Hold out your hand, palm up. Now curl your fingers over to touch your palm. I’m not even asking you to make a fist. There came a morning when I could not stand upright. Seeing me bent, and the wretched look on my face, she became somehow offended: “What’s wrong?” she asked, with a tone of annoyance. I was stunned. “I’m in pain,” I said. “My back.” It is a familiar discussion. I should get a massage. With what money? I should see a chiropractor; my insurance will definitely pay for that. Really? Okay, where is my policy packet? Where did we put it? We don’t know? Because I can’t look online; there is a technical problem and Molina has already told me they cannot help. And this is already known, already said many times before. And it is a handy little circle for anyone not me: Did you know people’s eyesight stops degrading after they get glasses? One prescription is all anyone ever needs. No, really, it’s not like people suddenly forgot something. But, yes, when I say I need new glasses, I’m asked why. And then the same people who doubt my eyesight degrades, such that they are puzzled by the idea that I might, after seven or eight years, need new glasses, suddenly think my health insurance will pay one hundred percent of the cost for this something that I don’t need. What it comes down to is that I need the family Costco card, and maybe a ride, and the answer is that nobody wants to outright say no, but I really should have learned to stop asking by now. A chiropractor? I don’t know if my policy covers that; we already know I don’t know. Which is the point of pretending we don’t know I don’t know. Because what I’m asking for is not exotic, or deep tissue. It’s a little bit of human contact, something I have done for other people many times over the course of these same years, and the answer is simply that nobody wants to come right out and tell me so explicitly, “No, I want you to be in pain.” Let’s not start on relationships; long before we utterly fell apart, my last partner simply refused because it was too stressful to help. For a little while, my daughter would walk on my back for me, but then my mother decided to start telling her, “Don’t do that. You’re too big. You’re too heavy.” So it has been over years since an adult has tried to help me with back pain. Oh, wait, there was the gift certificate for a massage, and while a scandal would later bring down the parlor chain, what was actually discouraging was the stress of pissing off the people who ran the place by using a gift certificate already paid for when I was too poor to afford the regular service subscription they wanted to sell me. There really isn’t anything to wreck a massage quite like upsetting your masseur by being having to repeatedly explain you are poor. Nor is there anything quite like trying to explain to those close to you that this sort of thing is discouraging; I don’t know why, but people around me think it’s a thrilling thing to have to tell people you don’t have enough money to buy what they want to sell you. But it’s been fifteen years since even loved ones have been willing to help. It’s just a little bit of touch, a little bit of pressure, just the slightest bit of relief. But it’s been over fifteen years since an adult human being has been willing to do anything to help other than tell me how to spend money that I don’t have. Hold out your hand, palm up. Now curl your fingers over to touch your palm. I’m not even asking you to make a fist. I’m not asking you to drive deep into my flesh, nor even to touch the skin. What I am asking is that you please help me. And for whatever reason, the answer remains, no. So, unable to stand erect, confronted as if I am committing some offense for not looking bright and chipper enough for not having slept as a result of writhing agony, there was nothing left to say, except, “I’m in pain!” And I cracked, faltered, and begged: Hold out your hand, palm up. Curl your fingers. There’s this thing people do. I’ve seen them do it, before. And you put your hand on their back and move it around lightly. Really, I’ve done it for other people, before, too. My God, it’s just a little relief, please, I don’t understand why nobody will help. It’s been over ten years, and nobody will help. Please. I’m … in … pain. And for all the humiliation of that plaintive, desperate tone, the answer left no room for doubt: “Don’t be silly,” she said. “Of course they will help. You just need to ask.” And then she turned her back and walked away. And I honestly do not know what combination of words will work. I mean, if all I need do is ask, then what kind of idiot am I that in fifteen years I have been unable to get anyone, friend, family, intimate partner, to help me with this pain. Really. I just don’t understand.
Baudelairean Satanism.There, I said it.[#nevermind]
Could somebody please explain to me why the apparent functional opposite of not making things worse can only ever be doing nothing at all?Seriously: If the point is to stop saying things that you know will only make the situation worse, then why is the only thing you can come up with to declare, “Fine, I just won’t say anything at all, then.”How many times are you going to admit that you are incapable of doing anything other than making a problematic circumstance worse? And the thing is, it’s not a matter of acknowledging error or even complication; if you really cannot understand, after so many repetitions of this disruption, that all you need to do is stop saying and doing things that you know other people disdain and have expressed to you they do not appreciate, then what the hell is your problem? Quite literally, when told to stop behaving in a particular manner that makes things worse, the only available response is apparently, “Fine, I just won’t say anything at all, then.”What? How is anyone supposed to listen to people who are not listening to themselves?
Watch people never learn. This part is simple: You’re in the way. But they are never in the way, right? Except the cat thinks you are. Well, they’re just not in the way. None of this would really mean anything, either, except in those moments when you hear someone trying to order a kitten around by repeating the same three or four words in grating falsetto that any observer with line of sight would notice only makes the cat wince. If you want the cat to come in from the garage, then don’t stand in the doorway and angrily explain why the cat shouldn’t be in the garage. If you want someone to tempt the cat back into the house with sound, such as food, then get out of the way. Don’t literally stand there in the way and wonder why he isn’t passing through. Meanwhile, the house is flooding with cold air, including the lower portion where the heat system does not work properly, and this, too, would be something to not even notice, except when finally walking away from the open door in disgust and complaining that it’s cold in the house.
There is a certain futility in announcing anything, especially when there is nothing to announce. Still, two poems in two days and an actual effort to retain them feels like starting something. Here’s a joke, though, that isn’t actually a joke: National Poetry Month, having just ended, managed to remind of something apparently forgotten.
At some point in my nearly forty-five years I forgot that I am a poet.
No, really, I have no idea how this happened.
Except I probably do.
I don’t know, I should probably be embarrassed; but, y’know, whatever.
Why do people so desperately need mysteries?
Still, that is not the right question; one can easily see the potential for offense, but there is also a threshold at which it does not matter because someone, somewhere, will be offended by the merest whiff that their humanity is somehow imperfect. But if the comparative question arises that the gas bill is considerably less this year than it was last, and what we really want to know is why, how is it that the most obvious factors—weather and temperature, devices used, and unit cost, just for starters—must necessarily remain mysterious?
There comes a point at which one is frustrated at the lack of actual information about a chart and carefully-devised statistics that hide one particular bit of data: How much does the gas cost per measured salable unit? If we are paying X per Y volume, apparently both X and Y must remain mysterious as we discuss why the gas bill is lower this year than the same period last.
Wait, wait, wait: Must? Who says, “must”?
Either the gas company or the consumer; it is unclear which. Because in the moment when one exclaims, “Why is the one thing we don’t get, here, the cost per unit?” of course the answer is going to be, “I don’t know, it’s probably in all the other pages.” That is, the pages not simply thrown in the recycle bin without reading, but also determinedly torn up for security purposes.
The question remains: What is the proper question? That much, to be certain, remains mysterious.
So, there is this thing people do, sometimes, and perhaps it is perfectly human behavior, except when it is so clearly statistically deviantα. Or maybe it’s just something about perception. Sometimes we exist in an environment where simple things are impossible: I am writing something; my coffee cup is empty; if you wish to take odds, no, I cannot manage to go refill my coffee cup without someone demanding that I stop what I am doing and undertake another task. And perhaps that summary sounds a bit pointed, but when you can watch someone get up and start searching the room for something to give you, they make some sort of point: Here is something that looks like it has a deadline in about four weeks; you need to stop what you are doing and do this thing right now.
And if you ask about this phenomenon, the one thing people don’t do is explain why they can’t leave you to what you’re doing; indeed, very often they come right out and—what, confess? admit? acknowledge? chide?—say the one has nothing to do with the other.
α There is, of course, a recursive dive into the question acknowledging that statistical deviance, real or perceived, is itself perfectly human; this is, to the one, a seemingly legitimate existential consideration, and, to the other, a nihilistic rabbit hole.
Ambition is obligation.
No, really, this is hardly any manner of genius, but at the same time it seems worth noting explicitly. Call it some sort of multiphasic something or other. Still, as so much happens, perhaps I ought to write it down, yet the act is laborious and stylistic precisely, at least in part, because of ambition; and the most direct address of labor and futility only amounts to greater, or, at least, other and more complex, obligation according to reframed ambition.
And say what we will about desire and suffering, but ambition, in function, is obligation.
Frameworks are as frameworks will; that life is more than mere utility of accident is an article of faith. Our futility is our own choice to attend the word.
Anatomical Futility is the name of my . . . ¿sixteenth? . . . yeah, something like that . . . next punk band.
A reflection on anatomical impossibility:
“I gave it the ol’ college try—well, you know, everything short of binging to blackout so someone else could cram it in for me—but, no, it ain’t happening.”