07 August 2017

The Ruins of the Empire Shall Be Dusted with Gold

So it has come to this, staring down the barrel of the gun that is my life. Days on which I cannot be bothered to spend dinner money, such as this one, I eat hunched over a paper plate. Clutched in one hand is a plastic fork. It is gilded. Plastic, of course, but a welcome suspension of disbelief makes it an artifact of the dreams of Spanish kings. 

Golden forks, like the spoons and knives purchased together, were part of a cheeky joke shared with my daughter. We had to eat with something in the last days of my Midwestern empire. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner all amongst the ruins. She is gone back to her mother. I sit alone and swallow bitter stones. The setting sun slats through the patio door casting shadows on a kingdom returned to dust.

According to the Persian poet Rumi, "Love is the bridge between you and everything." A pity. My eyes, my heart, all full of smoke and cinders from the burning. I see no bridges.

Except the two that fell out of a nightstand that made the eastward trek with me. The drawer slid open while tilting the stand into place. Two bridges in the shape of two letters I forgot were in my possession. They crossed a river of memory that should have dried up years ago.

I stare at the letters laying on the table. Zombie letters in a sense. They were never sent, but they did arrive. They lay in  ambush while moving that bedside table. I chew with the mien of a cow. Food as cud in my mouth, tasting of what, I do not know. 

Sunlight slants through an opening in the leaves outside the windows, by trick of circumstance landing as a spotlight on the letters. The heat brings out a faint musty aroma. Breathing it in brings on a flashback to the libraries in which I buried myself as a youth. 

This is the smell of aging paper and daydreams that took me out of myself. The imp of reason residing in my head tells me the odor is simply from having been stored away so long. The imp of my heart feels differently, tersely replying that the scent is of aging memory and burning hearts.

Food sticks in my throat. A hurried gulp of iced tea pushes it down past the lump. The letters were addressed, front and back. The envelopes themselves toothy wrappers that embodied the artist I believed I was when the letters were written. The stamps were leftover from the Christmas season. The cat stares at me while I laugh loudly at the images of "Madonna and Child" in the heat of the summer.

Fading light paints the apartment with soft patches of gold-tinged dusk. The sun is behind the trees now. I can see swatches of its glow through the gaps in the blinds. In the light of the dining room chandelier the letters acquire a hue that reminds me of wedding bands. White gold or some such appellation. They remain unopened.

The letters I moved to my nightstand. A few hours would pass before they called again for my attention. Covers turned back, alarm set, the bedside lamp encircled the letters in a gauzy pool of pale gold light thrown off through a yellowed shade. The lamp was another castaway rejoined with its master in the move. Shaking hands reached out to take up the letters.

Without a knife, I resorted to using a car key to open the envelopes. The tearing was remarkably precise. It should be noted that the envelopes were also numbered, #1 and #2. Apparently, I must have felt that one was insufficient at the time. That or my heart must have been overflowing as the towers fell around me.

The date was April 14, 2010.

Hand to mouth I perched on the bedside and read the outpourings of an emperor who was witnessing the earth open up to swallow his domain whole, under roiling clouds of ashes and dust. The frantic begging of a heart desperate not to lose something which made it whole. It was so long ago, and the shock made it as yesterday.

I read the letters through twice, almost refusing to believe that it was my hand that put ink to page. Evidence has its own agenda and it was not to assuage my fractured heart. History repeats itself, the earth casts up shards of the broken past. In my hands I held their weight.

Those letters were never sent. Desperation is no guarantor of wish fulfillment, and I knew that when I wrote them. Perhaps the head knew better when it tucked those letters in the nightstand, to be forgotten until the wheel turned to the new old futures unfurling before sore, astonished eyes. 

I put the letters back in their respective envelopes and wiped my face. There are no words up to the task of offering comfort to a man deposed his second time as emperor, and who in total three times suffered the demise of his crown. Victim of neither abdication nor death, but dethroned by banishment from the realm. It is an honor of dubious distinction that tears will not expunge.

Before I could regroup to sleep my mind insisted on an attempt at distraction by mindless scrolling through the internet. This as if a good meme or pictures of cats could revitalize my bloodline. Just before I turned out the lights I stumbled across a video of Motörhead, of all bands, performing a cover of David Bowie's "Heroes."

I watched it to the end. Heroes. We could be heroes yet I heard no songs of Roland played for myself. The light I turned off, the gold fading behind eyelids sailing a hot and salty sea. I was an emperor, thrice before, and now not even a hero just for one day. I fell asleep to dream of a crown that surely must be buried somewhere in the gilded ruins of the empires of my heart. Would that my head be heavy with it.

1 comment:

  1. "so far from home" You are closer than you think.


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...