Building A Monument Out Of The Confusion


I never stop talking, even when I’m just muddling around the house by myself (which is, to be perfectly honest for a change, most of the time). I’m always spitting out words and pushing them around, hoping to carve a new language out of all the silence and empty space, or at least build something sprawling and pointless, my own Paradise Gardens, my own Watts Tower. By pounding words out of the hours I hope to give something back to the clock, even as it just keeps taking.

Thing is, of course, I don’t truly have much to say. I can’t even say “for the most part,” can’t even qualify the absence of genuine content from my ceaseless babble. Things just keep coming to me unbidden; they rise in me or drift across the planetarium of my skull. I can certainly wish for more topical revelations –or for revelations of any sort whatsoever– but I’m pretty much stuck with memories, many of which may not be actual memories at all.

For instance: right this moment, or the moment that compelled me to pause and sit down at this machine, I was recalling a boy who used to bring a giant bone to school, a bone that he would drag rattling along the row of combination locks as he shuffled down the hallway. I would see this same boy away from school, often smoking in the alley next to the Ben Franklin store, and for a period of time he had a pet bird, a bird black as a blowfly’s scalp.

That bird had the mouth of a strip-bar comedian –this was a bird that worked nothing but blue. The bird’s name was Philip, and his signature phrase was “You bet your sweet ass.” The kid hardly ever said a word, but Philip would barely let him get a word in edgewise, and he couldn’t find a good thing to say about anybody. You don’t know what it’s like to be cussed up and down and insulted until you’ve been cussed up and down and insulted by a bird.

I later heard through the grapevine that Philip eventually found religion, and went around saying “God bless you” and “Bless your pea-picking heart” and reciting the Beatitudes. It should perhaps be noted, however, that I learned of this development from a sanctimonious friend of my mother’s, and this person was not generally regarded around town as a reliable source of information. This woman nonetheless reportedly encountered the cleaned-up, born-again version of Philip at the Public Library downtown.