Curiously Colorito

By Anthony Ivar Colorito

Category: Spiritual Writings (page 1 of 2)

I Hope You Understand

I’m put here for you

built for you

to understand you

and feel your emotions in my sinews

 

put together stitch and loop

organ and extremity for you

to hold that candle

I hold it for you

in the dark

so I can show you your thoughts are profound

your intuitions genius folded into alarm bells

raining rivers of emotions to live in

while you read the torrent of my dreams

mix and decipher my raw thoughts

 

I am a man

put here to find you

I pout and stomp my feet

without you

I am designed to

follow your scent into any crevice

any secret passage

corridors hidden from everyone

into scalding nightmares

I hold you tight

while you scream

and dream bold elliptical shaman’s dreams

in my arms.

 

I am that man put here for you

I am as sure of it as the sun

I hope you understand

Sauvie Island Beach

 

The tugboats are working overtime as the viral pandemic seizes the city. I watch the red and white craft stacked upon itself, built up onto five levels, and piled backwards in its squat dutiful power, like some toy boat found in a child’s playpen now come to life on the quivering river, charged with pushing a massive rust-colored barge, shoving this enormous tanker, from behind along the otherwise quiet expanse of the Willamette river.

 

Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Jefferson loom in the background. White-capped monstrosities of rock and dirt pictured in the air and surrounded by the blueness of the Portland sky, present like an indelible backdrop to all the mundane fears huddled and momentarily allayed here on the beach; the peaks also unreal and dense with the fantasy of art painted in a dream, almost palpable and intimidating from a distance but, through their inertness, never fulfilling the scope of their imposing majesty.

 

We both sit on a grassy knoll just above the sandy beach abutting the river on Sauvie Island. A blanket and two towels have been laid down on the grainy grass and we both sit quietly for a moment simply observing the couples with children and the dogs all overlooking a two hundred yard divide of river-water separating us from the other side. I set down my leather tote filled with picnic foods and lay my satchel and colorful sweatshirt behind me as a pillow.

 

Sher decides to test the water and she kicks off her leather foot-thongs and quickly jaunts toward the water with the brisk urgency that defines how she addresses what is before her. I watch her petite shapely derriere wink and shift as she approaches the river’s edge and she immerses her feet in the water. I can tell the water temperature is cold. She shuffles back as her feet take on a sandy paste peppered with dirt. Her majenta toenails gleam through the tan and black coating, her feet reminding me of breaded chicken breasts, coated with peppered flour and breadcrumbs ready for the fryer.

 

The tugboat and the object it has been toiling behind glide down the flank of the river and disappear around a bend. Waves wash up gently on the shoreline. Several people are out today disobeying “stay-at-home” orders. Dogs on leashes pull their owners towards other dogs, children with colorful Hawaiian style board-shorts fill pails with wet sand and young couples bask and playfully entwine with each other on towels spread out under the sun.

 

I look out across the river and see densely huddled pines inched close to the shoreline. The trees are short in height and all remarkably straight and uniform in posture with the occasional bend in the crooked branch but astoundingly and homogenously uniform and these secluded brethren crowd in on themselves and guard some sacred secret within their cascading palisades of green life. Directly in the front row there is one tree with a bright green sign nailed to its trunk. If anything is written on it, the words are imperceptible.

 

A white ski boat with black highlights motors by blasting its tower speakers. This act of self-aggrandizement seems lost in the clearness of everyone else’s intentions to escape from annoyances and impending questions arising in recent weeks from a crisis at hand. High-pitched children’s voices soon overcome the dissipating growl of the boat’s departing engine and the music fades quickly like a Parisian police siren losing the tenor of its grip on sound over the elongating distance.

 

There have been a rash of warm days during what is usually a cool, rainy month in Portland. The population has been told to stay in doors and not mix socially. Parks and outdoor attractions have closed their access. We visited this beach three days ago in the late afternoon and as evening ushered in a cold wind we realized we were underdressed and vowed to return in a day or so. The beach was deserted that day. Today is a different story. It is Friday and people are out in droves all with similar ideas, yet there is plenty of space and it is refreshing to have not been barred access or told the beach was off-limits. In addition, the people-watching is excellent today.

 

The afternoon elapses quickly before our eyes; that lovely phenomenon where two souls together, connected and bonded by so may commonalities, are fused in a moment where there is no time to look up, or look after, or think about and not a sliver of anxiety or fear arises and so time passes in large chunk-like intervals instead of increments and then before long we realize the time has unfolded so rapidly that it becomes immaterial and lost in the poetic intervals of a dream we now have for ourselves.

 

After we share a late lunch of croissants and smoked salmon with savory cheeses and raspberry jam, we read for a while, then sleep briefly, and then read some more. The dreamy warm air around us, and the moisture from our skin along with sweet smells of breath, all conspire to elevate the day as it drifts into evening. A breeze cools the curves and contours of Sher’s exposed skin prompting her to nestle closer for warmth as the air feels heavier and the clock approaches 6:45.

 

The evening sets the table for a new mood and as others fold up their blankets and rinse sand from their children’s plastic pails, we find ourselves locking eyes and exploring within each other an already blissful connection that is now amplified by a moment rendering us both speechless with gratitude. Around the periphery, reluctant kids pout as parents throw bags over their shoulders and trudge the hill of sand to the staircase. A yellow Frisbee glides by tilting sideways as it cuts through the clear air and blue horizon.

 

Sher now rolls back onto her right side with her eyes closed in meditation. I marvel at the curve of her hip and the proud flounce of her bottom as my eyes climb into the network of branches tattooed on the elaborate tree marking her entire back. There is a darkness to the ink embedded under the skin, texturing the bark of the branches, that lets in the lightness of her flesh tones, a rippling of light accentuated by the subcutaneous hills and valleys made by her scapulae and the protuberant spinous processes hidden and all along her thorax.

 

I roll onto my back and watch. I look straight up above me into the unfathomable infinity of blue space. A sky writer pierces the sky with a white, linear plume of exhaust. I watch as the concentrated density in the blast of writing uncoils from its straight-line imprint slowly thinning and widening into gaseous entropy and blending with the myriad shades of blue owned by the sky until the trail is a vague mist and then nothing but blue with the vestige of what ultimately seems like a smudged cloud.

 

I pick up my novel and read, shielding my eyes from the waning sun with the book. It is about a man named Ove, a cantankerous old Norwegian man whose behavior as a pedantic curmudgeon is spawned by grief after the death of his wife. He lives in a black and white world ruled by propriety and dogma. He is nothing like me but I find myself loving him and caring about him and empathizing with his foibles more than I would expect. The sentences are short and concise, filled with economy and populated with an array of the spiritual that comes through what is not said. The abundance of simplicity surrounds me on all sides. My reading slows to savor the expansion of what is written into the sacred nature of the unsaid. I ponder the value of silence. I feel overcome by a strong desire to drift aimlessly on this silence as a mission towards finding only the necessary words for the moment.   If the words do not come, I aim to bask in even more silence.

 

I now roll over onto my right side and see Sher still engaged in her own version of the solitude we have been culturing together. I watch as Sher’s rib cage rises and falls with each breath. I notice all of her subtle unconscious movements: her neck tilting and toes flexing. The almost imperceptible wind caresses a few strands of her hair into an ever so slight elevation that may be static energy. Her hair takes on a slightly darker shade of reddish gold in the dim light of impending evening. I see the impression the bikini strap makes in her back as it winds around to support her breasts. I feel like the same force that coaxes strands of her hair apart also stimulates the goose flesh appearing on her thighs. I reach over and touch the soft angle where her thigh graduates into the curve of her derrier. I try to barely touch her skin but the erotic charge moves swiftly into my fingertips causing me to look even closer as if it might be visible.

 

Two almost empty containers of raspberry jam sit atop a paper bag that contained two croissants. An oily package that contained three varieties of smoked salmon lies on the blue and white striped beach towel. My beige Converse all-star, high-tops with Andy Warhol Campbell soup cans emblazoned on the sides of the canvas sit with untied laces on the grass spotted around the plastic toe piece with moist dirt. Next to them a pair of silver-framed, mirror-lensed aviator sun glasses sit on an oily napkin sprinkled with croissant crumbs. There are croissant crumbs all over the towels and an almond croissant in its plastic wrapper sits uneaten next to red-handle knife. A burgundy leather tote bag sits on the grass with a package of chex mix, nuts, two apples along with an unopened deck of playing cards.

 

Sher is now on her left side facing me. She is reading Demian by Herman Hesse. She takes a break and also stares at the red and blue replicas of soup cans on my Converse sneakers. Our eyes meet and we smile that secret smile between two people who realize they have something most people don’t have and pine for while never finding it. The river is now calm and no boats are in sight. The tugboats have finished their work for the day. Another family packs up their belongings and walks along the sand with their grade-school aged boy. I look over at the green sign nailed to the tree on the other side of the river. I ponder the other shoreline once again and notice there is no room for people there as the trees have crowded right up the edge of the water. I still cannot read what the sign says.

 

“The intensity of my sensations has always been less than the intensity of my awareness of them. I’ve always suffered more from my consciousness that I was suffering than from the suffering of which I am conscious.”

 “The life of my emotions moved early on to the chambers of thought, and that’s where I’ve most fully lived my emotional experiences of life.”

 “And since thought, when it shelters emotion, is more demanding than emotion by itself, the regime of consciousness in which I began to live what I felt made how I felt more down-to-earth, more physical, more demanding.”

 Fernando Pessoa

“The Book of Disquiet”

 

I was telling Massimo about all the times she broke up with me, yes times, plural, with an “s,” but he didn’t give a shit, just told me to suck it up.

 

“Forget about her, she’s not worth it. She’s not who you thought she was.”

 

Who is ever really the person one believes them to be? I thought, especially when you are in love with an idea, a fantasy. Believing another will somehow conform to a pre-established set of qualities I have created in a delusion of who I think they are remains a purely selfish act without rival.

This interchange with Massy was the standard, macho, dude-to-dude therapeutic identification with about as much validation as I could expect.

 

“Go find another chick and bang her.” He continued.

That’s the cure. Just land another one, especially with a big ass. They’re all over the place. It’s a medically proven fact.”

 

I locked eyes with Massy and was silent, holding back a grin and fighting the urge to participate in this.

Here was another one straight form Massimo’s famous textbook: “How to remain unconscious during and after every relationship with a woman and not lose an ounce of mojo.”

For him my experience was a textbook case, another scientific case study in how to cope with the bizarre and unpredictable behavior of women.

Fact was, I couldn’t listen to any of this and I don’t know why I engaged him. That’s false, I actually do know why; in the midst of his flat-out invulnerable sensibilities and ninja compartmentalization skills, I was able to glimpse my soul.

 

So I went about doing some soul-searching.

“Tell me about all the times she broke-up with you.” I asked myself this time.

 

Maybe if I established some distance from that part of me that fell in love and weathered the storm, I could gain some insight. I needed a better vantage point. The emotions I was feeling came up formless and amorphous with milky flickers of light the source of which I could not locate.

I needed to ask myself questions, get some answers, be transparent, move the veil aside, open the lid and feel around deeper under my usual motivations. I had to play differently with that searchlight and train on my insides, maybe find and expose the feminine part of myself I willingly handed over to her. I had to stop wavering and meandering in a lost field. Awareness is one thing but hearing it all at once is another.

Who is that psychiatrist? He wrote about the archetypes, broke with Freud because he was too spiritual? Carl Jung. I read in his books that falling in love for a man means unconsciously giving the female part of his soul to a woman and, to boot, you don’t even realize you are doing it. It’s all unconscious, genius. And it all happens, hook-in, line and sinker, the whole deal before you can blink. Who is this woman living inside me? I’ve never met her. At least she could show some compassion and introduce herself instead of fleeing the scene, embroiling me in a passionate love affair that I gave my all to only to have it mysteriously end and leave me in a quarry hammering rocks.

The first time I heard this I’m thinking, wow, that gives a lot of guys a pass, gets them a scientifically valid justification for infidelity. Massimo is taking that one to the bank. I’m sure wives weren’t too keen on CJ back in his day.

When I really think (here I go again thinking instead of feeling), you know, take the lid off my damn ego and rummage around below it somewhere, I find there was something mysteriously magnetic, and intrusively compelling, a vector-specific drive I could not control, forcing my hand, pushing me hard, operating deep in my gut, way down in those hollow visceral chambers. Or was it my heart? I don’t know how to tell where it’s coming from but one thing I’m clear as day on: my will could not stop the desire and it was not coming from rational thought.

What a heavy trip and after all this bliss and monumental misery in the space of days, I have to say I’m pretty sure that’s what happened.

I started thinking of love as a jam I get myself into. It’s like finding beauty in nature and searching for myself and another at the same time, following a siren-call towards mating bald eagles in the distance and mysterious sunsets and shimmering streams sensually caressing against fluorescent rock formations and right when I’m immersed in the whole spiritual tranquility of the thing I’m lost and can’t find my way back. The path disappears, the scene changes at dusk to an ominous fairy tale where hidden creatures lurk.

So I started doing an autopsy of the relationship and made sure I didn’t go too far back. I don’t mind dissecting, in fact, I love it and that’s not just a metaphor. I’ve covered a lot of ground over the years dissecting every square millimeter of several cadavers and I’m grateful and honored to have been able to do that. What I’m talking about is different, though, and I’m kind of nervous and insecure about it, because my dissection takes the form of intellectually tearing apart emotions so they are not what they seem. When it’s all opened up and I peer into feelings a point emerges where I can’t even recognize them as feelings, and I wonder if they’re even coming from me or from someone else.

There were a few clues along the way, artifacts animated, vestiges and pathognomonic signs fingerprinted on the glass that grew into flares of realization. These kept coming back to life. The carousel revolved around a center post of love while feelings jumped on and off the ride. Christ, why did I put up with that? I don’t have that many lives left and right now the smell of formaldehyde is getting to me.

So I went back to the one I remembered best.

Taking into account my proclivities towards distorting emotions, I realized I’m not sure where these are coming from or if they’re even coming from me. After all, this feminine shadow wields mystical tools, so I better first quote my man Fernando Pessoa and then put these emotional thoughts down on paper.

 

“ In each of these sensations I am someone else painfully renewed in each indefinite impression.”

Fernando Pessoa

“The Book of Disquiet”

 

There was a moment where togetherness felt like floating on a tandem raft drifting on light rapids, manageable and exciting and this inflatable raft nuzzled against the massive polished rocks, brushing and touching with the inside pressed into both our bodies like an inflatable organ finding its blood flow.

Where, in the vigor of a fantastic dream, each other’s voice became a pilot light soothing the insides like a swallow of small-batch bourbon. We painted together and talked about poetry. We read searing and beautiful passages aloud where words became numinous with an electric eroticism.

 

I will be the rock and the driftwood your waves can brush against. You create, in me, such beautiful, smooth and fascinating shapes with your tide.

 

That happened, and that won’t be erased. No matter what usurps passionate moments some things I can’t forget.

By the second time she broke up with me (and even later there would be a third) I had moved from sadness that-now joined an emotional state I was unfamiliar with.

There were three in all, but it felt like a million small assaults, a cumulative barrage where the unexpected became the rule.   These incidents flogged me in moments when, guard down, I least suspected a blade sinking into the flesh of my heart.

I’m getting all these emotions now. Used to be I was pretty concrete about feelings: hungry, ecstatic, angry, sad; nothing too fancy, nothing too complicated just the standard flow of ups and downs. The emotions I was feeling now I couldn’t even name and they were trying to take me down. These were body blows, Mike Tyson uppercuts, blindside targeting headshots in a football game.

Maybe they were always there and I put them deep in hidden compartments and passageways and drowned them with bourbon and distraction.

So I keep asking myself now: I’ve got this chick living inside me and I’m handing her off and I don’t even know it and it affects my soul and then things go sideways and all I can do right now is live in it and try to describe it.

I’m searching for this person and there are yearnings and desires that somehow forecast and create this person for me. That’s what it feels like, like maybe this person didn’t exist before my unconscious drives and conscious desires created her. The thoughts I nurture become my reality. I guess that’s why all those people, billions of them, get down on their knees.

And then I deliver an essential element to her, I don’t even know I’m doing it and now she has it and she doesn’t really know how to handle it. In fact, not only does she not know how to handle it, she’s careless and reckless with compassion lacking. She’s kicking it around like a hackysack.

 

All right.

Are you sick of my shit yet?

I’m gonna continue to try and describe it.

 

A buoyant levity (or was it confusion drawn out and jagged?) upended grief and after the topple I lived inside a lurid, trembling curiosity. A tender and restrained interest coated the balance beam of my confidence creating a slick surface.

That’s what it feels like, if I try to intellectually describe a feeling. I feel like my confidence was shattered, shredded. Everything I did with her seemed to work. Actions and words pulled two people together into a flourishing spiritual connection. Was it all bullshit?

It was true until it turned on its head and then what do you say to yourself? How do you take the next step? Do I really want to reinvent myself?

A refrain echoed, calling me to move out of stillness. Was it a call to control? I no longer know which of my behaviors are irresponsibly manipulative. I can’t tell. I simply swear every one of them is tinged with large swaths of desire for courtship, and for me, that chivalrous drive is an element, polished and pure in my innermost recesses recalcitrantly emblazoned as love. I was dealing with this. I was listening to my inner voice. I was exposing this otherness living inside me.

Then, as if in the cross hairs of a sniper, I was struck fast. I remembered the joy we both felt, a few days before, after re-entering a connection that had been needlessly and ruthlessly discarded more than a month before, by her own fears. She had been living in those fears her entire life, but now, with their attachments fastened on our shared memories, the absurdity and dichotomy of her escape took on a comic hue. A tragically comic pallid light opened awareness in dreams and in the drama of our own experience; even in the deepest segments of my sorrows there was a dichotomy splitting the timbre of my nighttime sobs into both laughter and desperation.

Wow, where did that come from? I’m not gonna lie. I cried. Even after lateraling my feminine alter-ego I churned out some vulnerable insights. There I go again thinking about my emotions instead of experiencing them. I can’t tell if I’m dealing with intellectualized feelings or the emotions themselves. There is a masquerade. Emotions cut-through with intellectual embellishments travel a higher road along the ego’s territory submerging the actual emotions, disowning them like they belong to someone else. Are the thoughts of feelings contorted along the rational terrain of my awareness really emotions or am I deluding myself?

 

This is where Massimo comes in handy.

He said:

“ Let’s get a bottle of some good sipping tequila, we’ll talk about it.”

“You’ve got a find a way to forget about that shit, push it away, pretend it doesn’t exist go find someone else.”

 

Massy was reminding me what not to do. His psychological insights always amaze me. Pure, unalloyed emotions not experienced directly, not lived through, are repressed and they lay in wait always. They do not dissolve in the lap of Patron. They bite back.

Massimo always reminds me that you can repress these difficult feelings by creating all manner of thought games that shift and twist emotions into something else, something now different or distorted from the pure singular emotions that are born inside me right now. It is those, and it is then, at that instant, that I need to understand them, right when they are in their virgin state poised to teach me.

The truth is, those emotions come from the hollow chambers down there somewhere in the animal, in the instinctual terrain that wants to procreate and propagate the species. That’s what I keep trying to rummage around and find. But it is a nether-region without words without logic, only music with flourishes of art’s dizzying and immaculate silent presence.

We can’t find those after tequila and a long conversation with Massimo. It’s an inside job. Once I go that route those feelings are lost in the best macho male-speak.

So the second assault did not come as a surprise, yet, it acted as a paradoxical disintegration while we appeared to be riding the crest of communal bliss. You just can’t know another person. The light hits her hazel eyes and our sustained gazes, like pillowy visions of carnal union, sever truth as it tries to cross between us. A high-amplitude attraction hides sentiments where fear of abandonment or lack of trust smolders and damages the infrastructure two souls have constructed. Behavior mirrors the attraction while fear conscientiously works behind the scenes. The attraction could not be contained between us so how is that a problem? Friendship and common interests fed a wealth of compatibility drawing from vast sources inside both of us. Arousal for her, in a moment powerless to repress, becomes the tipping point for bizarre destructive strokes, brilliant in their cruel honesty, and sabotage, surfacing like a silent snake-strike out of the blue, an ambush that took my legs out on the way to a honeymoon.

Something in me kept coming back for more. Was this love? Was it manipulative, selfish, ego-driven love (representing actions outside of love’s purview) where my cracked center, injured and dragging, yearned for a conjoining glue to repair what only I could fix myself? I had faith but it had lost its bearings in a fog of my receding belief in love.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Inebriation of Panic

I decided to sit in the glare of the sun on my deck and paint. The canvas was spread on the table and the colors mixed on a dinner plate with brushes soaking in the grey water that filled a coffee cup. I first mixed acrylics to a golden chartreuse and spread the butter-colored paint with a sponge. The background seeped into the pores of white, becoming an ambient pallid light turned yellow and amplified by the penetrating sun. The air around me was fresh with the smell of pine and geese squawked in the reflective canal.

People were home. There was a palpable dis-ease in the air. Ambient panic charged the light and eyes on their decks watched me as arms swept brooms and busied their anxieties into mundane serving-sizes of productivity. The soft, tedious repetitions of days fractured into swaths of time shredded by fear. The population was house-bound, quarantined in a collective blast of terror hiding their mouths and hands from segments of invisible DNA attacking human systems.

Still, the sun spoke as if all was ok. The openings and refusals of flowers, the gaiety of dogs and the biwinged bendings of bird’s arcs proceeded with normal flow. The gases in the air infiltrated lungs with a timing and density that betrayed sinister undercurrents.

At first slowly, then quickly, an inebriation overtook reason. Panic sold commodities and jobs were in jeopardy as schools closed parlors where viruses exchange codes. Then, restaurants and cafes closed up shop and traffic dried up while necessities were cleared from store shelves awaiting a plague. Stories of looting began as delusions took hold cancelling material comforts in a future where homelessness and starvation became the rule.

Still, the geese spoke in jovial tones and the bees prepared for a normal spring and plant-life flourished in a background of abundance bereft of fear, devoid of nightmarish futures that were now certain to come in that searing originality only human minds can portend with the nurturing of thoughts that inevitably transform into truth.

I choose to act as a counterbalance to all this. To paint and write and subscribe to a-here-and-now that is immovable, indelibly emblazoned into a shield of present calm. If I subtract the irrationality of human nature from the mystical equations manifesting in the aesthetic scenes before me, then a protective species of artful immunity forms the bulwark I require against the frail human invasive forces that far outweigh any viral infestation.

The Soul is in the Skin of the Walls

 There is another dream. It “is existing” right now. This is different from “it exists” now.

 

I set about continuing to flash a light into all the corridors of my dreams even after I am awake. I cannot stress the immediacy and urgency of pushing all of me, conscious, unconscious, all the parts of me soon to be dead, and the parts burning to be alive, into the present tense. If I wander, in the missteps of my writing, into a retrogressive tense or peer into the past, please correct me.

 

Please correct me now. And don’t forget to check and proofread for my feet are meanderers. My mind strips the moment away little by little in its resistance to acceptance and soon all I can set down in little black lines on the absorptive blotter of the white page are regrets from the past. At least I am thinking straight about what I can do and not what I could or did do. The “did do’s” are not part of this at all. I hope.

 

The pulse of a blinking searchlight, always blinking to remind me that it is alive to only the present and not trained into a past moment, establishes a cone of awareness in the corners where fleet footed motivations evade me.

 

The light peels back old paint and exposes the ghost of a soul. Now don’t get too excited or concerned about where I am going with this. I already told you this is meant to harness a blisteringly painful awareness of a section of stolen time that normally cannot be perceived. I think I made that clear when I pushed the present tense into a realm where people just don’t pay a lick of attention.

 

This is all very complicated and my mind in its tennis match between now and then falters in its mindfulness, yet when I see the now, the gods storm in at a hat’s drop. And then it’s over. It’s easy to miss. That’s what I’m talking about. I don’t like to miss these things. I’ve trained the searchlight.

 

I can just go ahead and say it. This all really came to a head after a recent death. No matter how mature I think I am, I cannot reconcile death. How can I? It is a complete extinguishing of the moment for another person, often suddenly without warning, in the middle of the night, during sex, on the ski slopes, floating on a glass-bottomed boat in Mexico….

 

The Stoics say to wake up and prepare for the worst possible occurrences.   This includes death, a natural event that is really not that different from the flux all around me. Leaves brown and crumble, apples fall and rot, worms are stepped on, dogs run in front of cars, bullets find crucial arteries,  nourishing coronary vessels occlude, phrenic nerves fail to raise the diaphragm…

 

 

She was in her house with two of my kids there. Like a stone from the sky she fell into a pewter tub in the middle of the night. I think she dented the tub with her head and never woke up. It feels like that could be in a comic book. There is a dark animation to the cartoon I construct to distance myself from blame.

 

I loved her. Shit. There I go with the past tense again. Saying I loved her means I don’t love her now and that’s not necessarily true. Can love finally arrive after death? That is the part about her not being here. I go back into the past when I felt love then I start thinking about how it all fell apart and the contempt set in. Then, next thing, the past is on me like a cloudburst and I’m swimming in the morass of the past with the sharks and then I’m staring at the double rows of teeth as fear grips me and then I’m afraid to even go in the water at all.

 

So where is my searchlight? And why does my waking state feel like a dream? Everything changed suddenly and during that night when her soul stole away a curtain dropped quickly onto the stage in the middle of the performance.

 

So think about it. Everyone is asleep. She gets up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and after an agonizing six seconds of crushing chest pressure, she loses consciousness and falls into the grey metallic tub dead. The dog whimpers and climbs in there with her and nestles by her side until my daughter finds her the next morning.

 

So now this is where I lose my mind. Where did she go? I’m not saying I miss her, but I was attached for quite a while and we’re not talking just an engine shut down or a mollusk drying up in the sun, this is the most precious section of animated love connected to everyone and to God alive and vibrant with the sun and the moon bolstering the energy and all the great depths of the oceans coursing in the bloodstream with eons of pulsing consciousness thriving inside with relentless expression more powerful than the pull of a thousand horses or the roars of all the massive mammals populating the planet captured in a captivating serving of humanness unique within billions and alive just yesterday and now vaporized into nothingness?..

 

So then a friend of mine offers that she is living in the walls. Just sort of clinging to the exterior of the paint and floating around sifting her smell onto family, knocking over knick-knacks, lighting random candles and spooking everyone into believing they are becoming delusional.

 

Then I really start to think in an unknowing way with my heart. I say to myself, Ok, just accept this as a random fact, Horatio, because there is more to heaven and earth than I dreamt in your philosophy. I like that quote. It helps me to accept: there are ghosts residing in the wall’s lamellar layers still expressing feeling in the painted walls.

 

That is quite a statement. I’ve always heard in parlors of gossip that the walls have ears, but this? Then, that means every new paint job traps a new soul, especially when the house is sold after a death, and so, there is this grab-bag of trapped ghosts in the layers of paint like a brick of organ meats in deli head-cheese.   I know it sounds crazy. I also have lost quite a bit of faith in science, plus I’ve heard this from more than one source and I can never argue with what I, myself, have seen.

 

I say “never” after “I can” not because I take “never” literally; I do this as a bulwark against the past encroaching upon “I can.” Without vigilance I drift into complacent “has-beens.”  Where the hell is that searchlight?

 

The smells and voices that were once thought to be hallucinations leave their true stamp even to those with prominently cultured outward dwelling perceptions.

 

My friends with schizophrenia, manic episodes, Tourettes and OCD take all perceptions as important. Lean into every stimulus and believe absurd connections. That is what they say.   When every perception is crucial, then nothing is crucial and connections become an insane playground. I might be venturing close to this but I am really only taking one potentially insane idea and blending it in.   This could be construed as progress.

 

What I’m referring to is not as simple as a hallucination.   It is a type of conjuring. Not those in the modern multiplex grindhouses. The fashionably creepy newsreels with found footage and professional hunters stalking the spirit realm, no, they turn out another recycled cotton candy product, haphazardly pieced together with hackneyed lore by committee, known today as sophomoric new millennial pre-post horror. What I’m talking about is none of that, nor can it approach it in the level of pure banality displayed.

 

The fact is, she is in the walls and the only way to cover her voice is to apply new paint. Even then she becomes a muted trumpet underwater as the school of fish in the tank nearby turn from turquoise to ruthenium gray.

 

The tendency she exerts will remain and continue to look out from behind the eyes of the oil portraits.  When her will exerts itself, beyond the limitations imposed on her soul, a heart shaped balloon will suddenly be caught with a resounding skid in the arms of a no longer revolving ceiling fan. And, as if that weren’t enough, the dog will also attempt to dig under the laundry room sink and rummage through crumbs on the pantry floor feeling a light scratch on his ear while expecting the can opener to unlock a cylinder of wet food.

 

The fact that she is still in the house cannot be denied.

 

If another person suggests I am like an onion peeling back the layers I will scream. So what if I believe souls can reside in the fastidious lamellae of the painted walls? Like the morphology of bone, a circular crust develops in the wall near heat sources where fire creates a warming of the knot-holes in the painted wood enveloping virulent vestiges of a soul which can now hide in the prison cell of its own lacuna.

 

Do you follow how death happens in the past but the imprisonment of a soul’s remains occurs now?   This incarceration does not have to be painful, rather an advanced burrowing leads towards a new celestial molecular growth that bypasses ordinary biology and the bloodstream while pondering its persistent attachment to all left behind like a virus stirring along the steps of an insect.

 

It doesn’t have to painful but I believe it can be.

 

No matter how much of a positive spin I apply to this I am mercilessly assaulted by an unassailable sadness. The wiles of what still exists in the cracks and interstices of the walls around me unfurl a surreal flag.   Sometimes this is imperceptible in the grandiose moment and I must hold fast that perception is relative and subjective and tinged by belief.

 

In the desperate hours that do not allow for seeing, the walls become blank and translucent like a gossamer nightshirt barely hiding the most supple breasts imaginable.

 

At precisely this time my obsessive thoughts derive their repose in the milk of intoxicants and that part removed from my will comes to possess a positive stroke of genius for craving the forbidden.

 

Then it opens up.

 

This is the golden fragment of time, fleeting in its unfathomable shyness.   A moment so difficult to see, yet, also prone to being exposed, in the realm of the right mindfulness, when the cone of the searchlight traps a sound born of a certain color or maybe a crevice in the attic nursing a leak softens into an inhibited pronouncement of that which is hiding within.

 

An air of vanquished opportunity relishing release.

 

A soul broadly pinned like a butterfly to the padded white expanse of a new limiting science that no one can explain.

 

The walls become a new celluloid hide; a voracious skin holding the stunted fantastical insubordinate desires existing in the wildness of frustration.

 

This deep-rooted failure turns back a melting clock after the bloodsmother and every itch becomes a tick inside the malleable clock of a tortured purgatory.

 

Nonetheless, the occasional novel explosions come through the dense layers and pile up quickly and in my heart.

I can’t believe latex paint solves anything.

 

Then there are the filigreed lampshades that feel like skin burgeoning out with the soul’s latticework.   Drapes hanging like unspooled threads of flesh in silken rivulets like a reflective pool.

 

There is a stifling understanding boxed in everywhere when a soul dissipates and this imprisoning allows only drips from the skins fallow tears to haunt other’s thoughts.

 

All the while the inhabitants of the house left behind sleepwalk through the mist while the searing moonlight preoccupies the same curtains and steals into the low-lit bulbs.

 

Not even the sheets and the whispers of warm, alive, skin abrading the soft bed covers are protected from the silent sting of the soul’s permeating insinuations into the distorted senses that drive the bereaved indoors.

 

No matter how hard I push into the now-moment there is no way to comprehend the straight-jacket of disembodiment a soul chisels against while struggling to reopen lines into the animated world.

 

It could be coming from ten thousand years ago or from a sand castle on Mars. What do I know? I do know for sure, that as I continue to push my own rock and become less able to even begin to break down the afterlife, all the rest of my knowledge falls into a dust bin while I look out at the basketball sun bobbing on the horizon and simply say with great convincing gravity: I don’t know.

 

 

 

 

Smog and Menstrual Blood

 

“The force that through the green fuse drives the flower.”

Dylan Thomas

 

 

During my sleep that night and while I was waking up, I felt something erasing. The unexpected erasure of a glimpse into a future that was otherwise indelible. Everything gotten and all that was going to come was taken away. I saw cancelled eyes. Someone’s interior was missing.

 

It happened inside of dream logic. I believed I was having many recurrent images and sensations over many years.   Something was playing interference with my last dream before awakening.   This dream tricked time into a surreal elongation while I dreamt it. Like a phantasmagorical hall of mirrors the dream itself multiplied my perceptions. It felt like a repetition over my whole life. It was true I only had this mischievous dream during sleep once.   Through the magnitude of imagined multiplication I knew something vital had changed.

 

Within this state I felt offputtingly calm and sedate. It was the pre-awakening phase and I was transitioning into my arousing consciousness. I felt the sensation of dread one experiences when the dream carries an overwhelming sense of being real. My awareness had not yet peaked up above the Sandman’s cloud enough to realize that I was not on the firm soil of reality.

 

I was in an unfamiliar place where several cars were parked. There was a hillside with residential homes all around and cars were stacked up along the road and in a wide driveway.   I noticed that two nearby houses belonged to neighbors I recognized from years ago.  Oddly, the driveway with cars led to the property belonging to my ex-wife; but her house was not there.

 

Many people I knew gathered on this vast slopped lawn. Fellow medical students from the past, high school friends, football teammates, colleagues from work, recent acquaintances, mentors, professors, together with their dogs interacting normally. Few of these people had ever met one another. This was a group that could never mix. Now, in the morning mist of a dream, these beings were stuck together out of time.

 

They stood and walked on this plot of grass drinking beer, pitching footballs and tossing tennis balls for the dogs.   The activity all took place where a house once stood.   Now, while dogs ran and jousted, a view opened up and laid bare a limitless expanse to the horizon. Every obstructing structure to the west was removed.   The cascade mountains and the ocean were now visible from a densely populated location in the Portland suburbs.

 

Neighbors stood outside their homes. I recognized them all. Each one had lost weight. They were all emaciated and gaunt, diseased and cancerous appearing.  It was a global failure to thrive in this community alcove. They stood motionless all absorbed in the activity on the great lawn. All the neighbors, in their apparent state of starvation and terminal wasting, remained fixed in a state of ramrod-straight posture smiling and waving while making unbroken eye contact with me.

 

I pondered the impossible view. I saw a great vacancy.   There was an opening where it did not belong. The sky changed to an ox-blood color. The mountains in the western cascade were abutting the ocean and I could see waves licking the snowcaps. The sky kept changing color. I felt warm and I began to sweat.

I noticed that three of the cars in the driveway belonged to my children.   Staring straight ahead each child was sitting in the driver’s seat in his or her respective vehicle. None of them acknowledged me or made eye contact. Their skin looked synthetic with a plastic sheen. They were crash dummies.

 

Suddenly, and as the sky changed, the dogs stopped performing their antics and became still as gargoyles. Tongues out, these animals were captured in stop-motion freeze-frame while visible warm air circulated through their snouts into the bracing atmosphere. The guests, continued walking and talking as if the world, to them, was unfurling in a casually unconscious state of normalcy.  It seemed I was the only perceiver of bizarre alterations in reality.

 

The mahogany sky expressed creases and folds of gray and Alaskan blue. Light penetrated the sides of my view as street lamps turned on in the darkening mid-morning. It was an eclipse by a low-hanging moon obstructing logic and reason, stretching a tarp of sadness over hope.

 

Eras blended bringing unfamiliar souls together to ease the dream towards its tragic refrain.  A soul has left the present moment’s grasp opening a crevasse into time’s loop ushering in an alternate hypnopompic reality. Before attempting to cope, dreams offer alternate explanations where elastic, volatile versions of truth set the heart down slowly into the waiting abyss of loss.

 

The arc lamps brightened as the eclipse propagated darkness. One of the neighbor’s homes was constructed entirely of Italian-style stone. The owner, with his skin hugging the bones of his face like a stocking, eyes missing, was standing near his garage. One wing of his house was deconstructed with the outer stonework absent and the naked frame exposing a skeleton of wood. I peered into his living room.   His wife, vanishingly thin was standing unclothed and reading a magazine. He stood proudly in front of his home oblivious to the open-heart rendering of his interior and his unclad wife. All around the interior while his spouse stood motionless, furniture lay scattered and toppled over in a kinetic storm of slow-motion movement.   The insides of the house were about to hemorrhage into the open spaces of the growing horizon.

 

 

At the edge of the home’s exposed wing a worker kneeled.   He swung his arm in an arc of motion simulating hammer blows onto a strip of bare wood. There were no tools or nails, nor signs of hardware, just this man dressed in prison-striped overalls, focused and sturdy in his posture, swinging an invisible hammer. He was the only person nearby who was not in the throes of vanishing emaciation.  His arm bounced with each swing like he was holding an inflatable child’s mallet. The raw wood, chalky like desert bone started to crumble as his invisible swings continued.

 

There was not a shadow or cloud anywhere. The noon low light, operating with an absent sun and the moon still rising into the red-rock sky, chiseled angles into all life forms. The real became statuesque. All was frozen.   Beings and animals were sculpture. A thudding sound reported from the blows of the invisible hammer. A being was rubbed out. A life was over. A thudding continued incessantly transforming into a buzzing sound. I was then awakened by the buzzing of a phone call.

 

——————-

 

It was a call from an unfamiliar number that hung up before I could answer. Then a text message:

“Dad, answer, call me quick, it’s an emergency.”

I dialed the number.

“Dad Mom is dead.”

I heard my son in the background

“Dad Mom is fucking dead, hurry, please! Come quickly.”

 

——————–

 

A young woman wakes up with her boyfriend next to her. She is in her mother’s house, in the spare bedroom enjoying time away from Los Angeles and work. She wakes up and watches the calm breath rising in an out of him. His young wisps of beard, untrained in the art of abrasion, gently shift with each breath. She kisses him and wonders if he will remember the gesture.

 

After putting on her robe she walks to the kitchen to make coffee. It is eleven thirty in the morning. The television in the living room is on. An empty wine glass with lipstick on the rim sits alone in the sink. It is now almost noon. Where is her mother? Where is the dog?

 

She walks to her mother’s bedroom and sees the door ajar. Inside the room, the bed is empty.   The sheets are in pointed, edgy unmade piles that only restless sleep creates. The bathroom door is wide open and peering around the corner she sees a foot protruding from the bathtub with toes pointed down.   There is no water in the tub.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A muffled scream

Drops of black blood

Smudged on the tile

Skin torn on the pewter tub

Dry bristles of black-rooted hair

Stalks of jagged hate

Kiss the bottom of the drain

 

A deafening scream assails the house. Her boyfriend runs. She is in the bathtub cradling her cold bruised mother’s cheek in her hands. There is no reframing this reality. This is no parallel universe found in the seams of a meditation. No one is dreaming.

 

It felt like there would be no more sunlight. The room was drained of all hope. The dog was also in the tub at her feet. He had been there the whole night and morning, lying hungry and thirsty, unable to leave what was no longer there for him.

 

Tears drained down her cheeks and her boyfriend’s eyes welled up. He went to embrace her but she pushed him away. She kept shaking her mother’s head trying to wake her up.

 

There had to be a way, a way to still connect and find out what happened or at least say goodbye but she was not ready to say goodbye never imagined she could be in a cold gray tub with morose purple cheeks in her hands instead of the bright morning eyes of her mother asking the same invasive questions that made her blush only now she wished so much for the worst moments with her mother even a tortured toxic fight now would be like love caressing her torn-to-shreds regret about all those things she said but didn’t mean and the weeks of not talking followed by the hugs and all the secrets still hiding that she was going to share over the family time during upcoming dinners that would now never happen because all she was and all she would ever have with her mother was taken away this morning in a icy instant before she could gather everything she wanted to give back to her that now will have to sit like a deep fiery blacksmith’s hammer banging away inside her heartbeat in a sea of desert sadness that will only dissipate in small bits over a very long time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

—————-

I found myself sitting on her bed, in her bedroom, for the first time in five years with her dead body on a stretcher next to me. It was night. I watched her head resting motionless atop the expanded stretcher on wheels with cross hatched aluminum struts holding her up like cadaveric art on a horizontal easel.

 

It was an impossibly delicate task to stare at her motionless body. I was fighting off embattled feelings of sadness shock, relief and guilt-tinged anger. I got lost in the thought of her last gasps for air as if those desperate gulps toward ambient oxygen with her heart stopped were fueled by my hate.

 

Then a feeling of hope like a rainbow cataract watched for a rise in her breast. I was looking for only a few resourceful alveoli that had circumvented death’s march and were still capable of even a reflexive capture of residual wind that could sweeten her dark lips.

 

Beyond the darkened, ruthenium ceiling and the windows holding out the dense night, the gray sky seemed kind and gentle with a low moon as memories stacked upon each other and merged into dreams. The room was lit only by a moonlit glow bathing all the surfaces and angles of her face.

 

There were no longer any lines or expression marks. The spreading crows-feet that framed her eyes like fiery cracks in the pavement were gone. The skin that surrounded her coffee bean brown intimidating eyes was newly cemented over. I thought of a freshly repaired square of sidewalk cordoned off with the patch still wet with that soon to harden shield of gray paste that is so tempting to carve one’s initials into.

 

I wanted to carve a rose, draw it with a stick, on that soft patch free of the lines that seemed to bloom from an inner mine of intolerance while she was alive.

A blanket was pulled up to her neck. I only saw the lifeless face that in death carried with it a peace and posture of loving kindness I had not seen since the early days of our meeting. I pulled back the blanket to expose her feet and her right hand.

 

Now her body was front and center. The attitude she carried in life, heavy footed, bold, directly in your face, like a swarm of bees surrounded her, was all gone now. I expected something to drip from her mouth, a new smell, a fugitive memory still within her creating an aura or novel expression. No, it was all serious layers of death keeping the remains silent. What was in her was no longer there.   Her body was already buried.

 

It started to rain. Suddenly a hard rain caused incessant dripping from the gutters and drops attacked the windows like gunfire. The streets flooded suddenly and so rapidly that it seemed no rain was lost in the plant life and on the tops of trees.

 

She was bereft of that substance that permeates the body’s systems down to the molecular level; devoid of the fuse that animates the flower. She was turning into concrete; the rigors of death. The electric presence driven by the sun and the movements of waves had a short lamp-glow for her. The limp extremities no longer pondered movement.  The once hyper-sensate digits of her hand were still aligned perfectly. Phalanges buttressed against each other, accustomed to over stimulation now longing for a simple touch, to make a comical gesture, or to raise a finger in anger.

 

Like an angel she was fugitive spirit wondering why her pent-up warring feelings had an outlet no longer. What was so contiguous with her will, so connected, yet out of touch, with the corporeal world had no further material manifestation. Was she hovering somewhere in the room helpless to have a voice? There was no longer the ability to experience the hard smoothness of freshly blown glass or the abrasive pain of a skinned elbow. Pain and its attendant suffering became an abstract thought.   Bodily pleasures, now impossibilities, would soon be forgotten.

 

As her spirit moved toward eternity over the ensuing minutes and centuries, values and qualities applied to sensations would dwindle into dreams. At best the sensations would be palpable in the strange neural connections of vivid dreams. At worst, insensate nightmares would repeat where mammalian episodes became locked away in an unconscious vault of the soul inaccessible and beyond reach for eternity.

 

I watched her now.  I thought of the last months of our marriage before the chaos struck. During life our eye contact had begun to elicit anxiety. Pieces of that anxiety were now part of a mist hanging in the air of the room.  We rarely slept together. In nighttime sleep she hid on her side with pillows around her head walling off her body. I tried, on some nights, to watch her sleep yet I rarely caught a glimpse of her true exposure. She guarded tightly what she refused to reveal. All was covert decay of self-image and loathing. Sometimes in sleep the myriad caverns where she hid her true expression opened briefly then quickly darkened.

 

I was the riser before dawn and so I turned in early at night. She climbed into bed while I was deep in dreams.   While she was just starting to fall into a deep sleep, I awakened and left. Pillows partitioned us in sleep and my dreams trudged as much distance as they could from hers while she found her hiding places where nocturnal anxieties were less corrosive than the hysteria of her days.

 

When I looked at her somber, elegant mouth, now closed, I thought of smog and menstrual blood. I stared at the soft skin. I thought of a flesh-colored stone. I stared at her Grace Kelly nose perfectly feminine with its upturned tip; the nose I fell in love with. Her eyes were relaxed and closed under lids lashed like trapdoors continuing to imprison the anger inside her.

 

She lay there, dry tongue put back into her mouth, with its bristles shriveled, plasma stopped on the tracks, no adrenaline to the heart, receptors no longer triggered by the third rail. A dense slowness occupied the air over her face. I thought of clogged sludge coagulated in every artery, vein, arteriole,, venule, capillary , and lymph vessel backed up like curdled milk as the evacuated lungs supinated in mid-expansion, collapsed and emptied themselves of life-giving air.

 

Her lungs were accustomed to intentionally inhaling smoke. I imagined smog still restlessly coursing through the corridors of her chest cavity smudging black stains like graffiti over the inner terrain of the body’ cityscape. Smoke dimmed the lights through life and dried up the menstrual blood while tears and hormones fought their battles.

 

I sat and contemplated her face in death. Youth was departing while beauty mounted a mature evolution. The body had bolstered itself and hormones tried to redefine and upgrade her being for a vacant future. I wondered how she was snatched off the planet hours ago. What did her mind think as she walked and fell into the empty bathtub. There was no mystery left in her face. The stone-polished texture of the expressionless skin around the apertures where the nostrils started their embargo of oxygen now seemed to announce an acceptance of her fate.

 

Turned over and repeated another way, those openings into her balanced, sculpted nasal passages, mourned the lack of airflow while the hidden spider-hairs inside stopped clinging to microscopic matter. Their job was done. The soft wind of respiration rested its sad hand and those two lonely openings became vacant caverns like all the rest.   There was no more hiding.

 

All the myriad jobs within her physiology, the flawless efficiencies, still far from being completely understood, were stunned into silence. How does such a precious and incomprehensibly complex system simply shut down? How is it possible that such a necessary entity, with such a fierce embrace of the power of consciousness, can disappear without mounting further rebellion? The mourning collective is out there in shock wondering. Is there not something left that is capable of some element of preservation? There must remain a small piece of what flees; something still to communicate with. It begs for supernatural reassurances.

 

How can there not be some neural circuit, an aspect of her soul, some tortured spiritual proboscis, a finger, a conjuring, an emanation that can rise up in demonstration countering back into the real world with the reserve and fight still left to connect with all those left behind staring off or holding their head in the grip of their disbelieving hands?

 

How can all the operators flee the scene at once? A soul with all its ideas and love and feelings and abstract contemplations tight-roped to a scientific clock comprised of biological efficiency cannot, with its paralyzed mainspring, shut off all that others can see connecting this spirit to the divine. Certainly there are cords and fibers and spiritual channels still working, unwilling to punch-out, unwilling to leave no trace, and allow the remaining forces of love to wring their hands in the dark.

 

I became paralyzed with these questions, unable to reconcile what has become a commonplace aspect of the cycle of life, yet death still stands in the distance unassailbly shrouded in the same confusion I felt as a child when I first contemplated it.

 

A lambent, ghoulish light continued to glow in the room. The moon was intentionally hiding. I was starting to experience bizarre overlapping sensations.

I heard the sounds of light, the smell of flowers became visible in the room’s glow. Smog painted the walls with her terminal darkness while blood dripped into the plaster cracks like a joker’s smile. My sensations exchanged data with emotions and an uncoiling happened releasing my insides into the stillness that was too much for the moment to hold behind its dam.

 

Swelling hopes for the past met their grief-stricken progeny now kneeling in pain. The tightrope connecting these two worlds slackened. There would always be an obscure connection but it was too painful for these dueling worlds to co-exist and see each other while time stopped.

 

Overtures of romance and kinship

Fought through the growling mob

Where tortured feelings

Strike at the balance-wall

While unfulfilled promises

Fight through the barricades

Bombing desires

And regrets

With blows of broken glass

Ultimately

Billowing up

And finding soft peace

In the acceptance of surrender

 

I made my amends to her ghost. The floor vibrated under my feet. My boots with thick socks inside felt caught in marshlands and mossy waters. The carpet sunk under me. I was losing my footing. I saw an hourglass. There were iridescent colors of coral and abalone in the sand collected on the bottom.

 

I took one last look at her mortal countenance. There was a constitutional hardness to her face that added to the emotionless silence left in the room. I felt the hallowed caverns she began to construct while she was alive. Those places that served as her dark refuge. I saw the jagged rocks and bear-crawled over the prayer-stones to find those private rooms where she started to die, a little at a time, while she was still alive. The spaces she might have found solace in where cell by cell she decomposed slowly while waking, slower while sleeping. A process no one else noticed. I tried to find those secret places, see them and say another prayer and maybe now, she had left all those entirely and had no reason to ever return.

 

 

 

A Coffin Floating on the Ocean

My thoughts feel like they are in a casket floating on the ocean.  Random gifts and visitors.    An idea spawns itself.   A  sudden thought.   Often precious sometimes alarming.   Mined from a deep well underneath my awareness these traveling entities arrive with no willful prompting.   A crack of thunder hastens an electrical storm.   A trunk of hemlock falls into the playground of the sea drifting and fighting the tides.   Serrated waves saw the wood contouring it into shapes that defy nature.   Soon the smoothing sands and the sun’s glare polish the finished product that sits atop the bruising waves shaped as a coffin.   The waters calm.    A wave licks the  blonde sanded edge of the wood like a Golden Retriever preening.   Salt dries into a matte crystal trying to shine.  It can’t.  Clouded,  fluorescent with inclusions from the foggy depths, these salt precipitates grow like divine barnacles.  They are the oceans diamonds lighting the way.   This wooden box is a vehicle,  a transporter, a hollowed-out rough rider with knots like the heart’s fist punctuating the character of its enveloping carriage.   Souls are gathered along its course.  The random splash and gallop upon the crest’s flotsam juggles the spirits and ghosts of all those I once conversed with.   I recall meetings in dreams and hallucinations while deprived senses reached deep into the collective of childhood missions and mass idolization.   I stared into their eyes back then, felt their spirit move out of their body.  I adored,  I deified,  I regarded,  I esteemed,  I revered,  I glorified.  I even worshiped.   Worse I romanticized.  This piece of wood becomes a temporary home,  a formula for persistence where the infinite can laugh at oblivion.   Souls continue to be gathered along the way.   Beings holding passports that allow the simple taste of the continued material for a short while.  The finite ride toward the vast open oceanic spaces.   I opened my heart to those beings lost to material’s grasp.   Seemingly bereft of further communications, imprisoned inside the barren forest’s interior for centuries where time elapses into its bizarre compressions and elongations,  they found a way back.     Away from land,  away from civilization and human contact, where the oceans mammals and the gulls alternate the pulse that nourishes the spirits survival.   Trapped in this spiritual vortex voices are lofted into the fugitive winds.  Armed to travel great distances  they arrive randomly in my own unconscious intuitions hatching transitory thoughts that continue to haunt me with their unexpected arrival.

The Asylum of Self-Centered Fear Transforms to The Infirmary of Elusive Joy

“If we were incapable of humility we would be incapable of joy, because humility alone can destroy the self-centeredness that makes joy impossible.”

Thomas Merton “New Seeds of Contemplation.”

 

 

Take me down to the infirmary

Lay me down on cotton sheets

Put a damp cloth on my forehead

Lay me down

Let me sleep

I know the whiskey won’t soothe my soul

And the morphine won’t heal my heart.”

            David Lowry and Cracker

 

 

There is an aggregate critical mass of adversity reached by the alcoholic in his search for spirituality. While alcohol remains his higher power, this leads him to a misguided morass of despair as addiction redoubles it cunning powers and a self-centered fear rules his way of thinking.   Unless humility can peak above the serrated waves one lands in an asylum where the end result of self centeredness is one step away from death.

 

This asylum can feel powered by good intentions. The surrounding selfishness is so deceptively integrated into every daily belief that the addict cannot find his way out of it. It feels like being a soldier hemmed in by a dense circle of bayonets paralyzing mind and body.   The end result is a blind alley bereft of empathy, humility, and acceptance. Despair descends as a twin to loss of hope and with this manner of thinking suicide feels like the only choice.

 

There may be moments of happiness. Happiness being the instant gratification the mind drums up at the expense of deeper feelings of the heart. Manufactured moments of transient elation quickly disband into the next search party on the lookout for more superficial pleasure.

 

Before long the mind has created many subsidiary addictions in search of the dopamine charge in its many forms. The alcoholic shifts obsession from one setting, one framework to another with the same clandestine energy dressed up in myriad guises. A secret shell game with the world that harnesses and unleashes self-centered fear again and again and I know this because as long as thinking marches along like this to the beat of unreformed character defects the same thunderous karma scowls down from the sky and I continue to wonder what happened.

 

And so I enclose myself inside an asylum of my own design like a hunter believing he is tracking a skillful prey, when in truth, I am locked onto a carousel of fear chasing the tail of my own obsession. This obsession leads to a dead-end of instant pleasure that once used up cascades into destruction of all that is precious to me.

 

There is just a little more pain to be described here for emphasis because this is potentially my fatal flaw. Like many alcoholics I have a blind spot so precisely vacant that produces a rapid process of forgetting the events which tarnish my recollection of the pleasurable effects of alcohol. My experience is biased in the most deviously dangerous ways by my disease which leads me to believe with the deepest of my heart’s energies that alcohol is as necessary for me as food and water and the clean air around me taken into my hungry lungs with each life affirming breath.

 

This locked-in state of belief that alcohol imprints on my mind keeps me revolving around this gyroscope and joy remains ever elusive. Until I think of myself less, and get out of my own obsession and focus on other people’s needs and desires I cannot see or feel God’s grace and my heart cannot grasp joy. This gift of joy which spans a wide spectrum of emotions high and low, fulfilling and sad, beautiful and bruising;  all shapes and descriptions of feelings exist as I am guided and taught by the currents of life’s swirling pressure and elegance real and authentic;  a world of poetry and music that grabs me and forces me to wring my hands to the sky as I learn to love all souls and all forms of feeling and I kiss a new serenity and the embrace of my heart by God comes at the most surprising moments like an unexpected gift.

 

This all turns into an array of gifts that replicate and keep coming and that place me into a connected culture of loving compatriots who derive joy from giving and before long the depth of my heart’s growth embodies and lives in a new, let’s call it infirmary, a place to heal,  with loving men and women living selflessly and free.

 

 

This is the Floor plan

When hesitation and trepidation conspire to decode insecurity transforming it into false confidence which, in-turn becomes either depression or arrogance.

Just when life becomes serious, the real==i==zation strikes home that it is all a poem

 

Periods of disuse cause hesitation and trepidation. For some reason this was my starting point for fear,  a kind of atrophy-induced hesitation to perform. Being out of the game for a while and not honing one’s act and craft causes rustiness and disinclination to perform.  This may all be part of life but why settle for this conclusion; there is no intellectual fun there.    A mind that believes in perfection generates an additive corrosion of false confidence also leaning on disinclination when further action is warranted.  These are all replacement words and phrases  for insecurity. Insecurity is fear of judgment and ridicule at its core; unconscious fears installed during childhood. Confidence surrounds fear baiting the ego into ignoring (it is really repressing) the substance of insecurity, so hesitation and trepidation can be sedated.  Confidence is false-confidence because it is impossible to tell the two apart and real confidence may not exist for the simple fact that a being is never without fear.  Some feel a “free-floating” anxiety.  This perception of not being able to attach a precipitating source to a fear is the product of fear’s collusion on many fronts producing a stranglehold on confidence and before long everything lives inside Woody Allenesque hopelessness (the dread of dying because life is meaningless and the fear of living because life has no purpose.) Woody Allen pilfered these ideas from the existentialists and made them comedic.

 

 

The crux of insecurity,  formed from actual experience during development,  hides behind behind inflated confidence sometimes to the point of grandiosity. Insecurity is vehement about being on display and it becomes vague shadows lurking and disappointing compensatory confidence. When confidence becomes disappointed depression emerges when confidence becomes angered, arrogance inflames.  Looking for the basis of insecurity can be like unspooling a long thread that leads down a deep hole into threatening terrain. The result of foraging in the darkness for a species of mushroom born and replicated during childhood. is that it has became something else, a shape-shifting entity applying pressure to bright mornings.

 

What previously relied on hiding under an umbrella from the cleansing downpour, now asks to skip recklessly through the puddles barefoot drenching the soul in the cloud’s exudations.

A whirring sound

a rifle blast

painted skin

tattoos born of blood stains hurled at the wall of self-hate

the fragrance of the inner city

a jackhammer awakening a sleeping baby,

the colors from a comic book

the rustling of leaves become a drummer brushing the skins

a rock n roll song that is guided by the lighthouse of psychedelic Beethoven.

 

Like a stand-up comedian confidence builds before the first words, then an air raid strikes from the unconscious that looks like nothing familiar. Drama enters inspecting the scene then quiet overtakes like a forlorn reluctance to share words.   This looks like insecurity. It is fear of the fragments released from the unconscious recesses that have no traceable validity.

 

And so, there is this small alcove of independence that yearns to open up and simply be real and authentic. Warnings dart into the pause between sentences turning expressions into what you want to hear; the song you were hoping for.

 

As time passes the alcove enlarges becoming a vacant room enlightened by windows all around. The walls are removed. All the atrocities out there are easily seen now. There is more room, maybe more time for pensive consideration and the anchor sets itself down while all the surrounding transparency continues to add alien stimuli that still create pause and hesitation and of course, trepidation. Maps are added to the floor and ceiling providing orientation without direction. This is the floor plan, the floor plan for an escapist. Sometimes the windows revolve around the floor like a carousal, one of open-ended and transparent fear.

 

 

Sleeping and reading and watching manufactured images (not the atrocities on the other side of the windows) diverts attention from one alien world to another ultimately cycling back after a few of these volleys, to a new solipsism entangled with what’s really inside. An unconscious stupor of escapist detachment lights the underground passageways into the ghetto of kaleidoscopic unconscious information waiting to be found and only revealing itself in dreams and moments where senses are deranged and off to the side of the clear message life is sending.

 

Hesitation and trepidation continue outside of all scenarios built to explain why it happens. I move to a new house, a different room, windows placed in novel locations, clouds still above, rain falls, puddles form, escape in the rain, bask in the cloud’s ablutions, revolve in the inevitability of changed circumstances. Life always lies, accept the cruel mornings, add water, divert unconscious threats, run in the rain bare foot and see the mountain to climb. It will come into view. Then threats die down and maybe the inner world will reveal itself a little.

 

Hesitation and trepidation find their way into all. Embrace the pause as a prayer. Those who deny and move headlong are dishonest. Reaction without pause and doubt lights the tip of the fuse toward criminality. There is a healthy fear as long as it does not become the revolving door without exit.

 

Healthy fear? Is there such a thing? After a course of isolating fear as the basis and precipitant of a litany of character flaws, any shape of fear takes on a magnitude, even in its most trivial form, of a deadly instigator producing dire consequences. And, considering fear acts as forebear spawning all negative emotions, masquerading behind closed doors as the ubiquitous anger, and pride and jealousy and hate, as well as a host of other behavioral defects, even a hushed whisper of modified fear with “healthy” attached, still remains a cancerous entity eating its way contagiously through spiritual lives.

 

Bringing back the idea of hesitation and trepidation, and similarly procrastination, a moderate showing of fear, not entirely unmasked as fear for its association with laziness and sensible caution, rears itself into many circumstances, often becomes habit and creates the groundwork for these other seemingly innocuous actions.

 

If one takes a full exposed example of fear, mounted in a display case for examination and then begins to massage it, cut some of its fiery nerves, remove muscle tissue, talk it off the ledge, give it a magic pill or smoke, there remains a version of fear, neutered and relieved of most of its potency to corrupt, yet it is still fear in its core essence.  A look at this breakdown yields information and still exposes a warning about emotion ignited by the less voluminous, outspoken, muscle-flexing, bar-brawling version of fear, the ignition of the lesser qualitative example is still readily identifiable as fear and takes massive strength to wrestle down given the circumstance. Noxious yet subtle manifestations of fear in their more secretly relaxed permutations pose more risk by virtue of its ability to layer onto consciousness in innocuous ways.

LOOK AT THE PAINTING!!

 

WHAT’S NEXT?

 

Eyes are closed and the darkness shows no difference

Blind to the great reservoir

It is still siphoned in

All of it

Eyes with red lids blinded by a knife

Tools distract and erode the skin

Torn flesh with useful tools

Nearly beheaded holding knurled connections

The mask protected by an umbrella

Shielded from nothing

As it is all around

Is it being siphoned in or out?

Everywhere seeping into tears from the darkness

Stay in the grasp and the automaton works

Taking more away while reception is dead

It looks like modern day piercings

And tattoos of self-defacement

Why not add goat’s horns?

What’s next

Blue ruination from the sky’s death-knell

Now the room is black

And look at all this hardware

Overtaking the living sleeve

Asking it to look above

Eyes still red-shut knife blade in place

Lips sealed

 

 

 

 

The Man Who Decided To Be The Moon

He hung around those storefronts and

Outside of those desolate churches

Where addicts smoked

And shed their tattooed skins on basement floors

 

Where sweat is blood and

Each word has a knife-edge

Honesty is never called into question

Light does not easily overtake a translucent veil

 

There is no life left on these corners

Light comes from the inhaled glow of cigarettes

The sky has a night-gray tarp over its essence

The hot concerns smoldering from each cigarette

Become the coals of moonlight

 

No one has a guide

Oil-stained navy blue hoodies

Obscure the juvenile beards

Of boys who cannot become men

 

A secret need is conveyed in every word

Words like drugs stop working when

The only engine is desire

And pleasure becomes hot steel on the skin

 

Like the Tower of Babel

Buried beneath their feet

A nutrient-death that grows fertile language

Where no one wants what was inside the old words

 

The forged steel of anger

Catches the glint of a new empathy

That keeps fearful eyes on each other

And nervous feet don’t walk

 

Many still refuse to look inside

Can a soiled brain ever be washed?

Cults excavate the real and leave a false idol

To replace what pleasure took away

 

No one admits fear

That impervious skill implanted at birth

Into the motherboard of nurturing voices

Where fear never leaves and hides disguised

 

Because no one has the imagination

To consider life without fear

So fear fills all the stanzas and occupies

All the stadium seats making sure

Runaway truths are trampled by hooligans

 

So the dark angels of fear continue always

In the musculature of the heart

And insinuated into the dream of personal thought

And hold sway in every movement until

Your feet move to the ground outside that desultory church

With the drawn faces and vacuous eyes

Where the hot-coal cigarettes form a unified moon

That could finally become a guide

 

A wandering star obscured by unconscious traps

That put anything destined to help in locked rooms

Until all the cries and shafts of light

Call out loud enough

 

To make feet move to the damp stained concrete

Outside the foreclosed house now a church

Darkened by old legends

Yet the spiritual guide is clear

 

He knew this from years ago

Those mysterious gatherings

Where the last of the money

Screams out through cancelled eyes

For help from the withdrawal

 

A need in the face of complete scarcity

Awakens demons ready-made for a new version of death

An end to that long procession

Of what makes death feel like a natural prayer

 

So he walked up to all those darkened and hovering

Blessed that they had found their way here

And then one night amidst the hooded faces

And prevailing cigarettes

A collective light reached the sky

 

Faces looked up and eyes suddenly emanated light

The vagabond’s feet felt solidified into a new firmament

Shadows dispersed like bat’s wings

All the men looked up at him

A new searchlight panned across faces that had never seen each other before

 

All eyes looked out onto the burned-out street

Where the arc-lamps hung like dying willows

Cigarettes were dropped to the ground and twisted

Under the burnished toes of prison boots

 

A new light replaced the cigarettes red cinders lifting hope

A new moon now hove into view as clouds whispered

A nearly full moon with an apparition

Of a silver island next to it

The glow released a painfully aching light

 

Then the Poet changed his view

A good man releases others from their own cancerous desire

By showing them the moon

If that same man attempts to become the moon

He battles his own desire to become God

 

Even the detritus of a man’s old thoughts

Carried over in small bits

Can turn to light generated by each man

And propagate into a guiding siren of moonlight

That is of their own making

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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