Mausoleum

Good morning/afternoon, you wonderful internet people.

Today we have another chapter from my work in progress, The Genealogies. As always, comments are welcome.

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Every Sunday right before July 20th—or July 20th itself if it fortuitously fell on a Sunday—Marcelo and Carlos and Lexie would gather at Mamá’s house early in the morning. They would all bundle into one car and drive the few blocks to her church. There was always a debate as to who would drive. As Lexie usually had the worst car, she mercifully was excluded. Carlos preferred larger SUV’s, so the family normally decided on his car, which he took with a resigned equanimity, being used, as the oldest child, to doing the yeoman’s work in the family. Marcelo never understood why there was such a hubbub every year. Oftentimes he would offer to drive, just to keep peace; their mother, however—who had never owned a car nor in fact had ever learned how to drive—always preferred going in Carlos’ truck, both for the roominess, and because customarily he drove slowly and carefully when she was in the car, figuring that the path of least resistance led to Paradise, or at least to calm with Mamá. Marcelo, also customarily, though he never drove more speedily than normal, also never changed his driving habits simply because one person or the other was in his car. This included Mamá.

“You’re going to give me a thrombosis,” she would say almost always when she would get into the car with him. Marcelo would meet that with the frustrated grunt and the eye-roll he had perfected as a teenager.

On that day, or near about it, they had their yearly appointment to hear a Mass for the dead. Every year Mamá would arrange for Papá’s name to be mentioned in the Spanish 10 a.m. Mass when the priest asked the congregation to remember the recently and not-so-recently departed, dear or otherwise. Carlos—father, ex-husband, all-around decent fellow despite his torture of Marcelo when younger—would bow his tall, slightly stooped frame when that portion of the Mass would arrive—not so much out of religious conviction, but out of filial duty. Lexie always glanced discretely at Mamá to make sure that her eyes were cast down, and then allow her gaze to wander, taking in the parishioners, some dressed in Sunday finery, others in backwards baseball caps and shorts reaching down below their knees. Mamá would let out a phantom sob at the point in the Mass when the priest read Papá’s name. Marcelo would stare straight ahead throughout most of the service, normally not glancing left or right, his eyes fixed on the priest, the altar-servers (no longer altar boys as they had been as recently as his youth, no, girls could now serve the Mass, which, while he considered it to be commendable, he also considered it to miss the broader point of sexual politics in the Church) the altar, the looming, bloody crucifix that seemed to always exude a pain and suffering that taunted the worshipper, diminishing him or her to the kind of insignificance one sometimes feels upon considering the vastness of the universe and the paucity of the self. That morbid iconography always left an impression on him that nothing anyone ever did would quite measure up to that sacrifice on a gnarled tree, and he resented the fruitlessness it suggested. Of course, that was the point, wasn’t it? He had concluded that any religion which posited that salvation was available only through adherence to a beaten and bloodied figure was not one for him. Yet, every year, there he would be, in the pew, kneeling, sitting, standing, genuflecting, even going up to receive the Host. As with his driving, it was a hard-wired habit.

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Tall Buildings

old la buildings

Another entry in my Fables and Dramas series. Another of my fables: “Tall Buildings”

***

A denizen of one of the bigger east-coast cities, or, indeed, of any teeming city in any part of the world not of the pristine and historically unmoored American West would no doubt be perplexed to come upon a news site that had an item which was titled “Man jumps from 12th floor in Los Angeles.”  “Twelfth floor?” this putative surfer would no doubt sputter.  “Really?  They build buildings that big out there?  Won’t they crash like stacked soda cans when the Big One ™ hits?”  To which, of course, the jumper could give the finger in the infinite moment before his body hit the pavement, and perhaps unfortunate and inattentive passers-by.

I know this from experience.  Los Angeles does indeed have many 12-story buildings—many buildings much greater than 12 stories, even!  No, they’re not all compacted together, like glass and steel and stone blades of grass sprouting from a small plot of soil.  No, in L.A. they have room to breathe, expanding outward as they rise upward, giving their tenants views of mountains and oceans (smog permitting), not of neighbors across the alley in adjacent buildings.  L.A. is truly the city of the present and the future—and even the past, of drama and fable and fable.  Look at the wide boulevards, look at the arching freeway superstructures, look at the little architectural gems littering the landscape, plopped down by someone with money and imagination.  Oh, I tell you, this is the place to be.  No place like it, no sir.  This is how America will look, eventually:  jumbled, polyglot, the past plowed under for the present and recalled—if worthy of being recalled—as myth.

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Aubade

In the morning the sun’s limp yellow light
creeps sullenly into the dark-filled room;
particle by particle its bright-
ness takes shape; it fails to dispel a gloom

of more than night.  Cracked eyes and stirring flesh,
bedclothes cast aside; mumbled greetings, minds
a-whir; the day conspires to enmesh
them, like the old.  Slipstreamed time too fleeting—

bathe! dress! eat!—nothing settled from before;
the looming day a welcome eight hours’ break
from things unsaid but thought.  Best not to bare
words better left silent; just go and make

a life of sorts, like everyone they know:
work, distract, suffer through that little blow.

Father & Son

He said “I live three miles from the ocean but I haven’t been to the shore in three years.” I say, “That sounds awful.” “It’s easy to forget the things of beauty that abound all around you.” I nod in agreement, furtively looking at my watch, eager to get home, hoping he won’t keep me much longer. “Look out of my window. Do you see that tree? It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Look how it stands, impervious to everything we throw at it— the city’s rot, the earth’s malefactions. Year after year it goes through its cycles, the constant rebirth, until it outlives us, gently mocking us with its silence.
“But I forget it. I forget it unless forced to consider it, as your presence has forced me to consider it. It’s a trapping, a mere accessory, a bit of color that doesn’t impact me in any way that’s significant, except on a day like this; and even a day like this—talking here, sipping coffee, getting along famously— will soon fade, be of no matter, ebb away into the wash of time. And that’s the way that beauty perishes: rarely through willful destruction, but through mere neglect.”
I left soon after, for the day pressed on me— many promises to keep, many more people to please. I, too, live near the ocean, and haven’t been to the shore; and I have a tree in my backyard, tall and glowering, insisting on its weight, mocking me by its age, by its permanence, refuting my claims to property, to earth, to life. The world conspires against you, not out of malice, but because, like God, it would say “I am what I am”.
Look at your watch; look, and watch the hands fly.