Friday, May 02, 2008

Sunday Scribbling #109: Family

Love is an ocean I can't forget...

Strangely enough, given my brief yet tangential history with the Scribblers, I’m drawn to meet this prompt head-on. And then again not. When all is said and done, I’m sure I will zig and zag, but it will still likely be more head on than slant. I’m not looking to be comprehensive: what feels like being said will be said.

I’ve spent enough time in self-exile from my original family (for two different extended periods) that the usual “blood pabulum” doesn’t mean much to me or carry much weight, when it comes to considerations of the blood tribe. I may experience a webbing, but in some cases, there is little sense of anything beyond the “accident” of shared early residence. At this point in my life, I feel a very strong connection with one of my sisters and my surviving younger brother. I was once very close to my youngest sister, but this is a relationship that has winnowed over the years: I suspect my most recent self-exile may have eroded whatever was left of her feelings for me: a trip back to Mississippi this summer will help us see what may still be thriving on the vine. I would welcome a renewal of our relationship, but I’m also willing to accept the possibility that some hearts may bear just so much of people moving in and out of their lives—particularly people who once meant a great deal.

Over the past year, I’ve re-established communication with my mother and her husband of 39 years. I cannot blame them for any hesitation or reluctance or skittishness they might experience with me, but I think we’ve all made a brave go of seeking out the safer territories and gentling in the rougher waters.

With these exiles, I have lost contact with a host of nieces, nephews, and cousins, some of whom were very dear to me at the times of my departures. Casualties of war: there is no gainsaying the point.

All of this by way of saying that I’ve lived long enough to see that, all the encomiums to “family, through thick and thin” notwithstanding, there is time, in the lives of many of us, for families to take circuitous and even lengthy journeys apart and then come together again. There is such a tendency when it comes to family for folks to hold on to what they’ve got, no matter the level of pain or skirmish, but I’ve seen that some families are pretty rugged and rough gods: it takes a lot to erode those mountain deities. We can journey on and journey back. I’m not recommending it for everyone, but I’m not “un-recommending” it either. I’ve spoken earlier in this blog of the grand and subtler cycles of time that the Maya have mapped out, not just time as chronological and linear ticktocks, but time as discrete energies and cycles—there is a season, turn, turn, turn—energies and cycles that may include delineations of the times families may expand and contract, an awareness we may have lost, if we ever had it at all.

Two members of my family I have experienced throughout my life as hauntings: the father I knew but a mere five years, before he disappeared after my parents’ divorce. “Knew” for the five years, but “felt” for many more, experiencing a deep yearning for connection and discovery that lasted up to and beyond his death, right on through to the writing of my first novel thirteen years ago, a novel which, for all its other intents and purposes, was also an imagining of a landscape of his invisible life. He peopled this novel, Scarred Angels, in its heroes and its villains, and with its completion, we found a peace, both of us released from the ghost of the other.

My middle brother, four years younger than I, died twenty-eight years ago, at the age of 22. Simply put, he was the victim of a hit and run incident, struck by a motorist in the early morning hours on a Mississippi interstate highway. But simply put doesn’t really tell the story of the two years of a descent into madness that culminated, I think, with his walking out onto that highway to make his fate. I was haunted by the bright spirit of the brother I had known and loved, before the descent into his waking death, and for a good two years after his “official” death, I would see him every where in my life: the backs of heads, the builds of bodies, the instantaneous knowledge that yes, it was he, but then again, oh yes, not…Funny how the heart defies all logic in its renewals of faith.

I suppose, now that I think about it, the most profound familial haunting was one whose impact I could only truly feel at the moment I stopped denying it. Right up to the age of 44 and right on through to just weeks before my life would change irrevocably, I was pentecostal in my denials of any desire to have a child of my own, blissfully uncled and cousined, blah blah blah. Instead, by all subsequent evidence, I was haunted by a crater of oceanic proportions that I have been filling ever since with the love I have for my son and his mother, my wife.

This past week, I watched the movie “There Will Be Blood” with my junior English class: we were all struck, perhaps more than anything, by the love Daniel Plainview showed for his adopted son HW: in the gentle touches and embraces and looks exchanged between them, I felt as if I were looking at myself with my own son. The derrick explosion that renders HW deaf is devastating to their relationship, as it struggles through to right itself out of a desolation of guilt and loss, but the biggest lies Daniel ever tells in his life are those he tells his son in the film’s penultimate scene.

In this past week, I also finished reading Ian Macewan’s Atonement, yet another pavane for the living and the dead. In its sweep, it too showed both the time that is there for families to move to and from each other, as well as the quickness with which we can disappear.

[stray door]

how many fathers do you father
at 14 on a Detroit horse track
lost in the downtown rivers
the look he throws you across
the ground at play, seventeen winters
or past the time of worry
a time of sensible wear

go to saint anthony
walk the gloom of travis park
invent a snow day in march
all your hearts melting in
blue noon, orange flame
playland in feral bloom
calliope seated in her white chapel
her marble knees

picture instead grey corridor
cedar mounting his eyes stray
door to door, the gloom of west
commerce infecting, dreaming his
dreams for him, beyond the greengrey
hills, beyond all west texas
on the sands of india
gandhi salt, not his taking

death by drowning, she says,
he lay in wait, act of mercy
stone cold on the floor
flurry of grease in the air
no more waiting
in a field of white teeth
no songs but a different chatter
ankle deep.

[son up]

supersonic son
upward blasting blaster
eucalyptical ferryman:
reckon me past all ways
soundless, all ways reckless deep.
out of the mouths am i washed
newly mown, newly
inked, stained past
crested waves fading,
seeding all fallow times
o my solar boy, my
neverending crackling fate.

honey 7: east/west

simplicity was merit I
treasured. you were known
in the increments the heart measures
calendrical a presumed way of
knowing in which time and we are lost.

yes would and did insist
down through nostrils flared
angels blistered in
retreat , death another
kind of saturn to our

wishes. this i know.
i am weighted by
life that lives you—
destiny is a small word
for our communion

love is the tiniest approximation
of the space we fill.
rest in this.

home was counted
out years ago
not to deceive or
elude, but to anthem the
yearning in our midst.

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Blogger Granny Smith said...

I will visit your blog often for its literary delights. I am awed by your narrative and poetic power.

I think that in this time of dispersion of families across the earth that all of us experience the almost random moving apart then coming together of the individual family members.

1:16 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

Granny Smith: I am so honored to have you visiting this garden, and I thank you for your kind words. Please come visit any time.

3:07 PM  
Blogger gautami tripathy said...

I am glad I found you via SS! Worth visiting.


10:30 AM  
Blogger murat11 said...

gautami: thank you for your visits. i loved you kindred poem. peace.

4:07 PM  

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