Seizures, Free Jazz, and the Island of Catatonia

She is suddenly bolted to the back wall,
jacked straight and looking at me sideways,
curious and seeking my reaction.
My hand on her forehead, easing her back, "relax... relax..."
but the nausea has her strung up like a lost puppet,
and she is surprised,
feeling this thing controlling her,
jerking her back again to the wall,

she is lying across my arm and looking hopefully at me,
questioning, curious, "Oh, Ricky?"
and the shocks are upon her,
jacked straight again and again, the cough winding her so tight
that her mouth is clamped against the choke,
she is gripping the plastic tub but unable to bend to it,

my heart in her lap,
trying to take into myself
as much of this feeling and this sickness as I can,
pulling it up out of her,
my voice calm and the fear held back far behind me
glowering, smoking, and ready to pounce.

Battered by these swarming waves of intensity
I ply through on sheets of sound and reflection
a translucence that sees through to the pure core of beauty in everything.
I go seeking solace in rhythms organic and alive,
melodies freewheeling and loose, dynamics wide open—
feeding on all this vibration all this sound
sound boiling up into my ears
saving this spirit
lifting it
I am finding nothing here but love and life
no matter how dark the images
no matter how deep the pain
no matter how overwhelming the so-called work-load.

Watch me now, the latest and most revealing version
of this ass-on-a-plate act I've been pulling off all these years
marvel at how high I hold this head
above the sea of trivialities
above the mundane every-goddamned-thing
above the doom-sayers and the cowards
who can't quite make it back into the ring today.
I hear the apologies I hear the denials I hear the pleas of enough already
I see the abandonment
I see the shit behind the bright lights and the nervous laughter,
and I'm not sorry,
I'm not sorry,
I want it all,
and she's kicked back into my arms
and I want it all,
her hacking, her pain, I'll take it, I will deal.

I imagine scrambling for my headphones when the time comes,
I got Cecil Taylor and The Unit way up in the clouds doing the truly religious music,
the kind that's got no time for simplistic fairy-tales and neatly boxed stories.
I want Aquinas and "all my words are as straw"
I want the Upanishads and "that from which words turn back"
I want the Unnameable the Unknowable the face that cannot be seen
I want deep diving into essence and the horrifying ordered chaos of the serious world outside
where everything is miraculous but has nothing to do with petty wished-for miracles.
In this scenario the foam cups go flush around her ears
and she is suddenly transported to a place more complex and layered than she has ever known,
a soundtrack for an approaching storm in infinite-frame stereo,
the voices like reeds like voices like reeds like voices like reeds
the whole swarming out in front of her
the All appearing undeniable and crystalline
chorusing out across her fading horizons and she is HEARING it
music of the spheres and catching it
catching the beauty the shimmering beauty
the depths of it.

All this as her light trembles and her filament quietly snaps to dust
and she goes out and out and ever outward.

And I say Damn us and our unlimited limits.
Damn us and our feeble attempts to think our way into some kind of false order.
Damn our arrogance and our thinking we can know anything for sure
in the face of all this blindingly profound beauty.
I am humbled more and more each day by my growing comprehension of how little there is to hold onto.
Give me love. Give me something unfathomably real.
Give me an old woman who needs me and who fears loneliness above all else and who has told me so
and told me again above my protestations and my promises that it will never happen
that she will never be abandoned to the care of strangers
to a home that is not home.
Just give me that.

As this music enfolds and restores me I dream of handing it to her at her last moment
at the moment when she is most open and able to inhale its perfumed transcendence
at the moment between the structured self and its slide into catatonia
at the moment when her walls come down when the doors swing open when the windows implode:
I dream of this impossible transfer, this unlikely and ungrantable gift somehow
somehow
somehow breaking through and epiphanies follow.
Flashes and visions of grandeur.
Here it is.
Here it is.

I imagine a brief instant in each of us when all of the nonsense slips away,
a brief instant when all of the pretense and the veils and supporting beams come tumbling down
into the chasm left by our emptying selves
and we are open finally open after all these years spent caged and alone
unable to make ourselves available to the world
unable and needing only this gentle push this small gesture
of being told something true and beautiful and important.

As her head sinks into my shoulder and the convulsions ebb and the cold moisture rills her brow
I am shocked by a feeling of honor. Of being here when needed most.
Of feeling like a human being.
Of being unafraid.
I thought that I would be afraid.
The voices like reeds like voices like reeds like voices like reeds...






I wrote this on February 9th, the evening after it happened. She had been battered for nearly half an hour, and I was spent, just from watching, not quite comprehending what it was—thinking heart attack, knowing my promised duty was to just sit, and be with, and to not take any kind of saving action. And these things happen now and then. The afternoon strokes, the evening nausea bouts. Whenever I end feeling fatigued or pulled down deep into sadness, I know I have this path to certain change, into a place of tendered grace and restoration via this sweet rolling ungraspable music—soundtracks to unchained life in all its shimmering glory: sunsets exploding in time-lapse; "a cloud of blackbirds" rising; stories imagined in expressive bursts of textured sound... I go to these places, these soundscapes. Good fortune and circumstance allows me a handful of friends who actually understand how this all works.

"You have no idea what I'm talking about I'm sure, but..." —Kevin Spacey, the ending of American Beauty.

But... that's okay. I still need to try and explain it now and then. I saw this film several weeks after the events described above, one of those movies that give voice to my recent inner dialogues, amazing coincidence playing games with me, toying with me. ("...so much beauty in the world that I can hardly take it.") This music I've been spending my time with these past five years, and you should see the film if you haven't already, because I do know what they're talking about (it's where I live) and because the scene with the kid's favorite video is a piece of free jazz represented visually. Patterns; rules of turbulence; thematics and frameworks. Description that goes past words. A key perhaps for a ready someone to open doors with. Okay?

Love you all.
—RL



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