Messengers have come & gone. I stood next to preachers & schoolchildren. The different faces & voices flutter & wave in the wind. If I listen I can hear them...but I don't want to hear them. I don't. I watched my wife slice an apple & put it in a small green bowl & give it to my daughter. The weather finally broke & it was cool outside & we opened all the windows. I still grind my teeth. I still worry & worry & worry...but not like before. The London Motel. Rep's on Blackstone. The guy working on the pool who was really a cop. The lady I met @ the bank & her son. The roof of my elementary school. The graveyard on Belmont. I didn't plan for this. Insurance? Retirement...from what? I never started anything. I never got going. But here I am. Here we are. The apples in the bowl. The monkey shirt & pink skirt. Spinning to music. Joni Mitchell. Werewolves of London. Brighton Rock. The Cure. The Pretenders. The unfathomable, murky & brilliant eighties. Oh...I can go on & on this way. Describing things you will never understand. That are really not that interesting...unless you were there. I am still haunted by The Book Stall Murder. Pulling into The Palms in Madera, Ca. & buying stomped on cocaine in tiny rubber-banded baggies. The luminous arms. The ricochet of Spanish & English. The long drive home. Pressed Rat & Warthog. Deserted Cities of the Heart.
So many cars. The number seems high: 28. But it is not that many really...considering. They are out there. The whoosh is constant. There are sounds of trains & planes too. & here the rooms are filled. Across the hall are all the messy little girls & their messy parents. In & out off the room all night, yelling & slamming the door. Their mother stood in the lobby conversing with the clerk. Speaking between bites of cheese pizza. The father wore camouflage & yelled when he spoke. They hijacked the indoor pool & spent their time filling the elevator with water as they went back & forth from there to the third floor. They never actually closed the door to their room. If only the Chevy could have made it up the stairs, they could have parked it outside the room. Doors open, radio on. I burned the coffee in the microwave & it boiled over. I have never been to Paris. I have never been to Russia. I can only imagine. Playing the Nocturnes through a Russian Winter. Over & over. Walking with Xavier in the Paris streets. Laughing @ the way Harold walks...on the balls of his feet. Who did he get that from? & Lenore, so busy now, better friends with Yann & becoming a woman. A penchant for Pop Music & Evelyn Waugh. Opus #9 in Bb minor & the tumor inside you.
Yes, I confess, it is mysterious. There are all types waiting for the elevator. Everybody is busy not looking @ each other. Some more nervous than others. But all nervous. A few are leaders & manipulators. They call me "Sir" Some stare off looking @ the numbers, waiting for their floor. It seems to be in everyone: The Virus of Insecurity...Wanting to be liked. Afraid of looking vulnerable. The young boy with the sleeveless shirt & the baseball cap has already adopted an air of apathy. He is working on mastering the Art of Looking Away, rolling his eyes & sighing. What could be less interesting than waiting with his fat little friend who still thinks the world is fair & people do things because those are the rules. & Friend watches the glowing green button of the second floor wide-eyed & waiting. Waiting. But already Baseball Cap is walking away...looking for the stairs. After all, he can't be expected to wait so long for an elevator. now that a crowd is gathering. A family of four. Mom & Dad nervously laughing as their youngest says over & over..."I like el-uh-vaders, maybe this one is broken, I think this one is broken". Mom has dropped back now behind Dad & is watching Baseball Cap & Friend walk away. Maybe they know something? Maybe they are right & Dad? Well he looks hungry & his hair is wet. They all have wet hair. Showers, yes, then breakfast. Free breakfast & everyone is there. The lobby is an explosion of everybody on their way. Now we don't have to talk. Now we don't have to speak. There is food & televisions with news & eggs & bacon & Froot Loops & milk & coffee & I'm next, I'm fucking next & outside the goddamn freeway.
There is the shimmering light on the surface of the lake. & now, sheep running up the path. The man in the electric chair examining the young fig trees & the golfers hitting. Reeds bend in the wind. The television & phone are outdated. They could be removed from the room, I don't need them. I have both, shrunk down to the size of a concealed weapon. The walls hum. The children are stripped naked @ the shore & a mother in white bathes her youngest against his will. She lowers him into the surf by his arms & he raises his legs for as long as he can until the foam envelops him. Three sailboats are pulled up, or pushed out, to rest @ the waters edge.. A wasp enters the room from the balcony. Outside, they devour peaches, rotting in the sand.
You have to learn to stand up on your own. To look into the mocking eyes of a drunk & move past it. To eat the nervousness of others...Take all of that fear & envy & spite & learn to breathe it in like smoke. Let it move around in your lungs & then exhale it back out. Let it mix with all of your own poison & chemistry & hope. There is no hiding. You can try to be invisible....but this is what you wanted, is it not? So who do you become while you are standing there before every emotion you have tried to avoid for twenty years? You become something unidentifiable. Something terrifying. Something you don't know. & there is every opportunity to avoid it. You still don't have to face it. You can tell a lie & tell a lie & tell a lie. Tell yourself..."I'm hungry, i'm lonely, I'm tired, I deserve this, I can't help it, what else can I do? I can't do it, I'm hungry, I'm hungry, I'm hungry. Then what? Sleep? Yes, eventually sleep. Montpelier sleepy & turning red & yellow outside & 6am arrives, a headache banging you awake. Now...start from here with this: The One Thing You Have Always Had...
There is a mystique attached to this: Traveling. City after city. State after state. But I can tell you & they say it so much because it is true, "Wherever you go, there you are." Here I am: Harriman, Tennessee. Fried pickles. Peanut Butter Pie. Rolling hills & trees. Trees that I do not the names of. I lament that. Not knowing. How can I have come so far & not know these names? How can bird after unidentified bird land there & escape my knowing. But the rest...? A bridge. A sagging fence, barbed & rusty. Inside, inoperable machines. A once thriving, or, @ least, hopeful business...deserted. A sandlot filled with young girls playing softball. Most of them are unexceptional except the one pitching who windmills the ball with grace, velocity; a ferocity that speaks to something underneath. A wisdom. An internal fury hurling pitch after pitch @ the heads of fat little girls & into the unknown.
There are roads back behind the cities. There are paths that lead invariably to a ditch or a creek. I have sat as still as stagnant water bright with flies. I, @ moments, have become the tiny pond immune to movement or release. Merely a resting place for more & more decay. It is not the beginning, there before the paved roads...it is only the first memory of a story. It is what I remember best. But it goes back further still. To a slum in Jersey City with ducks in the tub. All the way to the coast of Spain. & when I think of these things it is merely imagination now. I can only pretend to draw a knife across the duck's throat & drain the blood into a pot for soup. I can only imagine throwing some drunken quack down the fire escape when he declares my daughter won't live to see the summer. &, how is it I know, how I always know, right where the bottle is hidden when my father offers me a nickel to find it for him? & the fields? What do I know of the failure of the fields? What do I know of work? I have always been the willful vine. Enemy of the stake & twine. I couldn't see the beauty of the rows or the poetry of the fields. I felt only oppression. & so, without further investigation, or without looking back I left. What happens next I have become an expert in. I can tell you everything & that is exactly what I plan to do. I am going to tell you everything. I am going to tell you about the movement of the stars & the path of the road out from the ditch to the avenue & the freeway. But, there is a hitch. As much as I would love to move forward & finish this story & move on to the rivers & the endless sea. It seems that somewhere, someone was right. "All love stories are ghost stories" yeah, I think he was right. So before I leave this place entirely. Before I pack up all the remaining things, the books & cords & glass & shit left behind, I have to go even further back. I have to examine that duck's throat. I should rethink the plight of the physician. I have to board the steamer & watch the pattern of the waves beneath the moon as I make my way, back back back to the Ghost of Spain.
Unfortunately, I have no answers. I am only starting to crawl. There is a tail, shorter now perhaps. Fins? Anyway...it doesn't matter. I can think of a dozen titles: The Ghost of Ellenville; The Queens of Coming & Going; Parasites pt II; The Green Green Grass of Home; Fugue; Wildwood Road; So Many Birds Have Crossed Before Us; The Hospital Whine From the West Bank; A Thief in the Teeth of the World; Blanket Charisma; Winter in New York; Mystery Novel Hero. Ok...now what? There is doubt. There is no way of knowing. I can think of words to lock together. I fluctuate between the Knowing & the Not Knowing. & who cares? I can think of words that lock together. Is anybody really saying anything? I know that I am still angry. I know that there are new people & there are old people. I know that I have yet to say anything. I wonder if I am being foolish? I can put words in patterns & puzzles & I can lock them together. If I wanted to I could hide behind them...do you see? I drive & I drive & I look out into the crowd & I drive some more. If I wanted to, I could take different words & phrases & put them together, fit them together so they are intertwined, interlaced & interlocked. Landlocked. Jigsawed. Flatlined. Bewitched. Backstabbed. Behooved. The travels. The Travails. Distance. I go out into the world. I go up on the stage. I walk out the back door. The Importance of Adam Clayton; The White Knuckle Baby & the Superfluous Man; The Tragic Tale of the Central Valley; Grapes; The Last Cigarette; The Moon, The Moon & The Stars. I thought I would have something else to say. Something other than, "I chewed my cheek; I stood on the street corner; I stared down motorists; I sold all my stuff; I cried & cried & smoked; I checked in & out & in; If only...this & that; There was Fresno & Sacramento. So...what is it? What is the new thing to say? What is there to talk about? The Traveling? The going out & the going in? Seeing things differently? The mountain of rubble? The twisted meddle? I can work it out. I think here & now I can work it out. I can start to build something. I can take all of these monosyllabic words & trite phrases & say something. Something like: "This is for my father who I am (becoming)." "This is for the mother I never really knew" Me. Me. Me. me. (me)
"The Dream Songs"; "Lights I Have Seen Before"; "The Avenue Bearing the Initial of Christ into the New World"; "Though His Name is Infinite, My Father is Asleep"; "The Contrariness of the Mad Farmer"; "Hummingbirds"; "Robinson"; "Olga Poems". & when I arrived I was sure I had already read these words. & thank god(the one the doesn't exist) for making them happen & putting them there. & for all the shit, undoubtedly, gone through, day after blessed day. & yes I was alone & yes we are all of us, every one of us: alone. But we must, if we can, brace ourselves & buck up. & if it doesn't kill us...well, maybe we can write it down? It's none of my business really whether or not anyone is listening. I speak now despite myself. & what is it I am going to say? How much truth can I tell & who can tell if it is the truth? I could always tell, sweating & chewing, the truth, even if I couldn't tell it. & there it was.
There are old pictures. Our last dog. Our old place. It seems like years ago. It was not. It was earlier this year. We have switched time zones. We have new jobs. We have new desires. I have started calling myself a musician. I have started writing new songs. The new album already is starting to feel old. It is not old. I thought we would never finish it. Because I have never finished anything. But we finished it. & it is not old. It is new. It took 45 years to make. I grew up in Fresno, Ca. I was arrested there. I was fired there. I was evicted there. I moved in & out of my parents house. I barricaded myself in my room. I locked myself in the closet & I climbed out through the window. I smoked in abandoned houses. Checked in to the London Motel. I moved to Sacramento. Lived on 10th St. Slept @ the bar @ Old Ironsides. Drank Newcastle on tap. Slept on the sidewalk at the foot of my stairs. Threw my phonograph out of the second story window. Worked in a bookstore. Worked in a restaurant. Met Kid Durango & Cleats. Drove around in the fog. Smoked cigarette after cigarette. Had a dream where I walked alone on Business 80 to the sound of horns. Moved back to Fresno. Moved to San Diego. Went to University. Almost became a professor. Wrote a bad play. Wrote some songs & some poems. Almost died. Dropped out of University. Worked in a grocery store. Met Melanie. Met Spike. Got married. Moved to Woodstock, NY. Everything is changing...it always does.