One Thousand and One Nights

“Is it possible, that by telling these tales, one might indeed save one's self?”

On Doubt, and Warmth

When I was fifteen, I began to write my first novel, “The Unusual Misadventure of Sarah Audley.”

90,000 words and nine years later, it remains unfinished; and it is still, regardless of its literary failings and mind-wrenching madness, the most important piece I’ve written.

I did not start this story at the beginning. Even more strangely, the first chapter I wrote was not at the beginning, or even about the main character; it was about a man named “The Golden Prince,” who was the personification of life itself – mercurial and steady, calm and hysterical, somehow compassionate, somehow cruel. As unpredictable and uncontrollable as life is, so was this prince; he was the keeper of every memory anyone had ever had. He had access to everything that every human being had ever experienced, and he could use this knowledge for any end he saw fit.

We can see how this could go very, very wrong.

This chapter is one to which I still return. It is the moment when Sarah, a woman who must find the man she loves in a deranged pandemonium, must recognize that no matter how determined she feels, she must contend with a force from which no person may be freed.

How roughly his hand wrapped about her hair. How tightly he held her there, breasts smashed against the glass, their impression swelling and relenting with every breath, flattened by a world of quicksilver.

“Look in it.” He commanded. She did not, and the words were repeated like a lash across the back, hand jerking her head to see her reflection. “Look at it!”

To look at it. That was the thing. To look deep into one’s own eyes when forced, held there, captive to one’s own expression, left to endure what shameful countenance might arise from the land of the looking glass without a shudder; to forbear every instance of doubt and anger, what swirls beneath and refuses to be called, what echoes in a place deeper than words and thoughts. To look at it, to stare deeply, recounting, recalling, considering all of it, everything, every false blossom of skin and clasp and motion; so reluctantly do the eyes retrace false steps; whom might they find there, beyond recognition? Must one search at all?

Her eyes found themselves, glaring and frostbitten with conviction.

“You search because of love – “His words were sliced by the pain of knowledge, “That wonderful thrill, that smile in the dark, its sensation. Setting aside anything, everything, even safety and certainty, to prolong the life of another – Don’t look away! – and does it frighten you, this audacity?” He jolted his hand, as if to knock loose any distraction before it could take hold, no flowers to protect her, no songs to sing; her lips parted hesitantly, but his own were too quick. “No. No, I don’t imagine that it could. Lend yourself to the obsession that makes you untouchable. Bewail even logic of her triumph. Overturn everything! Overturn the world! And know, Sarah, my Sarah, sweet, inexorable Sarah, that while you discard protection, criticism, force, there is a poison from which no lover may hide, not even you.”

His grip was shaking and her lips twitching, so young and full of passionate tales; the shape of a kiss through the condensation on the glass, white over silver, a daguerreotype of winter.

“So go on…” He continued. “Find me a love free of uncertainty, free of worry and jealousy and confusion. Find me a love, Sarah – Oh, pluck it from the sky if you must! Is that where romance begins? – That is free of all things, even its own tortuous wends, a love that is free of that poison, free of that venomous doubt!”

What words could he slide free from her now? What vestige of warmth, what trace of humility? Who might dare to rattle her ribcage the way he had, shaking that sparrow within to twitter, even if just for a moment (can you hear it?) of its own uncertainty? – You won’t escape, you can’t – to tell the bird of it won’t crumple its song; but to show it, to hold it before the looking glass and force its observance, the observatory of fears, that – yes – is what glitters beyond the landscape. And it will be its end.

After I finish typing this, I will begin placing my belongings into boxes. My house has been foreclosed upon, and my family and I have to be out by April. My father is dead. Both of my grandfathers are in the hospital, dying. We put Wayne’s dog down a few weeks ago. I stand in conversation with the sun, followed by the shadow of myself.

People turn toward religiosity for the promise of certainty, because even Hell is certain. Eternal punishment is certain. Wayne wanted certainty in his last moments – a certainty that Life, with its strange and beautiful smile, gave him with a soaring eagle circling over his bedroom. We go from room to room in this world with the expectation that there is something worth looking for, something worth finding, an endless quest for something endless before everything ends.

Certainty is reassuring.

But Doubt is beautiful.

Keep your offers of certainty, your promises of what will be. I don’t want them. I want only to admire this interplay of light and dark, this fuck-all psychomachy that turns and spins like a jewel in the rising sun. I want to feel these colors and shadows of beauties and pains that I did not know existed rush over me, to know everything for what it is, and not what I want it to be. I want to live every day of my life knowing that this, all of this, whatever this is, will be taken from me; but that’s alright, because change is constant; the jewel turns. The sun sets, the light goes away. It will come back.

If I were to give you my hand, you could see the callouses formed from my swords and violin bows, but as soon as I left, you would have only what you can remember of me. I have left your sight. My image is no more.

Yet somehow, the warmth of my hand remains.

Happiness requires the courage to take risks; I don’t want certainty. I don’t fear loss. I only fear not loving as deeply as I possibly can. I want to remember every trace of warmth, every vestige of sun, no matter how much it pains me when they go away.

I want to look deeply into the eyes of the people I love, not thinking that “One day, you will be gone,” but rather “Right now, you are here.”

Right now, dear Reader, you are here.

That means you are one of the few people who knows this blog exists, meaning that, whoever you are, I love you. Don’t live your life looking for any certainty, because you won’t find any; and if you must have certainty, find it in the knowledge that there is one person who has felt the warmth of your hand, and of you.

You have crossed the life of a woman who knows, beyond the shadow of any Doubt, that she loves you. You, no matter what loss, change, turning jewel or setting sun, will always be loved.

silent revelation

silent revelation.

“… within the thousand lights of each other.”

See now, where you are.
Every place, every moment. Here—
just here.

A voice broke the sky between
you and me, illuminating two sparks—
one expanse.

This is a conversation I would like to have

walking into the distance, where the glitter of
the sky crushes into the lights
of the ocean,

here—just here
within the thousand lights
of each other.

What could be more precious than…

What, then, of love?

 

              a bird lost in

its own songs—

a shell taken from the ocean,

             remembering

 

the sound

of its own emptiness.

 

A love removed

   remembers itself,

but I am without shore,

       departure, or song.

 

I’m without the memory

 

of who I am or where

           I came from. I have only

 

the inside of a pearl, a grain of sand

      praying to Coincidence,

an impulse gathered by Doubt and

Chance from somewhere

 

we can never return,

and never left.

 

What then, of love?

 

What could be more

precious than

 

who you really are?

A Jewel Between Our Fingers

We spoke once, before we
knew language, before we
knew form,

so why
do we now speak
as if passing a jewel between our fingers
in the dark?

In this craft of language, silence, and
awareness that demands unburdening,
warmth exists only

in the space between
Feathers,

Meaning,
in the space between words.

Do not let any stone
make a light game of you.

Bring this jewel of you and me
into the light of
greater absence.

Become a reflection
moving through,

wherever the source.

Like counting leaves in a garden

A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far away…
http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=AiowQdUx_sI

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=675fMdCErFQ

*edit: The second video is now able to be seen. Thanks to everyone who pointed out its invisibility to me! XD;;

A Pearl Named Ganbaru

On the last page of my black, hard bound notebook, the one where I write down story ideas, interesting words, and assorted disjecta membra, there is a page of indecipherable green scribbling where only one word can be read, capitalized and firmly pressed into the page, a hieroglyph of ink pressed into paper:

“Will y…”

Wayne wrote this.

A few weeks before he died, he wanted to say something, but the tracheotomy claimed the last of his voice, and even putting these marks on paper exhausted him. I have no idea how this sentence would have ended. It could have been something profound, something humane or even moribund—or something as innocuous as “Will you change the channel?” or “Will you get that damn black notebook off my bed, crazy girl?”

Whatever his intention, one word surfaced in its entirety: “Will.”

In Japan, this is called “Ganbaru”; in Finland, “Sisu”: the ability to strive in the face of adversity, to keep trying even when—especially when— the odds are stacked against you. In the face of death, Ganbaru was all Wayne knew. He held onto life, no matter the pain or helplessness it fomented, even if “life” didn’t mean living at all, but rather listening to machines pump oxygen in and out of his lungs or suctioning mucus out of his throat with a long, plastic tube. At the end of life, life is, in itself, not just everything but the last thing, that one remaining gesture from the cosmos that motions for the spirit to lean closer, if only to tell a final secret.

In the end, love won. But it won at the end.

I’ve written so much on love. Pages and pages, poems and prose, love in all its forms; for my family, my friends, for the sublime and the ineffable; even romantic love, though it only brings longing and cold sheets.

I keep a certain romantic love inside of me the way a pearl keeps a grain of sand, and I cannot remove it. I can only watch as thoughts and experiences and otherness collect in concealed silence, metamorphosizing this tiny core into a treasure that is not so easily swept by wind and wave, watching it become, slowly, drop by drop, a different kind of treasure—a different form of love. But no matter what becomes of the outside, the inside remains inviolable; I cannot remove the catalyst; I cannot remove the ardor that threw reason from her tribunal. I can only shape it into something else.

Ganbaru, then, is the love inside the pearl; the center around which all entity develops and becomes beautiful; that sequestered piece of otherness evolving in the ocean-song; that remaining fragment of love that, for its own reasons, will not be sacrificed at the altar of friendship.

The heart must overcome many pains—perhaps the hardest is love.

I often wish it was easier.

But I would never wish it away.

On the Rubicon

“This year, I experienced two life-shattering events.

One of them was witnessing a death. Two weeks ago, after years of battling chronic lymphocytic leukemia, my father passed away.

The other? I fell in love with someone.

And I can’t tell you how strange it was, to have these two stories running alongside of each other; to watch the light inside of me grow more passionate and alive as I watched another diminish, and eventually, go out.

Yet these experiences, different though they were, taught me the same lesson: that without courage, neither love, nor loss, mean anything.

If there’s something inside of you that needs expressing, then regardless of pride, fear, anger, a sense of right doing and of wrong doing,

regardless of consequence, of reciprocity, of what can and cannot be,

you must say it.

You must say it.”

-Olivia Ketterer, 11-05-2013, Open Mic Night

A Night Full of Talking that Hurts

“A night full of talking that hurts,
my worst held-back secrets. Everything
has to do with loving and not loving.
This night will pass.
Then we have work to do.” – Rumi

Smoke by the railroad tracks, the 5 o’clock train to Philadelphia rattling leaf and stone alike, the shudder of a waking up. Sunset through the trees and a long conversation— the unveiling of a story between friends with ten years of absense between them, a long catching up, a coming together of stories and even stranger tides, of two young women with nothing but time.

I don’t think anyone can say they are the same person they were a decade ago. Then, I was fourteen, an idiosyncratic mix of mischief and silence, a girl displaced from the quiet suburbs of upstate New York to the flat, crowded menagerie of diners and Jersey culture. Unlike my younger sister, I never felt at home in New York. Packing my bags left me with little nostalgia, and settling down in some new land made me feel like a midwestern pioneer setting out on the Yukon goldrush. But I never felt at home in New Jersey, either. I don’t belong in any one place.

Seeing the changes an individual undergoes is terrifying and exciting; we become strange, dark opals polished by tossing and turning, some colors magnified, others scratched away. Even biologically, by the time we die, there are no molecules left of our bodies from the moment of our birth. We aren’t statues in some garden that changes and reshuffles around us, but rather an oil painting set atop a water canvas, a masterpiece that grows and shrinks and eventually drifts apart.

Who are you, in this moment?
What parts of yourself will you keep?
Lose?

Sitting on the remants of that old, stone bridge, wandering with a longlost friend through sunlight, smoke, and stories, I felt the nostalgia that I should have perhaps felt when I first moved to New Jersey, that “at-home-edness” that had been missing for so long. Love takes many forms. Its shoots can be cultivated into so many shapes and varieties, some short-lived, others perrenial and unassuming, dormant even, but not dead. The long period of silence between us made me realize how important it is that we take the risk to reach out, to express ourselves even when we’re afraid, to strip ourselves of the armor that will tire us if always worn.

I’ve learned this much: language was created so that we may understand eachother, to light the dark thoroughfares of doubt between people; silencing our thoughts undoes this purpose. Find the words that make you feel the most vulnerable, the most naked. Find what you are most afraid to say, and ask yourself, what would happen if I told this person everything?

Then talk to me,
even if its a night full of talking that hurts.

The Waves

“Look as long as you can at the friend you love,
no matter whether that friend is moving away from you
or coming back toward you.” – Rumi

There’s always an image. Words, too. They are the contractions and expansions of the same beating heart. Birds sing outside, crickets, a crescendo of cicadas rising over the din like the foam of a breaking wave— then silence, more of it, the space between beats, a contraction. An inward pull.

I’ve told Rachael, in various hospital rooms and late night “situation porch” conferences, that I feel like we are always on the breaking point of a wave, that we can feel the momentum of every circumstance moving beneath us, yet all we can do is wait, wait for one tear in the fabric of the water, for the collapse and unravel of the impending into the occurring. Predicting is not the same as knowing. Reflections change in moving water. I’m changing, somehow, I think. But everything I’ve thought in recent months, predicted, expected, or even daydreamed, has been distorted by the jolt of circumstance. The result can be beautiful, but it’s always uncertain. The water surges and the reflection changes. An expansion. An unknown push.

I don’t know what will happen with Wayne’s cancer. I don’t know anything. I only know that I need to work as hard as I can and to love everyone as much as I can before the wave breaks, whatever wave that is, because every person in my life is precious. You all mean so much to me and there aren’t enough words or images to convey the depth and sincerity of my sentiment. This endless contracting and expanding of circumstance would be unendurable without you.