When I think of leaping – I’m speaking metaphorically here – the literal image that comes to mind is standing several feet back from the precipice of the Cliffs of Moher. It’s a sweeping abyss so sublime that it warps any authentic sense of perspective. Nothing seems far for everything being so grand. I was re-calibrated only by seeing the gulls flashing along the stratified face, jerkily adjusting course like airborne seesaws to solve the wind’s puzzles. Diminished to the size of ants.
What I was good at was crouching down as I approached the unbounded edge until I was on my hands and knees, peering gingerly over the vertical corner. Not that running at full speed until there was no ground under my feet – literally – was ever my desire. But the limitation holds metaphorically. Momentum, momentum, momentum…crouch! In that split-second space before braking: “How many people don’t actually fly? And when they don’t what happens? To what degree are conviction and faith of that sort cultural myths? Are we just hearing from those who have taken off, while those who end up bloodied and disembodied lie in a silent pile at the bottom?”
In truth, I am likely far better at inspiring people to leap – literally and metaphorically – than doing it myself. I enjoy that about teaching. I consider it my job. But in truth I am also a hypocrite. For crouching. And waiting.
the near side
i am my mother’s son
she calls for
she calls at
what was easy
now at rest and not at peace
she reveals conspiracies that i know not of
in which i am intimately involved
i am becoming an unwilling warrior
idle of body feverish of mind
far side near
choice subjected to inertia
inertia becomes the boy
She said it came upon me suddenly
That I had figured out just who to be
And though she smiled she smiled most skeptically
Accepting my changed heart most gradually
But gradual was how I felt it done
The threads of fear clipped one by one by one
The clouds dismissed the sky embraced the sun
The dams fell down and let the rivers run
Nerves sometimes seize, they quiver and they quake
The past has taught my heart well how to break
Yet shields fight kisses no better than sharp stakes
And walls hide truths the same as they do fakes
I shall not fight nor fear what is to be
Yet can she now accept me suddenly?
Something is vibrating deep within these walls. I thought it was the window panes for a while. But it’s deeper than that. I hear it downstairs. Maybe it’s in the floor. Or a floor, between the two levels. I can’t quite locate it in a way that I can say what it is that’s vibrating. But it most definitely has to do with the water pipes. Pipes run all over through these old buildings, having been installed and re-installed, and routed and re-routed according to changing needs over decades. Every structural adjustment invites the possibility of degrading stability. Attachments fail, conduits angle, and air is introduced where only water should be. Crooked and imperfect pipes are rumbling deep within these walls. Or perhaps it’s a fan with a shaky blade, spinning around unattended in an adjoining living space. I think the neighbors have a washing machine. It could be the spin cycle that I’m hearing. Especially if they have a great heap of laundry that needs doing. It also sounds like a faint version of the automated garage door we had when I was young, opening each night as my mother returned from work. Garage doors line the lower floors of this building, and people are coming in and out all the time.
Whatever it is…wherever it is…it’s starting to drive me to distraction. I tried to watch a movie tonight, hoping that my hearing and attention would be absorbed by something else. I turned the television volume all the way up, and still I could hear that soft whirring. The neighbors pounded on the door, and when I finally heard them rapping and opened up they kindly asked me to turn down the sound. I said of course. I’m sorry for the trouble. I asked them, since they were already over, if they could come inside and listen with me. They did so, but denied hearing anything. I don’t know if they were being honest or just wanted to escape the awkward situation. They didn’t really stand still enough to hear it, like I asked them to. And one frumpy woman kept breathing, which makes the gentle jack-hammering impossible to hear. But I need someone else to hear it. It’s a light bass-ey sound. Like a muted helicopter rotor. Somewhere in the core of this building it shivers, conducted by these beams and boards, through the air and into my ear. I need to try and sleep for a while now. Tomorrow I’ll call over some friends and see if they can come over and listen.