GENEROUS TO A TRAGIC FLAW
Generous to a tragic flaw I have squandered myself on noble gestures to keep something alive that’s crucial to the human spirit. Or at least mine. I have acted in proportion with the stars. I shine but not by design. A lethal tenderness overwhelms me whenever I meet someone who’s suffered so long they’ve forgotten what it was like to be astounded. Not social work. No morals. No ethics. No five-year plan. Just a man trying to make a good memory for a worse day as if to say you see it’s not all relentless. Remember this. Yes there are pitfalls and impact craters but there are parachutes and airlifts too. Unexpected boons even among the unlucky who keep being snake-bit by the dice just as they’re about to cross the Rubicon. Making a gift of a gift is the true art of life. But you don’t have to discipline your spontaneity to master it. Just open your hand your heart the eyes in your blood and let go of whatever you’ve been holding on to as if it only had a value in relation to you. Give the drunk who asks you for a quarter twenty-five bucks occasionally and tell him that your only condition is that he goes and spends it on booze. Why make a liar of the man and and a hypocrite of your gesture? Give him the money as if it just fell out of his pocket and you picked it up to return it. A man’s body asks for water. Don’t offer him bleach for his soul. And don’t walk away pleased with yourself as if you’d done something enlightening about your shadow. But for the grace of God or the Zeitgeist there go all of us. You don’t know how time and circumstance and pain may have twisted the space around him into some kind of blackhole he can’t get out of. The way things are so interdependently original here he may have been born to entertain one random thought on an uneventful morning before the bars open that the whole universe turns upon without his knowing it. He may have thought of someone like you he didn’t believe in coming through with a few bucks. Stagger his incredulity by coming true in a way that doesn’t abuse the wound you’re trying to heal in passing. And however estranged you are from his unkempt rendition of human dignity because more people are familiar with yours than his don’t pour weed-killer on his dandelions and expect him to admire your roses. You can kill a human deeper than you can with a knife by the way you give them something that their life depends upon. Giving is a beauty-based power not a power-based duty of soul that militates against the ugly and poor with beautiful stratagems of charity. Take the low place like the sea that everything flows down into and you’ll be closer to heaven than the mountain that seeks its place among the stars. Give as if you were grateful for the privilege. And not just money. Not just the heartfelt concern of a decent progressive humanist purging the tragic with pity. Don’t let the critic step out from the chorus as if there were an answer to the way humans suffer the way we do. Beyond fault beyond blame beyond judgment opinion or reflexive habit of thought we are all mystic specifics of the same mind. Distinction can change the picture frame but it can’t lay a brush to the view. It’s a lame self-portrait that can’t catch the likeness between him and you. In the need. Not just the gratification of it. In the seed. Not just the fruit that comes of it.
I’ve met people in life standing in estranged doorways hugging their hearts close to their chests like eggshell urns full of the ashes and acids of orchards scorched by napalm. I’ve stepped over people in the street lying like corpses in a war-zone of steel and concrete and glass that stared back at humans as if they were from the wrong class of perfection. I’ve heard the poppies scream out in their sleep that the ambulance doesn’t know the address of their homelessness and all their emergency exit signs are beginning to panic like a run on a bloodbank in a severe depression. Sleazy lovers made savage by love licking the toxic arrowheads they pull out of their own wounds to taste what they’re dying of. I’ve seen a wise man stand like a jewel foundationstone in an avalanche of fools buried up to his neck in their skulls like the broken rosaries of full moons that forgot the names of God. And what can you say to the cracked mirror with wrinkled skin about why she unsilvered her beauty like a chandelier on cocaine when you know from the puncture-wounds in your own heart that there’s nothing illicit about pain? I’ve attended lectures in a street school for unmanageable solitudes given by the insane to a conspiracy of traffic signs that rewrote the golden rule. I have watched the ingenues of the spirit perverted by wannabe Buddhas and forsaken messiahs deciphering light and reason as if they’d just broken the code to the enigmatic subterfuge of their own self-promotion. I’ve seen death close the eyelids of those adrift on the great nightsea of subconscious themes like overturned lifeboats that returned to their dreams like watercolours flowing into their mindstreams. And I have marked their likeness to Japanese plum blossoms and then detested myself for sugarcoating their deaths in distractingly beautiful simulacrums of mimetic coral when I know for a fact they had the hulls of their hearts ripped out on the reefs of their brains like the moon at low tide. The moon drops anchor like a lockmaster among shipwrecks she can’t exhume. You look at a human and you see right away that pain plays the chameleon. That suffering isn’t the effect of illusion. It’s protean. It envelopes itself in its own coils like space. It slowly seeps into a child’s eyes like a watershed without rainbows and irises when she cries. The features of her face begin to go awry and you can see another one coming through like a wisdom tooth. With that dumb blank stare of a human looking down into her eyes like wishing wells that didn’t come true. Asking why there are no fireflies in her lunar landscape any closer to her than the stars. Agony of mothers kicking their breastmilk cornucopias down the road like an empty soup can that fell off the bumpers of their honeymoons. Nightshifts of jellyfish tangled like kites in the downed hydrolines hissing like lightning in a snakepit because they don’t know how to holster their neurons before they empty their gun on the guilty bystanders. Shadows that have grown paranoid of the people who cast them. People who were defeated by everyone they ever believed in and went around preaching despair as if the word hadn’t already come to all of us in its own good time without screaming like an air raid siren to take immediate shelter from oncoming comets butterflies and stoned Mayan calendars predicting the end of the world though they didn’t anticipate that they wouldn’t make it to the end of their own. And from cradle to grave for every living thing death has never been any further away than their next breath. And whether you’ve packed a backup atmosphere for a parachute or not or you’re just freefalling in a cosmic starfield like some anticlimactic Icarus who’s just been washed like a cinder out of God’s one good eye. Fear smells like death to us and a vast darkness reveals to us what’s uninhabitable about all we behold. Living on earth is like being homeless with a roof over your head. We’re all faithfully waiting like cornerstones with nothing to build on. Even the dead who excavate their names like masons with time on their hands.
I have seen the despair terror the fury the hate. The machine-think of calculating minds in their white knight armour of chrome and tinfoil who like to be known for their largesse with big numbers provision an army of children with violent video-games to make up for their lack of creative vision. The incubator on the night ward full of baby rattle-snakes that were born as toxic as their parents. In the great war of the logos against the icons it’s easier to kill something you never think you’ll be than it is than it is to learn to live with the difference like one of your own eccentricities. It’s not even enlightened self-interest to ignore the fate of the woman and child sitting next to you in the same lifeboat with solar-powered oars rowing toward Vega down the Milky Way in a full eclipse of the sun. And singing in the choir isn’t going to feed the children of
Good can quote chapter and verse but evil doesn’t even have a table of contents because it doesn’t go by the book. The light might have a better bedside manner when things fall out but it’s the darkness that lives on forever and ever as if nothing happened of any consequence. Like water after someone’s drowned in it. Like the silence that follows the telling of a story where heroism doesn’t stand for anything and the villains are all victims of circumstance. Everything you give isn’t a winning lottery ticket. It’s just a chance. A way to tweak evolution in someone’s favour without thinking of it as a course correction in the direction of prayer. Luck loads the dice with two of every kind like snake-eyes in a casino. A random neutrino arises like the full moon on the event horizon of a wavelength that still thinks of itself as a particle in a unified field theory. Flood myths from the delta of the Tigris and Euphrates lose their significance like waterdroplets and tears in a shoreless sea if you make your frame of reference big enough to include more than 180 degrees in your triangles so you don’t have to do an about face when you’re scuttled in your final resting place like an ark on the top of a mountain in