I am a horse begins one, and here the speaker, the horse, is riding in a train that’s absolutely packed, and he has his hind legs folded on the seat behind him and is wearing, as the poet tells us, the six shiny buttons of sex appeal. The middle part I don’t remember, but then the comes the end which I love which is this: O how small this world is. How large cherries. And then another, quite different, begins, We don’t know anything. We haven’t learned one single thing about pain. That bitterly cold season only leaves long streaks in our muscles, and here again the best parts are the beginning and the end, whereas the middle could be the middle of anything, something to connect the beginning to the end, a bit of passing landscape, otherwise the poem doesn’t work, we get off at the same station we boarded, no time having passed, no distance traveled. Truly I don’t expect anyone to agree with me about any of this, poetry being a matter mostly of what you bring to it, but when I read those three lines, we don’t know anything and so on, I can feel them vibrate in my head like when I’m singing and I have my hand on my chest, and then the end too, no less, which goes, then we might understand that death can be a beautiful long voyage and a permanent vacation from structures, systems, and skeletons. Granted it gets a bit poetical there, but I’m happy to overlook that because it’s such a striking thought to me that in death there are no skeletons, that skeletons are something the living must live with, rather than the dead, who are evidently on a kind of loosely organized cruise ship. I don’t pretend to totally get that part, which in poetry is fine, almost the point really, make it interesting but not totally graspable, keep a certain friendly distance between what you mean and what you say, such as when Cesar Vallejo says that he will die in Paris on a Thursday in the rain and that they, whoever they are, will beat him hard, with a stick, and hard, the only witnesses being the bones in his arms and the rain and the Thursdays, so that you’re left feeling that Vallejo doesn’t quite mean what he says because first of all how would he know all this in advance, when and where and how he will die, not to mention the weather that day, and second, how could his own bones be witness to his own death, that makes no sense and is obviously the sort of thing that poets say when they are trying to say something that can only be said by saying something else, except that in this case Vallejo really did die in Paris on a Thursday that it rained, so perhaps this is not the best example.
Her technique, she said, is to put her bad feelings on a raft and push them out to sea. If she has time, she sits on the beach and watches the raft float away.
Recently there was a man she liked so much that she made a flag with which to surrender to him. Lacking a proper flag, she used some napkins left over from a take-out burrito. She unfolded the napkins and taped them together with adhesive tape, then waved the taped-together pieces at a particularly beautiful email he had sent, hoping he could feel it.
Whether he felt it or not, he soon did some unspecified thing that upset her so much that on the subway ride home she put the napkin flag on a raft and pushed it out to sea. Unfortunately the flag immediately blew off the raft, where it drifted about idly. This was maddening, but then, mercifully, her stop came and she was able to get off the train and leave the flag behind her.
This just in from my mother:
I just saw your picture in a “fucking suit.” That was the style then! Anyway, the picture is adorable and it should definitely help your business.
May I publicly announce how much I love this woman? True story: When I nineteen she came into the room at the hospital where I had just finished vomiting up the last of the thirty-two sleeping pills I had taken, and her first words to me were: “If you ever do this again, I’ll kill you.”
Love you mom.
On a personal note, I just launched a new fancypants version of my business site Luminous. I suffered for this. I am a lunatic and I am my own worst client. If I were hired by me, I would quit long before I had a chance to fire myself, and then I would bitch about myself to friends.
The worst part was promotional copy. After writing three words of promotional copy, I begin to sob. What I wouldn’t give to just put something like this on Luminous:
HIRE ME. I KNOW WHAT I’M DOING. I AM NOT A JERK. I WILL LISTEN TO YOU AND PROBABLY TALK YOU OUT OF THREE BAD IDEAS. I WILL MAKE JOKES. WHEN THE BILL COMES, YOU WILL FEEL LIKE YOU GOT A GREAT DEAL.
Okay, to see what this feels like, to try it on as one might try on clothes one can’t possibly afford, I just made a page with giant letters. Dig the photo of the future lunatic.
The following is a transcript, nearly word for word, of a tape recording I made earlier tonight. Normally I would edit this into something else, but I think in this case it’s best to leave it as is. In any event I want everyone to know I’m okay. I really am, more or less. I figure I’ll write more later.
May 8th, I think. I was beaten tonight, attacked and beaten. I was walking to the Chinese restaurant to pick up dinner, a late dinner. It was about 11:15. I had just crossed Washington Street and had gone perhaps a hundred feet. I was less than a block from my apartment. I don’t know what happened exactly. That is I do know what happened; I just don’t have any recollection of it. I was walking and then I was being hit. The first blow must have come from behind because I didn’t see anyone in front of me. Then suddenly I was being hit by several people. At least two. They were young African-American men. And at least one of them was yelling something at me. I don’t know what he was yelling. It was the same thing over and over, but I don’t know what it was. This went on for what was perhaps a short time but felt like five minutes.
I didn’t see the first blow coming. Or any of the blows. If I had seen the first blow coming, it would have been much easier. Because the way it happened, it was as though something had suddenly fallen on top of my head. Plus the first blow was probably the best one, the most effective one, so not only did it come as a surprise but it made my head fuzzy. Had I seen a fist coming into my face, it would have been enormously helpful, but that’s not how it happened.
Still, after a certain number of blows, I managed to gather myself to the degree that I knew what to do, which was to run. As I ran I expected, because I was in this stunned state, to be easily caught and knocked to the ground, or whatever they were going to do to me – beat me unconscious, I suppose. Except I wasn’t chased. I knew this because I didn’t hear anyone chasing me. I just heard the guy yelling the thing that I don’t know what the fuck it was and don’t think I ever will.
I think I turned at a certain point, perhaps a hundred feet down the block, when I realized that I wasn’t being chased, and yelled, “What the fuck is this about? What the fuck did I do to you?” Something along these lines. I remember now that I also yelled this sort of thing when I was being hit.
I was without my glasses as I yelled this, since they had been knocked from face during the attack. The thing is, I need my glasses and can’t see without them. However there was no way I was going to turn and go back to where I had been beaten, so instead I crossed Washington, which was kind of difficult to do because I was badly shaken up and didn’t have my glasses. On the corner there I went into the bodega where I sometimes buy coffee or a banana. They know me there. They’re friendly, I like them. They’re Arab, I don’t know from where exactly. I can never understand what they’re saying. The moment the guy behind the counter saw me, I realized that my face must have looked pretty bad, that I must have been bleeding a lot, because he said something about the hospital and handed me a napkin which I’m still holding as I record this. It’s covered with blood. There were a few other people in the bodega, customers, and they listened, they came over and listened to what I was telling the guys behind the counter. And then I said, “Would someone be willing to walk back there with me and help me find my glasses?” An African-America woman said, “I’ll do it,” and we walked together across the street. This may have been totally insane, going back to where maybe these guys were still hanging out, where maybe they would jump up and start hitting me again, but it was the only thing I could think of doing because without my glasses I’m screwed.
There were two big African-America guys sitting on a low wall there. The woman asked them if they had seen my glasses. This was a problem because I wasn’t sure exactly where I had been hit, the physical location. I ended up pointing at two spots about fifty feet apart and saying to the woman, “Somewhere between there and there.” One of the guys said he thought my glasses were by a particular tree, so we went to that tree but didn’t see them. The woman was ready to give up immediately. Maybe she was scared to be there? Maybe she felt like she’d done enough? I kind of pleaded her, I said, “I really can’t see without my glasses, so I can’t find them without you.” Then she found them. They were right near her feet; she had almost stepped on them. Thankfully they weren’t broken, though one of the stems was badly bent. However, they were a good ten feet from where the two guys had indicated – these same two guys who I’m ninety percent sure had witnessed my beating and who of course had nothing to say to me and who I’m sure will have nothing to say to the cops.
A digression. I’m waiting for my friend Andrew to arrive. I called him a short time ago. He’s coming over on his bike. I don’t have any ice. I realize that I should put ice on my face but I don’t have any. I would go down to the bodega again to buy ice, but I feel I should stay here. I’m waiting for Andrew and I’m waiting for the police. I’ve often thought of putting water in the damn ice trays, but I’ve never bothered to do so. So I’m doing it now, what good this does me.
On my way home I went back to the bodega with my glasses and held them up for the guys there to see. One of said something to me (I never understand what they’re saying) and I said thanks. Then I came home and the first thing I thought of doing was to take pictures of myself, so that’s what I did, I took some photos of my face in the bathroom mirror. Then I got out a pliers and bent my glasses back into reasonable shape. They fit okay now; not great but okay. No, actually I think I called Andrew before I bent back my glasses. Anyway I also called the police, I don’t remember when, and tried to tell the dispatcher what had happened. I was asked how many assailants there were, and I had to say I didn’t know. There could have been as many as five, I said, I have no way of knowing.
I just realized that I must have been hit in my shoulder, just below my right shoulder, because it’s starting to hurt there. The main blow was to the side of my face, near my eye. My left ear hurts as well. It may have just been three or four blows, I don’t know. I wish I could remember what the guy was yelling. All I can say is that my sense was that it had to do with me not belonging there, with me being white, not that he ever said the word white. This is a mostly black neighborhood. I’ve never felt uncomfortable here other than in that one stretch from Washington to the next street. This is where I was attacked.
I’ve been pacing around my apartment recording this. I am to say the least wound up. And my face hurts some. Andrew arrived a short time ago; I sent him to the bodega to get some ice and bread. I hardly have any food in the apartment, so I figure I’ll make myself some eggs. I’m okay now, though I’m shaken up, obviously. My mother is going to be upset to read about this. She reads my website. I said to Andrew that nothing has changed. I’ve always known that there are people who would do this. I’ve always known why. I’ve been lucky till now that it hasn’t happened to me. I guess I’m lucky I’m not hurt worse. I said to Andrew that we haven’t evolved very much.
At some point (I forgot to mention this before), I decided to call the Chinese restaurant to explain that I wasn’t coming to pick up my food. However I stupidly hit “redial” on my phone, which meant that I redailed 911, because I had forgotten that I had called them. When I realized it was 911, I hung up on them and then decided to not bother with the Chinese restaurant because it was already past their closing time. The next time I’m in there, I’ll apologize and pay for the food I never picked up.