Ten more days until 2015 – I can’t believe how quickly time flies when you’re growing old! Remember when you were a kid, and you felt every minute dragging its heels for 365 days, and each year took forever to work it’s way around? Remember when every bit of you was rushing ankles over elbows, an endless internal sprint from birthday to birthday? Now I’m dragging and time is sprinting.I’m shocked at how the calender pages rip themselves off and flutter past, like in the black and white movies you used to could watch on the late late show.
I am going to try to post every day for the next ten days, until the first day of the new year. Why? Why the hell not? I can chronicle ten days of life as I see it.
I saw “Birdman” last night, and I really liked it. I watched it with my mom, which is always a good time, but she hated it. “The worst four hours I’ve spent in a long time,” she groused as we left the theater. The movie was only two hours, give or take, and even though it did feel like a long flick, I wonder if mom was including the hour and a half I talked about it afterwards. Anyway, I think you should go see it; I want to know what you think about it. Mostly I have heard people say that they haven’t seen it, but they have talked to people who thought it sucked. Jimmy Fallon thought it was great, but he loves everything, so he doesn’t count.
Today Tunisia held its first democratic elections, the results of the uprising that led to the Arab Spring in 2011. Voter turnout was low, perhaps due in part to an ISIL threat against anyone going to the polls, but more probably the result of voter burnout. The future of the country is unclear – as it is for all countries, I guess – but with so much unrest and upheaval in the world, I hope that maybe people are figuring out ways for us to get along.
In 2011 I wrote this poem. It’s from the perspective of a drop of water.
Libyan Rain, or Eternal Hope from Arab Springs
The day the revolution began was warm and filled with sunshine which glinted off teeth sparkling in a thousand open mouths. The people cried, sweat, screamed, and spit. Later, they laughed and slapped each other on the back, then danced and kissed under a bright moon, held like a pearl in night’s black palm.
But I was not aware. I was a drop, floating in the sea, submerged in hue and wave, exploring gradation and shadow, giving myself over to the universal flow. My heart pulsed erratically until it settled into the rhythm of the sea, the pump of the waves, and the melody of the currents. The soothing slush of water whispered in my ears, and I floated on my back, then belly, and felt the pressure, the build, enter me, until the water within and without moved from osmosis to dissolution; blissful, beautiful equilibrium. I dissolve into equality.
Of course, perfect balance cannot last, can never be maintained. All of life steers towards entropy and chaos, which in turn is supplanted by new order and stability, which begins to unravel no sooner than it is achieved. As always, time found me and forced me up out of the sea, the blue dripping off of me, as I rose over land and mingled in the open air.
I blew into town. The mood had changed since I had last traveled this current, which had currently become electrically charged. A spirit of wild hope had seized the people, and they grabbed at it with their hands, and then hopped on its back and rode it bucking through the streets, kicking up sand and fear, trash and glee. Tongues, heavy and long quiet, became moistened, and shouted, ululating in protest and prayer. The first cries bubbled in throat after throat, and soon, people were coming together, gathering strength from each others’ muscles and resolve.
“If I die today,” they said, solemnly and with pronounced clarity, “so be it. Better to die than to exist without anything for which to live. I am tired of being hungry. I am taunted by thoughts that fill me; thoughts of freedom, liberty. I am weary of want and injustice, of turning my head toward the wall, so that I won’t see the misery just beyond my eyelids. Survival is overrated. I want to live, and if I can’t live, I will die!”
The next day, clouds, soft and small, like curious sheep, gathered in the still blue pastures of the sky. There was no rain, but it was very humid. I took to the streets and kept to myself, blending in. The emotions of the previous days, far from dissipating, thickened and congealed. The atmosphere was heavy with passion. Saliva dripped from the mouths of the furious, enraged by standing in the heat, emboldened by commitment and refusal to back down. The sixty percent of the human body that is water sprang from the pores and formed prayer beads on upper lips, trickled in furrows of brows, rivuleted down ribs and behind knees. Prayer from the pores. Prayer from the poor. The seventy percent of water that makes up the human brain boiled a bubbling soup of emotion, diluting inhibition and fear. The eyes of men, women and children flashed with understanding. Hearts throbbed with elation, and blood seethed in the veins.
I was again caught up, in the universal hum. Again, there was a push towards equilibrium, but this time, it was not through peaceful permeation. Instead, humans, like a flood, were gathering, leaping and twisting, gushing ever stronger, and hurling themselves towards a high wall, a dam, solid, impervious and unyielding. All that push, all that force, and still that wall; nowhere to go but up and up, higher and higher; nothing to do but go over, up and over, come over, overcome. Nothing to do but overcome.
The sheepish clouds turned dark, wolfish. Unusual, but inevitable. As the barometer rose, so did I, ascending on winds of discontent and vapors of hope. I looked up to the clouds for relief. The heat on the ground was stifling, oppressive. I watched the shifting of shapes and the massing of patterns and I felt myself lift up, lift up, uplifted, until I was one with the force that would break with a torrent, and once loosened, would fall on the people, the land, the buildings, and cleanse them, making all pure, baptizing and blessing the new day.
The day the revolution ends, I am high above, looking down. In my cloud, there is serenity. I listen to the wind, to space, and I can barely hear the thunder from below. There is a feeling of meeting, of joining, of coming together, thickening, and then, bloating, impending pressure, ripples in the pond, the pull of the tide, threatening the balance. Again, always, the descent, the feeling of being a liquid lemming, of following, of falling, of spilling over, flowing over, overflowing, and I am falling down, faster falling, a bullet in the barrel, speeding to where gravity, another force, forces me. No fighting a force.
Time becomes viscous. I see everything slowly, through open, clear eyes, unclouded by sediment or sentiment. I see the past and the present in the same frame as the future.
My eyes are prisms and I see it all.
I see a building, a courthouse, in flames, black smoke billowing through glassless portals. I think, “Justice burns.”
I see green flags bobbing and fluttering around a giant poster of a man with coiled snake hair and dark sunglasses, erect in a military uniform, gold braiding down each arm, medals gleaming on his chest, pointed teeth cutting into his lips. The flags are waved by people who chant and serpent themselves into a writhing, throbbing parade. They smile, but I don’t sense joy. They hold their children high on their shoulders, and tiny hands wave at the drops of rain that have begun to come down.
A man in a red shirt and blue jeans dances on the roof of a burned out, twisted, black metal sculpture that had, but a few hours ago, been a car. As he dances, ash puffs from his feet and crystal drops of water spill from a plastic bottle in his left hand. Diamonds in the smoke. His eyes roll like pebbles in the tide. People run around him without direction, frantic, shouting, “Police! Police!”
I see teargas canisters streak gray clouds into great crowds, and I think, “Liquid tears from fired gas splash on solid ground.”
Men in black hoods and pants walk on rooftops, lift massive machine guns, and open fire. A boy of about twelve drags a man by the armpits. “Run, Papa, run!” The boy is begging. The man’s pants are torn at the knee and are stained, purple turning to brown. His toes turn to the left and etch a trail in the dirt behind a store that sells fruit and batteries.
An old man in long brown robes stands hidden in the shadows, behind a refrigerator. He is cold, though it is hot outside. Only his eyes glitter. “All the people,” he weeps. “So many people…” He wants to pray, but cannot stop sobbing into his hat.
I see a woman arguing, gesticulating wildly, her flat face red and glistening. “No, I forbid you! If you go out there you will be shot like a rat in the garbage! I forbid you!” She stamps her feet and gnashes her teeth.
Two boys run, faster than they ever have. One is crying, tears streaking out of slits of eye. The other is laughing, and it sounds like ice tinkling against glass. Their hair flies out on the air behind them, and then they are gone.
The sky splits, and, tearing through the drops that are multiplying rapidly, merging like newborn waterfalls, shrieks a plane and a missile, one missile, then two. I see in all directions and watch as the cockpits above open, and destruction rains down, reign is down, the reins are down and the horses of the apocalypse are running, frantic and terrified. I see the heavens are ripping, and one of the planes breaks formation and turns, hard, flying away, firing away, fly, firefly, fly. Below I see a million tiny suns sparking, exploding the flesh of the earth, the plash of flesh exploding on the earth.
Red rivers. Storms of suns, bursting yellow, orange, and always red. Brown mud sucking at brown robes, as brown feet run through burned, brown fields.
The hum becomes a moan. The rain becomes a storm, brief, but powerful.
Time, so relative, so fluid, speeds up and I am a flying bullet again. I suddenly see my target: a window in a white house. Beyond it is a girl with a blue scarf wrapped around her head, framing her face in a perfect oval. In that oval I see pink, sculpted lips, very fine, quivering. In the corner of her almond eye, I see my reflection, my doppelganger, and she sees me see me. I feel both inside and outside at once, both now and later, both here and gone. Her teardrop mirror-me slips very gently, and I crash into the thick wave of window, a transparent expanse, now oceanic in proportion. She reaches a thin, bone-finger and delicately traces my path as I slide, and as I slide, so does my parallel self; me, down the window; me, down her perfect face. Me, gliding on glass; me, skating the smooth circumference of her cheek. I lick the glass and taste the salt on both sides. I nestle into her neck, her warmth, and I feel her pulse beat under her jawbone, before I sigh and spread into the blue sea of her scarf, first on my back, then on my belly. I become one with the fabric, finally. My other self skims down the window, glancing the cracks in the wood frame, until she is, until I am, out of view, but I know I am still there. I left a bit of me behind, and more on the cement of the house, until only the tiniest bit of me bled into the ground, which was already soaked with the blood of others. Saturated. Water is the blood of life and blood is the water of humans. We mingle, and can’t be separated.
I dream of going down, under the ground, six feet under the ground to rest, to rest in peace, and then, dive further still, swim all through the earth, to hear the hum and become reacquainted with the silence and the gradations, the rhythms and the whispers. The song of the sand. The aria of the wind. The march of the ant and the scrape of the rock as it rubs, shifts and displaces. I want to feel the lava flow over me. I want to forget now and know forever. I want only to hear the pulse, the lullaby of the eternal, the soothing susurrations of time. Hush, hush.
And then, in a millennium, I want to come up on the other side of the world, on a sunny day, in the petals of a daffodil that smiles a yellow glow back up at the sun and heralds an early spring.