Thursday, February 17, 2011

Quiet Siren Kisses

A new R.E.M. record arrives soon. I've been listening to Reckoning today. From Pop Songs 07-08:
That’s Reckoning for you — nearly every song on the record in some way deals with the aftermath of an event, and at least half of them are traumatic. It’s an album about mourning your losses, taking stock of changes, owning up to guilt, and, in the end, moving on.
Has my "Sort-of Homecoming" involved mourning? Check. Taking stock and owning up? Check. Moving on? Hmm. 

So I've been listening to Reckoning a lot this week. Right now, in fact, "South Central Rain" accompanies this writing:
Did you never call? I waited for your call
These rivers of suggestion are driving me away
The ocean sang, the conversation’s dimmed
Go build yourself another dream, this choice isn’t mine
Eerie aquarian images abound, and life's imitating art. I'm slightly afraid of water, and I'm almost always uncomfortable around it. I loved looking at the Pacific, but I've only swum in it twice--never when I actually lived in California. Last summer I swam in the Atlantic while following the ghosts of Wolfe and Payne around the Outer Banks. It was warmer, saltier, more buoyant. Verdant.

"The ocean sang, the conversation's dimmed." Well, crap. "I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each." Yup. But they sure as hell weren't singing to me.

"This choice isn't mine." I hope I've made that clear with all the waiting. Not yet moving on.

*       *        *

Baptisms by saltwater. Riding in Omaha right now is a salty, grimy, crusty affair. Mermaid kisses, Lucas calls it. I don't think he knew why I laughed so hard when he said that, but my cognitive free-associations don't translate very well during bike rides. We return from tarmac rides just as filthy as we do after our gravel trips. Imitations of spring dissolve inches of snow, forming channels and puddles, morasses of swampy road detritus, asphalt chasms, black ice. Luckily, I've stayed upright while watching new friends go sliding by.

These rides aren't immersions, they're interments. Afterward I find myself scraping layers of black grime off the legs and picking bits of earth from between the teeth.  The brackish water seeps into seams, trickles down tubes, embeds particles between fingers and toes.

Some spots refuse removal.

*       *        *
Also from Reckoning:
At night I drink myself to sleep and pretend
I don’t care if you’re not here with me
‘Cause it’s so much easier to handle
All my problems if I’m too far out to sea
Maybe that's the place to be: riding the waves rather than standing on the shore. I'm drinking away my nighttime appetites right now, fighting my normal dehydration-inflicted hypotension. Dizziness. The literal weight is slowly leeching off. Maybe these "rivers of suggestion" are taking me somewhere, after all:

Strength and courage overrides
The privileged and weary eyes
Of river poet search naivete.
Pick up here and chase the ride.
The river empties to the tide.
All of this is coming your way.

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