Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Gift

Everyone received a gift. On the way
Home from the hospital, you left yours
On the bus. Or handed it to a stranger,
While you buttoned your coat.
When you looked up, it was gone.
Or perhaps they watched after it for you.
"We'll give it to you when you're ready."
But though you waited, are still waiting,
You've received nothing. Perhaps
The absence of the gift is the actual gift.
Perhaps no one else received a gift.
But you can see by their smiles and tears,
By the lyric lift in their faces,
By the absence in your own.
You can see what you do not have.

Always to be seeking, a step out of time,
There must be something, you say,
Something all others don't seek.
Is this your gift?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Man never Is, but always To be blest

Oh, happy day! Callooh! Callay!

I truly believe Pope's words above, as epitomized by the 1980's button -- ah, buttons were all the rage -- advising "Jesus is Coming! Look Busy!" And just as we await eternally the life to come where all will be made right, so there are certain events which I look to only with a vague affirmation that possibly the world could stand on its ear and cease functioning as it has for millennia, but -- as Ring Lardner pointed out -- that's not the way to bet. Among those occurrences which occupy that dreamed of Utopia where things 'Are the Way They're S'posed to Be', I include the repayment of forgotten debts by absent friends, having someone call me to report they've found my wallet/phone/iPod, and having an internet company respond to a customer service feedback. I should preface that last by saying that when money is on the line, I think the departments in the various ecommerce citadels swing into action to provide 'Excellent' satisfaction, as they hope you'll point out in the survey as you leave the site. But, when you're dealing with a freebie, it is hard to hope for any response, let alone fulfilment of all our dreams and aspirations in the advent of the Kwisatz Hederach! But wait, I think I'm overreacting...

Suffice it to say, a tiny while back, I added the Visual Bookshelf app to my 'Facebook experience' -- and had fun pretending I was a terrific literary light. Then I made what, in retrospect, is a completely erroneous decision; I read the LivingSocial.com Website and followed their instructions. Now, what I read (which may be different from what they said, of course) was that I could register there, link my account on livingsocial.com to that on Facebook and the two accounts would be sync'd as one. I imagined myself using a new iPhone app to merrily enter books of childhood, book of late adolescence, books of early senescence into my phone, where in the magical world of wireless technology, it would be sync'd to my Facebook profile and my friends and their friends would be astounded by the sheer volume of crap I have read. Well... It did not work out that way.

What actually happened -- don't stop me if you've guessed the ending here, I should have seen it coming too -- was that my new LivingSocial.com account ate my old account like Chronos devouring his children. Four hundred and forty-eight books, eleven reviews (including some "SuperReviews!" -- gotta love those gold stars!) were gone, and I was left with the same message on both FB and LivingSocial.com: "Enter your first book!" Sigh... Well, the effect was to shut down the limbic system in charge of entering mindless information on mysterious Websites. I feared that my breathless prose had breathed its last (a good example of why this was a baseless fear). I scrambled to rescue from the virtual flames of LivingSocial's book-review-burning my praiseless prose -- examples of which now adorn this page (if adorn is the correct word). I was able to find my old reviews, though they were now credited to "Anonymous User". This was utter indignity, stripped of my authorship and my prose, it felt as if the books themselves had been ripped from my very psyche.

Well, I do not want to prolong the agony of suspense which I'm sure you find yourself sweating before as the crushing tale captures your mind like Lautremont's fetid breath across the bar, so I will tell you what I did next. Not immediately -- first, you cry -- but reasonably soon after; I poked around on the LivingSocial.com site, looking for anything like a FAQ, etc., etc. Finally I found a "feedback@livingsocial.com" email in the contact section (if there was a "Contact" section, my memory is fautly at this point... Probably my grief...) and sent another hopeless missive like Job's plea to an uncaring God for an advocate before the Master of the Universe who can make the flowers bloom and all that, but who also is sometimes thought as not having the best customer service. (Hey, I didn't write the book. I'm just sayin'...)

This was some time ago... I was on the other coast of this great continent, and Governor Sanford was just returning from another hemisphere. Times were simpler then, but even so I gave the chances of a response to my email as between that of me winning the lottery (I do not play) and all the molecules in the room suddenly rushing under that chair and dropping it the most boring person in the room (the old Physics Advent... still waiting). I had given up, though occasionally I would check on "Anonymous User" to see if he'd added any other 'must-read' reviews (he hadn't), and to watch him fall in the overall rankings (still in the top 10k, though).

So it was a fantastic blessing -- hmm... yes, I'll use the word; something this rare might be considered a miracle, but I'm not one to jump to conclusions without less sleep than I got last night -- a wonderful blessing to find that once again, I and my books are reunited. I never received a direct email response from LivingSocial.com that I'm aware of (perhaps new spam filtering caught that because it didn't look like the many concerned folks worrying if I can possibly satisfy a woman), but then again, I've never gotten a direct 'Here ya go!' from heaven-sent prayers either. I do know, in my heart of hearts (whatever that means), that I have been answered, that the jagged cliffs have been made flat, that the prideful have been humbled, that the reward of the righteous is not ashes and pain, that... Well, suffice it to say, I have my account back. Now to open up that iPhone app and see if that breaks it all over again.


Asking for help is losing
The game we played in past lives is present
For a moment, although heartache
Argues otherwise

Unprincipled babes devour the mother, the carcass
Reeks of boredom. Night severs the ties
Of day repeating the phrases given
By angels. My flesh, so weak, denatured and dried
Like buffalo skin in a matchbook,
Files away the long silence and hopes for nothing.
A new dawn never breaks, only the same as before,
A lethargy of sad smiles and regretful embraces.

If she wakes again, if a smile escapes before the silence,
If maudlin joggers pass this house with eyes fixed
Upon the moist asphalt. Were there ever houses like ours?
Walls for windows and no doorways of steel,
Pray for someone's soul, they may need it before
The end. Mine, paper thing of dubious worth,
Lay near the stairs before I imagined learning
Not to miss the pain and loss.

Hours of ashes, the embers dead before us,
A rain-spoken benediction which arrives
Too late. Empty in speech, words flow a river of nonsense,
And devour time wasted by homeless actors.
If wickedness could claim this abandoned parking lot,
Where grasshoppers weave the only dreams,
And proselytize again the empty eyes of the despairing,
Then an end might be made. Ruined meat
For hungry souls, but to sate was never our hope,
Only to silence the barking madness.