Monday, August 30, 2010


My life was passing before me which, in an ordered life, was what was supposed to happen just before you died. And there was certainly death in what was running through my mind. And not always my mind. As these waves of sadness were passing through me.

This had been happening since I first started bringing the past to light without any deceptive guideposts in it. Death and something worse lingering in the past that I had avoided. I would be walking along, maybe 8th Avenue in the 20s, maybe familiar streets in the East Village that were now so different because of the galleries that had not existed when I lived there long ago, maybe the Upper West Side or the Upper east Side
or maybe along Irving Place beneath the French doors of that place where Anne Marie and I stayed for part of one August while I waited for a freighter. That place where late at night we would hear the sound of horses hooves on cobblestone as mounted police returned to their stables – like in a well scripted movie. But now while walking here or anywhere I could be hit by a heavy blow that was so soft it did not hurt physically but was far stronger than a physical blow and felt physical to the point where I felt like it might leave me sprawled on the pavement. This sadness, this physical sadness, that now seemed to have always been there but outside conscious feeling till now. Mixed with my life passing before me, but the sadness somehow an assurance to me that the past running though my head had to do with the chance for life, not with what was supposed to happen at death.

The light and the dark. My view almost to the Battery. My place three stories above a garden gone to seed but with a tree in it that went up past my window, a tree trunk right here. A new friend had looked at it and said this is not a tree, just a big weed, and this made me angry, for it touched off the sadness and I went for the anger to stop the sadness. But mostly I am welcoming such sadness. Not depression, not emptiness, just sadness. It proves I can feel.

As I let darkness in, I was so often in my mind back where my conscious life had begun, back in or heading towards those big formal houses, the anti-Semitic summer people’s places, in the White Mountains of New Hampshire – the White Mountains to which almost every summer person who has been there when young returns to again and again, that place that served as a scale for people in my family to weigh whatever they saw anywhere else – so like Switzerland they said, though now it seemed so strange to me that the craggy granite mountains set in rocky rural poverty could ever have seemed like any place so tidy as Switzerland. And so unlike Mexico, they said – just as if they were saying something.

And the darkness of empty subway stations. Mixed with the darkness of places I had entered when actually looking for darkness – old Kuala Lumpur in a race war when you knew that behind any dark window there might be a Malay sniper waiting.

And yet it also feels like false construction to put so much in terms of the places I had been. For the dark and the light seem forces beyond any construction of the past that I can put in place, though not beyond the scenes I hold in memory. This open sadness something new. It had to have been there in the past, I thought, and I must have held it at bay when there was too much darkness and danger to let down my guard to the point where the sadness could come in. Before I admitted that the lurking danger was a family matter.

The strength of danger was on my mind one day as I walked down Sixth Avenue seeing things I had never seen in all the time I had gone this way, such as a Greek temple high atop a near sky scraper – and something strong to counter danger: those wonderful round wooden rooftop water towers that now seemed like part of a warm life I might have.

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