Crane fly

“I feel as if I’ve said pretty much all I have to say,” I said, & then felt the opposite.


Why I like being a writer: every morning it’s back to square one, just as if you’ve never written a single line.


An enormous crane fly is sitting in the middle of the ceiling above my writing table, as if it weren’t the middle of winter & the so-called law of gravity didn’t apply.


For a really good starter, my friend told me, use nothing but wild yeast & feed it only on the most refined flour.


From going too long without talking, I had grown contentious. Evolution and progress have nothing in common, I said as the new subdivisions sped by.


Are children still allowed to go off in the woods by themselves & play with old bones?


“Night soil” is such an evocative euphemism! It was, of course, neither soil nor the exclusive product of nighttime visits to the outhouse. But people liked to think of it in a kind of future perfect tense, with the carts already having made their nocturnal rounds, the composting over, the fields heavy with the harvest.


The absence of leaves in the winter woods is felt most keenly by a boy walking home from school with a runny nose who is tired of being made fun of all the time for using the sleeve of his coat.


Jello never stays still – the nine-year-old girl explains to her little sister – because it’s made from wild horses that they catch out west.


Every creature follows its own route to dissolution; to generalize is to bludgeon it with a gray & implacable Death.


I would like to tempt Fate, but first I have to figure out just what she finds most tempting.


All day yesterday the noise from the interstate came over the ridge so loudly that I didn’t want to leave the house. In any case, it was raining. The patches of bare ground grew & merged. Little clouds of mist kept rising off the remaining patches of snow & hurrying away toward the quiet farm valley to the east.


The picturesque village survived the 20th Century with everything intact except for its link to bygone days, which were never as picturesque as they seem to be now.


Post-traumatic stress is not a disorder, I’m thinking; it is the working heart’s response to the profoundest kind of disorder. We drive ourselves as if we were horses, but our bodies are more like camels, or stubborn donkeys. The rider sits facing the tail & berates the poor beast for running in the wrong direction.


My stomach mutters breakfast, breakfast, breakfast until it begins to sound like the purest poem.


I am that man in the little crooked house that you heard all about when you were small.


I am attached to this half-broken plastic wall clock in the same way that a hair might persist in sprouting from the tip of a beautiful woman’s otherwise perfect nipple.


When she was sick & couldn’t get out of bed, I remember holding a tissue to her nose & telling her to blow.


If I saw them again, those flowers with their unknown names would doubtless prompt the same mysterious yearnings.


In the blues, they used to talk about working from sun to sun, as if the sharecropper’s day were just another, larger portion of darkness.


Even with the Andes, even with the Himalayas, this world would be smoother than the youngest lover’s cheek to any humungous deity’s figurative touch.


Suppose the morning star hadn’t been there to return his suddenly penetrating gaze – would the Buddha’s right hand simply have kept sinking deeper & deeper into the earth?


When I stepped out into the cold fog at dawn, a bluebird was singing.

Bad maxims

Caustic cynicism, anyone?

1. You create your own reality. Re-write history to eliminate your rivals and give yourself all the starring roles.

2. If not you, someone else then. If not now, whenever. It’ll get done. If it doesn’t, well, it probably didn’t matter all that much in the first place.

3. Live in the past. That way, you’ll never have to worry about being surprised.

4. If at first you don’t succeed, hit the government up for more subsidies.

5. It’s not who wins or loses, it’s whether we all get to taunt the losers.

6. Power corrupts. But if nothing ever corrupted, we’d be up to our ears in shit and corpses.

7. Cleanliness is next to chemical allergies, birth defects and senility.

8. Eat the poor. They’re 90% fat-free!

9. It is better never to have loved at all than to have loved and lost your dignity. So suck it up, you big baby. Repression works.

10. Real men don’t ask for help. If things get bad, you can always talk to Jesus.

11. If you meet the Buddha, tell him to give me a call. He still owes me $25 bucks.

12. It’s not the goal, it’s the journey. Especially when you’re lost.

13. You can sleep when you’re dead. Be sure your grieving loved ones spend at least $3000 for a really comfortable casket.

14. A friend in need is fine, but probably isn’t the best person to go out drinking with.

15. If you put all your eggs in one basket, you can save lots of money on heat lamps.

16. A stitch in time is bad for the economy. Throw it out, already!

17. I’m O.K., you’re O.K. It’s those other people who are fucking things up.

18. First thing we do, let’s kill all the murderers.

19. Misery loves company. Specifically, the Frito-Lay Company, makers of Fritos, Cheetos, Doritos, Tostitos, Ruffles and Lay’s brand snack chips. Frito-Lay.TM Food for the fun of it!TM

20. Before doing X, always ask yourself, “What would happen if everyone did X?” If the answer is, “Cataclysmic war and social chaos, leading to the rapid extinction of most higher life forms,” then it’s probably a pretty good way to turn a profit.

21. Some people see things as they are and ask, “Why?” Some people dream of things that never were and ask, “Why not?” If you know either of these kinds of people, please call the Department of Homeland Security’s toll-free hotline.

22. When the going gets tough, remind yourself that countless generations before you have faced these very same problems. And now they’re all dead.

Comparative religion: a brief exercise

Jesus wept.
Sarah laughed.
Gautama touched the ground.

The Messiah came, and is expected to return.
The Messiah will come when all hearts are ready, when all minds have turned.
The future Buddha is still a bodhisattva, but you can visualize him as a Buddha in the present if it helps.

With God, all things are possible.
With God, all things are possible except the forgiveness that only the person you have wronged can give.
With bodhi-mind, all things are as they are: impossible.

Consulting the Mirror

When I look into a mirror, I look at the enemy.
— Darryl Strawberry

Look: the mirror lies.

Not only because it switches sides, but because it doesn’t redeem.

True, it accuses; it judges, yes. For certain, it condemns.

A face’s truest reflection is in moving water: another face.

And the body? The body shines too. Its only true mirror is the body of another.

If I fall in love with a narcissist, am I too condemned?

We say the face of the earth, but never the face of the sky.

If I fall in love with the blue of heaven, who will redeem me then?

What does it mean to make a face?

Why is the straight man essential to the joke?

When you hold one mirror up to another, why doesn’t the world go dark?