The Light, Patti Smith, Love, Eternity and Antechambers

The light really is beautiful out here on the pacific coast side of San Francisco. The clouds blow in, grey and pink against a darkening fall sky, and the sun as it rises or sets shines through them with a soft promising glow. Promising what I don’t quite know and almost dread to think. Promises never add up to much, do they? Despite our better intentions, forever never ends up being what we advertise it to be. What is forever? A handful of Christmases, a thimbleful of happiness? A scattering of birthdays with handmade cards that sit there mocking infinity from the cold comfort of my old notebooks? A whispered ‘sorry’ in the ear of a baby who never asked for any of it anyhow, but just lay there, helplessly expecting love and forever and always and comfort and received not quite enough to get their fill? Forever for humans is a mockery; wishful thinking at best. At worst forever is an outright lie, that means only ‘until you get something out of this exchange of fluids, or necessity, or emotion, and then I am gone like Errol Flynn’s wig on a windy day.

No, forever means very little to me. I don’t dare look back some days. Some days I feel like writing and so I stop, make a cup of tea, stare out the window of this rather smart apartment in a sickeningly nice part of town and wonder how it all ended up here. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for what I have. I am grateful for the shower, the lack of mice, the beautiful views, the proximity of the stately Golden Gate Bridge. I am grateful for my beautiful Boy. I am grateful I lived and loved and for all those days when something happened when I spoke to another human being and sparks flew. I am grateful for chubby hands in mine, one on each side, down N_____ Dori in Tokyo, with my heart full of so much love returned that for one moment in that Tanabata summer firework festival joy, I felt like I didn’t totally suck as a human being, as a mother, as a women, as an agent of love and light. If you listen carefully enough you might still hear on a quiet still night my blackhole soul scream for a redemption that it fears it will never reach. Oh for an Ikebukero Sunshine City afternoon in the early 2000s, with no money, two black eyes, a large dose of feeling cheated, but two beautiful little children who were my little gang and that I enclosed in my orbit like a burning out sun. I was loved! I was needed! Now I am fading away. Used up and hollow. These are reedy days. These are waiting room hours. This is the antechamber to my last incarnation on this planet. This is, my friends, if not quite the end, then something adjacent to it. It is sad, but man, the light is nice out here.

There are very few people that could ever talk to me about music and culture and books and the stuff that dreams are made of. Could or would? I don’t know. It just isn’t some people’s bag. They don’t start getting excited by a 1979 Patti Smith performance when Rimbaud/Patti stares into the camera, challenging the Future like an artist who is about to rake in the Free Money, but for that second is more concerned with the skill and the inspiration and the perfection of her muse. They don’t cry over Lucinda Williams, and make outlandish threats towards various country artists that they would never carry through on, but were still alarming anyhow. I am not saying I miss it. I am too tired to give anything of myself to anyone else ever again. I think what I am trying to communicate is, that when it was there, it was good, and I am glad it happened that way.

Something happened when I got into that taxi to come to San Francisco. I gave up on forever. I embraced my impermanence. I gave up the fight to control how this story went, whilst still fighting with every fiber of my being to hold on for as long as I could. This last year has weakened my grip on that precipice, loosened my clasp on that life-line. A combination of being unwell, and extreme uncertainty over my future in this country where I am safer, and a lot of worries about my housing situation, combined with all that trauma and loss to send me to the bench. I no longer wanted to be put in the game, coach. A stray bird flies across my window. I have a cup of rapidly cooling tea, a few non-gluten, no egg, no dairy, no nuts waffles, which still approximate a waffle. It is like the emperor’s new clothes in breakfast goods form. I don’t know what it is made out of. I drizzle my date syrup on them and wish I had a microwave to put that cup of tea into. I have clearly given up if I am considering microwaving tea instead of just making a fresh cup that is not the temperature of the pacific ocean in the cold rays of the early morning sun. I am distracted and diffused.

I am lost at sea with my tea and my waffles that are made of nothing and my laptop that heats up my thighs as I tap away wondering if that bird ever lands and if it does, does it miss the air? Does it long to fly? Does it need some wind under its wings? Or is it happy to have safely reached the ground, safe in the knowledge that it can fly if it wants to? Why do I even care about the bird? It is not as if I will ever have wings or know what it is like to catch a thermal by the fuzzy sand-dunes that line San Francisco’s coastal side.

Nothing can fly forever. Nothing that has ever flown is happy on the ground. Nothing that has ever loved and been loved can be happy with looking at that love in the rear view mirror and being content that it once existed.

The clouds have let me down, and settled in a low cumulus formation that scrapes the chimneys and kisses rooftops. They are that ugly grey white that fails to show off the light to its best advantage, but the sky is oh so blue. That California blue that should be a State Symbol of some kind. Come to California! See our blue skies! Myself, I prefer the dark shadows of palm trees at dusk. I prefer that absence of light, knowing that it will come around once again, sooner or later.

Patti growls at the screen, gurning happily and drawing her energy from the crowd she is controlling like a wave.

The foghorn is silent. Patti’s red-wine grin shines like a lighthouse, leading me back to commune with the dead and listen to the damned, and fight with the ghosts of writers past with the nature of eternity. Let’s smash the stele and haul the transient nets in from the water. I have no need for any funerary desire to catalogue the deeds of my youth and the failures of my present. I want to move like a wave, like a crowd, like a feeling out into the Californian light and sparkle for a moment on the ocean before I sink like a sword or a stone into the big dark deep below.

Leave a Reply