Saturday, February 1, 2014

vol. 3:2 part 4

A Storm at Pors-Loubous by Henri Camus (title mine)
 by Donny Duke

What gave ‘im the madman of a killer?
Combat art.
Oh really?

Stanley pictured himself running straight towards the enemy firing his machine gun in one hand and signaling his men to come up with the other, a two-fold action characteristic of heroes: they not only have the right stuff they can communicate that. The enemy, always in these hero fantasies wearing the faces he hated most, his parent’s, his brother’s, his boss’, his co-workers’, the man’s who gave him his morning coffee at the doughnut shop, the woman’s behind the counter at his usual store stop, basically everybody’s except his dog’s if you were taking an exact inventory, fell down dead in droves. This is a particularly embarrassing part of being human that everyone indulges in, the look at me everybody I’m a hero daydream that wastes the imagination away on littleness when it could be creating art or peopling the unknown or climbing the sky, although not everyone dresses a hero in killing. Most people, like Stanley, did however fight their art with the stuff of daydreams. Art requires a detailed and deep use of the imagination that just getting through a day doesn’t have time for. You have to put something down on paper or in stone or in a dance step or somewhere and end up finishing it, tax the mundane day with something larger you’re trying to chisel into it because you can’t just put it all down; you have to change it in the chiseling into art, whatever you’re trying to say or show, and if you’re looking at something ugly about yourself or in the world you have to make that look pretty, pretty in the sense that it’s transubstantiated into what helps and doesn’t hurt (unless you think destroying outworn ideas is harmful), not pretty in the sense that it becomes something beautiful. Stanley wanted to kill people, and that is pretty ugly. In his own mind there was nothing wrong with it, not in his case. He’d been assigned, chosen actually if you really wanted to know, to show people that he…, that there was…

He could never finish that part, and the voices telling him to kill were quite vague on this point. In the nimbleness of mind that could create and destroy whole worlds with just a flick of thought, his daydream changed into one more direct to his growing need: he was in a shopping mall on a shooting spree. No, that won’t work. People would think him just some stupid loaf that’d gone off, a pathetic person that just couldn’t take it anymore. Now how about a school? He tried that one and did get some pleasure out of people’s reaction to children being shot (he imagined the News report as it was being watched or read by everybody), but it was also too common a location. He needed someplace bigger, somewhere that would show he was different than all those clowns you heard about in the News, that he wasn’t a psycho. People had to see him in a big way; that was the whole point. He had something to show people, something big, and what that was would be revealed to him the moment he did what he was supposed to do. Everybody would see it; that the voices promised. It was the issue of life itself he was grappling with that much he knew. What he didn’t know was that life was struggling with him just to stay alive. He was too clouded with delusion to hear the battle his own soul, the real hero in him, fought with death. A mass killing up to now had been a pipe dream in his head, something at first he wouldn’t even look at square in the face, but as the voices got more frequent and insistent, he’d entered the planning stage.

You know we’re talkin’.

Dead dogs don’t talk worth a fuck.
Not anybody here.
Upsy daisy,
Someone’s here.
I’m the red rover.
Could you call me God and live?
Now listen to yourself.
You’re all the cameramen.
Fuck Elvis sweetheart it’s you,
A brilliant headshot.

Got to be

Stan the leader,
That’s who I am.
Tell me somethin’
Eddie Murphy.
“I would never do that.”
We’re by ourselves.
Gonna work with me.
I’m a hero.
Isn’t that what you want?

Forget it.

Don’t listen to him.
No school for a reason.
Because you’re very
Right in the head.
When I want you to do it:
In the clear light of day.
On the movie
Pull the trigger.

Oh my god,

8 o’clock on the News.
In front of the camera
Bring ‘em all down.
Make peace with the Everlasting.
You’re bein’ with me.
Now’s the tunnel.
A lot late.
You gotta move closer.

He never wrote the voices down and usually only half listened to them, but lately they had his full attention. It wasn’t like everybody thought. You didn’t hear things exactly like you hear the TV or somebody talking at you, but he couldn’t really place where the voices were coming from. It happened in the middle of everything. Suddenly out of nowhere he’d hear a conversation start, one that was talking directly and indirectly to him using different voices, even his own. It was the weirdest thing, but the more he listened the more what was said was spot on, was saying the things he wanted to hear, what he believed about the world and how he looked at life. And he felt flattered; it was becoming more and more apparent to him that the Devil himself had taken a personal interest in him. Who else would have the gall to speak the ugly truth of things like that and with such audacious authority?

In point of fact it wasn’t the Devil but a devil. They are always so vulgar and in a hurry to get their prize, which is not your soul but you to do their dirty work (since they can't do much harm on the physical plane themselves), too much of a hurry to do the job right, which is their major downfall. There really isn’t as Stanley believed a Prince of Darkness, just a lot of competing evil lords and their minions, as there isn’t a God Almighty to oppose him either but many mansions of gods each with its own presiding deities and heavenly hosts. All the many names for God, to tell you the truth, shed some small light on his many aspects, quite creative attributes at that: the gods each house one or several in themselves, the world’s religions being a very rough translation, more a mistranslation, of what is held in that housing. It’s just the nature of a god to call him or herself God; there’s so much identity there you see. God, on the one hand too big to even talk about and on the other as close and intimate to us as if we are talking about ourselves, just wouldn’t be something Stanley would want to grasp. An American’s American that hated African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, and especially Middle Eastern Americans, he wouldn’t want to hear the whole story of God, so all-encompassing it would offend his red-blooded American ears, and to add insult to injury God would most likely tell it from the perspective of one of those people. The story of God telling the story of the story that cannot be told, no matter how many stories you tell to tell it, which are the stories of everything there is, the making of all these many worlds that appear awhile on the spume of the universes and all the stories therein, like this story, is stranger than fiction, especially contemporary fiction, which has taken the razor that separates temple and state into story telling and tends to slice out anything that smacks of religion and its origin spirituality, making it all but impossible to tell a real slice of life. It takes a third person omniscient narrator to tell this particular story right. Third person limited omniscient just wouldn’t do, and would you believe a first hand know-it-all, Stanley reliable?

In any event the cosmic struggle between light and darkness (that puts in our universe a pair of opposites anywhere you look) was now Stanley’s story. A devil had taken up his abode down at his feet (they are very small) and was intercepting what was coming up from Stanley’s subconscious and twisting those impulses more than they already were, and they were already pretty twisted, what had attracted the devil to begin with, although if the truth be told he’d be seen to have had a lot to do with that original twisting. Devils really complicate matters. Would it complicate things too much if I told you he was at the same time behind him and big in that blind spot of ours where we’re unknowingly open to the universe and all its brood? Things on the inside are not one thing at a time as things on the outside appear to be. In how many dreams is the place you’re at impossibly two things at once?

Basically he was speaking into Stanley’s microphone, or one of them at any rate, and so he was hearing it like it was God himself who spoke in a manner of speaking. In other words, what he heard from that microphone had more authority than anything he heard from the world since it was coming from that place, the harbinger behind the curtain that knew the truth of things, or so Stanley figured, not being one to doubt that if he was hearing it, it must be speaking the living truth. He was after all himself, (like everybody else) the center of all he saw, heard, touched, tasted, smelled, felt, and thought, the center of the universe, and hence, skipping a lot of math here, he was the most important person in the whole wide world. We’ve probably just identified the basic problem in perception from which comes most of the harm we give to one another. Since he was so important in the scheme of things he’d been selected for a special task. He’d always known he was special and was quite relived to have that finally confirmed. Devils know all this about us and play it to the hilt. Give Stanley a break; rare is the person that doesn’t fall for it.

If we were just left here to be molested by devils we’d be doomed. Stanley also heard the still quiet voice of his soul, which his creative reflex had put in the mouth of Eddie Murphy – he trusted that man for some reason, overlooking the fact that he was Black –, but it was too quiet and too still, not yet a force in his life he would listen to. Of course there were gods around wanting to help, but the problem with them and with the soul too to a certain extent was that you had to be relatively open to them so to perceive them, purified enough (by whatever) to pick up their signal, not because they were snobs or self-righteous jerks but because your lens, your receiver, had to be clear and free of static since the light operates at a higher frequency than the dark. That’s just the way things work, what stacks the odds in darkness’ favor. Anybody can pick up a devil. It makes you wonder if there’s not some flaw in the design. When we most need the light in our lives we can’t see it.

The other difficulty was that Stanley wasn’t all that bright, by no means could be called an intellectual, and so he didn’t have the understanding to interpret the light’s messages, which uses symbolism and allegory, the stuff of which all creation is made (stories of a story), something it seems even your average mastermind can’t understand. It wasn’t that he was a moron or an idiot or anything like that, not exactly, not in the sense of lacking in intelligence at least. He was just kind of slow in figuring out stuff but had more or less the kind of smarts that does alright taking the world at face value and working with those facts, even in imagining something behind it with that same clockwork face and forcing it to fit those facts. But he did not in any way, shape or form have a developed intellect, a cultivated understanding, one that not only analyzes and dissects but also that interprets and creates. The average person didn’t have one of those.

But the major problem was with his heart. He had the same problem in there most everyone else did: with his heart he couldn’t really see that everybody else’s bled feelings every bit as much colorful and poignant as his did. The light opens like a mind, but without an open heart it can’t operate. So with all these obstacles in his way of seeing, the help he was getting he couldn’t use. It was so weak and feeble in the light of the power pushing him to kill, in the dark created by the rupture in his mind now allowing his subconscious almost free reign. With a vengeance the inside flooded the outside, and the waters were tainted with killing. That’s the way it goes in many of these stories: the shooter shoots; the bomber bombs. The light just can’t get to them, but it’s there, always it’s there. Something was needed to clear Stanley’s circuits some. That’s usually pain, something we’ll never understand and will always curse God over, accuse him, blame him for the mess we’re in, but without it, not a one of us would have the push to understand anything.

I don’t believe it.

That deal or what?
Turn off the pot,
A whole picture?
We got some
Brains too.

It’s not grass in my wings.

The position of attention
That shines on everything.
Get it?

He finished hanging up his uniform in the closet, taking great care as he always did to put his gun belt just right on its rack. He liked the way the gun looked hanging there, the pistol just so in its holster as though it were ready to be pulled out at any moment. “Go ahead make my day” he told nobody in particular. He loved that line. Many people did. In America it was probably quoted as much as anything Shakespeare said. In a rough sort of way it captured the mood of the nation. He went and sat down on his sofa in his single room that had his stove, sink, frig, and kitchen stuff along one side, his TV and DVD player, bed-couch, and coffee table where he ate taking up the rest of the space.

He had no computer because he’d never gotten on with one very well. His introduction to them was in school in math class, when it was his turn to go and visit alone the oracle in the little room by the cafeteria (this was right before that plough-machine became fruitful and multiplied), and the whole thing was just Greek to him, and so he didn’t become enamored with the computer. Job hunting as an unemployed adult he’d had to learn to use the Internet, but having spent some time on it surfing around filling up his hour he’d come to the conclusion the net was un-American – too many foreigners on it bad-mouthing the red, white, and blue, although he’d actually only read one webpage with anti-American material. The truth of the matter was the World Wide Web was just too big and mysterious to him.

Along the back wall were the doors to the bathroom and closet, and between them was his weight bench. Above it hung a calendar featuring a seductive photo of a swimsuit clad Miss January of the year of our story 2007. He hadn’t bothered changing the months, and it was now August. Other than that and a poster of an ocean wave in a full curl that had caught his eye once when he went to Galveston beach the walls were bare. Galveston beach, which had no waves to speak of but did have the Texas boast that the water was so warm swimming in it was like bathing in your bathtub, had first come to him in a song he liked his mother listened to about a soldier in Vietnam. Haunting for a little boy and full of sea images and the sounds of distant battle, the song drew him there. The words were now quite ironic: I clean my gun and dream of Galveston. But with the marina view outside his only but very large window near the front door the place did not want for pictures, only for space. It was a very small bachelor’s efficiency, but it was in Nassau Bay, and rent there was high. He found the place answering an apartment ad and liked the look of the sailboats on the water, and so decided to live there. Because he was in uniform when he went he had no trouble renting the room. They could always use more security what with terrorists and all. He worked not far away as a bank security guard in Clear Lake City, an annexed suburb of Houston.

He’d come to Houston from his hometown of Cleveland in ’98 looking for work, a virile but dissatisfied man of thirty, his sense of a great destiny driving him to find greener pastures for that to unfold, although if you asked him why he left Cleveland and came here he wouldn’t be able to say more than “more jobs and no snow.” His feeling of greatness had been cooking inside him all his life, something he could almost taste, but only now with this insane notion that it came about by killing people was it taking a definite shape in his mind, something that he could now touch. Senses of greatness are often like when they are born from the frustration of being there at the center of your senses so important to yourself, knowing what you know, understanding what you understand, seeing it all so largely, feeling it all so deeply, but never in a million years able to communicate that and never in a million years would the world grant you that. As rage against the machine they more often than not come out ugly.

In the case of Stanley, however, as is the case with all of us, he didn’t know or understand all that much really, especially about himself, and there was a way he could say what it’s like being in a body in the middle of it all, where all of us are and what we all experience – with what art inside him waiting for expression, something everybody’s got if they can find its form and fill it with the passion of their contents. Something of the sun, moon, and stars comes out of that, as you’ve taken all these ugly unwieldy things sloshing around in there and made them stand at attention with what’s beautiful and noble about you, and you’ve performed this near miracle, in paint, pencil, stone, wood, song, dance, film, words, or what have you, by telling a story once or twice removed from your own story, or, if you’re into showboating with your pants down, a head on balls to the wall narrated self-portrait, far enough away so that you don’t see Narcissist’s reflection but close enough that you do see your own familiar, some point of soul, and people look and listen to that, even if just to gawk.

Glancing out the window at the boats to get his bearings in his head he chewed on the message. It took him a moment to realize they told him where to do it – on the News. Now why didn’t I think of that? He thought a moment about what 8 o’clock might mean. There’s no live 8 o’clock News broadcast. Actually the number eight’s a symbol for infinity and the universe, and what he was being told to do was coming from the universal, what time it was on his watch of deed. He decided just to overlook it and call channel 13 to see what security company they used. Just maybe he thought. He dialed a 411 variant on his cell phone to get the number. The ad he had to listen to was about a new iPod. Jesus, he thought, they get you coming and going. “Channel 13? Yes ma’am, what security company do you use? I’m doin’ a survey.” He probably wouldn’t arouse any suspicion, but he thought it best to give some reason for asking. He had no idea how lame a survey sounded to the receptionist, but she gave him the information not worried a terrorist might be on the other end. There wasn’t, just a human being about to go off and kill everybody in range. Funny how that word terrorist changed the nature of the catastrophe and made it sound like an invasion from outer space and not something in the family. He hung up the phone. “Hot damn what incredible luck.” It happened to be the same security company he worked for. “Yes siree Eyewitness News,” he said laughing to himself, “you got another thing comin’, another thing entirely. I’m gonna make history, and you’re gonna film it.”

Seeing Stanley on the street you wouldn’t picture him ever making the history books. He was nondescript to say it plainly. Of medium height and medium build, he had an average face and sandy blond hair that he wore quite short, what was in style. There was however something behindish about his hazel eyes if you looked close enough, but no one did. It wasn’t something sneaky; it was something out of place, like there was something in there, a dog barking, a field catching fire, something like that. These days it was becoming more distinct. But he was invisible to people. Oh they saw him alright, but they didn’t see anybody they had to take notice of, and people can be such jerks when they don’t have to follow social protocol, when you’re not someone they have to show difference to because of your personal charm, your place in the pecking order, or your place in their heart. Even when they’re talking to you they’re usually ignoring you. Stanley had brought this upon himself really, a result of being picked on growing up by everybody, and so he’d learned to hide in plain sight, wouldn’t wear or do anything that would get him noticed. This conflicted greatly with his sense of greatness.

The news the TV station used his security company gave him a slight feeling of euphoria once it settled. It confirmed his voices, showed they knew the score of things, how things were situated, although it took a few minutes for this to compute in his brain. He wasn’t one to link one idea to another very well and come up with a bigger idea the ideas lead to. They must’ve known, he thought, must’ve even known the station I’d choose. Actually his thinking wasn’t as orderly as direct speech (is anyone’s?), but it’s impossible to record the human mind so chaotically do thoughts run around in there, a train of thought more a roller coaster of what you’re thinking about bombed at every turn by all the many fragments of what has made up your life and its thought up to that point, although it’s not as pell-mell as it sounds; we have a working group of thoughts that keeps coming up but changes over time. During that ride he’d seen his brother’s face as he smacked him that time he caught Stanley playing nasty with the girl down the street, heard the yell he hears at random in his thought that just pops up for no particular reason, felt the swoosh at the surge of things down there at the bottom of thought you feel when lights the light bulb of an idea, saw an image of a train wreck from a movie he saw last night, and we can keep going with this. So chaotic is our thought a devil can’t read it thank goodness, but it can with some trouble get the gist of what we’re thinking about. After all our thought, like our dreams, is the devils’ playground. They spend alarming amounts of our time trying to whisper their gist upon our minds, openly violating us to the very gates of heaven and right up to the threshold of our soul in the field of dreams.

The divine, on the other hand, being more intimate with us, more innate, knows our thoughts as a mother the heart of her child, as a lover the body of his love. When you get close enough to God to know this it’s a little embarrassing. It’s a wonder out of that whirl of thought we manage to put any order onto our lives at all. Anyway, he had acquired faith in his voices, or in the voice I should say, since he thought it was Satan talking to him (who’s reported to actually exist, although not with the status usually afforded him, but don’t tell him that), and so Stanley was now armed.

As long as he simply believed there was a lot of room for doubt, but now that he had faith, he would try and move mountains that got in his way. His soul looked on this with equal eyes, oddly seeing an opening. The angel near him looked into the silence of his mind to see how best to work that more open. The demon, unaware that faith is faith no matter what it’s in, gave a victory grin. He thought he had the man. Little did he know Stanley’s faith in him had brought him out of himself, had gotten through his wall of ego, and he saw something maybe bigger than himself and had to move over some at the center of the universe and make room for it. And so, along the dire edge between his heart and the world, a tiny bit of faith had made large room for hope, and into that space light spoke.

Meet me halfway.

Why don’t you check in one of the closets,
The glove compartment,
Hold policeman?

Do it tomorrow.

What’s a matter?


Find Connecticut,
What’s the plan?
Home office.

I believe

In fairytales.

Busted radio,

Hey listen,
A guy pulls himself back from
– It makes me so mad –
The 8.

Here Objective sign this.

Log out he’s going to become
Gentle man,
Toni Morris.

Here it is your country
Calm down.
You’ll listen,
Of course you’ll listen.
I’ve got an idea

As Stanley was wondering who said that – that certainly wasn’t the Devil – and what in the world it meant his bulldog Ethel made the most unusual combination of low barks, whines and whimpers a dog could give, almost bordering on speech, to say she really needed to take a walk. After giving her a few pats when he got home he’d gotten sidetracked with the voices and hadn’t taken her immediately outside to relieve herself. She’d been waiting patiently on the sofa beside him like a good dog, having done her welcome home daddy bark, dance, and jump routine when he’d walked through the door. A lot of the times it was just an act, something simply expected of her, but since it made daddy feel good she heartedly performed her role. She was, after all, all over herself; just eat up with being a dog. And daddy was her whole world. Stanley had made the discovery that most people make when they love their pet as much as he loved Ethel – she was a person. The problem was few people could extend that status to all animals. What holocaust we’ll wake up to one day when we see what Mengeles we’ve all been. Where would you point the finger? It’ll be hard to find a scapegoat in those soul searching days.

He put her collar on and took her outside, talking to her in that baby talk voice that sounds so corny to anybody else listening. “Who’s daddy’s girl? Who’s the good doggy? Come on, come on.” Immediately she went to the nearest patch of grass and peed. Some days a girl just couldn’t stop and sniff stuff first. Another movement called, but that was one more particular to making a bold statement to the neighborhood, something humans would never understand nor appreciate, and it needed to be done in the right place, and besides, as soon as she did it daddy would take her back inside, and so she bowleggedly walked along the sidewalk in front of daddy towards the waterway they always went to, where he took her leash off and let her run around, where there was always so much to smell and people there to pet her. A bulldog is a love to look at example of something so ugly it’s beautiful.

As they walked he thought about the last round of voices he’d heard. It was the same but different, telling him not to do what his voices had been telling him to do up to this point. That much was reasonably clear by the pull himself back, gentle man, and calm down lines. But it was such nonsense: glove compartment, Connecticut? And who the hell was Patrick? He couldn’t remember enough of it to try and figure out what all that stuff meant. He did remember the busted radio line. That had come right after something about believing in fairytales. Actually the “In Fairytales” line had been thrown in by the demon to disrupt the sequence and confuse him, as were the lines “Do it tomorrow,” and “What’s a matter?” On all the signposts to the ways up the darkness has sprayed its graffiti pointing to the roads down, making it so damn difficult to read the signs. But the light will tell you sometimes when and where if you listen: busted radio. It must be part of the rules of engagement that you aren’t always told, and when you are, it’s usually in code. Makes you wonder again about those rules, why they seem in darkness’ favor.

Anyway a lot had to do with Stanley’s nature. Everything from the universe and the world at large that comes into us, ideas, messages, signals, what have you (if you didn’t know it most of what you think comes from other sources, be they from the up, down, or horizontal), has to undergo a transfiguration and assume the stance of our nature. Our dreams are our dreams, but the content often comes from elsewhere, a communication from people who hate or love us to name one common source. Our creative reflex has taken that and put it in the mouth of a dream, or literally in the case of Stanley in the voices he heard, which is basically the stuff of dream come out into the light of day from behind the curtain. So the darkness and the light spoke to Stanley in the same tongue so to speak, as what was spoken on his top and whispered at his bottom underwent a sea change and became Stanley’s own creation, and so they sounded similar in form, being however, distinct in content. It seemed that Stanley was not the dunce in his creativity, his imagination, he was in his math-mind. It appeared a poet lingered there awaiting discovery. Although the world by no means revolves around poets, poems play no small part in setting the form and content of what it is to become, its future culture, a tone-setting that gives poets the place of importance we give them even if begrudgingly. Likewise, although certainly not the center of the universe, Stanley, in light of this potential, might be important after all over and above the importance he has in simply being a person, which in itself is invaluable.

Well now ain’t that something he said in his mind. Just like in the cartoons a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. That following thought was visualized rather than worded out. Then he chuckled to himself as he played out the usual scenario: the sanctimonious angel gets kicked of his perch by the boss hip devil. This brought back to him the uplift he’d gotten earlier, and on a whim he decided to take Ethel to their favorite walking place, the Kemah waterfront, the old part where the dilapidated shrimp boats docked, the ones whose captains didn’t catch enough shrimp to keep up their boats and the ones whose hulls sat dead in the water rotting away in Time, where he could let her run free where there wasn’t all these people pawing on her. It did something to him when someone was petting his dog, made him burn inside, but he endured it for her sake because he knew she liked it so.

The drive only took a few minutes, and all dog, Ethel hung her head out the window as she liked to do when they drove, or as much as she could get of it so much she had to stretch herself to do it. They parked in their usual place, and he let her out without putting her leash on, but he took it with him just in case. Although it was evening it was still quite warm, the ground slowly surrendering the sun it’d soaked up during the day. The dogs days of August these days were called, not because it was so hot but what it did to a person: made them mad made them mean. There was sometimes an incident or two of people shooting one another from their cars on the freeways. You can imagine doing that yourself if you try. How many times has someone cut you off, and for a few hate-filled seconds somehow by that act you can sum up their entire life’s worth and see they certainly deserve to die? That thought in your head’s closer to your hands than you think. (Common everyday thoughts like that were now making their way down into Stanley’s hands via the invisible roadways connecting us all to the herd.) Add to it 100 degrees in the shade and a 90 percent humidity, and you just might reach for that gun instead of honking the horn. When he first arrived in Houston it was in June, and he about passed out walking outside. Air-conditioning was part of the life support system here. It was easier on Ethel; she had that large cooling system of a mouth that took the edge off. Happy to be free and in her favorite place, she slowly made her way to the nearest boat dock, waddling around here and there sniffing and looking for the perfect spot to do her business. Stanley followed her from a distance lost in thought. Tomorrow then? he asked himself. It was all set up; why not? He had the gun. He had the right uniform. All he had to do was walk in there in front of the camera during the broadcast and start shooting people.

Maybe it would be that easy and maybe not, but he’d lost his footing in reality, not the one of daily things and duties, but the one that walks and talks with a better world, and it all seemed so simple to him, so right on. Of course in a courtroom his faith in his crime would appear to be sheer stupidity, lunacy. A lot of times the criminal is standing there getting sentenced with the most acute sense of betrayal stinging his heart. Something outright and unashamedly evil led him on, opened doors, removed obstacles, winked at him with synchronicities so intricate they were impossible to describe to anyone or so this one’s for you he couldn’t ascribe to chance, something dark and powerful that made him feel dark and powerful, and now its magic was gone and there he stood holding the bag, but it still had its hand in the pie, his heart and everyone’s within earshot of the tragedy. Darkness does have its arena, this world and others like it as a matter of fact, and with a series of well-placed sucker punches it gets you to be its gladiator, and whether you end up its champion or fed to the lions you just don’t know and play the odds. Oh we play them, and we come to ruin. That’s the nature of the game; that darkness delights in, leading you to do its bidding then punishing you for it. The look on your face, it’s worth worlds to them.

Even if he were being led by the nose, to your average outside eye Stanley would be a monster. How could he think like that? What was his problem? Objectivity certainly has its degrees. It depends from where you’re looking at things, how much of the whole picture you can readily see. To get any real view of Stanley at all you’d have to get up on top the world, or at least the human world, and see him as part of the picture for one thing, and as an oiled by everyone mechanism of his society for another. I don’t think even science quite understands that we really are animals (whatever else we may be becoming), and that we actually do live in social groupings much like other animal species – ants, bees, monkeys, rats, and the list goes on. The way a rat will go berserk in an overcrowded rat population and just kill as many rats as it can is often cited to shed some light on what’s happening when humans do that, and that’s not such a bad analogy really, but it’s lacking in depth. What you don’t see is that on the inside all the rats are connected, like in all animal species, and spilling out among everybody, all the other rats, are the thoughts and feelings of each person rat. Pressed up against each other as they are, all competing for everything they want and need, the general consensus in their hearts and minds is anger, not a far shot from hatred, quite close to murder actually. In a human society such as Stanley’s people weren’t packed in upon one another as a pack or rats, but things had reached a particular pitch where there were enough similarities for his world to be called a rat race.

In his society things had gotten pretty heated in the anger department, and most everybody was mad about something. They even had a national saying to that effect: “I’m mad too Eddie.” It wasn’t so different in most any other human society. Swelling anger was a tide in every nation as the human world began to default on its loan with Nature, a trend of the times, and the resultant phenomenon of the berserker likewise (a couple of countries had it erupt a couple of times a day), only Stanley’s society had anger both growing inside and coming in from outside, since his country was trying to carry the whole world on its shoulders, not so much as your big brother as he saw it but more like a bandit that had thrown you in a sack first, or at least that’s how the world mostly saw it, and the world was mad at America for doing that – like it thought itself the center of the universe or something, the most important country in the world –, and so more and more people in his highly industrialized, highly civilized first world society were going off and killing everybody they could shoot or blow up, or trying to at least. You see he was a national representative and acted like a receiver and picked up all the anger blowing around that had transmuted into the hate-filled murderous thoughts most everyone has daily: I’d like to kill that guy, or, I could just strangle her, or, he should be shot, or something to that effect. That’s where Stanley was coming from, where the will to kill he carried came from – everyone. He was quite the patriot.

He was so absorbed in figuring in his head he hadn’t seen that Ethel had run up on the dock and was standing on her hind legs with her front paws on a boat she was trying to jump aboard. Just then there was a slosh and gurgle of water, and the boat was pulled away from the dock, his dog falling into the gap in-between. As Stanley ran yelling her name the boat snapped back against the tire tied to the dock, and he heard a sharp yelp, and then a splash. It’d all happened in an instant, a sudden startling reminder of the quickness of fate. Frantic he jumped into the water on the other side of the dock and swam under it, and for over an hour he made as many dives as he could searching underwater for Ethel, but there was no sign of her. When he finally got out of the water and examined the boat to see if there was any evidence of his dog being crushed against it, it was too late; the water had washed away any blood that might be visible. Still acting from shock, he just sat down where he was and didn’t move, but his heart certainly heaved. There was no one around at that hour, and so he wasn’t bothered by anybody. He sat and sat looking into the cruel eyes of death. Fate had entered the fray. And it changed everything.

In fateful moments like this that have the power to change a person’s life, if you can see past the tragedy or the irony of it, or in some cases the comedy, it becomes apparent that something’s going on here over and above the fight the darkness fights with light, bigger than the war between good and evil. Something seems to be arranging things that allows liberal room for both, not so they can flourish equally under the sun or to give evil its due, but to bring unexpected good out of evil’s hands, to take this twisted animal man to larger vistas of himself that bring out the human in him more, what may be in its completeness something divine. Here might be why it appears to us that darkness has the upper hand; we can see no larger than the fight, the clash, are not able to see that something bigger for lack of a better word we call God (which does actually hit the extremely personal impersonal spot such a word needs to hit) moving everything to its destiny in Time.

It now moved Stanley. He fought no battle on a cliff’s edge. He simply sat and felt his loss, his love. Up to that point he’d loved his dog because she adored him so, for her loyalty, but now he saw he loved her for the person that she was, animal notwithstanding. Seeing and feeling that kind of love, which had something of sacrifice in it, something selfless, something divine, he felt his humanity. His heart was at work in his mind making it realize how important it was. It wasn’t a far jump from the loss and love of his dog to begin to question himself about the killing he planned, and it didn’t take long for that to look to him like the monstrous thing it was – all the families feeling what he was feeling now. As the lights to the Boardwalk amusement park came on, and you could hear if you strained your ear the thrill of the ride in the screams of the people riding its roller coaster the Bullet, Stanley returned to us.

That hit a world note, touched a world line, and something of the story that cannot be told no matter how many stories you tell to tell it flickered in the storyline like a sudden view of stars on a storm-wrought night, and in that bright hint something larger than life but small enough to fit inside people, God if you will, brought Ethel back to him. She hadn’t been crushed by the boat, only had tumbled into the water and been swept out a little into the bay. Swelled out is more the word. Galveston bay doesn’t have fighting pulling waters except during hurricanes, which come often enough. A boat happened by (piloted by that hint) that picked her up and took her to another dock not far away where she was pampered, and with some difficulty she managed to get away from those kind men and go and find her daddy. No, miracles never do cease.

The next morning as he walked out the donut shop in Clear Lake City a billboard caught his attention. On it was a very large photo of the bluest eye he’d ever seen. Surely it was touched up he thought. A little ways down the sidewalk he found himself stopping in front of a bookstore window. There in the window among the books and things on display was a picture of a Black woman with grey streaks in her hair holding her face in her hands. Her eyes twinkled with such a mixture of mirth and pain he thought she must know something. He didn’t consciously remember that something of her name, Toni Morrison, had been in his voices, the ones telling him to be a gentle man, but it worked its magic nonetheless. That combined with the synchronicity with the billboard (her book was called The Bluest Eye), which took a moment or two to sink in, made him do something he’d never done before – he went into a bookstore and bought a book.

What a personal magnet it all was, arranged to attract him and him alone (which shows something of how important even the last of us are, a little of the care each one of us are under), put together so that he see his next vista. He didn’t need at that moment to see a shrink, although if he told anybody what he’d been about to do almost everybody would send him to one, everyone except those that thought their religion would cure him, but he didn’t need that either. He needed a that moment to see other people’s humanity and get more intimate with his own, and for that he needed to read some literature, for that is its power. He didn’t need now to read the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, the Torah, the Koran, or the Diamond Sutra. First things first.

It would take him the longest time to read the novel about that blue eye, but the second one, Bailey’s Café by Gloria Naylor, would take him less time, and by the third novel, The Temple of my Familiar by Alice Walker, which threw him for several loops that taught him that time was immaterial in reading, he was on his way to becoming a real reader. (The person behind the counter at the used bookshop was an English major at the University of Houston at Clear Lake and was taking a survey course in African American Women’s fiction, and she simply gave Stanley the syllabus.) On his horizon was the sight of his soul and of God and all the unseen stuff he couldn’t see, what would complete his humanity and show him what was making it incomplete, but it was enough in this moment to have been brought back from the brink. Small steps the soul makes – a lot to learn. Those sacred things would be his search in time. Of course there was the little matter of a psychosis to gather all the wisps of and put back down there in some locked room of his subconscious, but its underpinnings had been knocked away – he was no longer the center of the universe, the most important person on the planet.

He now shared that space with Ethel (the little devil he just kicked off his perch), and if you’re going to share it with one person it was just a hop, skip, and a jump to share it with everybody, or so the stories he was reading, showing him so many other centers of the world, were busy broadening out in him. The voices slowly receded back inside from where they came, like a mighty river that had overflowed its banks giving back the fields and farms it had taken, but he still heard them in the twilight between waking and sleeping, and he started to write something of them down. Now a proper river with rapids and waterfalls but also quiet waters that lapped gently against his banks of sleep, his voices spoke in symbols of the light within and from above slowly illuminating the world, his own personal one.

He wouldn’t become an established poet, since by the time he got good it was high time to die, something as comforting to him as the promise of a warm bed and rest from a day of toil, but he did begin to write poems after returning to us, finding poetry fit better with what was coming up from within than the great American novel he at first tried to sit down and write (alas, he still daydreamed of being a hero, but we can live with this kind), and what was ugly about him and what he didn’t like about the world, he found he could change into verse, and in that conversion they took on a more relative hue more helpful to how he needed to see them so they wouldn’t make him mad and go and harm anyone or arm anybody else to do so. As age creased his brow so did a brilliance of empathy and understanding, brought about, no doubt, from a brief sitting in the Silence the spiritual path had surprised him with, and its incredible index of wordless thought, a table of context that holds all in infinity, heightened his poetry to the mountaintop.

A Mountain Climb

I’m the Black woman.

Springtime blues know my name.
My hope is ever lost
In society’s measure of beauty.
White only reads the sign.
Yet in the beginning I was beauty’s face.
It was my look that adorned the smile of the world’s men
And my grace that gave its children their rose.
Ample the great mother laid me out
And made me an open gift for Nature’s plan.
My breasts are honeycombs of love’s tender poise.
Any child can find room there.

Now only I came

Rural day America.
Let’s put those sandy blocks.
You think I was made for this,
The seamstress iron?
Who am I?
All these issues over me.
How come?
I will not live
A lighthouse
On blindness’ coastline.
I can go the distance
To what we’re made of.

Then I saw something.

It was infinity’s storehouse in a little space called Man.
Give me more room
And it will be in clear view.
I will climb with you
To human fulfillment,
A high destiny.
It has divinity’s eyes.

The attitude of a Black woman,

I don’t know where to begin.
You put this thing before them:
You have a quiet nature.
That’s what my bird said.
It’s in a river on this rock.
I don’t know
In what proper attitude.
Can you do that,
Hear a birdsong over a river,
The river of the onrush of life’s sharper end?
I distance poise.
I guess I need to say it out loud:
I will cross history’s river.
Time will see that in-look.
I get slapped.
My own men pay wages for life’s wrong doing.
They are so volatile from life’s beatings.

It is very difficult.

I forget this week
That there’s a road.
You’ll wear it yesterday;
Show me.
This road knows freedom’s boundaries,
Cleaves you not to the stake of want and its greed.
It takes you to a high mountain.
The soul knows its secrecies.
They plunge you not in life’s long tear.
Can you measure my song?
My attitude you have no right
To find wanting.
To hear birdsong
Is my natural flight.

Give her time.

When her song reaches ten,
That a good picture,
A mountain view.

Stanley, who had up to that point on the brink of killing been pretty animal, personhood not withstanding, fully became Man. His self-importance belonged to God or a worked grave. And so for the vistas, which so far haven’t been seen past human intelligence, clean up our mess. He had something to ask people. You grand something? Does nothing we have inside make us bigger?

I’m sorry to look so familiar but…

Who made the most popular situation?
When I was a kid.
I thought you said he was writing.
You want an opening?
What is this Gomer Pyle?
Can we say developmentally picked on?
By his parents,
By his teachers,
By the dog next door.
That brain’s got snuff.

I met when I was a kid.

In my high schooler I was played by everbody.
Kind of smarts ain’t it?
I was made to do push ups.
Oh we can’t believe it –
Then he shoots people?
Pick up
A math book.
Add to that a star role.
Now in his own mind he was Mr. Big.
With me?
You’ll be sorry.

Don’t get angry get sad.

This is a younger dime a dozen.
How many steps is this to you,
How abroad?
How worrying
These steps you can’t recognize
Until the gun’s in your face.

Got any aspirin?

No more killin’
The fact where our feet lay.
Can we teach loving-kindness
To that speech impediment?
You know,
I was lookin’ around –
This is more shoulder than you.

I grinned at her.

I just told yah intern some confidence
In our school lunches.
Grab a staircase.
Instill with the three R’s.
Solutions nigger,
It’s not a four letter word
In a story you read.
Live here.


In the source material.
But I need to go to left right.
Are you guys with me?
I don’t understand.
Sorry if it came on backwards.
Tail gunner
Needs a halo.

Okay, okay, okay.

(Need a book.)
You get the good
Heart relation
From the bad bring him in.
Not what he needs.

How stupid.

That guy bit me.
You got what you need to become better, okay?
Like the Earth isn’t supposed to be here or somethin’.
Like we’re all accidents.

I tried to say it quietly I tried.

Defeated Vietnam.
And me,
I was the American Armed Forces terrorizin’.
I can’t believe it;
You were in Vietnam?
Symbolize dishes.
I mean I went through
The bad hoss.
Where did you think I get these stripes,
All this story?
Show you the turn around.
Now do it.

Gene said of the author:

He didn’t know he had such a green thumb.
Find the demon and then Texas.
For an example,
In such a bulldog,
What can you do?


I’m not here
For my picture taken.
Don’t know dark?
Well let me show you
What business
Of the light in that space.

Said somethin’.

That’s as care
As we’ve overtaken.
Take this:
The look
In your eyes
As you shoot someone.
My name’s Bobby.
That’s me everybody.
I’m naked.

The sense the senses make in your mind

Save for that bright hour.
When it does that they have a huge fact
Of farm number 3
Selling and competing hope.
Marxist theory?
No, Broadway Boulevard
On Spiritual Street.
Put more hope on it.
Put where the time flies.
And they sure talk about it.

Vol. 3:2 part 5

L'Hydrophage, sculpture de JR Ipoustéguy:
                                                                                                                             by Donny Duke
      Every time the rain did that he remembered the agony he’d watched, he’d handled, when it made that sound as if it were pounding the world, when it wasn’t holding anything back, when it drowned all out but what it was trying to say, something that neared the bottom of meaning, but he could never understand its garbled message, not even now.  There was something about knowledge that had made him so completely ignorant and unable to know what anything entirely meant, and knowledge, especially of himself, had here near the end of his life come pouring down upon him like the rain was beating the world now.  But he did know why, finally understood why he’d done what he’d done, why the world went mad the mid part of last century, his Germany in particular, and why the world was going mad again now.  Just like before everyone saw it coming, but no one knew what they were looking at or even really knew they saw.  He knew, and because he was who he was no one would listen to him unless he were able to say it in such a way it gave sense to the insensible.  Even then whoever it was he confided in would just be faced with a moral dilemma in knowing who he was, what he’d been, and inevitably they’d want him brought to justice.  Justice, the world wanted to revolve around it, but it had no idea what it meant.  Retribution, extracting one’s due, that was as close as it could come to the many worlds that word implied, this one and the ones beyond.  He could trust no one with his story, but he was now in the peculiar position of having to trust everyone because he could, despite his inability to draw a complete circle of knowledge around anything, finally say what could not be said, shed light on enigmas.  It was not delusions of grandeur that made him believe that everyone, or the bulk of humanity hooked into newspapers, TV, radio, or the Internet that is, would hear of him once he began publishing his poems.  Even if not a single one of them got accepted for publication, and the editor just turned him in to the authorities, word would still get out, his word, as poetry had not seen such inspired verse in a long time, and perhaps never had such a poet to write it.  Fredrick was a Nazi war criminal, and he wrote directly from the muse.

The Insidious

I didn’t know everything.
Blow up the whole world.
Frighten everyone.
Did you tell ‘em it is real?
Who came in there?
The muse.
Well at least he told ‘em
How big it at.
Make it up
Cause you make me sick.
Who said that?
A civilian.
Stand at the end of the pier and throw fishes at God.

Must need poetry.
And you agreed.
What did you agree?
Tackle rose bushes.
Get the pencil on the soul.
Heal land’s end.
Make of living a right place.
I’ll take your word for it.
Learn it backwards.
Got knocks all over your ears.

What are you gonna do now?
There is a monster
I’ll tell people that,
In every one of us.
Go with your testimony.
Been there.
I cut a Jew,
Carved their thighs into lampshades,
Burned them at the stake of their heart,
Cooked them in ovens for the gold in their teeth,
Jews and gypsies
And anyone society didn’t understand.
That’s me.

I was watching them.
We raise our children with knives in their hands of thought.
We have a current
Check room:
Just about anywhere you look.
All I know is you gotta be careful:
A capacity
(Try and hit the arrow.
How can you eat that?)
That causes the North Star to go bad,
That’s there inside you buddy whether you know it or not,

I bring up old clothes,
But this is as alive today as it ever was,
Have your picture taken
In full color.
It’s nice.
Bear nice?
What makes you mad?
Yeah but I don’t need to
Goddamn don’t kill anybody.
Give ‘im
A ration card
That bear’ll eat human flesh.
Now put two and two together.
That’s your nation
And bear hungry.
Scapegoats sure bleed don’t they?
Almost all that
Abrupt my face.

We’re waitin’ for hero line.
I’ll show you that too.
You refuse admission.
But you don’t have to get around it.
The most logical thing to do.
Have you taken any of your pills?
That’s the ones that want to kill Larry,
But you don’t,
You put on the protecting cloth.
That’s right Starla,
Life is beautiful.

     He listened to the rain.  For a moment its splatterings contained all the sounds you hear when you know someone’s been badly hurt or killed, those noises that put a stone in the pit of your stomach, the sound of a body being done in.  When he was a soldier in the war they never ceased to put that stone there, no matter how many times he heard them, although in time the stone was small.  He reasoned he felt that stone for the fear that his body might be next, exposed as it was like all the other bodies around him to bombs, bullets, and bayonets.  But as a guard in the concentration camp, a non-commissioned officer in change of one of the prisoner barracks, the stone was removed.  How that happened is the story of man’s fall.  It is a story of the corrupting power of power, in his case the power of life and death he had over the prisoners, a tale of giving in to animal impulse, of letting the beast out of its cage in the dim antechamber at the entrance to the cruel predator that we were, but most of all, it’s a story of how herd sour we are, how the group or society we are in holds sway over our morality, our philosophies, our very lives.

     He was now telling that story, as he had gone down there and gotten something, down there where he knows evil because he is evil, but the good, or the more or less moral that seem to make up the most of us, Fredrick realized, won’t accept the knowledge that the bad man has gained in being evil, won’t allow it its place in the overall story of knowledge that makes us more human than animal, more civilized than barbaric, although under certain conditions the story can be heard.  The problem with the problem of evil, and Fredrick knew this problem like his own backyard, is that it will not be solved until we do.  So he wasn’t just spitting out his story in some confessionary autobiography, or blogging it out on the World Wide Web one post at a time.  He was telling it from our creative heights, from the vantage point of art, from the mountaintops of the muse of poetry.  He was wise enough to know that’s how you tell the low, from a high place, one that you’ve climbed to from down there.  He was a mountain climber; he fulfilled the conditions to be heard.

     It had been raining on that day too, raining hard, when he’d come into the barracks and found the prisoners enjoying themselves at some game of chance.  They’d managed to make pieces of dice by taking tiny blocks of wood and marking them with numbers.  It’s amazing the human spirit.  It will even make a garden and a game out of hell if you let it.  What made this day stand out in his mind and heart against the background of all the days he’d spent there was that on that day his monster came out in full view and grinned at the horror on the faces that saw it, and it was on that day too years later after his inner ears had been opened by the sight of his soul he would hear in every corner of his being the sound of a man being killed by a monster, not the physical sound of in this case a bullet hitting a brain but the inner sound of what that feels like to love and hope that looks on, the noise that evil makes when it’s having its dinner.  He was outraged upon seeing the prisoners at leisure, that they had the gall to forget who they were and why they were there.  Something like that couldn’t be tolerated, and although one such as he did not have a license to kill at his whim – he had to report to his superior the deaths of the prisoners in his barracks that occurred in a day –, he could just about do what he pleased to enforce discipline, including on the spot executions.  Believe it or not there actually was a fine line here; any soldier going on regular killing sprees out of the context of the system of killing in place was quickly transferred out of guard service.  It was all part of the façade to appear to themselves as rational men forced by circumstance to sacrifice their morality and humane sensibilities for the greater good of the race.  How startling it was he knew: if you are going to be a beast and don’t want to suffer the unwelcome visits of guilt and shame you must either kill the reason or give it a reason that would silence its protests, keep it quiet, and the idea of sacrifice, so central to making a human being something more than a mere beast and closer to being something divine, was one the reason could not only live with but exalt in, feel good about.  An upside down truth that was evil’s most powerful weapon, what it turned the world on.

     “You like chance do you?”  Feeling in that moment the fury of the rainstorm he paced back and forth and repeated his question several times.  Every man there knew better than to answer him.  “Hey, you there, roll the dice.  If it lands on a one or a six I’ll shoot you.  Do you like those odds?  Now roll.”  The roll of the dice was like thunder’s wings so loud it was hitting the floor of silence that had seized the room.  It landed on five and upon seeing all sighed relief.  “Get out.”  The man, a homosexual wearing the pink triangle, scuffled out the door on the heels of his fate.  He turned to another man.  “You, take the dice.  Now roll.”  The man hesitated.  “Roll or I’ll shoot you where you stand.”  He rolled a six.  In one swift movement Fredrick raised the pistol and fired, and you could hear a sickening thud underneath the pistol shot as the bullet went into the man’s scull.  He slumped to the floor.  “Okay, you there.  What’s a matter?  Aren’t you feeling lucky?”

     Charged by that killing he gave the beast its head, and for an infernal hour it blotted out the stars that still visited the prisoners in their dreams at night, the ones that had shone so brightly on their nights before their days of being in this wretched place.  Comfortable, it came out in full view.  Hungry, it ate its fill.  Later the survivors would tell of that day.  At some point in the story they’d speak of the cold in the room, and it wasn’t from the rain as their listeners assumed it was.  How could they give any sense at all in words to what they saw that day, what came out and grinned the Holocaust at them?  It was for this day’s insidious deed that Fredrick’s name was placed on the list of wanted war criminals.  No one there could forget it.  All in all he killed thirteen that day, taking him a couple of methodical hours.  Meanwhile the rain came down like buckets of hell upon the world.  Yes, the rain, when it came down like that he remembered.

     He prepared himself a cup of ginger tea.  He’d started drinking it when he quit smoking, upon a suggestion from his muse, which always spoke in verse but not always in poems.  The great bulk of it was just grist to the mill, since it came from the creative reflex, the same place as dream, and so it was choke-full of his fears and desires and therefore so often unreliable.  Like Nature herself, it would throw out a thousand seeds just to plant one tree.  And a lot of those seeds were bad.  Much of it was direction, like the suggestion of drinking ginger tea.  There was something in the making and drinking of it to occupy the hands a moment, a sort of ritual like the lighting and smoking of a cigarette, and it smoothed his stomach.  He moved slowly to his small living room and sat down in his sitting chair, putting the tea on the coffee table to cool.  He figured the muse had saved his life, as he wouldn’t have gotten to ninety-one without its comfort, its company, its advice, and most especially, its poetry.  It gave him a perpetual youth in his mind and heart, freshly alive as it was like when creation first began.  It was his ticket to the universe, as into its microphone all spoke; before its camera everything came.  He heard and saw the people he’d loved and lost and the ones he’d hurt and killed, heard and saw the ideas that float through infinity, listened to and looked at songs and scenes of growing light from the war between the gods and the devils, listened to and looked at his own soul even.

     He’d always been a poet.  The play of language came naturally to him, but he never associated his word games with poetry.  As a boy in school he hated having to read and memorize poems; that was boring, but he took such a delight in crafting sentences for his spelling words, though never in paragraph and essay writing; that was work, but what fun he could have with a single sentence.  Always the class waited for his turn to stand up and read one of his sentences.  They were funny and sad at the same time, and they took you far away.  Often in his head growing up he’d say a word over and over until it lost the sense it meant, at which point he’d feel as if he’d broken into the secret of language, saw it for the symbol power that it was.  And he loved to play with rhyme, had an innate sense of the rules of rhythm that made it something even the deaf could hear, a game of the mating of sound with meaning in the mind the mouth could not help but to say aloud.  But before being able to actually hear his muse he’d only written several whole poems, when he still only picked up his inspiration from afar, when it was only an overriding sense of ideas in his mind that he struggled to put the right words too and not yet what his muse had actually spoken or sung into his inner ear.  Those poems he’d written only after the war, as it wasn’t until in the aftermath of that that he had begun to hit that peculiar world and self watching note of thought and feeling that would make his language leave the confines of prose and break out in poetry.  Even from that distance you could hear a poet muse.

Where does darkness go when you turn on the light,
And how far from hell does it put up a fight,
And how far from hell is the dark of the night,
And how far as well the soul of my life?

     Things had certainly piped up now that he’d finally submitted his poetry for publication, a rising crescendo of sounds and images.  It would culminate, he well knew now, in silence.  He’d waited ten years to submit, not only for his muse to develop into good solid verse, a flowering of his own personal style, and it was his muse, not an imitation of anyone else’s or a simple dictation of the inner voice and its vision – he wasn’t a mere scribe –, but also for the right moment, the proper time.  He’d learned to read the world riding as he did so often in his muse on its inner movements, on the waves that sail through it carrying everyone and everything towards some large unknown, on the shoreless thoughts and bottomless feelings from the hells that we have made here and the heavens we are trying to bring.  Never had a moment in time needed such a poet more, or so he saw it, not immodestly.  He knew Necessity called him, that Inevitability knocked, but nonetheless he was afraid.  He was voluntarily putting his head on the chopping block, the noose around his own neck.  Three months had gone by since he’d submitted, and it was about time to hear from somebody.  Sitting waiting for his tea to cool he’d slipped inside, and he sat listening to his muse, in this case an inner conversation between him and his direction.  Passive and active at the same time he allowed all in that came but threw out what didn’t seem right or wasn’t to the clarity or quality he wanted, something he did more when it was a poem in the making, and waited for the muse to send the idea dressed in a different phrase.  The lines he kept he wrote quietly in his notebook then went back inside like a diver having surfaced his lot going under for more pearls.

Don’t knock individuality Fredrick,
A whisper there of divinity.
Tell me the rules.
I’m not hiding anything.
Face enormous risk.
Are you tryin’ to convince me
That you can’t do it?
What about failure?
You test the world by success or failure?
If I don’t someone will.
That’s how I get judged.
The old man’s shop.
Can you consider a higher horizon?
Go for ten thousand years or ten thousand dollars.
Man from inside
Come in.
My print,
You’re a sharpener.
Let’s take all his clothes off.
Garbled in silence?
He would be the main thrust.
Density opens up.
Deeper than meaning
Heavier than the universe
They hear you.

     He was beginning to discover he was watching a movie.  There had been hints even when he’d been the most absorbed in the character he was playing, when he’d gotten completely lost from himself in that losing part he played, the SS commando and concentration camp guard.  It was like everything was staged, not only the fighting and atrocities but all of life and the world, like they were some kind of show being put on, and at times the sense was so strong he felt unnerved and exposed.  In those moments he felt there was an audience watching the movie.  Never was it something he could put his finger on; just suddenly he would be dong something and the solidity of things left him.  It was as though he were experiencing another kind of déjà vu, not one that gave you a strange sense of reoccurrence but one that invaded you with the sense of how unreal everything was, unreal as in life was not the thing-in-itself but some kind of performance, not unreal in the sense that it was all an illusion.  He could feel something real that watched so intensely it participated, was all that it witnessed, and that made it all real.  But whoever it was and whoever he was behind the movie making he had no earthy idea.  With the advent of the muse and of certain breathless experiences, however, he had begun to get glimpses.

     Still, even in the light of that growing knowledge, he greatly feared his capture, as though it would negate everything he’d learned that even hinted at anything larger than the world and life.  We are such doubting creatures spirituality is like a will-o-the-wisp; the least little knock by life and it just isn’t true.  Since he’d first read his name on the list of wanted war criminals back in ‘92, his real name, the one he’d submitted his poems under, not the one he’d gotten off that dead militiaman in the Battle for Berlin, he lived in dread of the moment they’d find him, drag him to Israel or Germany, try him and condemn him those relentless Jews scouring the earth for his kind.  They never gave up, not as long as they thought one Nazi war criminal might still be breathing somewhere, and as time passed the were going down the ranks, fingering even the guards. (The Internet, instead of primarily targeting it to reach for the stars, both the ones outside and the ones in, we're using it more to get the wrongdoer, call it the scapegoat or omega member reflex, and now that we have such a powerful social search engine, the net, that reflex has a virtual omniscience, even reaching as far into the past as we can to get anyone who's done the wrongs we're all up in arms about in this particular moment in history before they die.) Often he wondered about those Nazi hunters, their one-track minds and one-sided hearts.  They’d not had to look as deeply and integrally into life as he’d had to being the bad man lifting himself up to the good, however much they’d suffered at the hands of that man, or so it appeared to him from his weight of the world perspective.  Granted, the question of why did that happen to me was not a shallow one, especially when you were asking why you had to go through hell on earth, but it was not as many-pointed as the one that asked why you were the devil torturing people in that hell here, since such a large finger pointed directly at you, a finger not so easy to see when you were the victim and it was not so big but nonetheless as important in answering the question why as it was to the victimizer.  This was a world of rhyme and reason.  Meaning imbued every line, and nothing happened to you that wasn’t supposed to he’d learned in having to answer that world-revealing question of why me as integrally as he’d had to being the bad man becoming good.  These were good men and had no need to dare the deeps to discover there their goodness, and hence they only had a shallow brand of goodness that gleamed no brighter than self-righteousness.  Self-righteousness, it was becoming more and more apparent to him that it was responsible for as much evil perhaps as evil itself.  If a twisted truth was evil’s greatest weapon disguising itself as good was its most cunning ruse, the snare by which it captured all good people.

     These Nazi hunters, ignorant of fate and circumstance, that no one got away with anything, not even with revenge, and that any hurt you doled out would be returned upon you in so many ways through out your life, and that the people you hurt you’d have to face at some point in your long journey back from life and would have to right the wrong you did to them, ignorant also of the fact that life was a movie and we each had our assigned role, and therefore you just couldn’t take anything completely seriously and get lost in it or lose your head over it, but most of all ignorant of the power and presence of grace in the world, that one such as he could change his assigned role, change his very fate, and that there, that bright possibility, that was the miracle of life, what we could do here if we had the knowledge and the will to surpass ourselves, and these Nazi hunters, insensible to the Unseen, unable or unwilling to see past the wall of ordinariness that hides the extraordinary, the clock of destiny and the hands of fate measuring and moving upon this world and those beyond, compounded wrong with wrong, returned evil for evil, and therefore made the world worse than what it was and not better as they thought they did, as most thought they did.  But it was their day, the day of the victim, the day of retribution, the day of hating the victimizer.  It was not yet a whole day in the plenary spectrum of things, and Fredrick was afraid despite the fact that he knew the better.  The problem with this old world the worse usually is what comes.

     Sipping his tea with some trepidation he remembered again those last days in Berlin, the Russian army coming and the Russian army crushing when it came.  So often had his mind retuned here, as it was as much a birth for him as a death.  Something similar now loomed, a face of unknown fate that held both creation and destruction in its hard look.  The fear he felt was the same he felt then, a fear of not only dying but of coming to utter ruin as a man.  He knew even then what the discovery of the camps would mean to men like him.  He’d been called back to combat duty, the leg wound that sent him to a rotation as a concentration camp guard not a wound that would ever heal completely, but he was a seasoned SS veteran, and he was badly needed.  At the time he thought it incredible luck that he managed in the last mad moments of the Reich to don a different identity.  In all the chaos and death no one challenged him, as after all the pillaging, raping, and murdering on the part of the victors that poor man from whom he'd gotten his new identity had no surviving immediate family.  When he surrendered wearing a militia uniform he was taken and held prisoner with all the other soldiers, but he was freed after only a short time.  Again he thought luck was with him, but it wasn’t luck.  Destiny had its hand upon him.  In ’61 he was able to immigrate to the States greatly helped by that hand, and he made a bearable life for himself.  Although in America he’d been involved with a couple of women, he’d not married and had no children, and long ago he’d lost contact with any kin he had in Germany, so now in his old age he had no family to occupy him out of himself.  With the money he’d saved from being an artisan for some thirty years, a cabinet maker, he’d bought the small place he had now, one a little isolated on the edge of a large track of forest, and it was there, alone with himself and the deep-throated wood, growing everyday closer to the grave, that he’d finally faced what he’d done.  Here again, destiny gave him a push, since as a general rule the worse wrong people do the least likely they are to own up to it even to themselves.  Fredrick did more than that; aided by the natural sounds and forms around him that pointed away from a purely outward gaze, he plunged inside and found his soul.

      In the alchemies of wind, sky and cloud that science, no matter how objective it tried to explain the weather, could never separate from one’s personal subjective experience, the rain turned to hail, and for a moment it startled him as if his fear were suddenly made real, and all hell was breaking lose, and they were coming to get him.  He knew enough about dreams to know that the dream he’d had last night about being dragged half-alive through the forest by a bear that had seized him meant something bad today might happen to him that would be akin to what he dreamed.  Anytime the body was violated in a dream you had to watch out; the dream could be telling you in symbols what was about to befall you in waking life.  The problem was half the time nothing even remotely like that happened, and you were left wondering what the dream actually meant.  Most of the time matching inside events with outside ones was about like trying to pair opposites and make them mean the same thing.  You only knew you did indeed have a match after the outside event happened; you could never be sure before, but fear didn’t listen to reason or put much stock in the odds not being in its favor.  If there was a chance, however remote, it showed its head, but in this case however, fear had a lot to chew on.  Strangely, though, in the dream he was not at all bothered about being seized and dragged, being taken to be eaten on later.  It all seemed like a movie he was watching with absolutely no interest.  And there was that bright light in the sky.

     But the hail did not allow that light in his mind long.  There’s something about hail that makes it seem associated with hell it sounds like, something more than just word association, more than its striking and alarming sound hitting the roof of your world.  When it hailed an extreme had been reached in Nature, very strange conditions indeed, ones on the dark and cold side of things.  He returned once again to look at the question of why, why he had turned to the cold dark side.  The answer now stood revealed, but it wasn’t one to be spoken of in polite company, wasn’t even one to speak of at all.  But it had to be spoken.  It was the answer to why he personally had been pulled to that side, from where had come the cruelty he let escape from his own hands, was the answer why it came from a lot of places, and it was ugly.

Now there’s the primary level
Ladies and gentlemen.
Paris, the picture change
After what happened.
Once in five years,
Five-years-old –
Foreign labor.
You know,
That kind of influence.
No I can’t do it.
Then go on spectacular:
Anal intercourse was terrible.
His father walked up on him
And he was taking a five-year-old interest in his body.
What can I do to apologize?
That brand of hate,
As mean as you can get.
Brownshirt it up.
Know all the causes.
Monster ahead.
Had begun.

     He didn’t hate his father for doing it, wasn’t even angry at him.  He understood, and that’s what forgiveness is all about basically.  Once you finally understand you find you’ve forgiven, and it really doesn’t matter if the person who hurt you had asked for it or even feels any remorse.  You understand and therefore you forgive, almost automatically.  It wasn’t possible to simply forgive someone like you’re taught to.  Understanding has to come first, and that usually takes some time, especially when the wrong is grave.  His father, like a lot of German men, had been more or less raised in military boarding schools, and there that kind of thing was rife from what his muse told him, many upper classmen having their wife in a little boy, and his father was only seven when his father sent him off, a primary target.  He imagined it was the same with Japan, who also had a marshal society and who also unloaded its own brand of cruelty upon the world.  It was a hidden mechanism that had been around a long time.  It didn’t only produce cruelty; it made good soldiers.  A little reflection on the relation between submissiveness and obedience to orders and the ability to tolerate pain and just generally getting screwed might reveal how it could do that.  He’d even read of a tribe somewhere in Papua New Guinea that had a special lodge for it.  When asked by anthropologists what function it served the answer was that it made the boys strong warriors.  Although Sparta denied it in its propaganda war with Athens, it’s reasonably clear from Spartan cruelty and military prowess, if you understand where such things come from, and by his muse he did, that in the Agoge, their brutal education and training program mandatory for all male citizens, that sort of thing was more the rule rather than the exception.  In understanding the way it operated, however, he saw the mechanism didn’t have to be to that extreme for extreme meanness to manifest from parts of a culture.  In a totalitarian society, or any culture or sub-culture with the right mix of conditions, the required matrix, it wouldn’t have to be every man had that happen to him as a boy (or every woman as a girl for that matter either), just one out of every few who would set the tone so that all would march to the beat of cruelty.  It really only takes a few bad apples to spoil the whole lot herd sour as we are.  As one bad apple this Fredrick knew.

     You’d wonder why it would have such an influence upon a man.  Fredrick wondered that too, and when he was able to actually remember the incident with his father, which they never spoke about nor ever happened again, he saw the reason.  It was like a knife or a spear had been thrust inside you up near horse’s house, very close to your engine, and there you were in burning pain while the person giving that to you was taking the greatest pleasure.  You tended to twist that around as you grew up.  Before long you were a man that took pleasure in handing out pain, in all its varieties, though not everyone would respond like that.  It didn’t make every boy a mean man.  There generally needed to be as he’d seen a matrix of meanness to help foster yours as there was in Germany at that time, like there was in a lot of lands, like there is today in many places around the globe, like the ghetto to give a hint.  Fredrick had done his homework; he knew the problem and its potency.  Of course just like when you play-fight with a puppy and do it in such a way as to get a kick out being mean to it you can make children mean too, slapping then around, teasing then, and just generally being mean to them, but here we are speaking of a particular brand of meanness rearing up its head, the kind that we associate with monsters.  It came from pain down deep.  In his growing understanding of how deeply evil has it hands in us and how wide the world is in terms of experience – wider than anyone could gauge –, he guessed there were other such mechanisms out there even more potent in making monsters of man, but this one had been his handle, was quite a common handle, and it was time it was seen.

     Fredrick didn’t look at that mechanism as an excuse for his actions.  It hadn’t made him do the evil he did, but it did open him to evil, and there with his fatherland opening to it too – the uprising going from house to house and dragging everybody down to hell like his whole country was a condemned Faust, the Jews, the party members, the non-party members, the undesirables, the whole damn lot –, he simply surrendered to it and let it have its way with him.  Here, in that surrendering, in letting it come into his mind and heart and then come out from his hand a monster, he took responsibility.  It was clear to him now in his integral picture of justice that being punished for what he’d done wouldn’t right the wrong.  That just gives satisfaction to the animal in us that still needs such things to feel pain it gave or feel compensated for pain received.  His poetry was his way of taking responsibility.  If you’d been hurt by him or someone like him it would work the miracle of art; it would heal, but you’d have to let it.  If you listen to it, it gives compensation; I hurt you and I sure feel it, cannot escape from that pain I gave you.  What is it really we want people to feel when we want them punished?  Is there a better deterrent than that?  The world wasn’t ready for such thoughts, and he understood why.  He’d heard a young man in a movie, a university student, a young German man, tell his professor that if he’d been alive then he would’ve killed himself rather than become a Nazi.  Sure man, sure.  Somehow, he figured that young man would not kill himself but would be the model German then as he was trying to be the model one now.  Very few understood human nature, very few.

     The storm had stopped.  Fredrick went outside and sat in his other sitting chair on the front porch.  It was an old country house made of wood and had one of those spacious roofed front porches that invited sitting, and an old man loved to sit.  The aftermath of the storm put an accent mark on all of his senses and simply chased away his nagging fear.  After a rain was always his favorite time of the world.  Now it bordered on being a different world with the white balls of ice scattered over the green and brown of the ground.  That compounded with the wet made things so look so sharp it gave a hue of other-worldliness to the scene before him. The smell of things too was more pungent, but nothing smelled unpleasant, not even the sewage overflow trench on the edge of his yard that his heightened nose could now pick up.  And every sound he heard had more of a crunch to it, more of a crackle.  Everything was so fresh and alive.  He wanted to take his evening walk and take it all in, see what changes the storm had wrought in the old wood, but already the light had begun to change.  There wasn’t time before dark.  For a man his age with a slightly bad leg he got around pretty good, even still drove himself to town, but like the day falling on evening his life had come to its eve, and it wouldn’t be too long before he would have to move closer to people and become more dependent, and he didn’t want that, god how he didn’t want that.  He was happy here, for the first time in his life happy somewhere.  His muse and the deep wood gave him good company, made him feel as though all the world were here with him.  And they were.

     Just when the twice daily miracle had begun, when coming or going light became for a brief moment something that made you believe there actually were perfect worlds, and that our whirling globe, ever turning on danger, could climb to become one, was showing what it could be, he saw a couple of police cars and a press van coming up the road.  Someone else had been waiting for the storm to pass too.  Somehow he wasn’t surprised.  It’s a funny thing about a gnawing fear; when what you’ve been afraid of finally does arrive you tend to look on it not terrified but with only a slight annoyance as you would if it were an expected but unwelcome guest at your door.  When the vehicles got close enough to his house that he could hear the tires crush what was left of the fast melting balls of hail, a police helicopter came out of nowhere and strafed his house directly overhead with its hounding eye, the sudden leading in and leading out of its sound a siren’s song, a giant’s bellow, so great had it come crashing down upon his ears, hitting even his inner hearing.  But it was the sound of the chopper, the beating of the blades and what it brought up in him, a sudden realization of just what exactly a crack of thunder invokes, that brought the silence.

     His mind and his heard, his whole inner world, became a blank page, still water, not a word of thought or a wave of feeling disturbing the nameless peace he had become.  He looked and saw but there was no one that looked and saw.  He was looking and seeing itself, raw awareness; everything else had been expunged.  Liberation was given to him, a Nazi war criminal in the moment of his capture; first prize had come to someone like him, although no one would know of this enlightenment.  He would die a conscious death before his trial began, having finished his task upon this dubious globe.  He would not become a public spectacle.  He’d told his story in poetry, in art, the way such stories should be told if the teller could lift himself up that high, and there was no need for him to tell it any other way.  His word would get out.  Send a message: what’s wrong with you?  Are you good?  Hear that?

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