The problem with youth isn’t that you misspend it, or even don’t appreciate it as it is happening, or even expect it to go on forever, for those would be the simplest hurdles to leap even at your now advanced age. The true problem with youth isn’t even those around you, grandchildren, high schoolers that overrun the Starbucks near campus are caught in the midst of it while all you can do is jealously watch. The ultimate problem with youth is that you recall it so well, the sights, sounds, the textures but what you did last Thursday you can’t recall for the life of you.
Day gives way to night. Life gives way to death. Truth gives way to truth and falsity to falsity. Nothing moves, nothing cedes, all is constant. This is enso, one stroke, complete and incomplete and this is mu. You may enter freely, but will never leave, and once captured you have never been here and cannot enter. If this seems confusing, it is precisely what it should be and you have seen clearly. Welcome! Now leave.
Like the Anasazi’s sudden departure from his cliff dwelling I too snuck away, with hardly any trace from a life no longer in clear recollection, only faint images survive, of hours in the City Lights Bookstore reading Corso, Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg, then buying the slim volume “Gasoline” not because it was my greatest desire, but its price. Now the worn volume sits nestled between Wilbur and Amichai, a fond memory, like an afternoon in the park in Salt Lake City the tarot spread out before me whispering their secrets for the slip of blotter, the small blue stain bringing an evening of color and touch and that momentary fear that nothing would again be as I knew it to be. The Anasazi knew the arrow of time had flown, had passed the four corners where I lay in the street another senseless victim of a senseless war, while Karl held the placard demanding peace, until the police urged us to move along, and offered the assistance we were sworn to reject. Now the corners seem older, more tired of the life that treads on them daily, on my path to the Federal Courthouse to argue a motion where once we spilled the red paint the blood of our generation. Now there is a wall with their names, a permanent monument while we, like our Anasazi brethren, are but faint memories.
First Appeared in Ellipsis Literature and Art, Issue 35, 1999.
It is incredibly frustrating that no matter how long I spend in discussion with the egret, he will tell me nothing of his life, of what it is like to be able to perch on long legs, and then take glorious flight. The limpkin will speak endlessly on this topic, but he really has nothing to say of any importance. Still, I’m not giving up hope, for a friend said that he had it on good authority from a passing wood stork that the egret is planning to write a tell all book, once he figures out how to use a computer.
Oddly I have a photo of my grandmother’s grave, but not one of my mothers, either of them actually, and we’ve yet to have a funeral for the one who raised me. I forgive the one who gave me life, for she gave me to one she felt could care for me well and she slipped away into death before I found out her name. I do have a college yearbook photo of her, and that will have to do every day, and especially on Sunday when she will have been lying in the soil of West Virginia for sixteen years, and I will be mourning her passing for four.
You search without end for a way to precisely measure life in all of its aspects. You will not be dissuaded by the fact that you can no more control its span than you could control your need to breathe. You say you picked the sperm and egg, that their union you carefully orchestrated. You believe all things can be measured, if you can only identify proper metrics for the task. You know precisely how tall you are, how much you have shrunken over the years, how much your waistline has grown. You can count your good deeds, have a rating scale that says your next life will be karmic payback hell. You are taken with measurements of all sorts, so much so that you often forget to fully live. You say that this loss doesn’t matter much, for living boldly, thoroughly, gives you far too much more to measure.