Friday, September 19, 2014

Equinox #31

In 1928, William Carlos Williams (a favorite of mine, whom we've looked at again and again) had a long piece called The Descent of Winter published by Ezra Pound in The Exile. The Descent of Winter is partially a diary and partially a collection of poems and short prose pieces, thirty-nine and all, composed and date-stamped in the days between September 27 and December 18. I'll be posting the whole piece entry by entry on the dates on which they were composed in 1927. You might like to think of this as an advance payment in case another National Poetry Month extravaganza isn't in the cards for 2015.

This time last year, "in his late twenties" became a qualifier that no longer applied to me. Today, "in his early thirties" becomes one I can no longer deny.

On Monday I leave on a visit to the tropics. Sometime next week, difficult choices will have to be made. For the moment I'm back in Jersey, getting ready to meet up with some friends for an early autumn ritual we've carried on for the better part of the last decade.

Around this time five years ago I finished the first draft of The Zeroes. Coming back "home" not only reminds me of my own seminal years here, but also of the phantom life I recorded in the novel. (Listening to Catch 22 as I took the final exit off the Interstate likely influenced this.)

You can go home, but it's never quite the home you remember. The less often you visit, the more salient the accretions of slow-time transformations. The shopping center is suddenly abandoned. The houses are deserted, the houses are dilapidated, the houses are torn down. One vacant lot becomes a convenience store and another becomes a meadow. The diner you used to meet your friends at is where it always was. New people have moved into the houses on your block after the old residents moved away or died of cancer. They're not the houses you remember.


Five years since I finished the first draft of The Zeroes. Four years since I began keeping this blog. A little more than eleven years since I threw together a little comic strip about video games; a little less than six since I hung it up. Eight years since I started writing a series of interminable writeups about a Japanese RPG series called Final Fantasy.

All of it was pretty much just for fun.

Now I'm mostly writing fiction that nobody reads. I'm pretty sure it's still fun. It must be.

Five years ago: I sat by myself at a campfire, coming down from a psychedelic experience and looking up at the autumn stars—Cassiopeia, Perseus, Auriga, the Pleiades, Taurus—and made up my mind to give the skies my more deliberate attention from then on.

At the beginning of the month I invested in a vaporizer. It was a nice little compromise to a longstanding problem: continuing to smoke cigarettes is untenable, quitting is unacceptable. I'm sure that vaping can't be great for me—but breathing in nicotine-infused water vapor must be less damaging than filling the lungs with the hot particulates and gasses of combusted leaves, and so far it hasn't left me feeling like crap in the morning.

But I saved the remains of my last pack of American Spirits. Tonight I stopped at a Dunkin Donuts on the main drag and smoked a cigarette in the parking lot, by the dumpster. Oh, Jersey. Ah, suburbs. Return to an familiar place, relish in familiar routines. It was an admixture of nostalgia and relief. Oh god I missed this; oh thank god I moved on.

As I was just about down to the filter I started dry heaving. Guess there's a good reason I'm trying not to do this anymore.

The other night I skimmed the LiveJournal I kept between the ages of sixteen and twenty. Fifteen and eleven years ago. It was uncanny, reading the candid thoughts of a version of myself who is at once eminently familiar and startlingly strange.

Uncanny. That's what this time of the year is for me. My birthday falls just a few days before the autumnal equinox. The tilting point between summer and winter. The cycles themselves are immutable (as far as the human lifespan is concerned), but the world is never the same as it was. Time makes us all strangers.

Yesterday, in Maryland: there was a dog leashed to the trunk of a tree outside of the rock gym. A black lab. Before heading inside I sat beside him a while and scratched his ears while listening to the cicadas. (They won't be tymballing for much longer.) His appearance and mild temperament reminded me of Phoebe, my family's late black lab, and of how much I still miss her. Phoebe was a sweet pooch, but pensive and even melancholy. She often accompanied me in my rambles through the woods, and these were the only times I ever saw her demonstratively happy. Everywhere else in the world, she was out of her element. In the quiet, open places she seemed to remember what she was supposed to be.

I guess each of us knew how the other felt.

Getting chilly at night. Won't be able to step out in sandals much longer. These evenings ask for sweatshirts. Winter is only a few months away; I'll have to dig my heavy coat out of the closet. And then spring will blossom, and I'll take off the coat and then the sweatshirt, and then summer will settle in again and I'll put the sandals back on. And then it'll be September and here we'll be again, a little less of who we are now and a little more of someone else. And winter will descend once more.

Oh! my friends, but this is man-killing! Yet this is life.


  1. I know how you feel. I know what it is to put incalculable amounts of time in an activity and wondering "why the heck did I do all that" and "is this actually going to go anywhere?"

    Looking at autumn with the intensity of a buddhist monk is also a specialty of mine, although I was never compelled to produce any poetry. I'm sure the universe is grateful for that.

    1. 'Looking at Autumn with the intensity of a buddhist monk.' Hmm. For some reason that makes me think of Po Chü-i.

  2. Oh, so you are going! I'm kind of excited for you. Whatever the choices you make, I wish you wisdom the kind of which you'll be proud even when you have become wiser.

    1. Thanks for the well-wishes. It's five days later, and . . . well, I'm here. Feral chickens roam the beaches and my laptop apparently attracts hyperactive tropical ants.

  3. Link to the livejournal account please? Consider it a birthday present to your loyal followers. Also, get out here already