The truth is I don’t myself. And I’m fine with that now. Behind this face is a son who cannot be named. You spend half a lifetime searching for that right combination of letters. You try on bits of language stitched together to see what fits. Hand-me-down Brogans and GoodWill dungarees. Ill-fitting garments that bag in the bottoms and rise above your ankle bones. Other men’s clothes always smell like flooded basements and milk that’s been burned. You can’t wash that off with soap. It takes a deep, terrifying plunge into cold salt water to wipe off the stain of misery and confusion. Only the sea can clean. It seems like a man’s got to make a harrowing escape from drowning every so often and walk naked from the surf to shiver for awhile under an old wool blanket he keeps in the trunk of the car. And you sit there listening to the rain on the roof of the Buick watching the world blur. You look up into the slot-machine mirror. You give the wheel another spin. But the three bars always come up on the diagonal and you wished you played the other lines. It’s alright, you tell yourself. There’s still plenty of time. More thrift shops. More dimes. But the day comes when it all feels so mechanical. Chasing names, chasing numbers. Chasing dreams inside of dreams. And then you turn the camera back on yourself and bite the barrel of the gun. And all the letters drop off like leaves so there’s nothing left but branches against the sky. Bare trees and lightning. The crack in the windshield, the veins that stand out on the backs of your hands when you hold them up to admire them like a pair of fancy gloves you might try on but never buy. Some people hold onto their names and the place they were born. They hold onto those things. They keep some pictures in boxes and hang others on the wall. Almost anything can be a constellation if you look at long enough. Why, we can build whole galaxies out of the stories we weave out of names and numbers. Which we did anyway in that instant when we burst out howling from the light. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God but we’re still trying to build some other name with all the extra letters. I thought I might find it myself if I just kept on shuffling the tiles. But there’s more beauty in mystery than in knowing. And more peace. I look at my face in this photograph taken one year ago and I swear to you I don’t know the man. He might be some lost brother. I see only a vague resemblance, an odd familiarity. I’ve heard it called a molting, a metmorphosis, an awakening. It doesn’t matter. I look no more for that one word. I and this mystery here we stand.
o O o