Sunday, May 03, 2009


"Things alter."

"Things, what things are these?"

Try again then. "It alters."

"What does?"

No. Still no good. And you can't say : "Alteration," full stop. Because no one knows what the hell you're talking about. It's not a sentence. English demands a subject, some busy officious ego to go do all this altering. "Everything alters," then. Better. But it makes it sound as if what I want to talk about is the universality of impermanence, which is almost what I want to talk about, but not quite. Maybe something doesn't alter, who knows? Some Buddhist doctrines say that there are things that don't change: emptiness itself, and mind itself, for starters. How would I know? Why would I care?

Look. The sun glowed through the clouds in Old Girl's photo. It will never ever do that again, not that exact way. And what we hold is the photo, not the sun. It never does to forget that.

Oh, dear. I am getting old. And my hair is getting long. Cut one tiny thread and I could spin backwards to the age of thirteen, when I stopped cutting my hair. It was beautiful hair then, thick and blond and fine-threaded. A couple years later I had the sort of head of hair that women would cluck over and murmur "such a waste!" Meaning that gorgeous hair was wasted on a boy. I didn't think it was a waste. I was vain of it, and I liked the way it flew wild. When Monique first saw me, at sixteen, tearing down drywall, shirtless, it was my hair that made the conquest. Something wild and masculine and free. She thought she'd like that. Not so much, maybe, as it turned out: and the bits she would have liked best were the bits that turned out to be bogus. Too bad, so sad: everything alters. Remember?

Yellow-white as the sun. It darkened over time. In the photos from Yale it's dark, almost brown. There's my favorite photo -- I wonder what became of it? I'm crouched down in my coal-and-snowflake overcoat, conversing earnestly with one of Tori's two-year-old play dates, a little Chinese girl. We're in perfect accord about something. Ah, it's the photo, though, not me and the little Chinese girl. And now that even the photo's gone, what is it, would you say, that I have?

Not much. That's what I'd say. It won't do to try to keep that sort of thing. I've never been much for keepsake photos.

I'll tell you a secret: I stopped cutting my hair less because I was wild and free than because I was living on my own and was too timid to walk into a strange barbershop full of grown men. But now: even if my hair is mostly white and thin on top; even if when it gets long I look more like a skid road derelict than like the blond emanation of Jim Morrison -- the love I have is deeper than any I had then, than any I could possibly have had then.

I'm taking no photos of this sun. Couldn't if I wanted to.

(But a poem, now, a poem isn't a photo. A poem about the sun doesn't pretend to be the sun. This lanthorn doth present the moon. No, of course it dothn't.)

(And the point? Oh dear, oh dear, you've known me all this time, love, and you still expect a point? What a waste.)

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