<= 2018.08.20

Never Reread Your Own Book

The thought of my continuing loneliness was unbearable, and yet I had managed to exchange sympathetic letters with those of like mind—some contacted via fairly tenuous connections—who would discuss my trifling tales and other matters with me; but I was merely amusing myself with fictions, finding solace for my idleness in foolish words. Aware of my own insignificance, I had at least managed for the time being to avoid anything that might have been considered shameful or unbecoming; yet here I was, tasting the bitterness of life to the full.

I tried reading the Tale again, but it did not seem to be the same as before and I was disappointed. Those with whom I had discussed things of mutual interest—how vain and frivolous they must find me now, I thought; and then, ashamed that I could even contemplate such a remark, I found it difficult to write to them.

The Diary of Lady Murasaki, tr. Richard Bowring

Fame, fame, fatal fame

I am happy to tell you that Metameat Slides was chosen for the 2018 Best of Iowa City Awards in the category of Business Services. The Best of Iowa City Award was created to acknowledge the best businesses in our community.

That’s very generous of you, correspondent impersonating a computer impersonating capitalism via the comment box. It’s the little things.

does that come with a cash award

When I take out my contact lenses and put on my nerd glasses they fog up on the inside, because I’m lit, because I’m a fucking minotaur.

and then you take out your handkerchief and give them a good ole sunset rubdown

October, phantom summer. Air clear as an iPhone screen and a hot dry wind blowing yellow leaves around. It’s not right. The devil’s out riding.

When I was a kid my mathematician uncle gave me a book on number theory, which I never got far into, but took a lesson from the first chapter: “Consider the set of U.S. Senators who have two heads. Consider the set of real numbers which are equal to the square root of -1. These two sets are the same: ∅, the empty set.”

Well I wonder.

It was snowing outside and I was dead. Only R. could see me. She wasn’t sad; when people thought she was alone, we were together as we’d always been. Other adults came over to the house, talked, laughed, put up Christmas decorations, looked through me. I realized that R. would now be subject to their decisions, and that as time went on I’d be ever less able to help her.

I got sleepy on lunch break and sat in the sun. Everything was quiet and all the cups and bowls around me started to look like Velázquez cups and bowls.

The bus stop at night is nicer than the BART station at night: side-street bus stop, nothing much happening. Crickets, bright traffic signals. The last dusk faded plum. The trees spread in their realm. Because the street is closer the sky seems closer likewise, and parts of the world slip right past, uncordoned. The last patrons leaving the library. People stopping to clean their windshields at the ancient Chevron.

The Silt Sermon

I’m 40, and glad about it! Went to Redwood Regional Park above Oakland. The outer rim trail is broad, bright, hot, lousy with professional (?) dog walkers doing their best to trot along at the hub of an asterisk of leashes. If you take the broken path downward you end up at a narrow, deep-cut streambed, dry in this parched season of my birth except for a few silty pools. I look for fish sleeping out the summer but can’t find any. Ferns, madrones, chickadees at work in the pines.

It’s cool down here, but enough sunlight cuts through to remind you of the heat above. When you try to take a picture it comes out seared white.

Now and then a bike goes past, or people walking in pairs. The older ones don’t have anything to say. The younger ones all seem to have grievances.

(—and I was really pissed, that she’d reach out to a donor in that way, someone who’s invested so much...)

(—maybe parents think that’s an intuitive way to put it, but it’s not intuitive at all, it’s not like, I don’t want to see you...)

I’ve felt that too, the sense that the forest must have a use, and that use must be to get square with whatever is outside the forest. I don’t have to do it now. I’m 40.

After the people go by, the birds restate their themes. Jays of course, and ravens, smaller calls I’m not sure about. Droning bugs, airplanes way up. The underlying rope weave, meant to hold the soil in place, is exposed and fraying.

Coming out of the canyon I pull out my phone, find some welcome email and the news that my birthday gift from Jerry Brown is his signature on SB 100.

Paradise is conceivable, but only tangible at—well—a tangent point. No one abides there.

“Daddy, when your book is published, are you going to be, like, a famous writer?”


“I mean, not right now. But maybe in two hundred years, or something?”

[more hedging]

“But I guess monkeys might not read your book. Because we might evolve back into monkeys, you know.”

Isaac Babel’s war diaries. It’s not just the Red Army that imagines it’s fighting for a new world; on the Polish side the new state, the Rzeczpospolita, has only been in existence for a couple of years. Does it help to explain the brutality on both sides, that they both lay claim to the future? Probably not. After a point Babel despairs of explanation. Part of his job is to explain the coming marvels of socialism to the terrified families on which they’re billeted.

In 1920 there are still so many Jewish towns about, so many shops and synagogues. Reduced and scrambling, but extant, expecting more centuries of hard survival.

A Rzeczpospolita is a fragile thing. A people less so, and yet.

To reach for the historical lens, and think of the present as past, is not a matter of removing the obligation to act where one can, nor of washing out morals in blanket fatalism. One speaks of historical tragedy as one wouldn’t speak of geological tragedy.

The live trees, the dead trees, in Sequoia National Park. Venus can’t happen here, they said—

<= 2018.08.20

The Roof Rat Review