It was a week of work, my first in over two months. Funny how you can tell what kind of day you’ll have in the first ten minutes of wakefulness. Is sensitivity something we learn? It’s hard to emulate the idiomatic and constitutional, but easy to hide behind it.
Thoughts of authenticity the other night after watching “Atlanta” connected themselves to others about lived experience, my life, and Charles Johnson, who is from the town in which I now reside and will be here again to give a talk in May. This is apparently worthy of transcription.
Self-conscious self-criticism always “kept me honest” while I sought ways to raise myself up out of the everyday, confused, predictably romanticizing “just making it” and being afraid of dependence. Writing isn’t the application of forms, it’s unfolding. I’ve made my truths, fiction et non, and still going.
Really I’m not my past, but I can get back to it like Theseus to Ariadne. Peter and the Wolf gave me a glimpse of heritage as a child and I made it my own mythology. Peter was the violin and my middle name and all was quiet, all was well.
Russian fur hats and black boots and military jackets and good-natured young boys and protective grandfathers I never knew, if I had to pluralize. Now I write prose poems because they’re somewhere between rap and short stories and because I’m from somewhere where that makes sense, working for a living and working on a novel about belonging that I might should maybe call The Clew and the Minotaur but I won’t tell you who’s who.
Originally published on Hijacked Amygdala. Out-dented the final stanzagraph in this version to indicate a return to the beginning.
Canceled my New Yorker subscription some months ago, as if that would help me feel less scatterbrained, once the basement bargain on the first year of issues expired and I was back to not being special anymore and just like everyone else again. All too trite and elitist, I thought, silently excusing myself from participation in some indefinable currency, realizing the feebleness of this withdrawal as that snarky manikin leered over my shoulder and snarkily suggested I’d have been more of a pseudo-sophisticate if I’d spelled realizing with an s.
There is simply too much to think about. I imagine turning to the man next to me at the nearly empty bar I’m not sitting in and saying “so what’s it like for you out there” and his obscure eyes turn to meet me with a look of total cancelation surpassing even the negation I supposed I’d find. “Bellow,” I’d say, and he’d hear it as a verb and turn away. “But this was his city, too,” I’d protest, “twice.” That has to mean something, though it’s a lifelong effort to understand that not everything does, and how. Four years on the seventh floor was a form of sanctuary but not as transcendental as I supposed.
Here, the wind blows this way and that, often in the same breath. There’s surely a meteorological explanation for this, I think, remembering the local tv news weather report showing large currents of blue and purple computer-generated atmosphere above a matte gray-brown map and how those currents seemed—always—to converge directly above this city. On the ground down where I now live I watch little plastic flags on clotheshanger-thin wire poles stuck in the muck and mud of lived experience to mark gas lines nervelessly flutter back and forth, but I tend toward the figurative and a certain desultory envy of inanimate stoicism, supposing for convenience’s sake that that’s not a contradiction in terms, nor is the struggle to perfect oneself in the symbolic discipline of an art.
Have you ever loved living so much you were afraid to let it out of your sight? Did you cling to it, even in despair, despite its flutters and turns, despite the partisan, balkanized categorizations that we adopt as identities? That’s all I want to know, I *promise* that’s all I’ll ever ask.
Originally published on Hijacked Amygdala.
Filling page after page with half-thoughts is both an affront to writing and essential to the practice of it. It takes time to cook up something good, and sometimes we have it, sometimes we don’t. What spooks me is a certain flatness, apathy, lethargy, whereby the impulse to pursue an idea or sensation or line of thinking is weak, and the corresponding motivation to slide down another rabbit hole is almost nonexistent. Some, surely, would call this “depression,” and though I might be inclined to debate, I would not go so far as to deny the applicability of that term. I try so hard to choose happiness, I’d protest, every moment of every fucking day I try to choose it like it’s the daily fucking chef’s special but I sometimes fail to see how it stands out from the rest of the menu and order a perturbation omelette and a coffee and wait for inspiration to return from wherever it goes when I go missing.
Listening to one story (tv, French crime thriller) and reading another (first one of my own, then Joy Williams) and they blend.
Been here for a week. That could mean anything, with or without pronouns. Listening to Saul Bellow and Percival Everett during the 19.2-mile drive north to work next week because André Breton wasn’t available for the ridealong. Intending to come back. To do more than survive, and come back.
Blaise Cendrars discovered Henry Miller. Wonder what Henry’d been before that. Like “America” before Amerigo, or was there less in the name? For anyone who’s counting, that’s three times francophone now and a certain synchronicity with recent inklings of a Bourgognese cottage or a flat in Montmartre.
With words, anything is within reach and I’m just a needle on the infinitesimal evergreen forest floor remembering the fall and trying to stand for a better view.
I woke up and my face was bruised and a front tooth broken half off and I couldn’t recall a thing. Then it came the way fear does that I’d just seen a man I knew get fired without ceremony or ostensible circumstance and all I’d done was walk along beside him down the anywhere corridor in some kind of semi-nosey, commiserative gesture of shoulder-patting reprieve though the shoulder-patting was completely figurative and the reprieve quite literally limited to two widened eyes and one furrowed brow of neighborly inquisition since I had no idea at all what a plain person in my shoes—or his—might do or how they’d lace them because mine had been criss-crossed and tangled since birth.
And I wondered without asking why he’d been canned with such abruptness while my lowly station I for the moment did appear to retain and I couldn’t shake the pesky sense of at least maybe somehow even more than partial responsibility, as if my existence within the situation we by nothing, I to myself insisted, more than chance shared meant—and by “meant” I mean “equated to”—complicity, apologetically aware as I nevertheless couldn’t help but be of looking down on him from sheer stature though surely many’d say it was in fact a more emblematic sort of looking down from some manner of privilege, relative, menacing, atrocious privilege poking through readymade apertures of irony, privilege which (they’d say) my privileged subconscious conveniently misunderstood as owing to certain innocuous superficialities of appurtenant physiognomy and meaningless coincidences rather than the harder, deeper-buried archetypal essences on which our fates are veritably determined, thinking it could’ve been me but it wasn’t me it was just he.
Originally published on Hijacked Amygdala.
As an act of living, everything I write is a little record of feeling alive, no matter the struggle or syntax, but there’s something vital about you and I wonder in my less presumptive junctures if it’s always and where it comes from.
With me, though, it’s always the same, taking what presents because I willfully—even dutifully—confuse the enunciation and usage and then later only finally later do I walk away to start over, inverse Indian-giving it back despite the scientific impossibility of doing so without some kind of receipt
—but this is not science it’s a synopsis of trivialities.
At dinner at the Italian Restaurant on Christmas Eve I overheard the establishment’s patriarch as he surveyed the bustling, clinking room say to the manager standing to his right beside him “it’s the way he carries himself, even fast like this, he has style” and when I heard it I felt alive and was reminded that I love living so much I’m afraid to let it out of my sight
—I must I keep watch, keep taking, keep giving, even if my motion turns more to speed than velocity.
Originally published on Hijacked Amygdala.
Last night was the last night in that apartment I’d tell people was down by the Stadium and the Convention Center when they asked “where do you live” because the Stadium and Convention Center are landmarks and most people wouldn’t know the cross streets anyway.
Now comes relief, and I don’t mind saying that. New anxieties, of course, but also relief. Fresh coat of paint, different arrangement, new habits and a new habitat. Something to write about, more stories to tell. Stare too long at the same walls and out the same windows and you get listless, languid, lethargic. That may happen anywhere, though, of course, I suppose.
No matter. Tonight I’ll sit with Teju, my regular settler of late, with his essays known and strange and his voice steady and assured and inquisitive and absurdly learned, and I’ll read something absurdly placid, maybe about Aciman and his connoisseurship of lavender, or Walcott and his naturalness and tomorrow I’ll get familiar with some cross streets and practice new descriptions.