VERITIES FROM WHEN I WAS GOOD

1.

My cousin is the closest I’ve had to a brother. I see in him every trace of Columbia Station and remember each similarity and divergence. Nintendo games, cutting the golf course grass, flat-top haircuts, water slides, BMX biking off the dock into the pond, tobogganing behind the 1947 Ford tractor. When I returned from the other countries he knew first we would see each other less, even though I was only an hour south on 77. Haven’t talked to him in years.

Great-Uncle Béla died of pneumonia after a bicycle race in Budapest right after World War I. And Great-Uncle Ben used to stay up all night reading – I think about him when I’m in bed with a Cioran volume at 4:00 AM.

I’ve considered becoming the lokator and saying a temporary goodbye to language. All we do is take photos so we are remembered anyway. But I also need someone and am unable to quit them.

In the seams between the three countries is an unknown precept: I see she has read, and I see she is writing. It’s taken my whole life to be in love with a machine.

I remember the Circuit City on Whipple Avenue, that feeling of landing in one utopia and searching for another.

I’ve seen enough nightmare photos of abandoned Midwestern malls for my Rust Belt melancholy. As if there’s some border—don’t know where, in the east or south most likely—and once you cross it, there’s more forgetting than memory of you.

If we’re really being honest, we each of us want to be the Dictator of Vibes – we want to bring the vibes to all situations.

My best friend says I dress like a second-class passenger on the Titanic.

And then there’s the forgotten bombardment, something permanent but loose with the truth, a few short walks in Ravenna, playacting the stranger seeing only what s/he (humyn) knows.

In familiar haunts beneath the salt mountains of Chile, I talked about the Polish car thieves, Polish plumbers, and Polish nationalists. How we’ve all encountered them, or at least heard about them. How when I say I lived in Poland, the Syrian refugee gave me a shocked look and wanted to know how it was.

I needed my bike fixed after an attempted theft, so I balanced my anticipatory anxiety and potential regret with the media elites and fact-checking experts telling me what I should want and have.

Thinking a lot nowadays about right-wing hybridization with otherworldliness, gaudy psychedelia, grotesque theater, melting LSD-tinged textures, bubbling eyes and monstrous tentacles, sub-scanned physical objects, wire manipulations, cross-bred neon tints, 90s video game emulators, garish cartoon tarot cards, and just wanting somebody to arrive and stay.

I think a lot about expensive pink marble. And quartz.

I think a lot about who woodworking reminds me of.

I think a lot about the names I still love, all the names from the past.

There’s always someone close to help my machine run smoothly. But if I sit incorrectly and almost get run over by commuters in the central station, was I disturbing the comfortable, or comforting the disturbed?

At the book fair I knew how to buy and sell. And it was easy to contemplate all my mistakes, the bad ideas, potential for failure, and how communication breaks down when there are not enough women around me.

I’m being sincere when I say sometimes I really need to listen to the cimbalom. It’s like an ancestor from the Puszta is calling out to me.

In answer to your question, I think her name was Missy, from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Nobody’s too interested in comparing any “exotic destination” to Cleveland, let alone in how the seasons reverse between the two countries.

Domestic scandals, statues attacked by lions, panic in the pink jungle: now that we’re on the same platform, I can do some ignoring.

2.

The only things I know to keep in the icebox are Polish vodka, peanut-butter ice cream, and my Levi’s.

Weak messages create bad situations, of which there is no shortage now, as if to be American is to be truly blank.

Many are advocating peace is death, that we should give violence a chance, all empowering and all you need. Get ready for the state to disagree.

Ancestors wanted to stay put or move, who knows. But as new fears get old, we’re always disappointing, all deserving and undeserved.

Born a data mine, yesterday not tomorrow, she left the continent without reaching out, savoring one last beer beneath the Berlin scythes. Once again, feeling foreign is a luxurious and lonely habit some just don’t have the privilege of experiencing.

He never talked about anything except love is worry and dented pride, so when I saw him mugging for the camera amidst the heavy collective, his levity as irresistible as a black prism, his tremendous effort made with the most subtle of results, his choice of desire over horror but not necessarily desire for the new, I felt ______.

If I’ve ever found myself in the wrong place at the wrong time, I’ve forgotten the details. You?

I realize I wasn’t really born there, so there’s little left to argue against. But down on Szív Utca, we’re all waiting to hear the good news.

The vegetable world just continues lording it over the mineral.

I miss the villages of Eastern Poland, but I haven’t had to use my bike-riding mantras for six months.

One should never forget how Jesus has been crowned king of the country. And how I’m too far away to make a joke.

Remember to water the succulents.

My mother told me my friends have not stuck by me. She sees things I do not, even with nationality doubtful, not just a comfortable sofa to fall asleep on.

Until recently, food was monotonous and unhealthy, life was boring.

Imaginary relationships are a haunting, whether voluntary or not.

Do you ever dream of community? Some have communities in the comments and the fake news. Maybe you do, too.

3.

Don’t pretend you’re unable to distinguish incessant visual notation from surveillance, it’s not really that hard.

I too need images to frame my losses.

I too need a love of other eyes on the perimeter to prove I exist.

Her face seems unforgettable, but I was bothered by the photo of the book in the grass, how it’s way too washed out. Should have used the Ludwig filter.

Yesterday I listened to The Cure and daydreamed of black-and-white photos in the basement of the North Branch of the Stark County District Library.

Now I am clutching my phone, which has been nicknamed, “The Coffin of My Isolation.”

She says she can’t stop taking photos of sunsets. Are those boots vegan?

Our photos form a bridge of sighs that is high in the middle and nothing at both ends, bordered by an extinction of the consciousness mechanism.

No unsound this year, but some attention paid to famine and the third-world, a few worries about taking a troubling tack in the west, living it up in not-vital ways. There is, after all, hypernormalisation in addition to the normalization always occurring, friends.

A year ago I was going home in October, because everyone goes home in October. But not this year. Instead, I spent a lot of time deciphering their mixed-media messages from across the ocean.

He loves stained glass by Gerhard Richter, synonym studies, and tandem fusion. She sways where the dusk and candlelight meet, reads Merleau-Ponty on the reg, and has a tattoo of some kind of counter-chasm.

This disorientation is leading me to wonder, do you still feel the trees are watching you on certain days, the balsam and hemlock ones, especially?

I was trying hard to prophesy for an aesthetics of dirtiness, but the closed system was making victims of outsiders. And thus, that system was making a victim of my health.

Tune in to writing as bricolage, a method for stealing and celebrating commonalities, deleting and representing at the same time, expressing sympathy with the lives of objects, these objects that are always taking note of us.

“Oh that was good, I’m going to write that down. What’d I say?”

4.

A few failed memoirs: I may be lost in the lowlands, getting older to a soundtrack of shock-exiled guitar and weatherboard synth riffs updated late-to-never, but one more tactless comment on her cosmic sunburn and I’m leaving.

I want to be comfortable with you not liking it, I’m not sure I like it myself.

I want to remember all of it and for everyone to see it, to be forced to reckon with it. Your envy can become my forgetting.

Which new differences are making a difference? We spent Friday evening asking and answering the question, “Where are you from?” But no one really meant, “Why don’t you go back there?”

Does the art of forgetting incorporate all that is forgotten alongside each memory, or does it filter selectively, in the end asking you to pay attention to elements that are absent instead of all that is present?

To write the presence of absence; the flip-side, inverse, and eater of memory; that which is not just the opposite of memory but which can barely be defined on its own. To understand a part and name the whole of the vacancy. Is this possible?

What more do you want: to stay married to her fragile hands; to sacrifice understanding of no fun for uprooting the city of champions; to defend the land, its luxurious potatoes, reflective materiality, and hard-working barbers?

They shed their coats in the Katshoek Building, sniffling and hawking obliviousness. But even with so much dust, I’ve never once found solitude agonizing. You?

They want the energy of their stolen crystal back. For there is a constant preoccupation demanding—with a clear mind, no less—that you remain little more than part of the average.

Is it tangerines, clementines, or mandarin oranges spilled across the table alongside the half-dry laundry left to air?

Yet another photo’ing, and all the while we increasingly admire fashions that double as paramilitary gear.

What’s missing from my still life is a clock, the seconds synchronized with your beating heart: awwww.

Some casualties of peace: my west is now your east, a certain silence defined by days in which pleasure is not the only release.

Something keeps me real quiet: I cannot want your Friday afternoon beer, finish cracking my knuckles, stop tapping my foot to the kick, pause this aging, respond to you expecting a lot from me on a bike ride in Belgium, or agree to your use of “I” over “we.”

What I will do is eat the burned food, watch the crushing waves, act despite knowing I am doomed, and inch forward against air unmoving.

This, as long as I can wear the Danish poncho, get my bike seat stolen, and end my days carrying a backpack full of books. All the books on failure, dressing well, crypto-fascists, blessed initiatives, and the violence of Naples and New Jersey must remain at my fingertips.

5.

That year there were all these voters saying, “Carpe fucking diem for my American condition.”

I have had enough of the push of forgetting. Enough of migration. I turn again to memory, because eventually I will turn 40.

Who can be simultaneously as violent and sensitive? As if there is an inner violence, a neo-violence, that takes the form of pity.

All this synthetic pop from the East: melting geometrics, black overalls, white t-shirt, crescent tattoo. How kjut.

I am no longer young and they can tell. They move away and eye me suspiciously but that’s okay, I will unfollow them soon.

Not fashionable, hip, normcore,  or sleek. Do not wear new neutrals. Do not like to stay out late. Like the early mornings, when it’s easier to stay unseen.

Every imitation disappoints when you want to own the image.

The fog rolls in quickly after I get out of bed and have breakfast. Goodbye, terrible youth.

A vertical continuity I have not accessed and maybe never will.

Look at the photo of them in costume, playing with lightsabers, smiling. Then take a photo of an old black Porsche, slicked with rain at dawn.

Maybe he’s alright. Maybe I’ll see him again. Who cares.

Someone laughs at me. They are so western and knowledgeable. They say, “Everyone else is dumb.”

He says with a sly smile, “I lived in other countries too, ooooh.” Like, nothing special. Like, I could talk about that if I really wanted to. But listen, bro-hammer, sounds like what you really want is some hot money. Your attempt at mocking goes against the spirit of the laboratory, and you’re dressed like a collapsing market.

A fair bit of nausea recently over the Community, Team, Openness, Collaboration, and Tolerance. Because sometimes, Rich Inspiring moments with Fabulous, Empowered, Fun, Sexy, Creative, Brilliant people leave me queasy.

When you move, you can keep, sell, donate, or trash stuff. Best to get rid of as much as possible.

From now on, frontier narratives are reserved for experimental music and emotional labor.

Our polite society is limned with flicking halogens, ecosystems of excess, triangles of white and black magic, and less-than-lethal weapons. Without that, there’s no church, community, family, virtues, nation, or work ethic.

It’s a wobbly affair, destination Earth, then always delving back into the city.

It is here that the ship will either rescue me or pass by.

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2 thoughts on “VERITIES FROM WHEN I WAS GOOD

  1. sanberdooboy says:

    perhaps the secret is to remember to water the succulents. (but over-watering kills them.) reading this was for me like looking through a shattered mirror. with so many fragments i eventually imagined myself as you, even though clearly we have had far different experiences. I am so much older than you. but i still experience the regret, isolation, melancholy, humor, anger, and restlessness that i find in this piece. so that is powerful, isn’t it, to be able draw readers in, to give us brief glimpses of you and your world and to feel what that is like, whatever it is, at the time?

    • Traversing some distance of experience, location, and even age is a big compliment, I appreciate that very much, thank you for the comment. That the bombardment of fragments could draw you in perhaps means my inclination to write in the first-person again is suitable to follow. Cheers, and happy new year.

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