THINGS THAT HAPPEN WHICH, FOR A TIME, KEEP US FROM CRUMBLING
Alone, standing still behind the unusually silent all-male dormitory, October, a Thursday forty-something years ago, 1975, the not-still boy, the not-yet man, is evening out by the side of the pond which is encircled by drowsy trees.
The trees' maroons and ochers are reflected in pond-ripples, and fat geese float placidly in the refracted hues. They are at home there. No notion of flight troubles their round, puny heads.
And the not-quite-yet man wonders, "How will I get home tonight?" And then (he didn't see the next thought coming) "There is no home to get to." Perambulations of mind, of heart, but not of feet.
During this freshman year aid has been located in a pen to write with, in the constancies of blank pages, in the time to gather something to say, to actually see what one thinks by what one says to no one, though he prefers not to write from his life. Science seems less trouble to write about (he had thought about this). In Science, plots have centers. George Washington Carver felt at home in a dorm like this one, and too, in God's Little Workshop--which is what he called his laboratory. Plasticity there. Bonded molecules of silence. Study. Years a man spends shelling miracles.
In the sky above the not-quite boy, wisps of clouds, the color blue. A sun behind him halo forms around his head. Saturation.
Eyes scanning the eastern sky he notes the complete absence of planes. Song-cycles spin repetitively in his head.
Love-heart loses its elasticity as he stares down at his feet, flat, sinless in the green grass. Organics, he thinks, are very important. When they're used up decay rots the foundations, and the musty world dissembles. No-world. Calcification.
No place to put pain, no one sea big enough in all the failing world.
The composite he had seen in the mirror that day: noboynomannohometogotoanymore.
Faces of people he had known years before now blow through his mind like blooms. A kind of rapture takes him in its embrace. He draws his sweater tight around him like a self who understands that it is wrapped around its own personal store of nothingness.
Nature's flow toward night, indecipherable rhythms, its gradient descent, these lay their certain regularities at his feet.
Without detecting how or why, he felt alive. Alive. And so he stopped thinking about home and the absence planes and where he might go to observe the unfathomable pain that heaves the earth's seas, and instead he walked away, in the direction of his room where he would write and wait with oblique anticipation for whatever grace was sure and soon to arrive and bare its breast like a lover to his eyes and heart alone.
“I’m not built for this kind of thing anymore,” I muttered,
looking out the window at the face peering in.
alright.”Her voice was silver and
In a general way, I knew what had occurred.
She climbed into my overturned car, into my upside down
world.Visceral fear eked out,
mine, in reluctant tears.Shame
mine more than fear.This woman—she
touched my face and she smiled, as if there were nothing more natural under the
sun to do.
I had been flipped over onto my head, which was twisted
against the roof of the car’s interior and cricked drastically to the left,
under my shoulder.Warmth—wet,
viscous—pooled around one cheek.When the car had rolled, a sharp “something” the color of cement crashed
forcefully through the driver’s side window, ramming the left side of my face.I’d tried to wedge my hands against
it.I reached deep for the strength
to right myself, to fend it off, but my strength was limited by the fact that
I’d grown fat with time and drunkenness.And so there I was suspended upside down unable to
move my legs, which were pinned beneath the dashboard.All of my weight had reasserted itself
from my bull ass to my cricked head and neck.I heard more than felt the initial crack of cheekbone, the
snap of surrender.The snap was my
face breaking in on itself.My
cheek snapped off from my eye, my teeth cracked away from my nose.
was late.A conciliating stillness
had followed the spinning upheaval, the scraping, the over and around of it
all.Whirring.Dark.I think it was the airbag that blew me back just before
everything had gone completely black.
And now this woman caressed my cheek, curled her hands
beneath my head.Smiling.Smiling.The weight of my body slumped off my head to my
shoulders.She completed this
easily, effortlessly, and she never stopped smiling, even when—especially
when—she settled her gaze in mine.There was something like love there.I knew.
“I fucked up,” I sputtered, warm liquids around my mouth.
“Everything’s okay,” I felt her say.And she repositioned her hands to where
my legs were lodged and numb, and she slid my knees from under the dash.I could not feel my feet.She laid me flat and held my legs.I felt my spine straighten and felt an
accompanying release.Then she
reached up, pressed her palm to my stomach and looked as if she were listening
to something.Her touch released
me, birthed me, through my arms and legs, hands and feet, and I sat up.
now,” she said.
I took her hand, rose, stepped around the vehicle.It was like stepping outside of my own
I looked back into the twisted remains, but I felt her
watching and I looked to her again.
“Come,” she said once more.
We rose lightly, together, ever, ever so lightly, rising
continually above the small crowd that had gathered near the scene.Viewing the tops of their heads
shrink.Sound gained on the
after-silence, growing fainter.In
the widening lens of ascent every detail grew more distant.Sirens.The night smacked open with red lights—so distant, barely a
pinhead from that height, everything in the world and outside the world.
Ascent hypnotic bends that lead to melody and percussive tinning--sticks and jinn--ambient spells that run at the level of mere mind, the key of see, little windows of the kind you find in airplanes or hornets' eyes, pigment-cup ocelli, shining all the way down to the beating heart of everything, a-thumping below the senses, unheard, felt faintly, a memory, visit and invitation, rose window--cathedral strains of light stringed and strung--sung. i remember . . . rumors and weird pronouncements (do i keep the e or not?) a meditation on spelling, siblilant sobriety, sober society of sound, circling--ascending. oh, slant of soul, assent now.
it's nearly time for you to be waking. i have not yet been to sleep. outside my window everything is mantled in snow, which makes the world a quieter place. it's the middle of the night, the part that bends toward inevitable morning. i climb out of bed, boil water, make myself a bowl of pasta. i think of you sleeping far away, and i want to send my love to you.
I return from the hotel lobby with hot coffee. The oceanfront window is open and I send love to the sea that is constantly salt-scrubbing everything it touches. It washes itself as it washes the earth and its creatures. The bed is rumpled, and my lover is off to begin her day. Her body haunts the white sheets of memory and touch. Everyone needs to be touched. In a just world every bed would be rumpled and every morning, this one morning, hot coffee, goodness everywhere.