The Modern Skull
A man with keys is eating an onion
like an apple, the others shovel documents
into a wood stove. Tonight a pickup
hauling a bed full of razor wire is fishtailing.
The world has always been wrong.
Even as an atheist I caught myself
today hoping hell exists.
If you remember hard enough,
as a child, a stranger handed you
a wadded length of rope.
I sometimes want to escape my empathy
like Phineus Gage. If like him, a railroad explosion
blew a rod through my skull and I staggered away
with all of my brain except a conscience
I could lie on my cot smiling at memories
of fire, graves, and the laminar flow of families
running across fields. Lying in my cot
I could hold a bottle of chocolate syrup
overhead and catch the lassos in my mouth.
I could know that putting my hand in a drill press
isn’t the thing to do. I could be just as amazed
with the world, but without the sickness
of Boolean logic. Evil or evil.
Good and good. Good not and evil.
I wish at least I could feel the joy.
I tell you these things, my girlfriend,
because lives aren’t long enough to be satisfying.
Sometimes when we are in flannel and sleeping
I wake up as jittery as a junkie.
I imagine machines I should be building.
I feel idle. I should be standing before the stove
studying the fractals of steam
rolling out of the tea kettle
or dragging a plow through the garden
in the night air to null the losses.
Tonight my neighbor is showering.
Our walls are thin. In her little tile echo chamber
she is moaning. She is alone. I can imagine myself
with fur breeches storming across a tundra
bellowing for god to just try and fuck me up.
I can imagine myself lying on a bed, whining
for you, dear, to get the lotion,
that your hands are rubbing me raw.
if life seems cold and lonesome
or sunny and brisk or luridly complex,
I would have to agree with you.
There were firecrackers last night, bursting over the Island in flashes of color. This is not where I thought I would be, this time last year. I probably was not thinking of very much exactly at this time last year, given that I was asleep and blissfully unaware of the news that was approaching. I am uncertain about where I will be, next year. I am living, breathing uncertainty.
I was sitting on the stairs at a party once, feeling very out of my element and uncomfortable, when he came and slouched on the step below me.
“Hello,” he said. “You look sad, so I thought I would come and join you. Maybe we can be sad together, or maybe I can make you happy.”
He was focusing his attention entirely on me, not on the wall behind me or his goals for the evening or who was walking by. Just me. And we sat and talked, and for several hours, it felt like we were the only people in the world. Nothing else, and no other person, mattered. We started to be happy together for a moment, and the night was growing very late indeed, and he said:
“If you could do anything in the world right now, what would you do?”
I thought of so many things.
“I would like to leave, I think,” I said finally. “I would like to go down to the beach and go for a swim and then watch the sunrise.”
“Alright,” he said, “let’s go.”
“I don’t have my car…I came with someone else.”
“It’s ok,” he said, with fluid confidence. “We’ll steal one.”
And we did, and I drove it to the beach, and we went for a swim, and then we sat on the sand and watched the sun rise, ocean to our backs and pale, streaky sky overhead. Morning so crisp that it hurt.
Edward Elgar, interpreted by Jacqueline du Pre, speaks for me when words fail.
I have been reminded lately of why it is important to be uncompromising and firm in your beliefs, and how very disappointing it can be when others lack the ability to be true to themselves. How very crushing and heart wrenching it can be. Sometimes I think that living requires incredible strength. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever stop being disappointed, as I find myself slipping deeper into a half-world.
Take a moment to remember Adrian Burkey, for he is not alive to remember himself.
If you could do anything in the world right now, at this very crystalline and brittle instant between night and day, what would you do?