A branch the size of an oar on a medieval slave ship

dsc_0046I worked a couple hours in the yard cleaning up branches and breaking down limbs clipping, sweeping, yanking out roots and pruning, stuff we probably should have done in the fall—then just got in the car and drove out to buy a six-pack and figured Fuck It. Came back, swept the garage, fiddled around some more, all the remnants of our lives and outgrown shoes, the books, boxes, all of it pretty much unwanted but some of it valuable like so many things, all of it wanting a home and to be sorted, used, or discarded.

All the music I listened to in college or at fraternity parties I couldn’t remember was all a smear but good, and I shook the last bit from of a beer can and put it on the ground and crushed it, like I used to.

I pulled John’s recliner out on the driveway and wrote on my phone, the Notes app, and the sky darkened, there was no amount of spring, winter got it by the neck and snapped it like that.

I swept and I swept and I swept, and it bordered on excessive grooming, trying to coax out something deeply buried, something only Order could satisfy, a primitive impulse rooted in control and the restoration of it.

I surveyed the yard for damaged limbs, one shaped like a wishbone caught on the crotch of another and straddling it, hanging by a sinew; I jumped in the air about a foot and swung a heavy ax to try to cut it but failed; I had to pull over and catch my breath, I sat on a rock and even the dog came by to comfort me, she licked my beard, and Dawn said you should really be more careful, and all her advice cut into my manhood and made me feel less so, less apt to take care.

And then the sound of spring and summer in the suburbs that never ceases, of lawn mowers and tractors everywhere and all the grass there is to be cut, they cut it all day it seems.

I took some solace in the garage, the queer sense of calm I felt there, as if some part of our house or part of myself is reclaimed in its quarters, the dark edges of it and damp smells of garage-kept books, what’s happened to the pages, not far from matted-down leaves, the same consistency.

I vacuumed, and sorted records from John I’d brought inside but decided I’d never listen to (but pulled out a couple by King Crimson and Django Reinhardt), then burrowed in like a maggot for an afternoon nap and drifted off with the sound of the kids’ music from other rooms and their dialogue.

Perhaps that’s the thing about spring and summer, the impression it gives that time’s slowed down by the drawing out of days, compared to the cold reality of winter, that the days could start so late and end so soon. Spring fools you to think life goes on forever.

There was a branch the size of an oar on a medieval slave ship I got behind and pulled, I gave it all I had.

I opened the bay doors in the garage and powered up the CD player for the first time in months, but the disc tray came out and went back in each time I tried to open it like a cartoon tongue or the till on a cash register and I thought I’d have to grab it and hold it by the jaw, like pilling a cat or dog, but didn’t have to.

There was a box of books Dawn thought I could donate but there were some I needed to save, one I remembered from my dad, I could see the look on his face when he gave it to me, and the fact intimacy was so hard between us for reasons neither of us could justify or explain but we accepted, and I needed to save that book badly, and I thought I should call him, but probably wouldn’t.

Categories: Memoir, musings

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

16 replies

  1. Had this been a book of 120,000 words I would have read it through, barely breathing, in one sitting while memories of my own garages swirled in my brain, along with images of dad and me always arm-lengths away from one another. I didn’t understand until it was too late just what dad gave me. I often thought I should call him, but didn’t. Beautiful essay.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I saw the Django record in the pic and thought, Now that’s one I’d like to hear, scratches and all. I bet it’s a treat.

    I like how you hint that busying yourself with the yard and garage isn’t always about the yard and the garage … I should get to some of that stuff today myself.


    • Played that Django record all the way through for Dawn tonight and now onto another, so glad you noted that! You are here with me in spirit tonight, it’s good. Cheers, Kevin! — Bill


  3. Always enjoy it when your write about the poetry of the suburbs in poetic prose. That’s good stuff, mister. Woke up this morning at the end of a dream where my dad had called me and said ‘hello’ in a tone that said it had been too long since I’d called. I thought, yes it had been a long time, too long, but that he hadn’t called me either, and it’s not my job to do all the calling. I said hello back, and there was silence. We played a little game of silence for a while, then I asked if he was still there. Then another hello. I was pretty sure he was still there but I hung up anyway. Then I woke up and remembered he died ten years ago. Probably not the best dream story for a Sunday morning, but it seemed connected to your piece, like you wrote that and I dreamed that and that’s the way Sunday was supposed to start.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Knock one back for me. I’m here with my kid at her Girl Scout meeting. Should have filled my coffee tumbler with something other than coffee.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. i am kind of caught up in the records you found –


  6. Ah, lovely to hear of your early spring, though we’ve had a whiff of it here today even though it’s only February and a good month away yet. Clearly made you feel twitchy, in the mood clearing and cleaning and sorting through old things and old memories.
    That line about your dad – so true for so many of us. Wonder what it is that builds these barriers we all find so hard to break down?
    Great writing Bill

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m digging into the father/son relationship, think there’s lots there to explore. The conflicts and barriers, that’s the stuff I’m looking at.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s a very complicated area, the parent / child relationship. How much resentment and bad feeling can build over love and make people incapable of communicating properly. It’s fascinating stuff, Bill


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