Paradisio

“Perhaps it’s the color of the sun cut flat; covering the crossroads that I’m standing at. Or maybe it’s the weather or something like that; but mama, you’re just on my mind”Bob Dylan

My once upon a time wife passed over to the other side a few months ago and today a message came to me, circuitously through our shared progeny and the family grapevine, by way of a dream had by our offspring, telling me to be careful not to do a thing that, inexplicably, I had just decided to no longer do.

Not sure if she’s watching me or if my thoughts caught the firmament and landed in my son’s psyche. I suspect the latter more likely only since the former would be just too flattering; what with all she’d now be able to watch, if in fact she’s gained that power, she’d spend those winged hours watching over me.

I’d be cool with either the celestial or the extra terrestrial phenomenon. If she is watching me she knows I’m living under an open heaven; writing in the wee hours  when the balmy silence of my paradise encapsulates my typer and me; freeing us to immortalize the only record that tracks my moods.

The moon has vanished and its afterglow is back-lighting the proud formations of ancient tree stands that silhouette both gods, and my, impeccable landscape; forming low rolling mountains around the bucolic void of an idle lake outside my beloved writing window.

The absent moon has left bite marks on the sky; all the rooms in my mansion smell like jasmine and when I finally succumb to slumber, if at all tonight, my soul will take up the dreams of the ghosts who slept here before me; maybe even dreams of her.

In these wee hours when thinking turns to feeling a perfect loneliness nestles beside me as I contemplate the length, breath, width and depth of the gratitude my Muse wisdom’s me to ponder daily; reminding me that every person, and every thing, around me is an energetic reflection of some aspect of my inner state of being. She counsels my heart to choose to BE Love and watch the world transform, amaze, delight and inspire.

The great Kurt Vonnegut also provides me with similar and equally profound advice half way through Slaughterhouse Five; the very same advice he was given by the Tralfamadorians, and it seems to have been forever ingrained in my DNA even before either of them said it; proof of Jung’s theory of collective consciousness.

Ignore the awful times and concentrate on the good ones. Well hell, maybe that’s, after all, the secret and the purpose and the meaning of life. If it is; it’s plenty good enough for me.

 

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Slaughterhouse Streets America

“No more skittles, no more tea, shot down by a cowardly vigilante; its open season on hooded nigga’s like me” – For Travon Benjamin Martin

Last night in Oakland stilled winds that nightly rape City Center from the Bay caused the breeze to stop breathing like the calm before a hurricane. The beast forming just up 14th street was hungry, gathering steam inside night-hawks over-boiled with angst-ridden venom begging to be unleashed; tattooed women were screeching with righteous anger in overwrought hearts afire; mourning our broken-hearted son of America, dead; his blood on our shoes; his cries rising from our sidewalks like a bullet off the pavement.

Barack, ACLU Ben Jealous, the Revered Al and all the preachers from their sanctified pulpits  across American plead for yet another large dollop of cool out stoicism; a nostalgic creed serving to turn-off, shallow-out and calm-down the explosive reaction. Having lived through the aftermath of Martin King’s assassination, Watts and other insurrections I am not altogether dismissive of this idea. Yet every time I’ve found myself hanging by my fingernails from a cliff I’ve resorted to screaming bloody murder; there is a time and this is one of them, to call out the instigators. So hear this; can you hear me in the back?  – FUCK-THAT-SHIT!  – Burn it!

Yea, I said it, wrote it; meant it. Respect the verdict they beseech while the grief-stricken on Oakland’s angry streets who just can’t take it anymore pick up a stick or a rock and smash it all asunder; burning a cop car in memorial for our slain child as benediction funeral pyre. This level of violence is sensationalized for effect; but for Oakland this is not a riot; it’s a dance party.

And so it goes is a panoptic and ubiquitous phrase, coined by Kurt Vonnegut, in his seminal tome Slaughterhouse Five. He repeats it every time someone or something dies. He repeats it many, many times. The work is Kurt’s remembrance of his experiences as a prisoner of war being held in Dresden, Germany when firebombed by U.S. and British forces at the close of WWII, some say simply for revenge; incinerating, some say, over 300,000 people; more than died in Hiroshima.

It’s my whimsy to believe that Kurt’s protagonist Billy Pilgrim, who has become unstuck in time and cursed to involuntarily experience events in his life in random order, is really Kurt. Cursed since the events he has to recall are sometimes horribly violent and obscene at other times achingly beautiful. To escape; Billy Pilgrim conjures alien abduction to the planet Tralfamador where Tralfamadorians mate Billy with Montana Wildhack, a film star from Hollywood abducted for Billy so the natives may observe them, through eyes in their hands.

It is an anti-war novel; speaking in it way for abolition of war and to follow, an end to guns. For how are we a civilized society if every fear filled coward, ala George Zimmerman, allowed to puff himself up from his decrepit state, start a fight by stalking his prey, only to rely on deadly force and then contend he was simply standing his ground?

We almost made it out of our decades old homesick pioneer six-gun obsessive fantasy, our might is right credo, nearly about to outlaw guns in cities to live like civilized men from the future, and then Harry dropped the big one on Hiroshima; we picked up all the marbles after that and having secured in its aftermath the best lives economically of any humans who’ve ever lived, shit-canned the pacifist idea.

We are not all as passive as Billy Pilgrim nor should we be; some acts of injustice are so obscene, so incomprehensible, that the heart screams out for vengeance, for retribution, for justice; for the release of pent-up frustrations so profound that its results are left to smolder on our unforgiving streets alongside the body of another senselessly wasted young scholar. I’ll accept the verdict; won’t throw the baby out with the bath water. But respect it? Like I said:

FUCK-THAT-SHIT – burn it.

And so it goes. 

Summer Women

“I knew a girl who was almost a lady; she had a way with all the men in her life; every inch of her blossomed in beauty, she was born on the Fourth of July. She slept in an aluminum house trailer and she worked in a juke box saloon; and she spent all the money I give her, just to see that old man in the moon”. – The Great CompromiseJohn Prine

We met the Fourth of July in a small kitchen in Berkeley that succored the cream of intellectual hippies of the day; the academy kids from Goddard and Yale who were working off their guilt trips by sharing their trust fund purchased educations with the less fortunate but infinitely happier inner city minority kids from neighborhoods that supported their high schools; savants who’d  exemplified themselves enough among their peers to be selected to partake of a summer youth jobs program; all of us funded by the last gasp of Lyndon Johnson’s vision of the Great Society and its corner-stone scheme of revenue sharing.

She burst through the doorway with a personality that arrived ten minutes before her beauty; black eyes, black hair, a coltish twenty and eons younger than my twenty-seven hard scrabble years. She sported a thin patina of bravery that masked a jittery privileged insecurity that along with a smile that made it seem as though she’d swallowed the sun really set the hook in me. Her name was Shakespearean and I was momentarily struck by how our names together formed a kind of ancient love poetry. Sometimes that’s all it takes. I was there as an instructor, a teacher; she was an intern, a student. I pulled on trouble’s braids.

My guardian angel shadow whispered let her be; but when my pal made a move for her I jumped his game and sat her on my lap. I told her some story about how I’d like to come home to her and have dinner waiting; when she bristled at the idea, another thought popped into my brain that she had a bit of poison. But things being what they are with women of this sort and me I pushed the thought out; pushed it clean out. I pulled on trouble’s braids.

We lasted about a year, her and me, lived together, loved the notion of what we thought each other could be and tangled the bed-clothes in ways they can never be undone. She was that box of Godiva chocolates you know you should only eat a few pieces of but down ten instead; powerless because it’s just so good you can’t stop. She was my toy and I couldn’t stop playing with her even though we had that Leo/Scorpio thing going; where together we are empire builders but never could be close; never partners.

It was a real choice love affair, a real stormy romance; the sex was historic, volcanic, heroin-like addictive; big medicine in any mans world and like most men I figured it would be enough. But on this Fourth of July, since we are 1,300 miles apart and she landed just what she wanted; someone ordinary and normal; apparently, it wasn’t.  I pulled on trouble’s braids. I vowed to never do it again.

Now and then I’m reminded what Einstein said, that insanity was doing a thing repeatedly and expecting a different result; and what a very dead friend of mine told me; that genius was nothing more than knowing what to do next. I didn’t listen to the advice of the former and deduced from the latter that I had to journey far before achieving genius-hood.

A couple of months ago I met another girl in this tiny Midwestern town I’d landed in who reminded me of the aforementioned; had the same Willy Shakes moniker and, once again, together our names seemed to me passionately poetic. She had the braids and the bravery covering feminine insecurity, covered too in tattoos she ran a small business covering others with them; an artist. Since my last love had been an artist and that had gone pretty well, until it didn’t, I hit the accelerator; determined to be the exception that proved Albert’s rule.

Again her mystery conjured loving thoughts in a young boy’s heart and when I made my intentions clear she seemed to take the bait; but when I went in confidently for the close she shot me down with a howitzer. I didn’t know what to make of that so naturally I was intrigued; my ID, ego and instincts told me to give it some more gas. Had it not been for that girl who’d swallowed the sun; I would have.

But by now I’d gained the good sense to take Al’s advice and mix what my brain was shouting with what my heart was screaming and not let the little head tell the big head what to do; so having achieved illusive genius, knowing instinctually not to try to push the river, knowing it would not only be ultimately destructive but worse, bad form, coupled with the fact I didn’t want some mean mouthed woman with a cob sideways anyway; I let her go.

Too bad too; I was her fireman, come here to rescue her; set to peel back the layers of bad trips she’d clearly had with past lovers. Had she bought a ticket and taken the ride she’d have been six months just catching her breath. Anyway, I believe in Kismet, today’s the Fourth of July; I kept the vow.