Great Camp Sagamore, and other Visitations of the Past

In the morning, in Prozac dreams, I have known myself to go to war. The fields of battle used to move and speak to me. I knew them as friends, from when I was younger than I am now. At the end of our time together, none of them ever said goodbye, even though I wasn’t planning on doing it myself. It still hurt. I am still a child, and a bitter one at that.

I’m back at Great Camp Sagamore, where I started my college days years ago. It is an almost untarnished, well-polished, and immaculately maintained memory. But there too- is the salt of my old forms of warfare. I have held many grudges since then. It is seeping through bulkheads. At night, the rivets begin to loosen, and the outer hull ripples with the passing of undetected icebergs.
You will never get your revenge, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting it. Scratches and scrapes against the bottom paint. I’m waiting for the boiler room to flood, ear against the floor where below the ice echoes like sonar into the deep. I like to imagine the reverberation of my calamity can be heard for miles around, though I am sure it is nothing more than the blip of a plane splashing down into the Pacific, and the victor makes a token of rocking the wings, before turning into the sun.

We wore sneakers in the long dew-covered grass at the beginning. Remembering my former self from those early college days is like stepping into the dawn. Like the faithful old mornings here at Sagamore. Step outside, and you are in it- you re filled with a strange sort of hope. But then, where to now Sir? Calls the mate. You can do anything but you could also do nothing, so sayith the Lord, or something to that degree. I was never one for scripture, though it has been filling my uncertainties like caulk in a rotten bilge for some time now.
We used to lay on the stained old pool table in the basement of the dorm hall, talking of nothing, and flirting of even less. But in the years that followed, happy college days became a curdled memory and coagulated with a great deal of mutual rage.
I wish we’d known it sooner, before I waltzed over to her house four years later, and divided I wanted to incite the truth out of her. I was not to be disappointed of what followed. And I was no longer alone in my tarnished memory of myself, though I think it had been that way for a long while before then.

The sky turns a more pleasant shade of blue over the great camp, as the true morning comes on. The sky is free of planes, the lakes free of ocean liners and icebergs. Only the black flies encircle my head like dive-bombers. A quaint reminder of the cost of the war I’ve been waging, and the strain on the economy of my being I have wrought in myself.

 

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RULE 1 OF THE INTERNATIONAL LAWS OF WAR

I’ve seen you in recently taken pictures.

The niceties of souvenir t-shirts, suns of the south.

Fuck me, maybe you’ll soon have one of your own.

For them, you stand near the back with a smile.

When they grow up, they’ll remember you, and they’ll recall the warm Florida air

the way I once did,

In pictures and in trinkets.

I found my lanyard of park pins in the attic, a couple weeks back,

While my mother and I were emptying the house

For the realtors to take their photos

Of everything set right.

The Buzz Lightyear pin, that used to flash when the battery was still good,

Was the one I remembered the best.

Like when I was a child, and you jumped on my bed to cheer me up.

“To Infinity and Beyond” you yelled,

And your weight broke the wooden bedframe.

I can almost remember our old house back then,

In pictures with our old dog, and the tiny back yard

where the previous owners had left a rusting old boat hull.

In the new pictures, you don’t look much older than you did

in similar photos of you and I.

Back with my bowl cut hair,

when I barely came up to your waist.

It’s not their fault, I keep saying.

But I can’t help but think when I see them,

of your excuse.

“We’re not the only family to end up this way.”

And in that vein,

I can’t help but reply to your nameless figure,

If I should decide to keep the name.

“How painfully, abhorrently common “

With those fucking mouse-ear hats,

And those God damn smiles.

H & W Yard Numbers 400 and 401

If you go to Belfast Ireland, a short walk will bring you to the Harland and Wolff shipyards, where the Titanic and Olympic were built and launched in 1911.  They don’t build ships there anymore. The large yellow crane is just for show now. But at the mouth of the harbor is the modern angular building of the Titanic Museum, which stands out against the sea like a metallic iceberg.

The museum costs money, but behind it for no cost, you can wander out onto where the slipway’s once were- now large concrete floors in the earth. The museum has traced the dimensions of the two ships onto the surface, and when I followed it along with my feet, it felt small to me.

I used to trace the outline of the great liners in my notebooks, or on restaurant placemats in crayon when I was little. Running along the smoke funnels to the bridge, down the superstructure from the bow and beneath the waves to the stern to where that first mark on the paper began. Accents of smoke billowing back, waves crashing against the hull in ways that didn’t conform to perfect perspective, and in the distance the faint outlines of nondescript islands to give a sense of scale. I must have drawn hundreds of these when I was a kid. My biggest concern was the quality of my shading, all of which achieved with a number two pencil.   

The ships had originally entered my drawings from now worn out PBS tapes. I think they’re still somewhere in my mother’s house with piles of unwatched home videos from when my brother and I were kids. They are documentaries on the ships and the men who found their wrecks’ hundreds of feet below the surface. Though the tapes are well outdated by now, I remember sitting cross legged in the living room listening to the narrator drone on like the rumble of an engine somewhere below deck. Even name the Titanic still brings back memories of those muffled interviews stored on fading magnetic tape. I re-watched them recently and realized I still knew the sequence of the interviews and the musical interludes perfectly, even twelve years on. I remember my father used to sometimes watch with me.

On the slipway in Belfast I pictured the outlines drawn into the concrete suddenly rise into the grey sky. From beneath my feet seemed to spring riveters and scaffolding and the skeleton of the great ship not yet built, long before she would sink. I had escaped again to 1911. But now I was there, before the doomed vessel at dry dock, growing in the air of that pre-war optimism. Unmistakable and unsinkable. I felt like I was intruding on someone else’s childhood dream, not my own. It was a past I was so far removed from it almost seemed like fiction, and yet we now shared the same physical ground, the ship and I. A group of school kids wandered past, and it was a chilly spring day in Northern Ireland. I hoped none of them saw my eyes start to water, when I realized the ground was as much a grave as the childhood home of anyone is a grave of their younger self, piled high with VHS tapes and half filled sketchbooks. There are crayon drawings on placemats like blueprints of outdated designs. My mother didn’t have the heart to throw them away I think. The ice warnings were posted and were written. Sent across by wireless. Twin signals. They’d raised us and bathed us and kept us warm. In my twenties I could see where it’d gone wrong, but like yelling murder in sleep paralysis, my arms would not move, and my chest was filled with ice water. The time would not again return to me.

Embrasure

My room is on the first floor, off of the great hall. Its not really ours any more though- its on the market. It was after Avalon was sold, a little after my grandfather died. When the Green Knight came to call, and Tristan and Isolde were best friends until she of the white hands, and the eventual divorce.

I remember, when I was young, my grandfather took my family to Scotland, to the ruined keeps amidst rolling farmland. I remember my father bought me and my brother wooden swords from the castle gift shop. There are photographs, of us climbing across the half tumbled walls after one another, and the plywood blade smacked hard into young wrists.

I found one of the swords once a few years back, covered with rot and mildew from the damp of our basement. The rope cross guard had come untwined and frayed, and the hilt is now too small for my hand. I remember springing out of rented cars with it, to ready in the old way, using my belt loop as a sheath. To read from the Exeter Book by candle light: the Ruin, like the alimony, not giant’s work or any faithful design. Only faith in my brother, who was with me then, as he is now.

He and I have seen modern ruins, castle condos- made of linoleum, wood paneling, and appliances from the 70s. The kind my father grew up with, is what he told us- the first time we visited his new place on Harbor Hill. The lord my father died in his sleep, my mother might have preferred to say, if his body had not up and left, mind without a trace. My grandfather’s last word was his wife’s name. My mother told me that some time after the house he’d built was sold.

I remember my father in portraiture, when his face was young, and he wore glasses and was unshaven from time to time. In his great hall the pictures are gone. I wander- out of my room, to where the Christmas tree once was. They’d collected ornaments for it like precious jewels for the vault.

But I am standing in the great hall of an older ruin far away, where the wind calls quiet through the weeds of a now ruined rampart, like the weeds I once removed from my mothers garden as part of my chores. It brings his voice, wandering across moss stone. Ry-de he he called me when I was a child. He still does, starting the first time he saw me since he moved.

The keep is the next town over, with gates wide open, he told me. I can go whenever I want, and maybe help him decorate, or move furniture. But the land is blocked, wild and untamed hills of Waves, and my mother has tossed out the sword in the stone with the weeds and the wedding photographs.

But I am far from the rubble, in the settled rock of Goodrich. Study abroad, and run. In the ruins of the place, no harm can come to me. The conditions of a Visa say so. Until  I must ride out after a year and one day, and face the green of Harbor Hill with a wooden sword pulled from the basement like stone.

hladová zeď

The ancient Soviet pipes,
Left the water tasting
Strongly of Iron
from the kitchen sink.

The old TV tower, like a monolith
Alien in the sky over
The Jewish quarter,
And the medieval city.
The cluttered old cemetery.

Night bus like a chariot.
They’ll sell you water
For a few Crowns, but coffee is free.

My home is somewhere far off,
An old house near but not on
The coast. Where it is quiet most days,
And nothing spits waves high above the trees.
There is no hunger wall, no old fortification,
Climbing the hill.

When the shock wore off,
My boot socks had worn through
Leaving blisters on my feet.
I can still taste moldy cheese,
The day after I left.
Like broadcasts set high into the stratosphere,
Linger in the air
Of decades and centuries prior.
Or at least, so says my guidebook
Of the Charles Bridge.

I Waterlogged the Electric Kettle

Board games on the coffee table with the dual innocence where we once were as children,

but now soiled skin.

There’s too much baggage in our collective bedrooms. So start anew at six and seven. Benefits of skipping the younger years, maybe fashion someone that will share in your condition.

Throw open the sash after Christmas, a spring cleaning of sons. I should have noticed sooner,

but you covered your bases, assured me of the unchanging nature of things. I remember your embrace when I left for Ireland at the airport.

But of course it’s changing. And you knew that even then, since November or before. You delayed me- got to me first. Before I was standing at the sink, holding the electric kettle under the tap, when I noticed and forgot the water running cool over my hands.

The thought came then.

Replaced.

Replaced.

Replaced.

Arthur Kill Ship Graveyard

Take to your holds, your windswept hovels and your ships quarters. Below deck, down the old oak folding ladder with speed, and nearly run right into the center table where we ate dinner, built by my grandfather, suspended on a clever balance, like the stove, and the lanterns dry of oil. Take to your headaches and your rage that casts light onto the water from the salt crusted windows. Tarnish grows on the metal casting around the glass with each voyage from waters rushing with speed. Motion in life personified by the act of sailing for those who can no longer stand on the mainland. Help the old man into the small boat and haul him up to the deck, his legs at this point in his life, have failed him. Yet even in skiffs do we lose our minds- I remember breakfasts in the morning on the ancient dining room table. I don’t know who in my family squirreled it away or sold it. My grandmother says she’ll never go back to that ruined house now. Empty bedroom, apparitions in the stovepipe- the windows overlooking Pocha Pond. I would take to that place were it still ours, were it not sold but were instead rotting- The greenhouse was filled with mildew and dead birds last I visited, and a harmonica echoed in the empty rooms that once held furniture. The old man struggled to breathe through the reeds in his age, no longer able to die in the house he himself built. I would like to sit cross legged on the well loved floorboards, and look out over the collapsing deck. Perhaps the osprey pole is still standing in the marsh. You told me once in a bout of chemically induced adolescence, that you and your friends got drunk and carried the pole there years ago, and in the mud you found deer bones. The sun still shines on that place as it did before. The light taken to our holds when our bodies fail us. When we are angry. When we are powerless and we break the walls in retaliation, and still refuse amputation. These days, I find myself digging through storerooms. Dust covered sewing supplies, old outdoorsman clothes, and cracked VHS tapes with TV recorded movies. Could such relics be found, I’d sit and smoke the pipe that nearly gave you cancer though the collecting fluid in its place damn well finished the job. The fog of smoke would rise as it did from the office when you practiced law amongst empty bookshelves and a light spot on the floor in the corner that the grand piano once occupied. I stood in its usual place, and felt I was trespassing. The rooms where we stayed are still painted morning yellow and a gentile blue- though the corners now grey with webs, and the bodies of spiders. You called it Avalon, the island where everybody knew your name, and it passes from us now like storm clouds over the marsh. Near the end we took to rocking waters sinking ships across the harbor. The deck of your vessel has rotted through. You motioned to me to sit up front in the old skiff as we left the mainland for the last time- away from ruined kingdoms and legends of deer bones. In those final days you refused the amputation of your legs, though you were no longer able to stand on them. You called me “my boy” back then. When my life feels like a gale- I think of you. I think of avalon and the sails of little ships making their way out from the beach head. I think of sunscreen, and I think of the way my hair felt filled with salt. I want to make the trip again to the land just beyond the marsh, and see who lives there now. I don’t know if they’ve done away with the house. Still, I will tell them of you, And from such stories of Avalon, I will make them know they are trespassing on the graveyard of Arthur.

Random Recollections and a Feverish Misalignment: Harbor walks no one remembers. Yet it is always a pleasant surprise, when an old friend remembers my living room

This afternoon, I found myself missing that noble and desolate season that can only be found on the dock by the drawbridge in October. Wind swept- the sea turning sour. From these banks I might stay indoors and watch the rain make its way down onto dried leaves and run with Water Street in a dim daylight that pulls away memories formed in the garish lights of the summer night. Back when this was our mutual meeting ground. Back when the porch was filled with glazed eyes of familiar faces from grade-school. These days our friends, and our acquaintances drift from here and all that are left are the sad ones, looking over memories from the safety of smudged single pane windows. Working behind the counter of the old haunt.
These streets in winter spoke of long gone footsteps. Between school days, weekend nights spent in kitchen and taking care of the neighbor’s cat. Wandering the harbor’s edge, speaking quietly of nothing. Trespassing empty homes and gated neighborhoods. Of kisses on the living room couch and my little brother’s attempts to ruin dates. I waited under the light of the ferry office for the bus with an old friend once. The old tree on the Green became a perch from which to observe the quiet street below. I had just started drinking coffee then. I remember the taste in my young mouth in winter and of freckled grins and of the dusty air of the stagecraft room where we spent our afternoons.
I guess there’s not much more to say. I miss that season of years. Of a feeling of unity of self I never knew I had until I lost it. Ages go by with alarming frequency. I know that now. In part of me, I wish to abandon New York for a time, and return in search of something I can’t put my finger on. To try and return on an empty dock overlooking the water. The sea has turned sour, yet the spray is salty and the same. Time to steady myself on the empty season, and shove off again.

To a Man With a Pipe, Unused for Years

From this vantage, I see you of so missed childhoods, of the white canvas sails of Wild Harbor’s rocking vessels. 

You would have painted her with watercolor on thick paper, and I with my pencil.

Where the Knob extends out onto the sea, it is covered only by the sky and the flickering trail of loosely held flashlights.

How I have wanted to gaze on my back at that endless pool, thinking of coffee dates, of teenage girlfriends, and of winter-locked walks. 

How friendships rift, and the view of their ever-changing play in the tides is mesmerizing. 

I painted us watercolor, and it rain together. I cried in the arms of a grandfather clock. 

When rummaging through the draws in the empty bedroom, I found a pipe next to your Colt .45, and a sketchbook you once kept.

The safety catch is broken, the pencil lines are smudged, and now my house smells of tobacco. 

If only I could tell you of my life, beyond what little you knew. 

From this vantage, I can feel your voice in watercolors,

And from this vantage, 

the view is breathtaking. 

In the Style of a Bus Dweller, Fairbanks Transit No. 142

For what, if I have yet to depart among the many mastheads of Falmouth Harbor? For what, if the ferry has carried me to and from the Island, but never across the sea?

I have been far and wide in my town; found the hidden places like a maker of maps; carved my sign in white chalk atop many walls and glacial debris.

Kitchen dweller, living room busker, drinker of tea and coffee at inappropriate and strangely kept hours. These things and more I have become. I have become one to think in the ways of mystics close to death, looking for the mundane and forgotten stains on our charts.

The shoreline of our futures is rocky, and littered with forgotten hulls, which we shall one day explore like children. Through rust holes and creaking iron, we shall follow the oxidized corridor in search of meaning like a long lost and waterlogged cargo manifest; the ship’s log disintegrated in salt water.

For what, if I have never been across the ocean ti Iceland, carried by a coal steamer built at the start of the first world war? My dreams, like such laden tubs, carry me there at night. Someday perhaps, I might feel the strangeness of foreign wind; feel the home of a thousand homes, while leaving a well-loved and glowing kitchen at night, far in the distance.

Yet even here we are travelers of a home town, of the familiar and static places we lean against to better look at the clouds. In the way of a decomposing bus dweller overlooking the Sashana River, I found my way to an unexplored place, I simply forgot the map.

Perhaps that is all I will need, to complete this strange navigation.