darkness to light

‘Darkness to Light’ was the title of a heavy metal song that a high school friend of mine proposed writing, though never to my knowledge expanded beyond the chorus:

Darkness to light, darkness to light
Darkness to light, darkness to light

which he would sometimes lean over and emphatically whisper-sing to me and one of our other friends in the middle of Biology II class, much to the consternation of Ms. Geyer.

For a heavy metal song its message is uncharacteristically optimistic. Perhaps that’s why it’s become one of those automatic memory shards that frequently ricochets around in my head so many years later.

Who knows what triggers these recollections. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, course through my brain each year. Effluvia of the past, often with no clear relevance to the present or the future. And yet, still they persist in bubbling up and clumping together, forming a glut in the cerebral soup slopping around inside my skull.

The past always retains a strong magnetism, sometimes merely by virtue of its sudden incongruous intrusions into the conscious mind. Upon encountering this detritus, a natural inclination arises to ponder its significance—to sift through and separate the individual elements, perhaps searching for answers to some present conundrum.

The key, though, seems to be not holding on for too long. Each moment spent dwelling on/in the past lures one away from now and down into proverbial rabbit warrens. It feels safer to scan what surfaces with a neutral eye, then let it fall away and dissolve back into the unconscious. Its ultimate significance lies only in whatever self-imposed layers grow over it, all of which are no doubt discursive in nature and the inspection of which leads to nothing helpful whatsoever.

corner seat upstairs

It was the way the trees spread out like outraged arms toward the sky. The grey in your eyes and everywhere else we looked. A dog barked and the mail slot clanged. Home again where visiting hours have begun. They never end and you never leave. Walking the streets late at night brings that yearning, the restless implants below your skin, bumping up at inconvenient times. The other ones make slow improvements when what you need is the now, your chest swelling with cold air, salty tears torn from your eyes, the pine needles to deliver something worth breathing in. No one asks for any of this. The cold flow of unattended life, the blank faces, the purchases and receipts.

It was the way rain fell across your face, eyes wide and shining. The cracked and swollen sidewalks, the screeching of your bicycle’s brakes. A leaking roof, a broken dryer, the things that need fixing when so much else is broken. We learn to survive through failure, leaving wreckage in our wake. We forge ahead out of desperation, armed with scraps of what we think worked before. Will the sky ever clear, or will the roof cave in on our heads. Does it even matter.

It can be the rubbing away of a greasy brand. The slipping off downstream. Evolution of the day-to-day, a smoothing out. The cracks, the breaks, the swells, the leaks, all of it stuffed in a burlap sack. Hurl it from the roof and watch it sink heavy in the rain. Watch it loosen the knot across your chest. This fraying will be our salvation, it will be our last rite.

involuntary memory

Reading Proust makes me reflect on involuntary memory, a concept that I’m perpetually fascinated by. Something seemingly mundane occurs in your everyday life and that transports you to a certain point in your past; a valve opens without a conscious effort on your part, and a sluice of memories suddenly washes over you. A common trigger for me is certain smells. From these I experience the deepest, most intense recollections. Hearing certain songs or parts of songs sometimes also has this effect. Because I have a memory that approaches the photographic, these recollections are particularly vivid and can even induce a trance-like state. I stop short of calling my memory truly photographic, because my mind has not retained one hundred percent coverage of past events. But I can, either at will or involuntarily, view many specific “scenes” from my past that are painted in the most exquisite detail. For me, involuntary memory is something to indulge in when it occurs, while at the same time exploring its significance on a personal artistic level.

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