Walking at night, somewhere in Washington, DC.
Lincoln: But a light can change your mind, the way lights have become, what you call them. They'll change your words, the whole spooky interaction of blood and brain and man we have no real control over, but record, each to his own. The new lights are bright, and they can change what you have to say, or rather, mainly make you forget, the revery, I mean, that makes them happen to you, an idea, a thought. Trees in springtime, with a clear sky, a weird gushing wind, coming like ripples on the old Sangamon, blowing over forgotten towns, outcrops, really, collections of hewn timber made into squares with walls and roofs... The stars at night when you're walking home at the end of the workweek, having slayed the awful dragon, cold, but could be worse, walking past the cemetery, the high iron fence, a road almost secret at night.
The tulip magnolia, that year, my boy died, they came into bloom early, just as they laid him down, just like this year.
I'm reading Dostoevsky now. Of course I would. The Idiot. And that little bit at the beginning of Karamazov
(JF Kennedy mute, still, portrait like, as if in rocker, legs crossed, cigar in Irish fist...)
That bit about "a sudden flooding wind," it's only there in the author's introduction, and these are forgotten things, such revealing author introductions, guiding hand, that crucial immersive admission, that the writer is imbedded--if you will--in the writing. He became a writer in the same way the writing became writing. Who knew? When did it happen
And these days, of course, we'll know less and less how that happens. We'll bow to the new little I don't know what to call them, like demigod or demiurge or demisomething. The distraction. The light, the images, the people talking on the images as if it's them.
But that's all thrown off now... I mean, unless you're allowed to walk around at night, a ghost like me, no one seeing you, no one giving a shit, completely anonymous, your footprints, your very trace, disappearing completely from the face of the earth, no matter what you do.
I crossed Sheridan Circle, one of those little field like places I wander, this one reminding me of fields and battle, I cross there, a ghost, no one sees me, I stop beneath the one old tree left--it's had some surgery lately, and many of the lindens have died now, but thank god the elms are still with us--and a Mercedes, what do you call it, drives by, and there are many of them, oblivious, even if I were alive they wouldn't see me, enwrapt as they are at attentions. And there's that scrawny little runt of a fellow, Sheridan, and often it's the small little guys, the shorties, who have it in them to he emperors over fields of men. Little terrors, really. I could never have been like that. The elephant moves slow.
And you, in your pain, Jack, I guess that kept you sort of in my realm, that old realm, the old Irish way, ha ha. Go wander, the trees at night, the flooding wind, the weird stuff like that....
But we come back from our happy living oblivion death, our insignificance, our complete anonymity, we have to come back into some form of light, I would hope gas or candle, not electric much as I might have espoused such innovation, generally, but not for the creative spheres, to do our work, and then we're left to salvage our thoughts, and it's only through some great self-control or practice, that we are able to write down those few things of insight that establish, that establish our common base.
And look at now, look at what we've become, look at who the speaker is now, what he says, the light he is so stuck on being attracted to, the revenge of all electric lights upon us, the abandonment of the quiet lonely cemetery and the rain falling on the fresh entombed. Rain falls drop by drop upon the soul until by the awful grace of God... So as once was said, so still let it be said, and that's you, your brother, who said that.
That's Irish music...
All the little creepy men who sit under strange lights, thinking of such things as murder... Let them walk, a ghost in this town, all the living gone to bed, strange folk out, and cab drivers, for exercise, for a break, when they could walk past the cemetery, feeling something human, I suppose.
And it's 'how are you kid, and what's your name, and how would you bloody know...
In blood and death 'neath the screaming sky, I lay down on the ground,
and the arms and legs of other men were scattered all around...
A writer is a writer by being a writer. That's the only way. Dostoevsky hated electric lights. They turn us away. More and more until the writer is as much of a ghost as I am now, obscure, a shadow in the night, writing about what appears to be nothing at all. Forgotten. Things from graveyards. Nature at night, trees, the sky, water. Birds. We go full circle, from birth, back to obscurity.
The thing is not to fight it. Lesser men, they always see it differently, grab for the attention of all the people, and the people, enchanted by the electric lights, will be numbed into hypnosis, believing the lies. There's dignity in obscurity and dreams, in spooky things.
But so much of it, the chatter... The puffed-up claims.
And the vehemence with which they attack. Calling you a baboon, a tyrant, a creep...
Then you die, and truth comes out, as death is truth. Then they leave you alone.
It's enough to make you paranoid. Like my old friend Dick Nixon.
Yes, old Dick... Well, the things you do in life...
And then afterward, after your act, there's that thing, there was always that thing, you wanted to be a writer, you wanted to be writing, up there with the oldest of stories, Job, Jonah. Write that feeling you have when you feel that home is gone, that you never have a home, no more than you have any place to write, who are you, what experience do you have, and some would say I had a lot, sure, but at the end of the day, and life, we're all just amateurs.
And you, Jack, you had that gift. No one doubted, this guy has a way with words, and life.
You're still in flashback mode. It's okay. You'll get past it. Despite, despite your schoolboy mischief, you were always a good student at heart, old boy. And your old man helped you regather the dust of what it's like to grow up out on some prairie town and all that life will hold for you, the earthy people, the muddy circuit, the cross section of human legal misery, that great oozing mass or watery mess that in hindsight makes me feel like I was some frog, half submerged, my eyes sticking out above the water.
In life, I took great gallops around, wherever, whenever I could, when I got restless. No one hounded you back then. No one insisted, following you, bubble topping you. In this after life I am the same weird night adventurer. I go walking, out where the wind blows, where there are old trees out somewhere in the universe, made of all the elements...
"I am confined to fast in fires, until my sins are burnt away..." Old Bill.
I'm out there walking, or riding my old horse, the same fellow he was, we know each other, and out there, yeah, there are still pigs stuck in the mud, and kittens, abandoned, species on the verge of extinction, cheetah spirits as they near mortality themselves, white bears, the poor whales, and out there there is no need of congressional acts and pork barrel legislation, thank god. It's already been sorted out by the divine hand, as if the closest we might come to that is that nice park up in Gettysburg, you can drive your carriage through the points of the battlefield, Roundtop, Bloody Angle, the Peach Orchard, look down on Devil's Den. Ever go through? Well, you'll find all sorts of people getting all kinds of things out of it, leather POW MIA guys on Harleys staring off at sunset, not all of them innocent, except the school kids and the parents who take them there. Where I stood to say a few things, well, I chuckle, because it's kind of obscure. There's no sign. Hah. I was in and out. Famously.
Well, that's all part of the fabric of the universe, like anything pithy we might say, knowing we're fucked, but knowing we still have a good long ways to go, and meanwhile the body is aging, and the possibilities are narrowing, and we are in political binds deep as molecular things spinning about, little genies of good and bad and...
Non duality. That's what wisdom says. Nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so. You know who said that.
I was, in life, given this great character. Who said it... "I saw his face, and what a face." Whitman, the poet? That face was an instrument of the divine, as much as yours, Jack, as much as yours. As much as yours. I knew, take some pictures, let them make a cast or two. You left before they could do much of that, but, on the other hand, your voice was recorded, cut into little groves to make waves of sound for eternity. Mine seems largely a thing of conjecture. It was different from yours, Jack. Different accent. But as easy as yours to have fun with. "Mr. Ch(ia)eerman..." They were ready to laugh at the hick in New York, just as they were ready to laugh at Little Lord Fauntleroy in PA, WV, Texas, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, North Carolina... My suit was ill-fitting, yours was perfect...
It is all about music really. Beethoven was right. And some of the music the kids listen to... A politician should be a musician just to prove himself. No one ever thought of that, except back in the caves, bison and deer in ochre.
Dostoevsky, he'd been through some horrible thing for his youthful rebellion, almost for the very same urge, off to some shitty place out in the sticks, worse than, worse than anywhere I'd ever seen or lived in. For being a literary sort of gentleman, a reader. A rearrangement, I guess you'd call it. A reassignment. A transformation. An utter defeat. One of those things. I laugh at what I went through, in comparison. A failure to get elected. Well, back to the old law office. Defeat. Mary wasn't happy there anyway, Washington, and in a way I should have listened to that. She would never have fit in. Nor would I. But, circumstances... a divine need, if you will, something beyond us all, the universe needing some words, some words about its atomic structure, energy, all those things we float on, waves that we are.
Afterward, harried as he was, he loved the nighttime to do his work. I've said it a million times, to myself, here in the hereafter, where this weird stuff counts,where personality and character really come out. You go get your groceries, cook, eat, clean up, in the cold, and then, when everyone's gone to bed, you open up this fantasy life, and you write. You write things down according to vision, something, and even then you have to figure out what you can get away with. Brothers Karamazov.
He'd sit at his desk, doodling in the margins, rolling cigarettes the doctor wouldn't let him smoke. He'd been in the hands of less than scrupulous publishers, and they even tried to take advantage of him, and to get through it he wrote about his greatest weakness, a compulsion. He had to open up about all his sins, gambling, losing everything, his wife's jewelry and you know how they like that stuff.
He was a man. It took him a while, a lot of figuring. He'd sit on benches and listen to the way people talk, record such things in little notebooks. All adding up to some vision. Before he died.
You can't blame a fellow for being in love with the night. Frost has that poem, the two roads in the woods, basic physics, really. What are you going to do?
Now those planes fly over you, just as you reach that quiet time, just before the birds start their singing. Roaring over the trees, you can't hide, can't think, can't hear your dreams anymore.
I wish he'd written about those things, you know, the things that make you feel a bit stupid. Like that beautiful face, that girl who was part of you boyhood, Grace Kelly, but you weren't Gary Cooper yet. The things that you outgrow, the sort of things you never want to admit, what a hick you were, your own misplaced sense of attachment when you suddenly felt like you had no home, not here, not there, nowhere, and you felt like the girl would give you some sort of continuity, as if she knew who you were, deep in your heart, just like you know yourself deep in your own heart.
But the clock embarrasses you. Time is time. And you're still stuck being you. And, well, the vain things, they boil away, and leave you with... well... you.
Daylight comes too early, my friends. And I have failed. Failed at everything. But even then, I have still managed to bend space and time with my own little gravity, my own little love for the world and its creatures and sometimes its people. You know what failing is like? Well... It's just weird. In the end we're too gentle to do anything but. But fail. Live in some old soldier's home with our effects. Strange it all is.
Kennedy (perking up):
So what's with that girl you were talking about?
(... chuckle...) I don't know. You always think of The Winter's Tale with these things. Alabaster. Statue. Is it her? Looks like her. But you've let her down. You could never live up to those particular standards, or... really, who knows why. So clever, so smart, so gifted with words, and yet lacking a particular kindness in my direction, as I thought I always had for her, but now, it's kind of worn out to tell you the truth. Years wasted because of all the strange stuff in me regarding her, telling the story over and over to myself, writing some strange sort of long poem about it, when we knew each other, sort of. It cost me.
Mary, her embodiment, she came along, it was complicated, it worked, it didn't work, then it was done, how things happen. She fit. I fit. The story worked.
But I was a master manipulator in life. I played people. I'm in no way the saint they make me out to be, no sir. I was a politician, a lawyer before that, of course I knew how to play people, shrewder, more calculating than the next. I got things done, but...