Thursday, January 23, 2014


I'm three quarters of the way through Bone Worship. I want to write to the author and say: you had better not make anything bad happen to Jasmine. If you did, I want you to write me a different ending.

I have lost all sophistication about novels. I don't know if I ever really had any. They're too big: you can't memorize them, you can't hold them in your mind all at once. All I have is a deep tenderness toward the protagonist: she's been made into an American, but she doesn't belong in America, or anywhere, and she takes the most preposterous stories about who she might be dead seriously. How not? She doesn't have a story, and she has to start somewhere.

And novels take place in time, except that it takes me so long to read one, now, that I begin to worry that I'm not doing it right. 

I worry a lot, these days. All the confidence has dropped out of me. I no longer think that I'm smart, or wise, or funny. I feel like a piece of river trash that is snagged on a reedy margin. I look up, and little brown birds look back. The current has left me behind, and it will only take me again to sink me.

Like that. Silly. But I worry. I can't tell people what they want to hear, and I'm not as good at concealing my thoughts as I used to be. As my confidence dwindles, my conviction grows: not that I know the truth, but that other people do not. It's an ungenerous, ungracious frame of mind, and I wonder sometimes why people put up with me.

The young woman on my table today was so slender that with one hand under the small of her back, and one on her belly, I had her almost compassed. All lean muscle. Radiantly beautiful, with the winter light falling across her face and her shoulders. Sometimes I think my table is a boat drifting by Avalon, half-submerged, carrying the lady from one world to the next; and I am one of those fixtures, the old waterman who steers it, neither of this world nor of that; and my straggly gray beard is threaded through the buttonholes of my coat. When I speak it is like the twitter of birds, or the splash of water, or the snapping of dry reedstalks. I belong to the boat: I have no story apart from it.

And that will do. A little winter sunlight: I can live on that for months.

I hope things work out for Jasmine. Good night now, dear.


Murr Brewster said...

Sometimes it sounds like you're suffering from a surrender of artifice. How bad can that be, in a short life? If it helps, I like things I find snagged on a reedy margin.

Tom said...

" conviction grows: not that I know the truth, but that other people do not....." Maybe people continue to 'put up with you' because they see something worthwhile. Of course it's not the done thing (according to the social rules we set up) to be 'ungenerous, ungracious' of mind, even if in being so we can express a reality as we see it. And too few choose to face reality.

rbarenblat said...


Sending love to you, dera Dale.

Zhoen said...

I think I'm just more aware and accepting of my brain's limitations. The more you know, the more you know you don't know. Thought myself wise as a teen, knew better at twenty, thought myself brilliant at 30, knew better at forty. It's a twisty rollercoaster of awareness.

I know the feeling, touching someone so young and strong. Was I so lovely, then? I surely didn't realize it, then. I only drifted, unaware. Only now do I see, do I have depth and weight.

Kristen Burkholder said...

You stop that now. My heart melted and I gots tears in my eyes.

Thanks for being a friend to those of us who have lost confidence, worry we're not reading things right, and find a weird solace in merely ferrying other world-weary souls across nonverbal waters.

I've held that slender fit young lady in my hands too. She's ridiculously lovely, but needs our loving gaze.