Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Frail My Heart

Frail my heart apart
And play me a little shady grove
Ring the bells of Rhymney
Till they ring inside my head forever
Bounce the bow, rock the gallows
For the hangman's reel
And wake the devil from his dream
I'm going back to Harlan
I'm going back to Harlan
I'm going back to Harlan 

- Emmy Lou Harris via Anna McGarrigle, "Goin' Back To Harlan"

* * *

Each life contains what is possible for that life. Each life waits for this discovery and once found, each life then teeters on the courage to act on that discovery. The life you are living is a reflection of your willingness to look for and act on the possible. Suffice to say your fuckedness is a reflection of the same.

Mr. Browning tells me a man's reach should exceed his grasp or what's a heaven for? And he is spot on. The possibilities that lie within you, born out of experience melded with desire, with consciousness, are strictly and only yours to suss out. If you live only by what is near, easy, accessible then you never, and I mean never, begin to tap what is possible, what is possible for you to do with your life because you never bothered to take it out for a test drive. It leads to a leaden life: thick, lugubrious, stultified, you know, fucked.

What will it take to move you from where you are to where you might be if you only had the courage to act, or to act with integrity? A death? A near-death? Loss of job, marriage, money? The proverbial wake-up call?

Fuck that.

Those things will send a jolt through you alright, but they are sugar highs: too intense and over too soon. You need to work this out day in and day out. Not once and done. But how? That's as shitty a question as "why?" I can't tell you. You have to figure it out for yourself, or it won't work. Sucks, I know, but there's this: this is exactly what you were made for.

* * *

The first time I heard Ms. Harris sing "Goin' Back to Harlan" I heard her sing it a couple dozen times. I played it over and over, repeating the song until I had it in my bloodstream. It is a great song of time passing. It is a song of resolve. It is a song of adios, of one last song before I go, of fighting where you stand because every last beautiful, lonely, sad, glorious thing you've ever known won't mean nothing unless you make that stand. It is a taunt - bounce the bow, rock the gallows, wake the devil - and it says, like Aeschylus before, "I care nothing for Zeus. Let him do what he wants."

No one gets out of here alive, so why not live until then? The need of a wake-up call is a crutch, another excuse, more simpering. I have watched my father die from pride and cancer, seen two marriages end, witnessed the confusion and hurt in my children from one of those divorces, lost jobs, lost friends, under-achieved and been lost myself for ages and none of it comes close to creating a permanent fix to the problems and tasks of living. No, my life runs in a greased groove only when waking up is reason enough to try again. There is no wake-up call as certain as coffee and the hour before light. It is when I am at my best. When I fail to give myself the courage to get up and engage my life, my work, I betray the faith and trust others have or once had in me. I need no other motivation other than this.

When you wake tomorrow do me a favor.

Bounce the bow.
Rock the gallows.
Wake the devil from his dream if for no other reason than it is possible to do so, and then see what happens next.

* * *



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