Malaiseville OH

There is benign control in doodling, so I’m sketching hands these days. I make them on the borders of my desk calendar—the column of Saturdays covered with them, palms forward, fingers radiating out at slight angles like pocketknife blades. The 5th, the 12th, the 19th, the 26th. Some hands look like the last raised hands of men overboard. Others like the hands of eager volunteers or the gloved hands of mascots. One has a shirt cuff turned down, an executive hand, interrupted by an aide and asking me for a moment while it attends to a more pressing matter at hand.

I want to quit my job at Malaiseville U., but I can’t. To Ed: that lunch at Rooster's when I told you I would? I chickened out after the chicken wings, brother.

Fatalism is a juvenile complaint, which explains why I never feel my age.  

Jesus says, S'i' ho ben la parola tua intesa, l'anima tua è da viltade offesa la qual molte fiate l'omo ingombra sì che d'onrata impresa lo rivolve, come falso veder bestia quand'ombra*.

Fitzgerald adds: Outlasted again by circumstances**.

With my wife working and our children grown and gone, the mainspring of my life now goes missing. How many hours a day do you spend looking at a screen? my ophthamologist asks during my appointment. She answers before I can: I guess teachers have to do a lot more online now? She talks to herself to have something to say to her patients.  

My eye doctor has an ultraviolet weight of malaise that I recognize. We would both glow with it in black-light. She lives in Malaiseville, too. I know her house. I know the tall wooden fence around her backyard because to have a tall fence in Malaiseville makes one’s need for privacy noticeable. I learn later that her husband is blind.

I mean: Jesus, Jesus.

I come home from the eye appointment with dilated pupils and Satan in my garage—a scaly tail behind the workbench, the bag of cat food ransacked, a body like a possum under my car.  

I’m on my hands and knees, jabbing at the thief with a pushbroom. It hisses, its muscle bunched in its back like a bull. Satan does not spook, though I do, and the clear meaning of the allegory becomes this: we must harden ourselves against every sympathy for sin***.

When it’s all over and the possum has scrabbled out into the dark woods, I show myself my trembling hands. The sad bag of Shaky Jake with the too much light in his over-dilated eyes.

The world is purple in Malaiseville. And everything a’quiver.

(*If I have understood you, your soul is sunken in that fear that bears down many men, turning their course and resolution by imagined perils, as its own shadow turns the frightened horse.)    

(**The Crack-Up.)

(***J. Ciardi.)

Bird Report

This morning at the edge of the woods across the street: a round of robins pours gray-ly out of a tree onto the ground. The phenomenon doesn't stop. It's as if the tree is fertilizing eggs and it's moments before its weird spunk is spent. I've never seen anything like it.