Monday, January 16, 2017


And whan that hit ys eve, I renne blyve,
As sone as evere the sonne gynneth weste,

To seen this flour, how it wol go to reste,
For fere of nyght, so hateth she derknesse.

--Chaucer, Prologue to the Legend of Good Women. 

I still don't know how flowers go to rest,
how they draw petal over petal, as might
a man pull on his wretched coat at five;
I still don't know what muscles they contract,

or how they know that dusk has settled in.
I still don't even know what aim is served:
from what night ravening brutality
do they imagine that they save themselves?

But I do know how they feel when the dark
is drifting over lawn and field, and when
such beauty as they have is spread too wide;

each tender raw integument withdraws
and looks for shelter under every other; 
each eye desires a curtain and a close.

Friday, January 13, 2017


The snowy white parallelograms of the rooftops are brighter and harder than the sky, which recedes uncertainly behind them; gray, maybe, or blue -- the color of a heron standing in a lake. I have been walking on the packed snow, so I am sensitized to the minor variations in hue: you need to pay attention on the half-packed snow, because the clumped and battered surface is uneven, and the variations are hard to see; and yet it hardly matters, too, because it's still malleable, hardly real terrain at all. My footprints remade it as I went.

In places it has packed down tight and turned to gray ice, though: there will be more and more of that. Half of Portlanders don't shovel their walks: many of them don't even know you're supposed to. It may be ugly walking for a couple days, when this finally begins to melt.

Last night, a full moon on the unfamiliar snow.

This cold and immobility stops up my heart and clogs my mind. I don't think I've had one clear, definite thought or feeling since the solstice. My longing for rain -- rain that falls and flows and doesn't freeze -- is intense. I want to remake my life and become a better person, somehow, but nothing really moves or changes. It's all a cold whiteness, slowly going to gray.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Late In The Day

Icy cold. I work at rebuilding my life, a life in which I am no longer a prince, nor even a free man. There is no swagger left in me. I mean to survive, one way or another, grimly and meanly. 

It has recurred to me often, over the decades, that originally education was for princes, and that we still fill students' heads with all sorts of nonsense appropriate to persons of political power and social influence. Really, of course, we are powerless and without influence, and we would have done better to learn how to keep our heads down and our mouths shut.

"The good priest studies till he dies," says a Hungarian proverb: and I still study. I can't help myself anymore: it's old, old habit. 

For what? Well, I like to know things, and it comes in handy oftener than you might think. There's a reason why better-educated people live longer, even controlling for economic and social class. Bad information and stupid ideas will kill you.

But return: if neither a prince nor a citizen, then what? And why? Questions I should have attempted answers to a long time ago. It's a bit late in the game to ask them now.

These are not questions I can answer after one good think, or a year's good thinks. I will build them, over time. I am feeling my way in a dark and unfamiliar mansion, having woken without a name or a purpose: only, still, with the blood beating in my ears, and with the conviction that enemies and allies are asleep close by. 

Well. Many things are going to happen, rapidly, that none of the sleepers expect. Of that, at least, I am sure.


So at times I look into where to run. Ecuador, where reasonably good health insurance costs $80.00 a month? Possibly the best deal, if it stays that way: but uncomfortably close to the northern hemisphere. If one is to run somewhere that might survive a few minor nuclear exchanges, one would want to be much further south... New Zealand is a lovely place, but I doubt I could afford to retire there. I think more of el cono sur: Chile or Argentina. I could retire there right now, and hoe my beans, and think philosophic thoughts. 

Though when I ramble the countryside of the Chilean south, in Google maps, I don't find the lush temperate rain forests that I love. Even far south, there is a desolate feel to the countryside. Maybe that's just thinking ahead to exile: but to me there's an austerity to Patagonia. It will never be, as Western Oregon so palpably is, the Shire.

And of course, as the oligarchs consolidate their power everywhere, their hands will reach south as well, as they have so often in the past. There is no place beyond their reach -- certainly no place that has anything worth stealing.

So. Selfish thoughts, selfish thoughts: but my political despair is so complete at the moment that expressions of hope grate on my ear like the sawing of a beginner on an out-of-tune fiddle. People don't seem to realize. It's not just that we lost: of course one loses from time to time. I've spent my life losing. It's that it's no longer possible to win: I regard my supposed allies with no gladder eye than my enemies. The basic democratic political virtues -- courage, honesty, and trust in one's countrymen -- no longer have critical mass. I don't believe that Americans as I know them are capable of self-government. Once people don't trust their fellow-citizens to count their votes, democracy is dead: whether the votes are actually counted right or not no longer matters. 

So I wander the lonely roads on the hills above Concepción, and look down at the glimmering ocean, and reckon my retirement income in Chilean or Argentinean pesos. Probably, of course, I just stay, and the tide just comes to me wherever it finds me: in my little house in East Portland, probably, scrambling eggs in the morning and looking up the etymology of stubborn Spanish words. I never have been quick or nimble.