Saturday, September 5, 2020

The River

Hudson River
Hudson River at Washington Heights

When was the first time all you dreamed fell from your fingers burning as much as they itched? When you learned how to swim beneath unruly waters rough terrains grabbing shoe leather sharp edges slashing your consciousness into an alien shape. That rivers, oceans, creeks, rain, snow, heat and dust shaped a life you desired but never imagined? You could not make sense of it although sense it did make at certain points. People confounded you most of all. Your identity changing as quickly as the landscape now a prison now the utmost freedom swirling as leaves tossed by autumnal expanses. Mapmakers could not help you although their illusion of presence always tricked you into believing that the plan was to be had, the path could be followed. You tumbled and tumbled refusing to relent, reframing the erstwhile rage redirecting the pitfalls of womanhood dashing objectives, reorganizing intentions, slapping the harshness of the world. Exhaustion, bewilderment, destitution could never hold. You saw something beyond the stage of absurdities. Something above the repetitious facts of living. A buoyant belief past loud mouth obstacles. Daggers that could not kill. You cut the lariat instead. Moving past the unfathomable. Gypsy ghost conjurer of the next move. That’s all you have, isn’t it?

Early days. They took your flesh. You took their minds. You merely wanted a place of shelter. Nothing without a price. Every cafe, bar, bistro lurked with lascivious distance. The family without connection where the dead were barely buried. Ideologies ridiculous. Sweeping gestures of no consequence. In the end, there is no end. They say we are all one both now and forever but you cannot believe it. Slinger without a posse. Brilliance without a subset. You stand on shifting slate bound by bedrock. That is the gift. Perspective. Perhaps. Resilience. Maybe. Brave. Not quite. A problem solving gait across the wide world. Where did you come from? The ether induced carousel. Colorful atoms the first hallucination. What you see is not all there is. The sun heats the terrain unevenly. Vapor travels. Another day another narrative. 

Beneath every cycle lies a pattern of no return. Epochs define. Determination defends. You work with what is there. What is there works on you. You drink your coffee relax to jazz for a brief moment before the intrusions begin again. Another game to fix in space. To make it bearable. No one holds the cards forever. You relinquish the need to have your turn. You prefer shadows to open wounds. Those lackluster cults of personality evaporate faster than water on a skillet. All that adjusting broke your concentration. Freedom evades the seeker more costly than the heavens underrated spasmodic untouchable. Sorrow grows on the climber as surely as the river overflows. Later it dries up. The contest begins again.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Virus and the People

Last Retreat at Walburga

The hum of air conditioners almost lull you to sleep. You remember the oceans. The dirty, technicolor-skied Atlantic. The ferocious Pacific, the lukewarm Gulf of Mexico, and the Arabian Sea that you would never enter. You are here with your memories taking a different shape during quarantine. You are a hermit. At first it did not matter much, although you longed for the library in all its facets. The panic at grocery stores wafted past your recognition. Strange what was important then. Bunker down. Paper up. Disinfectants still out of supply. Food and drinks swept away as if a multitude of bombs were approaching. The sky floated about nearly green trees. It was residents that extinguished normalcy.

Upstate New York is favored by a smaller population and country roads. Students fled and it was an early summer calm. The medieval procession of the dead in refrigerator trucks dispersed in Manhattan to keep truths at bay. Death tolls must remain abstract and not seen. After Memorial Day, all bets are off. Sloppiness returns. Summer fun overrides pandemic caution. The cars on main thoroughfares speed up as confidence returns. Ithaca Center opens. Bathrooms and a seat. Seating comes out in grocery stores allowing the carless respite. Garbage comes back to the streets and hallways. The dead and dying are out of reach.

Unlike cholera, the stricken do not drop in the street; the stench and appalling visuals are not visible. You must look for those turned on their stomach on respirators or read about the afflicted who survived. There are support groups for the newly recovered. Unless family or friends developed the coronavirus, you often feel unaffected. The masks come off. People gather in unhealthy crowds. In New York, the governor is persistent in keeping his state safe. Masks go back on at the end of summer when threats of hefty fines are enacted. Such is the faulty human race, swirling like dervishes, either slow or fast. The meditative state cannot last.

Your view of South Hill, the dancing sunlight on and between tree tops keep the spirit up. Some friends prove themselves unavailable, others are vigilant, caring. New friends take their place. All can be revealed in such situations. A clearer idea of human relationships; the uses and downfall of the Internet; the heartless scammers growing like bacteria. Such low persons quadruple. Spam callers, sms phishing, hackers and other creatures grow in number having nothing better to give the world. You check your own conscience. Being a rambler, being caught in the net of immobility, you must address yourself in ways that did not happen when all distractions were available. You hope NYC rights itself. Rents could drop. Subway ridership lowered could prove beneficial. In the end, these are conjectures. Who knows what all this will result in? The world as we knew it has changed and is mostly irreversible. Better to err on the side of munificence. Dystopia is so unappealing. 


Sunday, June 7, 2020


Henry Regal during Korean War

Every physical piece of your father’s memory is gone, except for a tattered studio wedding photo and a toy soldier. He was a steady stream of love mixed with confused anger at his powerlessness. His dream of playing professional baseball thwarted by a job at the corner store to help his immigrant family. The constant abuse of your mother’s brothers hung like poison in every railroad room in Newark. He stayed happy in is love for your mother. He wrapped the front door with paper and painted Christmas images every year in that wretched apartment. His children were everything when he could muster his true self. He remained a brave soldier in his painful death, unable to take another step, dying in a hospital bed.  

When you lay in a Minneapolis hospital after a vicious rape, he boarded a plane, the first time since the Korean war in 1952, and was by your side within 9 hours. He was the only one who ever said he loved you meaningfully. In your agony, it seemed too late and not enough. It was potent nevertheless. He had to sit through countless retellings of the violent event, since all those people who came to see you had to know what happened. He sat there without complaint. He asked if he could go get a drink. He spent some time in a bar near the stadium, being a little relieved when he returned seeing some of the city. He left the next day and so did you. 

In your constant moving, you lost a Star Ledger clipping of him and Mel Ott circa 1944. The most mournful loss of his life on hold. He was always interested in what his children did. He generally supported who they were. Generous to a fault. You made him cry every night for your safety for 10 years when you thought closing the shade on life was your only way out. He saw you recover and achieve the impossible. You talked to him every day, three days before his death, a rapid devolving of strength. When you had to find an airplane ticket quickly for the funeral from south Louisiana to New Jersey, you felt you were trying to catch a train that was past your efforts of running. At the viewing, after every guest left, you could not bear to leave him.  

We often take too long to say the things we mean. We get caught up in the daily fight for existence in some families. The turmoil keeps our hearts closed. You learned to wall it all up as your mother’s family taught you. You eventually saved yourself but decades later must navigate the sorrow. With Covid 19 restricting your rabbit tendencies, the urge to run extinguished by law and circumstance, you face these things again without distraction. You bought a cast tin Roman bugler in memory of him before the virus swirled around the world. He said in high school they made such lead sculptures and he enjoyed it. You cannot cast in bronze now but you traveled the world to do so. He would have liked that. 

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Fire and Brimstone

Photo by Cullan Smith

With current events weaving through your stomach like rotting barbed wire, all you can do is wonder. This unbearable cruelty is part of history from the beginning of time. You think the world has progressed but at the baseline, it has not. It is not medieval barbarity. It is instantaneous savagery with one quick death move. The killer was bred for this, was allowed this, did this, and the city burned. White slime slithered in from other places in unmarked cars with weapons and a plan in mind. Take advantage of black grief and anger. Stoke the flames of injustice for your own purpose. America is about to be leveled in one way or another as you sit complacently at your desk, in your yard brooding over the quarantine, in front of some distractionSome have already dispensed with Covid regulations. It’s summer. Thou shalt not be prevented from having fun. The world turns without anyone noticing. Hearts melt, hearts harden, hearts wither away. Most pay little attention. 

You look at your parents wedding picture. They look lovely. Your mother is a stylist. Perfect in white satin and lace. A pert smile. Makeup, hair done like a movie star. Dreams rattle in her head. She wants to be a fashion designer. Freedom from the family will not be had. Desires will not pan out. In the end, after your father died, her children alienated, her favorite niece thrown quickly in the grave from Sepsis, all was gone for her. She tumbled done the well at breakneck speed. You never understood her. She seemed remote and vicious. Now, as you look at her face in the wedding photo, you grieve for communication that was thin as dripping ice in November. You did not try after a certain point, intent at following your own star. Weddings never interested you. Meaning always did although in your own family none was had. Your father, similar emotionally, targeted you since no one else could see his dilemma. At his coffin you placed a Roseate Spoonbill feather, bright pink, for the photos you never sent him of your work in Louisiana. You did not want to leave him. Your mother’s death did not matter much but it ripped your heart like a buzz saw anyway. It was over. It was not done, though. She haunts you to this day. 

You grew up in Newark during the race riots. It was a pivotal time of pain deep since you went to a diverse school. They were your friends. Your cohorts in growing up in a vicious city. The split from your family as a mere 10-year-old, was final. Their racist beliefs shattered your confidence. It split you in two. Dead presidents. Dead profits. Violence everywhere you looked. You tried to forget although some torments never go away. You seemed welded to violence, buried in darkness. Repeat occurrences. With one final push you broke free of the embedded chains that held you under water for a decade. It took too long to put things right. Here you are. Back at the beginning. Confidence shattered. The shining sun somewhat pointless. All you can do is find solitude. Make art, survive financially after losing everything, push on with the boldness to do the impossible and be grateful for life, the possibilities at your feet, the ability to feel for another as he cried for his mother. What can be done, you do not know? Be kind. Try to love even though you find you are lacking in that way. Move on in the moment to feel that despite the horror, the world turns and every day begins again. 

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Combustible Alchemist Rises

Time passes quickly, sometimes slowly from the mist of our current condition. It is hard to put a finger on. Difficult to fully comprehend. Everything changed like the Pink Moon in April. Familiar, huge, close, slow moving and at the same time far away. You did not understand until Horace almost died, then came back to tell part of the taleA mysterious sickness like pneumonia mixed with malaria. Invisible. Threatening. In Manhattan, they hid the Auschwitz-like piles of body bags stacked into refrigerator trucks from forming long lines by stationing them throughout the city so not to create more panic. No one can say for sure what it is but some history of how it lurks, points to China, and now Europe. Our wayward president provoked, in his misguided talks, attacks on Chinese people. Always looking for someone to abuse. It is not one to blame but everyone. As always. 

People in bandannas look like train robbers. Surgical masks and rubber gloves liter the streets here and there. The pandemic reality is as nimble as that. Trash indicating a lack of seriousness. You, and other travelers, cannot escape. No planes, trains or buses to move the body into thinking life may be different elsewhere. It is not. Enduring seems suffocating. Friends turn their backs and others become important. You look to comedy with a purpose. Laughing releases anger, fear and hopelessness. Who is doing good? The search soothes the soul. You pledge to connect. The silky sun on spring leaves hide the fact that in many places Covid 19 victims suffer alone, forgotten, in a wretched state of life and death. There is much to contemplate. You move inch by inch through your own challenges looking for a remedy. You know you are not alone since the hotline is unreachable lately as the date of resurrection is pushed forward; freedom denied until a later date. Many feel they cannot last much longer in their circumstance. 

You feel numb, dumb struck, encased in red Jello. You have much to be grateful for. The constant aggravation makes you lose your spot in the line of sanity. Who can fix any of this? You watch those with larger issues, virus or not, do remarkable good for their community. Lives saved, hope given, by simple gestures of hardworking people with nothing to lose, with everything to lose. The truth of it changes attitude. You stack up your own needs with what you have. Once again, you landed on your feet amidst the terrors. A tale of two cities life. You have some freedoms, these abilities, the determination and resilience to continue. You tell the black dog to go outside and have fun among the freshly cut grass. You do what you must to put things right, trying to understand the point of it all. Somewhere in the world someone is starving, being bombed, trafficked, flayed by monsters. Such thoughts help you rearrange your disposition so you can go on and be of some use.