Two of my high school acquaintances are secret police and have come to arrest me for mean songs I wrote about people decades ago. The taller one is playing it stern. The shorter, still blond and baby-faced, keeps glancing at me and chuckling, “You know, that was a funny song,” until a look from his partner shuts him up.
As above so below
In the Home Depot parking lot a dozen guys hunch their black jackets against the cold as they wait to be picked up for a job. In the tree above a dozen blackbirds puff against the cold and whir.
“You’re one of those people who makes a face when you go outside,” he said, “like all you want is for time to pass, and like it hurts you in passing.”
It’s goddamn GAME OF THRONES time. Here’s a map depicting the complete world of GAME OF THRONES, with an overlay showing the principal tectonic faults so you can understand why the landmasses took the shape they did. They think of everything! Check out the big strike-slip fault going up the middle; that's going to be trouble.
What happens at street level in GAME OF THRONES is, people torment other people through closed doors. Kings have been tossed into the street by their queens and are trying to barge back inside. A student holds a door shut against his teacher, who is making blandishments of the worst sort, not so much sexual as insinuating violence. Thank God there’s a phone next to the door! Thank God it’s possible to call 911 while holding the door shut!
Here come two cops. Sir, is this the individual who was disturbing you? Yes, that’s him. But when the suspect steps into the light, it’s just a street person, not the teacher. Now the teacher himself comes forward, smirking because the 911 call was the student’s last gambit and he’s scotched it with the misidentification. But the student begs the police not to go, with such desperation that finally they take both student and teacher by the elbows and set out for the station.
The teacher pulls two knitting needles out of his pocket and starts to conjure a length of glowing green yarn in midair. That he would do such a thing shows that he’s a powerful magician and obviously guilty, so the policemen pull out knitting needles of their own (there’s no other way to fight back) and summon up lengths of white yarn in response. But they’re just beat cops and can’t do much. In no time at all the teacher has woven an airborne sack which settles over the heads of the others and pulls them suffocatingly close. “I’m sorry,” the student manages to say before breath gives out, “I thought I was doing the right thing, but I’ve led us all to an agonizing death.” That’s how it goes on GAME OF THRONES.
The 2010s, when you finally got it together and the world got so much worse. It seems like a Faustian pact, but it wasn’t so—only a matter of picking out the right step on the escalator.
If it’s sour, when aren’t you sour? If it’s sweet, why aren’t you sharing?
Caesium bead of a heart, hammering seconds, heaping years. (Accomplishment number one: did not drown in the Seine. Accomplishment number two—stop it.)
La vida es sueño more often now, and I do feel gentler toward it since it was so improbable. The Colorado Rockies ranged in file like a frozen dance on a frieze. My reading chair in this house on a slope, which at times is identical with the house of my childhood and at other times drifts like a boat in the blue.
Fireworks are going off for the world to come. The futurists are back in business, starting as always from the unexamined assumption that there’s going to be a future. Of course the millenarians haven’t guessed right either.
Night in Tsuwano
I thought fear and love were twin moons, and by an optical trick one resolved into the other so that fear was a love shy of not meeting its object, or shy of meeting it.
I got out of bed, crossed the dark town and climbed through the thousand gates of Taikodani Shrine.
The cat sleeps away the hot days in closets and on cabinets, thinks feet covered by a blanket are beneath her on the food chain, at intervals stretches to twice her usual standing height, insists on acknowledgment of her ancient rights but submits to R.’s swooping embraces from above.
The big dog, German Shepherd with some shaggy mountain mix, shrugs off other dogs’ tantrums, blissfully tears apart every toy she is given, has pledged to sniff every inch of sidewalk in the surrounding square mile, is shy of new people but wags her tail at J. in expectation of being led to the promised land.
We’ve all heard the owl in the backyard tree (barn, I think?), and J. and R. have seen its shadow winging back and forth.
Taking out the trash, I met a cat with a huge fur stole of a tail. Fox? I had to call J. out for confirmation. It was unshy and moved only slightly from the shadows to crouch in the glow of the streetlamp, sleek and gray, as I wheeled out the trash and recycling and green waste in series, keeping its snout pointed at me in agonies to know what was under the lids.
Skunks in headlights, smell of skunk battles gone by.
We walked bikes and the dog to the park, met other dogs, and R. ran ahead and called back, “There's a dog here with no person!” We followed and found it staring at us over its shoulder. My first thought was that the trash fox had followed us and expanded like Mephistopheles. “That’s a coyote, R.” It loped away.
J. took the dog for an outing at nightfall and startled an antlered stag into leaping up the hill.
Life in an urban zoo!
A university building at dusk.
I went round a corner to be alone. For the next 45 minutes no one needs me.
Inhospitably clean hallway light. I look over a scattering of research posters that have nothing to do with me, sit in a chair not intended for me because it’s not intended for anyone at this hour. The doors aren’t locked, but no one is quite supposed to be here.
As a kid passing through deserted, unwatched buildings at the University of Arizona, I discovered the comfort of spaces that didn’t have me in mind. I wanted not to belong to them. It’s so much easier to be a visitor, a haunt, than a regular. But that was many years ago, and when I catch myself now in the mirror of an empty bathroom I look like a madman.
happy birthday Mr. Meat!
Thank you, comment box! We hauled a terrible old dishwasher to the recycling center, J. took me out for coffee and a pizza lunch and we bought a small Japanese maple that is supposed to get bigger in the elevated garden if we treat it right. Back out for burritos in the evening, I helped R. with her math homework while they got wrapped: Zeus gives Paris a bunch of apples, Paris eats half his supply then another half apple, half the remaining supply then another half apple, half the remaining supply and so on; Paris really likes apples. J. says they should have checked whether Paris was a pig. We imagine three put-out goddesses waiting around the backdrop.
R., now eight, takes the world racing, on her bike or otherwise, and swallows pretty much anything it throws at her, until all at once she can’t. At school, in public, she takes it like Marcus Aurelius. But at home she’ll collapse on herself, and it’s awful how quickly she can lock herself into a small container and lose her path out. I know how it is because I still do it as well, in my quieter way.
The spreading eucalyptuses at the BART station seem to have something enormous weighing them down. It must be all those Chinese paintings (not only Chinese paintings) that put me in the doubtful habit of giving moods to trees.