Wednesday, March 16, 2011

This Man Refused To Open His Eyes


We're all just waiting our turn.


I don't understand it. Something like eighty percent of all living things die before they get the chance to procreate. Even assuming that there isn't any purpose to life other than keeping the machinery grinding along, that's an awful lot of waste. I think about the seemingly endless parade of the dead who preceded us here, all those lives lived and now gone with barely a trace, numberless and faceless, gone, swallowed up like they'd never been. And that's humans, nevermind the Neandertals and protohumans and the whole ascending line from prokaryote to me.

All of that? Just to arise and fall away again?

It seems like my life matters. To me it seems that way. Yet it doesn't seem at all unusual to get born, live, and then die.

And still, I can't conceive of ceasing to be.

Not really.

But I have seen so many dead people. An awful lot of suicides, and those left-behind bodies make it pretty concrete: you can check out any time you like.  It's real, and permanent, and you don't come back from that.

You don't come back from any of it.

But I guess I won't ever know a world without me in it. Right? I mean, as long as I'm alive, the world has me in it, and I'm able to comprehend it and place myself in it, and enjoy it, and think that in some form or other, reincarnation, bodily ascension to heaven, whatever, I'm free to speculate and believe whatever I like, because I'll never be proven wrong.

Once I'm dead, the world and everything in it ceases to be for me.


I kind of like the idea that I will never know a world without me in it.

Feels a little bit better.


The rest of you?

I'm not so sure.


As usual, I feel sick about my failures. I am a damn mystery to myself.

Why this stubborn refusal to be perfect?


I know what I need to do.

Good luck getting me anywhere near it, though.


Tonight I'm making a baked cod in a provencal style tomato sauce served on a slice of rustic bread, toasted and smeared with garlic and olive oil.

Think that'll be good?

You bet.


A word here about your friendship to me, and support, and love, and that is that I am humbled and befuddled and overwhelmed by it and greedy for it.

Another one of my flaws.

The greed part.


Here's a poem from Jack Gilbert that kind of puts a good face on it (if you have been reading here very long, it should be familiar):


The fish are dreadful. They are brought up
the mountain in the dawn most days, beautiful
and alien and cold from night under the sea,
the grand rooms fading from their flat eyes.
Soft machinery of the dark, the man thinks,
washing them.  "What can you know of my machinery!"
demands the Lord. Sure, the man says quietly
and cuts into them, laying back the dozen struts,
getting to the muck of something terrible.
The Lord insists: "You are the one who chooses
to live this way. I build cities where things
are human. I make Tuscany and you go to live
with rock and silence." The man washes away
the blood and arranges the fish on a big plate.
Starts the onions in the hot olive oil and puts
in peppers. "You have lived all year without women."
He takes out everything and puts in the fish.
"No one knows where you are. People forget you.
You are vain and stubborn." The man slices
tomatoes and lemons. Takes out the fish
and scrambles eggs. I am not stubborn, he thinks,
laying all of it on the table in the courtyard
full of early sun, shadows of swallows flying
on the food. Not stubborn, just greedy.





Blogger Ms. Moon said...

And now I have to go lie flat on my back. That's it. Done.

6:48 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth said...

Gorgeous post, Dishwasher, full of resonance for me, except that which you describe here as your 'stubborn refusal to be perfect'.

To me that is reality. Why try to be perfect when it's quite impossible anyway. Death is testimony to that.

The image of the man who refuses to open his eyes reminds me of me on the delivery table when three of my four children were born, when I too during labour refused to open my eyes, as if by keeping them shut I could block out the pain, even as I longed to see those babies.

Life and death, both might offer some sort of relief.

And a world without you and me is the way it was until we were born as well as after our deaths. No wonder we have trouble imagining the past.

6:57 PM  
Blogger Allene said...

I'm sitting near your fire, Tearful--
listening, nodding and swaying to the music of your words...
you never cease to resonate.

7:37 PM  
Blogger tearful dishwasher said...

Ms. Moon-

Lying flat on my back sounds pretty good right now.

thank you, as always.

7:53 PM  
Blogger tearful dishwasher said...


I think maybe labor is the perfect metaphor for life. It's too painful to bear, but you can't get off the train, either.

All that blood and terror and love wrapped up into one new life.




7:55 PM  
Blogger tearful dishwasher said...


Pass me a beer.

Glad you're here, as always.

7:55 PM  
Blogger Petit fleur said...

I want a beer too. And maybe some of that Cod.

7:59 PM  
Blogger tearful dishwasher said...

That cod was fucking awesome.

I about died from it.

Here, you can have this beer, it's still cold and pull your chair up close to the fire.



8:03 PM  
Anonymous naaz said...

hey there, very good writing!..
go polish and compile all your stories to make a book...or have you already?.

8:31 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

I was lying on my bed, curled into a fetal position, but now I'm able to lie flat on my back and stare at the blue sky. I love Jack Gilbert and rarely see his poetry on these here internets. Thank you for posting this --

10:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...



o happy day!

3:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Last year you wrote about us being "transitory creatures" - that statement about impermanence stayed with me and serves me beautifully. It's a verbal balm that puts things in order. Your blog provides a place to have a simultaneously kind and stark conversation about impermanence, longing, and death. You say things that inspire a deep sense of proportion. Do you know the koan about a dew drop world? You speak to that world and always hold within your words, the "and yet."
best, Mary

7:02 AM  
Blogger susan t. landry said...

here comes pollyanna, but really-it's a good kind of greedy, right? you're not taking the food out of other people's mouths, removing the roof from other people's shelters, sticking a gun in someone else's ribs to make off with their monthly mortgage? you just want another slab (or 3) of garlic-scented cod on a nice big piece of toast. is that so wrong?
and if any of us happened by, chances are you'd give us a bite.

7:06 AM  
Blogger 37paddington said...

humbled, befuddled, overwhelmed and greedy, too. guilty as charged. and so full of wonder sometimes I can hardly breathe.

and yes, i embrace the freedom to make up my own truths about where we go when we are no longer us. i like the idea that we have been here before and will be here again. the bodies, consciousness, experiences change, only the spark remains, and it travels with us, so that the spark in me recognizes the spark in you, and how amazing that from opposite sides of a continent, that can happen.

and that man, he wont open his eyes because he's holding tight to some vision that he sees on his eyelids, and he's like a kid who believes he can will it to be so, and I want to be like that kids who believes, too.

kneeling round the fire. grateful as can be.

12:58 PM  
Blogger A said...

Words and food. Greed for life is right up next to great openness to life, isn't it? Like appreciative awareness? Seems so to me.

1:08 PM  
Blogger tearful dishwasher said...


I'm afraid the book is just what's already online. Peruse at your leisure.

thanks for coming by!



8:09 PM  
Blogger tearful dishwasher said...


I'm not sure flat on your back is a big improvement from the fetal position, but I'll take your word for it.

Gilbert. He's rare and amazing, flawed as any bad human ever was, but still, I have a weakness for him.

8:11 PM  
Blogger tearful dishwasher said...


You. You always make me feel good.

I bet you do that to a lot of folks.

We all love you, you know,.



8:12 PM  
Blogger tearful dishwasher said...


Leave it to you to remember what I wrote last year. "a place to have kind and stark conversations about impermanence, longing, and death" is about the most wonderful thing anyone has ever said about this place.

I fucking love it.

The thing is, you know all I could ever know and more. I am but a blunt instrument for insight or knowledge.

But I am so damn grateful to have you here with me for the journey. I hope that you can feel that. I do.



Ps- i hope you all come back our way very, very soon.

8:16 PM  
Blogger tearful dishwasher said...


The funny thing is, I have stuck my gun in a lot of ribs. I mean, a lot of them.

Not for robbing them, though. Just to make them play nice and go to jail like they were supposed to.

And I would totally give you a bite of any good food I had, ever and always.

The whole point of good food is sharing it, right?

I am so pleased to have you as a friend.



8:19 PM  
Blogger tearful dishwasher said...


You and me? Separated at birth.

We have GOT to get us a pizza and a pitcher of beer and some lobster and some oysters and some good damn writing to pour over together and a movie and all of our beautiful families together, eating and laughing and dancing and who the fuck cares if the world blows itself up in the midst of all of that love and wonder?

so there.



8:22 PM  
Blogger tearful dishwasher said...


as always, you are spot on.

I'm so glad to know you, to have been able to wrap my own inadequate arms around you in the flesh.



8:23 PM  
Blogger deirdre said...

Your whole blog is a delicious, heart-rending, head-scratching, navel-gazing, orgy of a party, comments and all. You better send somebody to the liquor store for some more cold ones.
Good on you. You are making it happen.

wv = fulingo
oh there's a word with a future.

8:12 AM  
Blogger LKD said...

Oh, that Jack Gilbert poem.

It hits me in all the right and wrong places.

I feel like I just read a poem by our good friend, the greatest living poet we're lucky enough to know, Jim.

I feel like someone just turned the light on then shut it off.

I feel like I found the key in my pocket, turned it in the lock and found no one home.

God, I love a poem like that.

Thank you so damned much for that Jack poem.

6:33 PM  
Blogger tearful dishwasher said...


Ha. you made me smile. Not always an easy thing to do!



6:30 AM  
Blogger tearful dishwasher said...


Yes, Jack is a hell of a poet. Not as good as Jim, but then, who is?

Glad you liked it!



6:31 AM  

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