Friday, February 26, 2010

Christmas Eve 2008

Christmas Eve, 2008

Outside, a train hurls by, a hundred feet from where I write this. A thousand feet beyond that, a small pack of brush wolves contemplate the evening as they do every other, unknowing and uncaring about Jesus.

The alpha male blinks against the wind, dimly recognizing his responsibility, while, around him, omagas lounge and doze, protected. An excellent life, if ignoble.

...a month ago the alpha simply murdered two of his newborn male pups. Devoured them, absently, coughing up their fur, his mate baring her teeth in vain, helpless against him; his terrible instinct unexplained, unexplainable.

Except for science, which understands it, not having to forgive it.
And religion, which forgives it, not having to understand it.

...We hurt those we love, for millions of reasons, unexplained, unexplainable. Just true.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Halloween 2000

Fall fell in October when I became less brave next to ghosts than I had been as a child. On the 31st Mom's cancer was back to kill her. For me, it didn't feel like anything--a deep empty sea of knowing.

That night, after the trick-or-treaters, I lay in bed breathing and listening. Outside, black, naked branches shiver in the wet wind and, beyond that, in the inky night, winter creeps forward like a slow, giant boulder, like the pressing heavy dream of Mom's thickening cancer. Like November itself--nothing but cold and darkness beyond it.

Head vacant as the surface of the moon, I walk in the night, against traffic, south on Highway 33, head down and listening, toes kicking air.

A raccoon twists itself in the dirt at the side of the road, half dead, fresh-hit by the whizzing traffic, mud-blood damp in the fur. Crazed with pain and the short prayer of death, yellow eyes beg--spitting black gums and pointed small teeth, it hisses like piss on a campfire. With a boot on its throat, I help it strangle until it stares back at me, silent, still angry but quiet after all.

Alone, on my couch, thinking that nothing but the sight of you can move me. But you're dying and I'm not, and that's that.

"I'm good at staring," I say to the man in the t.v. "I'm good at keeping my eyes burned open." But the man says something else, not even talking to me.

Outside, the dark and the wind and the blowing rain rattle the house. Makes me small, dares me to listen. And I do, to the branches, scratching the windows and the tin of the gutters, the noise like a memory of everything lost--yet to lose. A gray basement fear grows in my stomach and spreads outward, warm like alcohol, under my skin. The black sea of knowing flooding in.

She'll be dead soon and no prayer can stop it. And no sin.
If nothing is sacred, everything isn't.
My right boot has blood on it from the raccoon, dark like chocolate. But I don't taste it. I just think about it. But I don't do it. I never do it, just keep thinking about it.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"Would you like to cut the umbilical, Mr. Thill?"
"Sure, I guess so."
The doctor, a few years older than me, a little condescending--or maybe I'm just insecure--holds the thick umbilical cord in his hands, spreads it out in front of me like a guy rolling pasta, offers a span of about 5 inches. He nods with his chin to a pair or scissors tucked into the breast pocket of his Zubaz-colored smock.
"Take the scissor."
I do.
"Got it," I say, levering the blades back and forth, for practice. They sound sharp. The cord is thick and tri-colored, blue and brown and bloody, glistening mucous. I aim the scissor at the cord and something in my bowels catches, a flush of adrenaline pulses.
"Not sure I want to be responsible for this," I say, lightly, nodding back and forth between my wife and our still-tethered son.
The doctor indicates a bit of impatience and holds out the cord.
"There you go--go ahead and cut it."
"Sorry, Son," I say as I surround the cord with the blades. "Sorry to disconnect you from the best care you'll ever get." Cutting the cord feels like meat. Like steak. The scissors make a "Shhhhht" sound as they separate my new son from my new wife.
"Nice work," the doctor says, and gives me a wink. Like I'm some kid just learning to fly a kite.
"Screw you," I say, under my breath and my wife hears, rolls her eyes.Then she closes them, exhausted. Happy.
"Your the one who did the 'Nice Work'," I tell her. The feeling in my chest for her is like heavy, wet clay. My knees are suddenly weak and my eyes start to water. "You're amazing," I tell her, and she grabs for my hand, and finding it, squeezes and drifts off to sleep. Ten seconds later she snores like a sailor.
I put my head in my hands and cry like a child.
Across the room, my new son, freshly separated from what had been his world, lies silent and peaceful as a leaf on a tree, waiting and innocent of wind, rain or darkness.


Happy Birthday Nicholas Thill

Happy Birthday, Son,
your broken world undone;
your heart a wrought-iron stake,
impales your life and makes
you break

The promise.
That you are.

...which all who know you see,
your life as meant to be.
The dragon's voice gone mute,
your freed mind now astute.
And yours.

Happy Birthday, Son,
your hopeful world, as one,
united 'gainst the lie,
while oceans will I cry
for you.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

me, jeff and ray

January, 1983
Ray and Jeff and me at Ray's house. Snowed in like Shackleton, Ray's dad at the match mill. His mom brings us Pepsi and I can't drink it so I don't--I pour it out in the planter and it overflows on the blue rug. I drop a couch pillow on the stain and no one knows.

Ray's brother, Mitch, down the hall with a girl. We hear them laughing like chimps, not giggling, but laughing, his changing voice cracking, her coquettish tones sing-song.

Bootlegging music--from LP to cassette--Grover Washington Jr., Chuck Mangione, Earl Klugh and Al Dimeola. I wanted The Doors, but Jeff was in charge.

"The last thing you need is more Doors."
"The last thing you need is more authority."
"It's not authority I have, but taste, you dolt. Just let me get you this stuff first."
"Hey, Mr. Stylepoints, I love this jazz shit. Lay it on me Hep Cat; I can dig it as well as you can."
"You guys, knock it off," Ray says from his chair. It's his house, so we stop, to pick it up would end like it always did: Me punching Jeff in the face, or Jeff restraining me like a spazz younger brother, condescendingly sweet, unwilling to crush.
"This guy's guitar is amazing," I say, changing tone. "This music makes me want to drive..."
"Then you should get your damn driver's license, Late Bloomer," Jeff says. And Ray laughs like crazy, sounds like his brother. His mother pokes in..

"Everything okay in here? " she says, ultra cheerful. She eyes the snow out the window, piling up in drifts. We'd been there since the morning before and it was getting to be twilight. Her mind as easy to read as "Encyclopedia Brown." Are they gonna be here ANOTHER night? None of us say anything, although I manage a shrug. "Well, let me know if youz guys need anything," she offers, and turns on her heel and disappears to check on Mitch.

"Nothing's okay in here," Ray mumbles when she's gone. Jeff and I look at him and then at each other.
"What's that?" I say, just to say it.
"Fuck it," Ray says, loud and resigned, implying Now Drop It, so I do and so does Jeff, who stands up to change the music and set up the next tape.
"Ray, you're next," Jeff says. "What do you want taped? You want that Maynard album? Par brought Chameleon."
"Whatever," Ray says. "I'm going outside."
Jeff and I follow him, out into the snow, where the wind cuts our skin and snow stabs our faces.

"What the hell are we doing out here?" Jeff says, looking at me, but talking to Ray.
"We're standing here," I say. "And freezing our asses off. That's what we're doing!--hey Ray, what's the point?"
Suddenly, Ray has a cigarette and tugs on it deeply. He's either crying or the wind is making his eyes burn, yet he stands, facing the wind, exhaling into it, vainly.
"Hey," Jeff says, stepping closer for a better look. I step up, too, put my face next to his. "What the hell's the matter, Ray?" Jeff says, demanding, on the verge of annoyance, the pitch of his voice tight, hinting at fear.

Ray takes a deep breath and speaks monotone, as if bored or exhausted or utterly uninterested:

"Some day, 25 years from now, you guys will be married and have teenagers, making out in their bedrooms and spilling pop on your carpet. They'll bug the shit out of you, with their friends and their music--like we annoy ours."

"Yeah," Jeff and I say, almost in unison. And then, "So? ...why are we standing in a blizzard to hear that? Who cares? Twenty five years is a long way away."

"I'll never make that," Ray says and drops his cigarette. It sizzles for an instant, then is buried for good.
"The hell are you talking about?" I say, and Jeff says,
"You're wrong."
And we trudge back to the house where Grover Washington Jr. is finishing "Let it Flow." Ray comes in last, his mood changed completely. Grover apparently the magical touch.

"Love this album," Ray whispers and then, "Let's play Jim Morrison," he says and winks at me. "American Prayer. Rock and roll poet."

Jeff shakes his head, disdainful, but obedient. "Rock and Roll Poser," he says under his breath. But Jeff knows to accommodate. He knows Ray is right. He knows I don't know and never will and never can. And the snow keeps snowing. And the music steals on.

Monday, February 22, 2010


...In a former life I studied linguistics. I love language, the representational, metaphorical reality of it. The word "chair" doesn't mean anything at all other that what it means to each, individual human being's notion of what a chair is. Therefore, my idea of chair is totally my own and necessarily distinct from everyone else's. ...because my experience of chairs, early on and still, continually inform and affect the picture of "chair" that comes up in my mind when I hear, speak or see the word "chair." So. How many human beings on planet earth? How many, in the history of humankind? All but a tiny subset of that big number possessed at lease some understanding of "chair." Yet, every single one of those understandings is/was distinct to that individual understanderer...know what I mean? So, that's gazillions of notions of "chair." And we're talking about a freaking chair here. Noun. Inanimate object. Not a concept. Not "love" or "hate" or "loyalty" or "Goodness" or "God" or "Free Will" or whatever else we kill each other over. We're talking about a damn chair. We're talking about a chair...(this is my impression of Alan Iverson, ie: we're talking about practice...practice...practice) ...Plato, in The Republic is all over this notion of "forms" or "chairness." Read his cave allegory. Makes this point much better and more originally than I. ...But my point is not necessarily to concentrate on the "form," the presence or absence of "chairness," but the absolutely incredible gift of language. And, as great a gift as it is: wow... it's still absolutely amazing that we can communicate with one another at all. ... time someone says: "I love you so much...words can't express it," or "I know what I mean but I just can't explain it" or some other such nonsense, tell them: "You DO have the words to express it. So get on with it, lazy ass. Start expressing. Start explaining. It's a total copout to say you can't express how you feel." ...just because we may not be able to explain or express ourselves PERFECTLY, that is no reason to not attempt it, especially knowing that our particular expression of whatever it is we're feeling, thinking, etc. is 100% distinct to us. In effect, we, ourselves, are the perfect living masters of our own expression. So...NOT attempting is like Mozart saying, "Well, I can't really get this tune on paper exactly how I want it, so I'm just gonna lay on the couch and watch college football and take a nap."

Attempt, for God's sake.

Breakin it in...

Grateful to Mr. Gore for inventing the internet. ...and Global Warming. ..."What hath God wrought?"