Let me try to lay out what I think I understand
about my life. I took a sipThe new plague has worked so quickly we’ve returned
of wine and plunged.
nearly to equilibrium.What’s behind me has been built out of nothing
into a whole row of apartmentsYou can presume relative safety. I’m a quiet person.
full of exotic people.
I don’t make a lot of noiseThe most I can ever do is establish what appears to be
a relatively safe levelA flash of amusement, realizing the invitation
for myself, for my own body and mind.
to pounce could be takenI have two cats who live outside hunting gophers and mice.
more than one way.
There’s a bit more to climbShe was thin, shy and tended to be exacting and impatient,
until we level out.
but I was a good, caring father.He had the heart and clearness of mind
to be a therapist. We could affordEmptying his pockets we came across
little in the way of school.
a policy for trying outA safe level for particular bodies, nervous systems
new groups of people.
and private individuals with questions.They may be a bit uncomfortable about what
they think I’m doingI used to have a dog called Bruno
but they’ve no reason to stop me.
but when he died I didn’tI learned what it was to be really poor, what it does
have the heart to replace him.
to the human spirit.Fundamental things still apply—
a greenness that makes IrelandA place in which only self-deluded, naïve people hope
look grey encircling a perfect crescent bay.
for things to get better. Las VegasAbove all is the ghost of sunk capital. Terrible assets
and the end of western history.
that won’t be born. Telling a copIt’s a strange feeling to look up the hill, across the grass, and see
to fuck off.
those buildings staring downShe never really said anything I could count on, and I didn’t want to
where there used to be nothing but sky and trees.
waste any more time or energy than I had toSo to you, yes. Yes for telling the truth. To your intuitive fingers
on people who play games.
and all the rest of you, what are youShe’ll be coming to be with me for a while. I’m meeting her plane
trying to say?
tomorrow morning.She’s wonderfully gentle. Down the stairs into the living room, the fire
is still throwing off occasional sparks.Lit fingertips move thoughtfully
up over the top of my shoulderDo cities decay differently in the New World?
and pause behind my ear.
There’s a faint touch of tease here—biologicalKeep silent in deference to the possibly
warfare sort of stuff. Recreation crisis.
imminent end of the human race.Seem comfortably at ease with private images.
Of course there are different ways to terrorizeIf he’s the kind that gets easily irritated,
from the sky.
I’ll likely find out now.Evolution rapidly manufactures new species or subspecies
out of their domesticates.I didn’t know I was suffering from an illness
known as depression. For the first timeI sat for a moment, staring at my knees as I tried
in my life, I thought I was seeing the world.
to put broad, wide images
into small, tidy words.
THIN RED LINE
After giving birth, she says, she dismissed the universe
and told it that it wasWithout my presence there will be no magic in your life.
on its own.
Pretty intense, but okay.
Sometimes when you go through a miserable thing
you become allergic to everyone.The nurturing mother reaches for her child’s hand,
feeling with pleasure the texture of the skinShe takes the grossest materials and blows them
and the solid bones of the fingers.
into shimmering bubbles.So we rejoice in the salvage. The afternoon and evening clouds
through the window at a specific moment.As long as you stay off the piano keys.
And the me who thought I knew who I was woke up
by the oyster bar.He has no conscience because he has no need
of humility in his life. Somewhere, out thereComposed harmonies can be claustrophobic at first.
in the shifting sands of Death Valley
is a nothing to repeat always—
My recollection of the endless summerTension between perception of reality and growing up
is almost unbearable.
mesmerized me and my friends.With the mirage of unattainable futures in the distance
it became urgent to wring as muchJust a few minutes ago, I was looking out the living room window
freedom from the night as possible.
and two dogs were playingActually I had a wonderful time. The only horse I bet on
on the boulevard.
was a winner despite narrow odds.And it’s just so fun to speculate, to play a role
in making a nature scene.When the rival withdrew from the field
their faces showed confusionTaking pleasure to strut around with a gun in your belt.
or something like embarrassment.
And it’s just so fun to speculate—
In the kitchen, a soup was simmering on the stove.
On the tile counter were green lettuces and bright-I went through a few moments of seeing my worst faults.
red tomatoes heaped into piles alongside loaves of bread.
Ceiling high bookcases thrust into the room.
There was a central room, surrounded by a veranda
sloping downwards, outwards on all sides.Of course it’s not unthinkable that I’ve held several hands and waited
to cry and never cried but wanted toYou’re not obvious for saying it’s dark & intolerable
but was filled with too much anxiety.
outside. It’s a soggy grey fuckergiving dignity and purpose to small rebellions—
the monotonous hot-rod and beach
riots and motherly perspective.
What is needed is a recognizable molecule that carries the unstable
promise to the brain. A good-humored BuddhaI’ve tried and tried but it keeps slipping away. We stopped
area of the self.
at a spot overlooking the bayAfter the patrolman followed us we joked about dodging a bullet,
at the same time both observing and performing.
the first stirrings of pleasant feelings evidentAfterward, sleeping was tricky but it worked out okay.
without introspective urges.
I said thank you but I have to goIt’s simple, I think. I open my mouth to say just that, but everyone
on with the rest of my life.
says something along these lines,A clear vision of big cities as actors in their own right.
seeing places and things with their eyes closed.
When I close my eyes the first stirrings ofI rise and lead the way through the kitchen and dining room
pleasant feelings become evident.
and down the hallway to the bedroomA good humored Buddha area of the self. I spend the night
feeling solidly connected to the physical world.
on a pad in their bedroom, for onceThe piano plays on, undeterred, and in my place on the floor
tired by the music, the air clean and cool.
I imagine my preferred self-imageIt’s yet another distraction. How fast do you hold to yourself,
awakening to clinical sunshine.
saying tiresome truths over and over againHave you ever been to Death Valley? I’ve wanted to see it for years
to the tired people who rush into your life.
but haven’t yet had the chance.We packed the car with sandwiches and the makings of a good salad.
There are personalities you never forget.
The idea appealed to everyone.At the entrance a small sign nailed to a telephone pole announced,
For the first time I missed the road.
fresh oysters for sale, as if I’d builtWhat will operate against a swift frame is a certain coolness in the work.
an imaginary destination in my mind.
When we walked into the living roomSo far it wasn’t at all like my fantasy. The kitchen was comfortably large,
my chest tightened, though I knew what to expect.
with a linoleum floor so old its original patternHe led me down the hall and out the back door. We walked along
was lost in a general brown-ness.
a narrow dirt path, past clumps of early narcissus,One scene in particular stays with me. The hero has wandered
under buckeye and pine trees.
into a valley where he sees, all around himFor most of my life, whenever I was being introduced to a roomful
plants thrusting up by the tens of thousands.
of people I didn’t know, the tiny muscles on either side
of my mouth would go into a twitching spasm
if I tried to maintain a smile. Noise erupted around the table.
Names of people and places I didn’t recognize
were flying everywhere. Outside was the green world.
© 2007 Joel Craig