Thursday, December 5, 2019

“Live the questions now”: A John Cheever Morning, a Rilke Afternoon

Scene of the crime.

“Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing
it, live along some distant day into the answer…....”
writes Rainer Maria Rilke.
Thinking about this all weekend.
“Don’t curate dinner,” says partner earlier at dinner.
The kids over having to spend another minute with mom and dad.
Our to meet Rob after.
Jameson is not your friend.
Chatting degenerating into nonsense.
Feeling like I don’t care.
Nothing matters.
Just sitting chatting with an old buddy.
Trusting that  what  he said means nothing.
Just to be there.
Remember that.
Not your friend.
You writing is good,  not great, he reminds, cocky condescending.
Time for sleep.
How are you getting home asks  Rob.
Not the train.
Found myself on bench at West Fourth at 3 AM.
M after M train.
No F trains. 
Will I ever  be repaid for the F trains that have been canceled I asked the train conductor.
I’ve been there. 
Out into mean streets I walk out,
Finally making my way home by 345 am. 
Three hours later, the alarm rings for the kids’ breakfast.
Not feeling tip top.
Coffee and breakfast with the kids. 
Poems, a first page of A Separate Peace,
Please no more Dad.
You are overwhelming them,  says partner.
The kids are off.
Cereal and angst in  their bodies.
Ready to face the world.
Coffee with mon amour. 
Good to have a friend.
The conversations the night before not sitting so well.
At least I have a friend. 
Not feeling tip top.
Labor management at 4 PM. 
Yoga at  1215.
I trudge my way there, through a 90 minute flow.
Sweating out the poison.
Don’t go to it. Realize you already have what you are looking  for,
Ossi reminds us in class.
Find your peace.
Body finally in  peace.
Up to clean my mat.
Jameson reminds me he’s not done.
Dancing from  my stomach to head back  to down.
Its  raining slush.
Bathroom locked.
Jameson sprints from my stomach up to my mouth.
I hold her.
Hold it Ben.
All the yoga goddesses are around.
Maintain your dignity.
Find your peace.
Like a cat who wants  no one to know she stumbled,
I walk outside in nothing but my shorts.
And vomit on the tree outside class.
Thinking of John  Cheever I ride my bike home.
God knows he’s been there.
A lonely day in 1952, he writes in his journal:
“When the beginnings of self-destruction  enter the heart it seems no bigger than a grain of sand.  It is a headache, a slight case of indigestion, an  infected finger; but you miss the 820 and arrive on credit extensions..  The old friend that you meet for lunch suddenly exhausts your patience and in an effort to be pleasant you drink three cocktails, but by now the day has lost its form, its sense and meaning. To try and restore some purpose and beauty to it you drink  too much at coctails you talk too much you make a pass at somebody’s wife and you end with doing something foolish and obscene and wish in the morning that you were dead.  But when you try to trace back the way you came into this abyss all you find is a grain of sand.”

There are  not too many grains of sand in this part of Brooklyn.
But plenty of friends.
Not a grain of sand.
Write and prepare.
Think about comrades.
Ride to the meeting in the snow.
Meeting the pres.
Talking it through.
Back to kids.
Cooking dinner.
Talking Whitman with Mark.
Caroline off teaching.
Chating Rilke with the teenager.
Don’t let  the blues grab you.
You gotta talk to the blues.
Rilke says we can learn from that exquisite sadness.
The gloom is a gift.
Eventually, it lifts if you let it.
Work it. 
“… love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you,” writes the bard.
“For those who are near you are far away... and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast.... be
happy about your growth…”
Is it possible to live and love as Rilke did?
“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final...”

Or am I John Cheever without the succinct sentences?
Is democracy crumbling?
Can joy re enter  the fray.
“Live the questions now.”
Even if answers are not forthcoming. 


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