the thousand-track mind

Volumes in the Schuyler House, Albany, NY. September 2004.

I’ve just been perusing my library. (I curate it through LibraryThing, not GoodReads or the like. It’s an obsessive need to categorize every ‘thing’. I have mentioned this before. ) I’ve periodically jettisoned books which I presume I will no longer want, yet approximately 1500 books remain. Of these, 422 are unread. Another couple dozen are in various stages of being read: books I put down but mean to pick up again; books which are anthologies of marginal interest; but mostly books which are collections of works by favorite authors of which I have read but one of the works.

More importantly, of those 422 books, I have tagged 72 of them as “to read ASAP”. So, one in six. I do not read quickly. I subvocalize which slows down the reading pace but makes it more enjoyable for me. I don’t subvocalize when studying because I get bored with required texts no matter how interesting. It’s amazing how quickly you can work through a nonfiction text when you are just trying to get the gist out of it. This actually is the reason I rarely read works about sociopolitical topics. They state their case in the first few pages and one can just scan the rest of the work to see the supporting arguments–it only takes 15-30 minutes. But back to the library, and my point…

Due to this subvocalizing habit, I (sadly) read only 12-20 books each year. Books which are “good for me” but not written well take longer because late in the evening when I am most likely to read, they fail to capture my interest. Then too, my devotion to computers and smartphones has rewired my brain such that I expect instant gratification from a book. I generally have a rule to read at least 50 pages of a book before bailing on it. With Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum I gave it 100 pages since it was so incredibly long. (And I’m glad I did.) Lately I’ve had to increase all books to 100 pages because I lack the focus I once had. Right now I’m reading The Cold Millions by Jess Walter. I was ready to bail after 50 pages, but now I’m into it and will finish. But so what? There are those 422 books…

When I peruse the titles of those books, particularly the ASAP list, I want to read them all. NOW! The next book in Donald Harington’s collected works? Absolutely! Lawrence Durrell’s semi-travel-oriented work Prospero’s Cell? I must! “I can’t finish his autobiography without reading what he wrote at that point of his life!” Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy? I’ve been waiting years to read that! But what about the nearly one dozen unread books I have by Jim Harrison? Or the half dozen José Saramago books which I haven’t read yet? And how about what is likely the final book of Gabriel Garcia Marquez which I will ever read? What about all those one-offs that sound so good, which friends have recommended, which critics laud, which any literate person would have read by now?

I need that Matrix thing plugged into the back of my head to enjoy them all, NOW, before my literary ambitions explode within me. I need a thousand-track brain. Except…

Just because there are 422 books representing perhaps as many as 35 years’ worth of reading at my tortoise-like reading pace, and just because I have but 20-25 years remaining on this mortal coil, why should I worry about checking all those books off of the list? Isn’t there joy in the anticipation of pleasure? Doesn’t it heighten the overall enjoyment?

Some highly literate person, a writer and reader–I cannot bring his name to mind nor find it in my books–had just moved to a new house in Paris. The move consisted mostly of boxes and boxes of books. One of the movers asked, “My goodness, have you read all of these books?” And his reply was perfect:

“Of course not! That’s why they’re there.”

For us, the literate and always-reading, an optimistic, pleasurable future is measured in the books we’ve yet to read. As with so many things in life, not jumping to a hasty decision to read them as soon as we hear about them has helped us to avoid the casual, gee-I-wish-I-hadn’t-done-that feeling which marks the impetuous commitment romantics make with each new date. The elderly professor who guided my Junior Colloquium gently disabused me of my first choice of study for the colloquium: “Well, Steinbeck is an acceptable choice, but don’t you want to choose an author whose reputation is undisputed at this point?” This was 1982. Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath in 1939. I was 28 years old, and I didn’t understand that my advisor had actually lived through the events described in Steinbeck’s book. She had been about my age when Steinbeck published it. We settled on Machiavelli’s The Prince and the Discourses. I’ve taken her lesson to heart. Works which speak to generations, which command respect, which make a forceful commentary on human existence need decades to be sorted out.

I could whittle down the list to an acceptable number for the remaining years I have left, leaving a bit of room for books which enter my universe day to day. But I don’t want to “tidy up my affairs” before the end of my life. I want to leave a messy, tangled knot of good intentions and half-finished projects, and that includes my reading list(s). I want on my deathbed to say, “shit, I never got to read…..!” followed by an explosion of titles. I would like the names of these books to be whispered with urgency as I expire. I want to be still in the process of living.

one You to rule them all

Mongol pencils from mid-1960s

I’ve waited more than three months, I’ve written it in prose, then verse, then a different verse, then rewritten the prose. This may be as close as I get, and it’s not to my liking, yet I’m publishing it to get it off the e-desk and out of my mind.

Two Voices Debate

“There are rules,” she said.
“Rules rule.” Pitiably, I 
Know what she means.
Put the colored pencils in
Sequence according to height,
Says my ten-year-old inner voice.
Nice. Now rearrange by color,
Rainbow-like. (Look up the spectrum
If you must, Kenny.) Now,
Place the colors violet through green,
Left to right, into your rack 
with space between, because…
Double back the ‘light’ colors from
Right to left, ending with red between 
Violet and blue. Good! But now,
Arrange them alphabetically 
By color name. Now put them
Away. We’ve no time to actually
Do anything with them. Besides,
You’re no artist anyway.
When you walk to school, step
Precisely between the expansion
Seams of the concrete sidewalk.
If there’s a crack, step in the bigger
Piece still between the seams.
For extra points, step equidistantly
From each seam. No care for 
Mother’s back in all this—just
Walking how you color…
Oh, beautiful algebra! Lovely
Geometry! Your rules so pristine,
Your road to explainability, to
All’s-right-with-the-worldness. And
Diagramming sentences! Who cares
If it’s useless? It’s beauty cannot
Be denied! Science, though,
Its physics, its chemistry, its 
Squishy biology stuff, no,
Not abstract enough, not
In-your-head enough. Too
Practical, too mundane.
You have to call her, man.
But…today? Is three days a
Proper amount of lead time?
Would twenty-four hours be
Too little? Would it be better if
I called in the afternoon or 
Evening? Oh, why did I ever ask
Her out in the first place?
“You know, I think I’m not going
To go to the prom this year after all.”
”No, I’m not going to wait twenty
Minutes to eat, especially if I have
To wait outside. It’s cold.” He drives
Off spending forty minutes to 
Save twenty minutes.
“We could gas up there.” Wrong side
Of the road. “There’s one.” Nope.
“Too seedy. There’s one!” but, 
Crap, every pump’s occupied.
Ding! Your car says, "feed me".
“Isn’t life too difficult this way?”
Asks Creative-Emotive Voice. “Can’t
We take it easy? Just roll with it?”
Try that. Good too. Shut Obsessive-
Controlling Voice into its compartment
Deep within one’s gray cells. Overrule 
Edicts for living, for walking, for performing
“If you’re going to be A Writer, how
Do you expect to do it listening to 
That Guy? Feel your heart surging? 
Sure you do. How can you ignore it
By following these silly rules?”
Drink too much. Eat too much. Drug
Too much. Watch movies while
Neglecting one’s bills, one’s friends,
One’s social reason for being…
One’s stated creative urges. But:
Give Rulemaker his short leash.
Gentle grid of rules on fields of
Creative abandonment. 
Create. Create. And create. Short 
Circuit all words with singing,
With photography, with poetry (yes),
With—of all things—computer 
Programming. (“How can I fail 
At explaining what I do 
When I program?” Sorry, 
Dude, no words involved then,
No words available now.)
Uneasily, after many misstarts to
One’s Life Direction,
Let them both talk. Let one
Over-rule the other, let one
Overrule the other. Blend,
Mend, learn Selective Voice
Attention Mode. Leaving one
Question, one conundrum: 
who selects which Voice? 
Who are you? 
Who are “You”?

a wall (AWOL?)

Cedarock State Park, NC. June 2017.

Five years ago my wife was stressed. I had just stepped off of yet another cliff of human existence, symbolizing yet again my affinity for The Fool in the tarot deck (at least the one interpreted by zen versions of the deck). Despite well-paying gainful employment with a consulting agency for over two years, I had aligned myself with a different agency. For four months I had managed to work about 60 hours (maybe) plus I had had a short-lived assignment with an “off the books” agency. We had just purchased a new home, taking on almost a quarter million dollars in debt. (sounds like a lot when it’s stated that way, doesn’t it?) On June 22nd, realizing my wife needed something to take her mind off of things, I planned to drive us over to Cedarock State Park an hour or so west of where we live. Just before we left, I received a call from the new agency to take a two-month contract. A week later that contract was “interrupted” by an open-ended contract which ultimately lasted nine months, leading into 2018, the year I earned more money than I ever thought I would earn in my life. I like to think that the spirit of our forebears, who didn’t limit themselves with “can’t” and instead explored their limitless possibilities, are exemplified in the construction techniques of this wall. It should not be able to withstand our weather here, but it does–just like we “shouldn’t” leave unsatisfying, limiting situations, but if we do…

Step off the Cliff of Can’t.

how to be a writer, part one

As I do near daily, I’ve been perusing the sale books on Kindle (thoughtfully curated for me by two purveyors who I presume must get a cut). Ivan Doig, an author of the Pacific Northwest and the northern tier through Montana, has a book there today, Winter Brothers: A Season at the Edge of America. Unlike most of his books, this one is nonfiction, described as a long-distance dialog between the author and a 19th century American named James Gilchrist Swan. Swan wrote, in Doig’s estimation, about 2.5 million words in his daily diary entries spanning four decades. Doig caught my parents’ eye several decades back, and they bought several of his works. They also made time to go to his readings at Auntie’s bookstore in Spokane, WA, where they lived. The more frequently I see Doig’s works highlighted in this e-book missives, the more I regret not taking the books with me when my brother and I settled up their estate after our mother died in 2019.

But this book evoked other feelings and led to these sentences. Intrigued by the book’s premise, I read the sample of it provided by Amazon. The simple manner in which Doig details how he came to write the book brought a pause. Doig describes first how his encounter with Swan and his diaries led Doig to think he would need to write about it. He found later that the man’s couple dozen careers and other numerous interests couldn’t be contained to the short format of a magazine article, Doig’s then stock in trade. He eventually spent three winter months along the coasts of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound, stomping around Swan’s environs as he read the diaries. Doig carried on a diarist-to-diarist conversation with Swan and thus the book was born and published in 1980. (I am taking some license here since I’ve only read the sample online.)

Doig’s ease and compulsion to write fascinates, irritates, motivates, and ultimately frustrates me. At 68 I still pursue the dream that One Day I Will Be A Writer. I have spent half my lifetime failing at that, another half ignoring it, and this past year I’ve attempted to resuscitate this dream which will not die. All of this is despite the evidence that I lack the one thing that would define me as A Writer in my own eyes: writing, on a regular basis; writing, because I had to; writing because there were sentences and paragraphs and chapters which must be written down to get them out of my head. I simply have shown myself time and again that I much prefer other things to writing. I lack the self-discipline to do it, despite having the discipline to do such things as track my daily alcohol consumption for the past ten years, to sing in choirs, to act in plays, to watch hours of television every day, to cook, oh my god, to cook.

This seeming lack of will to consummate a stated dream came to a head in 1992 when, needing a fresh start after a divorce–“if you’re a writer, why aren’t you writing,” she said–I quit teaching English to 13-year-olds (a near-pointless occupation in my opinion) and headed across the continent to Philadelphia. There, I told myself and dozens of others, “I will be a writer!” I rented an apartment that was not cheap, my first mistake. It was around the corner from a woman I was dating, my second mistake. When the checks from my former school district ran out, I cashed out my teacher’s pension. This may or may not have been mistake from the Life Dream perspective, but it definitely was a mistake from the financial perspective: it cost me 10% in penalties but it was enough to live on for a year. (Nine years of teaching for one year’s income. Seems inherently wrong.)

I took a part-time job as a proofreader for business correspondence in an attempt to stretch the pension withdrawal further. This proved to be a mistake because I had to do it from 4 a.m. to 7 a.m. which in turn caused me to invert my daily cycle. I had a beer and ate dinner around 8 a.m., then went to bed. I woke at 2 to 3 in the afternoon, ate breakfast, took care of personal business, and attempted to write for a few hours while waiting for my love interest to get back from giving dance lessons to the bored. This usually occurred around 9 to 10 p.m., so I would then find myself drifting off to sleep again around midnight, only to wake at 3:30 a.m. and repeat the whole thing. It left me in a mental daze, partly because the job devolved into only three days a week (Monday-Wednesday-Friday), and I would attempt to return to a normal cycle the rest of the time. I also joined a choral group at the local community college and began classes to join the Roman Catholic Church. These activities impacted the odd schedule too. Looking back, I see that I developed a lingering depression of sorts, not deep, but enough to kill any initiative to do anything. Throughout my life I’ve repeatedly quit activities that required one to hustle a job. Why I thought it would be different this time, I do not know.

I have pictured myself as a writer since I was 13 years old. My language arts teacher one day barked out, “Pilcher! Where’d you learn to write?” When I told him it mostly came from my parents and their love of language, he said, “You should consider writing for a career.” Boom. I was screwed from that point forward. Despite a continual set of data from my schools regarding suitable careers for my talents and preferences (as indicated by now-dubious tests), I persisted in thinking I would be a writer. Not just any writer, but a writer of fiction. High school brought a two-year sojourn into journalism and caused me to apply to the University of Montana for its then-renowned School of Journalism. I began having second thoughts after I was accepted but while still in high school. I had returned to “creative writing” as we called it then. For reasons that will be detailed elsewhere, I spent my entire freshman year of college without ever entering the School of Journalism either academically or physically (to the best of my recollection). With no idea what I really wanted to do–where was my drive to be a writer then?–I dropped out of college to build up cash for another stab at it. And no, I didn’t write in the 15 months I spent working before re-entering college. This time I wasn’t going to be a writer, but a recording engineer…until I switched majors to radio-television news. Not liking the idea of doing that for a living, I attempted to build my own major out of R-TV news and Economics, which would’ve caught the eye of any college advisor of the past 30 years, but back then did not. I dropped out of college again and attempted to write short stories. I did not write many, finished fewer, and none were good.

After five months of this I said to myself, “If you don’t get your ass back in college for real, you’re never going to get a degree. Just get a journalism degree. If you’re on deadline, you have to write.” I enrolled in yet a third institution (the University of Washington), got the degree, and went to work for a weekly newspaper in the Puget Sound area. There I took photographs, sold a little advertising, wrote enough news to fill five or six pages every week, pasted it all together, and drove it to the printer’s shop every Tuesday morning. After three years I moved across the state and did more or less the same thing except in a more professional setting. Within nine months I had gained an editorial position (pretty much doing the same thing except with more pages to fill), had met the woman who became my first wife, and quit to get a teaching degree. I disliked that reporting required you to go out and find the news. I disliked much more that I had to sell ads on the side. Too much hustling. My fiancée taught. “We can have summers off together.” Sounded good to me.

Which brings me full circle. How can one regard oneself as a writer but not write? I’ve known speed junkies who dashed out drivel and thought they had written the beginnings of the next Great American Novel. I’ve known persons who write anecdotal stuff similar to a bad holiday newsletter, publish it on Facebook, and get a few hundred responses all saying, “you should publish this! It’s so good!” I know a person right now who labors mightily to write about his encounters in Christian spirituality. He has about three or four readers who actually leave comments, and he acknowledges my writing skills compared to his. But in my eyes, he is A Writer, and I am not.

Doig’s simple explanation of knowing he needed to write something represents exactly what has been missing for my past 50 years: a compelling, primal need to write, an urge or urgency which drives one to write. I’ve had this need only when teachers assigned papers or when a new week’s blank pages of newsprint caused my stomach to clench up all those years ago. In my later years I wrote business reports and standard operating procedures. It was in the business world of all places where I recognized a need to write. Now that I have retired, so too have my incentives.

I envy the Doigs of the world. Perhaps, just perhaps, I can find the elusive desire to capture words my soul commands must be captured. Until then I will continue to wait for the occasional spark, such as the one which prompted this.

(this is not a poem)

NC Zoo, March 2007
This is not a poem.
This is not a diatribe.
This is not a manifesto.
This is not much of anything at all,
Except one man accepting his 
Legacy from another.
He carried burdensome feelings of
inadequacy, imperfection, 
insensitivity, all of them
tamped down hard,
buried deeply, like
a stone in his heart. He 
layered it with each failure,
consoled himself with 
"At least I am providing for my family." 
"At least I do good work, 
support my co-workers with grace,
with fairness." And mostly with
"At least I fear God." Though
whether fearing God came
from his true heart or from 
his boyhood he never knew.
Each new layer of failure or 
consternation or losing 
control to anger resonated 
all of the other layers. Each 
new layer seemed heavier 
than the last. 
his heart-weight became
too much. One failure 
too many. He said to himself,
"I am perfect enough that never,
never should that have happened."
He said it again. And again. And every
day again. He repeated it,
haunted himself with it, 
layering and layering his heart 
until it only could beat 
when he didn't think--
and he only could not think by
shutting out his own voice, 
stopping up his ears to his heart-stone:
taking flight in sleep, 
in blessed nothingness.
Five years and five months he
stayed chained to that heart.
Then he died.
I saw that man yesterday. 
I see him more frequently
these days. 
I recognize his ways. It
seems I live with him more 
and more. I wish I could
cradle his rounded, load-weary
shoulders, caress the thin hair
of his head. Tell him it's okay.
Then ask him,
"Could you do the same 
for me?"
No, definitely not a poem.
Poems rhyme, 
poems have meter.
Poems make sense. 

when life hands you snow…

Bryce Canyon National Park, UT, March 2000

I was just venturing into digital photography with a bulky Agfa camera–hence the very low quality of the photograph here. My wife and I celebrated her completion of chemotherapy by heading to southern Utah. We woke to a couple inches of snow in Moab. We drove in and out of snowstorms that day: through a mini-blizzard in rangeland west of Moab; dodging flakes in Capitol Reef National Park; stopping by the side of the road to prepare lunch on the spine of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, with a few lazy flakes and no other cars; arriving at the Bryce National Park Lodge in the late afternoon with snow falling again. “Let’s stay two nights,” I said, “and just enjoy this lodge today.” So we did. We ventured out the next morning to snap photos wherever we could get to–the roads were not all plowed. It wound up being one of the best vacations we’ve taken.

a blush of robins

January 2020, Spokane, WA.

There are at least 15 different collective nouns for robins, most of which seem to refer to actual European robins, not the thrushes Americans call robins. I like blush. I watched a group feast on leftover apples one morning, orange on orange, then discovered the robins across the street where they had gone to refresh themselves.

January 2020, Spokane, WA

This occurred two months after we held my mother’s funeral.  When not watching robins, I spent bittersweet time wallowing in the memories of my parents, my relationships with them, and growing up with my younger brother–in short, my familial life–while I sorted through the accumulations of two lifetimes. The word “wallow” serves better than “savor”: the latter implies a taking in, a controlled appreciation, a distinction between myself and the memories; the former captures my headlong dive into the totemic magic and power of objects which transports one involuntarily to other places in time and space. “Wallow” accurately conveys being in the memories, one with them as they washed over me, a miniscule little man leaping into a snifter filled with rare cognac, voluntarily giving up all control, at times wondering if he will drown. Nevertheless these memories, like the cognac, provided a warming experience within and without.

Each object could open a trapdoor in my emotions, sluicing me downward, backward in time to feelings and events held in thrall by the fallibility of my memory:  the coaster my mother brought back from Spain when my father fulfilled her lifelong dream of going there…

Wooden coaster, Spain.

…the footstool which sat in my maternal grandparents’ living room until it sat in my parents’ living room and now sits in my library…

Footstool, circa 1920s

…the pen and ink reproduction of Lake Quinault Lodge in Olympic National Park where my parents visited with the dearest friends of their later years…and where I introduced my wife to the magic of the Washington State temperate rainforest…and where we in turn visited with our dearest friends…

Lake Quinault Lodge, Olympic National Park, Washington State, USA

New doors opened, new memories were made:  discovering via a piece of masking tape on the bottom of a teapot that a tea set which sat in our house for decades once belonged to my great-grandmother, who died over a half century ago…

Bavarian tea set, early 1900s

…that my maternal grandmother had been a flapper, wearing this dress…

Flapper dress with handsewn beadwork, 1920s

…that my mother appeared to save every letter I wrote to her throughout my life…that my father was both more obsessed with record-keeping than I had suspected and less organized about it than I had thought…that my brother was very artistic in elementary school as evidenced by all of our school papers having been preserved by my mother.

When I acted in community theater, I read Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre by Keith Johnstone. After the typical introduction and notes sections, Johnstone presented four sections, the final of which was entitled “Masks and Trance”. I likely do Johnstone an injustice here, but what I’ve taken away from the section is that objects can possess an actor if the actor permits it. Further, the same object will induce similar acting performances from two different actors. Masks in this sense do not need to be facial coverings, although much of Johnstone’s work was with traditional comic or character masks which cover the top half of the face. The Charlie Chaplin Tramp costume represents a mask. Chaplin is quoted from his autobiography as saying this about what happened after he chose baggy pants, a tight jacket, a false moustache, a cane, and big shoes: “…I had no idea of the character. But the moment I was dressed, the clothes and make-up made me feel the kind of person he was. I began to know him, and by the time I walked on the stage he was fully born…with the clothes on I felt he was a reality, a living person. In fact he ignited all sorts of crazy ideas that I would never have dreamt of until I was dressed and made-up as the Tramp…For me he was fixed, complete, the moment I looked in the mirror and saw him for the first time, yet even now I don’t know all the things that are to be known about him.”

Johnstone speaks intuitive truth, which I experienced as I sorted my parents’ possessions. Though I had little knowledge of the various tea cups and sets my mother collected, a simple reference to her own grandmother triggered the three-generational appreciation for fine china, pottery, and the allure of the Orient for them. I could feel it, not just appreciate it. Similarly, seeing the dress (suit) my mother wore on the first day of her honeymoon created in me the feeling of pride, joy, anticipation, and love for my father which she felt as he took the photograph of her I had seen so many times growing up. Perhaps I leapt to make connections where none existed. Perhaps I merely stitched together disparate memories when I looked at the diamond ring my father commissioned to repurpose his mother’s wedding ring. Perhaps it reflects only the deductive approach of a historian, not the inductive episodes I’ve described here. Perhaps…

That objects carry weight and meaning seems unavoidably true. To dismiss them, to clear them away from one’s life because they represent “clutter”, to periodically get rid of things simply because “I ought to”, to focus only on life experiences–certainly this has a minimalist, zen allure to it, but it ultimately represents a negation of the physical. When the important aspects of one’s reality exist only in the mind, then another may question, “Why are you here then?” This attitude and that question sum up for me the problem with certain Christian scriptures which seem to advise us to dismiss the world as secondary. Likewise the Buddhist notion that life is but illusion avoids the simple fact that we must walk through this illusion until death. To repeat: why are we here then?

Most of those objects I sorted through have moved on to others’ hands. Like a death from one thousand cuts, I could not transport the contents of a 2600 square foot house to mine. Ignoring marital discord, it simply defied the laws of physics, and it represented a serious challenge to my fiscal state to transport them across the United States. Except for select items, photos must stand in to stimulate my memories now. But I still haven’t captured the magic, the hold these things have on me. Where are the words to describe what I feel when hold a small little lockbox made from metal, fashioned to look like a suitcase from the 1940s, and scarcely large enough to hold a pack of cards? I can tell you how I held this in my hands over the course of my childhood and listened to the coins inside slide around. I can tell you my father threw a few coins in it from time to time, coins which represented singular things to him. I don’t even know why some of the coins were there. What made a particular nickel so important? I even can attempt a description of my young feelings as I looked at a representational suitcase and saw things that suitcases did not have to the best of my young knowledge: straps to tie it up and hold it together; images of stickers from all the major cities and countries where the suitcase theoretically had been; a putty gray-green color accentuated by tan for the faux leather at the edges and on the belts securing it together. I can describe how I would take a little odd-shaped key to unlock the box to view those coins, but how can I convey to you how I still can feel what I felt then at the age of ten simply by holding the case in my hands? How I can see my father at 40 instead of 80? I can picture where it was tucked in the top drawer of his chest of drawers, underneath the white handkerchiefs he always carried in his suits–until he didn’t. I see the arrangement of the furniture in my parents’ bedroom in 1965. I feel the lumpiness of the awful-colored shag carpet rug alongside the bed. It never really stops. I can continue to describe the bedroom, the events which happened there, which trigger other events, other items–because I am at that moment living there-then not here-now.

Am I too old to envision a different way to relate to objects? In 75 years, 100 years will someone like me fondly recall the cumbersome approach to non-fungible tokens (NFTs) his grandparents had, and how he still cherishes them in the virtual vault where he stores them? I think not. Just as archeologists delicately brush dust from clay tablets and vases, so too do we mentally brush the cobwebs of time aside to relive those times we held these objects. In just the same way that we gaze on those ancients artifacts in museums, so too do we mentally consider the displays we’ve built in our mind of all those objects we couldn’t hang onto–and we’ll experience true joy to have a small little museum ourselves, maybe just a part of a shelf, maybe one room of our house, where we can look at the salient objects which invoke these magical feelings in us, feelings we cannot articulate fully, memories we can only share with others who hold them too.

Memories can bring a cascade of others until we are possessed. Sometimes it only takes a blush of robins to trigger them.

A blush of two

When I listen to you

gossip-monger, September 2008, Orlando, FL
When I listen to You
I don't hear Her...
Voices telling me
(in words I've never heard before):
Things I've suspected,
Never knew,
Don't want to believe...
Never believed.
Your words resonate,
Sound those harmonies,
Those sympathetic vibrations
Deep within me.
Her disparaging judgment of me
Sits numbly in my soul--
This benign tumor neither
Growing, shrinking, or leaving.
Her close (convenient) friend
Blocking refuge's door:
"She doesn't want to talk
To you." But--
"I'll talk to him," She said;
A limited engagement.
What did She say?
To Her friends?
To too many?
How could this man,
So wanting conversation,
Communication, some
Shred of mutual effort 
To maintain a marriage,
Find himself wedded to 
Her non-talking cold
Judgment, spitting out
Her assessment:
Verbal Abuser?
When I listen to You
I can't see Verbal Abuser.
You paint me differently:
Partner. Spouse.
I see this. I think,
Maybe, this Her,
Might have erred.

Our beautiful fall

We are falling from the moment we are born.
Until forty, we don’t know this.
We think we’re going forward, outward,
Growing; not understanding we are
Shrinking, no, crystalizing into the final
Jewel we are, will be, maybe. So much
Wiggle-room, so many paths, so
Endowed with timelessness!

At forty, we understand, turn,
Brace for the fall—
Realizing we haven’t jumped up—
Realizing we’ve hurtled ourselves toward our doom—
Realizing falling’s inevitability:
We thought we’re responsible!
We acknowledge falling, but abstractly:
“There’s plenty of time!”

Our sixties—a.k.a. When Our Parents Die—we
See the barrier against which we all
Crash. We understand: not only
Didn’t we start anything,
We won’t be able to
End it, either.

These moments of clearer revelation,
Shorn of pretense (hopefully),
Our backs against the wall of our
Inexcusable behavior, our
Youthful ‘revelations’, our
Moments we thought were heart-rending,
Our happiness we thought
Never-ending, our
Aimless or purposeful existence, regardless,
Brought us here,
To this place where
Time is short—
Dreams are ending—
Fruition MUST occur or
Be buried forever while we
Begin to plant ourselves in the ground—
Then…then…we see clearly what can be done,
And what can’t, and
We do it.
Or we don’t.
As it always was!
As it can be!
It’s our best/worst time,
Happiness. Fear. Resignation.

Our diamond-quest involves vast pressure.
Let it come, let it come.
Harden, clarify,
Add color, sparkle, luminescence—
They mean something:
To yourself, to
Those who wait, to
Those who follow, and again,
To yourself.