Chasing the sunset, over the sloping hills of solid stone that formed the shore, I thought maybe we were on to something. Trees grew amidst the rocks, dense enough to make the setting sun elusive, giving us something to follow. We saw it set once, then followed my sister further down the shore, stepping out of the trees to discover it was still there, going down a second time. Time travel never seemed so easy. We watched it disappear in silence; or near silence, the best three breathing animals can manage. I watched the last of the light reflect off of C's shoes, slowly changing colour.

At some point, on the way there or back, I had noticed the trees; evergreen, but sparsely-grown, with long branches outstretched and their tops all bent, leaning away from the shore. I love trees like this, trees that make the wind visible; not only visible, but present even when it is no longer there. Maybe it's because Vancouver's shoreline is so sheltered, that they still seem novel to me. Certainly they are everywhere, trees like this, it's just how they grow.

But they were beautiful to me, especially there and then and in that company. And they made me think of monks, or devoted mystics -- the half-leafless, extended branches in particular, like arms with palms facing up. Their tops like faces, also facing up -- but not straight up, because God was not something you could look at straight up. Because God blew you sideways. And I thought to myself -- and maybe I thought it aloud too, I don't know -- how brave these trees were. Not to grow there, because they had no choice, but to let themselves be bent. To let the wind, or God, or whatever else came and spoke to them at night, to let it shape them. To be transformed by a foreign body.

Trees of course just grow where they are, how they grow, vulnerable to whatever local gods preside. But not us. And on a road trip, maybe, where you make your own wind -- where time travel is just another side effect of cruise control -- it is easy to be brave. Easy to be shaped, too, when you know the shape is temporary. And also easier because of so few distractions, nothing but the immediate concerns of landscape and people and the beauty that's right there in front of you.

But carrying that home is harder. I have a lot of natural defenses. I live in a house and it's never windy enough here. The sky doesn't get so big. And of course I'm scared; and what is there around me, that I want to shape me?

Today I was thinking about permeable and impermeable objects. I was imagining a mountain made entirely of sounds. Then I was imagining the world as a giant wax sponge -- a device for recording impressions. I saw a landscape, and then a shout passing through it like a thunderclap -- a wave passing right to left, and as it passed through, every object was shattered. Shattered but left standing, with all the tiny holes and cracks acting as a record, piling up; every impact accreting, until it became a palimpsest of what-broke-when, of its own missing pieces. And what if every planet were like this, cast into space like scientific probes, not to sustain life or orbit suns but to see what it was like. To be pulled back in and collected and compared -- all the different shapes of a sphere, like apples with their skins sheared off by time.

And I thought, what could be less interesting than an impermeable object, an indestructible thing? It could never tell you anything, except I guess the same thing, over and over. Like an advertisement for itself.
every time I talk about it
a little gets away

but who am I holding my breath for
hauling around this
ungainly net of words

until something gets sharp enough to cut itself free
such wide, heavy skies --
how much of this travelling
can I carry home?

--

I am in Regina after driving all night -- into and through a prairie thunderstorm, then crawling through 30ft-visibility fog before pulling over to the side of the road to sleep until the horizon returned. It was like driving through an epic poem, complete with descent into the underworld; or maybe it was like being reincarnated, but as what?

Too much has happened and I feel like I will never process any of it, as much as it deserves; I can already feel myself shrinking as I get closer to home. Everything has been wonderful and fascinating and beautiful and at least some of that I have shared with you, and you. But it is harder for some reason to share it with myself, if that makes any sense.

Driving alone makes it harder, of course -- there's nobody to talk to, nobody to echo the 'oh my god' when you see the huge shelf of the storm with its edges all lit up by the last part of the sunset. When all the wind turbines on the far-away horizon blink red at the same time in your rearview mirror, like a sudden collection of eyes.

I tried calling home from the middle of North Dakota but it didn't help, and you can't write and drive at the same time. If I could write livejournal posts with my mind this would be a far more varied & populous & honest place. I have been trying to keep a paper journal but I have never had the habit; I only want to write to myself when other people are listening. Hoping that they will recognize something that I don't.

--

sunset travels across the lake
from tree to tree top
zipping up the day
(Whenever I attend a graduation ceremony I am always disappointed by the limited flourishes attached to the always-endless list of names, slowly crossing the stage. After all, not everyone can graduate with honours, or with distinction -- and most of them graduate with far more interesting things than that.)

--

with honours, with distinction --
with two jobs on the side
and eyes facing forward

with honours, with distinction --
with a bag of chips
at every precious potluck

with honours, with distinction --
with debt, with coffee, with
the momentum of friends

with honours, with distinction --
with the name of every bird and tree
crowding it out

with honours, with distinction --
without sleeping or any belief
in a future

with honours, with distinction --
with her mother's high heels
and nervous laugh

with honours, with distinction --
with fists clenched, waiting
for them to change their minds

with honours, with distinction --
with anonymous hoots
from the audience

with honours, with distinction --
with no goddamn choice,
and a year to spare.

with honours, with distinction --
with white-knuckled exams
throwing up before and after

with honours, with distinction --
with as little studying
as he could get away with

with honours, with distinction --
with that one long summer
when she wasn't going back

with honours, with distinction --
with the best artichoke dip
you ever tasted

with honours, with distinction --
with a red bow tie
and funny teeth

with honours, with distinction --
with one busted space heater
and three pairs of socks

with honours, with distinction --
with really great hair
and white heels

with honours, with distinction --
with a girlfriend
on the other coast

with honours, with distinction --
with no idea, no fucking
idea at all

with honours, with distinction --
with every morning running
out on the moor

with honours, with distinction --
with free canapes
stuffed in her pockets

with honours, with distinction --
with no help
that he's willing to admit to

with honours, with distinction --
with alchohol,
or despite it

with honours, with distinction --
with a name she had to teach
them to pronounce

with honours, with distinction --
with teeth gritted
against the constant wind

with honours, with distinction --
with the slowly-growing hope
that someone would notice

with honours, with distinction --
with frustrated tutors
and constant prayer

with honours, with distinction --
with a slow clap building
for four long years

with honours, with distinction --
with one month every year
not leaving the house

with honours, with distinction --
with ramen and peanut butter and vodka
and scurvy

with honours, with distinction --
with no understanding
that this could have been hard

with honours, with distinction --
with their own car
parked outside

with honours, with distinction --
with endless patience
and spring thaw

with honours, with distinction --
with someone else's name,
and no regrets

with honours, with distinction --
with relatives who are tired
of just clapping

with honours, with distinction --
with a favourite poet
they can only read in translation

with honours, with distinction --
with fewer friends
than he had hoped for

with honours, with distinction --
with four continents' dirt
underfoot

with honours, with distinction --
with cancer
in the family

with honours, with distinction --
with (no) mother, with (no) father, with
(no) sisters, (no)

with honours, with distinction --
with the afternoon sun
straight in your eyes

with honours, with distinction --
without ever quite getting
what for

with honours, with distinction --
with her father's high school diploma
framed on the wall

with honours, with distinction --
with student loan statements
buried in the yard

with honours, with distinction --
with a sheer cliff of rock
and a sharpened toothbrush

with honours, with distinction --
with green tights and
her grandmother's name
It's funny how I can't even wait for people to leave to start missing them.
So without bothering to talk about what I've been up to or how I've been doing or why I have neglected livejournal so, I will get straight to the mercenary point:

I am going to be driving a car from Montreal to Vancouver at the end of May.

This will be on the heels of a family trip to Newfoundland, for which I am departing next weekend, giving me approximately a week to plan my entire road trip itinerary. Well actually I had two weeks but I spent most of the first week worrying about how I hadn't planned my trip yet.

The major decision at this point is whether to drive through the US or whether to stick to the Trans Canada for the extremely, very, definitely quite long passage through Northern Ontario. I am leaning pretty heavily towards ducking south, because I've never been to Chicago and also it just seems much more interesting. I already went through Ontario on a train once and all I remember from that part was an endless forest of identical birch trees.

Anyways, the reason this is mercenary is that while I could in theory camp in campgrounds or crash on couchsurfing dot com couches or even (gasp) stay in cheap motels, trips are way more fun when you visit random people you vaguely know on the Internet -- or even people you don't know at all, on the recommendation of other people you mostly don't know.

So maybe that's you? I honestly have no idea who even reads this anymore, or where some of you people actually live, but if you have a couch anywhere west of Toronto and east of Saskatchewan (including points south of that general area) and the thought of a visit from yours truly does not fill you with existential dread, do let me know. (I am particularly interested in not having to pay for a hotel in Chicago.)

I am also accepting recommendations for awesome places to visit/eat/lounge about anywhere along the route, which currently and tentatively looks something like this:

https://maps.google.ca/maps?saddr=montreal&daddr=toronto+to:regina+to:vancouver&hl=en&ll=43.771094,-101.074219&spn=25.047891,57.084961&sll=45.423176,-98.341685&sspn=24.14216,57.084961&geocode=FT5otgIduKed-ykNt2QcVBrJTDHv7x8hODFOZQ%3BFWoYmgIdcLVE-ymlO8bXkMvUiTF3xLQqUFU1Mg%3BFcLgAQMdNdTD-SnrPaX7QB4cUzGxVHu3ljJKNQ%3BFaqq7wIdOW6p-CmzT6lD8XOGVDGL84Gb6paRuw&mra=ls&t=m&z=5
this is the week of
just barely holding on; to
what I couldn't
say
just to curl up in someone and stay there
as quietly and lightly as I can
and day by day only
getting lighter
I was thinking today about running away with all of my friends and living together in a utopic community in the woods, and how great it would be,
but then I tried to figure out what it was I would contribute to help make everything great,
what I would do there that I can't do now,
and I couldn't think of anything.
you can't tell who's lonely anymore
sitting by themselves in a coffee shop
texting nonstop

where are the spaces I'm supposed to fit into?
where can I make a silence
for you to speak?

all the faintly-recognizeable faces
friend of a friendslist, maybe
the shape of a bell
in the shape of a tower
ringing for no one in particular
All the dozen or so orange safety lights on the edge of the industrial port are flashing on and off at different times, so that the objects to which they are attached seem to be overlaid by a translucent sheet of reflective material that randomly sparkles in the light.

Like a fresh bank of snow, when you walk by -- and every time you move, a whole different set of snow-crystals happens to be aiming you straight in the eye. Or imagine, instead of walking by, pirouetting, your head whipping around on each rotation, trying to remember if the lights are still in the same place.
I am currently on week two of a self-imposed hiatus from using my computer when at home, and though I do have the Internet at work I just realized that I am not in the habit of checking livejournal at work at all. So I may be missing some things, dear friends, and for that I apologize. But meanwhile I have at least read a lot of books?
Today I went to work at six in the morning, like a stockbroker or something. It was one of those cases where things just happen to line up that way -- like an asteroid that spends a few days masquerading as a moon. In fact I had been up all night.

It is also the first day of rain, the first day of actual autumn. I took my umbrella; the floors of the world were wet, both inside and outside. The bus was remarkably crowded, but it was probably only remarkable to me, since I cannot imagine so many people getting up so early to go to work. For everyone else it was probably just the bus. In any case an empty seat appeared immediately. I sat reading The Waves in a dark bus even though it was still somehow morning, which let me tell you.

And I thought to myself 'this is okay. I could do this more than once.'
It seems only fair, since I brought it up, to add that my grandfather died, a few hours ago, as peacefully as one might hope for. (They took him off life support, basically.)

I talked to my dad, he seemed okay. It's impossible to tell, over the phone. It is frustrating to want to go out there, and to know that I cannot really afford it. Just another example of my not-quite-being-an-adult-enough. But I might go anyways, we'll see.
My grandfather -- my father's father -- is dying in Montreal right now. He was sick, very briefly, without a diagnosis, then it was lymphoma, then it was confirmed as a highly treatable form of lymphoma, then he started chemotherapy yesterday, and today he is in the hospital on a ventilator and probably won't wake up again. From my point of view all of this took a week, maybe two. He is eighty one but always seemed much younger. He was active and played tennis three or four times a week and just generally did not seem like he was going to die anytime soon, and I have no idea why saying any of that is important, but it is part of what I say when I am telling people about my grandfather.

When I was ten years old we went on a two week motorcycle trip together, starting in Calgary, down through any number of States, and eventually back up to Montreal. I then spent another week sitting in the basement of my grandparents' house playing my step-uncle's computer games and eating potato chips and watching VHS movies and when I got back to Vancouver I was so noticeably fat that my father called his father to complain.

I have so few memories -- real, uncontrived, unrecycled memories -- from that trip, and (it seems) so few memories of time with my grandfather in general that are not constructed from photographs. I feel like I screwed up somehow, in paying attention. And that it turns out paying attention is the only thing I was really supposed to be doing.

I remember the Best Western guidebook that I would review every day to see what hotel we were staying at, and -- most crucially -- whether it included a swimming pool or a video arcade. I remember waving to Hell's Angels' on the highway, because all bikers on the road are of a single clan. I remember how we decided not to go down into Pennsylvania, where my grandfather grew up, and how it only bothers me now that we didn't do that. I remember stopping in a roadside cafe somewhere in Wyoming (or Nebraska or a Dakota, I don't know) to avoid an enormous thunderstorm -- how strange it was to be able to see weather coming, from that far away, how satisfying to avoid it and also how boring to sit around in a restaurant.

I guess probably there are more memories than I suspect, but I don't know. Nobody close to me has ever died, nobody I felt any obligation to -- to remember, I mean, to be some sort of a witness to their life. Witness for who I don't know, but if somebody asked me what he was like -- what if I can't answer? What if I answer and it just sounds stupid.
how empty things seem, today
even the wind
can't decide where to blow
love - the breathing of horizons
out - the sharp blue edge of skies
in - the soft, erasing touch
I need a new you to talk to,
a more indefinite you.
I want to throw myself into the ocean, or no -
I want to meet you there.
Tonight, when nobody is sleeping –
and isn’t it time we all gave up on that together
for a change?

So meet me along the shore, all of you,
It will be an audition, or a rehearsal
I will put lights in your mouths
To make your cheeks glow
To make your words fireflies
that drift in the water’s shadow

So I can look at you with desire
And you can look at me with relief
I can tell you all the things that we can’t talk about
You can tell me all the things I don’t believe

It has to be by the ocean, though
It doesn’t matter how you get there
Black cats with white paws will climb into our laps
Blue herons with white necks will promenade
Their indifference in the shallow light
Of distant streetlamps
and we will all wait together,
In the embers of the moon

And I will look at you with desire
while you look at me with relief
I will tell you all the things that we can’t talk about
You will tell me all the things I won’t believe

And then at last the waves will stop,
the far-away blinking street lights stop
And the sound of nearby traffic stop,
And the herons will plunge their heads in the water, look up again, and stop
And the branches of the willows in the museum’s floodlights will stop,
And everything will stop, except
The sharp cry of a bird, invisible -
Like the world’s last surviving car alarm
Endlessly repeating
In the cool night air.

--


p.s. never trust your phone's gmail app to save anything important, especially poetry
biking under streetlamps
lapped by my shadow
on a warm autumn night
When someone accidentally smiles at you while talking on their cellphone
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