I am not advocating for universal health care. I believe we should establish planet-wide care for all inhabitants first, and then concern ourselves with the rest of the galaxy. Those who dwell in other parts of the universe must implement their own programs. Our resources are not, like the universe, infinite.
Late in the evening the wail of a siren.
We had not heard any gun shots, though they are frequent enough these days to elicit shrugs. Neighborhood dogs start to howling, echoing the alarm, filling in their own parts in harmony. The air is stickered with it, like a collage with scraps of noise, pasty smears of sound. But it’s nighttime and the sounds make their way sightlessly until they find an ear, any ear. The noise of day with its throngs of listeners is retired now, and the evening runs things its own way.
Lacking earlids we live with sound’s endless impressions. We are always hearing, always soaking in sound’s pressing embrace. I like to tap on glass to hear what it is, to hear its clarity. In the seashell we hear the sea. In the wind rustled leaves, music. Halted in traffic, the signature of a culture comes booming from a nearby truck. Idle chatter or clarion calls, these pings and flourishes are themselves the markers of silence.
Out in the desert, away from roads and towns, the markers come from another quarter. It’s the yips of coyote or the serrated hum of insects that mark the silence. A pause in the mute dark recalls the ghosts of the sounds that had once passed this way.
Sirens or crickets, a gap, a faint distant ring. Like prospectors, we pan the grit and soil of our hearing, looking for specks and nuggets of silence. But a simple lack of sound is an artifact of subtraction. The quiet we found was there all along. We are to silence as fish are to water.
And the city, weary of its own bleats and braying, finally settles down. The dogs too, now that they’ve had their say.
There is wildness in the mechanical lurching of interleaved parts. Eagerness in the hum of transformers. You can feel it in the finger gliding sheen across chrome steel and in the abrasions of puckered tree bark. It all plies soundly in the aggregate. I see as beached waves, their edges traced in foam, the mark and sign of the human. The beasts we call tame reflect the wilderness of an unchecked procession. I do not condemn it. I take delight in these civil surfaces with their attendant racket and classify the most garish of artifice as natural.
I have looked for the dividing line between nature and us. It is ambiguous and replaceable. It is indistinct. There is always the wild, partisan little weed erupting from a crack in our concrete cornucopia. There is no edge to the wilderness, any more than you can assign a shape to infinite space. There are no sounds outside of silence. There are no unwild things.
World views define the qualities of nature, and a world view always selects one thing over another. But nature itself has its finger in every pie. Nature is its own nature, and we the curious, eager to understand, confront the absurdity of cataloging it all. It is troublesome that understanding lacks closure, that it’s always cutting another notch. But how we love the language, with all its baggage, hailing a taxi, catching a plane, late as usual for another explanation.
The manuscripts, tucked away in a folder, are themselves mute. The stamps and sprinkles of ink rest upon the paper, waiting for us. Waiting for our eyes and mouths. Then, to complete the purpose of language, we are born, we come to letters. But first, we come to know by reading life aloud.
About the image: I had placed some red wine in a small blue ceramic cup on the offering shelf and days later found it had dried to form a tiny crystalline planetarium.
If on the day that Columbus set sail for the new world you began to make $5,000 per day and continued to make $5,000 per day until this very day, you would still not be a billionaire. You’d be getting close, but not quite. Go ahead and check the math. This is what we should keep in mind every time the word billion or billionaire gets tossed around.
Think how you might justify earning that much money. I tried and came up blank. Nobody earns that kind of money. Most are born into it. A lot of them just plain steal it through legal means, the law being something crafted by those who hold all the power and money.
Go ahead and call me a Marxist for bringing it up, but you’re a fucking dupe and an idiot if you work for a living and actually admire these motherfuckers.
The above example has been floating around the net. I did not think it up myself.
I arrived as if by chance at the opera house and began to negotiate with the box about admission fees, and then I decided to make a call to my friend who had insisted that fees would be waived on this special day, but couldn’t remember the number. I scrolled my contacts list but instead of names, there were various representations of water in its different states such as fog, river rapids, sea floor, a curtain-like waterfall over the mouth of a cave from inside the cave, rain, a vast and puddled Italian piazza after a storm reflecting distant clouds of an indeterminate weather, and so on. At this point I should have known I was dreaming but I’m an idiot, right?
Then I came upon a man painting the ceiling of the opera house lobby with an absurdly long pole attached to his little roller. Every time I look up, the ceiling looks higher and further away. The painter has opera glasses so he can see if he’s missed a spot way up there. It occurs to me that the pole is so long there’s no way he could bring it down to reload it. I mean the room isn’t wide enough. But I shrug it off, this sense of a post-normality that seems to be enveloping me at the moment. I swear, I will fall for anything in a dream.
But then I woke up a little bit, just enough to feel like I could decide what happens next and I find I am writing about what has happened so far and begin to come up with the descriptions I have already put down here except it is all still in the dream. And then I wake up the rest of the way and consciousness grips me like a frightened child. Oh, I think to myself, it was just a dream, like this is completely normal, which it unfortunately is. Later, I actually write down what you see here, but I’m still none the wiser. How can consciousness be such a shaky proposition?
I kind of see why people believe in a creator. It seems like someone is writing this material. Except they seem more extravagant than omnipotent. You know what I mean? So how about you. Did you sleep well? As Steven Wright once answered, “no, I made a few mistakes.”
Where on earth do things come from?
Everything is introduced to its environment, like the Indian Peafowl was to its range in North America. They are native to the Indian continent but no one talks about where they were before that. They have been introduced to many locales around the globe, where they form semidomestic or feral colonies. Here, they ignore their domestic heritage and roam free, yet they are not wild. Two of the females walked right up to me, in the manner of domestic pets. About a dozen there that I could see, on a rural stretch of the near-west end of the island.
I’d heard about them, and I had seen several in a ditch a couple of years ago. On this day I stopped and we visited for a while. The females are described as drab but up close they look striking. Big beautiful eyes with a dress of delicate pompoms on the head, bright turquoise and green on the breast.
The males are haughty and spectacular, familiar to almost everyone on the planet. They kept their distance across the road from where I stood.
There are stories but there are no true stories, everything is based upon something. Collections of fact are called nonfiction, a term in denial about the relationship between fact and what we imagine to be absolute truth.
We are ever where we find ourselves. Relative things abide in the complete absence of non-relative conditions, established as things only in relation to other such things. The contemplation of such truths does not seem to have a payoff so they remain, mostly unexamined.
There is no absolute peahen, though there she is, if appearance is taken as true-penny.
(Another notebook dump where the yammers have gathered like little critters nesting in the walls.)
They didn’t drain the swamp, they drained
the brains. Are the valves not properly labeled?
The day will come to grind it
And tomorrow comes behind it
Too bad you can’t unwind it
Take comfort where you find it
I think people who identify as skeptics are overreacting to the error of blind faith, which they rightly fear when they see it take hold of others. They overcompensate in their belief that blind faith is the only kind there is. But evidence is accepted on a reasoned faith—that subtle errors or deliberate deceptions have not slipped into the conclusion at hand. In the end: a little leap of faith, because facts are endless and it is literally impossible to consider each and every one. Reason cannot function without both faith and skepticism.
Faith on its own will likely run rampant without the skeptic to keep it in check. Skepticism on its own is just a brute prejudice, slamming doors shut for whatever notion it latches onto as valid, not at all unlike blind faith.
The third leg of reason’s little stool is called curiosity, or wonder.
They dismiss the supposedly irrigorous logic as magical thinking, as if the intellect was the retainer and not the retained. As if thinking itself is not magic!
They say you should choose your fights but I never find any I like.
How many nihilists does it take to not be?
A nihilist is an eternalist who has resolved the first of the two errors.
A nihilist walks into a bardo…
We working class white people who do not think ourselves the powerful oppressors of others should still contemplate the level of privilege upon which we operate: I can drive to the store and never have to think about being pulled over, arrested, or even shot, after having been seen doing nothing more than driving down the street.
When it comes to the sun I try not to look at the bright side.
If you’re somebody, you better watch what you say.
If you’re nobody, it’s better to keep it that way.
Worry is an outlier indulgence, mentally going to the place you are afraid you’ll end up, while the remedies to impending troubles are left neglected, undone.
The knees, they do a thankless job
Midway twixt the heel and hip
Protruding like a misplaced knob
To cap the pavement when you trip
Sometimes I stick my head in an empty 50 gallon drum and speak loudly the things that might otherwise go here.
Not being nothing, space fulfills form. Not being something, form fulfills space. Not two, yet not not-two. Not something, not nothing.
I’m not a pull-string
talking doll, y’all, but
sometimes the things
I say: no way.
The phrase automatic
on instant recall, someone
come finish this for me
A lot of people take things for granted, but in stores they call that shoplifting.
I wonder what would happen if they pressed all my buttons at once and I collapsed without recourse into a short-circuited heap of malfunctioning habitual responses.
Knee-deep in needy
wit’ a dolly made a hay
all she wanna do be holler
golly all a day.
(to be accompanied by banjo and Jew’s harp)
A conflict settled
by debate, away
will rise in appeal
some other day.
A Hybrid of Life and Death
The disease will not settle
for medicine, nor will the
remedy quarter the disease
doctor bills, they are piling up
a shot of whiskey, please.
to die, and I appear
to keep living
the welders are in dry dock
assembling the hulls
of sunken ships
at what point in the
figure eight of continuance
can one say end, or begin
at all points
amazing, how gracious
how sweet it is.
I’m feeling clueful
today, little hints peeking
out from under bushes
the neighborhood jingling
like a phone full of urgent texts
bits of the crux of all matters
sparkling here and there
like gems tossed out
over beach sand.
Long in the hair and
gray in the tooth
he learned how to dodder
then he died, forsooth.
Pray (sol dep)
In the six regions
throughout the three times
under the one sky
An incoherent notebook-dump from October 2018