Saturday, April 20, 2013

Enemies and Friends

I sometimes imagine that Buttercup was alive OR the whole experience was a test, a fabrication from my constant pleading for God. And God answered with the very test of faith that is most poignant - belief through misery. Bea asked me recently why I called her Butter, I lied and said it was a flower just like Rose was a flower, Buttercup and Rose. In reality it was from her soft hips and wet cunt, she was like butter and where her wide hips met her soft cunt, she parted with perfect viscosity. I was drawn to her and she to me probably from some mutual seed of boredom or more probably because I acted like some kind of cowboy and she wanted one. There's a picture I posted in that time, "From Hand to Cock" after her surgery when they removed her eye and she was home and feeling better some. It's of her hand gripping my engorged manhood. It's the most real thing - she took what she needed after all that misery. She took what she wanted and left the rest. What a woman. Eventually, as I tell it, poverty took it's toll and my strength let out - not my inner strength rather my belief that this was a true love. There were huge differences between us. I just gave her what I meant to give my wife before that which is the hardest and most difficult part to transmit is this. We each want our stories to have integrity and heroism and so often they don't but are instead replaced by a desire to survive and a lack of anything better to do in such times. Poverty takes its damned toll, strength lets out and I lay alone through all that awful time, literally moaning through the morning hours. Others took over. Z, if anyone, knew the real story and I hated him for it. For not being a saint and correcting the wrongs and healing the heart. It was more like this, I gave it all I had and was found lacking.

When I first arrived in Kosovo it looked to me like a huge Native American reservations - dusty and poor - with a few cities here and there barely rising up through the dust. When I met Bea I was months into it having suffered every beginners mistake in the land of dust. Like most I wandered in with all my broken things and settled nicely into the broken cracks of the place. And the broken cracks sent out tendrils to reach up and root me in like weeds in the sidewalk. One war rolls into the next. It wasn't long before Bea was pregnant. It wasn't much of a choice really, I'd been bulldozed so many times this was the end of it. So, as a living, breathing thing still moving forward, there was no hesitation. Let it come. I once told Billy, my confidant and fellow inmate in the bughouse, that demons can not cross the big waters. That oceans are too vast and those awful creatures that come to feed on misery need fire under them so they let go somewhere off the coast and writhe about for more misery to find back in their homeland. "It is true," I recall him saying through a laugh in our last conversation before he disappeared. Time passes. Now the sun rises over the land and the big water is to the west. Now there's the little one and a good moment to begin writing again. Again. Friends and neighbors. Enemies and friends. Good friends. Good to see you again.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Astronaut

Summer is over. It came with cold rains, the first we had seen in Kosovo in some time. To me the rains felt right after the heat. I felt it in my skin and inside the belly. I thought it a good time to write you a letter.

I've sat down to write to you a thousand times and retracted because I have nothing more to say. It's true. I've used up the possibilities for connecting that started me writing to you in the first place, since we've met and parted. I pushed the boundaries until I lost it all and somehow this is necessary for me. If you could understand that, understand the process and why you'd understand that those parts, the ones I'd like to put aside and the ones you hold so central are just an inevitable process of going away from you. I want you to say something now, more because I've phrased it enough already. Because I wake up at night in fear sometimes.
There is no love left, she whispers.
Oh, I reply, then what about all those nights and dreams? What about I love you so much.
Now I realize that you were just fucked up, I forgot those.
Then why don't you simply tell me, at some point, to stop contact.
Silence. In a way I have. But I knew better, i knew about the beginning and the end because I was there and lived it. So I left it at that hoping that this life will have another lesson, that I'll be certain again sometime.
Long silence. You think so but it is not worth the contact for me. Just pain there.
Why do you allow it? I had heard that phrase from a friend and tried it now. At first the friend meant it for the lover of direct conflict, not the denial of the conflict.
I mean, if you can just deny that part we could reach a middle ground or ground even.
You're the one that had to put us in orbit Rose, you did that. My back ached with pain.
You're right but I'm on the ground again. I'm here now.
But I'm not. Then the connection dropped.

I had a girlfriend once who was an astronaut. It was difficult because she would have these extended stays in training and then, of course, the time in space on the international space station. I imagine how difficult that is only being able to communicate when my girl passed over the sky (which I always called "the heavens") and even then only when she wasn't working or on a spacewalk. I mean imagine that bullshit! And then even when she was free she'd always be wearing that stupid suit. I began to really have bad feelings about the whole thing. Once, I remember, being at my nephews christening. "What's that," Lordess Elgin asked not being familiar with the customs. "A baptism" I replied, "when Catholics receive a child into the faith." "Ah yes, I know." "Well all of the other girlfriends and wives were dressed normally except mine - she was wearing that stupid spacesuit. I couldn't even really hear her through the faceguard. Plus it was difficult for her to sit down. Even so she stood in the back for most of it. I mean try dealing with that in a relationship." "Why would she wear the suit? It seems a bit crazy," replied Elgin. "Exactly. It was so embarrassing - even stupid. We had to break up. It was a nearly impossible relationship." Lordess Elgin listened intently. "We broke up and haven't spoken since." I began to smile, sort of liking my role in the thing. "I mean we were together yes but she was never really there, instead just existing in her spacesuit when not actually in space. It happened like that though I wish it didn't sometimes." "I don't know when you're telling the truth or a story." I felt the same way.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

fjords and tails

A dragon awoke after one thousands years of sleep and burrowed it's way out of the rock that had fallen over the entrance to it's lair. She peaked out onto the night sky and the now glimmering sea of electric lights that sprinkled the valley and her once quiet fjord. The giant beast, as fierce as she was, felt frightened by what lay inside the city bathed in the artificial light. Instead of investigating her new reality she instead took to flight out past the towns and villages to a small unpopulated island off the coast that she remembered being a place of solace before her last sleep. She was among the beasts that lived, on average, fifty thousand years and the only one, that she knew of now, left alive on the continent. In the early days (her first three thousand years of life) there were others but slowly they left to other lands or perished at the hands of clever defenders and disease. For all their fierceness the dragons lose their sense of community because of their extended lives and of course because of their need for space and frequent conflict with human settlement. If a street dog gets angry with a human or passing car it will likely lose the fight and be killed or ejected from peaceful society. If a dragon loses its cool a village could be destroyed or worse. So even after a several hundred year slumber dragons will often seek a place of quiet reflection and undisturbed consciousness in order to pray and reconvene slowly with other living things, eating mostly fish and marine life under the cover of night on the new moon. If she is seen, she knows from past awakenings, she can forget peace and may even need to remit to forced hibernation, a sometimes necessary but painful task of resubmitting the body to sleep outside of it's biological need. This, to try again in another 100 years or more.

Once I met a dragon face to face on a night hike in the mountains just north of Yellowstone park to the West and North of Paradise Valley. The mutual surprise lead us to lock eyes for a long moment as the dragon in flight inspected my nearby camp. I was alone and heading to summit the mountain and stargaze until early morning and the dragon, presumably, was hunting on the new moon. The dragon moved on after our extended moment of contact and only looked back once after six or seven flaps of its enormous wings. I never saw her again though I still recognize our connection as essentially good. It was, I believe, a look of caring - one that forms a memory and a bond and says we will consider each other through time and pray for each others safe return. And I still do.

From time to time, I recognize that my internal rhythm does not flow by the hour or even the day as it is so scheduled and maintained in our ordered life. Rather I feel my life contained in segments of joys and the inevitable letting go. If these are end times I could say that life has been full but I suspect they are not. Instead there will be some kind of reckoning for all the terrible things that have come to pass though even these, seen in ordered space, are not so terrible. Reading a history of Thessaloniki, Greece, I realize my smallness in the factor though inside this beating heart I don't feel it this way. I feel it as a sleeping dragon - cold, quiet and mythical, romantic and organic, set aside from developed time with long inhales and even longer exhales. Then I wake and reach for my lover, sometimes forgetting who I will find but always happy to find at least some hope in those that lay beside me for a time. Hoping now that this extended breath does not fuck up the children in my life or their right to walk and camp in distant places.

There is something about being away for me that limits details. I could and probably should talk about the morning coffee or the evenings guests or the way the street lamps went dark after the lightening strike in that high mountain Albanian village. Or how the old man grazed his cattle through the trash heap or the lady who offered us fruit on the coast. Or my stomach illness from tainted water near the beach. Or the cat who made her way up the landing and spent the evening, until early morning, in the chair beside the veranda. It's in the details but maybe that's the devil in the details I am avoiding. My love.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Mixed Lives

There are certain lives that should not mix. This is not to say mistakes can or can’t happen but when events come to pass, reality is that which we take with us. In the human field this is our drama, or trauma or release or our final resting place. Like Greek memories never written down. I’ll get into these later. What I realize now, after leaving this place, my American space, is that no memory supersedes another and that what I wanted from my friends has been nothing more than a confirmation that I (that ever present I) have purpose and that this purpose is right and good. Most thinkers will see this as a romantic notion and it is. After one year in Kosovo I no longer desire this confirmation rather it (the ever present it) is there like a long sunset or sunrise. Perhaps this is confirmed by the daily interactions with the others, even made up of them, but depending on one’s relationship to god or objectivity is not for one’s own conscious field to determine. “It” is determined by action and inaction within a purpose, until that purpose has been played out to an ultimate living end for better. The details of this thought, as it is formed, are likely the most important message (why else write it down?) though the details will come from walking in the light, then for a good long while in darkness though hopefully not forever. Forever being determined when death arrives. I’ve spent a lot of years in darkness.

A week ago I visited Buttercup’s family on the day after her body was laid into the earth. I was greeted by the cries of an infant, born to her older brother and new wife a month prior. The house was, oddly, a place of joy. The place from which Buttercup came is governed by the soft and reassuring presence of her large and open family, one that is strong enough to mourn and share in her memory with presence. The living with the dead. My presence was surprisingly welcome or it came like this for the grace with which Buttercup had made her exit. “She didn’t want to die” her father explained, even as her breath grew short and labored. I told him about the package she was to send and that it never arrived. “What a woman”, I said to him, to know and leave her memory in such a way. Her package arrived I think in the form of courage and grace. What I had demanded of her was impossible. What she had asked of me was equally impossible. In hindsight, it was her ability to never let go of the will to live that set all petty conflict aside. The package was and remains forgiveness and the will to remain clear – Here is where you now live. Here is what you are. And here is where you must decide. It is here, now, for certain. The candy over coating of will that the story takes is just another present-ness of form. It’s like that.

Driving, on the way back to the States, in the radiant evening spring light reflected from the still waters of Huron, I stopped at Buttercup’s grave to listen for a response. What I found was a mound of dry earth and a black cross near the top of a graded slope near the church where we had Christmas those years back. I sat with the dry earth and the cross and the memory of my lover and her body beneath and mourned her death, at first with my mind, then my heart and then with my hands on that ground warmed by the sun. I collected the remains of small butterflies that had landed on the mound and drove the rest of the way peacefully in the good company of angels.

On return to NJ I didn’t see my Flora, for not willing to pressure my soul into any more loss. Instead I arrived at the kennel, saw the new life as the rain fell and made my exit. This slip, as I saw it, was nothing but a dive into limits of spirit; at least the spirit that is called to hold steady in the beating heart of a living body. This living body.

Dear lord, keep me the least of yours and with it the grace to explore the least in this world. For now, for always. Amen.

Friday, March 18, 2011


I sat to mix glue for a canvas in a quiet apartment. The morning sun was warm and my sleep that night had been dreamless. Lately I’ve been more aware of dreams after I had awakened Ana a few weeks prior during my frequent night terror. It was more than terror though; it was pure fear, that’s how it registered with Ana anyway. I don’t recall the dream but I do recall the terror and the look in her sparkling eyes. Those projecting eyes. I sat now alone feeling the closeness of these walls, searching for some direction even though I knew already the canvas would become transformed letter forms so I could feel the labor and code of them without a clear meaning save for it’s symbolic dribbling. That would be enough, almost like the moments of lucidity before the Alzheimer’s erases a history. Here in this quiet room waiting for a heavy abacus.

What I permit myself mostly is a fighting event. It seeks and almost necessitates a limit, then a fight. This is how it goes. So without thinking I move to take out Ana and the boy. “I like you” she says, but as she does (and I’m pleased at this) I think to the restless night before. Ana up to take care of the boy then back into a cold bed for lack of warmth and a decisive mood. This and the insufferable reality that maybe I’m just reading all responses wrong, something like double vision. When presented back with a similar question, “what do you like about me?” I go blank. I recall a love and energy but what I like is like asking heaven to point out the favored ones on a battlefield. My response was just a present-ness though I was on the spot again preferring to let it conjure itself up. I like your smile and all of our talks. I like the way you think. I like the openness we share. I was also aware that this was just a thought, that I remained silent and my distance was once again related to myself. My stupid self again. So I let it go.

Reaching for some measure of assurance I recall a line from psalm 85 "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other." Lines from these psalms just float up from beneath a whale and surface into the atmosphere, programmed internally from youth to direct the safety of daydreaming. Lately I’m less angry about them. Maybe it’s because Buttercup died and left me with two last thoughts. One was these words, “I’ll get your package to you soon” though the parcel has not arrived nor do I believe there is one for this life. And two, that death, for those who have constructed my long challenged spiritual bed, is not finality. For now.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


In Albania a friend told me a story. As it was told, his friend came to visit in the north from Tirana, during communism, when it was dangerous to speak out against the government and nearly impossible to get out where they had enjoyed a good night of reading and discussing the fate of their work. Albania had become, in this man’s world, a dangerous place to continue the writing and as happens with contained talent, a place he felt impossibly constrained to. My friend had endured similar threats for tapestry works he had made. He was in a bad way, though with a good friend and this brought some relief. The night progressed into morning, drinking Raki, making what they could of the situation. Increasingly the friend became agitated, losing at first his sense of place and wanting some kind of release that was not or could not be present with talk just among the friends. In a drunken state the friend stood and pissed there on the floor of the cafĂ©, lost now to delusion. Concerned, he took control and insisted they leave, get rest and talk maybe again in the morning, displacing the madness perhaps for another day. What happened next both in the telling and the story took a strange turn. His friend, being drunk, began insisting on the impossible, that the flat was in a different building, across a different distance and that the way home was quite opposite the actual way. My friend insisted and prodded his mate in the direction of the flat in the late dark hours before morning. Now again as it was told, the friend sometimes took to fantasy of flight, sometimes hanging from the building’s edge or from the balcony insisting on the reality of flight and disappearance to better pasture over the waters or the mountain lands, anywhere. On the streets his friend quite insisted that home was another way though my friend continued to insist. On arrival he lead the way up the stairwell to his first floor apartment, wanting to get the door open first and to set his friend to rest. Somewhere on the way up however the friend lost his way, made it to the escape entrance, dangled and dropped, onto his head from the 3rd story. He survived in a vegetative state for three days and passed.

That same night my friend told a second story; this one about his sister. Sometime in her early years, before the age of six she had found her father’s pistol under the bed. The gun was loaded. Thinking it a toy she began playing with it, searching the mechanisms that made it work. The gun fired and blasted a hole through her heart. My friend found the body. As he put it, saw her falling as he entered the room. The girl died, his mother’s only daughter. Now after half a lifetime she is attached to my friend’s daughter seeing the soul of hers alive again. This is how it played out. The family is strong from what I could see from the few weekends we’ve spent together and they maintain an ordered balance. A good family I think, as it is told to you.

These ghosts.