That is the answer. So what is the question? What’s on my mind? I think not. There is generally some absurd notion or other ping-ponging in my head, bouncing off the inside of my skull. What’s up? More preposterous still, for there is so very much up, so very much out there, whether going on around us or dangling suspended above us in the cosmos. Is it what you’d reply prior to taking a backseat daredevil spin down a mountainside in a motorless go-cart if somebody asks, “What do you hope to gain?” We all do foolish things. As an author I remain recklessly unknown fundamentally because I believe talent and skill should speak louder than promotion, that recognition should come as a result of writing not peddling my books. Time is an enormous factor for me with everything, especially that. As a person, I try to do and be better, to grow from mistakes and not repeat them. It just seems to turn out like an upside-down cake. That fell and got smooshed. And accidentally stepped on. And had to be scraped off the floor. Oh, and then it was left out in the rain.
But in the midst of life’s little immeasurable alps and ravines, do you ever find yourself wondering: Where am I going with this? I mean, seriously. Because I ask myself that a lot. Or at least I do recently. Before, I accepted what Fate handed me with a spoonful or two of salt, sometimes sugar, and went on my merry (more likely not-so-merry) way.
Now, for some indefinable reason that I know not, it’s different . . . Unholy-moly, get-the-lead-out, do-the-Watusi different. Maybe I’ve evolved to the point where I’d like to exercise rational judgement rather than find myself swept along going with the flow — whether being a victim of some sort, or doing what’s proper, or living by the Let’s See What Happens Next philosophy.
Take it from me: If you’re used to things being topsy-turvy, in some random state of upheaval, it skews your perspective. Makes it difficult to know if you’re proceeding straight or crooked or flat-out too fast for your own good. When things fire at me too rapidly I tend to duck. I panic and flinch and cower, hide my head in the sand, burrow underground a spell, until the surface slows to a safer speed where I can think and focus . . . I like to stay focused. The blurs freak me out. And yet some blurs, the rare moments when everything seems to happen at once and go well for a change, can downright exhilarate!
Velocity isn’t the problem at present so I don’t even know why I brought it up. What’s troublesome is that I’m not in control. And for once, it isn’t the lack of control you feel when Misfortune calls your number and you’re next in line to give your subsequent pound of flesh. It’s more of an “I know what I’m doing is nuts yet I don’t really care!” situation. I can’t take the wheel, I’m too nervous to drive. I can’t convince myself to apply the brakes. I’m simply wearing my seatbelt and hanging on as the hotrod I’m in careens wildly forth.
There always has to be an eventual down-to-earth conclusion to these things, whereby the giddy cruise of circumstance must arrive at some finite base or brick wall or other assorted obstruction. A devil-may-care landslide of a ride cannot go on forever, as childhood cannot last. But while it does, I’ve been enjoying the wind in my hair.
Maybe I needed to let loose, experience the blissful abandon I’ve missed out on so much. Too soon I must get back on track and behave like I oughta. Face the pressures and complications of my world.
Who am I trying to kid? Being solemn and dignified won’t erase the craziness of my past any more than it can guarantee consistently bright tomorrows. And anyway, I love a gloomy day! I don’t want to do what’s expected or allowed! I want to do the nonpredictable and unconformist. I want to fly off the handle without a paddle and swim against the stream without a parachute! Instead of dropping out of it, I want to freefall upwards into the sky on a column of quintessential exuberance! I want to break from the mold and mildew of my boxed-in locked-down existence and live, because every precious fleeting instant flitting by is gone forever, and the next could be my last, and I’ve wasted too much time already not doing all that I am capable of while actually having fun! Not being where I truly belong, where I’d be happiest (that involves trees). It has nothing to do with success. It’s about decisions and choices. To some extent, we can determine our own fates by making the right ones.
Oh sure! the left ones refute. Except if you’re flat broke! Or broken! Or both!
I can’t argue with that logic, but I can ignore it . . .
It’s like the rush of inspiration from a feel-good movie. I’m surfing that kind of wave. I don’t want the euphoria to end. I want to remind myself daily that there is more to life than typing at a machine. But there are books to write and edit and release. There are so many uncompleted projects piled up before me that sometimes the clutter can overwhelm. I love to write, need to write. It’s a passion, part of who I am. And yet, the excruciating poignancy of the things I haven’t lived — things undone, unfelt, unshared — gets in the way and slows my steps toward progress. Does it have to be one or the other? Why can’t I have it all? That is my eternal internal struggle. The balance of Art and Life.
Maybe this is why artists must suffer. If they are too content, they would put other things first. The need to express oneself is far more urgent in pain. When truly happy, in love with life, that joy is nearly all one can think about. At least for me as a horror author, perhaps my greatest inspiration springs from torment. Although, being ecstatic and tortured together poses an exquisite clash of satisfaction battling despair.
I can create while placid, but is it my best? Might I achieve the same highs in peace as in conflict if I draw upon the past? Or is my art the reason why so many things have to go wrong? It makes a handy platitude for consoling myself. Yet I cannot concentrate any better when I am too troubled, in the thick of turmoil. Once it subsides a tad, my words sizzle out and sear the page. I reckon it’s the same with elation.
I frothily believe that not everything we do needs to make sense. At times I merely wish to be silly. Then Reality bites and a chunk is missing and life goes on. I have learned, due to my history, that sometimes wrong things happen and there’s nothing right about it. Nothing. But there are also occasions when good can arise, or was had from the bad.
As often transpires, I have arrived at entirely no conclusion in the debate of Nothingness with myself. Is it too late to retract my statement? Or am I stuck with it like an impulse purchase? Not knowing what I had in mind, what the heck I was thinking, yet here it is and I have to deal with it! Or cram it in the closet. That door has to open someday, and then I must confront an avalanche of shoved-aside huddled muddled matters. Unless one is innately good at avoiding issues and doorknobs. Which I like to think I am.
Oh wait, the impending crash came as it was bound to. The sum of Gravity plus Solidity-Squared equals Rock Bottom. It was inevitable. I ran out of distance and slope and there was nowhere to go but down because it was going nowhere. Guess I’ll have to start climbing the next hill. It’s a steep one.
Here then is some verse that might be about nothing, or may be about another thing that has nothing to do with nothing at all. Whatever it’s about, I assure you I had nothing to do with it. Or maybe I did. I admit nothing. Nothing! I say. Only that life is full of madness and folly, and your best defense is a sense of humor. In lieu of that, I suggest donning a pair of clown shoes. At least they will make you smile.
What exactly is nothing?
Is it the same as zilch, a speck less than zero?
Is it the sound that reverberates in silence
Or what may daunt the heart of a hero?
There are numerous explanations
For my simple askance, this humble query
Yet just one that bears the ring of truth:
The tale of Contrary Mary
Born in a village to a family of know-it-alls
The question plagued like gum on her soul
That her foot stepped in and smeared about
In her mind was left a gaping hole
Everything palpable Mary deemed nothing
For that was her favorite word it would seem
Toward intangible anythings, Mary was mute
Disavowing their presence as if a mere dream
The girl’s gray mood vexed the town’s best quacks
“Not enough glucose!” cried they. “Too much salt!”
And proclaimed her nonplusence and minusing peakish
An iron deficiency must be at fault.
“Why can’t you be normal? Why won’t you conform?”
They repeatedly grilled her to Mary’s dismay
She wouldn’t accept their insistent perspectives
Declaring she had nothing about nothing to say
“That’s very unheard of, and rather far-fetched!”
Her parents deplored and her brother eschewed
Thinking Mary quite weird with hair knotted in tangles
Disagreeing with everything struck them as rude
Other children were mean and viciously teased
Chanting Mary was crazy and looked like a mop
They taunted and ogled and called her a witch
To which Mary responded, “I’ll make your eyes pop!”
The contrary girl concocted a potion
A scare tactic, surely, to leave her alone
But a day or so later the gawkers were blinded
Sockets bloodied and vacant; the ill stares had blown
As the townspeople met to deliberate
All judges and jury, hotly riled up and tense
They asked the girl why, what on earth was she thinking?
And Mary said “nothing” in her own defense
“I asked nothing from them and did nothing wrong
To earn such ridicule as they gave me!
I’ve been poked and examined for never agreeing.
Since my opinion counts nothing, then that it shall be!”
Her victims were led to face their accoster
Yet had “nothing” to utter on the witness stand
Having seen the light, so to speak, without sight
They could finally view nothing up close and firsthand
The village was shocked by the girl’s refusal
To bend or mend or end her ways
The verdict was guilty by unanimous vote
And Mary was locked up the rest of her days
The nights she slipped out to cavort by moonlight
In dreams she skipped freely and frolicked at will
By day she did nothing but rock in a padded cell
Asleep she roamed widely and couldn’t stay still
Contrary Mary would never acknowledge
That she was guilty of a hideous deed
She always objected to every straightforward
And only said yes when there was no need
Whether nothing is something as Mary contended
Or is purely the opposite might not be proved
But if you think of it, Nothing could just be real
Unglimpsed by most ’less the eyes are removed.
Am I a wibble or a wobble?
Does it really even matter
When so much of what I do
Amounts to little more than patter?
Keeping quiet leaves me lonely
Shouldn’t I just raise a clatter?
But I can’t turn inside out
Because there’d be a lot of spatter
Beauty can be very shallow
When there isn’t much within
A flawless face is but a mask
That may conceal an evil jinn
There are those who think of nothing
But to lure and twist and win
Seeking only their own profit
For their hearts are made of tin
There are predators and vampires
Who prowl the street in waves
Or invade your mind through magic
From the darkness of their caves
Trusting strangers leads to peril
Meeting sirens, trolls, or knaves
It’s a fright to venture forth
Without a bundle of sharp staves
It’s much easier doing nothing
To retreat into a shell
When you’ve never known much better
It becomes a private Hell
From the life I stumbled through
And the times in which I fell
But between the fears I can’t outrun
I’ve many tales to tell
Were I a brook then I could babble
And not be dubbed a talkalot
I suspect I might be human
Not sure if that’s the best or not
A stream at least is apt to travel
Instead of sitting in one spot
I’m not getting anyplace
As if this chair is my grave plot
You could say I’m plain peculiar
For it’s dubious I would care
I’m a teensy bit unusual
And I’m neither here nor there
I’m no circus act or death-defier
But was an Elvis at the fair
I’m pretty dull yet oddly different
In fact, I’m just extremely rare.
A demon stalking down the road
Complained he had a cumbrous load
I piggybacked him for a while
But couldn’t walk a single mile
A second demon came along
Convincing me I wasn’t strong
Then rode my shoulders for a time
I dropped him to pick up a dime
The third one screeched to help him please
I dragged him clinging to my knees
The fourth was friendly, wicked too
And stole my breath till I was blue
Another demon took my hand
But won’t return it on demand
The next I lent an ear to heed
His sorrows yet began to bleed
He swallowed it and now it’s gone
I’m feeling like I’m just a pawn
Three snarling demons ripped my flesh
The skin looks like a coat of mesh
A brood of them slipped up my nose
Sometimes they tingle in my toes
A pack of them has congregated
Tried to run but should have waited
A colossal waste of energy
I curse my blasted sympathy
You can’t escape the touch of dark
Once you become its evil mark
It’s everywhere you turn to dash
And flows behind without a splash
Conspiring to embrace your fears
Licking up your languished tears
Thought I was doomed to be Hell-sent
My inner demons don’t pay rent
I’ll need an exorcism soon
To cast off every ghoulish goon
Attached to me by perfidy
If only they would let me be!
I’m robbed of faith and out of hope
They’re frazzling my final rope
The outer demons gnash and claw
I’m flayed and feeling awfully raw
It won’t be over till they leave
They’re part of me, I now believe
To sever them I would be cut
And so they chortle, how they strut
While sacrificing someone’s daughter!
I need a cross, some holy water
Or else I must adjust to quaking
With a scourge of my own making
If nothing can be done for me
If there’s no way to set me free
Oh me, oh my, I’m demon-saddled
Half driven nuts, the rest is addled
A sorry plight, I have to glout
Wish I could chase my demons out
There’s really nothing more to say
The wretched things won’t go away!
Anarchy rules between my ears
As Madness reigns a carriage-less horse
Chaos trumpets a brass fanfare
And Mister Ed is a nag, of course
Jesters tumble clad in plaid
Their bells jing-jangling festively
Dwarf and giant acrobats
Performing for nobility
Contortionists are pretzelling
While jugglers toss kids up and down
Cats in hats spin plates on sticks
Madmen do their best to frown
Cymbal-smacking monkeys grin
Giraffes and zebras tiptoe by
Alligators wrestle crocs
Beneath a wavy big-top sky
Flame-eaters gobble birthday cakes
With morons marching out of step
Dancing, waving in a line
Full of effervescent pep
Above on tightropes mock the birds
Giggly sparrows in a row
Chickadees that blat and jeer
Twitter at the fun below
A seaside opera’s underway
Of clams and scallops warbling
While jellyfish hum, drum, and trill
The kind of songs that sailors sing
Pavement vendors sell popcorn
Street musicians start to jam
All going on within my head
It’s madness but it’s who I am.
Lonely bitter emptitude
Fills my soul, an undead mood
The gleamy flickence of a knife
Unseals a vein, the pulse of life
Amid these hallowed stacks of knowledge
Where books line up like brains in college
Red seepage blotted by my clothes . . .
I told myself, “Okay, here goes!”
And sliced away with spots like paint
Scarlet drops of abstract taint
Splatting shelves and spines and pages
The captured scenes of love and rages
Soliloquies and wars declared
The lives and times that I once shared
A stand I’ll take, a brutal statement
Of agony without abatement
Too long have I walked thus unliving
Existing dead and unforgiving
Forsaken by the world around me
What better place to self-unbound be
Than here amongst the voice of Thought?
Such titled tomes have failed me not
My blood like ink stains book and binding
Where answers wait for questive finding
The blade has fallen, damp with rust
My wounds spill out a sea of dust
How pale the shade of porcelain
As color drains from my torn skin
What was I seeking in these aisles?
The memory of a thousand smiles?
With every turn of leaf I merged
Each line imagination surged
Unlike me, written words endure
For nothing can its power obscure
But now it’s time I cease to last
I’ve seen my future, lost the past
These undead tomes will never die
I’ve treasured many, now I cry
The last library closed today
Once bookstores also faded ’way
I’m just a relic who loved books
The real kind, not just for looks
The type you feel inside and out
No box of shadows, wispy doubt
Not words that disappear, turned off
A mere illusion at which I scoff
The times have changed, the world is sad —
Soon none will miss what they never had.