On Sanctuary

With June Jordan.

When the visionary told you, Man is not a tree, you took note. The punchline had to do with the whole country up and moving every few years. Out of one town, into another––given the means, which were a significant factor. You considered reasons. Why the impulse to cut and run; to fly, stop, land?

Meanwhile, you could not––would not, stop thinking of the child who couldn’t flee, who didn’t make it. You refused coexistence with the mental calculations that allowed the peace of some to be secured by the occupation of others.

It is a fundamental need, you said, basic as shelter, food. For sanctuary, you said. Because man is not a tree.

***

Adapted from June Jordan’s 1989 essay, “Finding the Way Home.”

Between Stations

Songs in transit.

Each meeting was a new territory, and the faces of strangers became unfamiliar markers in a foreign land. We watched her absorb these, making and remaking an atlas of the terrain. To the music in her chest, we pressed our ears. In this, we heard a place we knew well. In the corners of our childhood play, the strings, and then came the drums of our chase. The horns called us to birthday feasts, and the chorus resounded, singing us–––not home, but somewhere entirely new. A place we leaned into. In this way, she peeled us from the scripts of our nightmares and offered new arrangements of light and space, of time. Embraced by her shadows, we prepared to arrive.

Specific Ambiguity

With Jon Fosse.

There is a possibility, when planning a scene, of doing nothing. Of taking time, as the saying goes. Besides, something always happens anyway because with nothing to do, it’s all breath and questions, both of which are loaded.

With no buffer between a life and a sense of scale and scope, every exchange is weighted, too. There you are, lover. I see you, strange stranger. Strip it down enough, and you are left with a fierce poetic sensibility.

With space enough for reflection, everything is linked: death, the living, and the tension of seeming opposites. With so many unknowns, held at the boiling point, you get a very specific ambiguity, and if there was a point you were meaning to make about the nature of communication between us, perhaps it is only this. 

Yes, it has always been this complicated.

***

Inspired by (and with borrowed phrases from) this article by Sarah Cameron Sunde on the plays of Jon Fosse.

Uncertain Somethings

That je ne sais quoi.

Instead of the usual source, today’s weather comes from Craigslist. It seemed important somehow to check, as they say, the temperature of the room, to hold a finger in the wind or press lightly against the pulse of the moment, mixing the proverbial metaphors with freewheeling abandon in the spirit of adventure. I have a pretty good idea what the usual reports will tell me, but this is something else.

For example, I had not considered the possibility of joining an amateur pool league––or that, if I were up for being a dance partner open to swing with an emphasis on retro 60’s, that this person, unnamed and possibly only a few miles away, might be waiting for my call. 

Or that someone might be scouring such listings with a question such as, what do I do with this extra cash?––only to realize that no, they have in fact never owned an original, made-to-order piece of art, and perhaps the time is now.

There is, apparently, a feeling in the air, the type inspired by the ponytailed dog walker at Fiesta Island last Sunday, the guy who lent his umbrella at the Ashanti concert, or the clerk who used to work in the floral department at the Vons on University. 

They came and went, these specters, and someone is looking for each of them now, as some others seek a lost chocolate tabby and a gold dolphin toe ring, and have I ever even considered that this would be a thing to own, until now?

I have not, but it is, and because of this, it may also be lost, and once lost, so missed that someone might be compelled in the dreaded glare of midday, to post a message to the beyonds. It floats there now, in the atmosphere, and you won’t hear about these things in your usual weather report.

And you won’t hear about any of the other small losses that can empty a heart well enough that it will be open to receive the next discovered wonder with the chill of timely recognition that can only come when someone reminds you back to a question you didn’t know you were holding, like what are you looking for?

Handling

The objects among us.

When the towers built in triumph have crumbled and getting on together is all that is left to do, it’s hard not to wonder what becomes of all these accumulated objects, the stuff we made and gathered to us, floating among these indeterminate moments of porous inheritance. Maybe then we will prefer what has been passed from one hand to a second and the next in ongoing fragility, a reminder of our own impermanence and the way that there is more that can be made of wearing what was torn and then mended, than to lament that it is no longer new.

Offbeat

Different drummers.

Once, I dreamed of a future. I was on a train and it was yesterday. We moved from this eye pinching light to somewhere beneath a canopy at night, a velvet plush of shadow. There was nothing like it, wild beast. Nothing.

Look at you. I watch you like a tiger and when you wake it is a welcome to my world look. There’s a cacophony now, a demented white nose machine. 

Remember yesterday? We looked for each other in the wet earth beneath the canopy, among the beetles and leeches, imagining their applause.

Here is where a warning should come in, regarding the volume of the gaze––don’t. But you say it’s language you’re seeking.

I am always in these machines on wheels, looking back.

I love it when an actor looks awkward, letting you see how they are trying.

Why do you think you enjoy that?

Because it’s a little off, missing all the marks we’ve come to expect. But if you look, you can read a new rhythm.

The Seer

For Willy Ronis.

You left the door open, called everyone familiar––and they were, after so long looking. You had born witness to their hope and heartbreak, their quiet, their children and the children they had once been, faces breaking open in a running laugh. They knew that you saw them and felt recognized, knew the shock of relief from their own anonymity in a world crowded with rushed strangers, too busy or beaten to look. Your lens could not resist a smile toward the lovers, and your heart swelled too full to make it stop.

***

Inspired by Willy Ronis, whose birthday was yesterday, and by this article about the photographer who saw Paris “with his heart in his eyes.”

Recent Findings

I once was lost, but now this.

From time to time, when feeling vaguely haunted by a general sense of loss, it can be useful to turn to the oracles of online message boards for reminders of the abundance that has recently been found. For instance, a small but costly kite has been discovered in an ice plant container, along with some keys at the ledge of the walkway near the dog park. Someone walking along Chollas Creek recently came upon a skateboard, and a foray into the Costco business center led one unsuspecting traveler to discover the proverbial box of money. 

It’s not just the bounty of these findings that’s worth noting, but the fact that person after person is going out of their way––after work, traffic, everyday aches and pains, in between nagging health concerns, personal grievances, and untold losses of their own–– to locate the rightful owner and return the treasure, resisting the age-old maxim of finders keepers.

I won’t comment on the sensitive nature of the personal items the dog keeps finding in the marsh, but there is reason to believe that they will be returned without any questions asked about how exactly they got in there. True, there is still no sign of the teeth that were left in a Skittles bag on a picnic table in Oak Park, but there is no shortage of found kittens ready to soothe the toothless without judgement. We are all on the lookout for the lost parts of ourselves, and what are we here for, anyway, if not to be ever returning them to one another?

***

I have an odd fondness for taking inspiration from Craigslist ads. Although I have never actually used them to locate any goods, services, or people, I take great delight in reading them. 

Nostalgia

Dreamscape in a fog.

Women in sweaters and long skirts walk through an uncultivated pasture in the fog, above a lake.  They retreat from the lens, toward something else. No one speaks.

Now comes a car on a nearby road. It takes a moment to stop. A woman gets out. The light reminds her of autumn. The man from the driver’s seat corrects her speech. I cried the first time I saw it, she says. He will not come.

I will wait for you, she says. She roams away like this often, in stubborn wonder. He follows, eventually. By the time he catches up, she will no longer be the woman from the car. By the time he catches her, she will be a woman who has been walking alone on a dirt path for some time.

***

Inspired by the work of Andrei Arsenyevich Tarkovsky, and specifically his film, Nostalgia.