At Twilight

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Location: Midwest, United States

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Do You Really?

Do you really want to live your life that way? Do you?

Do you always want to run away from any heart that reaches to yours? Do you really want fear to dictate the trace of your life? Will you allow fear to fashion your future? Your future memories? Do you always want to run away from possibilities and hope in favor of safety…isolation…loneliness?

Do you really?

Will you always flee from fire? Why not set yourself ablaze? Would you rather sit alone, high and dry, or wade into the beautiful ocean? Yes, there are waves and tides out there, sharks out there. There is blood in the dark depths. Still. To wade into the very lifeblood of the planet, to hear the ocean’s song, to feel the the moon's pull and earth’s power surround you, to shine and shimmer and glow in a liquid skin, is that not worth the risk? Do you really need to be that safe?

Do you really?

Will you allow the pain of the most painful memories to shutter your eyes, smother your lips, render you numb? Which is it to be? Numb to anything and all? Or simply feeling…everything? Do you want to live or do you want to die?

Do you think that you’re the only one who fears? We all have our fears. We win/we lose. It happens all the time. Do you really want to skip the gamble? Miss the dance?

Do you really?

* * *

Saturday, January 27, 2007

It's YOUR Pain

It truly is…and will forever be.

Man loves a woman. Woman loves a man. So far so good. But we all know the story…there will someday come the pain. There is a certain inevitability to all this.

I imagine Yoda, sitting on a mossy stump (Am I the only one who thinks he’s an opium addict? No matter...). I picture him saying something like this:

“Pain. Pain Not. Choose. Pain Is You. Choose Is You…”

(Or something akin to that)

Look, I’m sorry I hurt you. I know I did. I’m ashamed that I did.
I regret that I did. I have shed countless tears, will shed countless more. I will…forever…bear this regret. I’m truly sorry for all that…but it’s your pain. I can’t heal you. I have my own pain to heal. We all do. Please…! Heal! Do whatever you must do to heal. But, it's all up to you, now. Not me. I can't do it for you. I can't fix you.

You see, it just doesn’t work any other way.

We woke to this world with only one true obligation. To love one another. We did not take our first breath, nor should we take our last, enslaved to another. It’s your pain; don’t wrap your pain around my throat, my wrists, my ankles…don't strangle my heart and soul.
Do not scourge me with it. I've been flayed enough. Too much.
It’s your pain. Deal with it as you must. I will love you for that. Suffer if you must. I will commiserate with you. Suffer if you must; heal any way you can. Do both with dignity. I will respect you for that.

We hurt. We all do. Not at the same time, nor all the time, but we will definitely suffer and we most certainly will hurt. But it’s our own pain. We must recognize it as such. We must own it as such. It’s not to be used as a club to beat someone into submission, compliance or servitude. It simply can't be that. It must never be that.

* * *

One can never heal that way anyway.

* * *

Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Rainy Day In Paris

It was during my third visit to Paris that I knew our marriage was over.

I love Paris. Paris is a grand dame of a city. She’s alluring. She beguiles and seduces. I’ve traversed her varied and fascinating arrondissments, sampled her wares, drank her wines, admired her good looks and reveled in her charms. There is something to delight the eye and soul around every corner, down every street. To know Paris is to love her. When in Paris with a lover, all seems enhanced somehow, magnified and glorified. Paris leaves one breathless.

Ah, as they say, “Springtime in Paris…”

* * *

It was spring when I was there last.

My wife and I had sojourned in the Bordeaux region, an amazing experience in and of itself. We had decided to finish our travels with another stay in Paris. We booked a room in one of Paris’ “Grand Hotels,” the St. Lazare. It’s a beautiful hotel (although I still prefer the hotel Lutétia in the heart of the St. Germain district).

So there we were, in a beautiful hotel in one of the world’s most beautiful, inspiring, sensuous cities.

Two strangers sharing a bed...with a chasm in between.

She decided she wished to go shopping…alone. I was…relieved, in a sense. I, too, wished to be alone. As it was, I had felt alone in her presence for several years. It felt more natural, to me, to walk the Parisian streets as the solitary man I had become. So I walked and I walked and I walked. It was a rainy spring day. It was, in fact, the only day of rain we had experienced during our entire trip. It rained.
It rained and the city glistened. It rained inside me, inside my soul.

I walked.

I walked past my favorite haunts, I walked past sheer magnificence, I walked past subtle beauties, I walked past the Parisians and the tourists, the Seine and the cathedrals. I simply walked and walked and walked. No one could tell I was crying - everyone’s face was wet. One would have had to have true acuity of vision to realize that my face was wetter than those of others.

It was in Paris in the spring that we both knew that we had allowed something precious and beautiful and profound somehow slip through our fingers…never to be reclaimed. We had traveled light,
as always. But, this time, we had both left our hearts behind as well. Somewhere. Mine was left aching among the sunflowers on a windswept prairie. Hers? I don’t know…I’ll never know…lost at the bottom of a bottle of wine, perhaps.

We were both quiet during the long flight home (although it would never again be a home). We had spent a rainy day in Paris.

* * *

Now it seems the rain will never end.

* * *

Thursday, January 18, 2007

I'm Grateful

A week ago, I clutched a handful of photographs close to my heart and grieved for what was and will never be. I’m just like that. I carry within my genetic code a melancholy gene.

Not for a moment did I consider that this private act and that soliloquy could ripple through the ether to rouse a bevy of angels-in-waiting. I am reminded, time and again, that my world is peopled by angels. Still, I’m no less surprised each and every time.

I’m not one to question the how’s or why’s of magic or miracles.
I greatly prefer awe to certitude. And I am truly awed by the warm hearts and kind souls who took the time to offer their commentary and personal notes. Better still, I came to find your respective sagas, the recounting of heartaches more fearsome than my own...yet, told with such grace, good humor and optimism. It does a heart good
to know it is not alone. It does a soul good to laugh again.

I am a most fortunate man in that countless strangers have come to my rescue whenever I’ve been lost at sea. I’ll never know why. Is it because a drowning man will grab at any hand (whether offered or not), or is there a collective goodness…a cosmos filled with unwitting guardian angels? I prefer to think it’s the latter.

Blanche DuBois was on to something when she said: “Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

So have I, Blanche…so have I.

* * *

Some thirty years ago, when I lay sprawled, a bloody mess, after my first divorce, Sara came to my rescue. She was considerably older and far more accomplished than I. She took one look at my bloodshot, zombie eyes and clucked. Then clucked again, and took me under wing. Well…she did quite a bit more than that. She ravished me.
A good old-fashioned, rollicking, toe-curling ravishment is powerful medicine.

She single-handedly lifted me to my feet and sent me on my way.

* * *

Funny, just the other day, the Poet Princess of Oz asked if I would ever post another poem of mine. “Not likely,” I replied. Offering my doggerel to a poet is akin to offering chicken-scratch to a calligrapher. Here’s living proof, I guess, that I’ve still got a lot more gnothi-seautoning to do…but this poem, decades old, resonates within me once again:

Especially for Sara

Sometimes the boy
Gets down and drunk
And crazy
But warm hearts
Save him from a fall

Sometimes he spends
Nights thinking
His pain will crack the sky
Finds braver hands
Stretched waiting

Boy broods, boy laughs
His pockets full of questions
Emptied at their touch
Boy writes this poem
His way of prayer
For those who make
Him whole again

* * *

Two months ago, I wrote:

“I feel as if I’m some ancient navigator who looks to the heavens to chart his course, only to find all the stars have drowned in the sea.”

It’s been a long night, my friends, a very long, dark and lonely night.
I know that, tonight, when I turn my gaze towards Heaven, I shall see stars…

* * *

* * *

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Gnōthi Seauton

Some ancient Greek, with stone hammer and sharp chisel, carved Gnōthi Seauton into the marble lintel at the entrance to the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. I wonder…was he pounding out an admonition, or simply offering sound advice?

Gnōthi Seauton Know Thyself! Hah! As.if.

Five and a half decades into this, and I still can’t claim to know myself. I’m slowly getting there, though. Given time enough, experience enough, trials and errors enough, I just might come to know myself well enough to know who I really am, what I essentially need, and what I truly want. I don’t want to die a mystery to myself.

This is no casual endeavor. A lot rides on knowing oneself. If nothing else, knowing oneself protects the innocent. I daresay, behind every broken lover’s vow (assuming, of course, good faith at the start) is someone who does not know himself/herself (quite often, there are two confused souls at work). A promise, a vow, a troth or pledge presumes (at the very least) a rudimentary understanding of one’s own capabilities and will; at least a smattering of familiarity with one’s heart, mind and soul. The promissor owes at least that much to the promissee. Sigh. I’ve failed others in that regard. Others have, in turn, failed me. they say...karma’s a bitch.

I guess I just cast a vote for admonition.

But, speaking of karma, how about a vote for sound advice? What if it’s true, what the Buddhists say...that wisdom purifies the mind, that mastering one’s mind leads to enlightenment, and that enlightenment leads to the end of suffering? What if...what if the Gnostics were correct in preaching that God and Heaven reside within each of us? “Know thyself” then, becomes sound advice…in fact, far, far more, than just sound advice…

If I knew myself better, I might be able to tell you who is right. As it stands, I can only puzzle and ponder.

* * *

Know Thyself
by Alexander Pope

Know then thyself, presume not God to scan;
The proper study of mankind is Man.
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A being darkly wise and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the Stoic’s pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act or rest,
In doubt to deem himself a God or Beast,
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reasoning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such
Whether he thinks too little or too much:
Chaos of thought and passion, all confused;
Still by himself abused, or disabused;
Created half to rise and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurled:
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!

* * *

Great Oracle moment:

It is said the Oracle at Delphi proclaimed Socrates to be the wisest man in Greece, to which Socrates replied that, if so, it was because he alone was aware of his own ignorance.

* * *

Friday, January 05, 2007

A Photograph...

is not enough.
* * *

Last night (or, to be accurate, in the deep, dark silent hours before the dawn), I felt a craving to look at my photographs of her...again. Believe me, I try (oh, how I try!) not to do that. Like some desperate addict, I vow, time and again, to stop doing that. Only to succumb…again and again and again.

Am I a closet masochist? Or…like a man with a needle in his arm…
just someone with a death wish?

I don’t have all that many photographs of Amazing Woman. Just a handful, actually. They’ve become precious to me.

They’re all I have left.

So I sit in the dark and dead of night and I stare at her image. I study her face, her eyes, her mouth, her hands, her arms and thighs and breasts and hair and ears and knees and…well…everything that can be seen.

And all that can be imagined.

A photograph is not enough. A two-dimensional image on a sheet of paper or a flickering monitor does not breathe. It does not laugh or sigh or touch or dance. A photograph can’t tell me how she feels, how she fares, how she loves, or how she dreams. Her eyes are open, glistening, but she is blind to me. Her hands…the hands I loved so much…so strong, so open and inviting, cannot touch me. I can’t feel her hair on my chest, her warmth, her kisses, or her passion. Her image is right there. Right there on a piece of paper…but she’s not here. She will never again be here, in my arms, in my bed, in my home or my life.

I stare at each photograph for hours. She has the most expressive, exquisite face…as changeable and deep as the sea. And all I have are scant moments, split seconds frozen in time…immutable and pale in comparison. She is beautiful, radiant. She hums with an internal fire that once set me ablaze…(and reduced me to ash). My photographs are silent. They are cool to the touch. Still, they are all I have of her…what more can I do but hold them close to my heart?

And cry.

And I vow never to look at them again. But I do. Again and again and again and again.

* * *

A photograph is not enough. A photograph is not a soul. Each photograph is a distant memory, an image doomed to fade and vanish…a lifeless, ephemeral aggregation of pixels or dyes. Still...
her photographs are all I have. So I press them close to my heart.

And I cry.

* * *

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year?

I’ve never been keen on celebrating the New Year. Wait…that’s not entirely true. The young boy enjoyed New Year’s Eve. We, as a family, basked in a certain glow as we waited in the New Year. It was a quiet, patient, hopeful waiting…culminating in expressions of warm affection.

It was the pubescent adolescent who became so jaded with the whole New Year “thing.” I’ve already mentioned that I had fallen madly in love with a lass with a predilection for saying good-bye shortly after Christmas. I spent more than a few New Year’s Eves wandering city streets in frigid weather with some incarnation of alcohol in a paper sack for company. There was the winter I suffered frostbite on both ears for, you see, only a pubescent adolescent would venture forth into the ice and snow and sub-zero temperatures wearing only jeans, shirt, black leather jacket and thin leather shoes (cold as ice…but stylish). No hat or gloves, either (amazing, isn’t it, the stupidity of the pubescent adolescent?). I can still vividly recall that frostbitten night. I can recall the night my “over-medicated” self leaned forward to accept a light for my cigarette only to witness my mane go up in flames. I can vaguely recall those nights I ventured downtown (same wardrobe…same brutal weather) to drunkenly greet midnight by kissing any otherwise unoccupied lips. Come the besotted dawn, not a single kiss could be recalled. Lips and kisses weren’t meant to be wasted in this way.

I tell you, my bad memories of New Year’s outweigh the good.

* * *

It feels different this year.

I was awake and alone at midnight (then again, I’m always awake and alone at midnight…). For the first time in decades, I waited for the New Year with true hope and anticipation. I already know that this new year will be better than the last…the last several. I already know that I have left the man I was behind, and I look forward to acquainting myself with who I’ve become. The past two years especially have reshaped my soul. I’ve yet to understand what that means. I only know that I am changed. I will come to discover who I am in the coming year...and (knock on wood)...years. I look forward to that. I look forward to leaving my cave and venturing into the sunlight again. I look forward to my new home(s), to open roads.

I know what it is I wish to do. I now wish to begin.

* * *

And for you, Dear Reader, my hope is that you, too, came to greet the New Year with hope and anticipation, certain in the belief that, come each sunrise, the days ahead will bring unexpected joys…perhaps even miracles.

* * *

* * *

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