Tuesday, June 8, 2010

14. What You Would Sing

I am in New York tonight,
the city, the birthplace of my great-
grandmother, though I am from
the other side of the continent, that mythical
west into which the sun sets daily
as it remains motionless, in place,
the guide that gets us through the dark
space surrounding us, the monstrous silence
surrounding us. Welcome, I say to myself,
to your second home. This island called
Manhattan, the city it centers, it is a network
of roads, of tunnels, of pipes, of wires, of
lines of thought unrolling. I come here
to unroll them, or to work, or to see
my beautiful daughter, who would be any
father’s joy, but she is mine, and she lives
here, hours from me, hours from us,
but happy and thriving. I know this place
well enough though not well and
require some time here merely to
collect what I need for my life.
A book, a word, the stride of a
woman along Chambers Street when
the wind catches her hair and
flips it so that she is now a silhouette,
the burst of an image, then
gone, a drink maybe, a conversation,
the change of seasons, the change of
climate, a single oyster
with horseradish. Because we live for
one thing, and it is nothing elegant
or inspiring, because we live for experience.
Everything, everything reduces
to that. The taste of wine, a sweet
vouvray, a pop song so overwhelmed by violins
that it becomes the greatest sound you could
bear to hear at that moment, petrichor,
the breath of your one wife that you breathed in
as air, the warmth of sunlight, steady
rain, the descent of night. Which is to say,
Welcome to my second home, and maybe
you will experience it one day and be
something else, though I’ve no idea
why you ever would want to be that.

You write with your body, with
your lungs. That’s the way to do it,
even if we fail, even though we fail,
even though we will fail. Take these
wandering words I’m sending to you.
Imagine they could succeed at something,
and write your own poem instead. Write
in on a window, write with word not
words, write it with the smallest pieces
of sense you can pry from the sea, sing
it out of your body, sing it out of your
body. Every poem, sung or not, seen or
said, is a song, maybe muffled, maybe
silent, maybe sounding inside the hollow
of your head, where all sound belongs,
where all voice is made. Don’t even sing
a word, sing just a sound, only
sounds without meaning,
and the meaning will come, because
the meaning’s in the song, not
the words. There are no words that are
not gibberish in some language. Words
are meaningless. Try to say a word
and make it mean. Now sing your
songs and hear the meaning.

Words are from the province
of the mind, and there is no mind,
only brain, a muddle mushy mess.
Fry them up with some eggs and
pepper ground coarse, and then maybe
you’ll have something. So sing your
songs, as if your father is dead,
and you cannot play any music
on the dried ribs of his chest. Because
song is the sound of a body, and
that is what you need, and that is what
we need, our broken, fragile, beautiful
bodies, bald, fat, going maculate with age,
we cannot walk but we stumble, yet those
wobbling shells that hold us together
are everything to us, the limits of our
universe. Your body does your breathing,
eating, seeing, washing, thinking, looking,
living, loving, dying. And inside that temple
of thought, you make your words as you
sing your songs, and they are just sounds
to me, and that is why I cry when
I hear them, though I don’t really cry,
because I cannot quite come to believe that
I am a body, maybe a corpse reducing
in size, maybe a Joycean cropse and I am
once again resurrected, maybe a corpus of words,
and I can write enough so that
they begin to have some meaning.

Or, of
course,
not.

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