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Sunday, September 27, 2009


sky brooding

The sky is clear this morning after 2.5 inches of rain in two days. The highway is wet, the lawn is wet, cars are wet, the sun is out, the wind is flowing up the highway 18 wind tunnel through Whitehead, west to east. Years ago, Jr planted a couple of white pines and some other growth to the west of the house, which slows the wind down considerably where I am, outside on the cement slab porch. Out beyond the white pines, the wind is making the sycamore dance like a big-leg woman doing the bump. Isaac Hayes had a song in his disco (cocaine) period, "Juicy Fruit sure is cute / in her sexy jump suit." I think of the tree in a green jump suit, Juicy Fruit, doing the bump, a whistle hanging around her neck like a coach, blowing the whistle while she bumped with everybody around her on the dance floor.

I look at the dance of the tall grasses on the edge of the lawn, the kind that favor a bushy foxtail on a long stem. A cluster of them is moving slowly, dancing like flame, no two nanoseconds alike, them glowing, backlit by morning sun. It's the same with the sycamore dancing like flame. Of course, I'm thinking of a contained flame like in a fireplace where we can watch a fire and feel good about it. A fire out of control is something we don't think is so pretty. The wind is getting to be such that it's approaching impractical to stay outside where I'm thinking more about how cold it is than anything else. Seems like it's colder than it was a few minutes ago when it was pleasant.

I came inside because I'm not like somebody who climbs Himalayan mountains and thinks it's just starting to get good at zero. It felt warmer when I went out there when it was 57 degrees than it does now at 59.7. It's the kind of temperature that's all right for awhile, but if you're going to stay in it, need to dress for it. Green and yellow leaves fly up the highway wind tunnel alongside brightly colored motorcycles. I saw a buzzard wobbling this way and that, unable to keep it steady, like a boat on rough water, or good sense in a troubled mind.

The phone rang. Then Jr got up. He drank an ensure. At 1 in the morning he was up and peed in the wheelchair, then tried to get back into the bed. I woke from him calling me. He was on the bed from the waist up, face down, his legs hanging down, and he couldn't move. It was awkward to work with. If I remember correctly, which I don't, I believe I had to tuck one arm down to his side, and roll him over that way, pulling his legs up and over. That only partially got done. It hurt him so bad I had to stop. We agreed on something that wouldn't hurt so much, me taking him by his ribs and scooting him on his back to where his head was on the pillow, then pull the inert legs up and onto the bed. Jr moaning, "I don't know what I'd do without you." He does, but we don't talk about that anymore; the answer is to obvious to mention. He's having a difficult time, but he's not in despair.

What shape I'm in, I don't know. I find myself wiping a tear from one eye or the other, or both, from time to time during the day. Nothing in my mind I feel weepy about, that is, that I'm aware of. I do find myself in a state of constant sorrow, that male thing Ralph Stanley put his finger on. When that movie brought the song to mainstream awareness, I was struck by how men took to it in such a mass way. It's a song Ralph Stanley has to sing at every concert. About 7 years ago I went to Ziggy's in Winston-Salem to see Papa Roach, a suburban punk band that made one great album. When they played, "I know my mother loves me, but does my father really care?" a male chorus went up from the audience singing along, drowning out the band's vocalist.

The whole song was sung male chorus, by me too. I knew the words. One of those songs that's called anthemic, like it could be our national anthem except for its absence of political cliches. I thought: Wow, we men have a collective problem that's for real, depression. I tried prozac for a few years, but started missing myself. I was in a sweet mood all the time and nothing got me down, but, I told myself, this is only half of it. I want the whole deal. If my karma is such that it's created a depressive, well it's done the same to everybody else, so rather than shelve it away in a prozac high, I wanted to go back to living it. Feeling sorrow is a legitimate feeling too, not to be denied, though not to be dwelled on either.

I'm not afraid of sorrow. Some people cut out their sorrows by cutting out their joy. I don't go around with a television bright-eyed smile on my face like I'm running for election all the time. I don't want to look like I think I'm on tv. Besides, all that bright white-teeth smile says to me is somebody is trying to sell me something. Usually, it just means, like me. Maybe I lean more to the sorrow side of the scale than to the joy side. So what? Everybody has their own place on that scale, mine is mine. And bell curves don't dictate normal. Nothing dictates normal, because there's no such entity and never was meant to be. What we call normal is a certain code of conformity to adhere to, like in America we conform to want more money than you need, any way you can get it.

I feel a great deal of what I think of as legitimate sorrow in this time with Jr. I don't believe I'm ruled by it. And it doesn't feel neurotic. I see in my mind right now a woman I came face to face with at the side door to the library a few months ago. She wanted to know what I'm doing since my store went under. Like that was the only thing in my life. I didn't quite know how to answer. Did she really want to know? No. Was she ready to sit down and listen for a while? No. Then I must, again, reduce my answer to a phrase, because she was just making talk. I said, "Getting some joy back in my life."

She said, "Back in your life?" with the awe of surprised amazement. Like what kind of a life do you have where you have joy? I thought, What have I done? Wasn't it a simple answer? Her face fell and she said, "I've never had any joy in my life." Her husband came to mind and I thought, No doubt. I didn't know what to say. My impulse was to hold her and give her a meaningful hug, but that would have been too awkward. I didn't know her well enough. Her husband doesn't like me anyway, and if she told him I hugged her, I'd do well to get a bulletproof vest and carry a gun. Too much trouble. I gave her a look that said, I'm sorry for you, and let it go.

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