The Traceby Mark Rudman
You mean I hadn't gotten back to you?
I told you I liked them, I know that.
Up all night. Conception.
Going to pare Onegin down to Bressonian gestures and physical contact and the passing on of the things
who are not
alone, who are
blessed by the fingerprints and the hand's warmth, and to hell
with some cop bursting in out of a noir,
bagging the crystal goblets, and then
as one running to reveal that some
revelation is at hand, arrives back
at the white house whose native gray is taking
darkness is enhanced by the shadows of the wild trees the wind blows
in the direction of the house,
and they move like puppets, the leaves, in silent consort, in a more orderly way than you or I could walk across
a football field that's just been combed so that no cleat gets
caught in some unseen slice in the ground
like a divot
made by a nonexistent, far narrower, golf
club than exists at present, at
present, one more time and it might sink in,
as it does to Tatiana in Pushkin's
poem/novel/ novel/poem letter in verse interspersed with narrative
why can't he stay on track?
And he comes back: why have they cut the rails back and left us no track
for a train to deliver us in this outback before we're all dizzy from the cracked
carriage rocking and creating over innumerable ruts.
Letters are exchanged between the would be lovers.Desperate for sex and romance, love
is as far off as that planet behind that planet I can make out late
at night when the cumulus has packed up for the night and—
dissipated without a trace.
Except the trace.
Not the one that's fallen into the mind's immemorial vaults.
The trace. That
can revel only in
something that wavers, is never
still yet shows no trace of rest-
lessness, but that could be traced
to the soughing of the wind in the thick, quasi-virginal. woods,
where both the locals and those who come here to—
remove themselves physically from distraction
never seem to find the time, like many of our parents,
who die without making good on the promises that've dogged our heels, shadowed
us, our entire lives, while we were dying to know about who they were that they couldn't let
out of its—cage—?or narcissitic bubble—and even now
when mom isn't around to hear a tale of infidelities
and the three sisters have wandered in the direction
of a lunch place around the corner then around the next corner then four blocks straight.
And you can't miss it,
there are always crowds of people seated at the white metal tables,
doing what they're best at...
Oh you know you know.
I guess I do the way you put it.
You're not hearing me.
I'm not alone.
You mean you're never alone because you can't endure being alone.
You're dead sure of that.
The "I" whose voice you're hearing isn't coming from me alone,
I forced myself to feel what it would feel to be you.
And I love Alec Baldwin, and the surface skate
works in his case, because he doesn't hold back,
he doesn't gauge his emotional response in terms of who
he is talking to, importance and net worth aside.
I hear you. Put it better together.
I am a numbskull but can tell from your tone
that this roast isn't personal.
It's something that pains me.
It's not a grievance set alongside what's valid in the public sector.
Which means this room, which can be visited from anywhere,
but not allowed to voyeurise in from the window.
Isn't the worst thing when you don't acknowledge that you've become a willing pawn to cull favor, to save your own ass or cash in on some cheap success,
There's a precise moment in time when the straighforward lie
is shorn of charm, sheared, becomes—deformed—
like one of Dante's contortionist friezes, for the world
to be revealed it has to be seen as is, and
rather than set that scene in hell
I'd rather point to one in the future
squeezed out of a thousand instances
I myself have witnessed, I myself have seen,
I myself, if I had to, am in touch with the friends
who witnessed the same doubled over, twisted
stanchions of ice, ice that runs from fire
hydrant higher to higher than my eyes high,
the deep cracks visible to the passers by,
the pockets of filth, the underworld unformed ooze
trapped in a packet monolith of ice
every few feet, and in front of the Cafe
Dante off Bleeker and McDougal,
and on the street like a blockade.
"His look drained the stones."
So, tell, I'm ready for the worst, I don't care what you've done
to cause yourself to recoil like some outcast of the islands out
of Conrad; what.
You wouldn't understand.
How do you know?
Because I know.
Because you're out of your mind!
You've dangled this promise over our heads since
we were far too young to know what your somber allusion
to who you "really were" and what "the facts of life" still are,
and time and again have lured me to your apartment or this beach
town where there's no one to interfere, not even the whale you found
gasping, having run aground, because your coowners voted to erect
a jetty to protect their property...
(That got a response.)
"You can't tamper with nature.
It will always come back with twice
the force of the breakers they built
the jetty to keep back."
(I stay quiet.)
"The whale's running aground is just a sign.
Of where we're headed."
"Which is another reason you want to...die."
"I don't WANT to die. I want to live—a life.
And I can't, I'm shot, my balance
is gone, and after a few level weeks on Lithium
I don't feel real."
"Something mechanical about it?"
"Yeah, like keeping someone who can't see anything to live for--
no offense to you, but you aren't exactly 'around,' I mean you have a life,
and a wife, and the baby."
"A boy now."
"So he's a boy now."
"Is it like a wheel that turns and with every revolution
whispers your worst mistakes into your ear?"
"And no one else can hear."
"And it doesn't—"
"Never, it never stops, unless I'm in the presence of my son or my daughters or your lovely..."
"Go ahead and cry. You used to cry cry and cry."
"I can't. I can't stay. I can't leave.
Just accept it, I'm dying.
Forget medical diagnoses, they're for the drones
in Miami who line up at 4 for the Early Bird Special
so they can eat all they want for $4.99."
"And so what?"
"So what nothing."
"I'll come back."
"I'll be gone. It's all set: Miami.
There's no life among the old there,
and they have nothing to talk about
except their ailments, I can't imagine
death has anything worse in store."
"I know and I..."
"There'd' be imminent operations?"
"I think so yyyyyyeeeeesssssssssss."
"So you're in perfect health except for, as it were."
"I'm sorry. You don't think I intended..."
(The three sisters enter.)
(The father continues as if in midconversation.}
"Gorgeous, I can't believe how gorgeous you've all become.
I should rejoice.
But I'm beating eaten alive, I swear, from
the inside out, and that gnawing against the rhythm of the wheel
revolving like the earth around an all but extinct star
is just too much."
(Susannah addresses the four of us .)
"I think we all know what dad is saying.
He's saying it's not enough."
I bite my tongue and repeat Blake's lines:
"you never know
what is enough
unless you know
what is more
(My sisters hear my thoughts, secrecy is hopeless.)
"Depression, Mark, is a disease."
"I'm sorry, honestly, but words like 'depression'
removed from any multitude of causes
beginning as far back as the day
when Dad was born as the first son to parents
who'd had six daughters, waiting
for the infant fucking Jesus
Rachel says, "I"m sorry too Mark, that you've found no
relief for torment about matters out of your control,
when it comes to other people, including your own son."
"I have a friend named Mark who said the same thing.
You're all right in point. How often did dad mutter
'you're right, you're right,' 'you're...absolutely right,'"—
and don't tell me you didn't want to strangle him
for playing word games with us when we're out to rescue..."
Carol says, "Rescue is one of those words he loved.
Remember the times he rescued other fishermen
whose boats had lost their power or run out of gas?
Did he ever feel more wonder in his post-working years
than when he helped another person with a problem?
I'm afraid darling that he's trying to say he has now to pay
for his failure to look inside himself too
and not become infected by the high he gets from showing
what he could have done if he'd chosen the opportunity.
(Pauses. Her voice is as tender now as it was harsh and scolding before.)
I know it pains you beyond pain
"Pain upon the point of pain…"
and language to reinvision him in this much numb,
gnawing, and demonically repetitive pain.
But you used to talk much the same way
about that Peruvian poet who died in the gutter he same
way he said he's die on Paris on a rainy
day he already remembered…something else…
the loneliness the rain the roads.
But the way he
"…wrote about: pain
isn't something you can
change unless you've been
arraigned in a mundane a
trivial underworld with no savvy friend.
Much less a guide like Virgil.
"Any handy paraphrases would
I'm more intimate with the more intimate
strained Virgil of…
"Silence, now, as Pinter would say, anything I say can only dilute
the quiet healing eloquence of my sister's voice
which has never been so direct, yet uninsistent,
firm, but at ease with, reality. I have no guilt
that I'm elated by the change in her voice, bearing, posture,
and the lighter colors of the blouse and skirt she risked
putting on on what until she spoke could have been or
already was, the worst day of our lives, together.
As for that time alone, in exile, wishing I had three sisters,
but afraid to wish for three as appealing, level-headed and
flexible as all three in different ways; and yet they raised
themselves, ultimately; but they hadn't been born
like our father with a leak in the hull he thought he could stanch
with a cigar. Now I see it: the clear vodka he drank like water,
and the water filling his soul from the ground up.
I wondered what Heraclitus meant, beyond what he meant,
with that somewhat cryptic fragment
"a dry soul is wisest and best."
And I've got it now: it's not that we can't follow a precept;
but that the precept stops just short
of where the problem, in stillness, lies,
waiting, in the desert, for the future's next installment
arriving, I hear my son call out: "Now, Dad, now!"