Kingdom of Days

D 98 sepia drivewayDread…. In the form of feeling the cold coming through my ragged Levi’s cut-offs from the frigid dark granite of the curved wall at the corner of Sansome and Sutter streets in San Francisco’s financial district. The misery gnawed at me constantly as I am sure it did most of the other lifestyle convicts known as bicycle messengers lined up on the stone megalith, named so creatively…”the wall”. Reverberations of bus exhaust pulses realigned the mucus on the offended cilia as resin infused clouds were forced downward. Knowledge that our Mothers were rightfully disappointed with us one and all.

Deeply disappointed.

Ants.

Just ants scrambling from hole to hole hauling treats for our relative queens with antennae aquiver and mandibles gnashing…all for the promise of a piece of a corner of something that was once a crumb somewhere.

Seeing anything that lead to the idea of permanence made my heart race. A garage. Some sign that there might be a tomorrow. A tomorrow that I could occupy. Any corner out of the rain, without hands reaching in and taking what I hoped could be mine. The way a toilet is perched on carefully laid tile that is kept immaculate, a sweet smell in the air, a stack of split firewood…these are things that tell me my life is working. Signs of care. These things come after a full belly, and warmth. Hearing the rain come down hard on my roof, knowing I can sleep through the night unmolested, and listen to the birds squabbling in the wetness.

Lifetimes have passed. Reflections of who I once was, stranded on ice floes calling out words. Words of anger, words of fear, words of encouragement. I cannot go back. I wonder what will or what has become of that driven, fearful, castaway. Only his voice rings around the back of my skull when my veneer burns away revealing the burl of my heart. Knowing the grain is so hopelessly petty and straight is a disappointment that’s hard to return from. People looking to me for answers, and knowing they can count on me for sound judgement. How can I simultaneously beat in those disparate hearts? How can that self serving child be the man that opens his soul, offers his hands, and loves those that would be cast aside? Were nuggets of God sprinkled through my strata by my Grandparents when I was young? Did my Grandmother’s fingers impart patience and love when she ran them through my hair? I was unable to return the favor on her deathbed, the way I did for my Grandfather, and my former wife’s grandparents as they laid dying, knowing how much they loved her. I was working on a project that was important to me at the time for an ungrateful subject…as she laid dying. When I break his mouth open and lay his teeth on the ground, he won’t even know why. Or how good it feels for me to punch them out one by one.

Emotional content.

Breath was passed from God to man. Now breath is passed from each to the next in the continuum of life. Sacred love even in the deepest of squalor. The inner warmth that keeps the heart beating against that cold misery the world dishes out. The warmth that pumps from the heart to keep the cold from taking the will to live.

I scratch myself, and think these thoughts in an instant as I see into the eyes of Otis, an old friend from those days who has come to visit me. We have our white Ford trucks. Our women who love us, our dogs…the rain dances outside. We are alive, and wiser for the pain. To remember those I love. Those I loved. To remember those that had jealous eyes and mocking tongues, and know they are still mired in filth makes our path seem somehow justified in another sense. It’s not that those of the depths were in any way judges of the righteous…but an interesting contrast between those that were cast down, and those that were down cast. It is that way now. Being careful, not because of bankruptcy morally or financially, but because of treacherous times. Exhibitions of care, treading lightly, not sliding into fearful avalanches of the weak. Road of the righteous in a geography of turpitude. Those that paddle across the toilet bowl of life as opposed to the turds that make their home there, never to know any other life.

Care.

Care to use my hands for good, to leave more than I take, to create beauty, and pass it on. To feed hope, foster thought, ease the soul, and build love. All the while being hard enough to defend myself and my family from the darkness that can take our lives. Those that thrive in wickedness and the filth of the world. Those that would take our lives.

The lives of the righteous.

Oh it’s been such a long, long day…a succession of hard days leading from tough weeks of ragged months and blurred pain of years in a pile that adds up to something that is truly good. Not now, not today, not tomorrow, and only in glimmers. The road of the righteous is long, it is a path of commitment and sacrifice. I am suffering, but for a better day. I was hurt for so long, and love is here. Now. I have other’s hands in my pockets, and I fight each day to keep the food on the table, though the rats grow fat stealing from my table, taking nourishment off the labor of my two hands and the sweat of my brow. Only to kill me. Kill me with each stolen morsel.

A smile is all I have.

The smile must survive.

 

“With you I don’t hear the minutes ticking by
I don’t feel the hours as they fly
I don’t see the summer as it wanes
Just a subtle change of light upon your face

Walk away, walk away, walk away, walk away
This is our kingdom of days

I watched the sun as it rises and sets
I watched the moon trace its arc with no regret
My jacket ’round your shoulders, the falling leaves
The wet grass on our backs as the autumn breeze drifts through the trees

Walk away, walk away, walk away, walk away
This is our kingdom of days

I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I do
You whispered “then prove it, then prove it, then prove it, to me baby blue”

When I count my blessings and you’re mine for always
We laughed beneath the covers
and count the wrinkles and the grays

Sing away, sing away, sing away, sing away
Sing away, sing away, my darling, we’ll sing away
This is our kingdom of days”

“Kingdom of Days” by Bruce Springsteen

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