January: and as I write tonight, mid- December, winter or what passes for such in Florida. Far ahead of schedule on this Editor’s Note, for I want to have the issue behind me before heading to Louisville for the holidays. Although, really, I am already there, in a way, as I am, always. In the house I grew up in, where my mother has lived out her life for sixty-five years; my brother and sister, too, the former never leaving its safe harbor since he became ill at fifteen (he’s now sixty-seven), the latter nearly the same. In my mind’s eye I see it from child-level, and them, as they were more than half-a century ago, yet more substantial than the ghosts they have become.
Does childhood every really abandon us? Is it this way for you, too, Reader? Perhaps. If my past Christmases are any counsel, their advice is: be quiet. Listen. From the window at the top of the stairs, no doubt, I will once again in a stolen moment, look out above the rooftops to where the Millers’ barn once stood, and see it burning to the ground; we – friends Michael and Jack, and Tommy – just departed, leaving behind a smoldering cigarette, apparently. And there is my mother, and theirs, skittering down Lancashire Avenue, a trio of Scream-figures, Ur-panic etched on their faces, believing we are trapped inside, while we watch trembling with laughter and fright in the bushes. Or, there,in the basement, retrieving something or other, I will pause to poke through the storage shelves, holding now a cigar box of chess pieces, now a fountain pen with its scratched blue plastic ink-holder in which we passed rolled-paper notes in sixth grade; a moldering LP — Jethro Tull or the Small Faces. The turbid joy of holding these artifacts in my hands; time solidified, my present self miniaturized as in some painting. One thinks of the last lines of Transtromer’s “After a Death” –
It is still beautiful to hear the heart beat
but often the shadow seems more real than the body.
The samurai looks insignificant
beside his armor of black dragon scales.
But, no. It will be a new year when you read this, and some of you just returned from your own excursions down Memory Lane, lost, still, in your own reveries. Time enough later for another of those never-ending little tales of mine that normally occupy this space. Let’s look forward, instead, with fear and even despair in these trying days, yes. But also humility, as our gaze meets that of the Other who after all has been made other, and with profound gratitude for the shelter of poetry we inhabit – that fragile small hut which sometimes seems to contain everything we will ever need, until we peer from its window, as we must, every minute, if we would call ourselves human. And at last what better reminder of this obligation than the magnificent Cesar Vallejo ‘s “A man passes by with a loaf of bread on his shoulders,” telling you and me what we already know of the limits, the illusions of shelter; that hut’s flimsy walls the world crumbles with a flick of its most corporeal finger?
A man passes with a load of bread on his shoulder
After that, am I going to write about my double?
Another sits and scratches, finds a louse and kills it.
What’s the point of discussing psychoanalysis then?
Another has entered my chest, club in hand.
Shall I talk Socrates to the doctor?
The cripple goes by, a kid on his arm.
I’ll read Andre Breton after that?
Another shivers from cold, coughs, spits blood.
Never to fit again, those most profound allusions?
Another gropes the pile for bones, rinds?
How to write, after that, about the infinite?
A bricklayer falls off the roof and dies, no longer eats lunch.
Innovate then the trope, the metaphor?
The retailer cheats his client out of a gram by weight.
Afterward, we’ll be talking about the 4th dimension?
A banker falsifies his balance.
Like this, this face, weeping in the theater?
The homeless person sleeps feet folded underneath.
Later, can anybody be talking about Picasso?
Someone weeps on the way to the burial.
After that, how to work your way into academia?
Someone cleans arms in their kitchen.
How will we speak of what exists in the world beyond?
Someone passes counting on their fingers.
How to speak of the not-me without crying aloud?
Un hombre pasa con un pan al hombro.
¿Voy a escribir, después, sobre mi doble?
Otro se sienta, ráscase, extrae un piojo de su axila, mátalo.
¿Con qué valor hablar del psicoanálisis?
Otro ha entrado a mi pecho con un palo en la mano.
¿Hablar luego de Sócrates al médico?
Un cojo pasa dando el brazo a un niño.
¿Voy, después, a leer a André Bretón?
Otro tiembla de frío, tose, escupe sangre.
¿Cabrá aludir jamás al Yo profundo?
Otro busca en el fango huesos, cáscaras,
¿Cómo escribir, después, del infinito?
Un albañil cae de un techo, muere y ya no almuerza.
¿Innovar, luego, el tropo, la metáfora?
Un comerciante roba un gramo en el peso a un cliente,
¿Hablar, después, de cuarta dimensión?
Un banquero falsea su balance.
¿Con qué cara llorar en el teatro?
Un paria duerme con el pie a la espalda.
¿Hablar, después, a nadie de Picasso?
Alguien va en un entierro sollozando.
¿Cómo luego ingresar a la Academia?
Alguien limpia un fusil en su cocina.
¿Con qué valor hablar del más allá?
Alguien pasa contando con sus dedos.
¿Cómo hablar del no-yo sin dar un grito