At Twilight

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Location: Midwest, United States

Monday, May 31, 2010

True Story

It’s Memorial Day and I’m feeling pensive and griefstruck.

Many, many years ago, I was living in Washington, DC while on special assignment. The movie Platoonhad just been released and, having nothing else to do, I bought a ticket and a box o’ buttered popcorn then watched the film on widescreen with an admixture of horror and grief.

A coupla days later I had dinner with a beloved elder cousin and her husband. I blathered through dinner, on and on, about the film I just saw that had made such a deep impression. When I finished gushing/blathering my in-law turned to me and said: I was there.”


Turned out he was. Turned out he actually knew Robert Stone. Turned out they both served in the Tropical Lightning Division (although Robert Stone occupied himself in the rearguard and my cousin-in-law fought on the perimeter). He showed me photographs. He revealed his scars. It was quite the evening. My in-law, the most pacific man I had ever known, revealed what he learned in Vietnam. He had never talked about that war to me before (I never even knew he had served), but he talked about his experience that night. He talked about the fear, firefights, killing and horror, the deep pits excavated afterwards to bury the dead. He revealed parts of himself I never fathomed existed.

I had cried while viewing the film.

A coupla decades later, I cry harder still.

* * *

Just so you are clear: All the stories I post are true (as best as I can convey them).

* * *

Friday, May 28, 2010

There Are Voices

There are voices (a great many voices, in fact) that move me in ways I can't explain. They're simply voices that resonate. And should the voice come coupled with lyrics that hit home? Well...I'm all done in. Totally captive.

* * *

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

She Always Thought...

he’d find his way back to her.

He never actually did.

It’s not that she was fatuous in her faith. After all, how many people truly comprehend that Fate (given time enough) can defeat Love via sheer cruelty?

Even so and just because, one must never mock Hope.

And it’s not that he didn’t dream the same dream. He probably did, those precious few nights he actually dreamed in the bitter wilderness.

* * *

They were quite the couple. He an actor turned magistrate. A handsome man of means, manners and money. She the ingénue, an actress, a beauty. Together they were the toast of the town. They’d produced three boys and daughter. All were uniquely gifted. Beautiful. Theirs was a genteel world. A life of joy, privilege, culture, fine wine and art.

And they loved each other truly, madly, deeply.

And they continued to love each other....truly, madly, deeply...long after he was spirited away to a Siberian gulag and she fled on foot to refugee camps far west. Yes, indeed, Fate can be unimaginably cruel.

She stumbled on a crooked path all the way to America. All the way to a Lithuanian enclave in Chicago peopled by kindred spirits who had just this one thing in common: all had lost all. She made a life there. She served as maid and cook at a parish house for decades to come.
It was a life short on wealth and privilege to be sure, but she was gently succored by her fellow refugees. She did not disappoint. She never lost that regal bearing. Never descended into despair (although I came to dread the overpowering scent of Chanel No. 5). Her wardrobe wasn’t quite couture, but she sparkled in wit and sensitivity.

And all the while she Believed. She believed that he would, somehow someway, find her and save her. She believed in love everlasting. She believed she would, someday oneday, bask in joy again.

And just what was it that he came to believe? I can’t say.

I know this: he was beaten, tortured, transported by cattle car to places so remote they’ve not yet earned names. I know he starved.
I know he watched countless others die. I know he’d often prayed that he’d die, too.

I came to learn that after twenty years in Hell, he was allowed to roam in exile in towns named in Cyrillic. I learned he had somehow survived. I came to learn he found a kindred spirit, a woman who had been subjected to the same cruel calumny as he. Two broken bodies tended to each other as best they could.

And the broken ingénue came to learn that, too.

* * *

They eventually came to meet, my grandfather and grandmother did. Both grayed and frail. To frail to want, too shattered to dream.

She died drooling in an Alzheimer's ward.

He died in agony in his faraway garret.

* * *

Gratuitous (semi) non-sequitor:

I'm working assiduously to develop prodigious "crow's feet" round my eyes.

So far, I've exceeded my wildest expectations.

* * *

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Patty Griffin Redux

I’ve posted a Patty Griffin music video before.

She touches my heart in inexplicable ways. As it turns out, this video was part of the same concert performance as the other: Patty Griffin Live from the Artists’ Den (on the Ovation Channel). If you have a chance to view the entire program, watch it. You won’t be disappointed.

This song is a personal favorite. The original recorded version also happens to be the first entry on my “Playlist.” I listen to it most days.

Reminds me of what’s important.

* * *

So many things that I had before
That don't matter to me now
Tonight I cry for the love that I've lost
And the love I've never found
When the last bird falls
And the last siren sounds
Someone will say what's been said before
It's only love we were looking for

When you break down
I'll drive out and find you
When you forget my love
I'm gonna try to remind you
And stay by you
When it don't come easy
When it don't come easy

* * *

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Door is Open

There are those who slam doors shut...engage the deadbolts and
change the keys.

My door remains open.

I’m simply not the sort to deny my past or those befriended. The heart remembers what it loves no matter how addled or muddied
the brain.

My heart and door remain open to all who ever crossed the threshold. Don’t matter much to me how brief or long the stay.

Those once greeted are always welcome.

That’s not to say that nothing ever changes. Innocence lost can’t be reclaimed. Broken faith? Well, yes, redemption’s possible. But it’s a tough slog. Every step becomes a test of sorts. It’s not a venture for the faint of heart.

But the door is open.

All are welcome to sit and stay a spell. I’ll share my bread. We’ll get drunk on wine. Tired and weary? Here's a pillow. Need a shoulder to cry on? I’ll lend you mine. Got stories to share? I’ll bend an ear.

We can even sing and dance a spell should it so please.

Need a friend?

The door is open.

‘Cuz the heart remembers all it once or ever loved.

* * *

* * *

Monday, May 10, 2010

Long After Midnight...

the poet crooks his ink-stained finger and whispers: “Come here. Listen up.”

self portrait

It doesn’t interest me if there is one God
or many gods.
I want to know if you belong or feel
If you know despair or can see it in others.
I want to know
if you are prepared to live in the world
with its harsh need
to change you. If you can look back
with firm eyes
saying this is where I stand. I want to know
if you know
how to melt into that fierce heat of living
falling toward
the center of your longing. I want to know
if you are willing
to live, day by day, with the consequence of love
and the bitter
unwanted passion of your sure defeat.
I have heard, in that fierce embrace, even
the gods speak of God.

David Whyte

* * *

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Mother's Day

The day grows ever more poignant to this orphan.

As I grow older, ever more distant from parents and children, observations morph to memories and memories fade to...ache.

Even so, there’s still much to contemplate and celebrate. Motherhood defies description. At its best, it extends beyond love, beyond mere relationship. It is a dedication to purpose beyond self-sacrifice. It is the crafting of souls by two pairs of disparately-sized hands, each molding the other. It is something beyond human, beyond time and space. It is something elemental, more powerful than mere animal strength. Pity the fool who ventures between a mother and her offspring. To do so is to court disaster, perhaps mortal peril. Even if the mother in question is otherwise little more than a timid ball of fluff.

We do right to celebrate Motherhood, every bit as vital as the spring rain and summer sun. On this day we celebrate the closest we can ever come to know the best angels among us.

* * *

My ex and I spent many a year vacationing on Hilton Head Island in early May. We looked forward to leaving winter’s chill behind to frolic in the ocean, wildly drunk on sunshine and sea breezes. We were younger, stronger then. We played as often as we could.

We arrived on a Sunday. It had been a long drive so we decided to celebrate our happy arrival at our favorite French bistro. It offered linen tablecloths and fine victuals. As we entered, we were struck by all the flowers. It was all so utterly charming.

The waitress arrived tableside with a red rose for the lady. “Happy Mother’s Day!” She caught us both by surprise. “I’m not a Mother” my wife stammered. Momentary awkwardness ensued. “You deserve a rose anyway.”

As our server retreated to fetch our bottle of wine, I looked at my wife bathed in candlelight, surrounded by flowers and glorious scents. A tear tracked slowly down her cheek.

It was an ache we shared and carried within us for decades thereafter. Growing.

* * *

I’ll end as I began. This day grows ever more poignant to this motherless child. I celebrate all that is to be celebrated. The joy is leavened in the knowing that somewhere...a tear falls.

* * *

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Thought I'd Share

'Cuz it's waaaaay late at night.

'Cuz vagrant breezes shiver the curtains, scamper up my arms and down my spine.

'Cuz wine kindles memories and fuels the heart...

How Love Came To Us

Gradually, and working its way slowly, through all things,
beginning even long before we knew each other.
Through emptiness, through aimlessness,
the spirit’s daily wandering in the desert of the familiar,
fed by nights of exhaustion and driven by occasional despair,
by grief, loss compounded upon loss.
Through the patient forbearance of cruelties,
year after year, through folly, through faith and faithlessness,
through half-measures and weakness, through your and my
daily silent supplications and small acts of ordinary magic,
the spontaneous calling out to distant spirits,
each in our separate ways, and for answer the surge of the wind,
the circulation of the sun and the moon,
the churning of the far away oceans
that we each knew and felt in our own blood and breath.
So that when we first saw each other
finally that one July evening at twilight,
it seemed almost as if nothing happened.
A life had already grown up wild around us like a meadow,
was already waiting for us, silent, open.

Eric Evans

* * *

The Body Knows

The Body knows.

The Mind observes.

Body feels both wind and rain. Hunger and thirst.

Mind grumbles.

Body breathes.

Mind counts inhalations.

Body wants, throbs to hot blood.

Mind considers consequences, measures the temperature.

Body tangos.

Mind stumbles on two left feet.

Body knows more...far more...

Than Mind can comprehend.

* * *

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Half Way

I would have met her more than half way...had she taken but one step forward.

* * *

And Should I...

find myself in the presence of an honest heart? Should I find myself bathed in hot blood, purified by salt and genuine tears...baptized in true love?

I would fall to Earth on scarred knees.

And ask:

“What took you so long?”

* * *

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