January 28, 2013

Ants


 
When I dream as I often do,
I dream of people and situations,
and sometimes I dream of you.
Okay, I almost always dream of you.

You have a dozen faces,
I see you in many places,
and they are always twisted or impossible:
crumbling skyscrapers shaped like spiral ziggurats,
expensive homes in Ho-Ho-Kus,
penthouses without cigarettes,
and expensive cars that go nowhere.

You are always embarrassed to see me again,
yet friendly and dismissive of the past;
and always are you surprised.
I am always on the verge of tears.
I can never find my way out of there,
not wanting to have intruded in the first place;
I was not even looking for you.

I hate myself for leaving you,
and you and you and you and you and you.
We speak of bland and nothing things
and never broach the truth.
Then suddenly you disappear with a promise
to return; but you never do.

I never can find my way out of there until I wake.
Improbable elevators take me in the wrong direction,
stairs become ledges over chasms where a slip
would fling me to my death on 72nd Street.
Buildings become squalid rooms, hasty huts,
and rusty vans;
people become silhouettes.

No one but me knows your name,
or mine;
and no one I meet
remembers you.
I am sure it's a conspiracy of silence,
and you’ve told them all about me:
how I did this and didn’t do that,
and what a ridiculous mistake it was in the first place.
You fascinate and leave them laughing
with you and never at you,
but at me, whom you were so surprised to see,
I suspect; but never know if it’s true.
They sympathize. And forget.

I wake in pain and clarity,
rush deliberately through my necessary ablutions:
rituals of the aged, rusted, and blue.
The false teeth, the sandy eyes, 
the coffee machine that never lies.

Lighting a forbidden cigarette, 
I start the blessed machine
which makes it easier to spell;
I sit and describe with defective words
the dream that made me feel like hell.
Pills don’t help and forgetting is beyond doing.
So I keep traveling in discomfort on my chosen road,
Going alone everywhere that I can pay for,
Trying not to make contact
With anyone that I might dream about;
alighting from flight wherever I can land.

I almost never dream of men,
and of the ones I know outside of dreams,
all are strong and memorable like myself 
but not like me.
I am stronger alone and weaker 
than all of them together,
standing barefoot alone in my cell.
And those aren’t dreams, but memories,
of men who seemed to understand
that I'm a solitary wanderer,
and not without purpose or good intentions, 
whoever I am.

They bless and admire or condemn me for it,
and one who thought he wanted
to be like me suffocated in a tent 
from too much mayonnaise,
and lonely for his innocent, abandoned family.

They laugh at my elaborate stories,
and praise me for being so adventurous.
I look them straight in their uncomprehending eyes,
and modestly say nothing of consequence.
I’ve learned to simplify my rococo descriptions
with plain words and bare essentials,
mentioning only places and idiots I might have known,
their foibles and crimes or praiseworthy intentions,
while I, bored yet fascinated with their empty lives,
so much like my own,
consumed them like fuel for a Rube Goldberg machine.

I don’t know why I do it, except perhaps
that I temporarily need some attention.
But everything I recount
could have gone without mention.
I only want to see the unknowable;
the cosmic pulsating net of existence outside my
poor world of nonsense, stupidity, and futility.

I never knew why I lived or exactly how
it came to be this way.
I know no one else to blame
than myself; it was my trip and none other.
But it started with my grandmother.


I know there is not a single soul
on earth who even knows me,
and those who thought they did
have probably forgotten my name.

I’m grateful to whatever God there is
for the life I lived in torture and pain.
It was a life after all. And a punishment.
It’s almost finished now,
and I am glad but frightened and regretful
that it might have been better-lived,
If only I had found the key to the elevator
off of the ziggurats of loss and re-acquaintance,
even if you never did return.

I wake into another dream, and yet another,
each more unexplainable than the last.
Why am I traveling still?
Why am I still alone?
Because I snore, I tell myself,
and want to wake no one.
I don’t want them to see me at all,
much less, know me; or I, them.

I’m pleasant to strangers and horrible to my friends.
I drive them off or try to leave them laughing.
We shake hands and hug and always end up waving
goodbye at a bus stop.
What a relief to get away from the burden
of them thinking that they know me.
I could tell true stories reducing them to silence,
because their words would disappoint me.

So I leave them there to live their lives
completely independent and free of me,
and slightly puzzled, if that; there is work to do.
And then they go about living their lives
as if I had never been there at all;
and I am comforted, knowing,
that I cannot interfere, influence, or enthrall.

Each new or old place that I visit,
never intending to settle,
has seen me never or once before.
But no one remembers me at all,
or, if they do, they have forgotten
the essential thing: that I
am unknowable and improbable; even impossible.

I passed through incredible scenes like a ghost myself
with total disinterest, yet inscribed by every passing occurrence.

I believe in nothing that isn’t real,
and reality is the greatest illusion.
I believe only in the unbelievable
connection of all things.
I  cannot and will not
try giving it a name.

But you keep returning to my dreams
like a ghost that won’t depart.
The dream that bends my mind;
the one that breaks my heart.
I awake thinking it is important
to write it down, even though,
I know that
I cannot do it justice.

I’ve learned to swallow the tiny ants
invading my sugar and my food.
It is impossible to remove them
without starving myself.
I don’t know what their microscopic chemistry
is doing to my own metabolism,
except that I feel like part of them:
tiny, ubiquitous, and unknown;
And even less necessary.

At least they have a vital part
in the unknowable scheme of things.
They live like me to die to feed others.
While I, a third arm crippled by a bullet
that was never fired, and blessed or cursed
by intelligence, memory, and talent that went nowhere,
hang uselessly, atrophied, wishing that it would fall off.
Painlessly, of course.
.

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