(A Fortnight of Lies & a Truth for the Profoundly Sad)
Our dreams and longings cover deeper dreams
and longings in the silence far away
All things on earth, sweet winds and shining clouds,
waters and stars and the lone moods of men,
are cool green echoes of the voice that sings
beyond the verge of Time
Once, upon a time before numbers, many things occured in harmony …
… a man sits upon a hill unaware. He is conversating with the moon. Get comfortable it says. This will take as long as it takes. Timing is everything. And nothing at once.
Just a moment –
The sun kisses me that I should be incapable of this murmurs the moon. Smothers me in his bright ker-shmack-a-dahs that I should be unable to share with you these whispers regarding the question you are. (Who are you?) My airless breath is caught in his kisses but my cold, cratered soul sings on the sly. So take measure and begin:
Temporarily I shall have to suspend the thunderous rhythm of the train of my fates though it has built steadily in momentum toward a point at which its power nearly supersedes my own strength to arrest its churning wheels. I am full-on the brakeman (of my own invention) and have barked at the conductor to fasten loose baggage and the hatches in every compartment. Fortunately the only remaining passengers are fast asleep or dead or deserve whatever violent surges and upheavals which this accounting and recounting and inventorying may produce. They can handle it. They climbed aboard of their own volition (not free will but theirs all the same – unique will) and have had clearly pre-ordained opportunities to dismount, to unboard from this passage at station after station over the terrain of life. The stops have been regular and timely. Scheduling complaints have been few. Until now.
Those who are left must have some taste for the ocean and for change or they would not be here at all.
Change is here. Tempo rarely.
This whistle-stop panegyric will end geographically in the lap of our mother Pacific, although temporally (not rarely, temporarily) it will have begun and ended over and over in times too many to number. Holding on tightly to its corners, edges and pages is not recommended. They are paper thin and likely incapable of supporting even the slight weight of soulless fingers much less the blood-filled, knuckled meats of a mortal variety.
(But fast, already I am skidding. Hold, I halt more aggressively or it will all be as it will be without the benefit of observation, without the curse of remembrance.)
Forever this will have been the American century. A has-been falsely named for a wandering Italian whose public relations skills far surpassed those of his peers. Whose marketing skills predecessed the creation of this capitalized time.
And forever stories such as mine will be contrarian. Infinitely untold they will remain guerrilla legends of a history unknown. So listen to the invisible voice, hear the reason of the pulsing millions who live in the shadow of a great white hope perpetuating existence solely (soully) for the sake of each moment, each split-second of time; those for whom being is (and history is not) …
just a moment-
Some once-sleeping passengers have risen to the change in velocity. They have acknowledged the alteration of tempo and have felt the impending nature of the hard-driving tone of this ride. They must be resettled.
Sleep, sleep dear souls. Lie down and sleep. The time to awaken has been predetermined, but that time is not now. This rattling about has been caused by my own unctuous wriggling. Me? Why of course, I too shall shall set to sleep. Let me coax you into your own places first. Let me tuck you in. Would you like a story? I am filled with stories Scheherezade herself would rub heavy-lidded eyes to hear.
Once, upon a time before numbers, many things occurred in harmony, among the first of which were the alternating cries, chortles and deep-sucking breaths of a newborn child. Prior to the child’s emersion from it mothers womb many days and nights of worry and consternation had been experienced. The child’s mother had suffered from a terrible, feverish anomaly in recent weeks due to the repositioning deep within her of an ever-hardening clot of cell activity which was fast becoming a cyst. The cyst grew to a point at which the lives of both mother and child were jeopardized by the presence of the willful collection of necrotic cells.
Many prayers were whispered and sung. Healers came from far and wide to the bedside of the mother who was to bear the child and- with support of neither husband, family nor friends – whose will flickered and faded like a soft-glimmering candle, whose wax has become a mere pool of melted oil, whose wick has burned out.
It was therefore with great joy that the healthy birth of the woman’s daughter was received only to be followed by the deep sadness of its subsequent orphanage. The child was named after her mother and for the world from which she had come. The child was forever marked with foreignness. Her name was Soleta.
Soleta entered into an orphanage from the time she was strong enough and able enough to leave the hospital where she had been born. Years later, her earliest memories of the traversing which then occurred – for the hospital was quite a fine one and the orphanage rather not – were of a terrible trip by rough roads from a place of austere and sterile beauty – a place of solitude, to a place teeming with little lives; viruses, insects, rodents, a few adults and dozens of homeless, parentless children.
Soleta had been born and upon entering the world was thrust promptly thus into societal life. Into a society which was not even her own.
Now we must take pause to remember that many other things occurred in harmony with these events which we have chosen to follow in such a fashion. They are merely events which occurred – nay, are occurring – while time proceeds down its umpteen paths. Many other children were born, many other women died. And men, too. There were great upheavals in households throughout the world. Arguments and love affairs took root, blossomed and bore vengeful fruit in these few subtle years.
To her credit, Soleta came during the years of this period of spiking change and flux to realize how temporary these years were. She was cognizant of the futility of an attempt – even at such a young age – to grasp for firmament which would not be forever altered within weeks, days, or hours. She did not waste her time with names for she knew names are temporary. She was a loner. In her patient way, she grew observant and quiet and waitful.
Soleta’s sense of awareness had been so finely attuned that on the occasion of her 16th birthday she was possessed with a powerful assurance that the period of change had ended and it was time for her to begin. Of this she had no understanding save that a beginning was to take place which seemed to her by a process of elimination more sound than an ending and less confusing than a middling. (Though in truth her beginning was postdated, as this middling and soon an ending, too.)
Now, it must be said that the child faced a monumental task to the point of her sweet teens. Indeed a stranger born in a foreign land with neither parent nor guide to a culture which was not her own and under the pressure of such an intense period of flux in the course of herstory might be quick, nay would know no better than, to adopt local customs, traditions and morays if for no other reason than for the comfort and solace of companionship.
Soleta however was led by the truths of her own blood and by the ghost of an ancestor of whom she would never hear one word spoken in her lifetime and from whom the power to resist perpetually swam through her veins striking down insistent, itinerant foreign agents like a one-man army of antigens.
(yes, it was a man. And a powerful man indeed who could traverse both time and space despite the will of the child’s mother – Soleta the elder – to assert such control)
And so it came to pass that Soleta the younger learned the language of her adopted culture reluctantly. Learned their words for things right and wrong, would establish an understanding of the names they had for things good and evil but would never for herself feel an indebtedness to any of these names. Her linguistic skills far surpassed those of any of her cohorted orphan’s for she was unencumbered by the need to divine truth from the words she was taught. She sailed along untethered to the concerns that other children had. She never asked, “But … why?”
And so empowered with a language which was not her own and knowing no truth save that truth was elsewhere (and feeling somehow an insistent pull and protection from within her spirit-filled veins) she packed a small valise and on the eve of the 16th anniversary of her birth departed from the only place she ever remembered. And set sail for her fate.
And now she is on this train fast asleep. Forever 16. But we shall here more from her. Be patient. You see now, this is the freedom express. This is the train of what was and it barrels toward the land of what may be.
Or perhaps not.
The shaken passengers sleep now. Night has fallen and we make our way at a more regular rhythm. We are slowing and it will be only a matter of time now. Temporal matter scatters itself throughout this trip. The chalky dust from the crumbled remains of bones kicks up in the light of every switch flipped or matchlit spark.
I must speak of life in a colder light. For now it is night and the dead rise from within the train. Soleta the elder (once dead, now once here risen) has come to the dining car where she pulls with full, red lips at chartreuse and absinthe in alternating sips. She sits alone and hopes for no company though she knows it futile. She wishes death were more solitary. Less crowded. “Living had its benefits,” she murmurs thinking of quiet Sunday mornings before … before …
With a click and a slide of the car door which allows in the rushing air, the doppler-shifting downward pitches of our slow-grinding halt … halt … who goes there?
‘Tis the East for whom Soleta the elder is not the sun.
“Oh. Sorry. I didn’t think there was anyone else here,” the East begins. Soleta the elder smiles wanly and waves at an empty barstool, at empty tables and chairs. She knows soon they will be full. At least until the dawn.
The East is weary. Etched in its moonish face (since death the sun no longer rises in it) are pockmarks of an eternity of experience. Histories cratered and unimaginable.
The arms of the East are weak and thin. (Some years ago its hands atrophied from lack of use; withered until they became like six stumps dangling from six, thin, unmuscled arms. It appears tentacular now, another victim of the arms race, as it takes a seat at one of the crimson, velvet booths which align walls of the dining car. It looks out at the night and sighs. El Ultimo Suspiro del Este.)
Yama the Death God rides his horse through the car. Clattering hooves cacophonize against the slow-braking train and send plates and glasses into tinkling showers of shard. The car is crowded with the stench of rotting bodies. The long-ripening redolence of stale, dead aspirations fills the air.
My parents are here. My grandparents and greats. But none of them disturb me. They do not even acknowledge me. They are unsure of my blood. They do not believe from my actions that I am of them. Some are convinced I am an impostor put here to satirize, to libel the family name. Would they had fingers they would write the train themselves.
It brakes hard. Momentum is fading.
Soon comes the dawn and a brief respite before my lecture. My final oration. And eventually, with a last toot of the blasted horn, the end of the line – la mer. The death train ends its trip.
It is time to break fast.
Good morning gentle ladies and men, esteemed colleagues, family, friends and enemies mine.
Finish your coffee and dough knots, bagels and fruit. I will allow for your digestion but I must finish before we come to a complete halt which by my own calculations will be within the hour. Our mother Pacific awaits our return.
I would like to take a moment of silence first for our dearly departed conductor, who passed of old age sometime in the night, and to the brakeman who – his arms having been rent from his body – has locked the brake into position with his legs but has subsequently bled to death. Their sacrifices have been immeasurable and I look forward to seeing them on the return trip by night.
Champagne. Everyone. Please. The long, dark night has ended. The dead are behind us and we arrive at the beginning. Soon.
The title of my lecture today as printed upon your programmes is, “Linear Models of Time and Space in Dilated-Locomotive Physics,” and for those of you who thought you could make out or wondered over the subtitle, a confirmation: yes, it does read, “(narrative form)”. (laughter)
I take as my fundamental assumption the fact that we speak the same language at least insomuchas everything I say – have said, will say – is comprehensible.
We are all murderers and prostitutes.
Soon this train will come to a halt and we shall face our mother with newborn eyes. She will see within you. She will know you for your true self. Then, on high the sun will shine down upon the waters of the Pacific and standing here on the tall sea cliffs at the last train stop of the freedom train you shall know peace. It shall be alit within you by the triangulated silvery sparkles of the sun on the deep blue sea. The finger of the sun points directly at you alone in sprinkles of silvereen.
Our train comes to a halt now. I shall sound the horn for your release. Hear it friends, hear it blow and know that you are free at last, at last you are free. And with this trip ended, love. Love. Your debts are paid. Life awaits you.
California lays beneath the sound of the great whistle hoooooooooooooooooooooot.
Run, run, run, into the ocean. Run to your mother Pacific and feel her cold fingers (running) in your hair.