The Slow Fade of Love

•July 13, 2018 • Leave a Comment

She taught me once to sing

A quiet tune, always

The contours of her body —

Indescribable but known to tongue and taste.

I suffered for music.

My ink speaks my regret.

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RIP Anthony Bourdain

•June 8, 2018 • Leave a Comment

I’m terribly saddened to learn of Anthony Bourdain’s apparent suicide. Since first reading “Kitchen Confidential” years and years ago, I was drawn to his confessional irreverence and colorfully lucid style, which, with its peppering of profanities, influenced my own. I enjoyed traveling the globe, sampling its cuisines and meeting its motley of fools with him. I recognized in him also the cold familiar friend, the profound darkness whose enveloping company we shared. In his writing and on his TV shows (I preferred “Parts Unknown” to “No Reservations”), one could always detect the undertone of that dark, though one was buoyed by his irrepressible joie de vivre to hope that he — though at cost, as it must always be — had clawed his way out into some vague light beyond the utmost bounds of human thought.

But, tragically, it seems the price was too high.

One can only hope that the suicides of two very public figures within days of each other can bring the uncomfortable epidemic of depression and self-harm further into the public discourse (https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/06/07/617897261/cdc-u-s-suicide-rates-have-climbed-dramatically); only by acknowledging the pervasiveness of this disease — simultaneously intensely private yet incredibly deleterious to public health — can we combat it, adequately treat it, help those many of us suffering silently from it recover and hopefully prevent it.

I’m alive today because I had timely access to the emergency and critical care I needed at certain points in my life, and to the medication, professional and interpersonal resources and networks required to make it through. I’m here day or night (but definitely night) if you or anyone you know could use someone to talk with or confide in. I can also help direct you to professional resources. And (US only) please call the national suicide prevention lifeline 24h/d at 1.800.273.8255 (https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/).

We are stronger together.

“To Allston”

•May 30, 2018 • Leave a Comment

there come times when I miss you, Boston.

lured by your unending twists and dead ends,

survived inevitably by pigeon shit

and delays on the B Line.

The a/c unit in the window is rigged to

focus on me, and me alone.

she, like the BC students next door

watching the Celtics, whooping cries of war

When they scored, as if two titans —

not pretend, but this time real — drew swords and hammers,

Churning the ground beneath them,

As if they were nothing more than

marooned stowaways.

No god reigns here.

Shortly past Griggs stands a Russian market,

i don’t speak russian, but believe in icons;

Icons and pickled eggs — ah!

that is what I stopped here for,

Though headed to the common & its horrors

a bidding war of factory nobles.

I think of that which lays behind me,

broken glass and drunk sophomores,

trying in agony to reach that status.

”Deflowered” is new to their vocabulary.

even now I think on Allston,

So much of me forged in that;

i hold it dear.

Just For Fun

•May 26, 2018 • Leave a Comment

I take a detour.
Among husks bold and acute,
I seek the answer.

Many a prophet came before,
Preaching heaven to the high minded.

I want none of that,
Just a blanket of starlight and gauze,
Wrapped around an immortal truth.

The time for that is long past;
You cannot redeem spent time,
The red task is heavier than Heraclitus’ ask.
“Symposium” is a play of riddles,
Plato the inept magician.

I read elegies of those who fell
In far lands whose syllables unwillingly
Grace the tongue and palate.
Learning to pronounce “r”may be hardest.

A caterpillar creeps along the waxy skin;
It does not know it will become a butterfly —
A jumble of colors and light,
A hurricane of blues and oranges,
Destined only for capture and enshrinement.

 

Indelible Memory no. ?

•May 14, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Unconcerned at the moment with an unclear future, void of goals or intentions — a poor excuse for a future scholar, lawyer, journalist, physician or whatever high-status job that awaited my 21-year old self after graduation — focused only on the road leading from Logan back to my haunt, the lone pine above her, to classes i’d learned to bullshit my way through to an “A” or “A-” with minimal effort, an education spent working through 8g at a time of the Northeast’s finest, learning who the Bad Brains and Mission of Burma were, Deleuze and Fellini. Sitting on the same gaudy 80s-era rainbow on grey themed seats so many asses before had rested upon, listening to “Heaven or Las Vegas,” having visited neither; — since, I’ve found that both are vastly overrated, gazing in a perfect imitation of thoughtful repose, not really thinking but just watching the late March filthy snow clumps and the eternally unreal pines. A landscape someone with real talent, unlike me — an Eliot, maybe, or a Lowell in his lucid moments, would have found true majesty among the menacing pines, ragged in their malevolence. The journey would end predictably — those of us who were students would collect our luggage, return to our respective sororities or fraternities, reorient ourselves, and prepare for a night of which (as with so many) we would not remember the end. In a day or a few, our girlfriends or boyfriends or — as for many of us, both — would return to perpetuate the lasting charade, that we were the best of the bunch, the tide against which to swim, though we knew the truth: to join the tide was to swim against it. All is fair in the end. We win.

Faces the End

•May 12, 2018 • Leave a Comment

It was only afterward that I realized the gravity of my sin. In the moment, there was panic, a rush to my victim, a call to my mother, who loves all creatures great and small. A silent vigil as I watched him, still breathing, sitting in shock in the dandelion-strewn impossibly vividly green, half of which I’d already mowed. The air was thick with upper midwestern humidity and it was midday; in short, it was hot. Sweat had already darkened my armpits, upper chest and brow — it should come as no surprise that I’d already taken off my glasses, rendering me just short of legally blind; give me a few more years, and it’ll be faît accompli.

But this account is not dedicated to the crows, squirrels and assorted wildlife adapted as best they can to an urban environment. No, I write this to the rabbit whose face I had just, mowing, listening to sonic youth on my phone, sliced in half. His nose gone, the wound flowing, assured that his life would soon be over, he (or she — I can’t differentiate between rabbit sexes on surface examination) was stoic in a manner I could not then understand. Only when I stood at Yates’ deathbed did I understand such perseverance in the face of impossible odds. Seneca may have understood.

The renowned poet Hewson once wrote that “Every life involves the committing of a crime.” I do not know if that is true, but I see her point: life is fragile and tenuous, and one must that which is required in order to maintain it. I committed no crime, though it feels as if I did. The rabbit did me a favor by dying, sitting still, breathing rapidly until it slowed and it and I knew his time has reached its end. Yet it was no favor to me; I had no means of ending his suffering, and if I had, I don’t know that I could kill it. Looking in his eyes, I saw the eyes of Yates — an awareness of an end, a regret about things undone and a fear, chilling to behold, that the end could be many things, and all unknown.

Livin’ In the Scrawl

•April 11, 2018 • Leave a Comment

When I was thirteen or so, I made a major life decision one day. Apropos of nothing, I decided it was time I developed my own distinctive signature. I had always looked in admiration and semi-awe at the loops and squiggles, illegible by intent, that grownups used to formally affix their name to some or other document. That was part of the allure at thirteen. A signature was something adults wielded; lacking one indicated a lack of maturity, of still being “just a kid” — anathema to any self-respecting teenager desperately crafting a sense of self. Moreover, the magic of a signature lay not in its decipherability, but rather in its snowflake-like uniqueness. Penmanship wasn’t then, hasn’t been, and isn’t now my forte — in elementary school, when “Handwriting” was a topic on par with math, social studies, science et al and for which one received a letter grade on one’s report card, I routinely received “C’s.” At best, I made it to a “C+.” A signature in its idiosyncratic scrawl would make all that irrelevant. You can’t grade a signature.

So, armed with notebook and pens, I sat down at the kitchen table and set to work, trying down different styles and accoutrements. Should I sign as “Benjamin Taylor?” “Benji Taylor?” “Benjamin N. Taylor?” These were pressing and vitally important questions that would define me for the rest of my life. So far, just to note, that’s been the case; some minor modifications aside — a curlicue here, a flourish of a tail there — my signature in its rudiments has changed very little in the intervening twenty years. Were you to see my signature in 2018 and then see it from 1998, you’d instantly recognize that they came from the same hand.

A signature is — or has been — one of the most indelible ways in which we present ourselves to the world. Our selves. I delight in my signature, and use it whenever I can, even when a signature might seem unnecessary or out of place, as in a holiday card or after the final sentence of a blue book exam. I’m secretly disappointed when I pay for something with a credit card in person and am not asked for a signature. You can keep the receipt, but for gods’ sakes, let me sign something! I love my signature because it is mine. willed it into life. gave it breath. honed it and refined it, and I alone can wield it. It is mine. It is me. I consider it as much a part of me as my DNA. For the time being at least (I have no doubt whatsoever that this will change, and likely sooner than we think), I can be identified by my signature more quickly than and as equally reliably as a genome scan.

Beyond the satisfaction of presenting to the world something unique to me and only me, the physical act of putting pen to paper and executing the strokes and slashes so diligently practiced that they long ago entered into muscle memory, finishing with aplomb gives me joy. The act of writing itself — pen to paper or stylus to clay — is and should be an exuberant action. The ability to write constitutes one of the deepest and most ancient differences between Homo sapiens and all other known living things. (For an excellent gloss on the importance of tangible writing, check out Amy Goodman’s 2004 interview on Democracy Now! with the late Utah Phillips, pacifist, musician, labor and peace activist, storyteller and onetime archivist — also a personal hero of mine). I still keep my journal, write out my “to-do” lists, scribble notes or flashes of an idea, even write my first drafts by putting pen to paper. I don’t go anywhere without at least two pens on my person and a notepad. But I digress.

Thus it was with great sadness that I read Steven Petrow’s op-ed in today’s New York Times, “Why Signatures Matter.” Please read it (if you still have free articles remaining). I share with him the sense of loss occasioned by the accelerating death of the personal signature, the connection between scrawled ink and the deeper memories of another person that a chip in a card or under one’s skin can never distill.

#ForeverPrint

 
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