Thursday, July 29, 2010

66. The Eternal and Temporary Present

I feel like walking, I need
to walk, but the day won’t allow me the time
the night affords. At least, the summer
is slowly dying, slowly
dying, and a cool sifting of air
slips in through the windows to cool
my feet, even my fat left foot, my always
swollen left foot, missing the vein that fed it,
yanked out two years ago. Somehow,
it was at that point that I was born
because that is when I could feel
death. I’m not meant long for here,
long enough for a few words, a few
walks, a few wonderings,
but enough.

I am trapped in the ever-present,
as we all are, hazy about the past, unsure
of the future, yet here, blood pumping,
still pumping, through these ragged grimy
pipes of my body, air sucked in, air
pushed out. At times, at the best of times,
I am so engaged by existence—maybe a book,
maybe a morsel of raw yellowtail, or the sight
of someone, a scent my nose can capture
but for a second—that I am unaware of
the fact of my present, that I am the pure
enjoyment of existence. But this is fleeting,
and soon the foot hits the hard ground,
the sun bears down on me while I dig the lawn
away, or a headache rouses itself in my skull,
and I see myself. The first shy liver spots,
the bald head shining with sweat, these myriad
scars that cross over my body but travel
only as I move. What I feel is what
doesn’t work anymore, and the numbers grow.

Yet I don’t mind, not in a significant way.
Every life is a gift, some better than others, but
try to do anything without a life. It can’t be done.
That is why we struggle on, not because we
love life, which so often pummels us, not because
we are obligated to, but because we have
something to do, some charge born from our own
bodies and the only thing that we can do
to make a mark, maybe small, maybe
not, but enough that, a century from now,
when we are dead, when our children are dead,
when our grandchildren are old and
remember us more as structures, as representatives
of some cultural fact, rather than
people, someone will find some evidence of us,
and that evidence might not tell them who we are,
but it will support their weight as they walk
across a floor, it will give them words to read
and feel, it will engage them with their lives
enough so that they won’t realize they are alive,
won’t be burdened by the insistent perception
of themselves in space. This is the greatest gift
anyone can give.

Yet it is not escape. It is a form of deep being,
to be beyond the boundaries of our dulled perceptions,
to exist as part of this single tapestry, unfurling to reveal
story after story, one hundred stories of a building,
a reality so huge that to be part of it is to be
immortal, eternal, even if certainly temporary,
just like the present, which is all we can ever experience
but which disappears continuously, inexorably,
horribly. I was once a small child who flew through the air
across the kitchen propelled by the force
of my father’s arms to hit the wall and fall
to the ground, yet I don’t remember pain
or fear. All I remember is flying,
the pure joy of flying, the joy of the moment
when existence and I were so completely one
that I couldn’t see myself.

For this reason, I create in the present,
I try to form not the perfect structures
of the past but the fleeting and transcendent
feeling of the eternal present. If I type out
a poem so fast I cannot think it through
to the end until the end is suddenly there, if
I sing in tongues a song I can never sing again,
if I move swaths of ink together across
a page with no preconceived idea what they
might be, if I can surprise myself with a joke,
if I can cause a laugh to burst a person out
of the self, then I am there where I want
to be, as part of the world.

Walking rarely does this because walking
is too much about thinking, about thinking
it through, about considering the past instead
of the constant path. Still, I want to walk.
The world is dark now, and cool, and the crickets
are making music louder than the ringing
in my ears. There must be enough darkness
and singing in the night for me to forget
who I am.

If I leave the house and walk, I might
feel something again, I might believe I am
the night, this great and revivifying force
of sleep, I might realize the present, make it
manifest before me, as one, I might
trick myself, simply, into being.

So I had better mail this letter to you now,
before sleeping takes everything away from me
again. I feel like walking to the mailbox.

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