(slippery)

I’ve always cried easily (although never literally at the drop of a hat, in case you were wondering). I went through a couple of hard years where I never skipped a day, half a day, a quarter day, of crying. I don’t cry quite that often any more, but I probably still cry several times a week, several times a day on bad days. Or good days. The crying can be because of good things too. Crying, for me, is the more or less inevitable result of feeling things. I’m actually not quite sure how people prevent themselves from crying, other than preventing themselves from feeling. It sounds challenging. It’s just not me, what can I say.

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halfway down the river where no river ever was

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People who don’t cry easily, I’ve found, tend to become extremely alarmed by crying people. Sometimes offended. Sometimes angry. A lot of people, I guess, think that you’re crying on purpose to make them feel bad? Or make them do something they don’t want to do? When I was a child I heard the phrase “crocodile tears” a lot. There’s a lot of fear in that phrase. The idea, I guess, is that crocodiles don’t really cry, they just pretend to in order to lure you in close and then eat you. Wow. I guess crying is pretty scary. Well, it is salt water. Potentially corrosive.

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they close my eyes to remember me away

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My father, when he was alive, cried easily too. I know a lot of people never see their fathers cry but I can’t count the number of times I saw my father cry. He was a sad man but, like me, he didn’t cry only because he was sad.¬†Feelings just kind of flooded him — I’m guessing here, extrapolating from my own experience, and also from what I observed about my father — and overflowed from the tear ducts. Good feelings, bad feelings. They’re all the same, really, an excitation of the nervous system.

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mere anarchy a memory

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Our nervous systems are, were, a little off-kilter. I can’t imagine how much harder this condition must have been for a man born in 1939 (boys don’t cry!) than for a woman born in 1969. My father spent a lot of time in valiant battle with his nervous system without quite understanding, until very late in his life, that that was what he was doing. When the tripwire of your nervous system is pulled it feels like you’re either dying or losing your mind or both, but since with the remaining rational portion of your brain you can (sort of) tell that this is not really what is happening, you believe that you must attempt to conceal this feeling from the rest of the world.

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We emptied out a bag, a box, a bowl. A brain.

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The fierce concentration that is required to pretend, much of the time, that you are not feeling the very powerful and terrible things that you are feeling tends to result, regrettably, in one’s appearing intensely irritable and being nearly impossible to live with. My father was nearly impossible and when I was a child, an adolescent, the fact that I fully realized how much I was like him only made me more enraged that he was so crabby and moody and difficult and obnoxious. My rage didn’t keep me from loving him, however. And now that I think back on it, it may have been that crying, all those bitter, salty tears I saw him shed, that made it possible for me to understand that he wasn’t mean so much as overwhelmed by his feelings.

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carting out the slippery remains of remembrance

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we’re on Cape Cod and my hair, attacked by salt and wind and waves and sun, is a terrible mess, so my father takes out his comb and goes to work on it. if it were my mother combing, or anyone else really, I’d be kicking and spitting because I hate people doing things to my hair, it hurts and I have to stand still and I feel like I’m going to jump out of my skin. but somehow my father knows and has always known exactly how to comb my hair so it doesn’t hurt at all. he’s very careful, in this one small way, not to hurt me. I relax and close my eyes while he silently removes every knot, every tangle. for these fifteen minutes our minds are exactly where our bodies are and it feels like they might be there forever. combing the salt out.

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somebody’s jesus just like this scar

——

May 20: 1-2 (Left behind)

the crying far away
of someone left behind
sandhill cranes at dawn

faint pencil marks
in the margins
the book you left behind

I “wrote” both of these in bed this morning, in my head, while I was barely awake. I could hear the cranes, the mournful bass underlying the rest of the dawn chorus. I don’t know where the pencil marks came from, maybe a dream. After I got up and wrote them down, the two haiku seemed connected to me and I couldn’t figure out why; then I realized they both contain the phrase “left behind.” My conscious will be interrogating my subconscious about that for the rest of the day.