Remembrance of Things Past

“the memory of a particular image is but regret for a particular moment; and houses, roads, avenues are as fugitive, alas, as the years.” – Marcel Proust

This year, I am taking on the monumental task of reading Proust’s entire 7-volume novel, Remembrance of Things Past/In Search of Lost Time. I am currently on Volume 3, “The Guermantes Way.”  While I’m taken with many writers, including Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, and Virginia Woolf, Proust’s words move me in a way I can only describe as looking in a mirror – his ruminations on memory, passions and hyper-sensitivity reflecting my own troubling and haunting thoughts.  Above are the final words of Volume 1, “Swann’s Way.”

Letter to Myself

Let’s not think on sad things.  I think the world is sad, therefore I am.  The smile of a child.  Remember making mud pies – cool soil under pink fingernails?  When dirt was dirt?  And not a symbol for the grime of regret?  When you feel like scowling, then scowl.  All the more inviting your next smile will be.  Contrasts cannot be ignored – that’s what either/or neither/nor are for.  Think of sad things – but don’t dwell.  There are enough caves of tears dripping with loneliness.  Caves are hidden things.  Climb a tree.  Trees hold you even when you grow heavy, and they keep on growing despite.  Trees are strong things.  Even when they’ve lost all their leaves.

Regarding Me.

Love # 1

The story below was first published at Insolent Rudder, Winter Issue 2008.  It is an excerpt from my novel, The Former Things Have Passed Away.

Love #1
The master had awakened just a half an hour before, ground the coffee beans, poured two cups in the coffee maker and boiled an egg.  Now as the egg cooled in the pot of cold tap water and the gurgling of the coffee machine dissipated, she lay on the sofa bed, which took up nearly the whole studio room.  She closed her eyes but did not sleep.  She thought of peeling the egg carefully after it cooled, shreds of white skin sticking to bits of shell, exposing the velvety yellow surface.

The cat sat between the vertical blinds, its raccoon-printed tail sweeping back and forth, clapping the blinds against one another.  She darted her head up and down, side to side, following the hopping of a bird outside the sliding glass door, while her body remained still.

The master stirred, cocked her head to view the small bulk of the cat, patches of shades of grey on white.  She wanted to call out her name but found she could not speak.  She laid her head back down on the pillow, shut her eyes and thought of the hardened yolk that would crumble like powder when cutting the mangled egg in half.  Of how she would rub her finger on the crumbs and place them back on the lopsided half with less yolk.  She sensed her hunger but did not get up.

The cat stirred, peeked her head through the blinds and stared at the master.  She stared without blinking, stretched, back curving into a soft v, and began creeping towards the bed.  As she drew closer, the slits of eyes ballooned into black circles encased in cloudy blue glass.  The master reached out her fingers to touch the little pink nose.  She felt only a dry roughness.  Are you under the weather too? she whispered.  She ruffled the fur with her fingers, back and forth, all the while admiring the wide stare of the marble eyes, wishing for them not to shrink into slits in retraction from the light of the sun.

She was free.  To get up whenever she wanted.    But she was not getting up.  She could not move.  The egg was cooled, but it could get cooler.  She curled up into a ball, her back to the cat, closing her eyes again to make the already darkened room darker.  It was not dark enough.  Un-balling herself, she crept to shut the blinds tighter.

She pulled on the chain as tightly as possible and the blinds now blocked out any light from midday.  Turning towards the bed, she saw the cat stretching her front paws forward, lean body rippling back.  The cat yawned and she yawned too, though she was not sleepy.  She had slept more than ten hours the night before.  As she crawled back into bed she smelled the coffee.  It was now ready, but it could get hotter.

The master pulled the covers over her body though it was not cold.  It was summer, but any slight draft made her shiver.  She kept the sliding door shut, the air conditioning off.  She pulled her side of the covers over herself, leaving the cat’s space unruffled.  The cat now lay stretched out on her back, front paws curled under her chin and back legs stretched out completely straight.  Such cat behavior meant a feeling of complete safety with the owner, that the master would never do any harm.  This was true, she thought.  She rubbed the cat’s belly.  She feels safe with me.  We are safe.

I will sleep some more she thought.  I am free and I choose to sleep.  Outside those blinds the sun was bright, but here she created her own darkness.  As she closed her eyes again, they ached not from tiredness but from being forced shut against the urge to open.  The numbness in her head, she knew from experience, would eventually turn into pain.  Still, doing nothing was better than doing things that led to nothing.  She slept.

After some time the cat pawed at the blanket covering the master’s body, then began kneading at the crease made by the weight of her body against the bed.  The master reached out one arm from under the blanket and stroked the cat’s head, then down the back.  She had read that doing so released some kind of oil in the cat’s fur, soothing and calming it.  That’s what is making her purr so softly she thought.  She watched fascinated by the vibrating she could feel in the cat’s throat, its full pleasure in the moment. No thought of past or present – just here and now.  She rocked her body back and stopped, pulled her hand back under the covers and embraced herself.

She felt the cat climb upon her belly, first standing on all fours and then circling around until it found the right position, settling into a ball.  She watched the cat stare at her with fully dilated pupils and then slowly drift into sleep.  Cats slept a lot, day or night.  They slept only when their bodies needed to.  She too could sleep any time she wanted.  Like now. Far more than her body needed.  It was her mind that longed for rest.

The warm weight on her belly rose and fell with her breathing.  She left the warm, soothing body there in her center, thinking of neither past nor future.

‘It’s a Wonderful Life’

I wore a rooster’s blood/when it flew like doves/I’m a bog of poisoned frogs/It’s a wonderful life

-Sparklehorse

I recently discovered the music of Mark Linkous (Sparklehorse) on NPR’s Fresh Air.  He committed suicide on March 10th ( two weeks ago) by shooting himself in the heart.  All 3 minutes of “It’s a Wonderful Life” is eery in both sound and lyrics.  I wanted to upload it here on Word Press, but am not able to without upgrading my account…I recommend downloading the song or entire album from ITunes as I did…his collaboration with David Lynch and others, Dark Night of the Soul is due out this year.

Below are two of my poems recently published in San Diego Poetry Annual 2009-2010: The Best Poetry From Every Corner of the San Diego Region.  The annual is on sale at Amazon.com, and there will be a live reading in Balboa Park in May (I’ll post the exact date soon).

Caged my Heart

This knife nearly
nicked my heart
with its serrated silver edge
But the bronze
of my breastbone
is tougher than
a razor point
pointed at the concave of my chest

These hands my hands
nearly plunged this knife in
by black handle
But the pink hold
of my fingers
are more slippery than
the grasp of black

It isn’t bravery or courage
but the lack
that leaves the blades
in their slots
and caged my heart

Heavy Water Shed

Water is heavy, pressing
toes into sinking sand
Cold water nips
my naked flesh
A soft sting
I cannot shed this water
or this skin

Blue-black night bowing
to white moon
Water up to chin
then nose –
Bubbly water burns
back of throat
until I choke –

Take me
Suffocate me –

Why do you spit me
back up
into the open
free air
My naked skin breathes

again
in the sun’s
spotlight
Heavy water
shed –

I cannot shed this skin

I can’t go on I’ll go on.

-Samuel Beckett

Stories available online

Some of my work is available for free online – hey I said it’s free – so have a look:

“My Mother,” novel excerpt:
http://www.anderbo.com/anderbo1/afactcontents-01.html

“Brother Elder & My Heavenly Calling,” novel excerpt (audio recording):
http://www.normanhumal.com/sdloft0409.html

“Monkey Square,” short story:
http://www.thelatentprint.com (under “fiction”)

“Chin Face,” short-short:
http://www.sosayweallonline.com?cat=10