We came home late from the Cafe Quatre Vents and I would have suggested to him a soothing cigarette, but he is afraid of the taste of ashes in his mouth, like the mortality he feels in southwestern winters, New Mexico and Arizona when he smells woodsmoke, a sign to him that it is all burning down–imagine fearing something as formless and hardly conceivable as entropy instead of taking comfort in the cozy triteness of warming his feet by the fireplace and placidly smoking a pipe while reading a good book.
As for his bad sleeping, maybe it is only that he cannot find a comfortable bed. He stands looking out my window which here on the third floor looks down at the bistro across the street, the little Tarot card shop where Zabere tells fortunes for 100 francs—
What are you thinking?
—and is not half bad and makes Zirque laugh with silver stardust eyeshadow on his dark brown skin and silly come-ons. Zabere, if you only knew he could be summoned up during one of your séances if he were only sleeping, never anchored to anything, no not really, except to Frontenac, that little town he says has as many forgotten pasts as yards of rusting railroad tracks where he is the only one who would risk starvation in Paris to avoid dying of boredom in Kansas and cannot sleep tonight—
What, I asked him, his face streetlit reddish orange, are you afraid of tonight? What do you see in the telephone poles this time?
—in his bed with a sleeping bag for a blanket; I know why he prefers to sleep on his clothes and you might think a hamster has better instincts, but it is the dog he imitates, the dog who has taught a pile of rags to conform exactly to his curled body, a transformation so complete the rags have taken on his musty smell.
I know that the woman waiting for him in Kansas is a bed in the shape of his longing for rest.
To sleep, to rest, this simple mystery of opiates in the brain, for everyone but him. Maybe inspired-inhabited (an unwilling medium Zabere would envy), is what kept him up writing on matchbooks, on envelopes already postmarked, keeping me awake also, mechanically eating one petits ecolier after another, wondering who else in this world has just such an addiction to dark chocolate, what is she like how will I find her? How old is she has she ever given a thought at this moment to my existence?
If you trace the lines as we go from addiction to addiction and plot the points of intersection where our cravings are held at bay, the angry fix an American Poet called it, what you have will be as beautifully formed as the angles in a crystal, as the natural engineering of a spiderweb or the criss-cross of telephone and electrical wires and clotheslines between tenements roping off a bit of alleyway sky.
Heaven has left a wind tunnel in our hearts. And the always-trying-to-fill-it, the always-looking-to-get-there is what leaves us face-down beside the curb, or stretched out naked on the floor, the cigarette burning down to the filter between our fingers, the candle a hardening reddish puddle waiting for our failure to be pressed onto it.
We need an instrument to study the telemetry of our prayers, we worshipers from afar, in time, in distance measured (by that same instrument) from the angel realm to earth, from sunny pleasure domes and a cloud signed and numbered like a limited-edition print, to Pantisocrasy and the Commune of 1871. What can we drop from there to here and what can we take with us and what will be waiting for us there?
And what is to be done with those of us who have an aching for a myth to support our lives, a backbone an Yggdrasil whose roots curl like a fist around our troubled hearts, whose leafy branches disappear in the strange horizon where vision blends with the sky lording over it, the pale moon and occasional lumps of burning rock-iron-copper angels who fall through it, gather at our feet as dust that has traveled light years to be stepped on and forgotten except for that one phosphorescent moment when we knew to make a wish before it was already too late. And maybe that is what you are doing up late at night, inventing one, crawling up the backbone as you add vertebra to vertebra, Jacques and the beanstalk, where does it lead and who is the giant waiting at the top? And how heavy are those golden eggs anyway? If we don’t want the trouble of using ligament attachments as rungs of a ladder, if we allow it to be watered down (afraid of heights) we paint in oil, we pastel, we draw angels in the air, stamp them out of plastic, print them on comforting cards to send to one another, put them on the tops of Christmas trees, make them in the snow, in mashed potatoes, and compose music to mimic the sound of their wings beating from heaven to heaven.