Monday, September 7, 2015

the Deeping








                                                                my aching knuckles and forearms. The rope burns hotter and hotter as I feed it through the belay device, impossibly hot, so hot the need to release it and the fear of doing so grow in equal pace during my descent. I spring off the wall with the gentlest pressure of my toes, feeling the cool dark air around me rush past as I free more rope and drop into the gloom. Far above I can see the shrinking circle of light through which the rope climbs, but I angle my headlamp downward and drop, drop, drop.
To rest my forearms, engorged with the blood of effort, I rest my feet against the rough rock face, at chin level, then lean back and grip the loose rope with one hand at a time while I shake out the other. With the belay braked I traverse the rounded wall, scanning vertically with the lamp for signs of my escape: I find crude, awkward gouges in the stone wall, abused edges where a hand had gripped a ledge, and in the center of a broad smooth face a desperate, makeshift piton hammered in the rock.
I shudder, and to force my mind to stay in the present, take three long, deep breaths. Then, focusing my beam of light downward, I release the brake and step down the wall until suddenly, with  panic I realize the rope has run out – I’m pinching its tail just outside the mouth of the be lay. My heart racing, I scramble for purchase in the rock and reach up with my free arm to clutch at the line, while with my other hand I try pulling the rope’s tail from the jaws of the belay, burning now, its hot metal teeth seeming to close about my whole body.
I’m crawling upward now, laboring for breath as I pull the rope back, millimeter by millimeter, when I hear from the gloom below a familiar voice: “It’s okay.” The two words carry a mixture of humor, compassion, and something else in my frantic state I can’t quite recognize. “It’s all right down here, Andy. Just relax.” He really does sound relaxed, like it’s okay.
“Yeah, but…” my brain struggles to reconcile message and appearance, grasping for reality. “Where…”
“Anywhere is fine, Andy,” he replies, and I can tell he’s got one palm cupped to his mouth. “There are no crocodiles, no crooked metal spikes, no stalagmites. Now, hold on a second. Is that right? I always…”
“Oh, would you shut up!” I try to yell, but the tremors of exertion and panic have taken over and it’s all I can do to hold on.
“Just pull up a speck,” he whispers, stringing out the words as slowly as he can without my losing their meaning, “loose the bight, and let go. It’s only a couple feet, buddy.”
I stand on the wall, looking up, chest heaving, not daring to look down.
“Trust me, Andy. Come on down. This is what you came for, isn’t it?”
I don’t allow myself to agree or disagree; his question originates from somewhere out of time, place, and meaning. With a terrific effort I haul myself up a few inches of rope, unclip the carabiner, and release the belay from my harness. I hang for eternity over the dark maw of the earth, headlamp pressed flat against my own bicep, and in this groundless moment my fear is so great I know that I can haul myself hand over hand to the circle of light above.
There’s something inside me.
My body is telling me to pull, to get my feet on the wall and push myself upwards. To get out.
Something is inside of me.
I feel tears welling up in my eyes, great heavenly tears from some vast, empty space.
There is something deep inside of me.
The sobs wrack my body and I feel a great awe enveloping my body. A great fear. This primordial cavern opens inside of me and I realize I do not know who I am.
I take a deep breath, release it, and let go of the rope.
I land in a confused heap on the floor. My light goes out, plunging me into darkness as I feel oxygen rushing involuntarily, violently, into my lungs. I gasp for air and scramble onto all fours, feeling rough dirt and rock beneath my knees and fingernails. It’s pitch black so I start crawling forward, one arm out, searching for the wall.
Suddenly I feel a hand on my shoulder and I jump. My outstretched hand meets another and in a strong grip it pulls me to my feet. In a fresh panic I flick on my lamp and in the flood of light I recognize a face before it’s shielded by a palm from the glare.
“Sorry, JD,” I cough, straightening. “I’m really sorry. I already forgot you were here. Somehow I…”
“It’s all right, sport. Don’t twist yourself up about it,” James chuckles. He’s still got his hand up because the light is pretty bright, so I adjust it to its lowest setting and angle it to the floor. James lowers his hand and looks up at it. “Always got to bring something with us, don’t we?“ He winks, then rummages through the pockets of his slacks. Frowning, he reaches into the inside pocket of his jacket, then produces a small white packet. He waves a dismissive hand at me and turns his back. “Don’t worry. I’ve got a light this time.” When he turns back around, there’s a glowing cigarette illuminating his face, an eerie orange in the subterranean twilight. He’s got dark olive-colored trousers on over dust-covered boots, and a light flannel shirt under a faded denim jacket. He’s smiling, as usual, and his eyes twinkling at me, as usual, but it’s not the same old smile. I meet his gaze and I suddenly recognize the third ingredient in his voice.
“You okay?” he asks, brushing the dust off my shoulders. “You haven’t broken your pelvis, have you?” His mouth is twisted around the cigarette as he tries not to laugh, but I hear the sadness, covered though it is by a thin veil. “Well anyhow, you made it.”
“Yeah, I made it.” I’ve made it. The significance of that is still sinking in and my heart is only now slowing its furious tattoo. I’m watching James’ eyes and although his eyes won’t leave my face, they’re not locked on mine. In fact, he seems incapable of meeting my gaze. “Well, now that I’m here, I might as well take a look around.”
James shrugs and spreads his palms in welcome, exhaling a silent spiral as he watches the words leave my lips. “It’s all down here. Most of it, at least,” he adds, almost apologetically.
I nod slowly and JD’s shadow grows into the shape of a giant on the wall behind him. My chest is now quiet and though I am afraid, I have embodied fear itself. I am now in the vast cavern inside of myself. And though it is not completely empty, the spaces between things, the crevices, the mortar gaps, the handholds are so far apart from each other that they have all lost their significance. All the things holding everything together. The rope hangs idly, lazily out of reach above my head. I turn, now, to face the impossible task of describing what this place means to me when
















Friday, October 24, 2014




bright souls speaking

not to each other

long forgotten

long alone

wolves coming to the fire

Thursday, October 23, 2014

migrant



Running down the town in the early pitch brings a smile to my face, seemingly childish as I jog past the dark windows of sleeping houses. No one is awake but me. It’s an exciting, mischievous feeling that blossoms into awe as I reach the crest of the hill, warming now, from where downtown is visible against the black sky, sparkling and punctuated by monuments. My breath pulls strong and matches my stride now as I leap across intersections now dotted with work trucks and delivery vans. The city wants to greet me, I feel as a man steps out of the shadows with an orange traffic pylon hanging from each hand. As I sprint through the center of a park where a man sleeps under a pile of blankets, a woman sits patiently, awake, with crossed legs and one white new balance shoe tapping, and a bronze horseman watches, one arm raised with a sabre. A man sweeping out the entrance to a café, the hose he was using to water the plants spilling water across the sidewalk, reminds me of warmth I’ve found on the other side of the world. Traffic is heavy now, the grey buildings bleeding seamlessly into the sky, and instead of waiting for the white man I dodge buses, cars, and mopeds. Blood pumping feet jumping I course through the triangle, spangled with white twinkle lights, traversed now by suits and skirts and boots. I shake my head and leap across our quiet constitution, its eight lanes offering no resistance. My legs carry me onto the mall, that great import, and I race to our national phallus where it stands gleaming in a ring of flags; they all face the same way, some twisted around their own poles like writhing vipers, snapping in the wind. I run counterclockwise around the base of the obelisk, forcing my breath to remain steady – I watch and I wait. Nothing seems to change. As I pass the opposite face I nearly trip over a man in orange doing pushups beneath the monument, his breath arriving in with exultant, laborious heaves. He stands with a groan and I realize perhaps there’s no difference, and in a flash I leap over the chain-rope fence onto the grass, sprinting now. I sprint past the gnarled, twisted tree, somehow pardoned, trying to outrun both shadows. Slowing, my breath catches at the purpling sky as it reflects on the basin, birds take wing, squirrels scamper frantically. At the water’s edge my heart softens and my eyes tear up as the wind whips the surface into whitecaps. Ducking under low-hanging bows and dodging cyclists, I focus on feet, arms, and legs; I round the curve and feel things opening up. I soften my step. I run smoothly, softly up the steps to tom’s little white cabin on the lake and sneak inside the dome. Quietly, respectfully, I run laps around tom until he’s just another bronze statue before vaulting back out into the wind. The sun has almost risen, the lake is alive, the traffic is throbbing, and my heart is pounding as I look for my bridge. I look for the river. I find it and race up the steps, and as the pavement carries me over the river, I can’t help but enter a dead run. Something is opening up inside of me and my legs flash crazily in the predawn light. Memory wakes again, a spark I thought I’d extinguished years ago: it ignites in my chest and I remember sprinting the bridges with jeremy, racing to the forest together with something manic, something necessary. I feel a sound growing inside me, a sound storming from a whisper into a roar, like a subterranean river bursting out of the ground. It buckles and swells and to keep it inside I fuel my legs faster and faster with a power that does not belong to me over the river and into the woods on the far side, my eardrums nearly bursting with blood and my lungs about to catch fire. Finally I descend onto the far bank, trying to slow, trying to control, aiming for an easy lope into the trees. I round the bend and pass a squad of marines doing pushups on the ground and I wonder if there’s any difference and think about the day my body will collapse. I run down, down out of the city, I keep running down and down to where I quietly, carefully, thoughtfully earn my paycheck from The Man.


 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

(Untitled)



I feel the child running in my mind, carrying me through my neighborhood and into the park. As the street winds down, trees crowd me to shelter me with their shimmering, leafy boughs. My legs find the path effortlessly, springingly, and I find myself marveling. I’ve been here before and I wonder about time: does it ever end? Does it stretch to every corner of the world? My friend once told me that our love is like a tree giving shade where people sit, climb, and swing. I sit on my floor and feel the rug beneath my hands. I feel more alone than I have in months, a true self-consciousness. My mind’s child breeds Sunday boredom endlessly, thirstily, and as though through a short, dark tunnel I observe the course of the evening. As I turn the screwdriver and the bicycle gears shift I find myself wandering, wuthering, wondering at the nature of life. Its phenomenon, its tides, its seasons, its mortal, mortal infinity. The grease on my fingers looks much like the grease on the hands of a seven year old boy standing up on his pedals, moments away from skinning his knee. I know not the dream, I know not the seed. My friend just supposed that perhaps those who appear more peaceful may be battling total chaos inside, like the paddling webs of a duck crossing a river. A desperate logan hurtles into the woods with lungs of fire, crafting chaos without to insinuate peace within. My friend never tires of thinking and nor do I, opule threads weaving a flying carpet from one city to another, from one emotion to the next. I sit on the dock of the river my friend describes, smelling aluminum, marveling as my mind’s child runs through the woods. My fingers feel clumsy on the yellow knife handle, my other hand gripping dry skin. The onion falls apart with a brisk snap and I begin working from the outside in, sloughing off layers of dead skin. A silent logan vaults into the woods looking for his voice, and I grow confused. I can’t seem to separate desirable from undesirable, working outside in, and as the knife cuts deeper I begin to cry. I think of my friend, perched on the edge of the seat, and I wish I could distinguish root from branches, divide time, isolate ideas. I’m sitting on the dock, I’m standing on the pedals, I’m running into the woods. I’m at home and I’m abroad. I’m at peace and I’m at war. I’m an old, old man feeling the skin on his knees.


Friday, July 5, 2013

Turtle


     Aquaman, Blood Orange, and Wooden Spoon urge Gaia through the field of corn, all ablaze with fireflies, rising and sparkling like the cinders of an awful, unseen fire.
     "I've never seen so many electric jellyfish in all my life!"
     Aquaman cackles, his glowing white town-shirt a merry specter amidst the mournful stalks of corn. Blood Orange follows close. Beside him, Wooden Spoon carries the leash that collars Gaia, belly low to her namesake.
     Spoon sweeps her light in broad arcs before Gaia, on alert for snakes. "Turtle, did you see that turtle near Birch Run?"
     "No, unfortunately."
     The cornfield burns, burns, and burns joyfully in the dusk, a shimmering spring of fire that brings us acuity and tenderness.
     Turtle brings up the rear, watching the field of fireflies; he treads slowly, quietly, heavily, painfully, and excited by everything.






Sunday, March 17, 2013

Gently


“Well I’ll be damned,” James guffaws, cupping one hand to his mouth as he calls out to me. “If it isn’t Popeye the sailor man!” he cackles with glee as I lock the door of the boat and step onto the dock.
“Yeah, yeah.” I allow myself a smile but conceal it from James, who’s standing on dry land above me, leaning one elbow against the grey metal railing. Hiking up one leg of his brown corduroy slacks, James lifts a foot to the railing and points to the dangling laces. “You know, I can’t for the life of me get these to stay tied. Do you think you could teach me to tie a carrick bend?  Or maybe one of those…”
“I could show you a pretty good noose, JD, if you’re interested.” Folding a stack of papers in half, I stuff it in my computer bag and put the sling across my shoulder.
“Aw come on, Andy,” James moans, clutching his gut and doubling over. “Come on, I’m just playing.” Wheezing from laughter, he suddenly stands erect, frowning. “Watch your step there, matey. No need to go looking for Davey Jones’ locker just quite yet. Spring is on its way don’t you know.” Straightening his slacks, James walks parallel to me as I climb the ramp, squinting as I make my way to the top of the gangplank.
After keying out and closing the dock gate, I face him and extend my right hand. “Hey, JD.”
“What’s this?” James’ eyes widen, fixing upon my outstretched hand. “Such elegance!” he laughs, gripping my palm and pumping it up and down. “What’s come over you, Andy? It’s almost as though you were a full-grown ma…”
“Oh, shut up, JD.” I wrench my hand away and grab his shoulder, twisting him away so that we’re walking away from the river. We move slowly through the empty marina parking lot toward Maine Avenue.
James fishes through his pants pockets, grunts, then searches the interior pocket of his brown jacket. “Aha!” he declares, producing a pack of cigarettes. He stops, faces me, and bows deeply, proffering a cigarette on the palm of his hand.
I shake my head. “No thanks, JD.”
James grins, lighting the cigarette and taking a deep draw. “Andy, Andy, eat your candy.” He watches me through hooded eyelids and cocks his head to one side as we resume walking. “So deep in the grip of vices, am I?” Turning back to look at the marina, James pokes the bag slung over my shoulder and clears his throat. “Looks like you’ve got some of your own, here.”
“Look, JD.”  I push his hand away. “This is just until I…I’m just saving up so that…”
“Ah yes.” He removes the cigarette from his lips. “Begging for tomorrow’s rice, are we? I suppose you’re hiding it all away in those boots of yours.”
My feet stop moving and I turn, locking my gaze on James’ laughing eyes, slitted but bright, his features fracturing in a great smile, great laughing crows’ feet perching on his cheeks. He’s laughing but not in mirth. James’ eyes absorb my gaze, drinking their fury like a glass of warm milk. He leans toward me with a native comfort, relaxing further with every clenching of my jaw. “Yes, Andrew and his famous temper,” he says in a near whisper. “The mile-long fuse.”
James turns and mounts the curb along Maine Avenue, hands pocketed as he skips and hops across the giant cracks in the sidewalk. I have no choice but to follow, my fists aching and eyes watering. There’s a warm wind at my back that propels me toward James but I want to walk at my own pace. Following a few paces behind him, I study James’ back as he strolls up Maine, stepping lightly and looking up, slightly above the horizon. He’s slouching but somehow his shoulders are thrown back, pushing his jacket into thin folds that billow in the breeze. James reaches up to pinch the cigarette between his index finger and thumb, tapping it lightly to shower the sidewalk with ash.
I imagine the ash from James’ cigarette as I follow him up the sidewalk. I imagine it crunching under my shoes, but it’s too dark to see anything now.
James lets his arm fall back to his side, where it dangles and bobs with each step. It almost seems to be a separate entity, floating by his side like a pale gull on wing.
He turns back to me and winks, that black crow clenching its foot.
The two aspects are disorienting and I trip over a tree root that invades the sidewalk, nearly falling flat on my face.
James catches me by the shoulders and laughs, “Whoa, sport! Now that’s more like it!” With his cigarette in hand he dusts off my jacket as though I’d fallen. “That’s what I like to see.”
There’s a grey streak of ash on my chest where JD’s cigarette brushed me, and I grin at him. It’s his intelligence that smiles back at me, his thoughtlessness. James’ eyes are gentle now, and darker.
Nodding back to the docks, he asks, “That’s where you met, isn’t it? That’s where it all began?”
I nod.
“Right,” he says, resting one hand on my left shoulder. “And you’ve been holding on tight, haven’t you? Gripping with all your might?” He puts his other hand on my right shoulder and squeezes. “Your discipline?”
I nod.
Suddenly he shakes me, thrusting my arms back until my shoulder blades meet, rattling me back and forth like a rag doll, twisting my torso until my head feels like it’ll roll off. Finally he compresses my shoulders between his fists and lifts me bodily until my toes leave the asphalt.
After a moment, James lowers me, my feet tingling as they return to the earth. “Don’t confuse your adventure with your fortune, Andy,” James whispers, hoarse from his exertion. He turns his slight frame away and walks to the curb to cross Maine.
I follow him without looking for traffic, moving easily on the balls of my feet.
“Whenever I raced, I was always confused.” James speaks distantly, looking straight ahead. “It’s the same line, over and over. That line of white paint, where we’d all rev our engines and wait for the green flag. Then each lap we’d fly over it like it didn’t mean anything. It was confusing,” JD exhales the words with the last smoke from the cigarette, throwing the butt into the gutter as he steps onto the opposite curb.
“The same line from beginning to end. Over and over,” he goes on. “It wasn’t until they’d wave the checkered flag that it really meant anything else. Then, suddenly, you cross that line and you’re in a totally different place.” James turns to me, frowning. “Like a whole new universe, Andy.”
We’re standing at the entrance to the metro, facing one another. The sidewalk is deserted, the warm wind is gone, and the only sound is the creaking, moaning escalator as it forms an endless staircase into the earth.
“It doesn’t mean anything, mate,” he tells me in a low voice, almost mournful. “We’re all just waiting for the flags that people wave at us, waiting for them to give us meaning.” He raises his hand above his head and flutters it like a strip of cloth.
I nod, watching him silently.
“Don’t let that happen, Andy.” James looks down, studying my shoes. Then he looks up, suddenly, and laughs. “Alright, bud, get outta here.” JD punches me in the shoulder and I smile. “Beat it!”
I turn away and step onto the escalator. I can barely hear his voice as it follows me underground.
“Let her go, Andy. Let her go gently.”


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Less



I want to make myself less and less and less.  Thinner, shorter, more pale and more dull.
I want to make myself more and more and more transparent.  Lighter and lighter and softer and softer.
I need to efface myself, diminish to the point of no return.  Molt my leaves, shed my bark and smile at the lumberman’s axe, welcome his sweat and greet the earth.  I need to be rent asunder and broken, burned, and forgotten.
I need to grow younger and younger and younger, to want more and more and more.  I need to want more, have more, and be less.   I need to peel, poke, and wash, scrub and scrub.
I need to grow softer, lighter, and younger.  I need to walk back into the garden, pinch the seed from the soil, and for that bright germ of life trade my sight, my thought, my speech.  So that in sound and in deed I might say nothing, do nothing, choose nothing, and be nothing.  I must make myself a shadow, a shade.  I must teach myself to lessen, to fold, and to disappear.  I must be seen through to the end of my youth, my life, my body and my brain.
They must all become less and less and less.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

2.3 Paul


Zero

Planes went down.  Pilots caught mid-landing misjudged where land was and crashed on runways.  Scared, too.  I’m sure fear had something to do with it when they went blind.
Cars crashed.  So many cars wrecked on the road I almost couldn’t find a way home from the mine, all twisted and flipped and wrapped around trees.  It was only a split second but it was during the five o’clock rush: that flash, then darkness.
There were so many cars flipped and shattered that I drove halfway on the curb, but all I was looking for was a dirty white Lumina.  I’d know that car backward, forward or upside down, but I prayed to God I didn’t see it. 
It wasn’t on the road and it’s not at the house.
A million people fumbling for the headlights.
I didn’t find her car but I already know.
Jessie blinking, screaming, and flipping the switch.
Today is Rebecca’s birthday and I think I might vomit.
The Chevy’s headlights have been dead since June.


Sunday, July 22, 2012

1.5 XXX


Genesis

Au commencement, Dieu créa les cieux et la terre.

Today was supposed to be the beginning, but everyone feels like it is the end.  Everyone says it is the end and I am fighting with myself to not agree.  Today was supposed to be a very good day, but now it seems the opposite.

La terre était informe et vide; il y avait des ténèbres à la surface de l’abîme, et l’esprit de Dieu se mouvait au-dessus des eaux.

Even my teachers are frightened of the darkness – they do not know why it is.  They do not fear the night but for some reason this new darkness terrifies them.  Maybe because it is complete.  It is darker than the darkest night, and even worse we do not know if it will ever be light again.  It is probably noon but I am writing by candlelight.

Dieu dit: Que la lumière soit!  Et la lumière fut.

I was reading Genesis when the sun stopped shining.  Today was the first day of the church and everyone was here.  The entire village arrived and there was hardly enough room for all.  Everyone was listening to me read about the creation of the world, when suddenly there was a bright flash outside, and the sun stopped shining.  There is no electricity in the church so everything became black, and all were frightened.

Dieu vit que la lumière était bonne; et Dieu sépara la lumière d’avec les ténèbres.

I am not afraid of the night, nor am I afraid of shadows, but now there is no separation.  There is no night or day, and there is no light to make shadow.

Dieu appela la lumière jour, et il appela les ténèbres nuit.  Ainsi, il y eut un soir, et il y eut un matin : ce fut le premier jour.

It is the first day of our new church and already all are frightened.  Maybe because it is as though God’s work is being undone – and by whom?  They already speak of God’s punishment, His wrath.  They speak of Satan.  They speak of rapture, repentance, and redemption, but with all these words there is fear on their tongues.
I do not pretend to know what is happening, but at the moment I feel closer to God.  I feel like I am back at the beginning with Him.  Before the flood, the fall, the sin.  I can no longer see His works; I have only faith.  It sounds crazy, but I feel alone with Him.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

1.3 Paul


Descent

The worst part of my day.  You ever been eaten, chewed, and swallowed?  Buried alive?  Because that’s what it feels like when the cage closes around you and the gears start grinding, like great big jaws chewing you down.
Jessie tells me I’m like a stage magician, buried alive for hours and popping back out with money.  I’ve never told her but it kills me whenever she says that.  She tells me I’m her magician but I feel like a dead rabbit every time I step onto the lift.
It’s the worst part of my day, sinking into the colliery and watching the light turn into chemical.  Watching that light go out: it’s like sunset at 11 am and it drives me mad.  I don’t look up anymore when the cage drops but I used to; I listened to the old-timers and now I’ve got my eyes lowered.
Eyes on the prize, they say.
Suddenly the light goes out and it’s pitch black.  I shut my eyes to feel like it’s my own choice, like I’m making this darkness happen.  I face the corner of the cage when I do it.  I turn on my lamp and open my eyes, and now my stomach is cool.
If Jessie ever tells me that I again I swear I’ll say something.
There’s a cool breeze coming up the shaft and I inhale deeply.  I might be buried but I’m alive.
I’ve got my eyes on the prize.
I hear the water pump roaring in the pillar.
I hear the longwall churning and grinding like Satan’s growling belly.
I’m thinking of the big box locked in the garage and hoping it’s got magic inside, just for once.
The cage hits the floor and I’m alive at the bottom of the maw.
Just once I really want to be a magician.
The room.
The pillar.
I want a rabbit to jump from the hat.
I’m at the bottom of the maw with my eyes on the prize.
I want to bring a sparkle to Becca’s eyes.


Friday, July 20, 2012

1.1 Anna


Friday

It’s dark, and I’m back in my room.  I’ve never been more tired in my entire life, but it’s over.
We both made it.
They let me see him once and it was almost more than I could bear, he’s so beautiful.
I think I’ll choose a name in the morning.
I’m not sure what time it is because the blinds are lowered.  There’s a lot of commotion outside my room but I’m too exhausted to care.
I’ll name him in the morning.
My room is dark and my dreams are dark so I want to see him again in the sunlight before I name him.
We made it.



Wednesday, July 18, 2012

1.2 Christian


Friday, June 30th closing time

The bank never came.  I only had one customer all day, which would trouble me, normally, but the bank didn’t come so I suppose I’m not worried.
Something is wrong, though.
A woman came in, frantic, and asked why it was so dark.  I apologize because I sometimes forget to turn on the store lights, but she didn’t want to look around.
All she asked for was a wind-up watch, like the old pocket watches men used to carry.  She didn’t care about make or color or design; rather, she just wanted something that kept time well.
I showed her a twenty-five dollar men’s wristwatch and she asked me how much.  Assuming this was the last day the store would be open, I told her whatever she could manage.
I didn’t feel a wedding ring when she pressed the bill into my hand, and before I could say anything, she was gone.
At first I thought she’d cheated me, but I hurried back to the register and put the note through the bill-reader. 
One hundred dollars.
It’s early evening but the air has grown quite chilly.
She paid one hundred dollars for the most outdated timepiece in the store.
The watch read 2 pm when she took it, and I was confused.
I spent the rest of the day checking each watch; I’m not sure why but it seemed important that they all match the watch that I’d just sold.
I’ve locked up the store and I’m sitting down
I’m not sure how I know, but something is terribly wrong.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

1.4 Chin-Hae


Sunday, July 1st midnight

There is a new moon so I cannot see it, and the thought occurs to me as strange.  It never has before but for some reason, standing here at the water’s edge as the tide recedes, it seems bizarre.
Odd that something so large, so bright, something that we know so well, cannot be seen.  It’s strange to imagine a ball of rock, larger than I can conceive, lurking in the sky, in space, in the shadow of Earth, sitting in nothing and unseen.
It brings back to me my fear, my life, my only fear.  Sailing at night, gripping the bridge and peering out over the waves for enemy ships.  The cutters, destroyers.  The subs.  It’s much like peering through a fog, through a moonless night, through the telescope and searching the horizon for their outlines.  We were trained to learn the night sky, to memorize the stars so well that we could spot a silhouette even in the darkest of nights. 
Not just the constellations.  I know every single star in the sky because my life depended on it.  My men’s lives depended on it.  My fear and my life were inseparable; each depended on the other for so long that now I can’t discern which one comes first.
Is that why I came back?
Is that why I’ve returned to the sea, where fear and life walk hand in hand?
It feels strange now, standing at the water’s edge and searching the night sky, counting the stars and holding my breath.  Just as we’d cut the ship’s engines and sit in silence, listening for the wolves beneath the waves, the submarines, here I am holding my breath as though I could hear her old white hull rolling through the sky.  It’s odd when there is evidence of something you cannot see.  Just as it’s strange, looking and listening for an enemy you know is there.  Waiting for the groan of the destroyer, the torpedo’s scream, the awful drone of aircraft.
The tide is going out and I know the moon is somewhere out there, but I can’t quite see it.
Is it a new moon?
Strange – on the first day of my new life there’s a new moon and I can see nothing.  I would it were full, so that I may see, and in seeing know, and in knowing, perhaps let my new life release its grip on fear.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

0.4 Chin-Hae


Thursday, June 28th 6:03 am

Iseul,

I have been assigned to Cho Do Naval Base, where tomorrow I will replace Commodore Seung.  All of my personal effects have been relocated to the naval officers’ quarters, so there is no need for me to visit the house in Ponghak.
To answer your question, there is no need for divorce; I prefer to avoid the trouble, and as such you will remain eligible for your separation allowance.  I only ask, however, that you refrain from associating with my fellow officers in the capital, or with their wives.
Please do stay in Pyongyang.  I think we have discovered, over the past years, our characters, and yours is suited to the land.  I am glad to return to the sea, where I would search for my soul, if I thought it to be found in any one place.  Perhaps it was the long years of my distance from the sea that led to our troubles.
Perhaps no one is to blame.
I hope that in your solitude you may find consolation, if not happiness.

_____________________
Commodore Chin-Hae Aan
People’s Navy                           

Saturday, July 7, 2012

0.1 Anna


Thursday, June 28th 5:03 pm

Dear XXX,

Although I do not yet know your name, I am writing to you now to tell you that I love you, in case we never meet.  If you are reading this letter, it means that you were raised by your grandparents, who I know love you very much.  It also means that I am no longer alive, which I am sure you understand by now.
The doctor told me that even though already understand this, it would be important that you read it in my handwriting someday.  Part of me feels that they intend this letter for my benefit, to feel as though I can communicate somehow with my unborn child, even if you don’t read this yet for years.
What they do not know, however, is that I know I can communicate with you.  I have done so every second of every day for the past nine months.  We have eaten the same food, breathed the same air, and shared the same bed, which is to share life.
In this way we communicate our love.
I’m writing this with my hand on my belly and every time you kick, I hear you answering.  The Sun is going down and tomorrow is the operation that will bring you into this world.
I am, at the moment, living in two separate worlds, and the letter you are reading only exists in one of them – I hope you never read it.  I’m sorry this is written on a get-well card, but it’s all the nurse could find.

Your mother,
Anna