Archive for March, 2012|Monthly archive page

The Idea and the If

In Love, Travel on March 27, 2012 at 5:35 pm

How do I know if it’s you or the idea of you?

When I left Galway, an idea’s all I took with me.  After all, a city doesn’t fit into an airport carry-on too well, especially when a gal’s lugging four Irish sweaters home in it after her half-year abroad.

Since I couldn’t pack the city, how, then, could I miss anything but the idea of it?  How, then, could I miss anything but the idea of potluck dinners spinning into sing-song in rooms with red walls?  Or the idea of jugglers and fire-spinners and djembe drummers – my friends  – jumping into the sea on rare days with sun?  Or the idea of winding cobbled streets that no longer lost me, but led me: to Ernie’s Greengrocery, to the crappy burrito shop, to the sea?  How, then, when I arrived back home, landlocked and lake-bound, could I not miss the idea of the sea?

We miss what we are distant from, what we leave or what leaves us.  How, then, do we ever miss anything but ideas?

I miss the idea of you now you ain’t ‘knocking and tapping and Christmas wrapping’ round my door no more.  I miss you when we drop eyes across an accidental cafe run-in or shop stop-by.  I miss rolling sushi and counting your grey hairs and kissing your hands and hanging on to the idea that if “ifs” (what if, if only, if ever, if by chance) could have a tense – could have a “will” “was” “won’t” – instead of that  nearly timeless spot of night they occupy, well, then, they wouldn’t shine so much.


New Orleans is Making Love to Itself and Everyone’s Invited.

In Music, Travel on March 20, 2012 at 7:50 pm

In New Orleans last week.  For Emily, who was found creeping in an orange car round a sweating stretch of airport under palms.

We took off!  My Tulane-master’s friend and I.  We ate hummus.  We waited for streetcars on neutral ground. We trod the street where every shop’s flung wide and bodies crowd amicably round long tables of tacos, bread pudding, and beignets (this is every street).

The grocery-story gave me tequila! When we stopped for squash and cheese.  The lady with the samples gave me the cup of afternoon liquor like no big thing.

I lost litres on sweating dance floors, to 80s tunes and saxophones and old men on guitar.  I drank a few litres, too, but lost those by the river, under the sun, swinging plastic-bag records hand to hand.

I’m trying to think about this…New Orleans.  I’m trying, but how does one fit unbridled breathing into words?  A few:

 fairy-lights, parades, dread-heads, poor, mosquitoes, swamp, Sun, porch fans, antique stores, gelato, and the MUSIC and the COLOR, oh boy, the COLOR, oh boy the MUSIC.

To paraphrase New Orleans, here’s how the shutters close and how the bar-floors sway, as street after street, audiences stumble in and out of draping swamp-stomp jazz, understanding they’ve been made to recycle it into dance.


In Philosophy on March 13, 2012 at 8:59 pm

Since we are all philosophers here, a quote from Epictetus, a Stoic philosopher from the early 1st century.

(Stoic philosophy, as the introduction to his Handbook informs, flourished in ancient Greece and Rome for around 500 years.  Stoic philosophers believed in an overall world order and that every event in the world followed patterns that could be studied via philosophy.  “Since our world is an ordered one, there is no use in railing against it,” said the Stoics.  Every event, from stubbing our toes to losing our money to bearing a full and fruitful family, will only ever follow the patterns of the world.  One can achieve greater happiness, Stoics believed, by accepting what befalls us, since even dissatisfying times are unavoidable.  Just as 2 plus 1 equals 3, we must accept the misery in our lives as gracefully as the joy: 2 plus 1 always equals 3, how much sense would it make wishing it otherwise?  Likewise, toe-stubbing and family picnics always equal toe-stubbing and family picnics.  Why throw our emotions out of the equation by wishing for what is not?)

Anyhow, a long-winded preamble to something cool that an ancestor once said:

“Never call yourself a philosopher and do not talk a great deal among non-philosophers about philosophical propositions, but do what follows from them. For example, at a banquet do not say how a person ought to eat, but eat as a person ought to. Remember that Socrates had so completely put aside ostentation that people actually went to him when they wanted to be introduced to philosophers, and he took them. He was that tolerant of being overlooked. And if talk about philosophical propositions arises among non-philosophers, for the most part be silent, since there is a great danger of your spewing out what you have not digested. And when someone says to you that you know nothing and you are not hurt by it, then you know that you are making a start at your task. Sheep do not show how much they have eaten by bringing the feed to the shepherds, but they digest the food inside themselves, and outside themselves they bear wool and milk. So in your case likewise do not display propositions to non-philosophers but instead the actions that come from the propositions when they are digested.”

I think Nike might have boiled this down as “Just Do It”.

Good Days, Good Nights

In Poetry on March 6, 2012 at 3:53 pm

On good days, I pluck pastries from trays.  My breath curls in walk-in freezers, and I don’t smudge the frosting much.

On good days, the blues cat curls round my register and asks how’s things?  He gives me names, which the library turns into CDs.

On good days, the sun harrasses my kitchen windows so much that when I come home and twist the mounted wood-wall lamp, my pot of mint is an obese tabletop Buddha.  It’s an absolute weed, an aesex jackrabbit, and we laugh together at how the world is so not wrong: me and shoots of babies doing dinner.

Good nights don’t care that my house isn’t breathing downstairs when I’m laying alone in my long, low bedroom that feels like the inside of a bullet.  A cozy one, to be sure, full with floor pillows and jewelry.

Good nights wrap their hands around a guitar neck or a flute head and sing loud.

Good nights are hard to come by.  But bad ones are, too.  Mostly there’s just this longing for you.  Still I do crawl out of my covers in dim lamplight and press my hands upon the floor.  My prayer is a whole one, even if by goodnight, I’m not.