Thoughts On the Music My Father Used to Listen to When He Was Once My Age, or Thereabouts.

Give up on that 70’s and 80’s music , like giving up on your weekend plans. Listening to words is something not typically associated with your miscellaneous habits, of which have existed since Shaker Heights and the jumping off the water fall and the mob bombings in your hometown.

Cleveland Ohio, where the suicidal men in station wagons are discovered by you and your friends parked late at night nestled with a 12 gauge, and children have been known to shoot out the windows of their neighbors garage. House of your stepfather, House of the golden child, and smiling 35mm film snapshots. You left quite a paper trail on the outskirts of your youthful rebellion. I’m somewhere up on the fourth floor, in the creaking night with my brother watching television. We called several times, staying up till someone got home, scared to death of burglars and God knows what else.

It was only later, when I’d grown up a little, and you’d left my mother and were living in the next town over, that I thought of your childhood home while sitting on the porch my own- the one we now had to sell. There is no third or forth floor, just the second floor and the basement, my humble monetarist by the sea in the face o your Gothic cathedral. Still, both places are quiet enough now that their children have grown and left. Walking through my empty childhood bedroom is like walking through a crypt on the second floor. I imagine it must be similar for you. What was it then, that drove you to such lengths to run away? I am at the top of the stairwell outside what used to be yours and my mother’s bedroom. Is it wise to linger in places such as these?

The abbey beneath the mountain has a voice all its own. What did the voice of your parents house tell you? Did it recall dreams of your teenage parties, girlfriends, and adventures? Did it make the rift in you that you sought to fill with a new family, new friends, and new children? Or was there something unsaid in the product of the soil, the broken lawn mower in the shed, and the waterlogged firewood by the porch? Maybe it was simply the act of questioning what mystery lay within the locked doors upstairs, where you once lay prone on the roof smoking cigarettes with your brother. They are not evil spirits, certainly, but the poltergeist in us all has an innate longing for the past, and will do anything to make it so.

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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.

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.

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.

Some thoughts on my time abroad.

In some ways, I wish college and traveling abroad wasn’t sold to us as such a unanimously great thing. That is not to say that I regret my choice to travel to Ireland. However, this notion that traveling abroad will be “the time of your life” is utter bullshit. I suppose it’s more difficult to convey the message, “Go see the world, and yeah we’re not gonna lie, people you love will die, your home may or may not fall apart, and you’ll feel like you have nowhere to go back to. But you’ll grow so much in such a short time”. The articulation would be difficult on any brochure.

So in one sense, I have no regrets. But in another I am forced to admit that I am not happy, and have not been in some time. I’ve had my good moments sure. But they have been hidden in blank stares, and late at night, my mind wanders to visions of you breathing oxygen when the mitral valve in your heart gives out. In that moment, I will check to if my hands are still smaller than yours in those final moments just as they were in those first. I think of my mother, and her disdain. I think of my younger brother, and his arms larger now than mine,  with hints of topography in the scar tissue.

Heaney once called it “The Music of What Happens.” But how the fuck do you translate it? Am I expected to learn to sight read? But I’ll end the tortured metaphor where it lies. It doesn’t really matter, in much the same way that writing doesn’t matter. Not really anyway.

No matter what clever little words or enjambments I might conjure, I am left then with photographs taken of a young me with teeth I no longer have next to a snowman in Rhode Island. There is another of my brother and I amongst a pile of dead leaves. Wedding photos on Martha’s Vineyard after you both graduated the college I now attend. Kodak film. My mother’s camera she used in college. Acrylic sleeves in black faux leather albums. The frames are displayed on the mantle wherever it is you live now, or smashed by my mother on the front lawn you used to cut in the summer.