Somebody told me once that the way Homer was able to recite the Iliad over the course of many days was to imagine the story as a house with many rooms, each section representing a room populated with the story and so, in his mind, he would walk each room describing what he saw. Today on the job, your poet could find no room in his mind in which his mind could rest, so he lay down in the darkest one he could find and wept.
Just before the beach, Achilles remembered himself as the boy high in the trees. He told that boy endure, child, endure. He thought of Hector waiting for him just beyond the dunes, his own singular art of killing. Coming over the prow and into the surf, his is the shout that can be heard for eternity. The arrows raining down from heaven, thousands of them, each one is a gift.
My sophomore year I went downtown with some other kids to a show in a warehouse club on Foushee named Caution. I think it was the first time any of us had ventured below Belvedere into the true grimey heart of this city we found ourselves in. I remember stairs up to a wide open room and a typical metal outfit grinding out some noise, all hair and bad teeth and attitude. There was a pit just under the stage with about twenty young guys hurling themselves around. I scored some beer somehow and me and my friends stood at the edge of the pit, uncomfortably, not sure what to do except watch.
Eventually the pit cleared out to a ring of boys all facing inward, with no one paying any attention to the band or what music they were making. I could feel the volume of it in my chest. The two guys left in the ring looked to be friends as they were both laughing as they threw each other around; one big guy all in black and a smaller dude in boots, jeans, biker jacket and no shirt. The big guy pushed the other into the crowd and he came running back and plowed into the man in black's chest. The kids forming the ring threw whoever got shoved back into action. Everybody grinned, the band never slowed down. Then the smaller kid in the jacket, leaping like a rabbit, crossed the width of the floor in ten jumps or so and landed his fist dead in the face of the other guy, knocking him down. At that very moment the ring collapsed with a surprising suddenness into an ocean of violence, every fist thrown, every body there colliding, the band playing metal full bore behind it, perfectly choreographed as if it had been planned that way. I told Tim I though it may have been the most beautiful occurance I have ever witnessed. We were stopped at a redlight at Broad and Boulevard, I was smoking and he responded,
"Dude, all of your stories have some element of violence in them and how beautiful it is. I think you must be really angry."
"You think?" I said, laughing.
"Yeah, it kind of worries me sometimes."
"No shit. It's been there as long as I can remember. Since I was a little kid. I don't enjoy it." I smoked a little there at the light and said, "I really would like to get rid of it one of these days."
"You will." Tim said.
In May, on a whim, I downloaded this album. I hadn't regularly listened to Sleep since the mid nineties when I was in art school and washed dishes for a living. I have no idea what possessed me to download it, other than it must have been divine providence, because Sleep, and the two bands that rose from it's ashes, Om and High on Fire, have become entirely undercurrent in my life since then.
Now, in the west end, I'm ready to kneel east on a prayer mat and offer thanks to each and every god in the off chance I might strike on the one that chose to come down and kill this summer. The garage I've set up shop in, building bookshelves this week, faces southeast and has cooked me for a month. The place is mostly finished, but unoccupied, and I've been there long enough to know each well-preserved trophy wife, to wave to them and their specialty dogs. The development has suffered from the economy, less than a third of the units are occupied. It is decidedly high-end; empty Charleston style row-houses and empty mock-Georgians. There are no children.
The first couple of weeks out I ran crown molding, alone, through the whole upstairs. I kept thinking of a vignette from Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles, in which two astronauts are captured on Mars and kept in a place fabricated like a small southern town from Earth. It was populated my Martians disguised as humans, who behaved as if they had known the Earthlings all their lives, and were kind to them, so they actually believed they were back home. At the end of the block I'm on there's a fountain in the middle of a huge pond, surrounded by acres of dirt. Sometimes after a good hard rain, the fountain erupts the color of mud. Most days there this hot summer the sky has been pale and clear, a washed out blue.
Across from the garage is a pair of massive empty concrete slabs, a project that looks to be on hold indefinitely. Bordered at one perimeter with bulging silt fences, then orange safety fence by a line of loblolly pines. They shoot straight up, having establishing minimal limbs as they jostled with each other to form a forest. Now on the sudden, ragged edge bordering our mud lots, they look naked, gangly and tall, brides stripped bare by their suiters.
My music and my landscape. I get what I can out of my body. I start each morning with metal, I almost dance while I work. I run through the house, a carpenter again, moving fast. I am angry and that is okay. It is anger that drives me. I see the pines and remember my own woods in Georgia, a small brown haired boy, maybe ten, out in them alone all day. This morning I smoked out on the slab, with this music in my ears that still frightens me. It is music that is pendulous and brooding and then explodes. I know it for what it is now, a dirge, it is the white hot origin of pain in darkness, it is the sound of my own raw origin, I know where it comes from and why. The sky was low and gray and fast, the first cool morning of fall finally arrived, I stood with rusted rebar bent into gravel and mud, listening, waiting for epiphany to either cut me down or else flood me with violent rapture.
\ˈkän-ˌdü-ət, -ˌdyü- also -dwət, -dət\
Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French cunduit pipe, passage, conduct, in part from cunduit, past participle of cunduire to lead, from Latin conducere, in part from Medieval Latin conductus.
Date: 14th century
1: a natural or artificial channel through which something (as a fluid) is conveyed
2 archaic : fountain
3: a pipe, tube, or tile for protecting electric wires or cables
4: a means of transmitting or distributing (a conduit for illicit payments) (a conduit of information)
--from Merriam-Webster online
Two high concrete retaining walls lining Quioccasin at Gaskins form a blazing narrow channel there. Achilles walking through it. Achilles pierced with many arrows but cannot die. Rabbits racing tattooed across his abdomen. Embraced, goes nova, forms a new constellation. Embrace him.
Hector, having killed Patroclos, took the armor of Achilles from his body and put it on. Hector's son finding him this way in their courtyard burst into tears believing the monster had killed his father and come home.
Letting Go is a simple chord progression that cycles for days. It ramps up, it declines, wears a groove in the thin layer of narrative that circles your mind. It is hot blood that must finally cool. It's refrain whispers forgive me, forgive me.
I took Henry to the National Air and Space Museum. However the best part, for me anyway, was finding that the Martin Puryear exhibit was still up across the street. We went and sat down with each piece in each room and talked about how it was made, what it reminded us of, and how it made us feel. Tomorrow he starts second grade.
8 Physics- A recurring series of operations in which heat is imparted to or taken from a substance, as in gas or other internal combustion engines, which by expansion or contraction gives out or stores up energy and is finally returned to it's original condition.
The only way to go against the will of God is to go alone.
The shattered family is a song in and of itself.
The only true way to sing the loss of the exile is without you.
Without you. Without you every morning I march to war.
- Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Medieval Latin campion-, campio, of West Germanic origin; akin to Old English cempa warrior
- 13th century
2: a militant advocate or defender (a champion of civil rights)
3: one that does battle for another's rights or honor (God will raise me up a champion--Sir Walter Scott)
God, I offer myself to thee--to build with me and to do with me as thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of thy power, thy love, and thy way of life. May I do thy will always.
But couldn't get it to stick. At the same time I was working on the Grove job installing a series of countertops. The material, Paperstone, is heavy, harder than white oak, and very expensive. My saw blades and router bits were mostly dull if not completely shot and I was convinced that at any moment I was about to fuck up. So to compensate, before I made a cut , I'd say my own little prayer, "Please, guide my hand" and hope I'd cut a straight line. I have since applied this shorter one to most everything I've been doing lately.
--Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary
And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it.
It is not your business to determine how good it it; nor how valuable it is;
nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.
You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you.
Keep the channel open.. no artist is pleased...
There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction; a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.
--Martha Graham to Agnes DeMille
I got stuck on the motorcycle in Carytown traffic Saturday night around six, which resulted in a wild hair that put me on Route 5 headed toward Williamsburg. I have wound circles around this city lately and I'm tired of it. The problem with Route 5 was a spring bloom of some kind of flying insect, I was forced to stop frequently to clean the guts off my visor. I got out of Williamsburg around ten, figured it wasn't enough, reached 64 and decided to go east. Somewhere outside of Hampton I got the idea to visit my parent's old house on Lynnhaven inlet in Virginia Beach. This is where Mary and I got married sometime late in the summer of 98. The last time we were there must have been Christmas of 2000 when we discovered she was pregnant with Henry. She felt nauseas in the hot-tub one night. There was snow on the sand dunes across the creek. The next night I was sent out for pickles and cottage cheese. I came back with a pregnancy test.
I must have made the Inlet sometime around 11:30 because I have a receipt for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, which is where I went next, that puts me on it at eleven fifty-eight, last night, June seventh, 2008. I think the idea came from watching Cast Away the night before, and the scene where Tom Hanks is unconscious on his raft, just before being rescued by an ocean freighter so huge it almost seems to be passing overhead. My desire was to be out over the water. It was cold, I ran it fast and alone. It felt like soaring, which is exactly what I needed it to feel like.
Henry helped. In camo-coveralls, he crowded me, minded the flashlight, examined the spider carcasses hanging by their webs from the joists, he said he wasn't scared. He worried about the crickets. For two whole days I had him with me, in the dark belly of our home.
Will someday split you open
Even if your life is now a cage,
For a divine seed, the crown of destiny,
Is hidden and sown on an ancient, fertile plain
You hold the title to.
Love will surely bust you wide open
Into an unfettered, blooming new galaxy
Even if your mind is now
A spoiled mule.
A life-giving radiance will come,
The Friend's gratuity will come --
O look again within yourself,
For I know you were once the elegant host
To all the marvels in creation.
From a sacred crevice in your body
A bow rises each night
And shoots your soul into God.
Behold the Beautiful Drunk Singing One
From the lunar vantage point of love.
He is conducting the affairs
Of the whole universe
While throwing wild parties
In a tree house - on a limb
In your heart.
I have no idea what possessed Husker Du to cover Eight Miles High, but they forever transformed it. I tried unsuccessfully one ragged winter at a conference to drag a group of academics across the length of Athens, Georgia to the punk jukebox I had found it in. My intent was to expose the old hippy professor from Maine to it and note his response. About two-thirds of the way through the song the thing deteriorates into merely the chord progression and the drums, Bob Mould stops growling the lyrics and begins to scream, his voice a howl, it is the sound of a body being subjected to incredible pain. It is precisely there that the song is transfigured, it is there it ascends. It is there the body of the song is broken and thusly remade.
I got the idea from a conversation I had with my friend Paula on a trip we took with my wife going up the eastern shore to New York. I can't remember how it went, something about depression, the affliction of it, the banality or something. I made the piece with her in mind, and afterwards asked her if I could install it in her apartment on Lombardy. She allowed this reluctently. I think I hurt her feelings, that I was saying she bitched all the time. The roofing compound never fully dried and it left black marks on her pine floors. After she moved away, it moved to Lisa T's backyard in Church Hill where it deteriorated and was eventually trashed. I don't think I ever got slides of it. It was a mediocre piece anyway.
I think what Paula was getting at was the process of dealing with pain, and in talking about it how you get sick of hearing yourself talk about it. Or that it never stops. I didn't care, I was in love with the word. Anguish is a word that sounds like what it means. It is the image of a body tumbling through space. To know it, fully, is to be crippled by it. Lying awake, it is a word that breaks over you like a wave. I think now that I should have driven the sculpture to the ocean and filmed it rolling in the surf. Anguish for the sadness associated with the sound of the ocean, Etc. for the set of waves lining up to crash.
2. And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
3. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus and suddenly there shined around him a light from heaven
4. And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
5. And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest, it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
6. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.
7. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.
8. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man, but they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.
St. Elmo is a working class neighborhood at the foot of Lookout Mountain. It is categorized as being the oldest "bedroom suburb" in the city. My grandfather used to ride the trolley to his foreman's job at Crane Porcelain. In the seventies they built a project directly over the hill behind it. There is a company there that built wooden horses and carriages for carousels. There are horses at the windows, still. The neighborhood holds the lower station for the Incline Railway, a train that goes up Lookout at a maximum grade of 72 %. Forest Hills, the cemetery which holds my grandfather and many others of ours was established in 1880. It is Gothic and serpentine, it's roads winding up hills and falling into hollows. Like the rest of the neighborhood it has been burdened and neglected and revived over decades. We buried him facing northeast, I believe, and years later, my grandmother next to him, at the foot of a hill, across from the train tracks that roll over a bridge separating St. Elmo from the rest of the city. The arched stone bridge there forms a sort of a gate for St. Elmo.
I don't remember feeling much of anything the day we put him in the ground. It would be four years later before the grief fully landed on me. Thus the gift to be carried with you always. I remember most being shaken by the sight of his twin brother grieving openly, sitting graveside in a metal folding chair alongside others of our family now gone. I don't remember his brother's name.
I have no reason for recalling any of this now other than my mind has lately been turbulent with memory. My therapist says is it is due to grief.
My dad used to say he would burn a quart of oil in his GTO to go see my mother in St. Elmo from East Lake. A couple of summers ago me, him, mom and Henry went to Chattanooga for a Harley Davidson rally. Dad and I took the bikes out see Pa-paw's old place and got lost heading back in to town. We wound up coming around the back way to East Lake, to the house he grew up in. The neighborhood wrecked, I remember an engine block hanging by a chain from the lowest branch of a dead oak tree, surrounded by emptied carcasses of other machines. The porch of his mothers house fallen in, the porch I once sat on. The collapsed porch of my fathers story that he is only now beginning to tell me.
by Henry Blancett
The South Mountain Coward
Eating sour tomatoes
In the shower
For an hour.
He did not know
That he was actually eating
Bowls of powder
He thought it was chowder,
So he spat it out!
He went to the sea to drink
But before he drank
He saw a drowning cow.
He saved the cow
And taught him how
To eat chowder in the shower.
Ms. Ford's Class
William Fox Elementary
- Middle English fadme, from Old English fæthm outstretched arms, length of the outstretched arms; akin to Old Norse fathmr fathom, Latin patēre to be open, pandere to spread out, Greek petannynai
- before 12th century
One day I'll go back, alone with my camera, to stop and record each cornered and relic fruit stand under dark canopies of moss covered pines, each hoary road-house, each derelict gas station with roof angles jetting off for no practical architectural reason. Elemental Florida, the true one that I remember. Instead Daddy and me ran over the beige shell-embedded road through Ocala and headed out 40 to Silver Springs. I followed him over the great bridge of the Intracoastal into the Silver River state park through that hard country where a man named Bill Tester, who would later mentor me, crawled into this swamp-world before breaking out to New York for the first of two times, learned his craft and went insane.
When I was little, the bridge over the Intracoastal always seemed to be a mountain to me, the last of a long extinct line passing through there. Daddy running the FXR up it that day seemed to be going straight into the sky. It was under that bridge that my Pa-paw and me once flung a bottle into the waterway. I had written a letter with my name and a little about myself and sealed it up with wax, I was maybe nine years old. It passed, somehow, through the broad waist of Florida, through swamps un-numbered and perils over years, eventually making it out to the Atlantic and the Gulf Stream.
It passed north and into the Pamlico and then later the Albemarle sound of North Carolina, where it was discovered, about an hour's drive south from where we would years later settle in Virginia, by two fishermen. A reporter from a newspaper called us back in Tennessee and asked me questions about it. Four years might have passed since I first threw it in.
Daddy never could find an article about it, nor the name of the reporter or the newspaper. There's no telling where this bottle with my name scrawled in it might be now. I have tried before to chart it's course through the state of Florida, many times daydreamed how it might've meandered, got hung up under mangrove roots, then broke free. I don't reckon it ever sank.
I cannot form a clear image how it finally met with the Atlantic, or how exactly it might've bobbed in the eternal deep-blue of the Stream, or for how long. I wonder why it chose Carolina to come back, this small thing with a part of myself sealed away in it. Why not journey forever, lost, mad and alone like Ulysses?
The intersection where the jaw hinges, greets the tendon rising up the neck, embraces the root of the ear. A body adrift, banished. Beheld. The pelvis is a ship, a construct, that holds what fruit there is of us, miles and miles of us. The flaring edge of the iliac crest peaks at the hip, there is bound in sinew and dives away again, forms a valley. Another confluence. Resembling the way God's hand shapes the Blue Ridge going north up 81. The bones ridged and many across the top of the foot, the arch springing, the air that somehow moves beneath. It is a lost landscape, it asks an old question, "What is going to happen?"
Robinson street cuts across this story, the story isn't anything to fall in love with. That would be stupid. Over by the lake the road isn't Robinson anymore it's something else, it is the fountain road. The sun hadn't set, there was pink yet in the sky shot deep into the water, gas lights ringed the lake in orange, reflected like a constellation there, the deep blue left in dusk ran deep throughout, the surface chopped by wind, the fountain caught the white hot from the tennis court lights. It sparkled, fragmented, and danced. It danced like a falling chandelier might dance.
Sam, who was a year younger than Henry and still ten pounds heavier and who hasselled my kid daily unlocked the door and let me in. The room was open and airy , many lights in the ceiling, many doors and windows facing the blue edge of mountains east. There was red mexican tile over most of the room's breadth, the noise from the children was constant and almost deafening most of the time. I crossed to the horseshoe shaped countertop in the heart of the room, which served as a kitchen, where Mrs. Pam, in the middle, was serving up juice. The other children were in centers, Henry playing with his legos, and I let him be. Mrs. Pam was tall and midwestern, with short hair and the kind of glasses you might think a woman from the midwest would wear and everyone loved her dearly.
She leaned in and told me, almost in a whisper that the father of one of the kids, Gabriel I think it was, was bi-polar and stopped taking his medication, and today had gone missing from wherever he was interned. There had been some talk that he might come to try and take Gabriel. I remember she smelled like something, lilacs or cookies, one. I remember hearing her husband Scott upstairs in the kitchen and imagined him staying home from work that day, carefully loading borrowed guns while the muffled noise of the children floated up the stairs.
Just past the kitchen area was a large carpeted patch where I always managed to bring Henry in late and disrupt the story each morning. The was a tall window behind it facing a deep window-well where the earth fell away toward the back of the house. Field mice would tumble into it and so trapped, would die, the children poking at the window like a terrarium. Mrs. Pam would tell them each mouse was sleeping, until Scott would come later and remove the thing.
The window-well bothered me so one rained-out friday I constructed a chicken-ladder for it, one of four I have built in my time as a carpenter. You have seen them before, they consist of one long board with small cross pieces, blocks, nailed across it acting as rungs. It is an ancient and simple construction. I think I built it out of some half-inch plywood I used for templates and some white oak left over from a porch job. Mrs. Pam said it was the nicest thing anyone ever did for Gooseberry. I set it down into the well so the mice, at night when the children had gone, could perhaps make their way up the rungs and out.
I used to look at my chicken-ladder when I sat at the horseshoe, as I had a hard time meeting her quick blue eyes. As we talked another parent came in and told us, hushed while the children played very quietly all around us, that we could unlock the doors now, someone had found the father dead in someone's house. With a pistol he had erased himself, his illness, from Gabriel and everyone else in this world.
On a bookshelf she had a sandbox and surrounding it were figurines-- dragons and knights, children and monsters. Some other types of people, heroes maybe. I can't remember. I inquired about it, what was it for?
"Some of my clients use it to act out scenarios or fantasies they don't necessarily want to talk about." she said.
"Is that like a Jungian thing?" I asked. She replied yes, that it was.
It took years for me to realize the sandbox and it's players were made for children. A way to help those with no formed language, perhaps help them to communicate things there may never be no words for.
I must have stared at it frequently as one night my therapist paused and said, very slowly, to me,
"Clay, would you like for me to get down the sandbox for you?"
I thought about it for a long time but again, I didn't have the guts.
I tugged open the choke, started it easily and left it there. Gloves, zipped up my jacket, warm in my leather shell and helmet. I got it off the curb onto the worn pale road, the front tire almost bald now.
Rolling south, the wind increased incremental with speed. At Monument I banked east over the cobblestones, opened it up, all noise and fury. I muttered to the bike under my helmet, "Bark, boy, bark."
- \ˌin-tü-ˈi-shən, -tyü-\
- Middle English intuycyon, from Late Latin intuition-, intuitio act of contemplating, from Latin intuēri to look at, contemplate, from in- + tuēri to look at
- 15th century
1. instinctive knowledge: the state of being aware of or knowing something without having to discover or perceive it, or the ability to do this --msn encarta
Intuition is apparent ability to acquire knowledge without a clear inference or reasoning process.
It is "the immediate apprehension of an object by the mind without the intervention of any reasoning process" [Oxford English Dictionary]. --wikipedia
I believed I could wake before those windows forever, to regard each morning broken and remade again and again.
In his partitioned bedroom Dennis slept, three walls enclosed in the open heart of the warehouse. The clock by his head held a disk, left in it for years. Slow metal erupted at a specific time, the same song.
I heard. I thought only of the notes, the lush fabric of sound as it turned, flowed, wrapped in the feedback of itself.
The song faded and I rose, and everything was once again irrevocably changed.
- Middle English, from Medieval Latin agent-, agens, from Latin, present participle of agere to drive, lead, act, do; akin to Old Norse aka to travel in a vehicle, Greek agein to drive, lead
- 15th century
2 a: something that produces or is capable of producing an effect : an active or efficient cause b: a chemically, physically, or biologically active principle
3: a means or instrument by which a guiding intelligence achieves a result
4: one who is authorized to act for or in the place of another: as a: a representative, emissary, or official of a government
Somewhere in the grey wood by the river is the huntsman and in the brooming corn and in the castellated press of cities. His work lies all wheres and his hounds tire not. I have seen them in a dream, slaverous and wild and their eyes crazed with ravening for souls of this world. Fly them.
--Cormac McCarthey, Suttree
Three days before the solstice, I chase my father down a nameless pissant north Florida road, on my mother’s black 883. He’s riding the red FXR that started all this, the bike I learned on, always wanting to run out from under me. It is the red chariot of Helios and back then I was Phaeton clutching the reins.
It is not warm but cool out, there are the unnatural pines, un-harvested rows of them, lining the fast periphery. There is the bend in the road, over the slow creek, where the air is still and unsafe, the guard rail scarred and black from years of impact, conflict, there at the point of apex where shit breaks loose.
I joked once that the reason this works is that there’s no way for us to talk. On the four-lane back home I get up to his four o’clock and listen to the pipes, let them obliterate all sound. They become a song at that point. It sounds like a chorus.
Ten miles out I can smell the ocean, and wish I had taken the windshield off so that cold air could hit me, full on the chest, and that I could let go and embrace it.