View Full Version : From an Otherwise Comfortable Room

December 21st, 2010, 05:35 PM

Iím an island with a ghost in my head.
Iím a rolling hill of grass.
Iím a bird, an eagle or a sparrow.
Iím a stag in the forest, a shadow in shadows.
Iím a continent joining sunrise and sunset.
Iím a saline sea whose waves are years.
Iím a traveler and a homebody.
Iím an artist of the truest kind:
I sharpen the pencils for skilled hands.
Iím drunk as a Mick in March with a song in his head.
Itís best to end on an up-note. But I have to wonder how many aspects we have sober and how many more we dream up drunk? Donít stay in that question too long; itís muddy ground. Unfortunately, I call it home. It seems catastrophes and good fortunes burn the same wood should the wood be dry enough and subsequently soaked in accelerant: the yin and yang, heaven and earth, the accident and the insurance settlement, etc. None of itís much help to save the wood, or so Iíd say it. Itís the blessing given to a drunk, to be as unsteady on the feet as to make it difficult for a spark to land squarely. Just so, I say, it shouldnít be a surprise that I feel a bit nervous standing in a single place lest I attract either yin or yang, and itís not surprising that a planetís little more comfort, especially one owing its very existence to such a very large spark.

Not a bad start? Maybe you disagree. Then let me dress it up a bit.

When I drift, I think of my first love, Kyrie Elison.

Call me Sophia, sheíd say if youíd have asked.

Her eyes were titanium white, their pupils were mars black surrounded by a marbled star burst of glazed, olive green. Thatís how I wouldíve painted her. Itís not easy to shake the unholy aspect of a flat plane warped into the likeness of life even if itís beautiful. Common faith had it that three dimensional art walked on Godís heels. But shake it I do, even at the risk of divine anger; itís the license of a drunk to ignore the subtleties of laws. Besides, itís unnatural for anything to be flat, unholy or not, which is to say that drunks can be critics as well as louts. So the issue is skirted by carving her likeness in wood which imposes dimensions on it like it or not. Hodegetria or Theotokos were other names she took particularly when she was paraded back and forth along the parapet of Constantinople just days before it became Istanbul; a lovely and permissibly sculpted likeness adorned in white and ceruleanblue robes glowing with gold leaf. Alas, she could turn her eyes away quickly as those still living in the city would attest.

She was my first love, but it was all too obvious that I overreached, and not a word passed between us then, not then or since she was first carved, ages before language and its first guttural words. At least not the words I would have hoped for. Sophia could be aloof. The Twelfth of Never, Iíd have picked for our wedding song, I think. Ah you couldíve heard her sing down in the Doth dome and the catacombs beneath the sod before they set the first cityís first stone. A lonely heart can hear a love song if itís lonely enough.

Shhh, she sang.

Shhh was her first word, I think; she sang it to the sea. Ah, The Twelfth of Never, could there ever be a thirteenth? But before that song there was The Riddle Song:

I gave my love a cherry that had no stone.
I gave my love a chicken that had no bone.
I gave my love a ring that had no end.
I gave my love a baby with no cryin.
A cherry when it's bloomin, it has no stone.
A chicken when it's hatchin, it has no bone.
A ring when it's rollin, it has no end.
A baby when it's sleepin, there's no cryin.

Excuse my voice. But the point is one song does bring us back to another doesnít it? Just so, back and back, and rest assured, back it goes to the hushing lips of Sophia. All along the way there are all those songs and all those poets influenced by a motherly finger brought to motherly lips breathing out a calming breath. Sophia knew what was coming.

Be that as it may, Iím light headed. Sit, please sit, youíve a duty to catch up. Here, have a drink. Iíll make it a stiff one to get you going. You remind me of someone. Oh, not physically; itís your presence I think. Youíll be patient with me, wonít you? Most likely youíll nurse the drink all evening and Ö well, enough said, as if enough can be said at a time like this. Thank you for smiling; Iíve said it, youíve grown into a patient man. And an artist at that! An animator, you say. Itís been too long since weíve had a chance to talk.

But I said you remind me of someone. Donít be offended. I knew a poet when I lived in Baltimore sometime between The Riddle Song and The Twelfth of Never (after Johnny Mathis and before Donny Osmond, I think). It might be him you bring to mind. Whoís to say how a light head joins memories?

His name was Merlin Tailspin. He had taken the name Merlin Talsiento trade on the fame of the Celtic bard. My circle of friends, however, bastardized the name to bring him down to earth. He was full of verses about my first love; or rather his admirers made them verses about her.

In my mindís eye, I picture Talsienas a gaunt figure with long, windblown, white hair and beard, somewhat in the image of Zeus or Moses or even Jehovah. Actually, he was more than likely a usual sort of pre-Christian Celt, on the snobby side and critical to a burdensome degree to be sure, but an average looking Druid of his day.

Tailspin couldnít have contrasted with either image more. He was a walleyed sort, seething hopeful truisms too profuse for a single vision; so his one eye turned east and the other west. On both horizons they rose as suns, a stereoscopic disunion of a single head, each hemisphere jealously claiming their illuminationís legitimacy while judging the other to be the moon. On the occasions his one eye turned upward and the other downward, the argument turned to life and death wherein the Equator delineated the hemispheres. Still there was that jealousy, each hemisphere claiming the other to be full of fearsome specters walking in the eternal cold of the poles. Just so, hemispheres illuminated in the exact same way couldnít be more different: shared realities were observations hardly reassuring to the palpitating heart.

Given his considerate nature, itís only natural Tailspin took to composing poems that tortured logic a bit to form his visions into a replica of harmony. They were well suited for popular consumption, on the surface that is. Perhaps this is the similarity my light headís found between you and Tailspin: those innocent animations I remember from my youth, so full of struggle disguised as humor. I canít help but make the connection.

I see you agree, at least to the extent youíre willing to let the idea pass. Just so I can go on.

Beneath the harmony of Tailspinís poems, when the words were picked clean and to the bone, those seemingly comfortable lyrics revealed the terrifying tales of heroes and antiheroes torn asunder and bound to despair deeper than their victories or moral lessons. Itís only natural that he took further steps to obscure the messages of his songs all the more. It was a kindness reallyóif not to the general public, certainly to George, his son (but Iíll get to him in a bit)ónot just adventures into self-serving mysticism, I assure you. At first he just hummed the verses he judged a bit dangerous, but as he grew older he judged them all dangerous and words vanish entirely. And so it was, the profound weight of secret expression settled on him in folds of morbid obesity and age to the extent that movement was impossible without the aid of hard oak crutches.

What a figure he made. Heíd struggle to and from Druid Hill Park, his head completely shaven except for his burly, white eyebrows billowing over his wobbling eyes. His poor, poor eyes looking in diametrically opposed directions. I suppose that would be enough to draw suspicious stares from those that didnít know him, but his oppressive size made shopping for clothes difficult as well. He took to wearing a bed sheet fashioned into a diaper, and that, my friend, not only assured suspicious stares, but sent people fleeing to the other side of the street.

Tailspin seemed to be good natured about it though, but who could really know? Perhaps he thought it was out of respect that the sidewalk cleared as he advanced, absentmindedly humming as he went, looking very much like a preposterous Buddha. Perhaps he didnít even know anyone was there to begin with. Whoís to know?

Maybe Miss Sybil knew. Tailspin and she were constant companions, where he went so she followed wearing a sheet as a muumuu. They were said to be distantly related, but not in a direct way, at least not at first. Still, in the labyrinthine sprawl of family trees, it was clear that enough genetic material had crossed limbs to foster similar blooms to the extent they were both obese, hobbled on crutches, and had a fondness for sheets. She was vastly older than Tailspin, her weight hanging from her limbs and face in flaccid, melting folds. Maybe she could smile or even frown, but expressions were lost in that pale, limp face shrouded in long white hair exploding in every direction like brittle, thread-thin trails of ashen embers. But donít think her extreme age mattered much; she out lived Tailspin by too many years to count, but eventually cancer withered her voluminous bulk down to barely a noticeable nub living in a plastic tent ventilated with oxygen. Waxing, full and waning, her life was moderately satisfying even if a good portion of it was spent waning. Ah well, that was years away so letís not dwell on it.

In her earlier days, she professed knowledge of Tailspinís hums, and interpreted them for those interested in such things. From time to time, a group of children would be more curious than frightened. Tailspin would separate his rotund cheeks to form a plump, awkward smile, intended to show patience and kindness, and hum a verse or two. Theyíd circle both him and Miss Sybil listening to the hums; at times theyíd even hum along if the tune was a bouncy one. Heíd glance toward Miss Sybil to signal that it was time for her to speak up. Sheíd straighten to the extent she could and impart the words she took the humming to mean. It was Miss Sybilís translations of Tailspinís hums that earned her the title of Tailspinís Voice, or Oracle of the Park to be more proper. In truth, she didnít know what they meant any more than the children. She maintained she didnít have to: the words came to her through the ether; her only part in the process was to say them out loud.

She lowed like a cow every now and then while translating Tailspinís hums into words. Perhaps lowing was a subtle way to reference the translations with something of the original hum, itís difficult to say; she mayíve simply had a bovine sort of Tourettes for all I know. So it was, at times, in the middle of sentences, otherwise constructed with passable grammar and spoken equally with passable diction, sheíd low. Her melancholy ooos brought a pastoral sensibility to the words rendering them slightly passive by the time ears sorted out the tones into subject and verb. To one throng of children, she sang:

Eternityís a loooose swath of gossamer
About its bundle folloooows the lines
Of a sleeping child; oooo, hush,
Let baby snoooze and bend the Universe
All about in its moootherís wooomb

óoooo, she lowed a final amen.

I find that thought a bit disconcerting.

Be that as it may, the circle of children listened politely, but they liked the humming better. Miss Sybil made those bouncy tones sound so much like Sunday that the children found themselves tugging at their shirt collars to loosen imagined neck ties. Besides, her sermonizing did little to clarify his hums for them, her ooos peppered with discernable words here and there passed byóor rather passed ignored. You could see the frustration in Tailspinís eyes, one rolling upward and the other downward. But snooze was a word that stuck out; with gratitude they picked that word out as a suggestion and fell into a trance into which neither hum or word penetrated as either, but rather as a combined sound much like the sound of the ocean heard through the hollow of a seashell.

As I said, adults of the neighborhood retreated from Tailspin and Sybil, not as innocent as these children who let the curiosity that killed the cat reign. Still there were those few adults who were attracted to mystery, regardless of what that mystery was, despite their lack of innocence. This group formed a knot of friends, acquaintances, and even a stranger now and then, all of whom relished mystery as a passage into a greater unknown, a nomena of sorts said to be hidden by the senses.

There were instances of mysteries that bordered on magic as well. Under the guidance of Tailspin, Sybil brewed a tea made from the red hair of their pet bulldog, Brigid, and administered to a man suffering from jaundice. He was laid prostrate on a scrap of red Naugahyde and a picture of a cardinal placed on his chest. Sybil followed Tailspins hums with a lazy chant intended to transfer the illness to the picture of the bird and the color of the picture to the patient. All I can say is that itís said to have worked, at least local folklore said it did. The pictureís rose-red bird faded to dull orange and then to dirty yellow. The photographic paper turned yellow, as if with age, and shortly the bird and paper were the same color. The bird, therefore, vanished altogether. The patientís cheeks flushed a rosy-red. He was soon back at the bar drinking too much and telling the tale of his miraculous cure to anyone willing to listen.

I think sheís a witch, he whispered to a friend.

Naw, said his friend, sheís a Wicca. Thatís a good one, I think.

But I mentioned that Tailspin and Miss Sybil were thought to be distantly related in the beginning. That changed as time went by; it became less distant in the social conscious and rumor mill as well. Some speculated that the limbs had crossed much nearer the trunk and that Sybil was Tailspinís sister. You can imagine the hubbub when Sybil gave birth to bouncing baby twins and wouldnít reveal the father. Speculation had it that Tailspin was the poppa, a social miscue regardless of oneís stature. Curiously the speculation didnít result in outrage as one might expect. Rather it tickled the sensibilities into secretive tittering and whispers, but not so completely as to banish hums and ooos and obvious magic to the realm of shame. So Tailspinís and Sybilís fall from grace was hardly total, but a bit humanizing all the same. Thatís when Tailspin was given his nickname. Then again, maybe the reactionís not so curious after all. I suppose it has to do with how notoriety is earned. The simply famous are often reduced to mush in a kettle simmering with moral judgment, while the mysteriously famous seem to simply tenderize.

Be that as it may, the begotten tykes grew into young men they named Edward, eventually called Wrongway, and George, eventually named Crazy George. The former earned his nickname from his inability to keep two connected thoughts. (Is New York City the capital of New York? he mightíve asked. No, someone mightíve answered. My watch is a city off, he mightíve replied.) The latter earned the nickname after a short, but destructive, apprenticeship under Tailspin. Perhaps George was always crazy or perhaps Tailspin simply drove him crazy. The only certainty about that matter isóas George became more acquainted with the underlying origin of Tailspinís hymnsóhe was given to chain smoking, amphetamines, wine and raving.

Coincident to the birth of the twins, tradition would have it that a baby was dropped on Tailspinís and Sybilís doorstep whom they took in and named Christopher, eventually known as Chris. Some suspected the child was the result of the birth of triples and not twinsóthat the parents were trying to soften things by claiming Chris to be an orphan found on the bank of the Bolus River, thus highlighting their humanity and diminishing the extent of the miscue by one childóbut this was short lived rumor, a foundling being a more romantic turn. Sybil, itís said, heard the wee-little goos coming from the river bank just to the rear of the Torry Bar. She followed the musical gurgles to a soft, mossy patch where the soon-to-be-named Christopher smiled up at the stars. Up she came with the tyke, and with it went dancing back home with joy and a song in her heart:

Thus haue I walkt a wayless way, with uncouth pace,
Which yet no Christian man did ever trace:
But yet I know this not affects the mind,
Which eares doth heure; as that which eyes doe finde.

Just so, as adults the offspring became my friends, although I confess the word has a loose meaning for me. Loyalty and friendship are not necessarily joined at the hip. You can be loyal and still hate whatever it is youíre loyal to, canít you? So let me rephrase it this way: I was a loyal acquaintance to them all, and I tried to hold them at armís length as well. Itís called a fear of intimacy I heard somewhere, but Iím sure it looked very much like friendship to the casual observer, and maybe an intimate friendship at that. Still, I donít see the relationship between friendship and intimacy eitheróand for the same reasons I might add. But there I go again, differentiating between things the casual eye recognizes as the same thing. It was in kindergarten where they taught me how to sort and differentiate, and, poor child that I was, I swallowed it hook, line, and sinker. Give up your casual eye, William, they taught. Itís been a hardship to shed the lesson ever since; I slip back all too often Iím afraid.

This brings me back to Sybilís ooos that seemed to say the Universe bends. Thatís common knowledge these days, isnít it? All that time, space, gravity and what have youóa loose weave of smooth, swathing about a babe, folding as it will, to the extent one point of reference along its silky threads aligns perfectly with another, and eventually merge into a single point. I find it a little unnerving, unnerving and more than a little familiar. Itís the drink, you know. It makes my brain a wandering point as well, slip-sliding along silky threads at times aligning with other points and merging with them. Slip-sliding away I go, not at all sure of where away really is and not really sure it matters anyway. Is there anything that can make logic and chance the same thing more than a few stiff drinks?

[Radio. Static. On.]


Ooo poppa-do an momma-do an how do you do? It's Jocko an th Rocket Ship Show comin to you from Chaos Studios, that dark, silent abyss from which all things come, even th solid masses an th starry, cloud-filled heavens, to rock your world. Hereís the Temptations in with a Ball of Confusion. Great Googamooga! And the band plays on.

[Static. Off.]

I apologize. I leave the radio on because Iím too lazy to turn it off. The sound seems to slip in and out, but itís out most of the time. Still the staticís company when things get quiet. Some say you can hear ghosts in the static, some say itís a distant planet broadcasting to the Universe. I take it to be Sophia hushing Tailspin: hush and hum, a sweet mingling producing white noise. At times it takes me to Constantinople where I walk the cityís parapets with Kyrie to the parapets of a Newark, NJ, flat where we have this time to chat, a point fixed in this rumpled city by a rumpled mind and light head. So, hereís to Cardinal Puff, Jocko, Carl Sagan and others too numerous to mention. I join a deceptive present with a wave of my hands. Itís a hop-slip-and-a-slop really, not much of a miracle at all.

December 22nd, 2010, 06:38 AM
My opinion

Hey, I enjoyed some paragraphs a lot.

Be that as it may, I’m light headed. Sit, please sit, you’ve a duty to catch up. Here, have a drink. I’ll make it a stiff one to get you going. You remind me of someone. Oh, not physically; it’s your presence I think. You’ll be patient with me, won’t you? Most likely you’ll nurse the drink all evening and … well, enough said, as if enough can be said at a time like this. Thank you for smiling; I’ve said it, you’ve grown into a patient man. And an artist at that! An animator, you say. It’s been too long since we’ve had a chance to talk.

Others, I found too in-depth, which is usually good thing, but the story, to me, didn’t evolve and I lost interest rather fast; although, I did read it all. When you went into Tailspin, I would have stopped reading. A few parts also were confusing to me, an example:

Her eyes were titanium white, their pupils were mars black surrounded by a marbled star burst of glazed, olive green. (I like to envision the story, but this just didn’t make sense to me.)

A few places where I think it needs to be re-worded or comma’s need to be added, an example:

Just so, hemispheres illuminated in the exact same way couldn’t be more different: shared realities were observations hardly reassuring to the palpitating heart.

This makes more sense to me. (May just be me)

shared realities, where observations were hardly reassuring to the palpitating heart.

Enjoyed: Certain paragraphs that I felt involved in. They were to the point, and made me feel a part of the story.
Didn’t: Confusing parts (to me), the story didn’t evolve, the introduction of the story
Overall: Seems like you’re a experienced writer, but the story just wasn’t there in my opinion. (May just be me)

September 2nd, 2012, 04:46 PM
It's been quite a while since I've logged on to Writing Forums. I apologize. As belated as it is, thank you so much for your comments. Hopefully I can be more engaged in the forums now.

About your thoughts:

I did a lot of editing since this post. I added commas, changed some of the structure, rewrote, rewrote, etc. You inspired the effort quite a lot.

The novel is a tough one to write and read. I love the modernists and took off after that fashion. The plot is the character. I find the drama that takes place in thought more fun to work with than plot. So I usually use the plot to provide a setting for the character's state of being rather than action. Frankly, my hopes for my work to find a broad audience are nonexistent. I figure I have to define what a successful project means to me: sales or self-satisfaction. I'm too arrogant to accept the former and too selfish discount the latter. In the end, I write what suits me. More often than not, my gibberish is largely ignore. forums such as this gives me the outlet to gather comments every now and then that help me remain arrogant, but still improve expression. Thanks again.