It’s been a few years since a sound began to well up inside me. Six notes, the third stretched like dough from head to belly, the last three drifting downward.
Ain’t no words for it, really. I’ve been doubled over in the thick wheat field of its origins my whole life, but in 2012, Crescendo. I’m not a musician but I understand the mass inside humanity that cannot be expressed in our imperfect, hollow utterances and alphabet shells. As a writer, I seek. I look for hands reaching back across this chasm between us. Through the unsteady fortress of time, tenuous prehensile memory, past consciousness and into the hearts of all life forms.
Today, I walked beneath massive willow oaks, stripped bare and dampened by winter. I wondered if the time ever comes when my mind goes completely, will the bony fingers and wide spread of their hands bend down to gobble up the houses, built by man, and pull them down into the sweet, red earth?
You will say I speak in abstracts. In metaphors. Melvin Udall, a favorite film character from As Good As It Gets, (1997) would say, “People who talk in metaphors should shampoo my crotch.” Maybe, he’s right.
Let’s get concrete as shit, then.
This past year has left me
beyond my capacity to understand.
Yet, it was also peppered with success and joy, oftentimes back to back. Some will say that is the way of things. The sweet with the sour. Darkness and light. Extremes birthed in fire.
Last winter I:
see the end of my MFA program.
figure how I’d ever survive thesis writing and defense.
find the ending for my first novel.
cope with Ben being on the road so much.
get on the right medication.
time with some of the animals and humans I loved most in this world grew thin.
a shit ton of cornbread.
drunk resulting in a round scar on my wrist.
on an icy street in Chicago running behind people who didn’t care.
for the first time since 1989.
Last spring I:
old bean seeds I hoped would grow.
writing my thesis.
my MFA in fiction.
reading so many books I lost count.
writing a novel that scared the shit out of me.
feeling lonesome and sorry for myself and drinking too much.
cooking, baking, brewing.
to Pittsburgh on my own.
to the farmers’ market.
to coffee shops and Asian restaurants.
to hospitals and nursing homes.
to my office.
to fictional worlds.
toward something, anything but this.
Last summer I:
the ending of my first novel.
9 flash stories, one called Mama-Scent.
1 personal essay, grasping at artistic origin.
too many status updates.
many failed poems.
to bicycle in Vietnam.
for one barefoot day of my childhood.
to save someone lost at the bottom of a bottle.
for my ailing dog’s comfort.
to be brave enough to hike the Appalachian Trail.
an excerpt from my thesis to a crowded, room.
with my mother.
In autumn I:
the deaths of Mia, Jade and Spooky.
their final breaths as I held their paws.
the world go blurry from drink.
the bathroom floor, again and again.
people withdraw, shrink.
my face turn unrecognizable, gray and pocked and ringed.
two-week old kittens.
my own freckled shoulders.
a heart-broken Papillon.
three different walls, three different times.
writing locked up in my desk.
Come winter I:
Self slip and return.
Cold air on my bare neck.
Twinkle lights and evergreen.
My brother’s arms.
And so when I look over all these year-end list of accomplishments, what I really wonder about are the failures. The sounds rumbling away in us all that never pass our lips, reach our fingers or our instruments. We cannot all be musicians. We cannot all be artists. But we are all capable of these vast sweeps of emotion, the greater part of us all that cannot expressed in words and in this, I find peace and comfort. Maybe I do talk in metaphors, but maybe you and fictional Mr. Udall will think me less than silly, just this once.
Six notes. The third stretched like dough from head to belly.