If you just keep quiet, it will stay like this forever.
I feel certain of it now.
-- The Mountain Goats, “Noche del Guajolote”
I suppose there is indeed a perfect text and the writer’s job is to struggle toward it, hoping that at best he will manage a kind of approximation of what he ought to have written, the way an umpire can call a strike on a pitch that’s in the neighborhood of the plate – an inch or two high or low, outside or in, of the strike zone – the batter’s knees buckling when he fears the curveball or slider will hit him but instead arcs back over the plate and the umpire contorts his limbs into an approximation of the martial artist’s deadly attack, while the fans groan or erupt, depending on whether their team’s player has thrown the strike or taken it.
And these the ingredients in the bitter recipe of tortured romantic ardor: mother, child, and angel; pulse, twist, and wretch; terror and longing, prayer and regret. Home, lost. Home, alas. Home, oh terrifying angel. Home, oh mother to the man become brother of the chosen, unchosen himself, the terrifying angel wrecked and torn. That’s all Rilke, I suppose, locked in the chains from which he cannot release himself.
I will say this about my eye troubles: I have come to understand the precise ways in which our vessels and nerves are nothing but vines wrapped around muscle and bone, shaped according to sinew and skeleton, how a sharp stitch in the eye can stab not simply at spine and scrotum and bowel but at the ball of a foot and the cord of a finger, at temple and ankle and crook of the arm, knee, or neck. Thus, I suppose, we see not merely with our eyes but our entire selves. How else would we detect the dull beast squatting on his matted, leathery haunches in the dark field behind our home?
I suppose there are certain things you can’t take a picture of, like the yellow orchid in the west-facing kitchen window at sunset. Oh Susanna, don’t you dare cry for me.
Fourteen years ago, in Spain, in a stone castle dangling above a magnificent cliff, and in Wales, among the gorgeous ruins of Tintern Abbey and on the rain-soaked hills, and at thirteen, seated for hours against an oak tree in Lake Vista, and on the Lake Pontchartrian seawall at seventeen, and at dawn, at my desk, more mornings these days than not, and seated driving in my car. There. There. There. I suppose there is indeed some perfect moment to be captured, but in what manner? At what expense?
I suppose I assumed that by my fiftieth year I would have a firm grasp of what appears to be going on with, you know, life, love, suffering – the whole lot of it. Not joy, though. I don’t believe I ever expected to attempt such a difficult calculation.
If I keep quiet, I suppose, it will stay like this forever. My good eye. My bad. The knot on the tendon of my right hand. The impossible beauty of the late afternoon sun in the west-facing window. Rise, rise, rise.