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.

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.

Word Association

Though the the street sleeper isn’t moving, his paperback lies beside him.

I have a paperback on music theory in my bag.

It is always late in the German supermarket, always an hour before closing.

Processed food can bring you home for a time.

I read somewhere that GIs in the 40s would trade all of their rations for Coca Cola,

to bring them home.

The sake drunk on the last night of the Yamato brought them home.

Ten-Go, like drunk nights with you in the light of the dorm room, talking of adolescent histories.

Was it the same theme? The same needless things young people say? In the drunk night between the watertight compartments. Shut in when she rolled to  port.

The water rumbling like my insides, gurgling through the catwalks and over causeways.

You know-

It’s been some time since I’ve seen the ocean.

Since Galway I think.

I was alone then- I stayed the night, and walked to the harbor in the hour before my train.

It was the closest I’d felt to home.

Freighter- Clyde Puffer.

Lost Liner- Empress of Ireland

Fairey Swordfish biplane- high above that miserable wreck brandishing an Iron Cross,

cresting the waves to make one last run before the Germans scuttle her.

Carry me back, in some form or another to when peace is declared,

and the Atlantic is hushed,

when I find my way back to where I am from.