Another day in my extremely lucky life. The house is asleep. I am listening to Judy Collins singing “In My Life.” I had the news on for a while, but simply couldn’t watch or listen anymore to history being ignored. So instead I take a barefoot tour of my front yard in the wet grass. There are places I remember, all my life, though some have changed…
That was the first song we sang to Melinda when she died. Part of me believes she heard the song in the echoes of her mind. I know I’ll never lose affection for people and things that went before…
The song has been an underlying theme of everything I’ve ever written. At least since 1973 when I lived in Houston, looking after my two year old daughter, playing hide and seek—Daddy, where are you. My typewriter sitting on an unabridged dictionary sitting on a coffee table, me on our old couch composing simple declarative sentences after carefully reading the opening paragraph of Herzog or The French Lieutenant’s Woman. Nothing I wrote then was very good. When I was thirty, three years later, I burned it all, everything I had written to that point. Recently, I did the same thing with most of my hardcopy manuscripts—a second novel written at a café next to the UT campus in a series of spiral notebooks among the pile, written in pen and coffee. The repeated openings of a third novel—My life has turned to shit, Sam Davies mutters… It’s writing it that counts, the poet tries to explain. Just thinking it out in words.
Perhaps it matters if it’s read, appreciated, celebrated—perhaps. But somewhere in the equation, if the poet is lucky enough, she may realize that a song sung in a forest is still a song. And if it is sung with heart—
I take a breath. Single breath meditation. A clarity of action. Right thinking, right living—
A little over four years ago, I walk from Seton hospital to Central Market to eat lunch and to buy some protein bars Melinda likes. I don’t remember what they were. I look up at the fourth floor window. She is looking down, watching me walk. A scene that has no causal relationship with anything else. A few weeks later, I run/walk the Shoal Creek trail with Laura G. We eat a breakfast of oatmeal and talk—waiting. A few days ago, we hike up a canyon trail in Oahu to a mountain waterfall. The climb is steep enough to be challenging—Laura, Rich, Barbara, and me. The sound of me works better than I.
This morning I stand in the grass barefoot and watch cars driving to church—where else would people be going on an early Sunday morning.
What is your theory of life, my rheumatologists asks me. Without hesitation. That there is no single narrative thread, I answer. She looks at me, waiting for some clarification. And while I do believe in cause and effect, I am not sure it matters. Things happen. The classic bumper sticker—Shit Happens. We talk the world into being, I might have said—the world being distinct from Earth. The earth carries its own reality, but the world is a construct, a fiction, one might suggest. If goons are allowed to tell the story, then we end up living in a kind of hell.
Still, the poet pulls a line from Miller, I am the happiest man alive. Everything turns to shit, goons rule the headlines, racism and fascism is running amuck—but I’m still here creating the world as it should be. I walk the beach at Waikiki and imagine myself happy.
I stand over the deck of the Arizona and imagine myself happy. I sing to my daughter.
I repeat the mantra which has guided me through so much of the bullshit—being happy is the most revolutionary thing one can do. I will live and die a revolutionary, the poet says.