Sunday, October 29, 2017

I’ll Be (Nothing)

I’ll be nothing, that’s what I’ll be.
I’ll be the limbs breaking on the ice,
I’ll be desire melting onto itself,
I’ll be the longing that possesses me
That I’ll never possess.

I’ll be nothing, that’s what I’ll be.
I’ll be the vicious hope that rides me to death,
I’ll be just another breath, another step
To nowhere...

(originally posted on December 06, 2004)

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Smallness of Life

(To Katy)

the smallness of my life, I said,
can you see it?
But she said nothing,
she just wrote
a series of details
and small spaces.
My life used to spread, I said,
over pot-holed streets and easy laughter,
a time when youth was
just another smell in the air.
But she said nothing,
she just sniffed;
from where she stood,
she could smell it still.
But my life has stretched so thin, I said,
it has shrunk into this square mile
between where I sleep and where I yawn.
This corner of the world, I said,
that I call my own;
this bit of the earth
I staked as home.

This piece of life, I said,
that I squander at will;
this circle of friends
I ignore to call.

This head resting on my hip,
this hour of the day when the sky
looks like Mary in front of the cross.

This hollow in my heart
where they used to be;
this cat, this breath, this,
this smallness of my life...
But she said nothing,
she just blinked.
Her life wasn't any bigger.

(Originally post on January 30, 2006)

Wednesday, October 25, 2017


Time punches holes in my being
With each passing loss
I am emptier
Till nothing remains there
But a big gaping void
That reminds of me

(Originally posted on April 15, 2003)

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

"We Are All Dead At Twenty"

"We are all dead at twenty
Picking the petals off the flower of age
Hanging from the tree of spring
In the most beautiful of landscapes

The earth rotates for children
Those who grow up too bad for them
It will swell the regiment
Of the officials of boredom

With days that resemble
Habits and grimaces
And migraines, trembling hands
From wrinkle to wrinkle, from ice to ice

We are all dead at twenty
Picking the petals off of the sick flower
Of an agonizing ideal
Of a barricaded spring

I who detests war
Sometimes envy
The dead child a spot of earth
Without having time to cry

Without seeing the sad smile
Without listening to the bird lying
Twenty years is to learn to live
The rest to learn how to die

We are all dead at twenty
Picking the petals off the flower of dreams
In a station or on a bench
Where the first love ends

Why prolong its youth
Why play at being still
Love is dead and tenderness
Committed suicide from body to body

We're all ghosts
Of a certain sex, of a certain age
With words for feelings
With masks for faces

We are all dead at twenty
Picking the petals off the flower of age
Hanging from the tree of spring
In the most beautiful of landscapes

La la la la la la la la
La la li la la la la la la
La la li la la la la la...

We are all dead at twenty..."
Original text in French: "Nous sommes tous morts à vingt ans" (Dalida)

Monday, October 23, 2017

"One World" by Joe Bolton

I have a photograph:
It is the green of a Kentucky summer,
A few skinny sycamores
Gone white with afternoon light,
A shadowed dirt road
Curving off who knows where in the distance.
You are leaning against a blue fence,
Legs tan and hair bleached a little from the sun,
My T-shirt tenting your breast.
Years later and a thousand miles removed.
A waiter named Rico lifts his sad eyebrows.
I nod.
I've been drinking at this crummy bar
In the spring dusk of Florida,
Watching the cars go by
With their headlights just on,
Hearing a siren wail.
I don't remember how it was
We came to live in cities.
But I think that somewhere this evening
A man has checked into a cheap motel
And shot himself in the head.
His driver's license and an empty bottle
Laid on the bedside table
For explanation.
Maybe he had a photograph
He couldn't reconcile his life with anymore
And wondered, at the end,
What he had come here hoping to find.
Soon enough now,
I'll be either drunk or out of money.
And there will be nothing to do
But walk back home in the first dark.
I can see on the television
It’s cold where you are,
And the sky is failing all across America.
Why were you smiling
That afternoon so long ago?
I can only think we must have been happy.
Somehow that helps.
We are still here, after all,
And it is the same world.

-from "The Last Nostalgia"

Saturday, October 21, 2017


Like pieces of a puzzle, we fit into tragedy
Nice and easy,
We fill the background with our little lives.

In your absence I have perfected my loneliness,
I have strung it like a clothesline between us.
On it I drape fragments of my being:
A lunchbox, a cyclamen, and a sigh.

By the greasy glass of the diner
We sat with our dreams in our laps
Staring at what could have been.
My hopes were too big for me, you said
No wonder they were sagging.
It is too much to ask of life, you said
But the streets I painted still glow
With the sheen of autumn drizzle,
And the laughs I imagined are frozen agape.
My place at the table is vacant still,
And that city that doesn't know me
Misses me already.

(Originally posted on June 08, 2005)

Friday, October 20, 2017


We stopped celebrating
was irrelevant now.
Anniversaries can survive
the things they celebrate
only for so long.
And then the date goes back
to being itself,
only itself,
and nothing more...
And we to being strangers again.

But the slate is never clean;
the pressure lines remain
there, in the paper
where the writing once was.

(Originally posted on October 26, 2006)

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Coming

So here it is
Sew my lips together
For I have come back
To the futility of words

Here it is
Living like it makes a difference
A shroud colored
With the self-importance of the wind

I open the doors
To a new balcony
Leaves falling down my throat
Rake the dust
That has crusted over my eyelids
And blow me a sliver from afar

I have not emerged unscathed
In the chaos I let your hand
Trail its angry wayward path
I have been where the river ended
And we began
But our ghosts have abandoned its banks

I am coming back
Like a thirsty tomorrow
Like a shadow that's been strained of life
For much too long
I am coming like an old bombastic verse
To ring, ever more, in hollower ears

(Originally posted on July 25, 2005)

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Highlights from "Less: A Novel" by Andrew Sean Greer

Kindle Location: 182
They might have done, many of them. So many people will do. But once you’ve actually been in love, you can’t live with “will do”; it’s worse than living with yourself.

Less looked at his lover, and perhaps a series of images flashed through his mind—a tuxedo jacket, a Paris hotel room, a rooftop party—or perhaps what appeared was just the snow blindness of panic and loss.

New York is a city of eight million people, approximately seven million of whom will be furious when they hear you were in town and didn’t meet them for an expensive dinner, five million furious you didn’t visit their new baby, three million furious you didn’t see their new show, one million furious you didn’t call for sex, but only five actually available to meet you. It is completely reasonable to call none of them.

A man he almost stayed with, almost loved, and now he does not even recognize him on the street. Either Less is an asshole, or the heart is a capricious thing. It is not impossible both are true.

Where is the real Less? Less the young man terrified of love? The dead-serious Less of twenty-five years ago? Well, he has not packed him at all. After all these years, Less doesn’t even know where he’s stored.

Less’s generation often feels like the first to explore the land beyond fifty. How are they meant to do it? Do you stay a boy forever, and dye your hair and diet to stay lean and wear tight shirts and jeans and go out dancing until you drop dead at eighty? Or do you do the opposite—do you forswear all that, and let your hair go gray, and wear elegant sweaters that cover your belly, and smile on past pleasures that will never come again? Do you marry and adopt a child? In a couple, do you each take a lover, like matching nightstands by the bed, so that sex will not vanish entirely? Or do you let sex vanish entirely, as heterosexuals do? Do you experience the relief of letting go of all that vanity, anxiety, desire, and pain? Do you become a Buddhist?

He wonders when their conversations had begun to sound like a novel in translation.

Is there a pill for when the image of a trumpet vine comes into your head? Will it erase it? Erase the voice saying, You should kiss me like it’s good-bye? Erase the tuxedo jacket, or at least the face above it? Erase the whole nine years?

The work, the habit, the words, will fix you. Nothing else can be depended on, and Less has known genius, what genius can do. But what if you are not a genius? What will the work do then?

The tragicomic business of being alive is getting to him.

Why do today’s young men insist on marrying? Was this why we all threw stones at the police, for weddings?

It was in the middle of their time together, when Less was finally worldly enough to be of help with travel and Robert had not become so filled with bitterness that he was a hindrance, the time when any couple has found its balance, and passion has quieted from its early scream, but gratitude is still abundant; what no one realizes are the golden years.

At ten, we climb the tree higher even than our mothers’ fears. At twenty, we scale the dormitory to surprise a lover asleep in bed. At thirty, we jump into the mermaid-green ocean. At forty, we look on and smile.

They knew trouble would come but expected it in degrees. Life so often arrives all of a sudden. And who knows which side you will find yourself on?

“Strange to be almost fifty, no? I feel like I just understood how to be young.” “Yes! It’s like the last day in a foreign country. You finally figure out where to get coffee, and drinks, and a good steak. And then you have to leave. And you won’t ever be back.”

“I wish I were single.” Less smiles bitterly at the subjunctive but does not move his arm. “I’m sure you don’t. Otherwise you would be.” “It is not so simple, Arthur.”

He must have been lonely a long time to stand before Arthur Less and ask such a thing. On a rooftop in Paris, in his black suit and white shirt. Any narrator would be jealous of this possible love, on this possible night.

“We’re too old to think we’ll meet again,” Less says.

“Arthur, you’re going to have to figure something out. You see all these men over fifty, these skinny men with mustaches. Imagine all the dieting and exercise and effort of fitting into your suits from when you were thirty! And then what? You’re still a dried-up old man. Screw that. Clark always says you can be thin or you can be happy, and, Arthur, I have already tried thin.”

It is, after all, almost a miracle they are here. Not because they’ve survived the booze, the hashish, the migraines. Not that at all. It’s that they’ve survived everything in life, humiliations and disappointments and heartaches and missed opportunities, bad dads and bad jobs and bad sex and bad drugs, all the trips and mistakes and face-plants of life, to have made it to fifty and to have made it here:

And I thought, Well, that was nice. That was a nice marriage.” “But you broke up with him. Something’s wrong. Something failed.” “No! No, Arthur, no, it’s the opposite! I’m saying it’s a success. Twenty years of joy and support and friendship, that’s a success. Twenty years of anything with another person is a success. If a band stays together twenty years, it’s a miracle. If a comedy duo stays together twenty years, they’re a triumph. Is this night a failure because it will end in an hour? Is the sun a failure because it’s going to end in a billion years? No, it’s the fucking sun. Why does a marriage not count? It isn’t in us, it isn’t in human beings, to be tied to one person forever. Siamese twins are a tragedy. Twenty years and one last happy road trip. And I thought, Well, that was nice. Let’s end on success.”

“It’s true things can go on till you die. And people use the same old table, even though it’s falling apart and it’s been repaired and repaired, just because it was their grandmother’s. That’s how towns become ghost towns. It’s how houses become junk stores. And I think it’s how people get old.”

I think maybe I’ll go it on my own. Maybe I’m better that way. Maybe I was always better that way and it was just that when I was young, I was so scared, and now I’m not scared.

Why this endless need for a man as a mirror? To see the Arthur Less reflected there? He is grieving, for sure—the loss of his lover, his career, his novel, his youth—so why not cover the mirrors, rend the fabric over his heart, and just let himself mourn? Perhaps he should try alone.

“She told me she met the love of her life,” Zohra says at last, still staring out the window. “You read poems about it, you hear stories about it, you hear Sicilians talk about being struck by lightning. We know there’s no love of your life. Love isn’t terrifying like that. It’s walking the fucking dog so the other one can sleep in, it’s doing taxes, it’s cleaning the bathroom without hard feelings. It’s having an ally in life. It’s not fire, it’s not lightning. It’s what she always had with me. Isn’t it? But what if she’s right, Arthur? What if the Sicilians are right? That it’s this earth-shattering thing she felt? Something I’ve never felt. Have you?”

“What is love, Arthur? What is it?” she asks him. “Is it the good dear thing I had with Janet for eight years? Is it the good dear thing? Or is it the lightning bolt? The destructive madness that hit my girl?” “It doesn’t sound happy” is all he can say.

We all recognize grief in moments that should be celebrations; it is the salt in the pudding.

Time has been waiting here all along. In a snowy alpine resort. With cuckoos. Of course Time would turn out to be Swiss.

Like a wintertime swimmer too numb to feel cold, Arthur Less is too sad to feel pity.

Boredom is the only real tragedy for a writer; everything else is material.

They are not young, not at all; there is nothing left of the boys they used to be. Why not sell his letters, his keepsakes, his paintings, his books? Why not burn them? Why not give up on the whole business of life?

“Arthur, I’ve got a theory. Now, hear me out. It’s that our lives are half comedy and half tragedy. And for some people, it just works out that the first entire half of their lives is tragedy and then the second half is comedy.

“Arthur, I changed my mind. You have the luck of a comedian. Bad luck in things that don’t matter. Good luck in things that do. I think—you probably won’t agree with this—but I think your whole life is a comedy. Not just the first part. The whole thing. You are the most absurd person I’ve ever met. You’ve bumbled through every moment and been a fool; you’ve misunderstood and misspoken and tripped over absolutely everything and everyone in your path, and you’ve won. And you don’t even realize it.”

He doesn’t feel victorious; he feels defeated. “My life, my life over the past year—” “Arthur Less,” Carlos interrupts, shaking his head. “You have the best life of anyone I know.” This is nonsense to Less.

It was one of the grandest and most dismaying experiences in Less’s life—Marcel Proust, that is—and the three thousand pages of In Search of Lost Time took him five committed summers to finish.

There is that scene at the end of Proust when our narrator, after many years out of society, arrives at a party furious no one told him it’s a costume party; everyone is wearing white wigs! And then he realizes. It isn’t a costume party. They have simply grown old.

I know I’m out of your life / But the day that I die / I know you are going to cry.

“My marriage is failing, it has been failing a long time. Marian and I hardly sleep together anymore. I get to bed very late, she gets up very early. She’s angry we never had children. And now that it’s too late, she’s even angrier. I’m selfish and terrible with money. I’m so unhappy. So, so unhappy, Arthur.

And Robert says nothing; he knows the absurdity of asking someone to explain love or sorrow. You can’t point to it. It would be as futile, as unconveyable, as pointing at the sky and saying, “That one, that star, there.”