this is the title

This is the process of describing a thrice-daily perambulation along a specific grid-like configuration of streets and alleyways. It’s the beginning and the end all at once with the middle excised for brevity’s sake. Words are fit together to form a compelling narrative designed to exaggerate the significance of this chain of events. Through the use of a complex algorithm, details from thousands of similar perambulations have been extracted and connected to form a generic description suitable to represent the ongoing series.

Turning a corner there appears a panoramic view of downtown. One day there will be two more buildings on this block instead of a field, obscuring the view and evicting the red-winged blackbirds whose raucous calls now punctuate this observation. No more will the barn swallows arc with precision above the grass, soaring overhead and below knees. The city is a gaping mouth fitted with concrete teeth and asphalt tongue. All open space is in flux, available for negotiation by any wealthy interested parties.

Navigate another leftward right angle turn to complete the rectangular route. Arrive at the correct set of concrete steps leading up. Note the foul mess at the nest box opening left by the fledged house wren brood. Ants move in to investigate. In the garden coneflower blooms open. On the arched trellis coral honeysuckle buds battle to stay ahead of the aphids. Manual removal of the latter seems to be aiding the fight. Along the second level railing the gold dust plant exhibits the lush results of another vigorous growth spurt. Looking around, all appears to be in the usual foliar disarray. Now climb the steps, open the door, shut and lock it.

This is the conclusion of what was begun in the first paragraph. It serves to tie up any loose ends and bring the narrative to a satisfactory close. No new information is introduced so as to avoid confusing the reader, thus preventing any lingering uncertainty as to the nature of what has been heretofore presented. Thus, to be accurate, the true ending occurred with the period following the phrase ‘lock it,’ meaning one could actually stop reading there and not suffer any ill effects.

possibility of foam

If buried all but traceless in the dark in its energy sitting, drifting within your own is another body—Anne Carson, “Seated Figure With Red Angle (1988) by Betty Goodwin”

There is something about living in a city, and it has to do with the surroundings being artificial, constructed by humans. Here we sever ourselves from real nature. Here what nature there is persists under duressit may even seem to be a thriving minority, but it will always be the minority. The muted signs of seasonal change vagulate. The constant reminders of the hubris of so-called civilized people swarm in smothering tones. Callousness blankets us. The automobile serves as master and slave. I am concerned.

There is another body inside of my body.¹ And it is drifting. And it is all but traceless in the dark. Whose body is it. Is it mine. Or does it belong to someone quite different.

It is an unfortunate thing to recognize that you are not one who is meant to live in such close proximity to other humans. And yet here you are, aren’t you.

John Stabb from Government Issue sang:

In that comfortable rut again
Goals for the talking man
Outside lies a presence
But a lonely spirit’s walking rut

And he can’t get out
Man in a trap

Deeper things getting direct
Empty social life’s a wreck
Weather and insects tonight
Happiness in black and white

And he can’t get out

Sometimes we come to embody the lyrics we listen to in our youth. This is neither here nor there. It is life. I think we’re all a little bit surprised when we get there. Or here.

Let’s find more creative ways to fail. And write about those ways in more creative ways.

Anne Sexton wrote:

The silence is death.
It comes each day with its shock
to sit on my shoulder, a white bird,
and peck at the black eyes
and the vibrating red muscle
of my mouth.

Anne reminds us that silence can be as menacing and intrusive as noise. A reminder that we are all out here flailing about. And some of us don’t make it. Like Anne herself. Some of us sink beneath the surface, our lungs filled with shards of the little brittle things in life. The ones that drifted beyond our reach, slow or quick, only to be breathed back in with fatal heaving breaths.

Recently I spent a fair amount of time writing up a review of a show I went to the other night but I lost interest. It suddenly seemed unimportant. Literally as I was writing it, I felt the words spelling out into nothingness. The only point of interest remaining when I finished was a question: What do we want from our rock stars? And do we even want them to be stars? I don’t go to see live music much anymore and rock music even less so. But this question startled itself into my mind and would not leave. Music once loved can be tainted. And how a band presents itself to its audience can either win me over or leave me cold. These are the lessons I learned. Outside the womb can be harsh.

There is foam² spilling out here. As winter prepares to wrap us in its icy sharp arms, I am awash with foam. And it may never dry.


1. See also: this post

2. For more on foam, see Anne Carson’s essay “FOAM (Essay with Rhapsody): On the Sublime in Longinus and Antonioni,” originally published in Conjunctions 37 and reprinted in the book Decreation (2006).


She used to call on Friday evenings. As soon as I’d get settled at the reference desk after cataloging books all day, the phone would ring. If Rich were there, he’d smirk and walk away, knowing who was on the other end of the line.

“Hello, who’s this?” she’d brusquely ask.

“Hi, Vera, it’s Sean,” I’d say.

Over time she’d come to recognize my voice and would even start asking for me if I was not the one who answered. She was suspicious of new people, but it didn’t faze her for long. The first time I talked to her, I was bewildered. She began listing off seemingly random phrases. Slowly I realized they were crossword clues. She was not unfriendly, although neither would I characterize her as friendly.

She’d often argue about the correctness of the answers I provided. Over time, though, we developed a hesitant rapport. I was surprised when my irritation at her long-winded calls suddenly gave way to comfort in how she helped pass the time on slow Friday nights. I began spending my Friday lunch hour working my way through the newspaper’s daily crossword puzzle so I would be prepared for her calls.

The first time she stopped calling, I wondered where she’d gone. From talking with some of my colleagues, I found out that she was periodically institutionalized at the state hospital. She’d disappear from the phone lines for several months, and one day she’d start calling again like normal. No one seemed to know the details. Well, probably someone did, but I never heard them. I kind of didn’t want to know.

Some of the staff had even met her before. At one time she was well enough to come to the library. I discovered other bits and pieces from talking to my colleagues. For instance, they told me she owned one of those hand-held computers used for helping solve crosswords, which begged the question of why she called at all. Behind her disengaged and often hostile manner, was she really just lonely?

Sometimes while on the phone with her, I’d hear a male voice in the background. She’d occasionally refer to him or say something to him, but never explained who he was. I think his name was Harold, but I may be confusing my memory of these phone calls with the movie Harold and Maude. In my head now, Vera sounds like Maude, but in reality I think her voice was harsher. The years have softened over that roughness in my recollections, like they’ve done with other jagged edges of the past.

I wonder sometimes if Vera still calls the library. I wonder if she ever asked about me after I left. There were so many people I never said goodbye to before I ran from that town. Of course I could find out easily enough if she’s still around. But I don’t really want to know, in the same way that I didn’t want to see her in person. For me, she was a disembodied voice on the other end of the line, someone I could count on to be the same every single time, someone who wanted something from me that I could actually provide. She was an odd piece of the absurd puzzle that comprised a not altogether pleasant period of my life. Somehow she fit in there, though, just like all the other odd pieces did.

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