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This is how it feels.

by mark chagall

by marc chagall

I’m afraid that I’ll have to leave behind the site for the next few months. In January I hope to return with teeming stories and a fresh stash of art.

Please search through the older pages here. Silent Shrouds and the C&T stuff are all here, so there might be something good and enjoyable. Have fun.

But since I know you’re all of a meloncholy type, you might enjoy this essay.

Liza was free. Free to be with a client and not at an orphanage. She didn’t hate orphans, but they don’t pay to go shopping in Kyiv. And she kind of liked him. He was not demanding; he simply wanted to see the city in the time that they had, so they could take their time, spend a day with each cathedral, instead of rushing through the city. This weekend they would go visit her mother. No one else would have wanted it, but seemed to be happy with the idea. She lay in her bed looking the ceiling, and the little marks in it made faces. She lay in her bed, contemplating her freedom as she fell asleep.

An hour or two later she woke up and noticed her light was on. She got up from her bed, and turned it off. She quietly changed into her nightclothes—shorts and a shirt, a style borrowed from some American women that she had known. Distant clouds of lights that wafted beyond her windows failed to hold her attention, and she gently opened the door, and cringed as the hinges squeaked, but she saw that he was asleep, and that he still hadn’t moved. There was a desk near his bed, also a chair. She took the chair and placed near the bed, and gently set herself on it. The solid back of the chair faced him, and kneeled in the chair facing him, and leaned her arms on the top of the chair. She looked at him for a minute, counting down 60, 59, 58 and so on, and did so slowly slumping into the chair until her eyes barely peeked over the chair.

She continued to hold her gaze, staring at him so that the layers of his face would peel off; the eyelids lift with his soul peeking through. He fell asleep in the t-shirt and shorts he had worn that day. His shoes were lying kicked off near the foot of the bed. As he slept he seemed younger, as it seemed that the cares of pastoral duties were only forgotten, and that he lived some other kind of life when he was sleeping. She wondered what that life was. She knew that this behavior was not professional, but she didn’t this was strictly professional. Moving from her thoughts about her job, she noticed the icon.

It was of Christ turned towards to supplicant, and with his face frozen someplace between sorrow and judgment. It was the dissonance of church bells ringing all together, speaking of love and hell, and saints drawing the people with stern faces, rigid lips and sparkling eyes.

“I have seen Christ escape from an icon

and the slush tearfully kiss

the wind-swept fringe of his tunic.”

She looked overhead there seemed to be the Mother of God traced on the wall. The lights of downtown traffic were illuminating the outline. It appeared to have been scorched onto the wall. What was it? Liza rose from her chair and walked to her room. At the doorway, she turned towards the icon and crossed herself. All the lights were off, vision fading, and now she was asleep.

Jack woke up in the morning, realizing he’d spent the night in his shirt, jeans and shoes, and the icons lying next to him.

Just as in Tennessee his life seemed to be a string of restaurants. Walking around, riding the Metro, all led to a restaurant eventually. This was sometimes broken by ice-cream stands or some warm Cole. Once they drank kvas, but now they were sitting together at another restaurant. This was more of a “real” Ukrainian place with dishes that Vita had explained were more authentic, and unlike the “Ukrainian McDonalds” there was not any attempt at some kind of national dress. White tablecloths and they were served by a young woman wearing a white buttoned-up blouse and a black long skirt, wearing a black apron. It was nearly hundred that day, the ac was non-existent, and there was at the other end of restaurant by the entrance.

He was talking.

How did get over here? She covered the same tack over and over, looking for some truth. He was beginning to arrive at it

“I was converted when I was twelve. I was scared of the world. I wanted to be safe, and Jesus was that safety. I saw a video about puberty, and I was scared. I was becoming sin.”

“The preacher said that Jesus already became sin, already became sin for me. I grew up. But I grew up torn and conflicted, stealing my father’s belt, hanging it my closet as a threat against. What the hell. I did it any way. I followed the preacher’s, and I followed the girls who came to revival meetings. I tried to screw them, but they were good Southern girls, who knew how to be coy, who knew enough not to say anything, and, and, I was clueless. They said no; they walked away, fingering their silver rings. I followed them home, sitting in the trees, and watched them with their boyfriends. I wasn’t coy with the preachers. I didn’t a have clue about my damned life, and they knew that I didn’t have a clue, and they pushed for me to become like them. I followed them. Thoughtlessly. Once I spoke with borrowed words. It was supposed to be my testimony, but stole it from a book. It’s the story you heard earlier.”

“I wish I was a poet. And I wish I really knew how to talk about my life.”

Now Vita was speaking. “I was sixteen. I was at a camp run by Americans. It was in Bucha, half an hour north of here. I converted, or they converted me. I don’t know which way it goes. I may’ve scared, but I remember being happy, being for having God inside of me, like a fire in the fireplace. And I was happy to meeting the Americans. They gave me a US flag and a Bible. I took both home.”

Returning to Jack. Now they had returned to the hotel, and she was introducing him to vodka. He was an American. Just a kid. His wife had left him, yet Vita saw that he was inexperienced outside of his hometown, and definitely inexperienced with alcohol. He said that once got drunk on a bottle of knock-off Jack Daniels after she left him. The next day he was told that he would lead the trip to Ukraine. Someone must’ve seen them.

“I’ll teach you to drink for joy.” Vita told him that they would drink shot for a memory, or for a person, and a toast, love, friendship, happiness or luck. “Yes, we can drink for sorrow, but now is not the time for it. You have already been sad. You’ve already cried.”

She filled two glasses. They were two souvenir shot glasses she bought earlier while he was examining KGB medals.

She taught him the simple routine toasts, in English and then in Russian. She spoke first, and then he followed repeating until the order developed one of call and response. The first was for love, the second was for happiness and the third was for luck. When this chorus was through she said, “I think we should invent toasts of our own.”

“Okay”

“I want to do this since I am a translator, and when I speak, I speak Ukrainian, Russian, German or English, back and forth, and I only speak what’s are already been said, and what they need to hear. I’m still working for you, but there’s one thing: with you I can say what I want to say, and you like it, so I would like to toast this freedom, free to be honest with you. In the past saying what I thought was a little something added to my importance, but for you I am myself, simple and honest.”

And they drank to it. Jack could devise something, but from a few years worth of sermons he didn’t want to say much, and he didn’t. “Here’s to your beautiful country.” She blushed and they drank. They continued talking for a little while, and then they said good night and he left to his room. He felt buzzed from the alcohol and so flush, he didn’t know if he should feel ashamed or overjoyed. After he unlocked his door he realized the answer.

His room was dark with a little bit of lace over the windows and through the windows the city Kyiv stretched out before him, the most brilliant thing he ever saw, traffic draping the city as beads and signs glowed with boozy pleasure. He had left the window open earlier, and now the curtains were waving back and forth in the breeze, and for a moment he thought he could smell rain being carried along in thunderclouds now on their way. He turned on his computer to compose a message. Standing up again he looked over the city, the ancient, modern city and tried to find his own sensations in this parade. Bemused, he sat down and began to write.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ!

I hope the orphanage team has been in contact with you, and have told you more of their time. As for myself—I haven’t been embraced in the Spirit’s sweep across this beautiful country. I’ve simply been here in this city, learning everyday. And brothers and sisters, let me tell what I learned today – Jesus talked about Man being as like the grass, easy to fade away, and that’s true, and in my own life, I’ve felt Death and how close he’s come for me, but today I have felt how dear life is. How dear the grass and the flowers are. They will not stay, not as Jesus, the Kingdom of Believers or Heaven, but life, simple is something worth drinking deeply, and then it’s a glass that will shatter and the sunlight and the moonlight will catch it in all of its little pieces and reflect brilliantly. I’ve always feared at how with death that I’ll be gone, but now I don’t care. I’ll welcome it. I welcome it in all of its hideous or seductive forms, because with that black dog running nearby I’ll know just how this means. The view from my window of the city at night, every second the flow of traffic changes, it’s not the same road anymore, and so everyday I die a little bit, and I get born again a little bit, and I can’t think of anything better.

What about Heaven?

What about it?

When we meet Jesus in the air we’ll join up with Brother Paul and Brother Peter and the dear Brothers and Sisters that have gone before us. But our race will have already been run and won. Nothing more. I’ve often said that the world of Heaven is realer than my own hand, but my hand touches the grass, a reminder of how it’ll fade and that my hand will wrinkle and shrivel, but this brief moment I’ll ponder on my dying bed, and in that twinkle of an eye when I go, I’ll remember that moment. In church there’s been times when the singing has been so sweet that I’ve wondered where it came from. Heaven surely, though it lived its short life in our plain church, and we leave for our homes or wherever where we’re going to eat, just as the glass breaks. Rejoice in the end. It’s full of sorrow, but we are there knowing we had our fill, and we are going to rest. I am convinced that every night as I sleep, it’s a little prayer to Death and a little wish to die.

He clicked “Send.” He closed up the laptop, and climbed into his bed, just as lightning began to flash far away.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Alphonse Mucha

Drawing by Father James-an example of Mother Hannah’s pocket handkerchief. Via ArtStor

Portrait of Akhmatova.

I’ve just discovered ArtStor, so excuse me while I browse through 19 pages of Kandinsky paintings.

I don’t know if this will be something regular, but just know that sometimes people will say the strangest things to you, to me. I have no idea if any of it is true; the simple (faux) revelation is enough.

Today I got onto the #8 bus at OHSU, and sat near an old vet (maybe Vietnam or shortly after ‘Nam). As soon as I sat down he started talking. Occasionally I made a reply, but his speech was fundamentally a monologue, and so I’m reproducing it here with forgetfulness as the only censor.

“You know if you shave your beard more often, it’ll grow back thicker. When I was in basic it’d got so thick I had to shave twice everyday, in the morning and at night. I’d work swing or graveyard shifts. I liked working swing. I could do stuff in the day, and then after work I could go out. I didn’t like working graveyard because I’d work and have a few drinks, but after the second one I was drunk, and I’d go home and pass out. Sometimes 3 beers, sometimes 4. I’m naturally hyperactive, always been since I was a child. Hyperactive you react opposite to the drugs. Uppers-you feel calm. Downers-and you can bounce off of walls. That’s why the government developed Ritalin for hyperactive kids; it has speed in it. Once a doctor prescribed Valium for me, and I felt I could go all night, bouncing off the walls. My wife, she’as addicted to Valium. She’d go to doctor’s to get them to write prescriptions for her. She’d fuck them, give them blow jobs, whatever they wanted. I divorced her. We got married, and she tried my best friend; she tried my brother. Two weeks, a week and a half after that he told me and I knew it was through. My mother told me not to marry her. I tried to explain it to her, “You got to marry who you love.” –“You know she’s a witch.” She was right. This is my stop. God bless.
















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