It’s been a long time since I’ve been so unhappy. A long time since being unable to muster some inner fortitude and commence with my work. A Pythagorean Traveler, a lengthy poem so close to completion, languishes atop a pile of the discarded work that once sustained and entertained me. Journals pile with an accusing air. No, not even accusing. Fading. Their creator lurks, pressing against walls, alternately traitor or just not so swaggering, flat empty. How weak I am, I tell my reflection, mourning the muse, thinking of Mother Theresa suffering for the want of the voice of Jesus. In the beginning he whispered in her small ear, breathing missions of service into her ecstatic being. Then one day his voice disappeared. Still she bore the suffering of loneliness that chipped into her monumental faith, even as she rescued the sick and dying cradled them in her arms. She stoically did her work as bidden, even when feeling herself forsaken, dead within.
In the time of the pandemic I suffer nothing save the sting of a global claustrophobia. The nomadic heart is breaking, not for want of another, but the atmosphere of elsewhere. Being on the move, touring with my band or on my own, roving from hotel to hotel, café to café. Paris, Nice, Lisbon, Berlin; drawing words, a few days of solitude by a circular lake. A morning roam with notebook in pocket, passing through a small zoo with two shivering bison, their massive heads down, an ancient sorrow written on the plane of their faces. And suddenly seven peacocks, their fans shimmering like the flowering trees in Chernobyl. Each bloom a portrait of unholy radiance, each pistil breathing the name of a child afflicted with the crystal syrup of radiation. It’s on their breakfast cake and in their atomic milk, glowing as a glass offered to a suspicious heroine.
I sit at my desk drifting toward an imagined Hitchcock scenario, watching her tread barefoot through the narrow halls, approaching a winding staircase in a filmy dressing gown.
-I am nothing, she whispers.
A Marion Cotillard kind of beauty, playing the part of Duchamp’s mistress, in silks descending the stairs, operating from the edge of ecstatic desperation. Her downward spiral is etched on a massive glass plate, broken, frozen, forever scarred.
-I could write a story for you, she laughs.
The Director steps forward.
-Don’t come closer, she says. I’ll use it I swear.
She has gone off script. It’s not a gun, nor the shape of a gun; it’s a glass of milk tainted by the liquid pollen of a radioactive wood. It’s a curving petal scented with death, illuminated by droplets of water infected by sun.
Somehow, I too have gone off script, momentarily penetrating a membrane, an entrance to a half world I know well. The modern noir. I have to remember to remove my mask in order to drink my coffee, feeling self-conscious as I do, as if committing a small offense that I will pay for later. I feel tired, another dull headache setting in. A fleeting thought, the virus, have I got it? And if I do, what then? Drink vast amounts of water, self-monitor cell by cell. Enter another world where parallel staircases lead to a posterior opening to a bright field where in the distance someone waits, a silhouette of one from visitations in dream, comforting and strange. I recognize my father, who I once loved more than anyone, soon joined by my brother, then my mother and several others. They offer the new, not merely the realm of the dead or shared memory, but an imaginative energy revitalizing what we call heaven.
The paschal full moon rises, a super moon it is said. The night is clear and the light pours through my skylight. I read the passages on Passover in each of the Gospels and perform my own small ritual—a small cup of port and dry bread broken in three parts. This is my body/ This is my blood/ Here is my body/ Here is my blood.
I consider what drew the apostles and Christ together in the upper room. Not solely to share a traditional observance of their faith but a revelation they had not anticipated, too beautiful and terrible to imagine. The announcement of betrayal and the passing of a Cup holding the blood of a New Covenant, with its pillars of love, sacrifice, and forgiveness. A moment powerfully expressed in a mural by Leonardo Da Vinci, on the wall of the Convent of Santa Maria Delle Grazie in Milan.
In my room the ritual is performed in remembrance of him; the dry bread and wine consumed. The moon knows nothing of this, despite having played its part, directing the calendar through the centuries with its fullness. And what does anyone know of Christ? He was a man yet of God, and God is nothing and everything.