Tuesday, April 10, 2007

the malady of the quotidian

a found poem

There is a peculiar intensity about some streets in Dublin
which becomes more gnarled and layered the longer you live

in the city

and the greater the stray memories
and associations you build up.

Sometimes this sense of the city
can be greatly added to by history and by books;
sometimes, however, the past
and the books
hardly matter

seem a strange irrelevance.

On a busy day it is easy to go
into the GPO in O’Connell Street
without a single thought
for MacDonagh and MacBride and Connolly and Pearse
or without remembering

for a second

that Samuel Beckett once asked his friend to
measure the height of the ground to Cúchulainn’s arse’
the ancient Irish hero
patron saint of pure ignorance and crass violence.

The need to buy a stamp
or a TV licence
or fill in a form
is often too pressing
the queues too long
the malady of the quotidian
too richly detailed to be bothered by heroes.

Found in Darlings: Colm Tóibín on Beckett’s Irish Actors in the 5 April issue of the London Review of Books.

It is a not insignificant artifact of my life that I am homeless. Meaning, that although I have more than sufficient shelter, I have no ancestral home to return to. The one that I might have claimed, my grandfather’s, was sold long ago, and my parents have long since moved elsewhere (each to a different destination) to places that have very little purchase in my heart, although they’re pleasant enough, all three (counting a step-parent in there).

For that reason, home for me means the company of the people I love. And, not insignificantly, the memory of their company is tied, concretely and discretely, to the places where we exchanged evidence of that mutual accord – through conversation, the squeeze of a hand, a shared look, a snug hug, a tumble beneath sheets.

I realized recently with a start that this specificity of geography in the landscape of my heart is also tied tightly to time. This occurred to me when, just this last week, I asked a colleague to let me off at the top of Taylor Street in San Francisco, with the intention of walking down to my hotel. I stepped out of the car and discovered that I was directly in front of my girlfriend M’s place – or at least where she was living when I visited her in the early 90s. She’s somewhere in Vermont now. I was just married at the time, to a man who would make me a chump, but I didn’t know that yet and thought myself luckier than most. It was a time bender, to stand there and remember a very different set of circumstances when I visited her back then; and to wonder how much of that Me is still left?

This is a question that comes to mind often lately: “Where have I gone?”

Or, more to the point: “Where am I?”

Traveling west of the Mississippi stirs it up the most, seeing friends that are tied, in my mind, to that landscape leaves me longing for a home that I’ve lost. Living in Chicagoland I feel sometimes that I’m a stranger to myself. This landscape doesn’t store up memories for me, and yet there’s something about the broad sweep and openness of this place that has become inhabited with parts of me that I’m still getting to know. Older. A bit more detached.

All of this came to mind as I read Colm Tóibín’s piece this morning in the London Review of Books, because it reminded me of crossing a street in Dublin just about a year ago now, and spotting a distinguished gentleman whose carriage emulated my Irish grandfather’s almost exactly. I embarrassed myself, without thinking, by stopping and staring with an impolite familiarity. Although I stood a distance from him my sudden stillness was enough to catch his attention and he turned to look, startled, at what I was up to. Our eyes locked. There was no smile, just puzzlement at the rude American. I wonder still how much I gave away. I wanted nothing so much at that moment in time than to sob and reach out to the ghosts that are my home and bring them close to me.

But of course, there’s no holding a ghost.

The moment passed, and we moved on.

trinity college


anniemcq said...

See. This right here is why I nominated you for a bloggers choice award (two categories: best blog about stuff, best photography blog). You passed the vetting process by the way. I had to nominate you as Suttonhoo.blogspot.com, because they just wouldn't let me change the name from the url. Sorry about that.

Your stories get me going, your pictures take me someplace new. Every. single. time.

As someone who has felt adrift for the last year, I really relate to this. But I also know with certainty that if I moved from here, this place that isn't quite home yet, I'd miss it, and it would become home to me then. I'm trying to skip that whole moving part, and let this place settle into me.

Again. Beautiful post about longing, home and connection. Congratulations on all of it!

Lolabola said...

Wow I can so relate to this post. my parents keep moving around and all feeling of home and belonging there has been lost to me for years and years.

This city that I've lived in for 7 years, well I still feel like a tourist but I don't want to leave.

Some places and people even, take me to times in the same way, leaving me wondering the same things. Some places are very hard to return to, some people are very hard to see again.

Being made into a chump stole a very idon'tknowwhat part of me and my life and it feels like it stole years and years. I too wonder where I am and less and less 'how did I get here'.

When I run into an old ghost like that, they usually don't notice but my behaviour is enough to have others stare or get uncomfortable. Usually I can't get rid of the melancholy and eventually it's embarrassing beyond words.

I love your blog.

suttonhoo said...

you guys are the best.

thank you.

narthex said...

hmm...i really relate to the poem well. it mostly makes me think of my years in san francisco. once after a relationship breakup and being away from it, i returned to find it like a photo album and record of events in each corner, each place with a person missing. it changed my perception of it.

i really appreciate the kind of things that catch your attention. i appreciate the things you ponder.

suttonhoo said...

thanks, man.

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