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It’s Inflating

I read about monetary easing
And thought of a guy painting a house
Who didn’t give a shit.
He was mad at trans people
He didn’t think of the Fed and his paycheck
He was thinking about chicks with dicks and bathrooms
And he was caught in economic deflation
And the degraded value of his labor
And the asset inflation made him wiggle like a mosquito
in a spider’s web
And yet he’s not thinking of excess trading value
It’s all those dicks, he’s thinking to himself, wriggling around
In an invisible dance of dollars.
Being pushed from job to job, house to house
The dollar making him whip it out, I mean his money,
And buy more expensive
Cigarettes and beer and chicken and barbecue
While people laugh at his overalls
And tumescent paintbrush
“All those breasts and dicks,” he keeps thinking.

American BanjoThe following is a passage from my novel American Banjo, a story about several generations of an aristocratic American family. It was released earlier this year on Amazon.com.

From the diary of Sandra Eccles:

There is a simple elegance to life. There is a simple elegance to a good mystery. You jump on a ship looking for adventure, looking for drama, looking for meaning. And just as you find the object of your desire, your desire evaporates. I seek drama, and I find drama.

I think of Occam’s razor; the simplest explanation is the best one. The simplest way to write a sentence is the best way.

I wonder if I’m mature enough to live my life simply. I start to think of my father. I hate to think that he might have been right. That my defiance was a play I didn’t understand, and now that I do, the defiance means nothing. But you negotiate the paths to wisdom only through action, through praxis; you may climb a mountain only to find there is no longer a mountain to see. That is mountains. And that is philosophy. The journey was the thing. It was good you made the journey. But the wisdom isn’t what you found. The wisdom came from knowing you had to look.

I think about this after returning home and gazing upon the sleeping, topless figure of the woman who tried to steal money from me—the woman who is now my wife. How we got here is not important. I’ve walked through different rooms of life with her and the room we started in has been demolished. I can no longer know the me before Sieglinde. Nor care about who she was before or who I was.

She wasn’t a thief as I found her. She was asleep. People who sleep are innocent.

I had seen Priscilla earlier that day. Priscilla, the doyenne of my scene, the brilliant lawyer who had helped establish the intellectual underpinnings of “judicial interpretation as violence,” the woman who rebelled through textures, seemed to have become sweet on me … as a mother or something more.

“I have to say, when you were at the party the other night without Sieglinde, I began to worry.”

“About?”

“You two have been together for what … 18 months?”

“Two years.”

“What do you talk about?”

“It was a relationship born in a crisis. We emerged from that together.”

“Crisis isn’t a value.”

Priscilla pushed my hair back where she thought she saw a bruise or something. I pulled away. Evidently, she’d heard things.

“Is this an intervention?”

“I’ve come to care about you, Sandra. You’re focused. You’re ambitious. You hurt Sieglinde with a curt remark and don’t notice. She watches you talking to other women.”

“I can’t think about that. This is my book. My career. I won’t be stopped.”

“But she’s your lover. What if she wanted you to stop? For a baby, maybe.”

“I can’t be held back by that.”

“So leave her.”

I snorted a bit.

“I can’t do that either.”

Priscilla, wiser than anybody I’d ever met, waited for an explanation as she sipped her green tea.

“I can’t do it because she was the one who made me what I am. She brought me out.”

“Which makes her not even as important as your mother, who you probably wouldn’t respect anywhere near as much. You really feel as if you owe her your life? The way a child owes something to a parent?”

“Yes, a little.”

“Well, sooner or later, a child can’t owe something to a parent. She must know that what a parent gives to a child besides life is something more precious. Eventually, the parent must give that child freedom. That’s part of the contract.”

“In what law? Not the Torah?”

“In life. In love. You can’t sacrifice yourself for Sieglinde. You don’t owe her your soul. You don’t owe that to anybody.”

“Stop. I won’t do it. I won’t cut her loose.”

She didn’t talk for a long time, then finally …

“There are other people who want you,” Priscilla said. “Women who want to be with you. Who see your value. You don’t have to compromise. I found out a long time ago, even before I left my husband, what it means to be a whole person.”

“And what’s that?”

“Nobody can take on the responsibility of making you happy. And you can’t take on the responsibility of making somebody else happy. It’s too much to ask. And if you do, you’re not really allowing them to live up to being fully human.”

I drank tea and listened, and she pushed my hair back again.

“Cut her loose.”

Copyright 2012.

Drive

The long line of cars fed the Lincoln Tunnel
Drivers were transfixed on their anger
A CD player played the sacred syllable “Om.”
While Shiva fed the digesting tunnel with destroyed memories
The tunnel and god-restored
River, the cold blue baby
Forgot who you were again, didn’t you?

There is no driver
There is only a constant forgetting of how to drive

Into the Many

Understood, she said
But she didn’t understand.
Message received, he thought, but they were
Using terms differently.
My green isn’t your green
My over isn’t your over. My silence is only my silence
Not your aggression.
You argued the words
And missed the sentence.
“Stupid” sounds worse to her than it did to me.
“I love your body” sounded like I didn’t love her mind
The resonant frequency of the building was ineluctable
The bridge jumped
Dissonance was the music.

You cannot live with two sounds now
You must go out
And live among the many

Self Help

I went to the self-help section
To feel less alone
I was reminded by the cool book with the blue binding
It’s called self help because, in other words, you have to be alone.
So many of us stood together alone
Here in the self-help section.

The Sirens

Tangled in the sun, the bird he flew
Came back, didn’t say what he knew
Came back with a song he knew only as a scream
Came back in a life he knew only as a dream

Wax in my ears, the siren quakes the sea
I don’t know what the sirens sing to me
Basaltic rock you wake dead or as a king
When you hear the sirens sing
Stuffed my ears with the wax from the bees
I don’t know what the Sirens sing

I ate a bird, something that flew
I wondered if it he knew he was through
I fly when I dream and that means I fly
People think they can’t, I don’t know why
Tangled in the sun the bird he flew
Came back didn’t say what he knew

Wax in my ears the siren quakes the sea
I don’t know what the sirens sang to me
Basaltic rock you wake dead or as a king
When you hear the sirens sing
Stuffed out ears with the wax from the bees
I don’t know what the Sirens sang to me

(Lyrics to the song “The Sirens,” now available on the Salon de la Guerre album From Sour To Cinnamon, copyright 2019.)

On the Wrong Page

The magazine split open between us
“It says here a couple must share values.”
Cosmopolitan broke into our fight like an outspoken drunk aunt
“If you can’t agree on religion or money, you’ll never agree
On anything else that matters,” she said with true hurt.
Well, sign the divorce contract on my back, then!
Helen Gurley Brown, the ghost witness to the tearing paper
And the rending pen.
Then three drinks of sad well silence
On the next page: “How to please your man!”