Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Barbed Wire, Jazz, Thoughts About Meaning and Life

Last night, while the Spanish Fork Rodeo came to its climax and Pioneer Day fireworks erupted across Utah Valley, I sat in front of my computer writing about the meaning of barbed wire. Gloria Anzaldua's poem about her existence as a border creature had me transfixed:

1,950 mile-long open wound 
dividing a pueblo, a culture,
running down the length of my body,
staking fence rods in my flesh,
splits me     splits me
me raja     me raja

This is my home
this thin edge of
barbed wire.

The Bill Evans Trio (Evans, Scott LaFaro, and Paul Motian) worked the changes of "Gloria's Step" in their first evening set at the Village Vanguard in 1961. They had played the tune in the first afternoon set and would improvise on its chords in the third evening set as well.

I thought how my life too has been lived in the dangerous, fecund borderlands whose competing cultures and languages Gloria Anzaldua sees as barbed wire.

What cultures? What languages?

LaFaro thought his way through a long solo, Evans commenting now and then, Motian laying down the path they're treading.

I looked up at my brother's footprints. They hang on the wall like an icon. Days before he died of pneumocystis pneumonia in Boise, John cut these shapes in a cardboard box. He lined his shoes with the cutouts, the shoes he wore while cooking at the T & A Cafe, the grease-spattered shoes whose soles had cracked across.

John lived in borderlands of his own.

I lined the shapes of his feet with large postcards Zarko gave me the year I spent at the University of Tübingen working on my book about Freemasonry and the German novel. The postcards are themselves drawings of feet, done by Zarko's friend Miroslav Mandic who was walking from   the Slovenian home of France Preseren, an early 19th-century poet, to Tübingen, the home of Friedrich Hölderlin, a German contemporary of Preseren.

It was with Zarko that I first read Peter Handke: Der kurze Brief zum langen Abschied.

Last night I looked at the feet on the wall and wondered about the path of my life. What if John had not been gay? What if we hadn't grown up Mormon? What if I hadn't met Zarko? What if I hadn't found jazz? What if I weren't the father of Ben and Tim and Tom and Maren and Sam and Nate and Joe? What if I still believed in God?

I do believe. 

Just not in absolutes.

I understand the actor in "The Great Fall" who "worships" in the church he comes upon while walking. Meaning comes from form. Form comes from the hands of an artist. Repetition is meaning. The frame holds absence in the shape of feet over the representations of feet and walking. The Great Fall is from the first and second gentle walking. The Great Fall is out of and into language. Each step is a falling caught by a foot and then by the other foot. Walking is falling and standing. Life is walking.

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