are two birds in your head, raven and crow, and only one of them is yours.
A ghost and a robot doing battle, singing like telephones, the phone is
ringing, a headache word. You are dancing with the birdcage girl, banging
your head against a cage that isnít there. You want to say yes: yes to
the bathtub, yes to the gumdrops, no to the laughing skullheads.
The holes in this picture are not flowers,
they are not wheels, and the phone is ringing ringing, a headache word,
itís ringing for you. This is in the second person. This is happening
to you because I donít want to be here. Is there anything I wonít put
words around? Yes, there is.
And so there are gaps. And so naturally
things try to get into the gaps. I imagine things because I like them
or sometimes I dislike them and I am afraid of them and I live in an imaginary
world. The phone is ringing and I donít want to hear this. The T.V. is
on and I donít want to see this, I donít want to rise to this occasion.
I stood the yard in my everyday clothes
singing Wings little monster, listen to my soup bones. Does it help? What
does this have to do with the airplanes and the buildings falling down?
Iím a romantic, an absurdist. I am bad
with facts and I get confused. Iím a hostile witness. I didnít want to
see this, talk about this. I wanted to testify to something else. The
phone rings and you pick it up and itís bad news. Now what do you do?
There are many ways to write about war.
On one end, thereís clarity, facts, the updates and the eyewitness accounts.
On the other end, thereís Paul Celan, a holocaust survivor who wrote poems
in the language of his oppressors; weird, fractured, tragic, and beautiful
lyrics that render the experience of confusion and meaninglessness and
But I donít want to write about war. I
had other plans. I wanted to talk about monsters and terror, not war and
terrorism. But since September 11th, monster means something different
than it used to. Not only are we trapped in our bodies, drowning in gravity,
but weíre stuck in our time, too. Down here, in these years in which we
Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa says
that as a writer, my primary obligation is to write. He adds, however,
that this should not be incompatible with concern for the place where
I live. ďIf you are a writer,Ē he says, ďand there is no freedom where
you live, you cannot say that this is not your problem.Ē
It is difficult not to feel obliged to
participate in the public debate and commit oneself politically, but I
donít know anything about these kind of things. Iím still trying to figure
out the difference between comedy and tragedy. Iím the last person to
ask about right and wrong.
For two weeks, I watched the constant coverage
on the television. I couldnít get my head around it. It seemed too simple,
too one-sided, too much of a good versus evil thing. I am wary of the
simple. Perhaps I am being unreasonable, but I still believe that there
are answers that arenít yes or no.
Personally, Iím a mess of conflicting impulsesóIím
independent and greedy and I also want to belong and share and be a part
of the whole. I doubt that Iím the only one who feels this way. Itís the
core of monster making, actually. Wanna make a monster? Take the parts
of yourself that make you uncomfortableóyour weaknesses, bad thoughts,
vanities, and hungersóand pretend theyíre across the room. Itís too ugly
to be human. Itís too ugly to be you. Children are afraid of the dark
because they have nothing real to work with. Adults are afraid of themselves.
Oh weíre a mess, poor humans, poor fleshóhybrids
of angels and animals, dolls with diamonds stuffed inside them Weíve been
to the moon and weíre still fighting over Jerusalem. Let me tell you what
I do know: I am more than one thing, and not all of those things are good.
The truth is complicated. Itís two-toned, multi-vocal, bittersweet. I
used to think that if I dug deep enough to discover something sad and
ugly, Iíd know it was something true. Now Iím trying to dig deeper.
I didnít want to write these pages until
there were no hard feelings, no sharp ones. I do not have that luxury.
I am sad and angry and I want everyone to be alive again. I want more
landmarks, less landmines. I want to be grateful but Iím having a hard
time with it.
The phone rings and I pick it up and I
really wanted to do something else with my hands. It keeps coming back
to that: what do I do with these hands? Letís say the dead are watching
us. What should we do with our hands? Letís say that aliens are watching
us. What should we do with our hands? Letís say that the world isnít made
out of love, letís say itís all paratroopers and suckerpunches. Does this
really change anything?
My friend Trevis has a New Yearís Day tradition,
he tries to experience one hundred and eight emotions as fast as he can.
I admire that. Heís ambitious, alive, resilient, flexible. He continues
to remember things and yet move forward. He never kept a single promise,
but then he never made one. It made me angry, it made me feel less safe,
less confident. What he said instead was While weíre here, pass this with
I was sitting with my friend Chris the
other night, outside, at safehouse, drinking hot chocolate and enjoying
the novelty of wearing a coat and sweater. ďItís gonna get cold,Ē he said.
ďI know,Ē I said, and then we were quiet for a while. ďYou know whatís
funny about being cold?Ē he asked, rhetorically, because he knows Iím
from Arizona and donít know anything about being cold. ďWhen youíre cold,
youíre not all the way cold, youíre just thirty percent cold.Ē ďYeah?Ē
I said, not really impressed with his Midwestern epiphany. ďThe trick
is,Ē he continued ďto live in the warm parts. You have to live in the
other seventy percent.Ē
So now I say it to you: Pass this with
me. Here, in the warm parts. Now in your hands is a book that Drew and
I made with our hands. We celebrate it. If the dead are watching, I want
them to see us writing, dancing, singing, painting. I want them to see
that we still reach out to each other.