“If the morning is cold: begin with the scars at the bottom.”
– Jason Schwartz, John the Posthumous
If there is a designated point at which return
becomes of no return, so far is how far
I am always beyond it.
We sit in the rain of your ancient hangover
and I tell you the story about my dead dad
who spent his sixteenth year digging a giant hole
in a field in Liverpool and never said why (perhaps)
…. I love you.
I love you in the jittering shade of a windmill.
I love you standing in the water wearing the river
like an invisible pair of shoes. I love you here
at the middle of your only life and almost gone
smoking beside your window, light drifting between us
like ghost sequins.
I’ve always never felt this way about anyone
but the way in which I’ve never felt about you
is a way of never feeling so new it’s somehow old
like a cave painting of a fax machine
or falling asleep in the attic of a spaceship.
You make me want to think of you in a sentence with me in it.
You make me want to find a collapsed mineshaft
I can call your name in while searching for you.
You make me want to tell you what you make me want
but what can I even say to you – riding a desk chair
through the afternoon like a patron saint
of remaindered office furniture.
I don’t know what it means
to walk each night into a field alone
and dig, until you are standing in a hole so deep
you cannot be seen above ground.
I don’t know what it means to fall asleep by your window
and wake, let’s say, with the illustrated guide to Planet of the Apes in my hand.
I don’t know what it means to wake each morning and love you
and say nothing, as if nothing
were honesty’s default, or maybe just a way
for me to avoid the stupid things I need to tell you like
looking at you is like looking at a beautiful person far away
through a telescope that makes you seem the size you almost are
which is something I mean but don’t understand
like the new hieroglyphs of songbrids
or how the world in which I am saying this to you
is slowly receding
that looking at you is like looking
backwards out the window of a slow-moving helicopter
into the nineteenth-century cornfield of your face
which my historical inaccuracy
has suddenly emptied of birds.
You make my life feel the size of itself.
You make my life a burning craft
on some distant and unintended hillside.
…. you are the pale green arm
of the Statue of Liberty
reaching up through miles of sand
In times of crisis, we must all decide again and again
whom we love
– Frank O’Hara
Trees talk to each other at night.
All fish are named either Lorna or Jack.
Before your eyeballs fall out from watching too much TV, they get very loose.
Tiny bears live in drain pipes.
If you are very very quiet you can hear the clouds rub against the sky.
The moon and the sun had a fight a long time ago.
Everyone knows at least one secret language.
When nobody is looking, I can fly.
We are all held together by invisible threads.
Books get lonely too.
Sadness can be eaten.
I will always be there.
– Raul Gutierrez
In 2008, Maya Angelou – one of the greatest writers (and women) of the past century – wrote, Letter to My Daughter, a collection of meditations addressed to the daughter she never had. These gorgeous reflections are really a blueprint to the life of meaning for any human being.
In the first essay, Angelou offers this beautiful meditation on identity, growing up, and belonging:
Thomas Wolfe warned in the title of America’s great novel that ‘You Can’t Go Home Again.’ I enjoyed the book but I never agreed with the title. I believe that one can never leave home. I believe that one carries the shadows, the dreams, the fears and dragons of home under one’s skin, at the extreme corners of one’s eyes and possibly in the gristle of the earlobe.
Home is that youthful region where a child is the only real living inhabitant. Parents, siblings, and neighbors, are mysterious apparitions, who come, go, and do strange unfathomable things in and around the child, the region’s only enfranchised citizen.
I am convinced that most people do not grow up. We find parking spaces and honor our credit cards. We marry and dare to have children and call that growing up. I think what we do is mostly grow old. We carry accumulation of years in our bodies and on our faces, but generally our real selves, the children inside, are still innocent and shy as magnolias.
We may act sophisticated and worldly but I believe we feel safest when we go inside ourselves and find home, a place where we belong and maybe the only place we really do.
It’s a beautiful book, and you can find it here: Letter to my Daughter
You say that everything is very simple and interesting
it makes me feel very wistful, like reading a great
Russian novel does
I am terribly bored
sometimes it is like seeing a bad movie
other days, more often, it’s like having an acute disease
of the kidney
god knows it has nothing to do with the heart
nothing to do with people more interesting than myself
that’s an amusing thought
how can anyone be more amusing than oneself
how can anyone fail to be
can i borrow your forty-five
I only need one bullet preferably silver
if you can’t be interesting at least you can be a legend
(but I hate all that crap)
– Frank O’Hara
We treat desire as a problem to be solved, address what desire is for and focus on that something and how to acquire it rather than on the nature and the sensation of desire, though often it is the distance between us and the object of desire that fills the space in between with the blue of longing. I wonder sometimes whether with a slight adjustment of perspective it could be cherished as a sensation on its own terms, since it is as inherent to the human condition as blue is to distance? If you can look across the distance without wanting to close it up, if you can own your longing in the same way that you own the beauty of that blue that can never be possessed? For something of this longing will, like the blue of distance, only be relocated, not assuaged, by acquisition and arrival, just as the mountains cease to be blue when you arrive among them and the blue instead tints the next beyond. Somewhere in this is the mystery of why tragedies are more beautiful than comedies and why we take a huge pleasure in the sadness of certain songs and stories. Something is always far away.
The blue of distance comes with time, with the discovery of melancholy, of loss, the texture of longing, of the complexity of the terrain we traverse, and with the years of travel. If sorrow and beauty are all tied up together, then perhaps maturity brings with it not … abstraction, but an aesthetic sense that partially redeems the losses time brings and finds beauty in the faraway.
Some things we have only as long as they remain lost, some things are not lost only so long as they are distant.
– From, A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit
Photography by: Mike Dempsey