“To bring a work to ‘a conclusion,’ as Picasso said, is like putting an end to a bull – to kill it.”
from the diaries…
Woke this morning with a particular feeling. I’ve never been one to believe people could name their emotions or feelings. The best we can say are parts.
Words like a parts catalog: indicating pieces and components, but never the working, not the operative whole. Machines are full of mystery. What’s hidden.
They say you cannot know. As you age. Cannot know if it’s the end, exactly. Perhaps they’re right – I’ve surely been surprised in middle age, believing everything was lost, doomed, downhill and erosive, some slow and steady depleting – and then WOW! Who could have known or imagined! This luck, this place, this woman or experience! Perhaps. Perhaps. But maybe we do. Maybe we really know, once twilight settles. I’ve never trusted “them” – the “experts,” the “scholars” and “scientists,” “politicians” or “leaders” or “doctors,” the “speakers for” and “authorities”…i.e. privileged observers (an illusion or delusion or both – no one ever gets to be ‘outside’ existence, any more than any other).
What with Laramie gone, and a birthday round the corner, and language just a parts catalog – my experience.
I woke with a particular feeling. That things were near their ends. That I am nearing ends. Work, love, breathing, will. That the stories I’m involved with are dwindling in pages, thin and wearing out. These ‘particular feelings,’ “somehow we just know,” kinds of things: lay down, close your eyes, cross your hands over your chest and hope things are in order. Or not. Depends on inclination and values, I suppose. What one cares about, or for. Perhaps. “They” say you cannot know.
I’ve been surprised. Even wildly. Much I’ve never been able to believe and yet it seems: my children – engendered by me and of such promise; this beautiful woman that loves me; that I’m still alive. One never knows (is what they say). So who knows what? And how do “they” know that?
I think I do, what with Laramie gone, and my faulty parts catalog, and this particular way that I feel. I’ve worked too long and too much. Tried too failingly. Never quite trusted or believed. Never found my worth. Maybe now I know. Maybe now I’m certain of something.
The end is coming – for me – always concerned and consternated by beginnings – how to start, where to set out – and now, here (nowhere) the path, it dwindles away. What have I done? What did I mean to? What did I wish? Why didn’t I?
I wanted to write a scholarly work about something that truly obsessed me. Something I’d spent my life searching. Something that likely doesn’t even exist, but no matter – because Scrabble, because poems, because science. Unscramble (by scrambling) the letters – you’ll see: it can almost be said, almost anything – existent or not – almost. Parts constructing strange wholes and plugged in, eventual malfunctions, repairs – and yet “no matter, try again, fail again, fail better” (Sam Beckett – I’ve read and I’ve taught far too long).
And one solid work of fiction and some poems. That’s all. That’s what I wanted to do.
So I studied, and traveled and loved. Raised children, made music, pushed learning and literature publicly, worked and worked, and drank and drank. Took in stragglers and strays, made it work where I could, doubted and doubted, desired. Everything but what I wanted – that’s how you perpetuate desire.
I woke today with a particular feeling, though “they” say you cannot know. Cannot know for certain, that things are yet to surprise you, yet to get better. I will not argue. Perhaps. But what with Laramie gone, and all that’s undone, maybe I know, maybe we do. Maybe we’re aware when our endings are coming. Who could know? Who could tell us?
My ends are coming.
I can’t go on.
I’ll go on.
(still more from Beckett)
Related: Alias Harlequin
6 thoughts on “Alias Thinks Back…On…”
This brings me to tears. Because it is Beautiful. Because you articulated something I woke with also. Thank you.
Very powerful. I know these feelings all to well. But nevertheless and not withstanding … I was blown away by this writing. And I tell myself now … not to worry about what might have been. Never too late to begin.
One more Spring. One less Spring. Who’s to know. Remember … what remains of us is Love. (last line is Philip Larkin)
Great to hear from you…
I have come to see my own ending as not such a friendly event, but as a thief in the night. I think I have been taught to live for the next life and to idealize it. I’m not so sure now that that’s such a good idea. A lovely piece you have written here, dear Nathan.
Thank you Lise!