notes composed in defiance of better judgment

Thanks for the Abundance

I am looking for a way to generate a sizable and steady income. Curious as it may seem, I imagine this is one viable possibility. Don't get me wrong. I still despair of the widening gap between the haves and the have-nots. And yet, I cannot shake the nagging suspicion that everything we have merely confirms the unpleasant awareness of the fact that we have been had. This is no complaint. I offer this observation as dutifully as I might contribute to the Police Blotter. This is Law. Gravity determines the simplest of such proscriptions, compels us to acknowledge each thing that comes down in tandem with the starting act of that thing. Only the sentences I impose complicate the matter of which I speak. To no end, I push this set of standard symbols through a series of not-so-subtle stretches of the imagination, demonstrating the obvious, despite my father's worried—almost worrying—determination that I, heretofore, live, albeit lacking skill of any kind. This assertion of his leads me (as one) to suppose that I elect to form a response by opting to employ the antiquated and arcane grammar laid out for you (also as one) splayed "dis" way as opposed to another, more modern, manner (that being in a fashion to which one is more often and ordinarily accustomed).

How's your daddy?
I don't think it's weird to confess that my brothers and I refer to our father as "your" pops, dad, old man, and the like. As a result, a conversation about the family will include the questions, "Did mom tell you that Uncle Alan had surgery last month?" and "When's the last time you talked to your father?" It's probably true that I follow this rule more faithfully than my siblings, though they never take issue with my use of this patently disrespectful appellation.

Any one of my friends is well aware of my soured relationship with the old man. The origins of this animosity escape me, though its persistence enjoys fresh reinforcement with each encounter. From our protracted enmity I can freely paint a fresh picture based on our most recent encounter, supply a singular anecdote for our every choice meeting. The last time, for instance, occurred over a year ago, not long before my son's sixth birthday, which falls on the sixth day of September (five days before my own fifty-third birthday). Because I'd opted to kick his mother to the curb the previous April (using all the vitriol I could muster as insurance against repeating the many failed attempts that, over the years, had ended in reconciliation) I had no fixed address, despite enjoying a substantial income for the second half of the year. Wracked with guilt over my abandonment of the woman I loved more than any woman in the world and the two boys I love more than any others boys in the world, I gave her three parts of each paycheck I earned during those six months and spent all of the fourth part in rent and recreation for myself. While I had enough for a happy sixth birthday, I wanted a new laptop for myself, replacing the one she had manhandled to death. So, I turned to my progenitor for help. This is when he cited my lack of skill, all but naming me a reprobate before hanging up on me. I initially attempted to elicit an explanation and even (what was I thinking?!) an apology, but thought better of it inside the ensuing ten minutes—which featured a fatuous defense of his attack, coupled with a passively belligerent flanking action that all but did me in. Both maneuvers emanated from his otherwise and ordinarily empathetic wife (my "stepmother" Mo, whom I have ever welcomed as the sane and highly effective "better half" of the two, and yet) who now seemed to abandon me to my self-denigrating and kharma-laden lament, forcing me to thrust my thumb over the phone's red "END" button.

Xmas at the hindustan oasis on 1st Ave & E. 6th St.

Collateral utopias
For the next thirteen moons—until right about now—I've wandered aimlessly the same small patch of earth, with the occasional foray into other small clods of dirt. When I finished my part in the construction of a house in the foothills of the Catskill range, it was Christmas. For the next three months, I somehow managed to hole up in my family's apartment, thinking it safe enough to occupy regardless of the venom with which I had successfully poisoned our love. Asked what I planned to do by the two or three bystanders who pretended interest in my disappearing act, I stammered through a tangled store of stock images I imagined us capable of collating into a vast, multi-dimensional collage we would fashion together into a transparent resin-jacketed utopia with our family at the core from which eventually would germinate—endlessly so—a thousand thousand more healthy familial units of every infinite stripe and shade and permutation. I said nothing of this to my young mother, said very little of this to she who I had deliberately wronged, proclaiming my own hurt and pain and suffering with no mention of the pleasures I derived from it all. I knew nothing of how deeply she did strive to punish herself. Then she contracted a condition that forced her to redefine the way she thought she lived, burning with pain where abject pleasure longed to reign.

Meat's murder
Reduced to prepare murdered meat en masse for a pittance, I slaved in the steamy kitchen of the infamous meatball outlet, a factory of fatty meals that turned my tongue away from the vegetal diet of the last decade. A meat eater once more, I nonetheless rejected the adolescent management with a sudden departure that oddly colors all my goings since I broke my family's heart, tore out its core, ripped out its central encouragement, the heart and mind no longer me, but a burly burning man who volunteers heroism in exchange for smoke and respiration, replacing my lacking inspiration so that my son now has a new dad, where I once proudly assumed that role was mine—his brother said as much, the way he now says the same. My greatest fear that my ineptitude will result in a sanctioned title of guardian in short order, while six years or more never foisted such a crown on my nonetheless sacrificed dummy's dome.

The sixth of December will be my father's eighty-first complete year. I fear we won't speak. I fear his grandson will never know him because I fear his grandson will come to know him, his anger at this little boy for being so little, for being so much more in that he is mine, and still more for being hers, for not being as we should have been, proud American Negroes uplifted by our bootstraps to uplift the race above the white race that our trophy white women attest to in their complete competence, no competition with our mom, no matter how close they ably compare.

Desultory derivative
Unskilled, it seems I've somehow gained on the meat factory using little more than what I know of words without actively seeking as much. This short success has an advantage I need to take, an advantage still rife with uncertainty, rich with pleasures I daresay I may reap without pain, with no punishment, with flying colors peeled from a rainbow, a long winter's dawn awash with a spectral dance of light as painterly as a screen poet's celluloid lyricism, paid in the golden limb of a silent eye slit on a blasted needle point just as bloody as what it's like to jump across the hole, bleeding one's squelched heart out of all its pregnant courage, drenched and drowning in the sanguine qualities squandered while wandering free of idle death in its palatial bright light and tumescent good humors, a crack squad of skilled squatters' towering white castle of sense erected soundly and surrounded directly over a majestic democracy's purple potters' field republic of safety pins bent up like a broad spread out and splayed open by the phonic-riddled sonic boom riding the tidal currents' wave upon wave and aftershock eddying to stem the ebb and flow nested throughout this one of a big bang universe.

Finally enough
This is another solid foundation upon which to fashion another kind of year. I am a farmer now, leaving behind the leavings of too many unfinished careers. All this careening for the look of your eyes through the production of space has completely disappeared behind constructs and compartments. For you and I, knowing better than this, borders are nothing. Still, we pass paper and plastic passports back and forth between us as if they are markers of the temporary structures that elude us. In an architecture without architects, like the specialists who clamor against specialists, everything is built upon nothing, and none of it is meant to last. Why, then, all this weeping after change we so cleverly plan for with each shadowed light and next opening act? I've learned our languages, even while believing them yours. I've forgotten that I have a claim upon official papers that cannot possibly be mine any more. 

This week, visitors promise to debark from the other side. I look forward to the ease with which we may carry the past between us, hoping to return to the same scaled schema, to draw the same draught, if only more simply, connect them to the gaps that undermine this firmament's flimsy and longest night. 

My personal metrics rank a couple of kids' birthdays before even Christmas, when two of them were born, one now twenty-one, his childhood having escaped me. What gifts have I within me to devise for the other two? What love do I still share with their increasingly estranged, gap-toothed and nurturing mothers; my teachers, long-lost to me when I fancied myself their preacher. Some savior I turned out to be. Love is my final lesson. 

Last night, I imagined I loved again. Last week, I lost the opportunity. Squandered the effort demanded. By comparison, I saw that I could realize with no effort some hint of the infinite intimate. But only for an instant. For now, this must be enough. For now, I have love awaiting, abounding, unseen and untapped just this side of the surface within me. There is the love I seek. I am the love of which I speak. Watch me build it, if you can. These are my lessons. This school is in session from here on in. I swear that I will abide the required formats, that these prolegomena shall cease forthwith.

In desultory peace...

Akilah Nayo Oliver memorial card reads:

Mother; Poet; Performer;
Activist; Professor; Life Changer

April 18, 1961 – February 23, 2011


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