Fernando? My mother's trembling eyes reminded me of Linos. When Linos died the void caused by his absence trembled so intensely that it was heard and then named "music".

After lunch I walked in my mother's garden. She has always kept a garden of herbs and flowers. My whole youth is dominated by the smell in springtime of jasmine, honeysuckle and rosemary. The little plants had just started opening, they were stooped over and speckled with lingering raindrops, but their leaves were upturned to the sky and the warm sunshine. I sat down by the wall in the shade and watched my mother weed her garden. I thought of you. I thought of the absence between us and the music it makes. I wondered when I would see you again.