Prose for the Uninspired

I.     

             .

I come to sit down next to you and talk to you, a few hours

at a time. I see myself in you a lot of the time. I remember 

five years ago—was it really half a decade ago?

we would talk every day and it was sweet. These days, 

I fight for that kind of ease. Now neither of us want to admit

that neither of us understand what’s happened. But I don’t care if I can’t cut through this dark muck we’re sinking in;

and I cannot name our enemy. 

I fight for you every day and still I find you slipping away. 

             .

II. 

             .

I remember so much with you…

sometimes I forget to remember—wait, ta-take me back there for a sec! 

I love being with you. I thought you were just my own invention, but what has grown

under the surface has revealed itself as romantic love, a wooden room of termites stuck in my chest—

I’ve worked hard at digging down to those roots…

O, I love you, truly. O, I love you, deeply. 

And if this comes off as a sappy love poem, 

you of all creatures know that I speak to you—and to you only do I speak.

Yes, you understand to what I am referring. I am referring to the curves of your memory, mmm, 

the loose curves of your speech and the bubbling up of your proud, high elegant language 

when an idea weighs heavily on your stomach like large, black Hester…

your back is tall, erect like an alarmed cat (you see the great size and prominence of the ideas inside your head);

I try telling you that you really can make the ideas clear (like a kid first learning how to ride his bike without training wheels);

.

in your awkward, clumsy high language you tell me something that blew you away and you try telling me the idea

in the same way it overwhelmed you

.

and the most important thing I forget, ah the key, is that ideas are gifts and things we are given and you taught me that and if I forget 

everything dies and I want to know that this is all a gift down in my covered thighs. 

.

Ideas sometimes break into our house. I will see an idea creeping across our floor in the golden light of 7:00AM down our hallway

into the kitchen as I am coming down the stairs for the first time that morning

in my underwear, and I know the idea is sneaking up on you standing alone

in the kitchen soaking in the warmth of your deep, lovely routine inspiration. You are

in the kitchen making breakfast for me. 

O, I love you, truly. O, I love you, deeply. 

Visiana! we have talked many times about why you make breakfast

for me. And when we were first married, 

I was worried you did it out of some strange misogynistic 

.

pressure. I wanted to make sure you understood that I did not expect you to make breakfast for me just because I am the man

and you are the not-man, but you told me, “Honey, I make breakfast for you because you are bad at waking up early.

You will never make me breakfast. 

If left to your conspirings, you’d wake up at eleven.” 

That is one of the reasons I love you, deeply, 

For it is not that you know everything about me or that I know everything about you,

but that we have known each other for so long and seen so much of one another, 

so I love you because you are familiar and we share an understanding: 

when I told you about my misogynistic worry, I knew you would make fun of me 

and when you made fun of me, you knew I would laugh at myself:

we are the same and you                 I…

                    Is this still a mystery for me?

.

III. 

.

I think of the people with whom I have this understanding. 

I think of my family. 

I think of my older sister, Anna. 

We have this understanding. 

But when I think of Anna, I am afraid to admit 

how she strikes me as a stranger. I am afraid saying

so will hurt her. But I feel like all six of my siblings

are strangers. I am bad at birthdays like I’m bad at breakfast…

At least I know that all of my older siblings are lost

somewhere in their twenties and my little sister is canoeing

down that well-travelled river

of fourteen. There have been so few opportunities to sit

down and speak plainly with these odd

people. Much of my life is unrevealed

and much of their life is unrevealed

to me. Both they and I must deal with the truth

that we are distant brothers and sisters and we get few chances

                                                                   to be near friends. Where are the coves

wherein my set of memories 

overlap with their memories? 

I have memories of when I was four at the Sugar Grove house—

Anna must have been a teenager then (what was she going through?)

She was a fixture in my life and now Anna at that age 

when I was four is a fixture in my imagination, 

our memory. And then I wonder, “Who was she? 

And what happened then that caused her to be who she is now?” 

I think about this a lot. 

.

.

I called my little sister, Grace, on the phone

the other day. I asked her about

memories she had at the St. Charles house. She had this image

of Dad riding the mower past the window wells 

.

as we sat in the cold, concrete basement watching television together. She couldn’t have been more than eight years old. 

We talked about how boring the summer days were there, but how nice the light, cool basement felt. We wondered

why we never went outside. She said it was because it was always so hot. It’s true. 

We remember that, how hot it was. 

.

Grace also remembers a time when I took her to the end of our driveway

and into the cul-de-sac one Fall day. She was wearing her pink puffy coat. She couldn’t have been more than seven years old. 

We were raking up all the leaves into a pile 

so she could jump into it. She described it as our attempt to be a picturesque

.

family on the cover of a magazine. Well the leaves were wet 

and anyway there weren’t enough of ’em—and she remembers jumping

into the pile and falling right on her butt! And she says it was sad, because her coat got stained dirty!

Grace, I’m sorry. 

.

You also remember a time when I tried running away from home. 

Our friends the Cannons were leaving after a long visit and I decided to hide

in their car so they could take me with them to Indiana. Illinois to Indiana

(what a ride!)—and you remember me putting a quarter into your Hello Kitty

.

pack on the front of your pink bike. I told you “don’t ask, don’t tell” and said shh. You couldn’t have been more than six years old.

I remember you at that age, 

You mystery.

.

IV. 

.

You see, I have had a lot of troubles with my memories. I’ve decided I want to enjoy my memories like wine:

if I drink too much from the same well, I can become disoriented

and get a headache. It is a deep well of crimson

milk. It messes me up, head plunged. 

.

Why don’t I ever just say thank you and quit? 

.

My little sister Grace said that she doesn’t understand why people worry about forgetting

themselves since we always take who we are with us (her hands on the sides of the rocking canoe)

What shores have we seen? Once the present passes into my memory

and it is there in my head, I can use my imagination

and turn it around in my hand like a stone. Now, the sand sifts

through my fingers and from there it goes into the ground

and becomes a shiny stone, each moment like

a shiny thing on a pebble beach, turning the stone.

This memory brought me here…it moved me here and compelled me.

O, I thought I have only ever been bending my back

in this field, but ah, now I know I am being blown back, pushed forward 

once more once again once. 

.

V. 

.

Addressing my class next year at graduation, 

I get up from my chair and go to the podium, 

hands shaking:

“A little over a year ago, I almost dropped out of college. I had the degree change form in my hand and walked around the college

collecting signatures. I got every signature, made it past every gate necessary, except one. You would think this was intentional.

It was not. I didn’t get the last signature, because I forgot to get it. So I left that half-completed form in my pidge box for two weeks,

forgetting forgetting. And then I was sitting in class and for some reason I got the thought in my head to tell God, ‘Father if you want

me to do something, I will do it. I’m willing to do what you want me to do.’ I was convinced he wanted me to drop out

or that at least he would use it in my life. But then I got a cold sweat. I was wrong.

God wanted me to stay. I should have known; everyone in my life told me it was a bad idea. 

The point of this story is that when we ask God for something good, he can and might say no. And he might say not yet. 

Adam and Eve were rightly drawn to that tree in the garden, but it was not their time to eat from it. 

They had to first go through a season of refinement so that they could understand the sweet taste of that fruit in its season. 

The tree was the gift of a later season once they could finally comprehend the gifted potency in their entire being. 

But grasping for the fruit too soon, they were trying to gain the gift by their own effort. 

And that is what I have tried doing time and time again in my life;

grasping for something good only for God to tell me, ‘If you want the gift, you must first learn to love the depth of my riches.’”

.

VI. 

.

I have a good friend. 

We talk a lot about friends. 

She has trouble writing about friends. 

She once had this idea of keeping a daily journal

of what her and her friends did so that years from now 

                                              she could get a snapshot of her sweet, older life. 

This idea is similar to my idea of writing a book of vignettes

about things my friends and I have done. 

I would do it so that we could remember. 

I would have really put the work in so we could all remember. 

But, I have forgotten so much that I am left with the faint impression me and my friends have been with each other for eternity. 

Then why does friendship die so easily? 

This is the kind of loneliness that feels like someone is sprinkling salt

                                                                                         onto my heart. 

.

VII. 

.

I have been dead

for an entire year. I tried growing

too many things in my garden (I am really bad at gardening)

One day, I found that all of my crops

had died and I wondered what I could do to fix the problem. 

.

My first solution was to plant all of the same kinds of crops 

again. I planted more than before. I figured that if I tried growing 

a lot of crops then there was a better chance that something would grow 

even if I had to live with a lot of death. 

After months of eager expectation, nothing grew out of the ground. 

.

Why was nothing growing? I have not found an answer 

to this question yet. I don’t believe I will ever find 

an answer. I am still in this dark, incoherent

whoreland. I look forward to a time when this year in college 

will be a pebble on the beach at which I can laugh and turn around in my hand. 

.

What was I thinking? 

Maybe I will never know. Because after many failed 

attempts at growing my garden again, I chose to give up. I can do nothing. I can grow nothing. 

My mind is a barren womb and my love is empty and vain. 

There is nothing I can do, because there is nothing I can understand. 

.

This entire affair makes no sense to me, because for so many years I thought we had an understanding—but you are just a stranger 

to me now and those works of brilliance that kept us so close have gone down with the river never to be held again.

What visions have we left behind? You are a stranger and it is time

I admit it to us both.

Muse of Creative Inspiration, I do not understand you. Can we please get to know one another again? Let’s go out and sit

in the garden together and watch whatever wants to grow, grow.

.

VIII. 

.

Life is brittle and I feel like it could break 

at any moment, but when we both stay in bed 

in the morning at this hotel celebrating 

our 17th anniversary and the kids are safe 

with the babysitter, I forget how brittle 

I am when I reach my hand across your chest 

and put my fingers gently curled next to your warm neck, 

my hand sweating under a lock of your hair fallen 

over your neck. That pleasure of warmth makes me forget

—and I want to know. What is this calm pleasure 

designed to teach me? To be near you like this and love you and not let it lead anywhere, but to stay here next to you laying

quietly down…

I want to ask and never stop asking 

(my leg crossed over your legs (my crotch next to your hip (the skin of my arm sticking to your chest (under the comforter)))) 

and the sun shining through the window, both of us overheating, 

sweaty, damp, uncomfortable, your oily hair and the smell of my armpits, 

I want to ask over and over why this is so good, how your foreign life 

has anything to do at all with the mystery the world set apart from both of us and how it is being revealed right now in our rest. 

.

IX. 

.

My life is a garden. 

I get to wait for rain, not plant water drops. 

.

I have busied myself—and with what? And I have tried thinking—about what? And I have tried being intelligent—knowing what? 

And I have tried being creative—making what? And I have tried keeping the bigger picture—who took it? And I have tried grasping

for more—what of it? And I have tried being twenty years older—in seven months? And I have mourned at the loss—of what?

And I have apologized too much—I’m sorry! And I have not understood the ground—the weeds! And it has not rained

in a long time—rain, sometimes! And my life is infertile—grow something! And I need help—help me! And I need to know

how to ask for help—let me help! And I can give you—nothing! I have ignored you—for too long.

Grow something I can laugh at. I’m watching, waiting here with you. 

The Interstellar Michaelite Empire

In 2674, Hieronymus Arcturus Jones lands his interstellar temple ship. He has finally found his people a home, light years from Earth. Reverently, he looks at the portrait of me hanging over the mantlepiece, and holds his fist out in the manner of 21st century gestures of gratitude. “Thanks, g,” he says. “We couldn’t have gotten here without you.”

Reading in Genesis, the modern man is shocked by the intense value ancient men and women placed in ‘being fruitful and multiplying.’ Lineage was everything. This perspective challenged my own: why don’t I particularly care about having a lineage? I love kids, but I have never once thought about what it would be like to have a lineage, a distinct culture of people who are descended from me. Until now. Is that even possible anymore in our society? What would it take for them to have an identity as a distinct people group?

Perhaps they would need to possess a narrative or intergenerational project of some kind. Hmm. What would that look like? It could be anything…

What would I want it to look like?

I. MINISTRIES

The Michaelites would be creators of art. What could be more lovely than to have generations of people dedicated to beauty? Imagine being the patriarch of a family that would work to shape the imagination of mankind as a whole. Imagine your children and your children’s children being poets, musicians, painters, dancers. To some parents, that sounds horrifying–how will they provide for themselves? But, at least in this very moment of idealism, I cannot help but be entranced with the thought. God provides. He is our source of safety and life. We are to repond to the plentiful gifts he has given with praise and worship, with arts that glorify him.

The Michaelites would be shepherds of knowledge. As mankind’s knowledge grows and communication expands through the internet, there needs to be voices who will speak out against sophistry and falsehood, philosophers and priests who will hold true to the good and the beautiful when everyone else is being drowned by wave after wave of indulgent content and misinformation.

The Michaelites would be explorers of space. We don’t have all the technology yet and we never will unless someone commits to it. Some could become astrophysicists or cosmonauts, if that was their passion. Or they may just have their own very terrestrial vocation, and their contribution to spaceflight is simply one of investment and encouragement. Throughout the generations, the Michaelites would be at the forefront of development and exploration, until one day they colonize new planets and form a nation among the stars.

II. DUTIES

The first duty of the Michaelites would be to the family. There is a sort of time traveling blood covenant at work here. But, I would want to give descendants lots of freedom. Like, they have the option to stay within the prime narrative and pursue those central goals (God’s glory, beautiful art, space exploration) and general cultural reformation, building up society and such. However, they might not like what’s going on in the prime lineage, if they don’t appreciate the aesthetics and lore and so forth. Maybe a lot of the followers of prime narrative have gotten weird and corrupt and cultlike. As such, any descendant is totally free to go off and start their own distinct lineage with a differing vision and philosophy, although I hope they would still follow Christ, love the rest of their family members, and also share some good values with the prime narrative. They can have their own plans and heraldry and everything. Or they can just choose to not participate at all and fade away from the line and just do their own thing. That might be what God wants them to do.

The second duty would be to humanity: to the church, to the nations, and to the entirety of mankind until Christ returns. All art, knowledge, and technology that they create would be to serve and benefit everyone.

The third and most important duty would be to God. No one can insure that their descendants will be Christian, but you can still try to raise your kids accordingly, and you can set down your voice as a stumbling block to future generations. If they would rebel against God, they would know that they are rebelling against everything for which their family stands.

Space fantasies and cosmic daydreams aside, I think there is a valuable idea here. Ancestors have the ability to not only directly shape and mold their children and grandchildren, but also to form a cultural narrative and cast a vision that could last many generations more. Maybe your descendants won’t care at all… but maybe they might. Two hundred years from now, you might have a young ally who’s looking up all the things you wrote and thinking, “You know, that’s really cool. I want to be like that. I want to do that.”

One thinks of the Borglum and Ziolkowski families who intergenerationally worked on the Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse monuments, respectively. Or the Bach family in Germany, which contributed to the development of art music for over two centuries. Or Japanese family owned businesses like Kongo-gumi that persisted for fifteen centuries, with fifty successive presidents all from the Kongo line. (heh) There are ryokan that have been running in Japan since the time of Charlemagne, family run for fifty generations!

What are your thoughts? Do you feel a duty to your ancestors? Do you know who they were? Do you want your descendants to know who you were? IF you were going to form your own cultural narrative for your lineage, what would it be like? What kind of message do you want to send to your children’s children’s children? Maybe you don’t want your descendants to live in space. Maybe you want them to live in volcanos building robots, or be survivalists who build an underground society that will outlive the nuclear apocalypse and preserve western civilization. Who knows what could happen! It’s up to them. But it might be up to you, too.

I might not ever have kids. But if I did, I wouldn’t pass up on an opportunity to inspire them. If they remembered my teaching, they could be a blessing to God, a blessing to centuries of human history. My offspring could be as the stars of heaven.

“I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 26:4)