We were told we could be anything, and look at how we’ve turned out. They never told us that we’d understand why people rob banks, steal, cheat, kill, and lie. They never told us that we’d understand criminality, while we riot with the sanctimonious incredulity expected of us— that we’d often quietly empathize. They never told us that justice was merely anger’s petulant retribution.
They never told us we weren’t truly free, and that even the masters of us are slaves to the lacquered-finish nothing which we all pretend to be something. They never told us that we’d die in small rooms, with whatever malignant thoughts remain, our minds having departed before our flesh capitulated, left our bodies as hollowed, sagging, and broken shells.
They never told us we’d long for a lifetime, for something unnamed, and that we’d never find it. They never told us that once the paint had dried on youth’s rebellious graffiti-wall dreams, they’d be forgotten, or abandoned, lost to convention, lost— to time’s defeated apathy, the wired-jaw silence of beaten men, that they’d be pissed on by cackling-laughter winos, shit on by the pigeons waiting on ledges, stripped by winters’ malicious torrents of wind and rain.
They never told us that none of the promises made to us would ever be kept, or that even the geniuses among us, the seemingly accomplished, would never feel fulfilled.
They never told us that we’d hear our names whispered on autumn’s brisk winds, a foretelling, whilst a cold sun’s judgment glares angrily at us, and as its warm amber seduces the next; they never told us that all we’d really have is each other, lovers, that all else is glistening sunlit dust, and we shan’t tell those who follow us.
I don’t know what they’re talking about. I’ve never seen a woman’s reflection swirling in my whiskey, a lost love staring back at me; when a mumbling-fool’s summer daydream ends, as it has before, when the will is gone, both broken, when I stop asking why, when they become wavy-memory’s gorgeous distortions, I don’t drink at all– the empties, those vessels once filled, only serve to remind.
Truthful writing belongs to the solemnity of solitude. It abandons the quaking orgy of fame, and its incessant clanging of chains inside the empty puppet theater. It spurns puerilities and glittering adornments, as they assemble like smiling children. It murders them, in dark apartments, with painted-over brass numbers hanging crookedly from the door. And it devours each, and all, indiscriminately, as they solicit– wishing the sweet candy of promise.
Shunning the promiscuity of mass allegiance, it lives alone, spending its burgundy evenings watching the shadows of dead memory dance by acidic candlelight, each still loved, and once awakened, it does not sleep again.
A couple of years ago, I left a more public writing venue to write where I wasn’t known, not unlike now. I wrote dark, honest, and beautiful things, and nobody cared if I existed as a writer. I’ll always feel that I did my best writing then. I wrote my first book then. This piece was in it.
I suppose you’ve wondered why I might have let you go– without trying to convince you to stay– why I didn’t give chase when the flipped coin fell on disfavor, tho still it shined, polished with pride. We’ve met before, love, tho the faces different; the demons, writhing behind the shimmer and gloss of soft eyes, and the churning colors of the sky, above us– the same, a distant storm approaching, and neither of us yet mended.
Many nights, I’d listened carefully, breath held, not daring to interrupt, to see if the things held only in whispers carried a goodnight, or a goodbye.
Finally, the other came; tho, I find– that I still listen for whispers.
The question had come up in early flirtation’s curious conversation, each learning about the other, fencing at times, each bringing a lifetime of relationships, and more than a bit of past pain into their words.
“Do you believe in unconditional love?” she’d asked.
My answer was not popular among the two of us at the time, though it remains unchanged.
I’d answered, “Yes.”
Even now, I wonder if there is another kind of love of which I am not aware.
There’d been a time when men spoke as oracles, carving night’s obsidian into black-winged angels with their words’ intricate precision, each fine syllable spilled of their rotten-tooth mouths, poetry, the teeming spit glistening upon the swollen round of their cankerous lips, their poems, incarnate, swelling with life, swimming with notions, gestating before born; we live in the mossy, crimson shadows of their brutal and artful hearts, lovers– we, not poets– in these decades of haste, but small men, trifling blasphemers, on most days. Tho on those rare evenings, magical, on those days, particularly blessed, on those mornings, warm and glorious, we might still recall their tall spirits, we might write a poem– a thing worth remembering, a thing bolder than our vanity, a thing, true, whispered into the lonesome void of another soul.
I can feel the days slide over the precipice into eternity, I can sense a diminishment, on those days that I don’t write.
It is this myth of symmetry, of which we are given to subscription, on which inclination places its burdensome yoke, from which we learn the impotence of equity, and in which we, ultimately, find our disheartenment. This queer belief that each side of the equation finds solution, its value, in balance, is human, computational error.
Fairness, truly understood, is conclusively unfair. Without balance, it is a fall off a slippery log, that in our deliberate falling away, another might find their footing as they cross. In our struggle for solvency, fearful we might lose ourselves to the shame of subordination, it is, in the end, a question of intent.
There is no disgrace in a decision to yield. There is no yellowed jaundice tainting our free will, our hearts need not become jade stone to find some sort of definement, and they need not demand equality. There is no stature lost in acquiescence.
Contrarily, we become larger through ceding pieces of ourselves so that others might be whole. In our intentional diminishment, in removing the bricks from our mighty walls, surrendering each to those needing affirmation of foundation, we’ve allowed light to pass through, both entering, and radiating outward. We’ve created a means of egress from our prison of pride, through which we might escape that self we’ve outgrown.
Part of an old writing challenge. The prompt was ‘symmetry’, I think. I dunno. I might not have followed the rules.
“All sins are attempts to fill voids.” ~ Simone Weil
It seems apropos on an eve like this. Words attempt to hold bold notions within their letters’ slender-shadow walls, yet the notions escape into the ether, filling the lungs of those who dare breathe their truth, or their poison. But of truth and poison, is there any difference? Might we perish of each, or of both combined? And of sin, who is to say what is sin– except the sinner, and those silent gods trapped within words? Still, with all the sin, and all the ethereal conjecture, the void– oh, it remains, a steady companion– waiting, until in the end, it takes what it has always owned.
Any attempt to cage this moment in words, such feeble restraints, would mean that its enormity, itself, had escaped.