Crooked Finger (crookedfingers) wrote,
Crooked Finger

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But I don't believe in ghosts or anything
I know that you are gone and that I'm carrying some version of you around
Some untrustworthy old description in my memories
And that must be your ghost taking form
Created every moment by me dreaming you so
And is it my job now to hold whatever's left of you for all time?
And to reenact you for our daughter's life?

I do remember
When I was a kid and realized that life ends and is just over
That a point comes where we no longer get to say or do anything
And then what? I guess just forgotten
And I said to my mom that I hoped to do something important with my life
Not be famous, but just remembered a little more
To echo beyond my actual end
My mom laughed at this kid trying to wriggle his way out of mortality
Of the final inescapable feral scream
But I held that hope and grew up wondering what dying means
Unsatisfied, ambitious and squirming

The first dead body I ever saw in real life was my great-grandfather's
Embalmed in a casket in Everett in a room by the freeway
Where they talked me into reading a thing from the Bible
About walking through a valley in the shadow of death
But I didn't understand the words
I thought of actually walking through a valley and a shadow
With a backpack and a tent
But that dead body next to me spoke clear and metaphor-free

In December 2001
After having spent the summer and fall traveling mostly alone around
The country that was spiraling into war and mania, little flags were everywhere
I was living on the periphery as a twenty-three-year-old
Wrapped up in doing what I wanted and it was music and painting on newsprint
And eating all the fruit From the tree like Tarzan or Walt Whitman, voracious, devouring life, singing my song
Sleeping in yards without asking permission
But that December I was shaken by a pregnancy scare
From someone that I'd been with for only one night
Many states away, who I hadn't planned to keep knowing
A young and embarrassing over-confident animal night
The terror of the idea of fatherhood at twenty-three destroyed my foundation
And left me freaked out and wandering around
Mourning the independence and solitude that defined me then
Though my life is a galaxy of subtleties
My complex intentions and aspirations do not matter at all
In the face of the crushing flow of actual time
I saw my ancestors as sad and misunderstood
In the same way that my descendants will squint back through a fog
Trying to see some polluted version of all I meant to be in life
Their recollections pruned by the accidents of time
What got thrown away and what gets talked about at night
But she had her period eventually and I went back to being twenty-three

Eleven years later I was traveling alone again
On an airplane from New Zealand to Perth, Western Australia
Very alone, so far away from you and the home that we had made
I watched a movie on the plane about Jack Kerouac
A documentary going deeper than the usual congratulations
They interviewed his daughter, Jan Kerouac, and she tore through the history
She told about this deadbeat drinking, watching Three Stooges on TV
Not acknowledging his paternity, abandoning the child
Taking cowardly refuge in his self-mythology
And when she spoke I heard your voice telling me about the adults who had
Abandoned you as a sweet kid and left you to grow precariously
And when she spoke I looked in her face and saw you looking back at me
On a tiny airplane seat screen at the bottom of the world
I saw a French-Canadian resemblance
And I heard suffering echoing
A lineage of bad parents and strong daughters withstanding
And she had black hair and freckles and pale skin just like you
And she told the hard truth and slayed the gods just like you
I saw the cracks in the façade of posterity
I missed you so I went home

The second dead body I ever saw was you, Geneviève
When I watched you turn from alive to dead right here in our house
And I looked around the room and asked “Are you here?”
And you weren't, and you are not here. I sing to you though
I keep you breathing through my lungs
In a constant uncomfortable stream of memories trailing out
Until I am dead too
And then eventually the people who remember me will also die
Containing what it was like to stand in the same air with me
And breathe and wonder why

And then distortion
And then the silence of space
The Night Palace
The ocean blurring
But in my tears right now
Light gleams

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