Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Monday, November 25, 2013

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Wait Until Spring, Bandini (John Fante)


Finally got around to reading some of this wonderful writer.
Loved the style, the narrative, wow, full-blast energy, fiery
Italian family in Colorado in 1930s, voice full of surprises
& play, mob of poor & lively driven folks trying to get through,
love & poverty, a high-pressure hose loosely held & almost out of
control.

This passage from page 27 was my favorite,
Maria & her furnace:

"It was so cold that morning, so cold. Her jaw chattered
and ran away from her. The dark green linoleum might
have been a sheet of ice under her feet, the stove itself a
block of ice. What a stove that was! a despot, untamed and
ill-tempered. She always coaxed it, soothed it, cajoled it,
a black bear of a stove subject to fits of rebellion, defying
Maria to make him glow; cantankerous stove that, once
warm and pouring sweet heat, suddenly went berserk and
got yellow hot and threatened to destroy the very house.

Only Maria could handle that black block of sulking iron,
and she did it a twig at a time, caressing the shy flame,
adding a slab of wood, the another and another, until it
purred beneath her care, the iron heating up, the oven
expanding and the heat thumping it until it grunted and
groaned in content, like an idiot.

She was Maria, and the stove loved only her. Let Arturo
or August drop a lump of coal into its greedy mouth
and it went mad with its own fever, burning and blistering
the paint on the walls, turning a frightful yellow, a chunk
of hell hissing for Maria, who came frowning and capable,
a cloth in her hand as she twitted it here and there,
shutting the vents deftly, shaking its bowels until it
resumed its stupid normalcy.

Maria, with hands no larger than frayed roses, but that
black devil was her slave, and she really was very fond
of it. She kept it shining and flashily vicious, its nickel
plated trade name grinning evilly like a mouth too proud
of its beautiful teeth."

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Friday, November 8, 2013

"A book melts and shifts in the memory."


"To grasp the shadowy & phantasmal form of a book,
to hold it fast, to turn it over and survey it at leisure--
that is the effort of a critic of books, and it is perpetually
defeated.

Nothing, no power, will keep a book steady & motionless
before us, so that we may have time to examine its shape
& design. As quickly as we read, it melts & shifts in
the memory.

Even at the moment when the last page is turned,
a great part of the book, its finer detail, is already
vague and doubtful.

A little later, after a few days or months, how much
is really left of it? A cluster of impressions, some
clear points emerging from a mist of uncertainty, this
is all we can hope to possess . . . in the name of a book."

-Percy Lubbock, The Craft of Fiction (1931)

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Friday, August 9, 2013

On the Impossibility of Making Amends.


Whenever I reach into the past,
or whenever I'm dragged back there
kicking & screaming, I discover
again how impossible it is to make full
& complete amends to all the people I hurt.

I'm not bringing this up in a woe is me way.
I'm not bringing it up to absolve myself
or anybody else of doing all we can to find
those we hurt & make amends, which involves
not only apology but finding out what we can do
to make things as right as we can.

I am all for all that & I urge anybody in recovery or
not to go for the amends whole-heartedly, as long
as it doesn't lead to more pain for those we
would make amends to.

Still, it's impossible, for anybody who drank
as long as most recovering alcoholics drank,
10, 20, 30 years, to even remember everybody
we hurt and how we hurt them, and how badly,
even cruelly.

I just had a reach into the past with an old
friend and was reminded of a person and an incident
in which I hurt that man awfully. I never thought
of the man when I was making my step 8 list,
never crossed my mind, and if it had I wouldn't
have ever thought I did anything to him which would
call for amends.

On the one hand, I got a new amends from fifty years
ago to make, which is a good thing.

On the other hand, it's disheartening to realize,
again, how much damage I did back then that I
don't even remember.

I'm not bemoaning my own situation, or not too much.
I'm mostly trying to see, in terms of the present,
the unamended damage I did. How can I make amends for
so many wrongs I did that I'll probably never even remember?

Here's the good part. Long-time sober that I am, and
a better man and human that I may be compared to that
guy pre-1986, I am still self-centered as hell & it is not
my nature to go out of my way to be of service to my
fellow human, suffering or alcoholic or not.

I've battled lately with feeling I'm sick of trying to
help others, especially fellow alcoholics, because, well,
you know, what the hell good does it do and besides I'm
underappreciated, don't you know.

Then I run into the past again, get reminded of all
the damage I did, so much forgotten, in blackouts and
not in blackouts, and how try as I may I'll never make
amends for it all.

And that painful reminder makes me realize the importance
and spiritual meaning of LIVING AMENDS.

Which means to me remembering that when I'm kind to
the people in my life today, even when I don't feel like it,
even when I think they haven't "earned" it, even when I feel
that they have wronged me,

when I try to be there for others, alcoholics or otherwise,
even when it feels pointless and hopeless and I'd rather
be pursuing selfish pursuits,

what I'm doing then is in a kind of a way making amends
somehow for the wrongs I did others, for the hurt I brought
others, even though I can't even remember them or the wrong
or the hurt that I caused.

I just sighed with gratitude for living amends, and resolve
again to appreciate the chance to be kind & patient & loving
& compassionate to others today who are in my life,
partly because I was not kind or patient or loving or compassionate
to so many people in my past who I cannot reach or even remember.

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Sunday, June 9, 2013

Three Newcomers at a Meeting Last Night, Two Had No Resentments


which gave me two more resentments.

I'm beginning to suspect
that people may not know
what a resentment is.

It's a very simple
natural thing.
Here, have one.
Have another, they're small
at first.

A person at another meeting
with decades of time
actually asked for a definition.
She didn't think she'd any
since she did her fifth step
in 1970.

I believe they're the raw material
of serenity, spiritual
alarm clocks, welcome
resentment! let's discuss!
let's burrow to the root!
get sunshine's agony in there!

I believe if you hung
with the Dalai Lama a while
you'd see resentment
in action, building soul.

Although it's possible
it's just me
& everybody else
is rigorously honest, shrugging
at the whole idea & truly
finished & resentment free.

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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Jesus the Carpenter & the Unfinished Add-On.


Knock-Knock.

Yes?

Is Jesus home?

He's out.

You know when he'll be back?

I suspect it could be a while. To what is this pertaining to?

Well, he started a project for me, an add-on to my place over here on Via Way, and he's half-done and it's holding up the other guys.

Did you pay him?

Yeah, I paid him.

Before he finished? Tsk tsk. How much more does he have to do?

Maybe two, three days. He's doing a hell of a job, I hate to have to hire another guy.

Well, I'm sure he'll finish it.

Yeah, but when?

Well, as I say, he's out right now.

Where?

He's wandering around the general vicinity.

Doing what?

Saving the world, etc.

Saving the-- Oh! That's this Jesus? I heard about that! That's our Jesus?

Yes.

Miracles, Son of God, so on?

Yes, sir.

Well, I'll be. Hmm. I must say I'm rather surprised. He kept to himself on the job. Had very little to say actually. Of course, you could tell he was thinking.

Yes, always thinking.

Huh! Well, I'll be darned. Okay. Of course this doesn't exactly solve my problem, does it?

Perhaps not, but it puts it into context.

How's that?

Well, he's saving the world, and you're worried about your add-on.

You trivialize my house being in an uproar with an unfinished room? Bare drywall, dust everywhere. And it's not just a room, it's the den slash home office I've always dreamed about. You don't think these rather extreme suggestions he's making about himself might be called into serious question if it gets around that he's left my add-on half-done? And who knows how many other projects he's left in the lurch. There could be three-legged tables and unhung doors all over Nazareth. You can't up and start a new profession without tying your loose ends up first. No, ma'am, I don't think he'd want this to get around. Bad for business.

I hope you're not talking about blackmailing the Son of God.

No, but I am considering small claims court. My goodness, the Son of God. Such a quiet fella on the job. Although he talked to himself a lot, come to think of it. Working something out. Well, tell him I came by. I really think he could knock it off in two, three days. Maybe he could just come over on the weekend. I'll gladly pay overtime.

I'll tell him. I'll let him know.


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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Understanding Is a City of Sand


Understanding is "figuring out."

Understanding is "words."

I heard a rumor:
understanding a person
will give me peace of mind.

"Ask not to be understood,
but to understand."
Ask for neither.

When I look you in the eye,
when I say good morning, I forget
you're a universe of mysteries
upon a universe of mysteries
even unto yourself, even when you
look yourself in the eye.

"If something is not hidden
it cannot be found."

Understanding is a cripple.

I am talking about the person I cherish,
I am talking about a stranger, a man with a face
made to annoy me, to sandpaper my brain
every time I think of him, a woman in a scarf
I pass on the street & am sure is the one, a woman
I never saw before & will never see again,
though we both live to 95.

I will understand none of them.

Understanding is a city of sand.

Understanding is blind, deaf, mute, lost,
meandering the sandy cliff.

No, it's going to take something way way beyond
understanding, one of those impossible things
that make understanding look like a drooling idiot
in a sandbox in the rain.

Going out among human beings
believing that understanding
will get my soul where she needs to be
is like
going out to build a house
with a sackful of tools made of sand.

Please love understanding.
It cannot help itself.
Have compassion for understanding.
It is doing the best it can.
Have mercy on understanding.
It is not the one saying all those
impossible things about itself,
about what it is, and what it can do,
and what it can bring.

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Monday, April 15, 2013

My story is out in The Greensboro Review...


It's not online. Please support this fine long-established journal
if you can. If you absolutely positively unequivocababally
can't afford to buy the Spring issue ...
($8 for the issue, inc. shipping) here:

The Greensboro Review

... or maybe even subscribe, then please make a case for
how much you long to read it and my cold cold heart
may be moved to send you a PDF of the story, "Could You, Bob Hill."



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