“Life, friends, is boring.” – Henry [John Berryman’s The Dreamsongs]
The fairy tale always ends
with the achievement of kingdom,
just as Christmas stories end
at Christmas, at the height of joy.
What comes after, when we’ve gotten
what we’ve sought, is a story
we abhor, as we know what we have
we can’t keep – our favorite toys,
our children by our sides, pets
sombre at our feet, our spouses happy.
But life goes on, that drill that moves
despite our protests, despite our love.
And not wanting to be left behind,
we seek to follow it: this life: believing
there’s a present in the future, and that nothing
is a void we should never celebrate.
Free Spirit Holidays
I understand well how Jean Michel Basquiat felt on that Christmas Eve in the house of his art dealer in Zurich. The art dealer and his family were shock to realized that Jean Michel would rather stay in his room listening to music and writing on such holiday.
Not many people would understand that, that behavior was typical folklore of the east Village New York of the 60s-80s..I do not know not know how it is these days, but that is how it was back in the days.
Richie Havens depicts the spirit in his memoire, when he says that there was no point to walk above 14 street, the frontier with the straight world. In those days, the Bohemian quarters spread from Houston st to 14 street; and from the lower east side and the Puerto Rican tenements to the west Village and the gay community.
Washington Park right in the middle, like a head quarters, where the folk singers would sing their souls and other free spirits roamed breathing deeply the air of freedom
I recall my first Christmas in Paris, 1983. The Keller family, my hosts, gathered for their Christmas dinner, and I opted to stay in rue de Tolbiac, 15 minutes away, painting and listening to some jazz tapes..I smoked and drank good wine and painted three canvases.
The Keller family were so typically open minded Parisians. Ready to understand my choice. Their understanding of personal choices was an echo of the Jean Paul Sartre’s existential views of the human condition and Paris was the muse of that Philosophy.
When I finished drinking and smoking and painting I walked down the Rue de Patay with my three canvases still wet, my pants smeared with colors and entered the dining room of the Keller family already seated finishing their meal. Welcomed with their usual approving smile, I offered them the canvases for Christmas, which they proudly displayed on their walls that very same evening….
Even in Winter life goes on. — at Pekin Hospital.
Fragments of Winter
The scruffy little boy knocked timidly upon the blue painted door. His knuckles hurt against the cold. Still, he rapped again. He shuffled his feet in the snow beneath and began to flap his arms against himself in a vain effort to promote warmth upon his frail little body. The waiting seemed an eternity. Presently, he heard a bit of scuffling behind the door, the click of a latch, and eventually a weathered old eye peered at him through the small crack of the opened door. The boy jumped back with a little start.
“What is it you want boy, and be hurrying about it, I don’t like this draft coming in”, the old woman announced imperiously.
“Please lady, can I come in for a little while to warm myself? I promise, I will be on my way soon.”
“On your way to where?”, the woman answered, with a dubious look on her face.
“Just on …. my way, ‘tis all” , answered the boy, looking down at his sodden feet. Then he looked up at her defiantly and announced: “I’m being honest; I won’t bother you at all”.
The woman lifted a gnarled hand to her hair sprouted chin and stroked it thoughtfully. She looked him up and down and immediately discerned this was an urchin. Probably out to rob me of some sort, she thought to herself. She assessed the situation, took in his age, which was somewhere between 7 and 10yrs old. He was so undeveloped, it was hard to tell. He did seem to have an honest look about him though. And, m’well, she thought to herself, it’s been a long time since company has come her way.
The woman moved back a bit. At first the boy thought she was about to close the door in his face, therefore letting the perils of winter take hold of him. This frightened him very much and he made a soft O movement with his mouth. Suddenly the door miraculously creaked opened. He felt the blast of the warmth coming from the fire and fought the urge to race in to comfort himself right there in front of those welcoming crackling flames! As he stepped in, he felt the icy blast of the wind smash up against his back and he almost collided into the woman’s bosom. He purposely stumbled a little to avoid such an embarrassing moment, and instantly lost his balance. The woman grabbed him with surprisingly strong arms and settled him upright again.
“Thank you” he mumbled, as he took off his sodden ice crusted cap. The old woman silently took it off him and placed it upon a peg near the fire. She turned around and this time made it obvious she was assessing him. His cheeks burned in shame.
“So, what brings you way out here, in this god forbidden frozen wasteland, far away from anywhere? You ought to have frozen to death before now,” she said gruffly.
“I…. I…. I lost my way,” answered the boy.
“Lost your way? Lost your way? How, by whom?”
“I don’t know. Just did”, he shrugged.
He’s being obstinate thought the old woman. She shuffled over to her food cabinet and brought out some cheese which was already resting upon a cutting board. The cheese was placed on the rough hewn table, and then she turned to retrieve some bread. Supposing he was hungry, she sliced the bread, put cheese on it and handed it to the boy. He grabbed at it hungrily and fed himself quickly. She watched him with wise eyes, studying his movements, his manner. Discerning just where he came from was a little difficult. She’d not seen such a child as this for many years around these parts.
“You’re young and a little restless boy. How old are you?”
“I don’t know”, he answered.
“You’re being obstinate,” the woman finally announced her previous thoughts.
“No, really. I am lost. I don’t know how old I am. But I know I’d been freezing out there in that cold winters’ weather outside. I really appreciate you bringing me in and helping me get warm again, lady.” The boy settled into a chair opposite the table. The chair was far too big for him. He shuffled his body as far back as he could against the backrest. Ohhh, he needed a rest!
“Hmmpff,” the woman only answered, and she went over to stoke the fire. The flames roared into renewed life.
“What about you?” The boy asked.
“What about me what?” asked the woman surprised.
“I mean, what about you? How come you are way out here? YOU should have been frozen to death by now too. I mean, how did you get all that wood by yourself for that fire?”
“Why, you’re an impertinent thing aren’t you?” She gruffly replied as she turned around to retrieve another chair in order to sit opposite him. Yet at the same time, she was careful not to let him see the indulgent smile upon her face.
The woman settled the chair opposite him, made her own cheese and bread, held the sandwich half way up to her mouth and announced, eyeing him:
“I will tell you presently” she ate in silence, with care and took her time finishing her meal. The little boy grew restless, and became a little uncomfortable in the silence. Silence, except that is, the howling wind, the window panes rattling, and the drafts of snow come crashing down from the eaves occasionally. Why, in this noise, is snow itself when falling is so silent he wondered? He looked around the sparsely furnished room. The worn rug on the floor in front of the fireplace, the neat fire implements lined up like soldiers against the mantelpiece, the clean curtains, which, for some reason were drawn wide open. Wouldn’t one close the curtains in order to retain more heat from the fire he wondered? His eyes rove over every detail of the small cosy cottage, and his thoughts were elsewhere as he finally jumped when the woman spoke.
“I have come here because of the seasons”.
“The seasons?” Asked the boy, confused.
“Sshhh.. tsk! Don’t interrupt boy! I’ve had a good life, a wonderful life. Now is the time to slow down. I’ve asked many questions here, here in the autumn.” She got up from the table.
“I’ve lost something!”
The boy got up, looked at her, looked at the table, and then looked under the table.
“What are you doing boy?”
“You said you lost something, I am helping you to find it”
“No no, I’ve lost something in myself. I had many things, many years ago. Now it is lost, all lost, those things. In the autumn I lost it all. All the things I dreamed I wanted to happen then. All the things I thought I could aspire to ….,“ she turned around, leaving the thought hanging. She placed one hand on her hip, tilted her head and said wistfully ‘….. Things. Things I ‘should’ have aspired to and achieved. But that was lost in the summer. That was a bad summer, particularly bad. The autumn was worse. Why was it worse? Because it was then I finally knew I lost it all. There is no going back”. She shook her head sadly.
“But of course you can go back, there is always next year” said the boy hopefully.
The old woman smiled a sad smile, and ruffled his brown hair.
“Why do you say that?” She asked.
“Because there are always new beginnings. There is always a fresh way to re-start. Dreams are just that, dreams. You have to make them reality. You can always revise dreams, but you can’t revise reality”
A huge blast of cold air came whistling by the old cottage, rattling the windows. How appropriate, thought the old woman wryly. But all she said was:
“Hmm. You talk gibberish boy”. But that simple statement cut deeper than she liked to have admitted, and she went to stoke the fire once more. She smiled though. It was an ironic smile.
The boy looked quizzically at her. Then finally he mentioned he had better get going and made a move to the door.
“Are you going now? Into that horrid weather? You will surely freeze to death!” She protested.
The boy ignored her and grabbed the door handle. Then he turned around, looked her up and down, and asked,
“What is your name?”
“Winter’ she replied wryly. “What is yours?”
“Spring” said he. And he silently slipped out into the cold drafts of the snow.
Holiday Cur Sings
Ambition has no season. Nor does
blessing or curse, two presents we long for
and fight against in any season.
I have been given a bone with a bow.
I carry it into my dark kennel,
gnawing away with purpose, with passion.
I will not savor it. I will not be sated.
We are both hopeful. We both howl.
We both lived in cages that are locked
each night. We both dream, and whimper.
You seem to be where I belong.
It’s all illusion anyway.”
– Neil Young
After great pain a formal feeling comes–
The nerves sit ceremonious like tombs;
The stiff Heart questions–was it He that bore?
And yesterday–or centuries before?
The feet, mechanical, go round
A wooden way
Of ground, or air, or ought,
A quartz contentment, like a stone.
This is the hour of lead
Remembered if outlived,
As freezing persons recollect the snow–
First chill, then stupor, then the letting go.
There is something to be said
About snow gathered on branches
When the cold quietly creeps inside
And the world around you is frozen
The way that it catches sunlight
The old and weary shall sit inside
Around their hearths and tables
And tell the stories of spring
And remember how the hawks glided
Upon the summer winds, seeking
Outside, in the air, snow falls
And the world is quiet
With a sound so large it creeps inside of you
And makes its resting place
Inside of your bones
It is a stillness so encompassing
That the merest sound
A breath, the wind speaking through
The barren, laden branches
Is a gunshot, breaking the spell
Of countless eons of dreams
It is in these times
Wrapped in cold and a falling snow
When you can hear the pulse of everything
Beating and thumping all around you
Inside of your heart and your mind
Pounding and aching through the pulse
Of your blood and skin
When you can look at the leaden sky
Gently weeping its burden of white
That settles on the ground
In which to erase all of the color
That you had known before
But there is yet breath here
And there are yet colors
Waiting beneath the wet blanket
To spring again when the air is right
The chill wind has its voice still
Wanting to share the secrets of its birth
And if you are able to refuse
The quaint comforts of a warm hearth
And withstand its icy grasp for a time
If you can fall into
The silent pit of stillness
For a time
And let the snow fall upon your jacket
To gather there in its coldness
Then you can hear the voice of life
That gently whispers to us all