Tag Archives: fatherhood
Fast Food, poem
Even a trip to the local burger joint
is a fright show these days. I observe
with alarm a flock of silvery shriveled
biddies: granted, every one of them’s
probably some kind of genius right down
to her to gnarled toetips, but as we all
know, the quality most admired in women
is not wisdom but rather, blank-eyed youth.
I myself am sliding down that gentle curving
slope to total invisibility, and worse;
in their gentle faces I read the pounded
knowledge of tasks left undone, words not
spoken, tricks never learned. One woman’s
eyes, set deep in bluish sockets, slide over
my small daughter’s body like guilty, halting
fingers. I know she remembers watching her own daughter
sleep night after night, I know exactly how she used to stand
over the child’s bed listening to the sweet
melody of inhale, exhale, sigh, feeling
against her wrist the exhilarating rhythm
of the flying hummingbird heart of her sleeping child. Now, she smiles
to herself, clutching her cup of steaming coffee,
and nods. Near her, at a different table, is a young man, his hair
a glowing honey-blonde, drawn back tight
into a long, curling ponytail, and from his earlobe
dangles a dull silver cross. His narrow hips barely
support his work pants, and in profile his perfect, cruel,
unshaven features promise every solemn gawker,
male or female, an expensive though unique mistake.
And I realize we are all here for the same thing: to fill up our
insides with this cheap, warm sustenance, to travel
homeward bearing an approximation of what we really
long for, which is to keep scrambling for the same
small favors tomorrow, the next day, and the next.
I find myself crying (for all of us) and stage-cough, pretending allergies,
wiping my eyes under my sunglasses and blowing my nose into my paper napkin.
he didn’t know he would die on december 19, 1979. a beautiful letter, regardless. my daddy. i loved him.
Thurs. 9-27 (1979)
Hello my beautiful daughter,
I haven’t checked my mail at Steve & Etta’s in a couple days, so I don’t know if you’ve written or not. When I wrote you last and asked to hear whether you’d gotten it, that seemed important. When I’ve thought about it since, it hasn’t. That is, if you’re supposed to get my letters, you will; and if I’m supposed to/need to hear from you, I will. I love you, and one of the things that means is that I enjoy expressing myself to you. Don’t get me wrong: I also really like hearing from you, hearing you/listening to you expressing yourself to me. That’s what I want, and what I get will be what I need.
I hope you’re enjoying yourself and learning and growing. I know you’re doing the latter two; the first is the only thing I’m unsure about.
Things are really interesting & exciting for me: seeing some patterns in my life, some big ones, for the first time ever. They are really far out: mostly they have to do with my history of relationships with women (including your mother & going back further than her) and how I use/have used those relationships to work out my feelings about my mother & her inability to give me love, affection, respect, hugs, kisses, TLC… that kind of stuff. (I’m unclear about how much of this I “should” be sharing with you… when, if ever, should I relate to you like a peer? Or: when a father tells his child about his own emotional/psychological struggle/growth/insights/development, is that OK? I guess I should go with my feelings and it feels OK to go this far; I’ll go as far as it feels OK to. Part of my desire is for you to maybe learn a little something about your own psyche, and to know me as well as you can… given our… the way our relationship has gone (off the main point: I want you to know that I am not threatened or bothered at all, any more, by your relationship with your stepfather. I accept that he was your father, is your father, in many ways. And I think it’s beautiful that you have two of us. How many young women have a straight dad and an unconventional dad?) At any rate, the genesis of this recent big insight was George Oliver, from whose apartment I called you the other week. I was talking to Geo. about my feelings of longing for Barbara & he told me that what I was saying sounded just like what I’d said & been feeling right after separating the last time from your mom. That blew me away, because it was real true. In essence, my largely unconscious/subconscious need/wanting to “get back at” my mother for what some part of me sees as her deliberate refusal to give me what I wanted, love, has led me over the years to play the game with women (who I’ve viewed as mother-surrogates) of “when I’ve got you, I don’t want you; when I haven’t got you, then I want you back.”
All this realization is so new I’m still trying to get my mind around it. I’m pretty sure I want to stop playing it: it sure doesn’t feel good for those involved, myself included. (I realize that, at some level, it had to be satisfying some real deep need in me; otherwise why go on doing it for 30 plus years?)
Exciting and scary times. The prospect of opting out of the game is exciting. And scary: the game-playing part of me says, “gee, what will I do if I don=t play that game?” or “But that’s all I know how to do!”
Incidentally, I have no regrets about having come down to Florida & having been there 3 & 1/2 months. It all needed to happen, I’m sure of that. And our time together was beautiful.
And something else that needs to happen is going to the first part of next week: I’m heading south again. I’ll be driving in the van down Baja California to La Paz & taking the ferry across to mainland Mexico again. I’m going to revisit some of the places I raced through (e.g. 3 hours in Oaxaca) and visit some of the places I chose not to make side trips to. And drink in that delicious tropical sun & sea for a while. I guess I’m feeling that I’d rather go to Europe in the spring, warmer weather. (Sat.) A feeling that’s really been reinforced by the last couple days in LA, real cool here, rainy & overcast on the beach today.
My current thinking about my travelling is that I’ll do Mexico again until Dec. or Jan. then go to the Caribbean. I’d love to visit Jamaica, St. Martin, Puerto Rico, etc. And then in summer go to Europe. Rather than going to London now, then immediately to warm weather in Africa then going back to Europe next summer. But, it’s real hard to stay definite.. I don’t know what this does to our talking about travelling together, but if we’re supposed to, we will. And I would love to see the Caribbean with you.
I don’t know whether I’ve told you or not: when I came out here in Aug., my first stop was San Diego, where I talked to my Aunt Cecelia (who also was my godmother) & the lawyer that drew up my mother’s will. Cecelia, after hearing that I felt humiliated, hurt and angry about Mom’s will, said that Mom had felt all those same things & ways about what I’d done in living my life. Which is no doubt true. And sad, that my efforts to live & be happy were taken so personally by her, and that she chose to be so upset about them. There’s a lesson there, for sure.
I will write you from Mexico and I’ve decided to assume you will get my letters & stop worrying about whether Gail might intercept them.
My thoughts are with you a lot. Know that I love you. (The thunder outside seems to punctuate my writing with an exclamation point after that sentence!!) Allow yourself to be who you are; remember that if you were supposed to be different, you would be.
Incidentally, I asked Sheila’s lawyer how long before I get my money from the estate & he said he couldn’t be definite (you know how lawyers are) but he thought it’s be sooner than 6 mos.!
(You can write me in Mexico if you want. I’ll be stopping in La Paz, in the state of Baja Calif. Sur and mail will be held for me if you send it c/o Lista de Correos, for that city & state. La Paz is 1000 miles or so south of San Diego so I shouldn’t be there until at least a week or so, more like 2 weeks, after you get this.) I’ll let you know other cities later. The next one after La Paz will be Puerto Vallarta, but I forget the state name, but you can just check an atlas.
Filed under notes
the eternal conversation, a poem
The Eternal Conversation
Hard wood portends on my truth, I long to burn every tree,
I long to sift the gray ash of discontent
for the few teeth and bits that remain.
My body is full of small holes,
the better to let you pass through me.
You old vagabond, the sun is you,
the sun is your heart, the sun is your eyes.
Look at me, I will blind you, you will remember nothing.
You will remember only how it felt to come inside me.
I melt men like sugar cubes.
Give me fountains of blue wine to drown myself in.
Let me swill from your fountains.
Let me piss in your bed and make you love it.
Only give me glory and work,
and I will tell you all I know, gladly.
This is what I know.
Pretend you’re my father: your one spurt of joy
caused me to begin ticking in your pocket.
Pretend you know my name.
Pretend you have always been with me.
Don’t forget me, don’t forget to wind me up,
don’t break the thin gold chain attaching me to your heart.
I am not a cat, I don’t have a plaintive past,
I can’t meow for attention. I could try to scratch you,
but you would only fling me away in hatred, off to the floor.
Yet away you go, with soap to pass your outrage,
cleansing your sins like so much dry grit.
You boil your soup of amnesia,
burn your tongue with it,
lose the ability to taste anything, ever.
You are like a tourniquet of the breast,
keeping me tied to the earth. I never let myself float,
I was always afraid I would never return to sanity.
I am an old vagabond, I will die without you.
But that is nothing new. You abandoned me
on my first day. You didn’t care what time it was then.
All you cared about was yourself. You couldn’t live
your promises. You are nothing.
You have no heart, you have only your tired words.
Taunt the people who are less fortunate than you.
Make them suffer even more, that is your duty and function.
Speak nothing without hunger and death
being always in your mind — these are
the only real problems. This love, this is an illusion.
There is no love. There has never been love.
There is only madness, heat and passion.
The game is to force myself out of myself,
into the bigger picture. I want to be everyone,
all at once. To rid myself of these cramps.
To stretch the labored muscles, to tear them,
to rend them from the bone, to flay the entire beast
and let it dry in the sun until it is harmless meat.
Dance with fossils without ceasing life. The past haunts
but it does not weigh down our joy. We can weep
and laugh simultaneously. We do not need drugs for this.
I am finished viewing sickness at last.
I have no more patience for dying. I will bury the dead,
but I will not visit their graves. I will plant flowers
to bloom in perpetuity, then I will take my filmy scarves
and fly away toward joy. I will sprout wings,
they will carry me to my own heart.
Those who have passed under my hand won’t suffer,
I am a slim ivory blade, sharper than a razor’s edge.
I am skillful at dispatching those who love me.
I am the merciful murderess, the killer who weeps
as she cuts the veins, sorrow for the blood but joy for the heat.
The others I have jettisoned are always sad,
they think of me with mingled regret and malice,
but they shouldn’t mourn, they’re better off without me,
this I know for I know where I have buried all the dead.
Courage for life, alleys are for the party afterwards,
the wake for the soul. The body remains upright.
We live without life, we breathe without air.
We fuck without coming. We give birth
without understanding the process.
The hospital where I will say my last good-byes
to everyone who harmed me, everyone who tried
to caress me. I built the building, I know its every corridor.
May we all have a plain dance upon dying.
May we go stately to our blessed rot.
May we laugh as the teeth fall from our jaws.
I hope to see my destination, at least from a distance.
Will it be like a train through the mountains?
Will the air rush in to meet me? Will the air
be like a baby’s kisses?
I see an old vagabond, moronic or just born,
and it is a mirror I stare at. I have studied all the books,
but can remember only one thing.
Despair is a waste of time.
With artists, we dance my young age and love,
but white hair and rigor mortis are just around the corner.
I can get through anything in one minute segments.
I can breathe the pain through myself,
I can detach it from my body.
I am told when I was sleeping I was at my best.
That is when I hurt no one but myself.
In dreams, I am kind, I am eternal.
Respond to me, you seller of happiness.
Money can buy everything, didn’t you know?
They are only lying to you to keep you down.
The raw chicken sits on the board, weeping juice,
and it is cold under my hands. To lift the carcass
takes more than I have. How did my mother,
my grandmother, manage it?
I have been a good feaster of pain —
I have made the banquet from whatever bones were left.
I have seasoned the food until it does not remember
from whence it came.
Riches, I have dispossessed. I work hard
for tomorrow’s bread. Someone will take care of me.
The poor are patriots, the poor can pass through the gates
into nothing special. I am nothing special.
I am a very special nothing.
I have been asleep until I heard your voice.
I thought you despised me. I tried to touch you,
but you were far away, and could not sleep.
You lost the paper with my name on it.
You forgot everything I taught you.
You old vagabond, you are maudlin and past.
I am the future. I am the young blood,
the hawker, the fresh pain.
I hear what you say, I am only a poor man
but I will live to bury you. I will live
until my energy is spent. Then I will
tender my resignation. Where is my combat pay?
The only true war is the war to be true.
Sharpen your teeth on my bones.
I have undressed the apple that moored me
to the board of my clothing. There is no nakedness left
beneath this flesh. I have fucked a thousand like you.