Monday, June 3, 2013

Without expectations (Reflections on a reading at The Beat’n Path, Hoboken)

April 21, 1980

The spot lights burn my eyes.
I raise my hand to fend off the brightness, then rub them as if they hurt.
A nervous habit as I read.
I feel my words dribble out of me and hear them as if someone else is speaking them.
They are true, but sound false.
I shuffled the papers as I read, changing the lines around so that they might come out differently, sounding more truthful, when in altering them, they become lies.
Past the brightness of the lights, I see faces looking at me, listening to me, and I wonder: do they know what the truth is?
I’m scared because inside I fear people’s laughter, and wish I was back along the riverside where the slow water flows up to my feet, without judgment or motive, sloshing and gurgling with the events of the season, carrying leaves and debris to me as gifts – and in some ways, my words capture a little of that, flowing out of me the way the river flows from some other more mysterious source, seeking to convey some feeling or thought, I can convey in no other way, my gaze finding one set of eyes in the crowd to reach out to, and then ask within these shuffled words, whether I have found truth or not, and whether these gifts dribbling onto the shore convey the spirit of river out of which they flow.
And then, I’m done, the pages finished, my mouth snapping shut on the last like a turtle condemned to the silence of the river, and vaguely, I hear someone clap or laugh or mutter approval or disapproval, I cannot tell.
I close the notebook, step down, and pass out from under the glare of lights to take my place in the shadows, to pass judgment on those who follow, knowing they will forget that they passed judgment on me once they are there in front of those lights, and I wonder, can I accept their gifts as they flow up to me as readily as I accepted those gifted to me at the river.

I sit and miss the river all the more, knowing how much simpler life is without expectations.

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