Apparition





My mother met me in the clearing of

A verdant hill, and wearing weeds of love

She schooled me how to scribe these very lines.

She told me her mistrust of metric feet,

That every word must fall upon the beat

In order so the incantation shines.

Like Hecate to the sisters of the weird

Mum wasn’t, yet the purpose I had feared

Obscurely looms as vapor from red wines.

Innocuous she seemed in sunlight fair,

The beams reflected on her auburn hair,

But her design was one that undermines.

Therefore I concentrate with all my might

To rub this apparition from my sight. 

A Labor Day Letter

This holiday is a particular milestone for me every year, starting with 2003, when the musician named JP called me on the phone out of the blue. Months earlier, he had seen my newspaper ad for sober musicians and kept it. His friend Dave was already there at his house, so I packed up my 83 Fender bass and headed over to W Second Avenue off of Chambers Street. I remember that it was a beautiful day, and I was still an outpatient at Serenity Lane. I’d had nearly five months without alcohol… The next Labor Day weekend, 2004, I relapsed into active alcoholism while employed at Laurel Hill as a document scanner. Thirteen years later, I went to the emergency room on Labor Day and was given a brutal “rectal exam” by a Black woman doctor. And 2017 was also the year I finally decided that drinking wasn’t feasible. In five more days it’ll be three years. Now, it doesn’t sound like a significant amount of time, but I can remember when I couldn’t stay sober more than 11 days. I would always rationalize myself back to drinking again. The only person better at rationalization than myself is my brother. I truly wish that he could find life without alcohol worth living. Polly might forgive him if he quits drinking and lying. But maybe his destiny is different from mine. Mainly, I just hate to think of him living alone in misery.


To a great extent, my recovery has been a self evolution by means of language. I broke away from my family and the mother tongue and developed a language of my own with the help of blogging and journaling. I sort of wrote myself into existence. The language center of my brain has always been very articulate. Not even a severe episode of psychosis could wipe it out, which is atypical of people with schizophrenia. Many lower functioning schizophrenic people have difficulty with communication. I reckon that my verbal gifts are a blessing to me, because whatever happens, my logos doesn’t fail me. This reminds me of a character from Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series for children, a big, furry, simian creature named Gurgi. Gurgi was forever hungry and begging people for “crunchings and munchings” all the time. At the end of the second book, a kind and powerful king rewards Gurgi with a magic food pouch that is inexhaustible. You can eat and eat and eat and the pouch never runs out. The food pouch came to be used by all the characters associated with Gurgi on their adventures. Anyhow, I remembered this because my word generator seems similarly endless.


That was a great series, btw, but I think geared more toward boys than girls. My favorite installment is the fourth book, Taran Wanderer, where the young hero goes out on his own to learn the truth about his parentage. Besides many other people, he meets a blacksmith who helps him forge his own sword. The end product is not particularly pretty to look at; it’s a bit misshapen and imperfect in a word. However, the steel is extremely strong, and it symbolizes the identity of Taran himself.

Peace and Quiet

Ten twenty.

I slept in till after nine o’clock, then I marched off to the animal hospital and to Bi Mart for a couple of meds. Everything worked out fine. I’d had some bad dreams this morning about family, especially. But dreams are only dreams by definition; they are not reality. The truth they reveal is only the truth of yourself… Since my laptop arrived yesterday and I’ve played with it, I notice now the limitations of writing with a tablet. Expression is much freer with a word processing program and a conventional keyboard. Eventually I will switch over to composing posts with my laptop for the most authentic words and phrases… I still have to go buy food, etc, at the market. Thursday and Friday were very busy days for me, so now a quiet weekend ought to be nice. Church last night went quite well. I read at the lectern, sang with the group, and listened to the sermon. But I came home awfully tired. Roxanne was good enough to drive me home. She is the other reader at our services… I anticipate a cranberry soda; think I’ll head for the store right now, and take my time.

Finding Paradise

Quarter of nine.

Well, I canceled my music jam for lack of sleep and because nobody else is doing anything like that. In addition, I believe I’m losing interest in being a musician, especially rock and roll. My number one priority is to stay sober, so it’s okay if there are changes. I think my temperament is wrong for music, and always has been. I’m glad I made the decision I did this morning. I only want to spend a quiet day home with the dog. The high temperature is predicted to be 82 degrees today, and even milder Thursday. I’ll try not to put pressure on myself to do things. I’m taking a load off. I don’t know when my laptop is supposed to ship, but I’ve waited a long time… Friday night should be kind of fun, like every week. I don’t think I’m interested any longer in appeasing the ghosts of my parents, particularly my mother. I think maybe I’m done with trying to be a rockstar. The only rock music I like tends to be cerebral and intellectual, and my favorite music for listening is Modern orchestral. I am a very neck up kind of person, not so much neck down. Take it or leave it, I guess. I did the right thing… It’s rather quiet outside this morning. The sky is cloudless, yet it’s still cooler. Finding my way takes time, but I think I should do something with writing. Funny: my second grade teacher wasn’t very nice to me, but she did teach me the rudiments of writing. This laid the foundation for all the learning that followed. Third grade spelling bees were a kick because I was an asset to my team. Recent days are not so very different. In church I read the lessons at the lectern. And I write and do a little reading every day. With a little luck I will write my way to Paradise.

Tocar y Escribir

One o’clock. I just had a really good practice by myself, focusing inward and making it just me and my instrument. Evidently the heat caused damage to the finish on my bass. There are two marks in the white paint on the body. But I just consider them battle scars, which lend the bass character. The bass thereby becomes more a part of me… I tried posting another ad on Craigslist. Never say die.

Two o’clock. Now I should just forget about my ad. I’m dreading what happens next. Well, the future depends on itself alone. Or does it rely on you and me? Working hard and working together. My brain is shutting down and I feel scared. I only told the truth in my ad. Most musicians want to make money. I confessed that I just want to jam.

Quarter after three. Anyway it’s good that I recovered my confidence to post on Craigslist. I felt so embarrassed after the last time I tried… It occurs to me to take life less personally, less meaningfully, because we live in a deterministic world. The billiard balls clack against each other all around the table, so what if the cueball is indeed you? You stand a chance of getting smacked as well, and if you are sunk you lose the game. Still, you are just another billiard ball. I sometimes wish I could assess the thoughts I had as a sophomore in high school. I went through a lot of melancholy then. I esteemed myself a drummer and not so much a student, although my poor grades after spring term made me reevaluate the band program. I got deathly sick over the summer and eventually dropped out of school music. The spring trimester of my junior year was much quieter, and I found a new way to relate to people… My ninth grade had been the happiest time of my life, especially the summer afterwards. I met other musicians my age with prodigious talent and had opportunities to play with them… until disappointment came. Over the years I learned to appreciate not talent in people but rather their ability to express themselves verbally. The voice of reason was kindled in my soul and turned out to be my best bet.

A Minor Crime

The book share on Fremont,

A chartreuse A frame on a pole,

Stands beside a wooden bench

At the entrance to the alley

Leading on a sidewalk to Maxwell.

Perfidious thorny stems to either side

Dangle over the graffiti fences,

And amidst other litter can be found

The occasional syringe.

The builder of the little structure

Lives hard by in a forest green house,

A kind and conscientious man

Named Johnny.

Once a vandal bashed off

The door of the green box

And flung it across the street

Where it lay at the curb.

The crime was symbolic.

I picked up the glass door

Framed with white painted wood

And laid it on the gray seat

Next to the damaged book share.

No note was necessary,

And the next time I ambled by,

The door had been replaced

Silently, as if the elves cared more

Than kids for erudition.

Pastoral: Distanced

Eleven thirty. My color impression of the day is sea green fading to slate green. There’s a lot of green on gray. Now the sun is trying to come out, though it is not very orange; more pale yellow on the cement of my back patio. When was the last time I saw the moon? Just now the sky appears sonic blue as the clouds part a little. I don’t hear many sounds except for the refrigerator hum. Hardly any signs of life out there, and the extant ones are “distanced.” Finally the sunlight goes peach on the ground. My dog sprawls on the carpet, probably bored, but this is better than stressed out. The silence and vapidity of the scene are like a blank screen for a new beginning. Open at Page One. A new leaf is turned over, ready for adventures. Acorns bounce off the roof at intervals while the white clouds evaporate, leaving the sun to dominate mutely. So much seen and not heard. You who have ears… The patio walkway is lemon and cracked. The magnolia stands waxy avocado green. Inside, all these unopened boxes of unwanted junk collect dust. Someday… Somewhere northwest, a car groans like a dinosaur. If it were nighttime, the lizard would be real. No sunshine to prove it otherwise. A slammed door up the street. Still, every sound is spaced by at least six feet…

Tuesday Morning

Quarter after nine.

I feel lonely this morning, but then we all have to suffer for our truth. The church deposited my check to them yesterday, of course. I don’t have any energy to bathe the dog, but I may water my trees in the backyard. Invest in the future a bit. I’m definitely an avoidance kind of person as opposed to approach. In grade school dodgeball, once I was the last person to be hit, but I wasn’t catching any balls to bring other players back in. The coach asked me if I wanted to forfeit. On the sideline, Paul was screaming at me, “Yeah! Say we four foot!” So I agreed and we started a new game. My strategy was the same in chess: avoid being taken and hope for a stalemate. I guess that’s the way I live my larger life. Passive, and keeping out of danger. Was it because of what Jiminy Cricket sang in the safety film we saw?

I’m no fool, no siree

I’m gonna live to be 103

I play safe for you and me

Because I’m no fool

On the other hand, they say that temperament is genetic… Aesop is whining for his breakfast again. Not a breath of wind outside, and forecast to be 91 degrees… Someone described Percy Shelley as “a beautiful, ineffectual angel.” I can identify with that. Maybe the pen is not mightier than the sword, or the word processor than the gun. In any chess match, a bully can crash the game by knocking over the pieces. The bell curve is dominated by those in the middle.

Still, we do what we can.

Reading

Quarter after one. I just finished reading North & South. I picked up on the element of the Second World War especially in “Sleeping Standing Up,” where Bishop suggests that the tanks are lost in the woods like Hansel and Gretel, with no way to find the “cottage.” The poem “Roosters” is packed with connotations of men and war and deserves another read. I really like “Seascape” for its dissension with orthodox religion, the character of heaven and hell. In “Monument,” she suggests that the wooden building of her self is “ecclesiastical,” perhaps more so than the conned words of the church. That’s what I glean from the first collection of poems. I think my favorite poem so far is “The Man-moth” because of the moth’s attraction to moonlight on one hand, and then the poem takes you to the subway. I’ll have to read it again…

For a moment it is silent as death in this room, as the air grows close and stifling, smothering. There’s nothing going on outside either. The silence is oppressive. Now, the refrigerator kicks on at last. There passes a car up my street. The market was nearly out of things for me to eat, but I bought chocolate chip mint ice cream for a treat. Soon it’ll be time to turn on the fan. Survival in the summer.

Decisions

So my mom’s birthday marks the climax of my decision to leave the church. Friday afternoon I was getting nervous about the worship service for that night. I couldn’t understand why. I thought maybe it was because I was riding with R—, but how was that an anxious thing? But when we got to the church I felt like quite a hypocrite or an imposter. Add to that the sermon on the wheat and the weeds and I grew very fearful. I definitely felt like a weed planted among the others by the Evil One. From there I became psychotic for the rest of the night, finally arriving at my email to Pastor saying I was done with the church. Funny but R— told me I looked good and healthy when she saw me. A paradox, I guess.

Two thirty 🕝. So what’s next? I lasted five years in my job, three years in the church; now I need a new gig. Maybe someone on WordPress has an idea of where I can go for an activity? Proofreading for Gutenberg used to be fun, but I took it as far as I could go. This moment is kind of exciting for me, because I have so many options open. I could probably get myself a laptop and then work from home doing something with my writing skills. Why didn’t D— think of that? So many times I’ve been let down by professional helpers who gave me bad advice. He thought I should work with senior citizens, but that would have been totally wrong for me. Even my sister thought so. I think it comes down to my own judgment and self knowledge. And I think my verbal facility is my vehicle to the next project.