Tuesday, October 22, 2013
My neighbor D. is burning summer deadfall: maple branches and leaves, stalks of sunflower, pine needles from where his backyard reaches mine and (don't tell the town) a little bit of trash too. I head over to talk after hanging the laundry a couple hours later than I was supposed to (there were poems needed writing). He pours me a whiskey (Black Label) and returns to leaning on his hoe and studying flames. The sun is bright - and still enough foliage on the maples to call beautiful - but clouds are gathering like rats on corn and so the light dims and fades, eventually becoming unreliable like every other goddamned thing in this vale of tears. Yet I love the smell of smoke in autumn - it wakens something coiled deep in the brain, a memory of simplicity and comfort and - oddly - anticipation. Or is that maybe the whiskey talking? Well, something is talking, just now about cooking meat over open fires - a man's subject in my neck of the woods, which I can tell you from experience will cut itself off pretty damn fast if you happen to mention the state of your sourdough starter. It's okay. The traffic hums by a hundred away from us, everybody going somewhere and nobody getting anywhere as usual, though a couple of young redtails circling overhead serve at least a little hope the world isn't all broken. Speaking of which, my heart is broken though to be honest with you, I can't remember a time when it wasn't. Mostly, I think I'm getting tired of not being honest. I like to bake bread and don't want to keep pretending it's a poor second to venison or beef heart. And there is a woman who is not my wife for whom I want to bake. Whiskey makes you think things are possible which you keep trying to decide are not. I don't want some things to end even as I seem bent on beginning their replacements. My father always said I was a damn fool and I'm starting to see how he's maybe right. How hard is it to send her a letter that says, "hey sweetheart, want to go pick some apples and maybe do a little kissing after over cider?" Pretty goddamn hard, judging from much I think it without ever quite getting to do it. A third hawk shows up, triangulating with the others our pale gray swathe of New England sky. Watching it, I forget to turn as the wind blows and so my eyes fill with smoke and I cough and hack so hard the whiskey sloshes out of the juice glass D. poured it in, and when my eyes finally clear, and I can manage a restorative swallow, he says, "you know, you look like a man just saw a ghost," and I think - but don't say - "I am a man who is afraid he has become a ghost."