In Search of Lost Time

One thing we cannot recover is time.

Perhaps that’s what I have been trying to do.

   Perhaps that’s what every writer, as a fugitive stalker, as a heartsick orphan, as the fool-hero in their own movie is trying to do.

   In this respect, the pen is merciful, an instrument of reprieve, and allows for a mortal claim and stake in something that belongs, by nature, to ephemera. That which is solvent becomes ours, even if only in specious residue and filmy imprints.

   We take what we can, do what we can, give ourselves what we must. It is the stubby and insistent roots of love. We are all heartsick orphans. What we yearn to fuse and unionize with has a different spin for everyone, a different look or feel or say, different bends in cursive, but in the end, and in the true center, it is all the same. All roads lead to a much larger heaven than our poor, deficient, mirage-making brains can imagine.

   Hope is not a thing with feathers. It is a thing completely and utterly outside our caste system of notions and concepts. Its picture has never ever appeared in the gilded corridors of hierarchy, its image has never ever been a cheesecake pin-up on a glossy cover. Hope is a featherless cry, a vamp that clothes itself in light.

   I cannot recover time. But as a writer, I am plagued to try. It is a diseased and fevered quest, also a happy and self-actualizing one. It is many things. I am many things. The imagination is a cosmic millipede with an unaccountable siege of legs. It is a cosmic millipede with hallowed pillars for legs and moon-disc lanterns for eyes. That is imagination.

   There is always something to mourn. We know this. There is always something to praise. We know this too. Mourning and praise, beauty and sadness. These are the cornerstones of life, of reality, of living. Inseparable tandems that cannot be bested, ignored, exempted, forgotten. They are the lighted kernels of omnipresence, the fibrous ravels. It doesn’t matter what you believe or how you believe or who you believe. Mourning and praise, beauty and sadness, will always be with you as teachers, guides, lovers, catalysts, celebrants, fledglings. Not only can you not step in the same river twice, but you also can never be the same person who steps in that river.

   One thing we cannot recover is time. And yet writers, consciously or un, set themselves this impossible task, this grail’s quest, because a sense of purpose dictates our place within our own stories, within the context of a larger narrative.

   In the end, it will have been like moving sand from one hand to another, alternating grains between palms in a sort of meditative game or hypnotic dance.

   In the summer the sand is warm. In the winter the sand is cold. Sometimes a strong wind will blow the sand out of your hands. Other times you will wet the sand and turn it into mud.

   All of this and other phenomena will occur. The sand is guaranteed to slip through your mortal fingers, giving you an opportunity to mourn and praise. Beauty and sadness is your birthright, and a grievous gateway to amen.

Photo by Josef Sudek

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For the Love of Craft

Inside the Writer’s Studio, or, What Lives in the Drawer.

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No One Dreams In Color

Completed draft of my sixth novel: No One Dreams in Color.

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Brooklyn State of Mind

For anyone interested in tuning into my 11/12 reading of No Man’s Brooklyn for the SOMOS Literary Salon, below is the link to a recorded version of the event.

No Man’s Brooklyn

NO MAN’S BROOKLYN: From the valentine boneyards of working-class Brooklyn, comes a tale of first love, lost innocence, tragedy, and healing. Daniel Trovato, having left his native Bensonhurst years ago to start a new life in L.A., is recently sober and enjoying cult success through his Sworn Witness series of graphic novels. When he receives word that his childhood love, Anya, has died from an overdose, he is compelled to return to the “old neighborhood.” It is there that he will walk through the ghostly twilight of an unfinished past, and revisit both the romantic lore and shadow life of his youth. The enduring torch he’s carried for Anya, “the girl from nowhere,” who was found in a trash can and adopted by a Russian family; the hazy circumstances of his mother’s suicide when he was fourteen; glacial estrangement from his father; the street-and-concrete beats and rhythms of an urban boyhood. Ultimately, No Man’s Brooklyn is about the mythic journey we take to meet our core self, and a lyrical testament to the words of Dylan Thomas: “The memories of childhood have no order, and no end.”

Image by Anthony Distefano

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Live Reading: No Man’s Brooklyn

In conjunction with National Prose Month (November), and as part of the SOMOS Reading Series, I will be reading from my novel, No Man’s Brooklyn, via Zoom. Q & A to follow the reading.

Friday, November 12th @ 5:30pm (MT).

Zoom link

Meeting ID: 575 758 0081
Passcode: SOMOS

 

From the valentine boneyards of working-class Brooklyn, comes a tale of first love, lost innocence, tragedy, and healing. Daniel Trovato, having left his native Bensonhurst years ago to start a new life in L.A., is recently sober and enjoying cult success through his Sworn Witness series of graphic novels. When he receives word that his childhood love, Anya, has died from an overdose, he is compelled to return to the “old neighborhood.” It is there that he will walk through the ghostly twilight of an unfinished past, and revisit both the romantic lore and shadow life of his youth. The enduring torch he’s carried for Anya, “the girl from nowhere,” who was found in a trash can and adopted by a Russian family; the hazy circumstances of his mother’s suicide when he was fourteen; glacial estrangement from his father; the street-and-concrete beats and rhythms of an urban boyhood. Ultimately, No Man’s Brooklyn is about the mythic journey we take to meet our core self, and a lyrical testament to the words of Dylan Thomas: “The memories of childhood have no order, and no end.”

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Solitude

Sometimes

there is no sound

more lonely

and beautiful

than that of a pen

scratching upon a page

with a world of silence

as your neutral accomplice.

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Waves

At the faltering edge,

where possibility

meets a stolen glance,

and guilt whispers

discreetly to us

the manner in which

we must transgress,

we traded breath

for flame,

and burned through

every last vestige

of decency,

beneath our bodies

shameless lengths.

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Fly by Night

Longing

does not require a precedent,

or even a known catalyst.

It is, in its purest form,

the solvent call of homesickness,

which is why our hearts,

in their cause and breaking,

claim the smallest birds as stars,

and the longest flights as rememberance.

Image by Heather Ross

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There Was a Time

Coiled

within the echo

and ceremony of longing,

I tremble between memory’s

flitting tease

of my belly

and hers,

how they almost touched,

erring a slow burn course

by which the word

made flesh

could stalk itself,

from a favored distance.

Image by Heather Ross

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Directions Home

Excerpt from No One Dreams in Color, a novel-in-progress.

Bob Dylan, Carl Jung and Leonard Cohen walk into a bar in heaven…

Dylan was dressed like a tramp clown, wearing a battered calico vest, baggy trousers, and a dusty bowler. He carried a rusty harmonica.

Jung was decked out in a double-breasted dark suit, with a bright yellow handkerchief folded squarely into the breast-pocket of his suit-jacket. He carried a small black leather notebook.

Cohen was wearing a long blue raincoat. He carried nothing.

Dylan, drunk and blowzy, falls off his barstool and hits the sawdusty floor hard. Ow, he grimaces. Then he raises his head slightly, brings his harmonica to his lips, squeezes out a few bluesy bars, and lets his head fall back to the floor.

   Jung, perched on his barstool, asks Dylan what he sees from down there.

   Stars, Dylan responds on beat. Lots and lots of stars.

   Interesting, Jung says, and writes something down in his small black notebook.

   Cohen falls off his stool next, wanting to imitate Dylan. Or make Dylan feel better, less alone.

   Cohen lies on his back, side by side with Dylan. Cohen’s nose sticks out. As does Dylan’s. It’s hard to tell whose nose is longer, more formidable.

   What do you see down there, Jung asks Cohen.

   Dreams, Cohen responds with a small smile, a child’s guilty pleasure of a smile.

   No, no, not dreams, Cohen amends. Birds. I see birds. Lots and lots of birds. All different colors.

   Interesting, Jung says, and writes something down in his small black notebook.

   God, having given Lucifer the night off, is tending bar. He asks Jung if he intends on falling off this stool. Jung says no. He plans on staying upright.

   God smiles. Jung quickly replaces his spectacles with a pair of dark shades, shielding his eyes form God’s thousand suns smile.

   God comes out from behind the bar. He picks up Bob Dylan, places his bowler back on his head, and seats him on his barstool. Then God does the same for Leonard Cohen.

   What are you drinking, boys, God asks.

   Dylan, whose head is wobbling, as if several screws in his neck have come loose, says to God—You haven’t got any eyes.

   You’ve been drinking, Mr. Dylan, God says.

   Yes, Dylan agrees, rising rubber-legged from his stool, index upraised. Very astute observation, barkeep . . . it’s true, I have been drinking, but your eyes . . . what the hell happened to your eyes? Did you lose your eyes? Did you never have eyes? Never ever?

   Dylan belches into a cupped hand. Then he plays a few bluesy bars on his harmonica. He opens his mouth, as if about to sing, but nothing comes. He has forgotten the words, or they him.

   God, towel-wiping a beer mug, responds—I have eyes, Mr. Dylan, you just can’t see them. You’ve been drinking.

   You mean to say, when I drink, eyes disappear? They just, poof, go away.

   Dylan claps Leonard Cohen on the shoulder.

   Leonard, old boy, what do you have to say about all this? Does the bartender have eyes, or does he not?

   Cohen gazes, slightly askance, in the direction of the bartender, of God.

   I can’t see a damned thing, Cohen says.

   What do you mean, Dylan presses.

   I mean, there’s no on there. No barkeep. So if there’s no barkeep, then it stands to reason that the barkeep has no eyes.

   So then you agree with me that the barkeep is eyeless?

   Cohen cradles his chin in his hand and considers Dylan’s branch of reasoning. He then proceeds to undo the belt sinching his raincoat. The two sides of the raincoat part, revealing that Cohen is completely naked beneath the raincoat. Naked, and projecting a radiant swath of light from the six-pointed star branded just above his navel.

   What do you think, Cohen grins, modeling his light.

   Jung, who has put his dark shades back on, is fiercely scribbling in his small black notebook.

   Please close your raincoat, Leonard, Dylan says. You’re getting light everywhere.

   Cohen sinches his raincoat, cutting off the light.

   Dylan belches, moist and metallic, then slaps his hands against his thighs, and requests—May I have another, barkeep?

   Sure, Mr. Dylan, God assents.

   Please, call me Robert.

   Here you go, Robert, God sets a tumbler of whiskey onto the counter.

   You, my dear fellow, are a bartender after my own poor broken heart. Cheers!

   Leonard Cohen, and Carl Jung, who has taken a break from writing in his notebook, watch Dylan ferociously gulp down his whiskey, and then fell off his stool, resounding with a thud on the sawdusty floor.

   Now what do you see, Jung practically shouts, as if Dylan is deaf or faraway.

   Dylan mumbles incoherently. There are X’s branded onto his drawn eyelids. God once again comes out from behind the counter, picks Dylan up, and sets him on the barstool. Dylan slumps forward, his face pasted to the counter.

   Job, just back from running food, looks at God, shakes his head, and says—Why do you keep serving him? And picking him up?

   God smiles, his entire eyeless face aflame in brilliant light, and responds—Because, Job, who am I to judge?

   Hallelujah, Cohen says, raising his glass.

   Jung resumes writing in his small black notebook.

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