I walked among crowds in the bright morning sun,
obscurely elated as if a burden had lifted from somewhere
and I were divining its absence from the lightness in the air.
Though nothing shone clearly, everything stuck itself out
to be seen, nakedly lacking points of reference to guide
the eyes from one place to another. The present
was constantly out of context in a way that made things seem
irreparably sundered from even that which was contiguous:
a hand apart from the arm, hanging there extrinsically.
The light was darkly ecliptic, maroon as blood that has dried.
Later I would trace the turns I took like a remorseful murderer
tormented by what he has done with impunity,
dug a hole for and buried so no one would ever know.
Guilt was at my throat like the discomfiting symptom of
a terminal disease that is untreatable and kills
with torturous lentitude: the sufferer may succeed in
forgetting it intermittently, but the fact always recurs;
a cadaverous gray reality, exceedingly more palpable
than even the most constant and preciously cherished of
the thoughts with which like gossamer he himself has woven
and gotten tangled inextricably in a hungry spider's web –
the captured insect, constricted, its wings so manacled
with silken fetters that it's unable even to buzz them feebly,
watching through a thousand eyes the curve in the spider's
expressionlessly smiling fangs as it waits with stony patience
for death to do its dirty work, so it can feast at last –
and so veritable as to render his hopes and his regrets
dwarfed in the tall shadow cast by the tragic truth
and made to seem like nothing more than abject delusions
which an asocial lunatic uses to brick the walls
that hem in his hellish world, holding cell and eternal tomb.
I felt sorrowful regret over insignificant things: a bench
I chose to sit on and the bleak view it proffered of
a park where I was the only person alone. I was
disoriented, my vision blurred from spinning in uncertainty of
which way to go: thought after thought, fronted by "but"
turned me round and round at the flying pace of my setting out.
I could not put my hands in my pockets without wondering
how long they would stay there. In the end I could either choose
to think of the objects to which my emotions wended
as fungibles while the emotions themselves were primary –
love and anger, pride and regret, well up and are directed
onto things which comprise the world; if they are insignificant
it is not from meagerness of passion but the irrelevancies
that life has been reduced to – or I could consider myself
a laborer several strokes away from the end of his shift
who rather than being warmed by the nearness of his freedom
feels startled by how close the moment looms relative to
where it was when he began, yet still seems so distant;
pluck myself from one thing and drop myself into another
with the finality of an egg plunked into boiling water;
step onto the painted line and begin balancing the length of it:
falling doesn't matter, it was an idle whim that moved me
to do this – whether I make it the whole way across depends entirely
on how blithely I give up the endeavor at the first sense of tottering.
Extreme cautiousness precedes my doing anything,
down to the slightest movement of one little body part.
So much is at stake when the incessant task of warding
off anxiety devolves to your life's objective. In stillness is
the only peace that you can hope to find from this, but
it won't be the chosen position of one with mastery over
himself, practicing cool renunciation of the disordered everyday world;
it will be the last stop on the train that you were supposed to get
off of hours ago, but fell deeply asleep, now to awake alone in
this most transient of public places, with no one to ask the way back;
the final step of a grueling flight from the merely rumored threat of danger;
the curtain-fall on the engaging spectacle that was several hours long
when mindfulness grips the audience with the thought of where
they will go now and why. Instead it will be the peace of the sweaty
slave who, noticing his master's back is turned, ceases his work for
the span of time it takes to admire the sky, breathe deeply and sigh.
Options for what I can do are spread in a vast field of Tantalus fruits.
I choose one not out of craving but out of disinterested lassitude –
there is nothing to do in this place but pick fruits, walk and look off
into space – and all those unchosen vanish away like raindrops in the dirt,
an instant later to be replaced by an entire field full of new ones,
exactly the same as those before, yet different the way years seem shorter
to us the older that we get, or the way we come to regard our pasts
after dissolving the ideologies that drove us when we lived through them.
Impulses come, but few are seized. The places they might have taken me
echo away like sounds that seek to plumb emptiness by landing in
an empathetic ear, quixotically intrepid as astronauts who take
off in a rocket, set on no course, but to land on the planet that is first
to get in their way; but at such speeds it is not long until the space is
proven abysmal, and they slump like weary philosophers who make
conclusions out of getting nowhere, who are too frigid for the passion
it takes for suicide, yet too jaded by truth to live optimistically.
I will not follow any impulse that crests in my heart ambiguously.
Will not even scratch my nose unless I know the source of the itch.
This space I have created by flagrantly casting away the things
I did not know how to use but had amassed in a grand collection thinking
all along that someday I might be struck with an insight uncanny as
divine inspiration into what to do with them, was born of the whisper
that came with the aura of morning through the crack in the window,
the hole I had put in the glass because it could not be opened:
my cup runneth over. I tolerated the cold that wafted in for
the sake of clearing the denseness that accumulates like coats
of dust inside of closed up rooms. Renewal of the atmosphere
takes precedent over the comforting warmth the closeness of the things I had
begun to purge capriciously by making disappear had always conveyed in
a way I found desultory, not at all vivifying. I sought solitude as a means
to truth via desolation, exile, perdition; and in my ruminative bouts
of lucid foresight I would arrive in a familiar city ten years from now for
a temporary stop-over and tell a friend who I left once right in the midst
of getting to know that all my restive past equates in hindsight to nothing,
a blackness: it does not matter whether it is empty or brimming full
because it negates in its fullness the most penetrating sense of vision
and I am unable to move, shackled from probing by touch; my history is
a long prison term, after which hope can come only through forgetting.
I would no longer be a vexed young man enmeshed in a crowd in a city
staring into strangers' faces for fleeting signs of hope. I would be
a hermit whose mind imitates alternately the course of river water
and wind in the leaves of trees, whose purpose is to wake and sleep with
the rising and setting sun. Some mornings, I would come across
and contemplate the spider's web, wet with the dew the mountain airs left
when they fled gleefully from the opening eye of playful grandfather sun,
every bead of sparkling crystal augmented in preciosity by
the fact it will soon evaporate. Though my fate has much in common
with the bloodless insect's it is more akin to the dewdrop's. I would not
despair, kept from buzzing my wings, I would focus on beating my heart
percussively and being soothed to sleep by its softening rhythms.
Would not panic with fitful gasps, anticipating the fang's point
first piercing my skin, but breathe like the wind, whose intensity and
direction varies to pitches of perfection that never need go anywhere.