Memories, Observations, Poetry, Reflection

Impressions & Images (#1?)

“If my intestines are a battle-ground, so be it!” I might have said, then. I interpreted the abdominal cramps as side-effects with a side of penance, as evidence of progress. The old medicine deepened my melancholy into raw insanity but the new medicine, in that narrative, would make me physically raw to free my mind. My self-regard grew according to my suffering: a placebo with the punishment I thought I deserved for being flawed. My symptoms cleared a few days after my friend’s coworker’s stomach virus subsided, just as they had started a few days later: ’twas a bug, not side-effects. My body adjusted to the half-dose (the starter-dose) of the new medicine, the virus cleared, and the discouraging voice returned to my inner-monologue. Still, I was doing better than in mid-February — yet, sufficiency was in question. This week, I started the full-dose.

* * *

Caterpillar Sasses The Beast  [in-progress]
I find a space to hang between
the deepening, evening green
of leaves at dusk; I’ve finished
chewing for the last time.
I don’t know how I am still;
I’m a wrapped corpse until
I wiggle or jiggle, a little,
trying to live and unable to die in peace.

Night sets like silt, burying,
or God deigned all would be black or
my eyes shrank into my melting face —
tones re-emerge at low-contrast,
a subtle change [tbc] * * *

Polyphemus_caterpillar_face_As I begin to write again, I want to evolve. My tendency to analyze and explain, to munch and chew, lessening with each lesson and replaced by suggestions and impressions. I averted my eyes from her throughout the festival; I wasn’t ready to know how she had grown, even less to reckon how I had not. I journeyed in a haze of music before and after that day, distracting myself from how her memory entangled with the greenery of landscapes, the fabric of clothes, the fragrance of foods, and the cadence of phrases. I regret the distance I chose but cannot know if I would regret the risk and vulnerability of encounter more– to engage with the one I loved knowing I was even more lost. Lost from where and to whom? And why? And how to proceed? I wanted to answer all of these before I spoke a single word to her– it’s some kind of failure but
–look: there is that actress and comedienne. Talk to her; she’s totally different. Bask in the banter, practice being comfortable– hover in new friendship, in accompaniment, in levity I used to share with h–
But when the conversation turns deeper, dig your claws into the side of the cliff you’re descending. Say you don’t want to talk about your mental health at the festival.

In hindsight, these were reasonable commands for my self from myself. Stay present while it is possible… but wrestle the difficult things, at last, if only in small increments…

* * *

Pentwater Beach Remembered (first-draft)
A canopy of black and stars surrounds
my perch on a high dune, overlooking
muted moon flickers on Michigan
–the Western Lake, the Sunset Coast–
drained of twilight fire-tones.
The sand is rendered as bone dust,
loses warmth, and forgets the tans of summer.
Eyes probe the Autumn night for …proofs (?)
while the mind probes itself for a soul.

[something else here?]

I see the faces of my challenges more
clearly than I know my own features.
The silent dune and the distant shine
of the moon watching the cold,
darkened lake dwell years with me
the lively meander of streams I run with
or oceans remembered, rising in each wave
in love that seemed to encompass the planet.

[something else here, readers? in-progress-middle]

But a frigid space surrounds
our atmosphere; God hides closer, in
roots that subdue the drift of sands
or the eyes of true friends, willing
to probe me, with me, and re-ignite
the morning-tones, ripening the Atlantic,
to illumine my face: a freckled reflection
of resilience
bathed in the rays of refreshed days.

* * *

It rained copiously on the day of my 32nd birthday. I don’t know if my ex-girlfriend was there* because I was elsewhere. I had absconded to Archie Edward’s {…} Foundation Blues Jam the day before and was rewarded with a non-paying gig. Our favorite mandolin player was on the grounds, at Glen Echo park, in a long black poncho and his weather-tested black hat with the wide-brim; I greeted him in my weather-tested black beret and my black leather jacket. We spoke with others of our species beneath a dripping pavilion. Inwardly I felt horrific, as if the vacuum left by my dissipating bowel pain refilled with a stew of loneliness, hopelessness, and helplessn– NOPE. I consoled myself that I was not helpless: we would play blues music together in 90 minutes. The moment I blew into my trumpet on stage, I would no longer be alone with my thoughts and feelings~ everyone in ear-shot would experience my emotion as art. The pain did not stop but it could not harm me, could not overcome my healing-factor, nor dampen my desire to continue as a musician…

I intend to say more about musicianship and its lessons. I always intend to say something profound about it. I thought of writing a piece called “Silver & Blue” about the practice of trumpeting. But there is music beyond trumpets in my life. Yesterday, I spent some time on the piano in the meeting-house… and I am still not at the point of performing but getting past a starting-point. All I know on piano is Blues of my own composition– I don’t even desire to read the hymnals…

Preparation is incremental. My ability to play in jam, on stage, on a stand-up piano, is all a product of preparations I did not know I had made. For over fifteen years I’ve wanted a revolution inside of myself, never fully appreciating the evolution inside of myself — but evolution is not totally out of my control. At its heart are mutation, which is tricky (I admit), and selection. Even selection is not entirely predictable; here is part a central part of my knot, or else the juiciest part of my pith…

* * *

Balloon Flotilla [in-progress]
Like a swarm of jellyfish afloat in a swell,
an uncountable glut of balloons offer
trailing threads of many colors and
rise away.
If I grab the blue string, will I need
to gather every thread of that hue
to succeed at blues? Or must I
make bundles of rainbow colors, yet
miss the bulbs of indigo I cannot see?

I could strafe balloons with bullets
and braid a cord of orphaned strings.
The atmosphere thins
so balloons fall like snowflakes,
and I gather them like bloated fruit.
Balloons are transfigured
as balls of yarn to be untangled
ceasing to be buoyant
though like jellyfish they can sting
but are at least in-hand? (I don’t know) [tbc] * * *

Therapy seems as if it can work. That might not be a revelation, to all.
“You know the feelings you have are real; at most a medicine will help them not completely overwhelm you. Your not working toward eliminating your feelings,” said my therapist. She’s insightful and she reads me well… too well:
“You’re making that ‘why bother’ face; am I right?”
“Fuck you,” I muttered as I turned away smiling. We both laughed. This therapist is also an improvised comedy teacher– we have a lively dynamic. My previous therapist was minimalist. She just waited for me to speak and steered me in subtle ways– it could be the best thing for my PTSD but we never began to tackle the knots closer to my core.
“NOT that you CAN’T come with a list,” said the therapist on Tuesday, “but what if you came without an agenda? What would happen if you allowed yourself not to think so hard all of the time? What are you afraid will happen?”

A minute later, she asked me to close my eyes and describe “Charlie” — the discouraging voice. Without hesitation, I detailed a creature with a body plan like a Permian therapsid, but with rust-colored porcupine quills all over its body and a hyena face. It has bright yellow eyes and drools an unnatural green. Moreover, I said it lived in a cave… it was practically a cave painting, sketched in rough textures. “It seems,” I mused, “that I’ve kept searching in the cave for where Charlie lives instead of just walking-away…”
“I probably could run faster than Charlie but it feels like he’s already on my back with his claws dug into me…”
“Close your eyes and picture a positive image for yourself.”

I started to but my thoughts diverged like a flotilla of balloons– I wanted the perfect positive image to counter Charlie’s visage, which had been intuitive to me. “Wow. It’s really telling that I sculpted Charlie so easily and now I can’t decide what I want my positive image to be…” Figuratively, I sank deep into the couch.

“Look at me: you are so the opposite of hopeless — that’s why I’m getting in your face. Do you think I can do that with everyone? You’re the only one who takes their shoes off every single time– and you’re a creative. And you make me laugh every time.” She dared me to draw a picture of Charlie (I haven’t, yet) and to try running without my iPod, to mill my thoughts without anesthesia (in other words).

I left in a leaden mood. The next day, I was standing in the check-out line at the grocery store. My discouraging voice was running at a low hum, like the oscillating-fans we gradually forget are blowing. Noticing Charlie, a new idea surfaced: “I could give Charlie a different accent than mine– I could give him a Russian accent– better: I could make him sound like Vladimir Putin. That might short-circuit this issue…”


Once at home, I watched a few videos of Putin speaking English; I practiced saying my ugly thoughts out-loud in my best impersonation of Putin’s obnoxious airs. In a medium-absurdity Russian accent I gave voice to vile notions like no one ever loving me again, being vocationally useless, committing suicide in my forties because I’m too old, all of my recovery efforts being too late, disparaging things about other people, — the purpose was to acknowledge the thought while making it laughable. “I sound like a homophobic, KGB-hangover… I can’t fully believe a word I’m saying in this ridiculous accent.” The improviser inside me started fighting Charlie — comedy! But where was this comic instinct before, when it might have saved my relationship?

Courtesy of the Daily Express

*in Russian accent* “You’ll never have another loving relationship. No woman will ever laugh at your jokes or think you’re sexy — let alone intelligent. You should kill yourself before you turn 45–”

“Nice try, Putin. The only way I could make this sound worse is…” *clears throat*

Courtesy of ‘The Hill’

*Donald Trump voice* So many negative thoughts and, you know, they’re the biggest negatives — some people even say they’re the best. I don’t know but I’ll tell you the truth. Believe me, people: people believe me. I bet you’d pay to know what negative things I’ll say next — that’s what America is about: the freedom to say negative things and self-harm. It’s a great deal; all of the experts, the real experts, they agree that the freedom to self-harm is… well, frankly, they like it. We’re doing a great job, here, driving the author into his grave. He really believes in us, honestly…”

No. Not like before, I don’t. This puts self-deprecation in an illuminating light!

Learning to be alone with my thoughts, again. <That is leftover from my outline. I think I will have more to say about that as time passes. I am turning-off my radio a little more often and allowing my ideas and feelings to emerge, return, even ferment into bluer trains of thought.

In that space of allowing, I did find a positive image to test. I confess that I thought of Articuno as soon as my therapist suggested a positive image. I second-guessed the choice– an ice-powered bird from the original Pokémon games? Not only did the image seem too cold, I felt juvenile & nerdy about it. So I started thinking about ospreys, barred-owls, then a slew of mammals — I couldn’t decide which was best.

blue-bird1As I meditated on a picnic table yesterday, I decided that my positive image should have my own face. I played with the idea of me, covered in a cape of blue feathers, long-streamers of blue trailing behind– super cool, literally. I saw myself with a bright orange and pure-white breast, feathered, like a blue-bird: envisioning myself as somewhere between chill and warm, the warmth I wanted returned to my life. From whom will it come? Some warmth has to come from inside me~ but, more importantly, I engaged in creative thinking (again) rather than trying to understand what went wrong. My thoughts went forward, given some extra space to breath.

The therapist laughed at my Russian accent; I knew I could ‘slay’ her with it! We talked about therapy dynamics. We returned to the positive image and I speculated about Articuno as a symbol (nerdy as that might be). I remembered something: “I almost forgot that Articuno knows a move called “Mist” that allows her to remove negative conditions from herself– poisoning, burns, paralysis: she “Mists” herself and the affliction goes away.”

Articuno uses ice-beam in flight.
“Titan of Ice” by DarkFeather

“How can you NOT use her as a positive image? Beautiful, powerful, mist-able! And what fascinates you about ice powers? Could it be the purity?”
“Maybe. I’ll have to think about that. It could also be the pale blue of her plumage, a foil to how I imagined my discouraging voice. At the same time, she represents loneliness, being lost in the mountains, hypothermia– I had a bad winter! I’m in tension with that… of course winter can’t hurt Articuno, can it? She carries Winter inside herself, under her control…”

–further break-throughs followed but I think I have brought my readership close-enough to being current. It is time to rest (after I decide what graphics I’m going to insert). Ciao, ‘Reverse Exiled’ fans. I’m noticing your numbers more and more.


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