“I search for the words. ‘Restless. As if you haven’t really met yourself yet. As is you’d passed yourself once in the fog, and your heart leapt—’Ah! There I Am! I’ve been missing that piece!’ But it happens too fast, and then that part of you disappears into the fog again. And you spend the rest of your days looking for it.” ~ Libba Bray, The Sweet Far Thing
Things I Didn’t Know I Loved
it’s 1962 March 28th
I’m sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
night is falling
I never knew I liked
night descending like a tired bird on a smoky wet plain
I don’t like
comparing nightfall to a tired bird
I didn’t know I loved the earth
can someone who hasn’t worked the earth love it
I’ve never worked the earth
it must be my only Platonic love
and here I’ve loved rivers all this time
whether motionless like this they curl skirting the hills
European hills crowned with chateaus
or whether stretched out flat as far as the eye can see
I know you can’t wash in the same river even once
I know the river will bring new lights you’ll never see
I know we live slightly longer than a horse but not nearly as long as a crow
I know this has troubled people before
and will trouble those after me
I know all this has been said a thousand times before
and will be said after me
I didn’t know I loved the sky
cloudy or clear
the blue vault Andrei studied on his back at Borodino
in prison I translated both volumes of War and Peace into Turkish
I hear voices
not from the blue vault but from the yard
the guards are beating someone again
I didn’t know I loved trees
bare beeches near Moscow in Peredelkino
they come upon me in winter noble and modest
beeches are Russian the way poplars are Turkish
“the poplars of Izmir
losing their leaves. . .
they call me The Knife. . .
lover like a young tree. . .
I blow stately mansions sky-high”
in the Ilgaz woods in 1920 I tied an embroidered linen handkerchief
to a pine bough for luck
I never knew I loved roads
even the asphalt kind
Vera’s behind the wheel we’re driving from Moscow to the Crimea
formerly “Goktepé ili” in Turkish
the two of us inside a closed box
the world flows past on both sides distant and mute
I was never so close to anyone in my life
bandits stopped me on the red road between Bolu and Geredé
when I was eighteen
apart from my life I didn’t have anything in the wagon they could take
and at eighteen our lives are what we value least
I’ve written this somewhere before
wading through a dark muddy street I’m going to the shadow play
a paper lantern leading the way
maybe nothing like this ever happened
maybe I read it somewhere an eight-year-old boy
going to the shadow play
Ramazan night in Istanbul holding his grandfather’s hand
his grandfather has on a fez and is wearing the fur coat
with a sable collar over his robe
and there’s a lantern in the servant’s hand
and I can’t contain myself for joy
flowers come to mind for some reason
poppies cactuses jonquils
in the jonquil garden in Kadikoy Istanbul I kissed Marika
fresh almonds on her breath
I was seventeen
my heart on a swing touched the sky
I didn’t know I loved flowers
friends sent me three red carnations in prison
I just remembered the stars
I love them too
whether I’m floored watching them from below
or whether I’m flying at their side
I have some questions for the cosmonauts
were the stars much bigger
did they look like huge jewels on black velvet
or apricots on orange
did you feel proud to get closer to the stars
I saw color photos of the cosmos in Ogonek magazine now don’t
be upset comrades but nonfigurative shall we say or abstract
well some of them looked just like such paintings which is to
say they were terribly figurative and concrete
my heart was in my mouth looking at them
they are our endless desire to grasp things
seeing them I could even think of death and not feel at all sad
I never knew I loved the cosmos
snow flashes in front of my eyes
both heavy wet steady snow and the dry whirling kind
I didn’t know I liked snow
I never knew I loved the sun
even when setting cherry-red as now
in Istanbul too it sometimes sets in postcard colors
but you aren’t about to paint it that way
I didn’t know I loved the sea
except the Sea of Azov
or how much
I didn’t know I loved clouds
whether I’m under or up above them
whether they look like giants or shaggy white beasts
moonlight the falsest the most languid the most petit-bourgeois
I like it
I didn’t know I liked rain
whether it falls like a fine net or splatters against the glass my
heart leaves me tangled up in a net or trapped inside a drop
and takes off for uncharted countries I didn’t know I loved
rain but why did I suddenly discover all these passions sitting
by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
is it because I lit my sixth cigarette
one alone could kill me
is it because I’m half dead from thinking about someone back in Moscow
her hair straw-blond eyelashes blue
the train plunges on through the pitch-black night
I never knew I liked the night pitch-black
sparks fly from the engine
I didn’t know I loved sparks
I didn’t know I loved so many things and I had to wait until sixty
to find it out sitting by the window on the Prague-Berlin train
watching the world disappear as if on a journey of no return
19 April 1962
~ Nazim Hikmet
translated by Mutlu Konuk and Randy Blasing
Music by Ennio Morricone, “Deborah’s Theme” from Once Upon a Time in America
“rush of pine scent (once upon a time), the unlicensed conviction there ought to be another way of saying this.” ~ Paul Celan
Thursday evening. Cold. Incipient migraine.
William Blake once said that “in the universe, there are things that are known, and things that are unknown, and in between, there are doors.” I found a card once that depicted a series of doors, and the Blake quote was printed at the top. I had that card on my collage for years.
I think that we very often go through doors without a clear conception of what may be lying on the other side. In our attempts just to move through life, we open a door, hoping that some kind of truth will be waiting on the other side. And that truth may indeed be there, but it just isn’t the truth that we were anticipating.
Does that make any sense?
“There is this white wall, above which the sky creates itself— Infinite, green, utterly untouchable. Angels swim in it, and the stars, in indifference also. They are my medium. The sun dissolves on this wall, bleeding its lights.
A gray wall now, clawed and bloody. Is there no way out of the mind?” ~ Sylvia Plath, from “Apprehensions”
Let me back up and attempt to explain: Each year, in the months of November and December my nuclear family undergoes a change. The change is not sought, nor is it necessarily wanted, but without fail, it rears its head and begins to bite little pieces out of our souls, mine and Corey’s, that is.
You see, in November I try so hard to bring to the forefront of my mind the face of my father and the face of my daughter. Both gone for years, I hope that by being able to conjure the lines of their faces, the shapes of their eyes, their noses, I will be able to regain some semblance of closeness to them.
It is, undoubtedly, an exercise in pain. I know this, but the knowing does not stop me. For the entire month of November, whether or not I realize it, I am a walking time bomb, tormented by slights—real and imagined. My family, being keenly aware of this, takes pains to compensate for my temporary insanity, and I try very hard not to lose too much of myself in my heart-madness.
December 5th passes (my father’s birthday); I begin to emerge, and I try to reset my mind, to move into holiday mood. I do this because my childhood love of Christmas is one thing that I cling to in the hopes of recreating a Currier & Ives holiday that probably never happened. Nevertheless, in my hopes of sharing smiles of happiness with my family on Christmas morning, I use the holidays as my means of escaping the brutal realities of November.
The problem with this scenario? Corey hates Christmas. I don’t really know all of the reasons why, but he has never shared in my childlike (childish?) fondness for all that December encompasses: the lights, the smells, the trees, the gifts, the presents, the appearance of Venus in the sky, brighter and seemingly nearer than any other time of the year. For me, it’s not the spirituality but rather the idea of family, and sharing, and beauty.
For Corey, I don’t know what it is other than something he would rather skip. In fact, Corey becomes downright desolate in December, and that desolation on the heels of my November decline inevitably leads to friction, misunderstanding, and distance.
“While I was looking the other way your fire went out Left me with cinders to kick into dust What a waste of the wonder you were
In my living fire I will keep your scorn and mine In my living fire I will keep your heartache and mine At the disgrace of a waste of a life” ~ Kristin Cashore, “Dellian Lament,” from Fire
The overlapping of these two emotional falls never bodes well. It is as if we are two pieces of tinder, small enough to be borne about by the wind, but infused with enough power to ignite a fire of immense proportions. Trust me when I say that this is not a good thing.
For the past two weeks Corey has been one raw wound. He snipes, and with my perceived wounds, I retreat into a sullen silence. Today was no exception. So here I sit feeling bitterly sorry for myself and wondering what I hope to achieve by writing all of this. Hence, the Blake quote about the known and unknown and the doors in between.
When two people are together, no matter how much love is between them, the moments of discord loom larger than the moments of harmony. That is a simple fact. I think that the more love there is, the more potential there is to be hurt. But the very nature of love as a double-edged sword is what draws us to it, what makes us yearn for it, and what makes us fear it. Because of this, some people close themselves off from the potential to be wounded, and then there are those of us who rip off our sleeves, beat our chests, and yell, “more!”
Love is inherently insane, and its slaves are doomed to be made fools again and again.
“I sought the peak of prudence, but I found the hemlock-brimming valley of your heart, and my own thirst for bitter truth and art.” ~ Federico García Lorca, from “Stigmata of Love”
It is now 3:30 a.m., early Saturday morning. The incipient migraine hit me full force while writing this post, and I have not been able to return to it until now. I should probably go back and try to make more sense of what I wrote before, but quite frankly, I just don’t care. That I am not asleep is a reflection not only of the effects of the migraine but also of the deep depression that crept upon me in the last 48 hours.
The depression is an amalgamation of many factors that have been building over the past few weeks. When Corey asked me a few nights ago just why I was so prickly, I took his question to heart and made myself do some searching within. These are the things that have been bothering me:
My mother, with whom I lived during the time immediately after her fall and during her recovery, had a sort of mantra with which she filled our days together: She was on a fixed income (lost count of how many times I heard that), and paying her bills was of such import to her that she tried to get out of her sick-bed only a few days after falling so that she could make out her checks. As I mentioned in previous posts, I ended up doing her bills for her in the interim, so I have more than a passing knowledge about her income and her financial obligations, which are, for the most part, just the costs associated with day-to-day living: utilities, food, insurance. She is not well off, but neither is she in the poor house.
So when she began to talk of buying another car so that she could give Alexis her 2002 Honda Civic, I listened/only half-listened. I had heard it all before, and she changed her mind daily, depending upon whether or not she was angry with Alexis. This is how my mother operates. Not to mention the fact that I did not want to think about the complaints that the coming months would bring if my mother took on a car payment, how she is barely making it. I know: I sound like the bitch that I am.
Admittedly, I was also not necessarily pleased with the idea of my mother giving my daughter yet another car (third since my father died), mostly because Alexis is still not working and not making any attempts to find employment. I thought that such an act on my mother’s part would only continue to reinforce Alexis’s less than responsible behavior. But what do I know as I am only her mother . . .
The short of it is that my mother ended up buying herself a new Honda Accord and gave Alexis the Civic so that she (Alexis) can look for a job. I tried to stay out of the whole process as much as possible, which is pretty much impossible in matters involving my mother as she is a master at guilting me into doing things that I would prefer not to do. I acquiesce because it is easier and because I carry an inordinate amount of guilt in matters concerning my mother.
I decided to put my foot down in the only way that I thought made sense: I declared that Corey and I would not be footing the bill for Alexis’s car insurance, which we have been doing without any recompensation from her for quite a while now. Corey declared that I was being petty, which led to some of the discord to which I referred above.
“Nothing adds up. It all adds up. How long will this storm go on?” ~ Raymond Carver, “Stupid”
I have never thought of myself as petty, so the word hurt terribly, especially coming from Corey. Is it petty that right now I have problems of my own that consume me? That right now, I find that my empathy, my sympathy, my whatever-pathy is lacking? More guilt.
But what was and is really bothering me? So much and so little, as usual. Alexis, 26, no job, no apparent ambition, coasting and casting about and living off the kindness of those who love and care for her. ‘She has problems,’ I am reminded, words that I have spoken myself on occasion. I despair of what will become of her; I know that whatever that is, it is beyond my doing now. That realization is hard as the love that I bear for my children is so powerful, so all-consuming.
My instincts always are to protect, to help, to soothe. But is this not a disservice in some ways? Have I not contributed to my daughter’s sense that someone will always be there for her? And yet, I never want her to feel the despair that I have felt. I never want her to feel as if she has no one in the world who is there for her as I have felt.
As a parent, will I ever reach a point at which I do not feel both responsible and burdened? Perhaps this time of the night is not the best time to try to unravel these mysteries.
Yet I wonder if I will ever reach a point in my life in which melancholy will not be able to envelop me so completely. I feel as if I am deep inside a crevice, looking up towards a sky that I know is there but cannot reach. I have no ulterior motive—no arrière pensée, if you will—for revealing the turmoil which I feel.
I long to have someone to call in the middle of the night who will be able to discern just from the timbre of my voice that while I may feel impenetrable, I can still be reached. I miss having a best friend.
Enough already. I have written myself into a corner. As I have said before, it is all too much and not enough, and to continue pick at the wound will only leave a scar.
More later. Peace.
Music by Glass Pear, “My Ghost” (what an incredible voice)
All the True Vows
All the true vows
are secret vows
the ones we speak out loud
are the ones we break.
There is only one life
you can call your own
and a thousand others
you can call by any name you want.
Hold to the truth you make
every day with your own body,
don’t turn your face away.
Hold to your own truth
at the center of the image
you were born with.
Those who do not understand
their destiny will never understand
the friends they have made
nor the work they have chosen
nor the one life that waits
beyond all the others.
By the lake in the wood
in the shadows
whisper that truth
to the quiet reflection
you see in the water.
Whatever you hear from
the water, remember,
it wants you to carry
the sound of its truth on your lips.
in this place
no one can hear you
and out of the silence
you can make a promise
it will kill you to break,
that way you’ll find
what is real and what is not.
I know what I am saying.
Time almost forsook me
and I looked again.
Seeing my reflection
I broke a promise
for the first time
after all these years