“Self Portrait at 28” – David Berman

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I know it’s a bad title
but I’m giving it to myself as a gift
on a day nearly canceled by sunlight
when the entire hill is approaching
the ideal of Virginia
brochured with goldenrod and loblolly
and I think “at least I have not woken up
with a bloody knife in my hand”
by then having absently wandered
one hundred yards from the house
while still seated in this chair
with my eyes closed.

It is a certain hill
the one I imagine when I hear the word “hill”
and if the apocalypse turns out
to be a world-wide nervous breakdown
if our five billion minds collapse at once
well I’d call that a surprise ending
and this hill would still be beautiful
a place I wouldn’t mind dying
alone or with you.

I am trying to get at something
and I want to talk very plainly to you
so that we are both comforted by the honesty.
You see there is a window by my desk
I stare out when I am stuck
though the outdoors has rarely inspired me to write
and I don’t know why I keep staring at it.

My childhood hasn’t made good material either
mostly being a mulch of white minutes
with a few stand out moments,
popping tar bubbles on the driveway in the summer
a certain amount of pride at school
everytime they called it “our sun”
and playing football when the only play
was “go out long” are what stand out now.

If squeezed for more information
I can remember old clock radios
with flipping metal numbers
and an entree called Surf and Turf.

As a way of getting in touch with my origins
every night I set the alarm clock
for the time I was born so that waking up
becomes a historical reenactment and the first thing I do
is take a reading of the day and try to flow with it like
when you’re riding a mechanical bull and you strain to learn
the pattern quickly so you don’t inadverantly resist it.

II two

I can’t remember being born
and no one else can remember it either
even the doctor who I met years later
at a cocktail party.
It’s one of the little disappointments
that makes you think about getting away
going to Holly Springs or Coral Gables
and taking a room on the square
with a landlady whose hands are scored
by disinfectant, telling the people you meet
that you are from Alaska, and listen
to what they have to say about Alaska
until you have learned much more about Alaska
than you ever will about Holly Springs or Coral Gables.

Sometimes I am buying a newspaper
in a strange city and think
“I am about to learn what it’s like to live here.”
Oftentimes there is a news item
about the complaints of homeowners
who live beside the airport
and I realize that I read an article
on this subject nearly once a year
and always receive the same image.

I am in bed late at night
in my house near the airport
listening to the jets fly overhead
a strange wife sleeping beside me.
In my mind, the bedroom is an amalgamation
of various cold medicine commercial sets
(there is always a box of tissue on the nightstand).

I know these recurring news articles are clues,
flaws in the design though I haven’t figured out
how to string them together yet,
but I’ve begun to notice that the same people
are dying over and over again,
for instance Minnie Pearl
who died this year
for the fourth time in four years.

III three

Today is the first day of Lent
and once again I’m not really sure what it is.
How many more years will I let pass
before I take the trouble to ask someone?

It reminds of this morning
when you were getting ready for work.
I was sitting by the space heater
numbly watching you dress
and when you asked why I never wear a robe
I had so many good reasons
I didn’t know where to begin.

If you were cool in high school
you didn’t ask too many questions.
You could tell who’d been to last night’s
big metal concert by the new t-shirts in the hallway.
You didn’t have to ask
and that’s what cool was:
the ability to deduct
to know without asking.
And the pressure to simulate coolness
means not asking when you don’t know,
which is why kids grow ever more stupid.

A yearbook’s endpages, filled with promises
to stay in touch, stand as proof of the uselessness
of a teenager’s promise. Not like I’m dying
for a letter from the class stoner
ten years on but…

Do you remember the way the girls
would call out “love you!”
conveniently leaving out the “I”
as if they didn’t want to commit
to their own declarations.

I agree that the “I” is a pretty heavy concept
and hope you won’t get uncomfortable
if I should go into some deeper stuff here.

IV four

There are things I’ve given up on
like recording funny answering machine messages.
It’s part of growing older
and the human race as a group
has matured along the same lines.
It seems our comedy dates the quickest.
If you laugh out loud at Shakespeare’s jokes
I hope you won’t be insulted
if I say you’re trying too hard.
Even sketches from the original Saturday Night Live
seem slow-witted and obvious now.

It’s just that our advances are irrepressible.
Nowadays little kids can’t even set up lemonade stands.
It makes people too self-conscious about the past,
though try explaining that to a kid.

I’m not saying it should be this way.

All this new technology
will eventually give us new feelings
that will never completely displace the old ones
leaving everyone feeling quite nervous
and split in two.

We will travel to Mars
even as folks on Earth
are still ripping open potato chip
bags with their teeth.

Why? I don’t have the time or intelligence
to make all the connections
like my friend Gordon
(this is a true story)
who grew up in Braintree Massachusetts
and had never pictured a brain snagged in a tree
until I brought it up.
He’d never broken the name down to its parts.
By then it was too late.
He had moved to Coral Gables.

V five

The hill out my window is still looking beautiful
suffused in a kind of gold national park light
and it seems to say,
I’m sorry the world could not possibly
use another poem about Orpheus
but I’m available if you’re not working
on a self-portrait or anything.

I’m watching my dog have nightmares,
twitching and whining on the office floor
and I try to imagine what beast
has cornered him in the meadow
where his dreams are set.

I’m just letting the day be what it is:
a place for a large number of things
to gather and interact —
not even a place but an occasion
a reality for real things.

Friends warned me not to get too psychedelic
or religious with this piece:
“They won’t accept it if it’s too psychedelic
or religious,” but these are valid topics
and I’m the one with the dog twitching on the floor
possibly dreaming of me
that part of me that would beat a dog
for no good reason
no reason that a dog could see.

I am trying to get at something so simple
that I have to talk plainly
so the words don’t disfigure it
and if it turns out that what I say is untrue
then at least let it be harmless
like a leaky boat in the reeds
that is bothering no one.

VI six

I can’t trust the accuracy of my own memories,
many of them having blended with sentimental
telephone and margarine commercials
plainly ruined by Madison Avenue
though no one seems to call the advertising world
“Madison Avenue” anymore. Have they moved?
Let’s get an update on this.

But first I have some business to take care of.

I walked out to the hill behind our house
which looks positively Alaskan today
and it would be easier to explain this
if I had a picture to show you
but I was with our young dog
and he was running through the tall grass
like running through the tall grass
is all of life together
until a bird calls or he finds a beer can
and that thing fills all the space in his head.

You see,
his mind can only hold one thought at a time
and when he finally hears me call his name
he looks up and cocks his head
and for a single moment
my voice is everything:

Self-portrait at 28.

All that we are is the result of what we have thought.

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“The Dhammapada”, Gautama Buddha

For about the past week, I’ve been blasting this first thing in the morning when I wake up; it’s been effective in attracting positive vibrations :):

Also this:

I’m a mystic man (such a mystic man)
I’m just a mystic man (mystic man)

I man don’t (I man don’t I man don’t)
I don’t drink no champagne (don’t drink no champagne)
No I don’t
And I man don’t (I man don’t) no (I man don’t)
I don’t sniff them cocaine (don’t sniff no cocaine)
Choke brain
I man don’t (I man don’t) no I don’t (I man don’t)
Don’t take them morphine (don’t take no morphine)
Dangerous
I man don’t (I man don’t I man don’t) I don’t take no
Heroin
(Don’t take no heroin) nonono

‘Cause I’m a man of the past
And I’m living in the present
And I’m walking in the future
Stepping in the future
Man of the past
And I’m living in the present
And I’m walking walking(stepping in the future)
And I’m just a mystic man (such a mystic man)
Got to be a mystic man (mystic man)

Unrelated, but beautiful traditional Indian dancing:

Competition

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Competition isn’t that meaningful for me. Don’t you think a lifetime of constant competition with your earlier performance is better than finding weaklings to beat when you need a self-esteem boost? We’re all going to be at different points with different things… Don’t get too involved in seeing people as above and below you, instead see them as fellow learners.

 

My attempted sainthood

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I’ve faired my hands

At both men and women.

 

ANSWER :I’m better off as no one’s wife

 

This failure says more about me

Than the objects of my affection.

 

My love for what was, and what will never be

emotional unavailability as a lifestyle.

 

My need to be someone, anyone’s saviour

I just want to be the one reason you breathe

 

What a Christ complex!

 

So now I’m Chiron, the walking wounded

Unable to give into death’s pull.

 

A hermetical oddity in today’s world

On the quest to turn pain to gold.

 

Seeking to lose the self that craves

What brings suffering

 

Running toward suffering every time

My eyes turns from my fraility to yours.

 

Show and tell

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I’m not sure who would grant me access to a room full of kindergarteners, but it happened, I’d give them a presentation on the power of self-love and the importance of your peer group.

Dear Kindergartners:

If you can only please one person a day, please yourself.

I wasted too much of my life hating myself and trying to make other people love me. That’s a sad way to live. Even if you win someone else’s love, and another’s love doesn’t fill the void inside.  Drugs, alcohol, sex, religion… nope. No luck, kids.

It’s also important to keep close friends that know how to run their business. You will not be in your best form if you’re running around worried if most of your social circle is warm, dry, currently sane, not blown up or shot or in jail, and able to go about their business freely. Stick with the winners.

DON’T BE STUPID, KIDS.

NOW EAT CANDY.

Comfort zone

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My comfort zone is recovering addicts. Went to a meeting last night, got my white keytag, and met up with some old faces. 😀 Yay. So much better than using and being around people who make me nervous.

Old sponsor and I are team single girl, lol. I mean, I kind of asked somebody out when I was messed up a few days ago, but we’re not going to talk about that ’cause somethings are best left undone and yayyyyy rejection. It’s outta my system now, so that’s good, at least. Kay, sober and single. Gettin’ sober tattooed on the knuckles of one hand and single tattooed on the other as a reminder. Maybe I’ll start a girl gang of sober single ladies….

My physical comfort zone at home is any environment where I’m left to my own devices to get things done at a steady, pre-planned pace. A whirlwind of chaos I am not, under sober circumstances. There is nothing I love more than a well fleshed-out to-do list. I wasn’t a big fan of them earlier in life, but now that I have the memory of a goldfish, they are a necessary part of my day.

I’ve gone a bit overboard with to-do lists and day planners. I have the typical day planner for assignments, appointments and sundry, but I also have a digital one for blog posts. I have to-do lists for normal life stuff, and I then I just have endless lists of media and useless crap to do.