1) I can’t walk across the room without forgetting why I wanted to do that, what I was after. I arrive at the other end of the room, I do not know why I am there, I can’t tell in what precise sense I am there, is it some sort of trick, an illusion?
2) I am upstairs, I don’t know why. Finding myself at this new level, I wonder whether I ought to be here, and why, and whether it actually is another level in relation to the previous level, or whether my sense of having changed levels is an illusion, since I seem to be on this level all of the time.
3) Sometimes I recover my purpose by stopping. I leave a space for thinking. Something occurs to me, something new. It is not my original purpose. So I have new purposes.
4) I am caught in the daily, physical, specific, detail of my life. But I can’t tell what this means to me. To what extent is all this a theory, fruit of contemplation, artifact of language, training – the chair, the table, the refrigerator, the pencil, the impulse to wipe the counter.
5) I made a video of that, I sent a link. It went everywhere, all over the world, though not to anyone specifically. So far no one has responded. Maybe they could not open the link. That happens. Maybe the video was devoid of images. Maybe it had duration, it began, it ended, but no images.
6) Nothing is repeated. Each moment is new. When you are here you are here. When you are gone you are gone. Does that count? Does absence occupy time, is absence a new moment? Does it have its own sort of presence? How intelligent the aggressive others, who live in great cities, who write books. Who know facts. Have opinions that matter to others who have opinions that matter to others. Tonight I saw moonlight on the patio. I saw blooming plum trees like white clouds against the grim background of darkened buildings.
7) The computer screen’s depth. Switched on, it glows, cool and detached. The underlying binary structure of everything. Formless and void, and then: let there be light! Words dividing the chaos. Life, death, so simple, so clear. Or is it just confusion, wishful thinking, finger in the dike?
8) Thirty to forty minutes and it’s done. Then I can begin. Travel is broadening. Your life story, a frame around a picture, a basic mood or thrust. Blink your eyes and… a life gone by. Just like that, as they say. The flowers are breathing too, in the same rhythm.
9) It’s so difficult to come up with something. Nine gateways to the body, guarding inside from outside. Yet you always take things in, give them out. There’s no purity. There’s no integrity.
10) The gangly rosebushes bristling in the wind. It couldn’t be any more austere than that. How you put a world together, by will and idea. Until you can cut it with a knife.
11) I’m not sure. Why be sorry? As if what happened didn’t, or, having happened, has always been happening, that everything inexorably leads to it. That this can be said – at all. The actual insists on itself, its tyranny. It crowds the unbeing out. Why not imagine a world? You would still be in it, or are. To enumerate the ephemera. Living is painting. People won’t stop getting older, won’t stop dying, because I can’t imagine it.
12) Where’s the argument? The rug’s edge comes up to the wall. Then the wall – just a wall. Stunning clarity. Designing a genre. It envisions a life. Gone is gone.
13) There is no sense of completion, things just come to a halt. Our reasons are stupid, our poverty poor. I become my opposite, and already am. Reason is emotion. I say and do the opposite of what I wish I believed. I was taught that way. I do not believe myself. But I believe the others. I believe they are me. Reason is illusion, though it worked well enough when I first arrived. Dark impulses abound. My cage has depth.
14) Lets talk about our structures. They do not include the absences, and only then do I look for a word. But I am excitable. I don’t know what to say. Like an amoeba.
15) Having stumbled onto something firm, it seems doubtful. Even the doubtfulness seems doubtful, because, doubt about what? Yet it is taken so seriously. Is so upsetting. Everything is replaced anyway, the substantiality of the world a gross exaggeration. Words are as fickle as they are clear. You can count on them to make you up. They have stubbornly remained in your absence. Those, and memory, feelings, a painting.
16) When the decisive moment occurs it’s hard to say whether anyone holds a pivot or a purchase on it. The rule reads, you can’t touch money, ever. Everything’s removed suddenly with a flourish, a turn toward the actual, and a life’s undone, it was never what it is. All that twaddle that comes after – grasping at straws, trying to love the indecipherable, the incommunicado. Counting, cleaning up.
17) A hardness of the soul, like a diamond. Can anyone understand these words? Can the world we recall be improved? Where do you stand? All right, and where do you stand now? What’s the value of the obstructed, the obscure? What if I am always overheard by hostile others, and that is my body? Gone is gone. Impervious to the senses, the only game around.
18) The aperture is injured. The gulling fragments open. Things cluster around their concepts like moths round a flame. One thing not real is as illusion, but illusion is just as real, it counts for something, things do follow, a constant. Thinking of imaginary words with faulty meanings. Real words, but as illusion, because the meanings are not the ones agreed upon. Each thing its own. That’s not here but was is fissure, it’s dizzying, like at the narrow top of a precipitous cliff in very bright light. You are unable to recall what you are doing in this room. Where are you now?
19) And so the famous music plays, note by blasphemous note. Beyond the window the hills muted by the fog’s smudging. Fading. I’ve gone upstairs, come back down. Moments loaded up like pens or guns with ink or bullets. Written, killed. Time is dangerous, the violence that goes with it, tearing everything apart. Passing this note to you through the veil quickly, indicating something. I talk to you as though absence were a medium. It is. I cannot put my hand through it.
20) It follows that existence – being here as a function of doing, perceiving, giving, receiving, communicating – comes to a sort of dither. It is neither here nor there. People talk to the dead all the time. The dead have the best information.
21) The rabbis don’t argue about this, because they are duty bound to be certain about something. The rules are not made up. As I spread my arms wide I sigh, I weep, releasing a host of assumptions. Life turns on its head. I make culture, I know how to do things. I have memory, I respect the past. I follow the rules, I am the one who is alive. I will not be undone with too much doubt.
22) When I come downstairs a telephone is ringing. An intruder on my pure subjectivity. How can I know myself if I don’t know the one at the end of the line? Experience is alienating. Misleading, Being a person always is. It constellates another. And in another’s absence, the revision is in the beginning, always was. The past darkens. The grass illuminates. A beginning includes an ending. Why God must be my good friend.
23) So I came here to let something fall from my grip. It’s in the drawer, a world I can improve. Passion’s twist, my childhood, my parents. Here they are. We danced. We never sat down. We coaxed the wallflowers into dancing too. I’m here on the couch, water dripping from the eaves. I’m a person, beyond artifice, beyond genre. I am my own genre, template, limitation, what I say is what needs to be.
24) Orchids in a vase, ceramic dishes. Underwater invertebrates, surpassing strange. Little whirring fins, a delicate locomotion. All genres express love. All love exfoliates death. People kill as an improvement technique? Is that what this has been about? Whatever needs to be is, by being that, all forms end at their edges. So I keep on listening to the tale. At the wall – the wall.
25) The urge toward dominance, or more of the same, is a feature of language. Held in comforting arms.
26) At the other end of the room the white rug, as expected. Time marches on. Spending it, wasting it, losing it, gaining it. All the world’s diseases. A horse falls down and gets up. A cat stretches. An engine turns over. A telephone answered: Hello? Is it really you?
27) I open the drawer, remove a notepad, write a note to myself, this note, so I’m be sure to remember. I promise. I am depended on. So will remain the same person, at least till then. At least to that extent. As long as there’s limitation and time hasn’t run out I will act.
28) Sun, blue sky, wispy clouds. Fuzzy, faded, cirrostratus. Trees, shrubs, flowers, quiet grasses, mosses. This can’t be a city, but city is a relative term. But what terms aren’t relative, and what relatives don’t come to terms. How does God know God if, as the Rambam suggests, in God there is no known or knower for these are one in God who is one. This is at the limit of thinking. God’s beyond the limit, God doesn’t think. Or is thought, without anything being thought. So there’s no knowing. God is ignorant? Innocent? This explains a lot. Maybe the angels know more. At least a little.
29) Say a lot and keep on saying, frequently, repeatedly, differently. In this way you become convincing. Then yams, trolley cars, baby blankets, annoying bugs, paving stones, hatchets, front yards, lilies, stovepipes, digits, ideas, and ramifications all become inevitable.
30) A storm blasts across the plain sucking up houses, a swirling funnel of debris. When the physical world asserts itself all thinking is suspended until equilibrium returns – temporarily. Disaster is a feature of journeys, and though we try to prevent it we never do, it always redefines the landscape like a bomb. You search everywhere for a metaphor. Collect data until there’s only data, and every tiny feeling has its ramifications. Pulse, pulse, pulse, pulse: do I ever get beyond this? Up and down, left and right, cold and hot, me and you, land and sea – does anything exist in its own right?
31) If everything dies to begin with, why not kill? Isn’t killing just moving the place-holder in time? Which happens anyhow. If I see another in myself or myself in another what’s the difference who will live or die? Angels fall from the sky for the same reason. The rabbis ask, what was Akiba’s reward? God answered, To be ripped apart with combs, flesh torn from bones. God said, Get used to it, don’t try to understand. This is the way I think things through. Cheerfulness and peacefulness operate on a much larger time scale and may not match their dowdy theoreticals. Two steps forward one back. The medium’s shifting, going in and out of business.
32) It’s the richness of the proof that matters: how much you know of this checkered world, and can throw into the stew. Pain, lets say, or grief, is just an experience, gone in a flash, subject only to a little bit of consciousness. If a tree falls, and nothing’s there, did it fall? If the door’s locked no one escapes.
33) I’m losing my religion – or yours. Who decides? There are as many senses of this as there are forces that can seize it, religion is everything and nothing. We need a new religion, lets make one up the way we like it. But then who will rule us, who will forbid us from the things we love, who will shepherd our guilt? The dialectic’s reactive, it pacifies the opposites which otherwise would howl. I want what I want but I’m not sure what that is. I’ve got a million friends, I haven’t got time for this. I’m subject to the weather.
34) Persistent dream of an idealized past or perfect future. The wisdom of crowds – the sum of our lunacy yields the best results. Bad results. Numbers always add up to zero. Hope and nostalgia are functions of language, thought is hopeful and wistful, to tie two twigs together with soap. I think the green hills, they think me. Who know whether they are there, depending on my being here. Hardness, softness, color and shape. A currency of ideas. We can’t all be crazy in the same way or at the same time.
35) A symbolic system engages me with the ultimate conditions of my existence. A set of notes, metaphors, rituals and rules. I used to like it but now I don’t. I used to be one but now I am many. I used to be you but now I am me. Then I fell when the sun melted my wings. Plunged into the sea. And the farmer wiped his brow, the dray horses plowed on, the little girl drank cream and brushed her hair away from her eyes. The world rolled on.
36) The need to know – or at least imagine. How have dealings with you if I don’t know who you are and who I am and what we are dealing in. It seems to be insufficient simply to get though the day. Does utilitarian individualism free us from bondage? Which is what, to what? Finishing the hat. How does the smoking mountain play out its drama if not though force of sound, melody of demanding words. Do this, don’t do that. Is love the drama implied in wine and bread, lilies of the field? Lay down the law- in both senses. Sigh and move on or fight and gasp till you drop. It comes at the end of an era that the one you love is cancelled. The feeling of losing everything is worse than it seems. Even the landscape weeps for want of meaning. It needs a reason to bloom.
37) In the recognition that all forms fade in the dark, we sleep, dream, and fail to make account of ourselves. Sooner or later a sigh illuminates the horizon and the world as we know it caroms back into view. In cartoons you are blown to bits yet return in the next frame. How hard it is to count the days. At dawn everything seems gray.
38) Silence seems to float things, they bob, weave, and eventually fade. What we say of silence breaks it. Chirps, crackles, grunts, rustlings, bumps, crashes, all arrive at a distance. In it. Which is moist and proximate, enables, it, ennobles it, covers its shame. You are in that whistle, that hiss.
39) Fortuitous dilemma, to be alive now and is there more? A flash of a flash of an ephemeral flash. I need more words now, where are they when I need them? The end is proximate: the heart has its reasons. The urge to spell – or quell. To enunciate very clearly so you can understand. Watch my lips as I say this.
40) How wondrous the conclusion – popping out of your head and hovering above with little angel wings. You see light at the end of the tunnel, headlights of a truck speeding toward you. The altercation remains. Fruitful and amiable discussions were held – the conflict festers. Here, there, impossible locutions. Now, then, rudimentary promontories. Consider the real, the not.
41) Years slipped by then circled back. Or were already encircled by their circles. Illumined by those quiet grasses more silent than before, another quagmire, that things repeat. But – now – if – and then: where are you? I think I know?
42) I recall. Recuerdo. A man down by the boat. Bobbing, getting in, pushing off, going forth. Big ocean out there. Not a memory, I can’t remember anything. I’m losing my past. An old box of memorabilia, misplaced it. Someone threw it out. I’ve only got now. And lost that too. But remember everything as if now. What would you say to that? What if it hadn’t ever really happened? Like an actor in a role I find a memory someplace, a feeling for now. You live in my memory. You’re here. Your face. Where did it go, what to do next? Who talks back?
43) Poppies for remembering. This new century – and the last one’s history, and the one before that. We’ve been everywhere they didn’t want us. We’re the ones left out, resented for our affinities. Loyalty to the dead for whom we live. All at peace, never. You cradled them, forcing them into new eras. Their lives yours – now it runs through me.
44) Recalling you as a grassy field, each blade illumined. The rabbis taught each is remanded to its sacred place, near the chariot, below the throne. Where the light leaks out. The heavenly power, the aureole. The sacred name. Exactly the one you fled.
45) Increasingly distant with the marching time. If I came to an ending. So to speak. From beyond the wall a pleasure leaking from the words. Up in the air where you are, your wings whirring amid the sacrificial smoke, the ovens’ aroma, so rational, quietly efficient, the irrational that haunts my nights, passions unbridled – that God did not prescribe, yet implies, sanctions reproduction, if with difficulty.
46) In those years a power gathered round you. Inspiration. People came in single file supplicating themselves waving fronds and citrons. A formula repeated. And time wound round you. You grew into available spaces, you recommenced.
47) I’m not sure of the prices now. Everything bought and sold is registered. Those without homes, lost to their hearts, preferring the cold. Is being outside the social norm any colder? Is being unseen less fettered? Freedom in being nowhere. Calling the rest of us out. And to account.
48) Those who are killed. The state kills them. It is rational. It is necessary. Tit for tat. Someone is satisfied. Her grief assuaged when the wall’s erected, nothing on the other side, there is no other side. An orchard perhaps.
49) Dusk. Pause. Seeing slowed you down, you saw love in the others with some distance, with strong activity, forceful word. Then she picked up and left or did not do anything. Slowly went her way. So many Jews played violins. Others told jokes, wrote the songs we sing.
50) So critically definite. The state kills, the state hurls tiny people off its back, the state growls at its borders and checkpoints. People scowl or cower in terror. Bombs strapped to them. They’re looking at fences. Neighbors are persistently bothersome, out confined by in, right by wrong, the colors shift as the day wears on.
51) Smothered then by dark impulses. It had been later but began not to be. There were some decades that arrived, the pages turned. Old voices speak to you between the words of their stories, remembering they had nothing to say, nothing happened, the old story, the fierceness of their loyalty that then became yours, because it was lodged in you (as a bullet) later on in your silence you saw that, staggered back in awe.
52) Can’t have felt the purity in merely having occurred but in some ways did sense that, which propelled you, so variously in a single lifetime, a good story we can tell now that it’s ended, leaves turning in the autumn’s cold, driving by them in a quiet black car.
53) Always in the air, in cemeteries, drumming of earth on pine caskets, words for their tears, melodies. You were there. Wore the coat. Spoke the prayer.
54) It couldn’t have meant more to anyone than it did, a community, including all, multitudes poised at the sea’s edge, whether to plunge in, do not wait, do not see, do not pause. Be still. Get going. Thrown into air: ashes for the saddest seekers. Each one pathetic. Gather them in once and for all, the dream, the grandest illusion ever.
55) Nevertheless the fear of them, the need, changing continually, changed to be in that night, with that hope in the hopelessness, that it would be there near the wall, that it would be limitlessly comforting, a weight to it, not the words without, that lifting words on a tongue. Personal. Pomegranates, red and sweet. The fulsome dates.
56) A bulk to you, lumbering. On the Sabbath in the rain in a hat. When things die there’s pause, now beginning to be otherwise, absence a source of rest, behind the tree across in the park, where you sat and watched the stars and worried.
57) Any arrangement of people on the pathways. Any combination of numbers. You remain fixed in my mind but the warmth diminishes as you recede into reverse distances, always coming closer. It seems to be not possible, as savannahs in this room seem not to be here, until I find I go to them. Another here, another there. A sable antelope flowing by, trees rushing.
58) The bowl you built, just like the old one. Another holder of memory. The children gather there, waving their little flags. Absence refracts presence, action bounces off. Saying it seven times with the lights out. These pulsing melodies canceling time out. In a minor key. Amorphous, objectionable, identity defended though ill-understood. Harrowing implications. For a while you held that up to the light – something was seen. A river washed it away. Drops in a waterfall. Sayings of the sages, the words’ revenge, return.
59) It ripened, deepened, grew more thorough in its repetitions. Fatigued, it thickened, grew viscous, a shrinkage in the carrying capacity, strain on the breakers. Always foam on those beaches. Storms dredged up kelp, and an occasional rockfish. Carrying them, more stiff-necked ones. It was costly. Sacrifice.
60) Became an evening. So much blood lost. Blood of your emotion. Coughing it up, out, in a dark clot. Not knowing what you felt, not feeling it. Moving through space, which isn’t anything, carrying history, seeing shapes of clouds gazed at from miles-high windows. A chance to think. Thoughts that lingered.
61) A pressure as the wall’s approached. It’s in illumined grasses, you sense an aura around your words. I’m not sure how I knew. But what a surprise. Dreamed before or later. Not words exactly, not pictures or sounds, but senses of things that the named perceived thing would only dimly suggest, the things and their presences, not physical but not not. All of this is your body. Now that the wall’s dissolved. And the orchard behind it. We do not have any words for that. Our words only take us this far. Here we set them gently down in the grass. But going this far we are already where we must be. We use words to say that.
62) Becoming still more unspeakable. Can’t defend any action, all action brings dire result. Everything ends badly because it ends at all. The prayer shawl that wrapped you. The illumined presence, not a face anyone could see, yet we called it a face, and we said, you cannot see the face, and did not know what we meant though we were certain when we said it. The contradictions confirm themselves, connected as they are to their absences, which are yours.
63) The rabbis spoke of God as if they knew him, they did. In sacred syllables events going on there, praising each other, speaking in each other’s name, no one can, it’s in the praise itself, wailing at the wall, waiting for generations there, nothing happens – and brings violence.
64) Of endings, none. Of stopping, nothing. Of evening and of morning, one day. Then seven. Then twelve. Then more. Explosions of being, which is affluent. One which is dark.
65) Not wanting to say good-bye. God be with you, you be with God in sky, cloud, field. Not wanting to hear dirt drum on pine casket, decisive, mournful, distinct, shoveling till hole’s filled up, and you are tucked in earth asleep. Why insist on one? What is one? In the things that fly up and over, so many, the days the weeks the years. The secret endings begin again, what place there is seems glum, I set my jaw, am Jew, am word, and tested.
(for Alan Lew November 10, 1943 – January 12, 2009, in his memory)