Archive for the 'life' Category

Eulogy

gaping maw

He’s taken my money and killed himself. This is what I have to ask myself. I mean, I can imagine the earth opening up, gaping mouth and hungry for vengance and taking him down to the steaming pits of hell. I can definitely imagine that, and I can definitely more or less agree with that plan, what with all that greed and all that theft and all of those people, people like you and me, just left out in the cold, holding the bag, while he’s been sucked down into those bowels. But what I can’t understand is where the money went. Do they use money in hell? What currency? What exchange rate? Do they extend credit? Because what I don’t understand is why the man would kill himself after he got all the money. I can readily understand suicide for someone who’s too poor, too sick, too miserable, too pained to tolerate the hand they’ve been dealt, but when billionaires kill themselves, you’ve just got to ask a few questions. I mean, they wouldn’t be billionaires in the first place if they’d had any scruples, am I right? So how does it happen that scruples develop after they’ve taken everything but the very shirt off of my back and where the hell is my mother’s money? That’s all I want to know. Maybe he’s not really dead. Maybe he and Bill and Bernie and whoever else lives on their privately-owned island paradise somewhere, paying for their exile with her retirement funds. 

Then again, maybe he really is dead. He could be dead. So I ask again, where is the money? And then again, maybe he didn’t really kill himself. Maybe the machine killed him, the machine that makes the money happen, makes millionaires into billionaires (billion is the new million, had you heard?), then eats their heads.

Maybe he didn’t kill himself. Maybe his head exploded from trying to do the accounts, from trying to account for, be accountable for, the transfer of wealth from the gullible middle class into his own stainless steel glass and white leather penthouse apartment that he’s had replicated in several major cities worldwide so he never feels like he’s away from home. Because he’s pretty fearful of being away from home. Remember when he was little and he used to wet his bed until the psychiatrist recommended the electric matress pad that gave him a shock every time he did it? But not until he asked for them, because he was going away to summer camp and the summer he was seven, every kid in Potlatch Village knew he was a bed wetter and a thumb sucker too and they made his life a living hell. So much so that he told Dr. Stangard that he’d either have to use the electroshock system or give up on ever getting into a decent college. Dr. Stangard wrote a prescription for nerves and ordered the electric pad, which was delivered three weeks before camp started. It only took 4 days.

Then again, maybe he did kill himself. Maybe that early bedwetting was an indicator of deep sensitivity that he’d learned to suppress using electroshock and assorted prescription drugs and he was so out of touch with his feelings that he could screw anyone, even his own parents and sister, without feeling much of anything. And maybe when he went to rehab, like he did last December, they cleaned out his system and all those feelings came rushing back and overwhelmed him and he had feelings again for the first time since he was seven years old. Poor little guy. And maybe if he hadn’t turned on himself, he might’ve turn on us, like some of them did, mowing down an entire tribe of CEOs and investment bankers. And maybe we should be grateful that he didn’t. Bless his heart, we will miss him, won’t we?

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Georgia and Tom on the Oregon Coast

rainforest

“You get a line and I’ll get a pole, honey, honey. You get a line and I’ll get a pole, babe. You get a line, I’ll get a pole, we’ll go down to the fishing hole, honey oh babe oh mine.”

Tom couldn’t help singing. Tom hitched a ride with his happy thumb on his way to Anchorage Alaska, where he intended to build an igloo and marry himself an Inuit girl, skin seal and harvest amethyst in the frozen ice caves of Siberia. Tom was a born entrepreneur, but a southerner too, at heart, and it got too dang cold for him just about midway up the coast of Oregon and he never made it to Alaska. Stopped in Gorgeous, Oregon, in the deep wet forest that runs along the west coast. For a year or two he lived on blackberries and fish and his hair grew long and shaggy. He slept too hard to snore, and was too unreconstructed to think about farming, or storing, or hardship.

Oregon is a fine plentiful place for people who don’t mind a little rain, and Tom got comfortable, although not soft. One summer he gave forestry a try, strip cutting a corner of the Kalmiopsis near Biscuit, but he found he could not bear to cut the tree people. There is more bleeding in a tree than he’d ever felt in a salmon, though he could not explain that to himself or the woman who eventually convinced him to put his shoes back on and get out of the tree. He became a spokesman for trees, a miner of bees, he cultivated honey, and made a little money. Then he planted gobble sum and toad willow and buddha fingers and poultry rhymes. He opened a nursery on the edge of a small state road where people who were not in quite such a hurry might stop and talk and buy a cold drink, a Yoohoo or a Sierra Mist. He sold plants and named them himself, as much the inventor of his own roadside stand as any other stepaway of that particular time and place.

The Oregon coast is green, wet, mossy, and cool. At one time (at the time of this story, in fact), there were not many signs or arrows pointing to particular destinations, and it was not unusual for strangers to lose their way. They might find themselves slipping from a long low road into an awning of dripping willows, lining the drive where Tom lived with his trees and the woman he eventually married. Her name was Berry, who stings the fingers and stains the mouth, but she was sweet on Tom and he on her, and this worked, out there in the small stone house where they lived together, with their bees, their honeysuckle, their ginger snap trail blossoms and their two-fingered lobulus marionettes. The garden was fresh and they grew herbs, and kept a few chickens, and wrote some books about living in Alaska and building igloos out of ice and amethyst, and swimming with polar bears in the melting snow waters of high summer in the far north.

Georgia liked to make honey syrup from the berries as they ripened. She made a blackberry syrup, raspberry, blueberry, mulberry and rye berry. Each one had a distinctive flavor and a color that was either natural to the berry or boiled in a colored honey blend to brighten them up. Tom smelled each syrup as it mixed, and measured and tested each flavor with nose and tongue and fingertip, looking for the combination that lifted the spirits and let them fly away out into the cool wet air, where smoke from wood fireplaces hung and ruffled in the cool breeze as the sun went down. The fireplace smell was ashes and fruit, and Georgia and Tom’s three big labs liked to lay there, slightly damp but warm throughout, to let the heat seep into their ribs when the nights were long. Georgia gave birth one time, then two, and Tom hung fishing nets along the fence on the deck where they sat while Georgia recovered. Georgia began to identify each of her two births from one another by markings, by sound, by temperament. She did this surreptitiously, quietly, on little padded cotton feet that did not track much into the house. Eventually, she considered naming the children, but by then they were up and ready to name themselves.

Lost my compass. Anyone seen it?

Drat.

My brain’s gone walkabout again.

Don’t know where, exactly. When I look inside my own head, I see mostly fog.

Maybe it’s the new year making me fuzzy (August is my new year).

The chickens, geese and keets seem more important than writing.

I can’t seem to get enough sleep.

 

Maybe it’s the weather.

 

Maybe it’s my disorganized office.

Maybe it’s my hormones.

 Maybe it’s astrological.

 

Maybe it’s nothing at all.

I’ll be back when I’ve got something to say. Or when my office is clean.

Whichever comes first.

The physics lesson of Australopithecus

a-pithicus 

Light travels in red grey sunset angles through the deep trees in the ancient jungle. Tiny Australopithecus rummages underneath his leafy bed and slides into his flip-flops. Strapping on the pith helmet left him by his grandfather, the great great great grand father of the hominid just before us, he walks quietly into the night.

He walks quietly into the night; stealth is a gift we are given by the DNA of our common ancestry with things that need both to be afraid and to be feared. I carry a stick. You carry a stick. Miraculously, the enormous lonely rhythm of the heart running through the carotid artery and out again keeps fear at bay and carries messages through the jungle that we are ant we are anteater we are poodle we are dictator. Blood messages, like time travelers, salinating and desalinating the bitter taste of worry. Quickly, quickly, quickly tricking the heart into believing in the ticking of the bomb that carries away sweetness and the mating of apes and aphids.

The mating of apes and aphids is contained in a module on biological sciences, stored in the library next to a laminated poster of dinosaurs eating swamp grass, heads swiveling, looking for predators. In the courtyard nearby there is a substitute teacher; he is sweating and his eyebrows feel worried. He strokes his face and wishes he had not dropped out of graduate school again. He strokes his face and looks down the hall. He is tall, the hall is long, the bell has rung and he is surrounded by a sea of pygmies, washing around him and he is afraid. He sees a boy and thinks of himself and thinks about sitting out in the parking lot listening to Abba on his Ipod, but today is a strange day and someone would probably call the police to report a strange man with worried eyebrows sitting alone in his car, and at least inside the school he has a known identity. Sub. Subject. Subjected. There is such as thing as too closely shaved; his skin feels raw and shiny like a baby something, a baby something not human, more newt-like or reptilian, and the air feels cold rushing against his naked face as the children open and close the doors on their way to the playground.

On their way to the playground they find a fossil. They find many fossils, and some sticks. Here: I carry a stick and you carry a stick. Put the stick down. Put the stick down. Then later all of them pouring out of the playground like Ovaltine and slightly burned milk, too hot to settle down now. The man is an Australopithecus wandering lonely in the jungle, the desert, the changing expectations, the creased perma-press dockers, the perma-frost largely unmentioned in classroom or cafeteria but ubiquitous nonetheless. Ubiquitous, the melting down of hard to soft, of cold to hot, the disenfranchisement of order. The blacktop is melted, the tar pits are hardened, the hominid hums a little tune and carries a little stick to dig in the earth. He digs in the earth, humming a little tune and then he goes home and sings the song to his son.

He goes home and sings the song to his son and they make a new bed together, out of rushes woven together and this year there are no stinging insects, because the cold that surprised them killed the mites that bit them and the woman who bore the children. They carry their little sticks and pots of water and grow things, and then centuries – thousands upon thousands of them – happen. The waters melt and freeze and someone invents Miracle Whip and pajamas and then they are here, with the frightened substitute teacher and the freakish death of the drummer for Abba, who fell through a window and slit his own throat. He carried a stick, and he hummed little songs for himself and his daughter, his little dancing queen now all grown up but fatherless and the substitute teacher is sad today.

The substitute teacher is sad today, but like the tides will get over it and reach in and out of the bag in which he carries his secrets, the sorrows and those epiphanies that surprise us whenever we find them, no matter how many times we’ve found them before. It’s the scrabble bag, all the letters are the same every time but the recombination of elements makes every moment new. All the letters are the same every time. Origin of species giving us the same dreams dreamed by a tiny man in a timeless world in a spinning orb in the gasses that surround us. Light travels from unimaginable distances to unimaginable distances, light travels like time, light travels like no time, light travels, light travels.

Introducing Nanowritwomo? Threemo?

sleepy 

Guess I won’t be finishing on schedule for nanowrimo this year. What I may do is see how my mom’s illness progresses and shoot for a two or three month writing goal if it seems possible. Which is not at all clear from one day to the next.

In the meantime, I believe I will fall back on the telling of traditional stories to keep my mind on the archetypal world. I’ll need to dredge around in my memory, but I think Tatterhood would be a good story to rewrite in a 299-word format. After breakfast. My mom is now just strong enough to call me at 4 a.m. and again at 5:30 to tell me she’s being ignored. Nice to see a little fighting spirit, but geez . . .

More caffeine, I guess.

Is dad ready to start dating again?

“I’m going to resist the cow,” he said.

“Please do,” she said.

“Cholesterol, I mean,” he said.

“Yes, I knew that,” she said.

He put down the menu and excused himself.  He was sweating like a pig.

“Feel like I’m having a hot flash,” he said out loud to himself.  And realized immediately that he was not alone. Pretended not to notice, just shook it and zipped up without looking at the man standing next to him. Shit. Ok. Back at it. He washed his hands, cold water on his face.

“So, Evelyn,” he tried when he got back to the table. “Have you decided what you want?”

She looked at him. Eyes cool greyish green, a nice color. A little protruberant, a little fishy. fisheye Those silvery little fish that disappear when they turn — just little bulging eyes floating in vitreous fluid.

He was starting to sweat again. Grasping for topic control. Something to talk about. He brought out everything — TV, sports, animals. He was choking on his lasagna. Why did he get lasagna? Nothing like sweating and bloating to make a good blind date.

 
man in spaceHe closed his eyes and pictured himself escaping to another planet. Then another, and another. Careening through the void until he came to one with no mating rituals, no expectations, just rut and run, a little wholesome in-and-out between entities with no sweat glands.
Evelyn said something about her cat. He noticed her pin — a turquoise horseshoe.

“That’s unusual,” he said, pointing. She put her hand on the pin.

“My father goes to the races,” she said. He had no idea what that meant. He stopped talking.

She said, “Well, I guess I’d better get going angry kittybefore my kitty goes hungry.”

“I hope your kitty starves,” he said. Nervous paralysis finally shaken loose in a moment of free-floating hostility. Shit. I said that out loud, he thought.

He looked at the man in the table next to theirs. He thought it was probably the man from the restroom. He coughed.

“Well then,” he said. “Ready to go?”

 

At the intersection

© Teresa Valle 2006

I. Making change

Keep it in your pocket.
Give it to the men who hold signs in exhaust.
Give it to the barista with the plump little belly, the bright nose ring.

Change happens during coagulation, the altering of blood from liquid
to solid. A settling of substance, the end result a state of no change.
During circulation, the end result is no end result, end process only,
a flowing away of substance; never stops leaving,
never finishes arriving.

The biological definition of life is irritability.
If you poke it with a stick and it responds, it must be alive.

Curmudgeonly, the living. In a continual state of reaction and withdrawal.
Tidal.  Moonscape shows the blue-lit octopus waving his tentacles,
restless and resting, reaching, grabbing, sucking      exclamation points declaiming
alive alive alive      into the deep blue deep blue below

foggy eyes move past, bubbles
rise and sing and gasp

            Luke, I’m your father. Down on his knees, Luke crying
            Jesus fucking Christ I am alive and it hurts, old dad

           But old dad just keeps on wheezing, deeper and darker, colder
           than obsidian.           What a terrible risk it is

to be alive, what a terrible risk we say, and imagine a cold old
Davy Jones and the breathless beyond. We are sure
            somehow      that the unreachable unknowable is more
desirable than here where we struggle for air.

II. Evolution

Imagine that you are on your knees praying       day and night       except 
when working at your job,      scrubbing the toilet,      weeding
your garden,      washing your children,      taking your lover in
your mouth.     One day it occurs to you that

your life revolves around genuflection
bowing and scraping and breathing for release.  A remembrance of waves
washes by one day and draws you back into the deep.  The sound of air
calls a song from over-yonder and that reminds you
          somehow
of your grandpa and his mean-spirited lay gospel.  You imagine him
in the great beyond and it seems to have surprised him.  He’s wearing

nice clothes,    but    half the Beach Boys are there with him,
and lots of old blue-black blues men, and he’s pretty sure
there was supposed to be two heavens, one for white folks,
one for coloreds.    But    even before he passed he noticed
it was getting harder to tell exactly what color some folks
was, and it’s possible that that great great grandma of his mighta
been more colored than Indian,    so    maybe there was

   separate heavens, and he’d gotten assigned according to lineage,
the begettings and begottens of  a long family. He starts to think
 about evolution and himself as  half-man, half crocodile. This makes him
smile; he pats his own arms and belly,
looking for scales, or feathers, or something that says

man, here, is part of a continuum, not a settling of accounts, not
an end point.    But      patting his pocket he finds some
change      a few quarters, a nickel with an unfamiliar profile.
III. At the intersection

He sits for a long time on a log in a quiet place that smells of
swamp and a faint sea breath, playing with the coins, flipping
    head tail head head tail tail head    smoothing them
warm with thumb and forefinger.          Eventually, the sun goes down and he gets up, walks away from the log,
toward the sea breeze and the little patch of star-sky out over there.
He believes at last in evolution, and finally he is not irritable
   at all.

the sun goes down and he gets up, walks away from the log,
toward the sea breeze and the little patch of star-sky out over there.
He believes at last in evolution, and finally he is not irritable
   at all.
the sun goes down and he gets up, walks away from the log,
toward the sea breeze and the little patch of star-sky out over there.
He believes at last in evolution, and finally he is not irritable
   at all.

 


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