The Artwork of Michael Divine

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Writings: A Different Bus

April 3rd, 2010

So, in the interest of consolidation and presentation, I’ve decided to take off the “Writings” section of my website and am putting most of those pieces here, in the blog, a good enough place. So… enjoy…

A Different Bus (11.13.08)

Some dreams begin with a sense of what is missing. This dream begins with an open agreement.

In the middle of the Great Leap of Faith, I found life to be quite ready to make a deal. Let’s do this thing together, it suggested. I’ll trust you. You trust me. Let’s make a deal. We’ll arrange better terms, make installments. We’ll get you a nice car, a lovely house, a pool, a yard. Tell you what, we’ll find a way to go about this thing you seek – this deeper meaning – this open sense of being – we’ll do this thing together. Let’s read some books. There are dusty symbols with your name on them hidden in their golden leafed spines. I know a guru, a teacher, a path through the mountains if you’ll just settle down. Tell you what – I know this guy that’ll make you famous. Tell you what – tell you what – tell you what – let’s establish some trust in one another, maybe a compromise, a secret handshake that only you and I know – no more hiding things from each other behind locked doors in a pile on the floor – no more borders between mine and yours. And it handed me the pen.

But a leap of faith does not end with signing a contract. The hand was there, ready to sign. A table appeared in a barren room, two chairs and a dotted line. We faced each other, myself and everything else and that sense of separateness, even though it tried to negotiate a belief of togetherness sat there across from me, nibbling at my confidence, tugging at my sleeve, whispering ‘gotcha’ in my ear.

I paused my breath and the moment passed, the offer a flock of birds disturbed by the churning of swamp grasses as I trudged through the muck, encountering lifetime after lifetime of swamp monster identity. I lay on a log in exhaustion. I fingered a reed and, in my dream, turned it into a lovely raft. I took time with my craft, using the process of salvation creation as a sort of building meditation. I knit a shawl from their tufts and tossed it over my shoulders and pushed myself off from the shore setting out for a destination somewhere across the oceans.

Hark! I cried. Alas! I shouted. Ta-Ta! I declared.

I sang sea shanty dirges under the light of the moon, drinking purified fish tears and eating the leavings of the dew. The days and nights passed til they blended together as one motionless wave and the currents forgave my lack of direction because they appreciated my willful intention.

I worked myself to the bone. I found that sometimes I wished never endingly that I could have a space to call my own but the fire inside me pushed on and I kept moving a little further forwards, a little deeper into that empty void of destination.

I rolled the die, advanced my player by two and was granted a free turn.

I looked up at my negotiator and threw down the pen. If this was my move then I was determined to take it to it’s furthest end. Drop your weapons, I demanded and let me see your reasons.

My mind turned on me and fell to the floor. And I, I left it for dead.

Now I am a missing piece – this patchwork outline of me has fallen into space like a brick dropped from the Babylon tower by some freemason giving the secret hand handshake and the Eye to his comrade in the stars.

I am a man in blue, a man in red, a man in yellow or green.
I am waiting here for you. I am not wearing any disguises.

My time has come and my bus has arrived and I am one of the masses flowing through an endless river transcribed with shallow meanings – a pallor cast over it in a language always yearning for a deeper mode of expression C’mon buddy, says the driver, yer holdin’ up the works.

Yanked out of oblivion stare, I pay the dime nickel and quarter and am sitting two rows back further than I need to be and floating three inches above my seat, watching this rhythmic sea of heads bob up and down to hydraulic pumping of bus brake bumping. Business suits seamlessly pressed topped by eyes staring into certain futures based precisely and with great accuracy on affirmed notions of financial acuity – futures in securities and soaring prices of flesh in the basement bathroom – dirty underpinnings of a glorious kingdom – little children pumping away the pistons to pay for John Q. Public’s home in the Hamptons.

Hovelled in between the clear successes, a homeless man with a squadron of lice doing maneuvers upon his crown smiles a toothless grin spelling out how he giveth himself into temptation.

Next to me, an old wise woman whose wisdom is held in her ears by the lifetimes of cotton ball build up, dampening all sense of sensation purses her lips with a sense of impunity, rising above all open seas to a God whose arms know no color and sings great hosannas in the highest but she can’t feel much anymore of the tips of her fingers and that sensation stretches all the way up to the middle of her brain where cotton seeds planted there when she was a wee one have taken root and grown thick with cotton balls clouding up and confounding the works.

What am I doing here in this mess? I ask the man in the toothpaste ad who grins down from above me while a little girl plays his ivory white. I am getting off this bus.

What am I talking about, I am not going anywhere. I am still on the bus. I am going further.

I rise in a fury and crash my way to the front: Watch out driver, I’m taking the wheel! I am driving off the pier and into the ocean and the other passengers are floating away in the bubbles of their mental activities. I am swimming with fishes, concrete blocks slipping away from my chest exposing my still beating heart. It grows in size and sighs a sigh of relief – my heart – loosening and lightening in the situation like a summer storm across an open divide- my hair stands on end down here – equipped with special fluidic static electricity while the tactile futility of my mind washes up upon the beach like a thousand rippling carcasses of drowned sailor men whispering soft secrets of the sea to those who care to stoop closer to listen.

And I stoop there and listen to their seductively shallow tales about women in bars sitting upon tall stools drinking messy beers talking to tattoos on the arms of their attendant evils. I am transported upon their salty breath.

Would you like another, asks the skull-faced man bringing an ill, a derision, a misplaced emoticon.

Simply put, the drink taken from the waiting waiter is sipped slowly with red lips that leave stains on the rim of the glass, like the kiss of a rose leaving pieces of it’s petals for future detectives to ferret out.

I walk past them all.

The detectives holding magnifying glasses using tweezers to carefully extract faint wisps of the remaining roses to drop in their manila files stare into my slit eyed gaze and wonder to themselves if this man is from round these parts.

Ocean water slops from my shoes and seaweed dangles detachedly at my wrists and my heart is an exposed and beating mass of muscles but I have no fears there, I am done defending it. My stride is not misstepped and my steps are not misplaced and my direction is clear and certain making the detectives feel less at home in their own bodies than I am in mine. Such confidence is contagious unless one is inoculated at a young age, growing old and immune to things like wisdom and learning and tall stepping vision.

You will know me when you see me, said the prophet to the masses. And sure enough, they did, whispers the old man in his sleep while the lice on his crown bow in homage to the fly who has accomplished a landing upon the lobe of the left ear.

Escape fantasies bring me back to present.
I should have taken a different bus.
But I didn’t.
I linger onwards and the bus belches forwards, heaving and yawning into the future.

A cloud of crumble ramshackles is punching ice skate cutting in a stormy black weather system hovering over me, blowing me forwards – through otherwise blocked doorways.

If I were in charge, I would walk through a different door. I would have taken a different route.

But I don’t. I didn’t. This system is a mess with schedules bleeding desire for change. Their motorcade is split in two and they follow us with a distracted air –always there, always reaching for our truths while their horses do the math, adding it up, adding it up, better accountants than financiers.

Once I was a banister, helping people along, a support for their troubled hands when the climb became just a little too long. Countless hands would run along my smooth wood grain leaving a dull waxy polish, soft to the touch yet supportive and, seemingly, forgiving. But those who fell, reaching out for my support yet missing it, found my forgiveness to be a myth and, with their heads hitting hard upon the curving wooden rail of my balustrade, their feet slipping out from beneath them, they would find that I stood tall and did not care if they walked or climbed, crumbled or fell.

So now, on the other side of that equation, understanding what makes this system tick, I find my way up the stairs – one by glorious one – step by beautiful step – relying on internal gyroscopic grace and not crutches that take it’s place.

In a half forgotten dream, on a landing between flights, I stare at a movie poster of a flick that’ll never be made with a hero chin courting a damsel in distress. To tell you the honest injun truth: I won’t miss it. Unmade movies are thoughts and what-ifs, hypothetical solutions to cliff hanger strategies – with nails bitten to the wick and hairs dancing on end, I can’t stand that kind of stress, so I back down to where I feel I belong, in the trough, in the valley, with the big wheels that keep on turning and a mind that keeps on churning out this drivel of poetry, this line by line symphony of melancholic lifetime after lifetime drudgery.

I am a juke box of memories – a thousand stanzas and refrains from FM radio days replayed over and over and over again til they have carved their own pathways through my synaptic systems, standing the test of time. I try to carve out better habits from the bramble of memories but the refrain of just another old-fashioned love song is easier to travel down than hacking out a new habitual direction. The call to action is like mother calling me for dinner but this time I don’t answer, this time, I go all the way.

Some would find my disjointedness charming but they never had any spine to begin with.

This is my stop and I am getting off..

We are going to start over. We are going to start again. With our feet crushing the pavement and our backs to the wind. We are going to leap the sun. We are going to move the mountains. We are going to drink it in. We are going to ride this route to the end.

And I am getting back on

How I can’t stand this overcoat of emotions. It weighs me down to no end. I wish it had come with instructions. That would have helped to make it all clear. A legend or a map – a cheat sheet telling me that the lizard will appear sixteen times and the woman only twice so that I could give up hope and live instead on expectation, setting my traps wisely with a more refined meditation. Instead I am lost in embroidered patterns spelling out lineages of family history intricately woven into eons of genetic imprinting – penguin apples dancing mice laughter like lizard tails flicking in and out of women whose legs spread to give birth to buffalo bottle stoppers, cork screws opening up another vintage, ice clinking in cocktail glasses, gentle laughter patchwork fading to ragged ends of rope and choking on my own tongue, waking again in a start, a sweat, and rolling over to sleep it off.

How many times did I need to relive the hem of my coat, wear my lifetime on my sleeve, finding my next chapter in a secret pocket sewn inside the lining?

I wish this coat had come with instructions. I would have left it on the bus had it not been sewn to my own mandibles, burrowing under my skin, into my beating heart and my veins – had I not opened it and found little old women knitting, each breath deflating my heart little by little to the rhythm of crochet hooks click clat clicking in rhythmic succession, one sleeve unraveling to be knit into the other, caught in my own personal feedback loop.

A circus barker on a corner is crying out: the wheel it spins round and round – where it stops YOU can’t be found – if the devil calls your name – you – are – OUT –

Little old ladies look up at me, glint in the eye, wrinkled wide smile wise to ages of curiosity: “Don’t mind us, we’re only dreaming.”

For some reason I am assured and you’d think I’d feel relief as I close the coat and look around the bus or the bar or the stairwell but no one notices the universe beneath my cloak where a thousand spiral galaxies are spinning their way to oblivion, planets and worlds live out countless lifetimes of hurt anger oppression and aggression – enlightenment enjoyment ecstatic devotion – stars exploding into implosions of emptiness – a vast and empty blackness – all of it tucked into a pocket, a seam, a hem. But out here on the edge, two rows back further than I need to be, I only get caught in blank stares gazing half way between here and nowhere making sure not to catch me in their mediocre tunnel vision monotony.

I open the neck and peek inside again and find worlds unfolding before my eyes – great undulating starry arms and points of light colliding without a sound – massive polarizations of male female intensities – grandiosity and miniaturizations – fascinating scenes of purple and green – pictures of bleached white sheets on a line – memories of lying on the grass outside – a sunrise – open eyes – a universe unraveling from the center of my mind.

I dig around in there for the book, a manual or at least a how-to guide – something to tell me what to do with the endless vision – but I find the movie instead. I put it on and find they’ve cut my scenes and the lead doesn’t look a thing like me. Myself, I am lying somewhere on an editing room floor making love to the bottom of a shoe grinding me into the linoleum, passing me up for a greater monumental conclusion as I become another memory not god enough to make the final cut. What did I do wrong or what did this guy do right?

Now the story has all changed and while the nuanced grace of the kangaroo kazoo leaves me somewhat speechless still I wonder how it could have come to this. When did I let go and leave another director in charge. When did the feeling of not holding on set in. It’s a dream of events, missing sequences and missives in the night – did they see me? Did I get there? Did it all happen on time?

The movie has teeth and it’s latched on to my sleeve. The glint in its eye, the snarl in it’s lips – it makes me pause to consider. It’s a lifetime conclusion, a source of confusion, a means to an end.

I intend to take a different bus. I get off at the next stop and this time I stay off. Dusty corners with dim lit waterfalls and highways gnashing at the bit. The circus barker looks up at me from his corner of the world, shrugs his shoulders and writes another line. He’ll have his epic; we’ll all have our day.

I enter the library. Rows and rows of books covered in dust. No one reads any more; all they really do is stare while the soft dust of centuries settles upon their lids. We are all made of stars and the dust is our leavings. I breathe in deep and taste a little bit of everyone, a little bit of everything. I am looking for something – the transliteration, the news or information, some useful bit of education. It’s in here somewhere. The gorgeous lead, the damsel in distress – the Asian girl with the beautiful eyes and alive wide smile – the old cotton eared woman who was once a little girl with dreams. Every lifetime passing means another chapter written on this long and winding narrative. Maybe in the footnotes there will be some mention of me. Maybe in a liner note or a bit part in an appendix of some forgotten journal will be my bit part in infinity.

I have my thumb marking a chapter of a hefty tome, another hand scans a table of contents while my tongue leafs through the pages of trees whose roots dig deep into the ground tracing back centuries of meaning and, while language is a changeling, passing through filters of sentimentally charged semantics, pages with folded corners highlight a phrase that now stands lost to meaning, the depth of the matter is not so timeless after all. But I still cannot find one bit of me or life or what it means and how to lead.

A how-to manual – that is all I seek.

Insert Part A into Hole B. A good start but it goes in so many directions from there.

In all of these nameless volumes, all of them brimming with caveats and empty missions – masturbatory fantasies encased in a writers grandiose visions – we climb a stairway up several flights of mental aptitude or high dive from cliffs whose faces read out the way to freeing ourselves from mental servitude but it goes by so quickly that the momentary lapse of thinking sits in the corner of a bar, drinking. I look over at her and I think – is she winking?

So I join her and we sit and talk for six drinks time. All hers, none mine, and I hope in her babbling about the wisdom of ancients and compassion never ending that there might be some seed of nourishment – something to plant in my garden but there is not one useful bit of instruction. She tells me I could take a bus but I could also ride a train. I could sit in a bar and drink drinks with a stranger while she sits in the corner, talking to the sunset in the wood grain. She tells me to swim to the bottom of the ocean and dig up an empty bucket, climb the corporate ladder, stepping on heads and climbing atop shoulders, just so I can see what the view is like from way up there. There is great joy, she tells me, in seeing further than the sights of others.

I could be all of this, she offers. All of it and, of course, more.

I could be everything. I could hope and pray for a sign. I could practice my prostrations with mantras bubbling from my lips and rosary beads at my fingertips. I could be sitting in a home for special folk dribbling tonight’s dinner onto my chest. I could be all of this but I am more than this. How long will I wait for a sign?

The room is lit then in a menagerie of red and white and with the sudden flashing lights of a passing ambulance, I understand. I see in the back of that speeding van a sputtering candle hooked to monitors and heart respirators and a soul flying close behind – screaming out: I’M NOT DONE YET – I didn’t even begin… How long will I wait?

My pause sits across from me and winks, takes a sip of her drink and throws it in the corner to the sound of shattering ice and crackling glass. Her lime leers its green-toothed grin and wanders into the forest of my meanderings.

Life is sudden and then it’s passed, it whispers from the trees, it’s tail flicking and disappearing. There is no decipherable code – no decoder ring to eke out a hidden message – no symbols that have esoteric meaning, in fact – the whole menagerie of hallucinations – all of them sending only one message – ego leaves no instructions for it’s own dissolution.

There will be no light to lead the way.

I stand from the table and approach the edge of my cliff.
Hang on! I cry and take the leap.
Hang. The Fuck. On.
(if you want to stick around)

The Artwork of Michael Divine

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