Let's not be coy. I regret I have but one life to give for my country. As I now understand it, this statement, once attributed to patriot Nathan Hale who was hung by the British as a spy, has now been reclassified as apocryphal. Rubbish, I say, but ultimately it doesn't matter. Slogans are only wordsuck. Language itself is mere alphabet dirt, but from healthy soil we rise, and survey all that nature confers. But yes. These are perilous times. While I wish to remain strong, to steer my family through what I feel are dangerous and rough times ahead in a land of strangers, much like you described, I am not afraid to put it all on the line if the occasion calls, but until that hour I am just a writer, a poet, a painter, a husband, a farmer, and a friend to the friendless who seek just one.
Chin up Bonnie. I also hail from a family of shrimpers. I never knew that about you. I just observed you as a cute little blonde girl who was nice in class, and had all the right friends, some of the same ones I had. Seems I recall you hanging out with Colleen Kane a good bit, and the Anderson sisters. Your own daughters seem wonderful. Job well done. So indeed, let's continue to reach out. I am real. That much you can expect of me. Big Brother is a bully. I have faced many a bully blocking my path. Damn the stories upon which we as unique individuals are built...
Again, thanks for your kind words. My life gets very busy at times, but personal outreach is very important to my daily stamina, so have patience, be assured that I am never far away, but I will think of you often, and in turn, am always delighted to hear from you. If you have a solid email address, perhaps we can move our conversations off Facebook, for privacy and organizational concerns, if only a niche or two more secure.
Either way, I wish you the very best you can muster in your day to day. I have a few health concerns myself, so can empathize as a peer. Thank you for making me your friend. I still have to laugh that you thought I was homosexual, although I understand. I was quite flaming in high school, still am in many ways I suppose.
Also, have several siblings in the Stone Mountain area...
Nearly two years after its publication, and despite the dissemination of forty or so copies among the few friends, family members, and strangers beating back the night sweats of literary intent, I have come to accept the fact that I write in such an outlandishly dull way as to render this special class of improbable bibliophiliacs completely and utterly devastated to the point of unleashing their inner mute upon the very grains of sand upon which I stand.
Now, I have not handed this book away to just anybody with a cap size or a Big Gulp to spare, but only to those who pleaded, cajoled, paid for in the case of some of the more deep pocketed critics, wished for, promising a review each and every one of them, and if cool beans are a good source of protein, threatened my well-being for a personal copy of this collection of visceral sweat and tears, bloody for the twenty-five years it stewed in the making, usually a signed copy, and usually accompanied by some petty insolence that they loved poetry, or some such glad-handing gush as that. Notions of the silent rejection, notwithstanding, The Silent Cull & Other Mechanical Ideas, Collected Poems 1980-2005 is not your usual thin volume of contemporary poetry, but is four hundred pages of seething canonical arrest, and I use the word "canonical" and "arrest" in all their usual connotations plus a few more that I insist are both canonical and arrested within the pages themselves, banking on subtleties of style and insight that are only coming apparent to the ill-prepared general public in these, our own spectacular terror-driven chaotic times. Well-minced words are a swallower's delight, and this book rarely portrays paradise, or other romantic follies of the past or future tense of mankind, but in its own galloping way wraps itself in the contemporary physics of time and thought itself, tackling its author as much as the culture that spawned him.
But this entry is not about describing the book. It has been aptly described elsewhere.
Here I wish to fan myself with those few words of praise, or words of any kind that have wafted my way in the context of this inpenetrable book. The following paragraph was sent to me by a local artist, a young painter of some early renown, still in his late twenties, whose first son was to be born on my birthday (the second of my friends whose firstborn sons arrived likewise) named James Coleman:
I really like the book man, I read it out loud to Christie at night when we go to bed, they say the baby can hear it and its good to read to him, but I dont know. I really love it man they say if you reach one person, blah blah blah, well thats me. I can sit on the roof and smoke a cigarette, lay in bed at night, damn i would even take it to the beach. It flows it pulsates, it moves me. Im not kissing your ass, I have no reason to. Just wanted to give you an honest opinion, and for whatever reason, it speaks to me. When I read it I feel like I did when I was in college smoking opium and reading boulbelaire or at the coffee shops reading dylan thomas, thinking I should start a fight. What I am trying to say is that at this point in my life your book works for me. Great job man, Im not a literary figure or even a good writer but just wanted to tell you. If I see you and I am drinking and tried to tell you all this, you would think I was full of shit.
What can I say? For all the silent pretenders haunting my crude ambitions, this single review is just about the most stirring string of thoughts an old poet, fat on the failures of inertia, far past his gameface prime, could ever hope to absorb.
Sueball celled in from Saint Thomas last night before reboarding the liner. She & her Aunt Lou are a fog of champagne sizzle, two larks clinging to a swizzle stick. I could smell the fun on her breath from here. It's brutal without her at home for this long, but you know me, I'm soaking up all the quiet I can. I miss her, but it'll be Labor day until we baby dance together again. With that clanging in my left ear I've carried since London '92, my days and nights pass eerily as if in the dark woods or high farm, bull crickets and the silence of nothing but the fan. Alone, no pressure to succeed, no terms of regret, no inkling of failure or gestures of redoubt. Hints of a new routine, say for instance an evening walk around the neighborhood, a dip into the city, a relaxing drink in the backyard nirvana will probably not happen. She tells me I don't know how to relax. I tell her she is correct.
No, I've stayed inside avoiding the heat, but I've noticed these inner stirrings. Today is twenty degrees cooler, but even so, I hack away at this terminal, working, planning, fooling myself I'm living life with some great plan to succeed. Me, I just do what I can, and try not to aggravate or be aggravated by every whim and weasel this world has to offer. Guess I'm still stewing over Blumstein's bluster because I don't know where it came from, life?
Life is not always a home-brew. Life is what happens to you when you are busy making plans for something else. You said that before, but that's the steel and the gristle of it. Nothing's any more clear than that. Now the chicken farm is gone. My mentor (of hard work) has been dead for ten years, and the farm I helped build, torn down. Life? Yeah Bob, lemme sit at your feet, such wisdom.
Life? That word just swooped in on me and I cannot fathom why or how he intended to mean it other than demeaning me. But, I'm way off the path of solitude when I let Bob crash my peace. He gave a blanket apology. Back to the crickets in my bad ear, the purr of the fan at my feet, and the allure of the Internet where anybody can be somebody and everybody can be nobody, but none of us can ever know the difference until we do the work.
I associate this aural reverb with Lofton Creek FL, the chicken farm days, the cabin, the unbelievable stench of forty thousand birds that one learned to ignore, the long lonely weeks without ever seeing much less talking to or being heard by another human being, my daily summer skinnydipping with a bar of floating ivory soap, vegetarianism for the most part except the hand-picked smoked birds the landlord had stashed in the chest freezer, the daily diet of cheese and grapes and rye bread, the flood of imaginary lovers, the hurricane waters, and I busy, by lamplight writing my first serious, pressure poems of a lifetime, poems I still read with enthusiam today (aching to plug online), those ten mile hikes into town, Dylan Dog who looked and acted just like Nickel Dog, getting buried in three hundred year old literature checked from the library, Will Durant, and a steady feed from PBS.
I was 24-25. Young, thin, even skinny. Long sun-bleached blonde hair to my shoulders. Some say I looked like Jesus. Others John Lennon. Without the beard, Peter Frampton. Full of zest, vigor, and the peaceful easy feeling the Eagles sang about. Life is not always a home-brew. Life is what happens to you when you are busy making the bed you will sleep in tonight. We've heard all this wordplay before, but that's the steel and the gristle of it. Nothing's any more clear than that. Now the chicken farm is gone. My mentor (of hard work) has been dead for ten years, and the farm I helped build, torn down. Life? Yeah Bob, lemme sit at your feet, such wisdom.
Have you heard the recent uproar about the thousands of fish sporting nasty abcesses on their smelly scales first in North Carolina, and now the schools that prowl the Chesapeake? After nearly a year of mystery, these problems are being blamed on chicken farm runoff, a feathered excrement tragically high in nitrogen and ammonia gases running off into the streams and creeks straight into the ocean waters. That's some high octane chicken gas that survives the plunge into the sea. Chickens. Who knew back then...
Did it again today, and it seemed to have been successful. So, perhaps my earlier attempt worked and it sensed the duplicate. Life? Ate the cereal, played the gameprefer the cereal. But the untrademarked life...
I'll tell you when it's over...
The crazy binges, late night screams, titty bars, misguided yutes, obscene bar tabs, missed moments, all the young crudesthey were fun and they still can be. But it's not the substance of life. It can't happen every night. Coughing up phlegm and stomach acid into the toilet every morning just isn't the best way to start a day. For some people, perhaps living in a fog is better than facing a reality that has nothing to offer them and which they have nothing to offer. I would like to feel that we can produce happiness, satisfaction, excitement, or whatever emotion or intellectual charge without any other thing or any other person. Of course, that would be life in a vacuum, and it wouldn't be ideal either. I still want to be out there among others (just not all the timeeven Steve Taylor needs down time, as I'm appreciating right now), I still want to have my drinks, and I'm sure there will be more than a few crazy evenings out there. But back to the way they used to beadventures, not escapes. Balancenot in the sense of moderation in all things, but in the sense of what combination of elements, external and internal, work for me. If the only answer I could find would be drinking cheap beer in a dive reeking of cheap cigarettes or pulling on a Martini in a luxury hotel bar inundated with an expensive haze of cigars, thendamnitI'd find a way to spend as much time as possible doing that. However, while some fascinating hours have been spent in places like that, my experience has been much broader and has given me playing, reading, writing, exploring, watching, listening, dreaming, working (with hands, mind, etc.), creating, learning...and I haven't been doing enough of these over the last x number of years. Vive la balance, or something ...
But, I’m way off the path of solitude when I let Bob crash my peace. He gave a blanket apology. Back to the crickets in my bad ear, the purr of the fan at my feet, and the allure of the Internet where anybody can be somebody and everybody can be nobody, but none of us can ever know the difference until we do the work.
Proud As Steve Taylor? Thanks for your recent writing which has strangely enhanced this retro-isolation nostalgic quiet peace of 1979-1980 I've been infected with these past few days. General happiness and resolve, that's the notion I think that's winning the race. Out with alcohol. In with solitude. Yep, I'm beginning to equate life with a noise based on faulty definitions and random arrogance still on the rampage way past its due date (or best used by date for literalists). I feel like I'm already sixty, and frankly sort of like it there, as Bracken keeps calling trying to get me to go woman-chasing with him. I just wanna puke at his tired words, and tell him to, what else, "get a life!"
Ha! ha! Don't get me wrong. I lust the warm soft tenacity and specatacle of women with every fiber in my body like any red bloodied rot gut, but those same fragmented overfed fibers are smartening up enough to know where they have a better chance to succeed, and it ain't in some damned cut-up chase scene with Bracken sounding the charge.
That Jim Carroll biographer chick, Cassie Carter, has been after me again, but that's good because unless Amazon is scamming me on their weekly reports which actually list some 150 hits by book title referrer, nearly all these visitors are coming directly to my site, or rather, directly to my Jim Carroll page, from hers. Meanwhile, FTP'd the whole ex-iMote over to the new scenewash directory yesterday, and will need a few days of restoking to clear the links of debris and don't ask me what else. So it's back to work for the weary. Finally a rain day. The first in over a month here in DC.
I was 24-25. Young, thin, even skinny. Full of zest, vigor, and peace. Life is not a home-brew. Life is what happens to you when you are busy making plans for something else. I stole that from Lennon before, but that’s the fat and the gristle of it. Nothing’s any more clear than that. Now the chicken farm is gone. My mentor (of hard work) has been dead for ten years, and the farm I helped build torn down.
Sue celled in from Saint Thomas last evening before reboarding the liner. She & Aunt Lou are having a bang up time. I could smell the fun on her breath from here. It's really strange without her at home, but you know me, I'm soaking up all the quiet I can. I miss her, but it'll be Labor day until we baby dance together again. With that ringing in my left ear I've carried since the Zodiac Mindwarp show in London 1992, my days and nights pass eerily as if in the woods or the farm, crickets and the silence of nothing but the fan. Alone, no pressure to succeed, no terms of regret, no inkling of failure, no sizzle, no sap. Hints of a new routine, say for instance an evening walk around the neighborhood, a dip into the city, a relaxing drink in the backyard nirvana. No, I've stuck inside avoiding the heat, but I've noticed these inner stirrings. Today is twenty degrees cooler, but even so, I hack away at this terminal, working, planning, fooling myself I'm living life with some great plan to succeed. Me, I just do what I can, and try not to aggravate or be aggravated by every whim and weasel this world has to offer. Guess I'm still stewing over Bob's bluster because I don't know where it came from, life? Life? That word just swooped in on me and I cannot fathom why or how he intended to mean it other than demeaning me. But, I'm way off the path of solitude when I let Bob crash my peace. He gave a blanket apology. Back to the crickets in my bad ear, the purr of the fan at my feet, and the allure of the Internet where anybody can be somebody and everybody can be nobody, but none of us can ever know the difference until we do the work.
I associate these feelings with Lofton Creek FL, the chicken farm days, the cabin, forty thousand birds, long lonely weeks without ever seeing another human, my daily summer skinnydipping, vegetarianism, cheese and grapes and rye bread lovers, writing my first serious, better poems of a lifetime, poems I still read with enthusiam today (aching to plug online), those ten mile hikes into town, Dylan Dog who looked and acted just like Nickel Dog, getting buried in three hundred year old literature checked from the library, Will Durant, and a steady feed from PBS. I was 24-25. Young, thin, even skinny. Full of zest, vigor, and peace. Life is not a home-brew. Life is what happens to you when you are busy making plans for something else. I stole that from Lennon before, but that's the fat and the gristle of it. Nothing's any more clear than that. Now the chicken farm is gone. My mentor (of hard work) has been dead for ten years, and the farm I helped build torn down. Life? Yeah Bob, lemme sit at your feet, such wisdom.
Have you heard the recent uproar about the thousands of fish sporting nasty abcesses on their smelly bods first in North Carolina, and now proin the Chesapeake? After nearly a year of mystery, the problems are being blamed on chicken farm runoff, shit tragically high in nitrogen and ammonia gases running off into the streams and creeks and into the ocean. That's some powerful stuff that survives the plunge into the sea.
Much has happened on the ground here since I last entered this profile log. Contrary to my usual accommodations to visitors I had to decline an eight o’clock evening visit to our home by two Mormon missionaries last Thursday night. I was cooking dinner, and had Suzette send them away with regrets.
This was the first time in our ten years here at the Stadium Armory that we’ve ever been singled out for proselytizing by Mormons, although JWs frequent our ghetto neighborhood about once every six months. They left their card inviting us to call and to visit their most exquisite Tabernacle which can be seen for miles when driving around the northern I-495 beltway at night, its lighted spires a Disney-like beacon in the huffing black government night. Their parting shot was of course, “Please call. We know the truth.” Well, the way I read this book, Jesus has one hell of a mess to clean up. Everyone shouting, “Which side are you on? Come on in, we have the truth!” That last remark reminds me that the Black Muslims are becoming a major force here in Washington, but they won't even sell me one of their magazines, as they stand in the medians of major thoroughfares, dark suit with bow tie as usual, profiling the cars, and hawking their wares only to the lost tribes of their own race." A classy bunch.
“I would that no man teach you but I myself.” is the word from Isaiah. In a nutshell George, it is plain that I do not seek to teach or upbraid anyone, but am merely a stout witness to freedom and compassion as the winding down of days take their toll, mark the culled, and refresh the breath of God’s own chosen.
Almighty God, creator of heaven and earth, where in this blistering alternative universe of flickering lanterns, scripted whirlwinds, and smashing bonds of liberty does it all end? I believe everyone. I believe nobody. It’s probably in bad taste, but the next morning I drove out to the mall to find a card for my pop's birthday. While standing at the cashier in J.C. Penney’s I saw a woman who looked exactly like your wife Ann, just as I remember her. Every body feature, size, shape, and coloring was intact. Her style of eyeglasses. Her voice. Perhaps she was a few years younger than Ann was when I knew her. She was cupping an infant to her breasts, and she kept walking back and forth and chatting as if uncertain as to where her friend wanted her to stand while she was checking out a nightgown or something. This was no vision from the heavens. No, this younger woman was not your departed wife, and yes I have often seen others who have reminded me of you, her, and numerous others along this physiognomical fashion, but the coincidence of the sighting, coupled with the agonizing time I have had composing this letter to you was startling. But it is just this sort of logic of chance that informs most of what one finds is called the voice of God, nearly everywhere, particularly among the evangelicals.
On this spot I place faith. My confession, although hardly an evangelical one, as I have come to recognize them, is that I dwell in a dogmatic world dominated by the presence of the undogmatic Living God. Proofs are outside the boundaries of language but probably belong to the language of higher mathematics, caught as they are within the twin paradox of the spiritual macrocosm and the eternal microcosm. “I would that no man teach you but I myself.” is the word from Isaiah. In a nutshell George, it is plain that I do not seek to teach or upbraid anyone, but am merely a stout witness to freedom and compassion as the winding down of days take their toll, mark the culled, and refresh the breath of God’s own chosen.
Much has happened since I last saw you. But I wanted to stop this letter here. My whole weekend air was thick with self-doubt. I felt paralyzed, smothered. I try to do no harm. I tried twice since last week’s entry to sit down and further write this story, but I feared that I am either needlessly overwhelming, or patronizingly pedantic in my attempt to share some of the basics molding my recent years. I continually think of things, crucial moments I left out. My vision at Lofton Creek. I was rocking lazily in a suspended porchswing on a hot summer afternoon after checking on the chickens, gazing out, focused on nothing more than the sweet breezes of another miraculous day, heavy eyes maybe half-closed nesting upon the cool green waters of the lagoon. Suddenly I saw, or imagined I saw a gentle white-robed longhaired, lightskinned Christlike figure, typical of the myriad of Renaissance depictions common to this culture. He was bathed in a most brilliant animating yellow and white light, standing there on the southside of the lagoon, shoots of grass nipping at his bare feet. Fanning the grassy northside bank of the lagoon stood I, about fifty feet from where the Christfigure stood, he and I both barren of distinct expression distinguishing our faces from say, an old snapshot too familiar to tax the eye. He reached down without a word to pick up a small pebble and tossed it into the water as one might heave a dart toward a corkboard.
After visiting with my sister and mother for a couple of hours, I got them to drive me to the nearest interstate ramp to begin the second leg of this nearly eight hundred mile trek. The event which most concerns me here is one which took place about thirty miles and two hours after sunset into my return trip.
The pebble shattered the surface as it sailed through the conspicuous reflection of my face mirrored there, a perversion of reality since the sun’s location in the sky would not ordinarily permit a reflection from something on the north side of the lagoon at that time of day. The ripples distorted my image for a few seconds before it returned. Then the messenger picked up another stone and this time he hurled it right at my head and it would have plunked me had I not ducked in a downtown hurry. It was only then that the messenger spoke to me. “Rather than concern yourself with the outer image which can be easily distorted and likewise easily restored, you would be advised to beware of those who would attempt to harm your real body.”
I was shaken from my light doze. Puzzled but joyful I set about pondering the mystery of what I had just experienced. Right off the bat, I took this "vision" to mean simply that one’s reputation is of less importance than the temple itself. But that was old news, something I thought I had long ago understood and lived. But something was not right. The concept of preserving one's own flesh when attacked by one's enemy worked contrary to the extra mile and outer garment themes of Christ's gift, and so seemed to indicate another purpose for this parable in order to comport to the full depth I already knew to be Christ’s command. Eventually I came to reckon the spirit over and above the temple which must fall away as constrained by time’s fist while susceptible to the plunderings and picketings of predators and personal vanity. Making the spirit the true body, while the flesh is an ephemeral image much like one's reflection off a pool of water. Even this doctrine is orthodox teaching, but one much harder for many to endorse than the first. This occurred on July 23, 1980. I have never again been visited or touched by what I can even remotely refer to as a holy messenger in the bright lights of broad daylight. My first and final appointment to date.
However, there was the time I had hitchhiked from Lofton Creek to Atlanta to pick up my brother who wanted to come visit. He’d wanted me to drive up in the Camaro but I didn’t have any money for gas. So I told him I’d thumb up and we could hit the roads back together. The plan was set. Leaving in high afternoon at what little rush hour action there was out there in the sticks, I spent most of the night stalking the chilly stars and the full October moon on quiet I-16 between Savannah and Macon, finally arriving in Atlanta in great time just according to that plan. But by the time I got to my sister’s apartment near three o’clock the next afternoon my opportunistic brother Chaz had skipped off with a friend of his just an hour earlier on their way to Lofton Creek in his buddy’s car. Nearly floating with divine purpose I wouldn’t allow my brother’s quick change artistry to interfere with the essence of my journey. After visiting with my sister and mother for a couple of hours, I got them to drive me to the nearest interstate ramp to begin the second leg of this nearly eight hundred mile trek. The event which most concerns me here is one which took place about thirty miles and two hours after sunset into my return trip.
And later when retelling the story to a friend who lived down the road from the chicken farm, I characterized this event as quite possibly being a visitation from a deceiver, a demon disguised as an angel of light, so unresponsive I was to his message of joy through the release of sins by the laying on of hands. But I had already been exposed to that style of christianity and had found it unsuitable to my cerebral spirit.
A huge white cadillac pulls over and offers me a ride. I stare into the incredulously bizarre automobile to see that the driver is graced in all sorts of colorful jewels, silver, and gold, a studded white suit, white shoes and a hairstyle to complete the portrayal. I was being offered a ride by Liberace! Noit was not Liberacebut here was a highly stylized man quickly putting me on guard with this vainglorious decorum. I immediately suspected he was a homosexual, and he probably was, but his first words to me buried us both in another test. He said he had just come from his weekly prayer meeting, and it was all he could do to stifle his intense joy. You see, there had been a laying on of hands, and he had been released from all his pain and agony, all the sadness of his heart, all the tricks of the body were laid to rest. He then took it upon himself to declare that it was okay, in fact, it was absolutely necessary to receive this joyous blessing, this release of the spirit. Not once did he mention the name of Jesus, but contrary to biblical testimony, the invocation of the name of Jesus does not seem to indigenously empower in quite the same way suggested in the 4th chapter of First John.
I explained that I was not unduly sad, nor was I extraordinarily jubilant. I certainly appreciated the ride in this luxurious white horse Cadillac and told him so, but I was also somewhat ill at ease with the pentecostal fervor of this particular driver. In accepting the ride, as was customary among hitchhikers for obvious reasons, I asked how far he was going. He responded with a smile and a non-committal "a good long way" or something like that. An alarm bell immediately went off in my head, and though I suspected him of ulterior sexual motives, I felt fortified and safe enough to welcome the hitch. He continued to prattle on about the intense joy and sense of release he felt after the laying on of hands session he had just left. I was not convinced this was a godly message. I mentioned the weeping Jesus, sad outside the gates of Jerusalem, Jeremiah, also known as the weeping prophet, and how if Jesus and Jeremiah could exhibit a sense of grief concerning the state of God’s people, why not me, if indeed the purpose was true? I glanced again at his fingers fat with expensive rings and gems. The man attempted no answer, but his dark eyes shoot wide open purging any hint of rapture from his now-soured face, and he immediately snatched the car, traveling I assume at sixty miles an hour or so, to the shoulder of the road just shy of only the second exit ramp past where he’d only minutes before picked me up. Gravel was pitched and his tires squealed as he pulled out and immediately exited after rattling off a quick, “Oh I just remembered something I’ve got to do. You’ve got to get out.”
This event happened so fast and seems even now so fantastical that I hardly believed that it had really happened. But it did. Had I wronged him by apparently squashing his joy? Or had he really just remembered something just in the nick of time to make his exit? I felt justified in my half of the dialogue. And later when retelling the story to a friend who lived down the road from the chicken farm, I characterized this event as quite possibly being a visitation from a deceiver, a demon disguised as an angel of light, so unresponsive I was to his message of joy through the release of sins by the laying on of hands. But I had already been exposed to that style of christianity and had found it unsuitable to my cerebral spirit.
Blinded by the total whiteness of this car, his clothing, the aborted ride, perhaps I was doing evil by judging this fellow like I did. But I'd become uneasy, and so I trotted out my only defense, scripture with its minefield of paradoxical intrigue with its way of asking had I "loved" this man, this glittering stranger in his white on white, jumpsuit blanco, diamond, and grin? I certainly loathed and feared him more than I could "love" or even respect him at that moment of his joy sermon, leaving me with only two choices: either to condemn him as a devil, or further prostrate myself for my failure to accept God’s passion as I ramble, docile in my ability to volley scripture with those who offend my own personal sensibilities.
The next letter, if there is to be one, will certainly be informed and tempered by your own voice. My best to you and your family. Please write when you can. I am not perfect, but what does that mean, in terms of human reality? Save me Jesus, for I am unsure.
What is your take on this bizarre Liberace episode, George? Again it was fourteen years ago, but I hope that you feel able and willing to articulate your impressions on anything I have written in this letter, particularly the more peculiar narratives.
Victorious? Hardly, beyond my wife's devotional paradigm. She has little interest in my work, but I am forever trying to explain myself in writing to those who simply aren’t interested or else, assume my stance is merely an out of control posture of chaos and ignominy, bluster or sciolism, and as such, my efforts merely bait them as tehy accuse me of advancing one sort of arrogant surfeit, mundane spew, or another. Or else the bulk of my writing is completely ignored. That's fine, but leave my soul alone, then.
Let me close this to put my anxietyover communicating in full this way to youto rest. Once I post it I will feel much better. Sorry, more up to date material hasn’t been included, but should this letter make a favorable impact, you can be sure I’ll be able to snap off another stack of pages bringing you up to date. Hope you'll include lots of stuff about your boys, along with any other details of these past thirteen years you wish to share.
Good health and straight shootin'...
Yours in Christ
P.S. You can call me whatever you wish, but since my name has been legally changed for over ten years, I and the postmaster would probably prefer you to address any correspondence to my new name. I make no demands on family to switch their allegiances, or comment on mine, and so I make none upon you. Meanwhile, I shall start a second letter picking up where this one ended, but I do hope you write back soon in some small way reaffirming our friendship and your willingness to read and respond to these disclosures, both biographical and theological. I also want to construct a list of the most influential scriptures, that is to say, those scriptures which seemed to have singled me out for exposure. You once advised me on this, and I took your advice to heart since I already owned the notion. Catholicism has a word for this sort of so-called heresy, but it currently escapes me. I think I came across it once in one of Herbert Armstrong’s WCG publications.
P.S.S. Forgive me George if these notes strike the wrong chord in your own poetic make-up. The next letter, if there is to be one, will certainly be informed and tempered by your own voice. My best to you and your family. Please write when you can. I am not perfect, but what does that mean, in terms of human reality? Save me Jesus, for I am unsure.
In June, 1979, a few months before landing the chicken farm post I sopped up my best spiritual pride with the breads of change and proceeded to pry into affairs of the heart and its seating arrangements. I tried unsuccessfully to merge the two longstanding Episcopal church congregations in my historical hometown of Darien, Georgia, population 1600, county seat, but neither faction was ready to give up what they considered their own exclusive holy sanctuary. The Negroes wanted to remain segregated, didn't want to give up their smaller, less ornate, but exquisitely located St. Cyprian'sthe little church on the lookout bluff high above the Darien River marsh. The Crackers (for lack of a better word, although Scottish aristocracy might fit), my own blood relatives, proud, high church office, the same. The unpleasantly conspicuous fact that a single priest, a white man, a robust dignified septagenarian, the Reverend Chambliss, whose wife had taught me sixth grade, presided in both houses staggered an hour of time each Sunday seemed only to concern me, a naîve do-gooder who'd merely been christened and confirmed in this very church built in the eighteenth century, the White Church, St. Andrew's Episcopal Church.
As an young adolescent I’d served God and Darien in royal acolyte robes in awe of this beautiful ornate high-ceilinged building knuckled with long corridors of dark mahogany pews and grand stained glass windows, blood red carpets and a crimson front door of knightly proportions. My great-grandfather Joseph Woodward, the local parish priest there some fifty years earlier had murdered the diocese bishop sitting sixty miles north in Savannah, before turning the gun on himself after the bishop refused to promote him after Grandfather had sold all his equitable land holdings in Atlanta and given the money to the poor blacks of the county, leaving his own family near penniless, or so the legend goes. Later I heard it was because Joseph suspected the Bishop of an affair with my great-grandmother. GeorgeI only learned the gruesome details of the tragedy a couple of years ago. As a child, of this event, I had only snatched mere whisperings of sandgnat-infested air breezing along the salt marshes of McIntosh County, or any facts of Joseph Woodward's suicide, even the idea of suicide was shrouded in mystery. In fact, all discussion of Granddaddy's father had been expressly forbidden by family elders, but I chanced to see his name was still engraved on the tasteful brass plaque tacked near the entrance to the churchlisting the long succession of parish priests who had served the whites and presumably, the colored folks, of our county in what were basically the rites inherited from the Episcopalean Church of England from the 1700s forward.
Nevertheless, the deacons of St. Andrew's, relations of mine all, were adamantly against merging with St. Cyprian's. The pearl oyster tabbied cinderblock church overlooking the marshes of the muddy Darien River where the colored folks, now African Americans I suppose, met in peaceful droves on Sunday an hour later than the white folks two blocks away, would remain strictly as it was before I had returned to reinvent the wheel. I was not overly dismayed, accepted it as a lesson in humility and false modesty of ordinary human spirituality. Turns out that Negro segregationism is on the rise again everywhere, from churches to college campuses, just as radicalism in all forms is growing in vigor and violence.
Still I sample the turbulences but never feel quite properly configured to glide easily upon the winds of these questions without registering some sort of personal expression on this mess, and yet I shuffle my energies back and forth in fruitless activities, self-restrained, psychologically drained, hesitant, unimpressed, unsure of myself, but busy flagging the line Of sight between each P.I. like any surveyor worth a brass plumb bob would…
As I recall it, you weren’t much of a filmgoer back in the Seventies but another hushed fact of hometown intrigue was only exposed to me while my wife and I were watching a 1990 film on cable, a film called Glory. Nominated for a host of Academy Awards, and starring Denzel Washington, Glory is an historical account of the first black Civil War regiment commanded by a young Lt. Colonel Robert Shaw from Massachusetts. I’d known since old enough to read the patina and gold historical landmark signs sprinkled around town that it was almost completely burned down during the Civil War, but it seems that Darien was the very first attack mission of the war for this Negro regiment. All this time I had wrongly assumed Sherman had personally led the raid on quaint mossy-eyed Darien near the end of the war. The key point I believe I’m trying to make here is that I had never been raised by my parents to blame black people collectively for anything or everything under the sun, and I am proud of that fact. But now my intelligence is daily teased and taunted. I live chastised in a hard-edged city and country energized by a mythology of past and ongoing white oppression on the one extreme and a sinister mythology of racial superiority whether that be black or white, on the other. Criticism of these spectacular myths or witnessing for a more honest awareness borne out of the mouth of babes is not tolerated these days. Scuttlings of the fire and brimstone sort rag the peaceful just as banality and gangsterismintent to prove its own resurgent bigotry as gospelseep into every utterance placed in the service of honesty, duty, and liberty.
Semantics of inverse proportion to truth rule the roost as twisted histories are written into reality by mass appeal. No more is an eye an eye, or a tooth a tooth. No longer are we all guilty of original sin, but it appears that only selected race offerings must bear that cross, alone, without justification, without counsel, without judicial restraint.
This retrofixation on transitory blame is America's greatest test to date. But who is being groomed to rebuke the grabbers and the agitators with the truth of God’s finger on the pulse of man? Who is left who can respect the message of Job or the eternal symmetry of God’s stratagem with his own prized possession? Am I tricking myself into a dullard's ache when I feign hopelessness but listen to the scores of sentiment muscled by greed with ears sharpened for durable goods in an age where nothing will last longer than the fickle roar of the crowds? Am I digging my own ditch when I read with confederate eyes bloodshot and pickled to resemble the incandescent sky cracked open by the splendor of dawn’s earliest light the words of the filthy but well-fitted over the ages to include my own generation? Perhaps. Still I sample the turbulences but never feel quite properly configured to glide easily upon the winds of these questions without registering some sort of personal expression on this mess, and yet I shuffle my energies back and forth in fruitless activities, self-restrained, psychologically drained, hesitant, unimpressed, unsure of myself, but busy flagging the line Of sight between each P.I. like any surveyor worth a brass plumb bob would...
Thursday, April 21
True, like blood, I've got time on my hands, but as the saying goes, I know I must wash myself clean of this time, not because I have accused Lucifer of being the author of time, but because legend says that time leaves terrible stains on the skin. Do you remember? You suggested that if I wanted to be a writer, I should write to the op-ed pages in the local newspapers. I have done just that many times, and have yet to be published there, but that’s far ahead of the story.
I'm telling you all this, George, not to dodder precipitously or to solicit stale emotional feedback, nor to spoon you through the wretched tautologies of my own mental soup, but merely to mark the peculiar emphasis my own spiritual journey has lead me to place on things seemingly coded within or onto the strands of my own life, strands of overlapping discordant meaning, juggling some manifest pecking order of questions suggested by feverish explorations of my own near and distant histories, amalgamated in such a way as to somehow force myself to accept the discipline I have been asking for all along. I write because I need to write. I'm no Hemingway. That's for sure. Nothing mat ever get read, and I suppose, as a man who values communication, I want those readers to explore my thoughts to help excavate their own. I don't necessarily consider this a healing project, but an entertainment, a joyous exposure of the hidden, a walk in the park among friends not addled by the latest, but the earliest, not the surface outline of the sculpture but original rock that was willing to be shaped by the hands of destiny, asking little from this destiny, demanding it all, standing by idly as the flood sweeps through the camp, picking through every pile of junk after the flood has receded to recover a single lost treasure.
Saint Paul’s admonition to disregard genealogies aside, it seems to me that I am being ordered through this gateway of presence in order to help resolve some of these issues on a larger social scale than my meager credentials might imply. The crux of my dilemma however, is not an urge to write, which I’ve always possessed, but rather, the freedom to write. I tend to allow everything else associated with my life to interfere with this calling to write the damned equations in a fashionable way. I am not alone, but I have a self I did not know at birth. By this I mean to say that I have insisted on unambiguous mental signs to guide every endeavor with a keen emphasis on a pre-determined consciousness, ultimately feeling compelled by "obedience to spirit" to give credence to the ragged details of life, to believe with all my energies that these details are important symbolic syzygy set in motion and remembrance by God’s own purposes for global regeneration, and are not mere byproducts of a solo life lived without focus. Ulterior latencies ripen, motives are granted, and details made ready for a seasonal harvesting.
I've always felt this way, a small child, lost baseball, praying behind a large oak, instant recovery, and the longer I live and the stronger I appeal against this sort of self-important interpretation of a petty life, the more I am exploited by configurations of faith which ultimately force me to see myself as a writer of purpose organized by the very hand of Christ, if by Christ, we mean destiny, while my good sense is forced to wait in line, on point, until its elevation. Your own curt dismissal of my earliest intimations at literary ambition have infiltrated and stymied the necessary confidence to brave the stroke of God's name just in the nick of time, time after time, which is to argue that the mathematics of success may actually be beyond my reach. True, like blood, I've got time on my hands, but as the saying goes, I know I must wash myself clean of this time, not because I have accused Lucifer of being the author of time, but because legend says that time leaves terrible stains on the skin. Do you remember? You suggested that if I wanted to be a writer, I should write to the op-ed pages in the local newspapers. I have done just that many times, and have yet to be published there, but that’s far ahead of the story.
NoI am not blaming you for any particular frailty of my own nature to cut the pattern of my own cloth with a firm resolve. But I hope that having digested this somewhat stilted effort due to the silent passage of years between us, you might yet discover a mutual benefit in blessing this lifelong urge of mine to make manifest the word God has given me to reveal to a generation of readers perhaps less prepared and no longer believing in His Living Breaththe space constrictions of this letter obviously will not allow me explore every theological nook and cranny I can advance otherwise in more appropriate forums, but I do wish to impact the doubt which had fogged our last meeting late in 1981 when I visited your home near Sugarland for several days after hitchhiking from Corpus Christi.
For change outwardly has stripped away our ability to remember without nostalgia, fable, and yearning on the one hand, and forgetfulness, dogma, and disgust on the other. When I last shook your bold hand and waved goodbye in departure, the highway was my future, and you knew me as Richard Spalding Nix, the name I'd inherited from my parents. But even that simple factor of human tradition has been altered.
There is so much I remember about our times together, sharing a six pack after work, an occasional dinner and good cheer received with your family on perhaps a crisp autumn evening, the hallelujah trek to ORU, sponging our shared observations and queries with the fresh air of another turn of the page, or the virtual nebulae of speculation and mystery with yet another. But the fact remains...
It was never easy communicating with you George.
We were both strong, opinionated thinkers sometimes crippled by a foreboding sense of failure, our greatest fear being a cowering dread of obscurity. I sense you recognize this now in ways you could never understand then. Or perhaps you knew, but shared notions of leadership similar to my own, and that could never have worked in the long term. My own earnest intellectual and spiritual respect for you, however, was never and will never be in doubt. You once noted that I reminded you of yourself when you were young; I now believe that we were and remain more alike than either of us will ever fathom due to discretion and compartmentalization, and although our paths once and now again have crossed, our struggle to find the light that never darkens has taken us to nearly opposite poles striking the tent where the cult of perfection gathers by grace.
Barbed wire negligence separated us then, and none of it was merely "generational." The terms of our faith in God and each other were far more precious than teleology or theology by force of argument. I was young and had hardly begun my education. You were a mature family man who had traveled globally and had studied the classics to your own satisfaction. But rather than warp further an already compressed friendship with blustery platitudes, rationalizations, and laws of thermodynamics, we were content to play out our nearly forgotten roles to the best of our respective visions.
I'd admit I didn’t know why I was saying something as odd as that, the extra words about some future name change and all, and that I really had no clue as to what it all really meant, but after the first couple of times, it became my standard overture.
And now I come before you, hiding behind the mask of chlorinated time and closed door circumstances, neither of us quite sure we are truly observing the other. For change outwardly has stripped away our ability to remember without nostalgia, fable, and yearning on the one hand, and forgetfulness, dogma, and disgust on the other. When I last shook your bold hand and waved goodbye in departure, the highway was my future, and you knew me as Richard Spalding Nix, the name I'd inherited from my parents. But even that simple factor of human tradition has been altered. Sometime toward the beginning of my twenty month hitch in Corpus Christi, I suddenly and without forethought took it into my head to introduce myself in those situations which called for an introduction in what can only be described as a quite strange manner. I would thrust out my handshake and state in all seriousness
"My name is Richard Spalding Nix, but I’m in the process of a name-change operation." There would be no rise and fall in audible pitch, but the tone of my voice would evince emphatic if somewhat flat notes, each word in the sentence as evasive and as crucial as the next. No attempts at irony or wit were made. It was up to the stranger to hear what had been said and react according to his or her own impressions. That became my test. I’d admit I didn’t know why I was saying something as odd as that, the extra words about some future name change and all, and that I really had no clue as to what it all really meant, but after the first couple of times, it became my standard overture.
I was corruptible not by passing events but by my own flaming desires to transcend humanity and its unsolvable matrices of pettiness, when the check came due one iconoclasm at a time.
In Corpus Christi, I lived in what was a quaint and as it turned out, a quite homosexual neighborhood, including my landlord, Don Allard Gottselig, who was to become my third and final mentor. It was my contention then, after prayer and contemplation of this somewhat dubious reference to a name change operation that I was feigning innuendo off the sex-change operation language then making news in the story of a high profile male to female tennis player, whose name I now forgetnopejust remembered, Renée Richards, or something like that. Anyhow, I kept repeating that phrase to strangers, unsure of its implications or its abrupt fruition, for over a year until November 13, 1982, several months after I had returned to Atlanta.
There was nothing facetious or mocking about my declaration. After leaving my brother’s roofing company after four months, I drove a taxicab, the only Anglo in an all-hispanic company for four months, was unemployed for four, and worked at a sign shop for four, and finished off my stint with four more months with my brother again. I was studying the bible and reading classical literature. I had begun writing poetry back in 1980 at the chicken farm. I was lonely. I was corruptible not by passing events but by my own flaming desires to transcend humanity and its unsolvable matrices of pettiness, when the check came due one iconoclasm at a time. A natural skill. Meanwhile I was doing nothing but turning the other cheek, nested in my hermitage, a tiny garage apartment, unable to drag myself outside to daylight in order to confront the spasms of the happy or the maxims of the healthy. I was poor in pocket and in spirit. Yet I liked it that way and resisted efforts to mainstream my life with money, cars, or women. And I was still going through a name-change operation, whatever that was.
Thirteen years! In and of itself thirteen years even to my 38 year old mind does not seem like such a long time, but when I am reminded of the numerous changes I have spent on the road a whole lot louder than I was then, and now that some of your own changes have been plugged into the equation, I am smacked with emotion. After several eager dialings over the course of these years to metropolitan Houston directory assistance to confirm that you still maintained a telephone in the area, I finally found the courage to ring you up, facing whatever destiny our two paths had reckoned. Certainly delighted I did, reassured by your innate friendliness, although I must admit. I never expected news of a debilitating cerebral stroke nor the loss of your Christian wife to another man. Unsure of your own willingness to presently discuss with someone of my distance these two very personal issues, I will not press for details, but whatever strikes your fancy within your own comfort levels and timing.
Even as I hastily type out this preamble to what shall certainly evolve into a lengthy dispatch, because my own natural stimulus leaves no stone unturned, no ambiguity unanalyzed, no shadow unembraced, once I discover them hiding under a rock, a leaf, a building, a field of arguments no man has ever built and they came running, particularly after all these years of silence and personal migrations, reconfigurations, makeovers, retoolingI feel my language in this letter will never wholly match in faithfulness my spirit to explain those matters of choice which simply cannot be explained with tiring the reader. Some say I never get to the point. As an old journeyman land surveyor I celebrate the linethe line made of up infinite points, intersecting points, points of curvature, end points, beginning points, random points, topological points, non-existent points, hidden points, blocked points, coordinate points, and error, accumulative error. I take advantage of this knowledge.
Beyond outward appearances, inward cesspools, or the algebra of faith, it is easy to admit that my flesh has never been able to trigger its own comfortable purposes; my pawning gnawing spirityearning forcefully toward some sort of systematic success never quite available however carefully transcribed to me in secret languages beyond the scope of others, even my devoted wife’s stunted curiositystill rages against my body proving an easily recognizable quantum that the body has spent a lifetime stifling the spirit and the spirit a lifetime of trying to void the body.
That is to say, the cult of love, as it instructs and subsequently withers (or puddles) the individual psyche into parasitic perversions symptomatic of or fluid to a basic yet unraveling (diluted) meaning of life, is the story of the self-replicating worm colony feeding upon the cold marbleizing carcass representing the association between love and death gone untold. Mostly.
But this isn’t news in any language. Thousands of years and millions of minds have conspired to convert the eternal rites of passage into a mere truism dried of all meaning. My life I’m afraid has been a testament to the inflexible conflict between passion and indifference, the conflict of the lion and the lamb residing within the same skeletal savannah, of the need to know versus the need to forgive and forget, escaping numbers only to falter along ruinous paths maximizing the storms of an irregular personality marking the forehead with faith while resisting the queues of metaphorical Babylonia which seem to know only what molten men of the hour can teach and respect solely on a statistical curve.
Trajectory failure, one chapter at a time, as only a man of unquenchable thirst can survive is not only an interesting sentence, it does not erect imaginary fences either. The apparent loss of God the Waterbearer is rank speculation and dog tired dogma, the two strong vices which still snarl my flesh, and its façade like immeasurable strands of thread wrapped around a burning man, yet they still engage and tempt me into feeling justified in rejecting what’s leftover of love's devices, the word itself having degenerated into merely another cultural pathos. That is to say, the cult of love, as it instructs and subsequently withers (or puddles) the individual psyche into parasitic perversions symptomatic of or fluid to a basic yet unraveling (diluted) meaning of life, is the story of the self-replicating worm colony feeding upon the cold marbleizing carcass representing the association between love and death gone untold. Mostly.
Leaving on March 11, 1979, the day after my brother’s wedding, I set out to explore the nature of God, myself, and the way, only a few days after you baptized me at my request in that sad moonlit apartment pool in the southwest sector of the city in which we were then living.
These past weeks since hearing your proud cheerful voice exactly as I remember it have been pocked with recurrent memories of our regular theological exchanges. For sixteen years that voice and those words have echoed through my mental and spiritual chambers. It is no exaggeration to say that probably not a month has passed in all those many that you, your family, and the boast of our fellowship did not enter my social milieu like rainclouds over parched clay both to inspire and to challenge my efforts to attain God’s Tender Will. Indeed you have exerted a major influence over my life. I have dozens, perhaps tens of dozens of times, employed the title—My First Post-Parental Mentor—when referring to you in recollection among contemporaries. This admission is not meant to flatter or embarrass you, merely state a relationship.
While appropriate honor is certainly intended, I mention this only to emphasize your timely importance in my life. I was a fledgling 23 in the Texan autumn of 1978, still perky from the jarring experience of marrying and separating from a Jehovah Witness twice my age heavy with three kids, when we first surveyed together under the tricky financial wings of lovable diamond-mouthed Larry Godfrey, two extraordinary surveyors charged with the task of laying out the figure eight track at the City of Houston Police Academy and other site preparation tasks at the airport next property line over.
I lived and worked in Houston precisely three days plus one year. I gave away most of my possessions. Everything in my apartment in fact, save my books, music, and the short change of clothes I could fit into my car. Leaving on March 11, 1979, the day after my brother’s wedding, I set out to explore the nature of God, myself, and the way, only a few days after you baptized me at my request in that sad moonlit apartment pool in the southwest sector of the city in which we were then livinga wide open city still growing by a thousand people a week, a high stakes city still burbling in a the last big Texas oil boom, a sprawling segregated city that claimed to be the nation's fifth largest at that time, a wildcat city of mighty skyscrapers, whipping freeways and mile after mile, neighborhood after neighborhood of busy, treeless parallel and perpendicular lines paved in spectacular unwavering concrete grids, nostalgic signage, barrios, gringos pushing & shoving a 40/40 population wheelhouse, a city which I would only return once more after I left this time in my Blue Devil 305.
Regrettably, little has changed in that regard even now. Studies among the exegeses of Tolstoy, Schweitzer, Pascal, St. Augustine, Van Gogh, Cayce, Goethe, Tillich, Gibran, Pascal, Rousseau, Paine, Durant, and other biblical and ethical commentators filled my head with all too many strange transfixing questions and all too few answers, presaging an addiction to the printed word which still haunts me.
Within three months of packing myself into my car I landed a job as a caretaker on a chicken farm in Nassau County, Florida, just north of Jacksonville. Forty thousand fluttering birds my equal needed to be fed, quenched, and culled, water and feed troughs cleaned, manure and fresh wood chips shoveled, dead birds buried. This period proved to be a sharp lesson in the intentional devaluation of the self. Farming a half acre assortment of vegetables and fruits, I ate sparingly, becoming emaciatingly thin on a diet of little meat, mainly an occasional roasted fowl or catfish caught in the lagoon off Lofton Creek at the back of the cabin where I lived alone and satisfied that I walked with a living savior. Those days were delightful, pure, serene, purposeful, quixotic, flowing, and the night air was lucid for bookworming and practicing in earnest what I had hoped would one day manage to keep me in cottage and applied theorythe writing craft.
Bare minimums were code. A secluded sandbottomed lagoon wrestling with beauty offered itself for skinny dipping and the daily summer bath. Loneliness was sometimes a factor at Lofton Creek, alone as I was, caring for the unflappable birds and tending the fields of manure-fertile raw vegetable goodness I planted. Youthful polarity provided the future with great purpose as I craved to learn the ways of the intellectual, the saint, the poet, the madman whom the world, Jew or Gentile, could not force its indistinguishable patterns onto without the consent of the governed, daring to transcend each and every stone cast upon the pond, walking the walk, talking the talk, bending and bowing to the rays of the constant light within. Ah, such is the reverie of an uncouth youth seeking to belong to himself.
Landlord and his wife, the Earl Wilson's, who lived in their National Register Tabby home ten miles away in town, would occasionally bring out a mess of rockshrimp and a feast of the few would be promptly called. Fellowship, tangency, and the delicate prospering of a solitary man’s vital era ranked among the finest times I have ever achieved and was common to each visit and each conversation we shared, a genteel but unaffected mutual regard very much like our own. Earl Wilson, who later passed away of a heart attack at the tragic age of 55, had in truth and in spirit, become my second personal mentor. The second elder in whom I would be able to listen to or confide in without some sort of spiritual grudge match fostering my intelligence. Of course this is aside from what I would continue to scan heavily from books and other media accounts. My fifteen months at Lofton Creek were a gentle canvas of leisure, painted with a measuring schtick spoiled only by a natural intolerance to any perceived decline or stagnation. Was I not being groomed by the All-Purposeful Lord for great things, greater things than this? Like Elisha, I wanted more.
Soon enough though, an unchecked overwhelming sense of urgency pervaded my serenity. I spent afternoon and evening reading book after book checked out from the library in the town from which I had graduated highschool, six years earlier, the town where the landlord and his wife lived. The urgency of succeeding somewhere somehow sometime soon in a way that matched what I believed where my strong points, kept me at odds with the seclusion of my near perfect pastoral lifestyle. Regrettably, little has changed in that regard even now. Studies among the exegeses of Tolstoy, Schweitzer, Pascal, St. Augustine, Van Gogh, Cayce, Goethe, Tillich, Gibran, Pascal, Rousseau, Paine, Durant, and other biblical and ethical commentators filled my head with all too many strange transfixing questions and all too few answers, presaging an addiction to the printed word which still haunts me.
In short, I feel I am a healthy neurotic, now as I was as a child, a struggling, inept, argumentative teenager, a terrible twentysomething, and so now as a twisting thirtysomething, a solitary seeker of unbiased unprotracted truth and justice of what's happening, righteousness and compassion among those I intersect, guided not by my own sense of self-worth but by a hovering sense of duty, not quite positive everything I effect is going to put a smile on God’s face, but secure in the knowledge that without that healthy dose of doubt, purpose would then be defined as beginning and ending with myself, an absurdly brutal concept to which I’ve never long subscribed.
As a precocious child I devoured books with the vigor other kids ran through mud puddles and sticker bushes, and after surging past the glib yet stagnant years brought on by my earlier experience with a much more constrained thinkingthanks to that sorry excuse of a first marriage, but when I knew you for that year, I had already walked away from all that history, grown past the years of stain in a sense.
I'm not what one might call a naturally happy person, George; not terribly unhappy, but not particularly happy, not in the same way that I would describe you&$151;you George Rounthwaitethat wonderful impish but manly grin, a grin I could hear and could almost see over the telephone that morning you returned my call, a grin that is shaped by the ever resourceful spirit which lives within you. And yet in defense of my own robust spirit, I can never concede that I am unduly deprived of God’s intent in when weathering whatever shades of depression and simple joy I experience. I accept my local joys and those spells of dark seclusion which work to direct my life in ways most citizens, believers and pagan alike, in our culture find less than ambitious to say the least, and dare assert I, speak more to their own faulty judgment than to my own sense of frailty.
In short, I feel I am a healthy neurotic, now as I was as a child, a struggling, inept, argumentative teenager, a terrible twentysomething, and so now as a twisting thirtysomething, a solitary seeker of unbiased unprotracted truth and justice of what's happening, righteousness and compassion among those I intersect, guided not by my own sense of self-worth but by a hovering sense of duty, not quite positive everything I effect is going to put a smile on God’s face, but secure in the knowledge that without that healthy dose of doubt, purpose would then be defined as beginning and ending with myself, an absurdly brutal concept to which I’ve never long subscribed.
Why then all the straining psychobabble first before I begin detailing the struggles, the contours of my individual path? Because unappended details unfortunately are easily cut and quartered into categories of right and wrong out of context without supportive evidence. Because I have no wish to parade facts in front of someone who historically may not approve. And because I am neither here on this earth nor this page to shame anyone who is genuinely unprepared to understand the ways I feel called to manifestthat God in his own good sense may fulfill all the promises to those who have prayed for understanding and ultimate peace according to His previous messengers.
Giving way to nothingness, and following conscience, what could be more feckless and puerile for a "transit & hub" man walking away from a thriving dialed up world where the dollar is king...
Like a grapecoloured sky’s lively first pelt onto a rolling semi’s sideview mirror as load and driver barrel down the highway, I intend to reflect off these words into the surgical eye of the quick and the dead extending the free trade of ideas among other fine washables of life as keen as my powers allow. I am here to push further the envelope of comprehension, emphasize the degrees of perfection and sample the varieties of fruitbearing trees rooted in the heart of this age.
Selling the car was a major decision I actually made rather easily once I decided it was time, that my reasoning was solid. Mr. Rounthwaite, I loved that car, it was my pride. Therefore it had to go. Remember when we drove up to Tulsa from Houston to visit Oral Roberts University a few years earlier? Blew a flat as we were pulling into campus. Act of God, you said. I eventually left the serenity of Lofton Creek and Florida in September, 1980, for hurricane-tattered Corpus Christi to help my brother Clydeat his requestbolster his fledgling roofing company, and return me to respectability from slacker life I suppose he and his wife might have discussed. My Blue Devil 305 ride rolled on tiger-grip Hercules Honcho tires, Gabriel shocks. Gabriel riser shocks to tell the truth. Took pride in it. Put 96K miles of artery on odometer in thirty-six months that I owned it. Had but five when I picked it off the lot.
It still frequently pops into my dreamlife now, some fourteen years after I sold it to a Jacksonville dealer for next to peanuts. In my dream it’s invariably parked in a public lot somewhere when I discover it, and usually in the perfect shiny blue state it was in when I sold it. But I do recall a recent dream when in route to nowhere in particular I casually stumble upon a burned out shell of blackened steel and crisp memories, and I knew it was my old car, ready for the resurrection and a pure nature. In this dreamlife, I always manage to steal it back successfully, without incident, and drive off into the sunset, so to speak, with no remorse, no concern for its current owner, simply radiant that my inner self has renewed the fecund energy this dazzling dance of road machine represents to my subconscious mind. Obviosuly this dreaming of one’s earliest prized and therefore most pleasureable possessions is not rare. Yet no other figurative symbols of my life except maybe the house I grew up in from the age of six to thirteen recur as often as does that car.
But I had become uncomfortable with financial success at the expense of others even to the point of resisting due payment for my own labors. My common refrain for a period was, “Just pay me what you think it is worth.” Obviously I was opening myself to exploitation, for I was never the slacker, but I could not excuse myself in this war of wages. Finally, after a decade of fighting a losing battle against my own nature to appease the temperament of business, its capitalistic pressures urging my own strong will to succeed (paralleling family and peer considerations)only recently has it became crystal clear to me that I simply have not been called to embrace the American business routine.
Abandoned to a state of self-denial and chicken farmer ethics however, I felt compelled to junk it off to a dealer as contraband, a shiny nuts and bolts conspiracy illuminating my spiritual depravity, just as I had given away most of my household possessions except for my books and albums, including my finer threads and shoes, when I had left Houston. Giving way to nothingness, and following conscience, what could be more feckless and puerile for a "transit & hub" man walking away from a thriving dialed up world where the dollar is king...
Turning away desirable girlfriends, worldly possessions, and normal occupational ambitions came unnaturally easy to me, but in the spirit of diminishing returns, I carefully worked to steer as best I could from perverting the paradox of faith along the lines of what one might call humble arrogance back over to its converse formarrogant humilitya decidedly common open trench planted with razorsharpened spikes and mirrors many pretenders seem incapable of dodging in their eagerness to appear to self and others as profiling God’s Own Image of Himself. And so Corpus Christi on the bay would become the next corporeal stage upon which my lifelong collusion with the spirit of man versus beast would manifest its theatre deep into my being.
Fifteen months as a hermit in the backwoods of my beginnings had taken their toll. I was no longer fit to be a businessman. Lasting only four months with my brother, I finally quit his company because of what I considered unsportsmanlike price-gouging practices. Although his rates were very competitive, it just seemed to me that hard times justified hard times for all, not accelerated pricing schedules when business was booming due to a recent storm. We parted friends and have become even closer as the years tear back the youthful packaging to reveal two pensive beings bartering the spectrum of ideas with earnest achievement at opposite poles of brotherly nature. But I had become uncomfortable with financial success at the expense of others even to the point of resisting due payment for my own labors. My common refrain for a period was, “Just pay me what you think it is worth.” Obviously I was opening myself to exploitation, for I was never the slacker, but I could not excuse myself in this war of wages. Finally, after a decade of fighting a losing battle against my own nature to appease the temperament of business, its capitalistic pressures urging my own strong will to succeed (paralleling family and peer considerations)only recently has it became crystal clear to me that I simply have not been called to embrace the American business routine. That this anticommercial strain of business acumen is not by any means unique to religious zealots, I was aware, and careful to acknowledge prevalent economic bidding as worthy of men’s attention and God’s grace, quite unlike some in the political arena who have always seemed a bit revolting to me.
My brother has since returned to Atlanta, divorced, gone bankrupt, started another company, and remarried. His high profile roofing and remodeling company will gross over $3 million this year. Eighteen or so of his company’s advertising billboards grace Metro Atlanta’s highways. The high ornamental fabric of his lifestyle is in good taste and worthy of a poor man’s envy. My brother Clyde never graduated from junior high.
At sixteen he made a remarkable breakthrough in his life via a popular rehabilitation program, learning to read and speak there, although he still does not read much outside the Wall Street Journal and roofing or contractual specs. He does not truck with religion or the standardized version of God, although he is quite an introspective, let us say, spiritual man. After years of juvenile delinquency he saw the proverbial light, although it certainly took years for the complete transformation, in both the social grooming and personal hygienic senses, as well as for the full juices of his mental capacities to kick into overdrive.
The ensuing fact that he is quite the classical handsome man, while certainly adding to his notorious vanity, does most assuredly favor his strong faculty for self-confidence and secular direction as he makes his way among worldly affairs. Everyone pegged me for the smart brother, the rich brother, the glorious brother, of us six. Christ, said I, was not the one.
1. Too little, I had driven past Monica's fiance. No few acquaintances of theirs had been bothered. We smoked the exceptions, then left. Trespassing became the neighborhood. It then became the neighborhood emotional issue of the month, breaking tongue and bread with the long arm of this decade's white dragon.
Extreme unction. Friendship fees on high.
2. "Extreme unction should you proceed!" read the dashed copperfield propped against tomorrow's shining leg zipperbound model. We swelled, then agreed that it was a constitutional command better left to true believers. Frank decided to visit Paris if he ever became French.
Famous bus-stop populations melted that morning, the first of Maybe. Monica's fiance chose to remain standing in that colonial position while the rest of us resting in the silver bosom of Sally's garage took to fasting. Wheels spun winninglessly. Monica spread during the anthem, quoting Albert Camus, "For what strikes me, in the midst of polemics, threats and outbursts of violence, is the fundamental good will of everyone. From Right to Left, everyone, with the exception of a few swindlers, believes that his particular truth is the one to make men happy." She said it was godsway and middle class, so to speak I didn't.
3. Approximately the very hour the sunny laundry of Frank's School Glue & Emporium became clue, Monica's fifteen-year old sister blurted out that her period was due, & later speculation would prove indeed her period was late. Ever the conscientious ballyhoo gang, all except the redheaded little virginboy with the Bob Dylan album collection, took off for special assignment. The redheaded little virginboy with the Bob Dylan album collection just sprayed his pencil with falsetto nausea, resigned his post and called Monica the most he had ever felt.
He took exception, however to the notion of her aimless talk.
4. Carrying far the issue of pornography for its own sake, Monica's fiance sued her for sanitary abuse. The rugged briefness of his case, compacted into a single blow single file delivery, rent aspiring druggists miles around. "Stay one more," she yawned. "We can serve up the wife of malcontention." Frank abstained. Monica's fiance just turned the page in the open book closed to drifters he kept on the mantlepiece, next to his autographed photo Germaine Greer had sent him in a weak moment.
"Let's pretend we're all William Burroughs & read lines from poems that will suffocate a ghetto in East Chicago at will!"
exclaimed Monica, looking for one last piece of action. Needless to say, her speech is our beautiful white-sanded beach, our summer home in Malibu, our heaven sent sex, our double edged sword in hot buttered popcorn world. Belushi, Akryroid, Murray rolled into one pair. We gazed, then died.
Live past fire the way you dream Monica. Dream the Monicalife. As it seemed.
5. Stretching. Scheming. Close enough for laughter. Where the marks meet. Where past misery chooses to call its own friends, in fragile expressions of the few mentionable mistakes-of-god, luring us with somnambulant luxuriance, pinch-hitter anonymity driving us deep into the inner limit. Stretching strength, strolls straight forward patience. Monica I love.
6.Muffy songs are superfluous. Monica's fifteen-year old missing period sister decided to hurry on by the orphanage lest she be contaminated. And King Cabin Ernie & his current have taken laryngitis. His excuse is all of the above, and leaves little doubt as to his Garden of Eden. We laughed to chuck the chance of moot poisoning. Monica shoved her angry leg into a bucket of yellow paint.
"Life is not yours until the final blow," Shrank the Shadow grew. "The paved edge is yours," scoffed I, wearing my January drawers, still too obedient to punk rock music to show my checkstubs. Hours later around the bases, flew groundhogs crying, "Sweet sweet he's the dove we want to meet!"
I immediately fondled the new girl. And quoted myself from one of my poems, "By words the serpent stings." Enid knew the scam, edgy throats and hives. Enid was a friend. Been to Georgia State delivering a state address, never been late never early either Enid and her lipstick.
7. I could write these lines together. I could make them swell and them swell. (Anybody can write that, but few are issued the intent.) I have never been late. Enid works in Chemicals, handling slippery things in dark rooms, closed to drifters. There need be no discussion. I am a glad sack, meaningful, necessary, and somewhere supposed. You dear youthful voyeur, have elsewhere deposited the dangerous question marking the spotted tapestry lately behind bookless quotations shown impotent by default & timberline insult.
8. Time is space as answer. Monica, her exposures, and the Bob Dylan album collection whispered salty somethings into the inkstained ears of the redhaired little virginboy. We departed as a moving force in America only to arrive. Somewhere pointed! Pay Day. Sally sold her garage to buy her wedding clothes. Frank called it a fucking shame. â€œNo one knows what they did to the sandman.â€ I corrected. By that time neither did I.
Little tits and nervousness. Health conscience. Lucy Biggs. Heroes who live. Jack Kerouac Monty Python. Heroes who die, sarcastically. As a political enemy. Every one of you.
9. I could have carved a noun for openers. Is there a room in this planet for queer discussion?
Monica soon married. The rest became. Enid still works in a photo lab. Lucy Biggs grew up to write a Canadian Poem. The real Frank O'hara traded his religion for the Boston Celtics. The redheaded little virginboy dyed his hair. Monicaâ€'s sister found her period hiding beneath Franz Kafka's slide rule, went on to establish the underground newspaper for disemboweled authors, 'Popular Semantics' Bobo the historical husband used his prowess to sit in on a jazz festival, and loved her for it. And Monica learned his favorite quotation. Sally didn't leave a forwarding address. I just wrote this stick.
I. High Brows Relative gentle accessory This band of lines seeks harmony When frigid time dwarfs memory And as we watch trees grow. For woman's draft always inspires The melting art caressing fire Deep into where mere words aspire To cross the hammer's blow. And though the hot daze honors shade And smiling costumes salute parades And naked children's hatreds fade How dare we never mourn to know, If one and one and one make three If worthiness licks poverty If hollow noises seductively Lay waste pure reason's embryo.
Give us this day of all days Oh sacred songs still solemn, To whet our attentions, to dry our tears. We live on occasion and going away presents. We recognized the poet and his different drumming, And laughter and irony and the nude girl in white.
"Most profound in this sublet phoenix world Is the naked sense of truth and the crowbar." Croons a wild-eyed autonomy named Ply, Off just now in the critical woods bored busy, Briars, poison ivy, sleeping serpents and spiders blind Mandating crude obediences to projectiled security Unshaded amongst all roving sensualities. Seen by only his own kind in spite of fair rhetoric Loss is the naked sense of truth, Spinning our very natures into a mourning fog. So let us merge as continents merge And practice the art and its gripping trance... Slash open our blackened hearts with a 12-inch butcher, To spare us the throwaway guilt of a wicked second glance Into our honey-tongued spitoons Mocking the life of no return.
II. Inventory Sculpture Clutching the past far prevailing reprise, My bashful lips have remained mundane in librarian's mum, Afflicted and baffled by the fragrance I catch dazzling Even the hair brushing distractions from my eyes. I am barely here, lost in a theme park called eternity. Never ends. I am nicknamed Fat Logos. I am From nowhere. I am a television commercial. Yet You cry in silence, offering no foliage To shape the shapeless gray breath A swimming a swimming... A swimming a brewing death! Crashed out upon the brawling acres, The die is cast and no longer God answereth!
Reach in, Copernicus, to touch my age. This time I won't turn you away To embezzle the ironies marking your flesh in pain. Glory the season is soon faded away, Passing as a morning's rain. Words come not dancing in raving Insidious intent, nor do they come Easy to me, So please don't mock my language When elegance is not my only game But clarity, the difference between purple and blue. Good evening fine gatherers and hunters. Yes, evening to all. Perfume, empty pockets, memorial lasers on the wall.
Not everyone who calls my name knows why, And now my suburbs ache. I patrol my bones through a watery isthmus, Exploring a carnal linkage of attitudes expanding, unexamined. Like a camel without his desert, I felt betrayed. And then, In vain attempt at the strait jacket of mental righteousness I betrayed every color known to intelligent man, betrayed All manner of species, the savant and the dunce, The psychotic and the safeling. My leaps Across nature came across not as my own cross To bear but only a stiff anger to share.
I betrayed parrot-trust And far, far worse than a case of the sniffles, I fell mute like a genesis idiot into a muddy blank puddle And deserted my own trust, I soured my own fruits, Became my own bust as well as well Becomes us.
And so this black pulp handherchief, Modifier, predicate, subjunctiveI dedicate To those infants troubled for communication. I've sold what I had to To regain those conclusions lost in the flood Like footprints and genitals and sunrise deliverances And intangibles explaining the indecent, the misunderstood. Oft deluded, we've eased Into Thursday without scale warning Sitting on a park bench hoping To sanctify the next bus out together loitering Separately in myalgic coffins reserved for The dead by ignorance joking On the course of someone else's weather. And Friday is on its way.
Too many pauses, too many unanswered syllables. And how are we, the ceaselessly tired, To get rid of forever This relationship of too many clauses? Do you forbid, Great Spyder Solomon Center of the Unknowable Universe, This beggard merchant of weak expression, Passage on wave, oh mouth Sea chanter of foam? Come! Come swiftly let us seek to bring simple meaning To the borrowed transcript that's intimately Our own.
III. Tasteless, Odorless, Colorless
A winless victor, Carousing, gives way to blunt splashes of young footsteps Splashing in salvaged blank puddles. Or when old odysseys Just aren't qualified to teach us Any more They become brain twisters, Storms of personality Falling on both the good and the evil. Inning after inning no score. They can't reach us. Home base an inoperable store Closed by faith floods and wind damage. Kinetic roar.
But who said it first? Abandoning our griefs together, understanding What's never been spoken, and speaking To decide more frankly The mere fragments Fading full into fair equity, We're just waiting to wax profound. Then we'll call out a new perfume.
Our needs are as complex As the birth of a mystical child, Regardless of race, creed, or divisibility by zero. (The lattera mathematical expense of extinction.) For the intellect must caress The one understanding Issues done especially for us. Still vaguely dressed By words the serpent stings. Pssst.... Wednesday perfume!
Comfort alone when forced to strip As citizens of impatience rip Strays with devices a burning lip Still running overcrowded numbers. While war sucks weather and doghouse blues Into camp offers we must refuse Walking through detour signs of booze Explaining a flash diet of fresh cucumbers. And where cane swamp visionary wares Remind us there of social stares Behind dark windows lipless pairs Reward refined pet slumbers, Gloving twisted riddles rhymed in time Studied park benches zoning mad crime Babies bought on bar room lime Whose scents surveyed skirt lumbers.
Some half-fucked figure. A boy of atmosphere. Nothing much, probably. But who among us is safe in a drawer Of subliminals?
[1980, Lofton Creek, FL ]
"Ignorance and virtue suck on the same straw. Souls grow on bones, but die beneath bankers' hours.""