The phenomenology of a recession-
consciousness rots, abraded by the obtrusiveness
of a dull, jagged populace- I stroll down
Butler Pike, snapping pictures of the houses,
& the buildings penetrate into my brain,
more than the people. Architecture is its
own phenomenological explosion, occupying
space inside/outside the mind, standing in now,
for better or for worse, for the people who
could occupy similar space- what I notice,
as sentience emanating from the buildings,
is that architecture is how the human race
expresses its relationship to nature. Here,
our choice is a sturdy yet ethereal harmony,
formidable, eerie, which foresees who might
occupy the houses, & yet chooses to manifest
the ornate over the plebeian, or merely practical.
When the ornate (the aesthetic) is set in place
in the Philadelphia suburbs, it is an expression,
also, of the region's apparitional vision, relation to
a wider world than even material nature; out
into physical space, into the cosmos, against
the restraining force of the earthly. So, in a
roundabout way, I get closer to the individuals
who have planned or charted the buildings
through allowing them (both) to seep into my brain.
Relationships, in recessional times, abstract
themselves- I stretch towards acceptance, spherical.
Here's the complicated equation: if there isn't much reality in human relationships, but you have to have them, you must embrace the responsibility of making them as realistic as possible. There can be no I am just this, you are just that: the realistic approach is one that fastens and binds to nothing. Jade will be over in a few hours and, as I prepare myself, I realize that to not-fasten leaves one perpetually unequipped. But somehow it doesn't matter- the clench of dissolution is so sweet that no one ever recovers from it. This clench has its own transcendental reality, and if what dissolution really is remains permanently out of our grasp, authoritative judgments must be suspended. Jade is smallish, about 5'2, with long, straight brown hair that falls down her back, delicate Virgo features, and a mien brought to level pitch by many wounds. When we make love, I am forced to be gentler- gone are the thrashings and poundings, and I find myself in a new position, playing a new role. Jade is an actress, and every gesture she makes is nuanced, deliberate, complex.
Jade keeps pulling surprises. I'm stunned because she does this with a certain amount of levity, as though anything that startles goes up. The drugs she ingests take her to a realm of crystallized perfection, in which she cuts through open spaces like a human blade. Because I am willing to follow her, she initiates me into the mysteries of this realm. I find that my edge is blunted, because in many ways it is a false edge- artificially produced, unstable, past any form of measurement. Nevertheless, when we meet in the middle our edges coalesce. Alright, so this is artificial, she says; what and who gets to define the natural? Can you even tell me what natural is? I admit that I can't, and this admission transpires at a moment of maximum vulnerability for both of us. Are we razors or mirrors? Jade inhabits a world of hollow forms, which she hovers above- my role in her life is to contradict her thesis, that we might create a dialectic. As we move towards synthesis, Jade places one of her hands on my face, puts her forehead to mine. She knows that there is a sting in her hollowness for me, who would prefer to see fullness. But we go on like this for hours without knowing what or who we are. The depth of this place eats into my eyes, but (as Jade is learning) I enjoy being eaten- chewed, swallowed, digested.
If you let your mind wander and hit a vertical patch, it becomes easy to see that solitude and sex presuppose each other's necessity in an examined life. I've just learned, from a reliable source, that a woman (many years back) was taken from me by slander and gossip. It was during one of my promiscuous periods; in the midst of such an epoch, one trots from flower to flower, trying to pick everything, place everyone in one's button-hole. This particular woman was forced by a social context to reject my advances. In my current solitude, I find some richness in having been deprived- it is a reminder that most social contexts are predicated upon fear, insecurity, desperation, desire, and treacherous self-interest. Now, my life has been reduced to Jade-and-I, or I alone. When I do these little phone dishes with figures from my past, I'm stunned to find how easily stung I am, how many situations I botched, people I misread. The verticality of all this is in the realization that it must happen again. No artist can afford to live for prolonged periods above the fray- there is too much in an individual consciousness that flattens out on vacuity if preserved in isolation.
The crux of the matter is this: it's time for me to jump into some fray again. I'm restless: I know that what you gain in solitude has to be pushed out into the open for there to be some truth consonance, and these peregrinations are not enough. Jade has been bolstering my confidence; but I'm too old to just hit the bars and the clubs like I used to. So I'm poised to do something, I just don't know what yet. Like mathematics, human life has distinct compensations: there is always another equation to be formulated and parsed, a new slant, novel ways of perceiving realities that are leveled and layered to begin with. And, somewhere in the distance, a miracle always hovers: the promise of a few truly lived moments, in which every narcissistic schema is transcended in the sense that something is being given and received on both sides. If I didn't believe this, there would be no reason not to commit suicide, because I already feel I've done enough work for one life-time, and the growth of my seeds has been more than adequate. But because the deepest truths are social, it cannot be my life-path to give up on my own humanity, and everyone else's. I have claimed that these miracles usually transpire in a sexual context, but I have learned in writing this book that this does not have to be the case. Our greatest consonance with reality and humanity is expressed any time something moves in an upwards direction between ourselves and someone else; any equation involving legitimate ascension is one worth investigating.
April cruelty of rain-chilly wind, six months
until harvest- for a woman to write out of
this, to make words do this strain-of-first-birth
dance, depends on the sense that the erstwhile
female is replaced by a raw-nerved, patterned,
womanly archetype, solid as a silo, to be picked at by
the little-minded for occupying space in a man's
arid world. Stacy stands on the verge of a realm
not tearless, but over tears, so that tears themselves
form a kind of second skin around her, & the child
to be born is cried out- here's a place where I
could've been no one. I still have no substance.
What pours out of me, as I absorb the Indiana
landscape, is just refuse of what I've never had-
I'd made plans to meet you in Bar Noir
on 18th, you were there; we drank. What
happened after that, in the Logan Square
flat, is that in defrocking you knocked over
an antique lamp bequeathed to me by my
aunt in Mahopac. Serendipity, I thought,
stunned then into silence by your bedroom
elan. Outside, a sultry night simmered; this
night of all nights, scattered green glass littered
my bedroom floor, & I finally got taken, past
liquor, to what eternity was only in your mouth-
as though you'd jumped from a forest scene
(ferns, redwoods), a world of pagan magic,
into a scene still undulant with possibilities-
The fourWtwenty-eight Anthology is now out, from fourW Press at Charles Sturt University in Australia, and featuring myself, Mark Young, Derek Motion, Ivy Alvarez, and many others. To purchase a copy, write to Sandra at the Booranga Writers Center at email@example.com.
Her money, she repeats to herself, connects her
to the whole world. She still sashays into
Joan Shepp on Walnut, even if she can't
buy anything. The fabrics, the cuts of the
dresses- this is who she is.
Somewhere in the back of her mind, she
knows she's been tossed like a rogue piece
of fabric, & the hands that cut her have made
her inelegant. To handle this cloth with dishrag
hands, is to wade knee-deep into the darkness
of the suburbs, frozen like jell-o around her.
Under the Knife
A razor was placed on a table outside-
someone handed it in. From that moment
forward, everyone at this Starbucks (the
staff) were considered under the knife.
They were all young enough to be my
kids, and they all got hit before we could
make any arrests. I still get my coffee there
every day- the replacements are (as usual)
the same kids all over again. The point (for
me) is that this is a far uglier world than most
people believe it to be. The older you get, the harder it is to take.