Paper is at once both the cruelest invention a writer may have stumbled across and also her salvation.
The blank page invites, often demands the pen and is unjudging, yet the poet may change or delete but the paper retains the original and throws it back in his face.
The computer, many say, changed all of that, backspace or highlight and delete and that mistake, misuse, misadventure is gone forever, but with a wrong keystroke all you may have is a blank screen and your words so well shaped, thoughts perfectly expressed can be lost in the ether.
He says he wants to know what I want done with my ashes knowing I want to be cremated.
I tell him I need to think about that for a while, knowing that “while” could be an ever shortening lifespan, but I dare not tell him that, it simply wouldn’t be acceptable he would respond, setting off another endless discussion.
I don’t say that time, in this rare instance, is on my side for truth be told I don’t care what he does with my ashes, I am gone and that’s that , bit a nice spot in the center of the mantle in the formal living room would be nice.
The mountain reaches up grasping clouds. The river no longer runs red down its flanks now traversed by a black ribbon twisting upward. The Hertz rental has a warning taped on the glove box driving above 5,000 feet is prohibited, and at the driver’s risk. The Minolta sits in the trunk as I deny the siren’s call.
FirstAppeared in Raconteur, Issue 3, January 1996.
He began his trek up the mountain early in the morning to allow time for the ascent and return. He’d planned this carefully, and proceeded slowly so as not to be put off his goal. He smiled as he passed through a low hanging cloud layer, erasing the ground from which he set off on his journey. He plodded on, seeing the summit growing ever, if slowly, closer. He finally reached his goal at the summit, sat and smiled broadly. He had made it. He gazed down, feeling as though he had at last achieved flight. He was one with the sky. A sudden shadow passed over him. He looked up at the eagle circling, mocking him, as if saying this is flight, you poor earthbound creature.
It is incredibly sad when all you have seen is Paris from a taxi hurtling toward the center of the city, because you are late for a meeting, and then your view out of the conference room window is another glass building which, if you lean your head far enough right gives you the reflection of the Eiffel Tower.
As the meeting drags on you realize you must pay attention as another taxi speeds you to the Charles DeGaulle airport Hilton for a dinner meeting and sleep before your 6 A.M. flight to Zurich, and you begin to think that Paris and New York arent all that different from the back seat of a taxi.
In the dark heart of night time is suddenly frozen, the clock’s hands stalactites and stalagmites, unyielding denying the approach of morning, leaving the sun imprisoned under the watchful gaze of its celestial wardens.
It is then you appear, call out to me, beg me be silent, not asking the lifetime of questions I have accreted, providing my own hopes and imagination for answers, but you have faces, not those of that weekend but of other days, she younger, in college, he in a college yearbook at a school he never attended save as part of the ROTC contingent of the Air Force.
I bid you farewell, finally, and time again takes motion and morning welcomes the sun.
In the early morning, before I open the blinds, before the sun approaches rising, I imagine the chill enveloping everything outside, October slipping quickly toward November, to the possibility of rolling snake eyes, to snow.
Winter always came that way, unannounced, and at least by me, unwelcomed, the last of the crimson, flame orange and ochre leaves dragged to the earth and buried ignominiously.
But I know when I do open the blinds, even while the sun is still in its celestial witness protection, I will see the shadow of the palm trees and know that here we measure winter on a wholly different scale.
Acuity is such a strange word, sharp on the tongue and in meaning, but also a mark of what once was, what will never be again, replaced perhaps by a visual vacuity, comfortable word, no sharp edges, vague images floating behind a gauze seeping slowly into a scrim, knowing the stage will soon enough go dark, despite the ever brighter lighting. But replaced perhaps by ever greater auditory acuity, all edges, cutting sounds unmuted, fine shades of gradation, hearing clearly what you will soon stumble over yet again.
An elk stands at the edge of a placid mountain lake and sees only the clouds of an approaching winter. A black bear leans over the mirrored surface of the lake and sees only the fish that will soon be his repast. The young man draped in saffron robes looks calmly into the water and sees a pebble, the spirit of his ancestors. I look carefully into the water looking for an answer to a question always lurking out of reach and see only my ever thinning hair.
FirstAppeared in Green’s Magazine (Canada), Vol. 29, No.1, Autumn 2000.