The vision thing
The day Aunt Mary died I was busy consoling myself. (My son is not HIV positive, My marriage is better than Tolstoy's. My income is within the national average, I voted for the government.) Aunt Mary was simple-minded because of childhood meningitis she was heroic and cheerful. Aunt Mary's vision stopped her from dying, she saw her parents at the end of her bed calling from over the river, Mary come be with the dead but she said no, there is still work for me to do In the seniors' home, folding fresh laundry singing hymns, cheering invalids. When Mary finally gave in and died the funeral home director had a flowered tie. He talked smoothly about death, his teeth were white with sincerity. During the service we sang "How Great Thou Art" in four part harmony. It was better than a Billy Graham show. I knew Mary expected to sing with the angels, she could see them at the foot of her bed. She could see all of us from over there. She could see us eating dainties at her funeral. I drove back to work squinting at the sun. Why can't I see properly? Why do the angels have to sing in tune?
for Harry L.
Sundays it can always be found here in a place without incense or fertility rites, harmony singing, four-wheel drives, the churchgoers where I attend want their bodies healed, kids safe, the massage parlours and booze cans closed, the word of the Lord, monogamous signifier married in the blood of the signified. Jesus cleared the temple of moneylenders and writers his life rooted in speech acts, the perfect word in a world beyond perverse versions. I respect their infinite twelve step program that clutches and pushes toward an unceremonious god, no respecter of twelve steps or tones. Sundays, beneath it all, desire runs like a steeplechase runner for water, like a tenor for breath like these people, wanting something I can't name, and beneath it all, still going.
What you can't write about
War is an event . . . counter to human reason and human nature. — Tolstoy, War and Peace
When you find out you can kill someone then you know what you can't write about. Killing someone is more personal than having sex with them (although it's standard military practice to combine the two). When you know what it's like to want revenge more than life itself and when you get it (there's nothing new to say about this) you still hate stronger than anything, stronger than you wanted any woman. When you see thousands of dead bodies on a field (I know literature is a lousy witness) soldiers taking turns on a young girl or any of the things that make people say yes that's war, as if it were like the weather, uncontrollable but strangely part of us.
The difference between a martyr and a suicide
The sack bursting open off a high bridge to expel this man I admire, a martyr- (not that he didn't cling to the sack his fingers an unspeakable confession playing an inaudible instrument), the town executioner struck him blind with a stick: oh how you murder me- this man like a frog falling heavily into stagnant water, I pity you, the sack bursting open - a martyr who could not live in the flesh drowning in it.
3 Leaving the body (from The Pain Problem)
I don't know any songs for this all I know is you left early, you left the imperfect body of the world and the body is to be suspected of beauty and failure (whatever the mind grabs and holds is also suspect) Don't offer platitudes or simple answers, do not believe in healing, do not be angry. But you suspected everything when the curtains dropped and you became a careful still picture