Answers Like Burning Paper

The questions used to be easy. And if they weren’t easy, they were at least innocent, also answerable with simple Google searches.
Cayde would ask:
“What’s the inside of a blueberry look like?”
“What’s a blue whale skeleton look like?”
“Did tyrannosaurs have feathers?”
(The last one is great, because it’s a matter of both science and whimsy, which are fantastic collaborators in the art of metaphorizing. Imagine a reptilian killing-machine wearing a feather boa. The jokes write themselves).
I’d show Cayde pictures on an iPad while reclining in his bed.
“That penguin’s fat.”
We worked in the declarative.
My friend Maggie Jaffe and I used to run a small press publication years earlier where, over a Spartan plate of salsa and cream cheese, seitan and grapes (also scotch), we’d argue about fonts.
She’d go to a writers’ retreat in Vermont and I’d have to type up the issues and take care of her cat, a Norwegian Forest Tabby. I’m really bad at computers, much better at cats. It was a quasi-agreeable situation.
“Is this going to be the prison issue, or the Ernesto Cardenal issue?”
We were both bird-lovers, birds that sometimes show up in the mouths of felines. We were fashionably ironic, me and Mags.
The poetry overflowed, took up a lot of space. I wound up with boxes that I couldn’t store in my apartment with its one and simple closet. I kept a box of manuscripts in the trunk of my car, my mobile attic.
Attics get broken into as do cars, and long story short, poetry wound up scattered over the streets of North Park one night, and a Florida St. Samaritan returned some of the loose pages to Maggie, tire prints and all, asking: “Are these yours?”
Mags and I spent 9/11 together, watched the buildings go down in a wreck of dust and concrete, with the papery aftermath of dossiers and fax sheets floating light despite the heaviness of everything—this stupid detritus which caught the sun when you wished to God it didn’t look so beautiful in its descent.
Maggie was pretty mad about the poetry, all those ruined papers.
How do you apologize? In a formal letter? Sans serif with a Goodyear watermark? Tough questions.
Cayde has tougher questions these days.
“What’s the Illuminati?”
“Why didn’t Thomas Jefferson and John Adams like each other? They wrote a bunchuv letters to each other.”
“Who killed JFK?”
“Why did they burn Martin Luther King’s house down?”
“Tell me about Gandhi?”
I’m equipped to answer these questions, and why I still have residence in Cayde’s bunk come bedtime. Cayde’s actually carved out time: ‘7-7:30’ Daddy and I talk about things; ‘7:30-8’ we play along with Jeopardy.
These questions are hard, they’re just not declarative in nature anymore. The inside of a blueberry is an easy thing to Google, moral relativism is not.
“What was the worst war?”
“Why were we in Iraq?”
I don’t want to mess him up.
“Let’s not talk about Iraq tonight.”
“There’s no such thing as a good war,” Cayden says, wearing kid pj’s, and I’m not sure if it’s a statement or a question.
Studs Terkel, Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Dwight Eisenhower, MLK. I flip through my mental Rolodex of primary sources.
I kiss him square atop his mop.
“Not tonight, Dude. Later. We can talk later.”
We’ll talk later and erase the tire-prints, maybe look at pictures of dinosaurs with fancy feathers. That’s easier.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s