In a hut of mud and fire / Sits this single man — “Not to want / Money, to want a life in the world, / To want no trinkets on my name” — / And he was rich; his life lives where / Death cannot go; his honor stares / At the sun.
The fawn sleeps, The little winds / Ruffle the earth’s green hair. It is / Wonderful to live. My sword rusts / In the pleasant rain. I shall not think / Anymore. I touch the face of my friend; / He shows his dirty teeth as he scratches / At a flea — and we grin. It is warm / And the rice stirs usefully in our bellies.
The fawn raises its head — the sun floods / Its soft eye with the kingdoms of life – / I think we should all go to sleep now, / And not care anymore.
“Gautama In The Deer Park At Benares”, Kenneth Patchen
a thing you do
now or never –
which do you?
“Living is –”, Piet Hein
I lived with my father for eight years, but I have no memories of him. I’ve only ever seen two photos of us together, and they were taken within moments of each other. I was eight when my mother left him and took my little brother and I away. The next time I saw him was when I was fifteen, I took a train to the city where I grew up. When I got to the station I walked right past him because I had no idea what he looked like. As far as I know — after I turned around and walked back to him — that was the first time I shook my fathers hand.
When I was a child my father believed he was a great man who was in the middle of a great revolution, and things get sacrificed during revolutions. Like family. Or maybe — as he tells the story now — he was just a magazine publisher who had unwittingly acquired a loyal and slightly depraved following of Marxist rebels intent on taking over… something. Whatever. The truth is pretty simple, however, my father told lies that corrupted and nearly killed the people who trusted him.
At fifteen, when I got off the train, I knew I had two sisters I had never met. They would have been three and four — I think. During the mini-tour my father gave me of my ‘home town’ I asked about seeing them, as we were within sight of their home. He told me their mother had issues about my visiting and that it wouldn’t be a good time right then. Or that they were busy. Whatever. He then brought me to his office where I waited in the lobby reading a Reader’s Digest for thirty minutes while he made some phonecalls. Later, in the restaurant, he introduced me to the waitress as “his son”. It was the first time I remember him saying that. I’m still stunned as to how it made me feel. That day we spent two hours together. It was the last time I’d see him for sixteen years.
My sisters grew up not knowing they had brothers because of my father’s lies. He only told them when it became inevitable that my brother and I were going to make an effort to connect with them. He gave them a red three-ring folder. In it he explained to them — in photos and an almost poetic lilt to the words — about my brother and I in a format very reminiscent to something OXFAM would send out. Little black and white photos neatly laid out on white paper, large type in non-serif font. My sisters were in their mid-teens when they found out their father told lies.
My younger brother went first. He stayed with our sisters and their mother for a few weeks. The last straw for my mother, the thing that finally ended her marriage, was that her good friend Edie had become pregnant with my fathers child. After Edie had given birth to Eric she left for Alberta. My father forgot to put Eric into the red three-ring folder. But my brother and I knew. And my brother — without knowing it had been a secret — told our sisters about Eric and then things really started to fall apart.
So my father lied to me about the mother of my sisters not wanting to see me. After meeting her I found out my father had lied to me when I had visited, that she wanted a relationship with my brother and I — I’m not sure right now if she knew about Eric. My father lied-by-omission to my sisters about their three brothers.
I want this to be over. Everything, EVERYTHING… everything in my life comes from the lies my father started telling before I was borne. My father lied to my mother to get her to marry him; my father lied to his friends and family and caused them to follow him into a Revolution he had no intention of ever fighting; my father lied to my mother’s friend and then came Eric; my father lied to his next girlfriend and then came my sisters; my father lied to them and to me and to my brothers and denied us a family… I need this to be over because my fathers’ lies have nearly killed me, nearly killed my youngest sister, have created a situation where I’ll never know my youngest brother and he’ll never know us. My father’s own brothers, most of them, have only recently started to communicate with him. The people who believed in him, the people who raised me, are still living in the horrors that he put them into.
When we were together, when I was a child and the Revolutionaries still Believed, I was given a bike. It was the most expensive gift ever given out in the eight years of our little Commune. And I rode the fuck out of that silver thing with the knobby tires up and down our street. The only two photos I’ve seen of my father and I and my brother and my mom all together — the ones taken within moments of each other — were taken the same week. That one week, out of eight years, was the week my father decided to be a father. He was trying to prove to my mother, his wife, that he could do the job. He was trying to prove to his wife he could be a husband… because the previous week was when Eric’s mother told the Group she was pregnant with his child.
My fathers contribution to my life has been lies after lies after lies after lies after lies after lies, and I need it to stop.
I’ve been living in my fathers lies and I just need to stop.