Drinking to forget again (nearly home time)

Yoon Yong is drunk again.

Drinking to forget again (nearly home time)
 
…3 bottles of Soju later & staggering thoughtfully
through tight gullies | her stomach
 
packed full of pig | mouth reeking of garlic
noxious enough to stun a jindo—the stars like pheasant tracks
 
—if you count all the stars is that how old the universe is?
like counting tree rings to know the age of a tree.
 
What bollocks I think up sometimes!
The old houses shake under the wind’s saline weight |
 
a commotion of thin voices she can hear inside
as well as the clatter of dishes
 
—the noise of domesticity
reminding her to give her daughter a call.
 
There is no answer—she is probably sleeping.
She wants to punch the air
 
but realizes how juvenile & cliché it is |
she wants to box the moon | debate
 
with wind | dress in shadow drunken
on gloom to stir the poetic | rather
 
than parrot a language I hate.
“Rest | tomorrow is a big | new day…”
 
 

Onanism

A poem from Yoon Yong. I had a debate in the pub the other week about onanism. I have a theory that the violence of men, may have its root in onanism: in one onanistic act, a man lays waste on a rag, to an entire population. Dylan Thomas was concerned with this. So is Yoon Yong.

 Onanism
 
…Reclined | tensing in the shallow relief of the sofa
his unimpressive prick in his left hand |
 
tugging it like a monk feeding prayer beads through
his pious fingers | the girl on girl porn panting
 
out of the Apple Mac—it tickled her
how he tucked it away quickly & closed the laptop lid
 
getting up to greet her with a peck on the cheek
& mumbling something quickly
 
“…about going out for dinner in Itaewon—pasta?”
I wonder if he just likes the one kind of porn |
 
is it habit & if he looks for women like me?
Mom called me when she found “sex magazines”
 
in her brother’s room.
Panicky as only our mother is she called | not sure what her
 
“duty to the situation” was— should she tell
the father | or have a private talk with her son
 
about the immorality of “touching yourself” | even
though she knows nothing about it
 
—this is what happens when no-one talks &
the “unspoken rule of thumb” is the solution
 
to taboos in polite society: no one
has the foggiest idea what to do…

Appearances

There will be a Yoon Yong poem today & tomorrow. I promise.


Appearances
 
…My cheekbones are fine | my chin if a little chiseled.
I don’t agree with where my hair parts
 
the same as my father’s | not symmetrical like my mother.
Glad I got mother’s long legs
 
but my father’s eyes.
Nose is fine | not too flat to use the sun for a clock.
 
Mother | watching her soap operas all afternoon
—do you identify with any of the characters mom?
 
“What strange questions you ask me Yoon Yong.
It’s just a TV show | it isn’t real.”
 
I once asked mom what a feminist is |
she told me “it’s the English word for woman | daughter…”

Nostalgia

Yoon Yong.

Nostalgia
 
…The morning news buzzing in the background...
—Her father stopped reading the newspaper
 
when his sight grew dim.
She liked to see him read: she felt in good hands |
 
that her father could guide her.
She tried to replicate the paper’s cackle
 
with other materials—my own onomatopoeia
—when she played grown-ups.
                           
Seldom would her father give the newspaper
as a prop— when he did | she kept
 
it till it wore to shreds.
He uses a tablet which comes nowhere close
 
to producing the same
authority & distinction…

The dilemma of loving a child

Yoon Yong is edging closer to the end now. Just so you know, hagwons, in Korea, are privately run academies, which children attend as well as school. They are largely English academies, however there are math, science & art hagwons too. They fill a void school’s cannot fill due to the Korean school system not being arranged in levels of ability as they are (or were) in England, where students are placed in groups suitable to their ability. In Korea all abilities are put together in the hope that every student has the same opportunity. However, what this means is the level is set lower than a proportion of students, who just get bored. So hagwons challenge them & enable improvement. You must have money to send kids to good hagwons. It illustrates status & good hagwons can provide students a higher level of proficiency than their class mates at school, mother’s with a social milieu, teachers with jobs & business owners with a competitive though often profitable venture. In short, there are tons of hagwons.

 The dilemma of loving a child
 
…My daughter must be taught to be an individual
—I can’t bear the thought of her becoming mechanized.
 
Little Sarang bashing at an iPad & squealing
as chunky characters pop & parade | singing nonsensically.
 
She must suffer for it like me—then I’ll love her.
She’ll succeed in being unique.
 
Is it not a life of agony to be an exile in your own culture?
Dual heritage will marginalize her perhaps
 
—her English will be naturalized
which will elevate her above all the other kids.
 
That’ll irritate all the fuddy-duddy stuck-up girls
I knew in high school | who now make-up
 
their daughters like princesses. 
I won’t get those exorbitant hagwon bills.
 
She’s already on top. We are individuals against our will.
The democracy of character the cult of personality.
 
The Falun Gong of I
—our organs gauged out like a trowel foisting up a root.
                          
Beaten for blood to test the resilience of our bone & muscle
by truncheons of our own making
                                  
—our leader AWOL overseas | with a permanent Visa
& eating well | living in luxury while
 
slowly | in  pain we lose bits of ourselves
physically & then (after terms of endurance) mentally…
 

Review of Stephanie L. Harper’s The Death’s Head’s Testament

The Death’s Head’s Testament continues on from Stephanie’s previous book This Being Done & fortunate for us Stephanie is in the present progressive, hammering out the dimensions of poems. The poems here continue to wade in the difficulties of womanhood, family, child-rearing, love, life, memory & death.

There is wakeful invention, an intellectual alacrity, sure-footedness even on the tremulous ground of the heart in the track of each advancing line. Something common-place, is elevated to heightened importance if only for it being what it is: a potential for articulation & loving.

Despite the morbidity of the title, I hope (well-founded on the verve of being a life-bringer & cultivator, which Stephanie wears unashamedly on her sleeve) that Stephanie isn’t concerned as Roy Fisher expresses in Poplars that“I think I am afraid of becoming a cemetery of performance.” Stephanie’s performance is to be anticipated.

Stephanie sets off from a harbour in the American tradition with an echo of “Call me Ishmael” but we are steered away by Stephanie’s humble admission “i’m no kind of Ishmael” continuing “to expound some great protagonist’s wayward saga” but I’d say that, no, she isn’t, this isn’t a saga. Stephanie’s poems are more Heidegger’s Dasein made into an expansive zone: a being-present-in. They are ruminations on humanness, the sort of humanness we read in Wallace Stevens’ verse from Chocorua to its Neighbor:

To say more than human things with human voice,
That cannot be; to say human things with more
Than human voice, that, also, cannot be;
To speak humanely from the height or from the depth
Of human things, that is acutest speech.

Stephanie is acutely aware of her woman-ness ruminating-through the Dasein, she explains she hasn’t

the slightest inkling of other 
 
women’s misfortunes, nor do i know
if i’m even justified in such grief over a life
squandered on an endless vigil’s cries of    
who sees me now?  & now?  & now?
 
who, besides this mirror i face,
knows my bulging litany of failures,
my spurious assumption of a character i detest?

She’s wide open with herself, comfortably, easily of & for women, but also-for humanness; without hint of difficulties spreading herself between the various camps within gregarious humanity.

There is something contained, something only to be there in the poetry, to be leeched out with effort. Stephanie’s poems are not easy, they might even be her “globed satellites” a humourous metaphor for her breasts, also a metaphorically “gravitational force” which she has “abhorred since youth.” They become the “murdered albatross”. The fleshy albatross is the burden of womanhood, the burden of parturition, as well as the difficulty in the creation of poetry. I am wary of taking this to a more profound level than humour. Line by line the mood can turn without warning. Where there is the lightened mood of “globed satellites” we end “downcast like a faded damask rose”, as if the lightness of humour doesn’t expel the burden of the flesh.

Things I Cannot Say is anecdotal, humourous & revealing:

a burned-out Graduate Assistant 
(who couldn’t have distinguished a metaphysical marvel from
her left elbow)

using an orangutan puppet called Andreas “recruited to teach German reflexive verbs to Undergrads”, an object manipulated, like a metaphor, to work for the teacher to increase the likelihood of getting verbs to move into a workable order. That they are reflexive, punning on reflective, which this poem is: a reflection to a previous life & time.

The albatross turns into the orangutan. Now, the orangutan works for the budding ruminator, rather than weighing her down. This act of metamorphosis illustrates the disparities of ourselves from one age to another as we get people to witness us. Despite the awkwardness, the weariness & Andreas, a decision to take the elevator becomes a moment never to be forgotten:

you decided to take the elevator back up from your 
third floor classroom to your eighth floor office in Van Hise,
& discovered yourself being flanked for five flights by two
Tibetan Buddhist Monks in their maroon & saffron-yellow robes:
Geshe Sopa, whom you recognized from the Asian Studies Department
on the twelfth floor, & his brightly-smiling companion, none other than
His Holiness the Dalai Lama—even though you’ll never forget how
Andreas clasped his banana, while you summarily exited your body
on a silent wave of preternatural warmth, the mouth of the thing
you would never again inhabit fixing itself into a ridiculous grin.

Andreas is an object. But Andrea becomes so much more. Andreas is a real object who transforms through Stephanie into a sensual quality. We glimpse how metaphor works. As a metaphor, an actor, Andreas is able to transmute the difficult, perhaps even mundane regime of rote learning into something feasible, interesting, while also attempting to get at the core of language & even to establish a memory to be reflected back to. So Andreas becomes an object of not only the poetic foreshadowing of Stephanie, but also an objectification of metaphor itself. Moreover, Andreas is a tool, as is metaphor, used to get a fix on the essentiality of not just meaning, but things in themselves & their extensive usage.

The tone is often easy, the anecdotal, effortless as if they’ve been told countless times, & like myths gaining new interpretations, improved upon; so the poems arrive here.

Twenty years ago
I received a birthday gift
from a close college buddy-slash-sometime lover
(What on earth were we thinking?).
Back then, our past was already in the past
& twenty-four was already not young.
He gave me a coffee mug
covered in chickens—
 
yes, painted chickens—

Through this intimate tone, Stephanie becomes comfortable with us, inviting us to be comfortable with her. The chicken, a motherly, robust, fertile symbol. For Stephanie is unashamedly a mother & any mother & reader of poetry would find a friend & familiarity in poems such as Briefing from the Sunday Review Board with its religious tone moving seamlessly with the normality of home life:

Blessed be the Teenagers 
   
greasified & bespectacled
though they be     for lolling with you on the couch
to watch an “old” movie from two thousand & three    
for getting most of the cheesy references to last century    
& even laughing aloud (albeit dubiously)     as you’ve
been all the while vaunting the previous night’s travesty
of red flannel covered in Mickey Mouse heads    
purple soccer shorts     & magenta knee-high socks    
& for not onlyseeming not to mind your ensemble    
but also refraining from being put out by the three-inch-
long grey whisker sticking bolt straight out of your temple    
from whence it had migrated     undiscovered     until crossing    
the evidentiary vista’s periphery

The evident shape of Risen could be either a waxing or waning moon, a sail (recall the opening allusion to Moby Dick) or a pregnant paunch. The poem bows outward toward the right hand margin, fertile, the lines motioning into myth. There is talk of the body, magma, moon song “like the shape of her burning / a song like her mouth” song that rises, like inspiration that rises like the down-trodden, like the pain which rises with child birth, the pain of emotion, trauma. It is one of the more complex poems, open to symbolic interpretation, deeply personal, yet accessible through a universal dream-like, mythological lens. The poem reminds me of a line by Hart Crane in the poem Voyages: “Her undinal vast belly moon ward bends.” There-in completing the relationship between the moon, ocean, pregnancy, emotion.

The Death’s Head’s Testament is an erudite, intimate, inviting set of poems, full of turns, motioning like an unsettled ocean, yet discovering peace in detail, memory, family, whilst constantly shifting the reader through an evidently busy & thoughtful mind, not bogged down, but seeing the potential in duty, in the responsibility to family; these poems are tender, full of rehearsed, unique memories that you want to be involved in. There’s a whole life here to engage with.

You can pre-order a copy of The Death’s Head’s Testament here at the Main Street Rag’s home page. To stay up to date with Stephanie’s publications, you can visit her blog.

Idleness, a dog’s lot

The Rock (not the muscle-headed Hollywood Rock who doesn’t perform his own stunts but looks hard like he does) in T.S. Eliot’s play explains,

The lot of man is ceaseless labour,
Or ceaseless idleness, which is still harder,
Or irregular labour, which is not pleasant.

Now assuming idle here isn’t a play on idol—which, with a lit-crit cone on my head I’d argue it almost, incontestably, must be—I get this, really, in a knuckling way, a dig in my plexus; especially the difficulty of idleness, especially when the idleness in question breeds guilt. Our 0 hour contractors would surely agree with that about ‘irregular labour’ too, I haven’t met any of them, but they must, mustn’t they?

I am idle. Yes, idle. It isn’t my fault, I don’t think so anyway, I won’t take that slap in the gob. My routine is a binge of uncertainty. I wake early, read (a sort of reading. I re-read most of the lines) whilst my attention is drugged by the early morning roster of horrible American sitcoms, fuzzy and warm, a safety net cueing us when to laugh, the correct level of laugh-intensity, so we fit in—how else would we know otherwise? Every fibre of my snobbish taste rebels against the magnanimous push to be involved.

Why my dad watches these I just don’t know, they are bloody awful. One features the archetypal fat guy, who inflects his sentences, a cue for us to be hysterical, in the present tense. His wife is gorgeous of course, which dismantles the reality of the aesthetic pecking order, when, we ugly people have expended enormous energy accepting the bottom-tier ranking genetics plugged us in.

There is 24hour news to cheer me up. I am become an inveterate consumer of all news. I’ll even stomach the berating tactics of the indefatigable Piers Morgan, God bless him and his uncompromising, style (?). Actually, the way that he is programmed entertains me immensely.

Despite the exorbitant sum of money Susanna Reid receives for stomaching the patriarchal knob rash that is Piers Morgan, I can’t help but pity her. She can hold her own of course, she’s probably got a PhD in political science for all Piers might know. If you watch carefully, as I have inevitably begun to do, you can see her gnawing through her bottom lip when he folds his arms, gathers himself and starts to expound; sure she’ll draw blood one day. The live, brutal bludgeoning with a stiletto at 7:30 a.m. of Morgan, will be a good day for women, and I for one will rouse from my idle stupor and petition Reid’s release.

The irony of this idleness is multifoliate.

First of all, looking for work these days seems to encourage idleness. I went to a local agency in town the other day & they had one job: a warehouse packer, part time, night shifts. Everything being done online, you find gob-shite jobsites, upload CV, scroll lists of a billion menial jobs you could do standing on your head, despite being worded in such a fashion as to make them sound impossible to do, and with a single click you have applied. There is endless disappointment when you look at a job for laboring only to see you need a special permit; or gardening or even data input, where you need a special qualification—as if you need a special dispensation by some ruling-body to be slow-roasted with boredom. This goes on until you start to feel disorientated, vomit in your mouth a little, collapse with such force on your keyboard a key lodges under your eyelid—what follows is rage, panic & a visit to the NHS, where a nurse will tell you off for wasting resources & time.

I cannot adequately express in English how soul-crushing a task this is. The inexorable sadness of it makes me loath our systems, which have infiltrated this process because of the encouragement we tacitly approve via our reception to convenience.

My father has always been a hard worker. It is etched into our family’s moral compass. I agree with it. Yet I can’t help but think that idleness is really something I need to explore, something that might actually need to be more encouraged in society.

I often hear people whine about work, but then before they’ve exhaled, they’ll admit how it halts any uncomfortable thoughts, helps them regulate what simmers beneath the surface of themselves: an existential crisis. Thinking is a terrible thing. This is a limit of consciousness, so people think. It is easier to complain about doing something you don’t want to do consciously or otherwise, than it is being left to be conscious of one’s human frailties. I think there is a certain idleness to be scared or unwilling to participate in your own humanity. We are estranged from animals because of our thinking, to sacrifice this for repetition is to fear the immense complexity and duty to being aware of ourselves. The irony is, the idler is potentially more inclined to this pit of existential waywardness than the hive-minded and duteous.

People (those bloody people) these days, often ask me what I will do with myself now. I have explained my plan to do my MA, then to work toward a PhD. Explaining that PhD’s are funded, has on numerous occasion provoked an outcry: “Why do I have to fund you reading books?” Some, more than makes me comfortable, think PhD’s are funded through taxation. Terrifying isn’t it. As far as I am aware, PhD’s are funded through universities or by businesses. It isn’t the taxpayer’s burden. (Brief aside: these same people forget the miniscule amount of the British budget that goes to people out of work, most of the money for the benefits budget, goes towards pensions, some 100 odd billion.)

Ironic then that that which un-idles us establishes idleness in other areas, areas essential to our development as human beings. Therefore, it takes a daring escape into idleness, to go without the securities afforded by employment, in order to work on yourself. Eliot was onto something, who’d have thought? Because of societal resistance to this, few people are afforded the luxury of being inveterate readers, having hobbies that involve training oneself to be proficient at an art or in studious pursuits. It is in the interest of those that structure society to demonize such pursuits. I think I half believe this, I mean I don’t really think our overlords demonstrate a keen enough intellect to sully our efforts to, get smart. I do still think this was why Gove said what he said about nobody wanting to listen to experts, and why education is no longer hailed as the cornerstone-decision of every school leaver. Plenty of statistics have been produced on how much more money non-graduates are paid than graduates—Google it. What is never remarked, is how little a properly educated person really wants. Maybe I am sheltered by my own requirements and a few I know, who manage with so little and while not exactly happy, probably wouldn’t  trade what they have figured out for flash cars and holidaying twice a year. Puerile aren’t we. Daft. Stubborn. Doomed to a life of misery, to be sexless, saggy, ugly, useless: human.

It is complicated. Everything is. Idleness simplifies. While I am not open to an extended period of doing nothing, I will try to make the most of my current idleness. Everyone’s doing something, a lot of those doers are making a right pig’s ear of what they do, I don’t see how it can hurt to just stop being a doer for a while and watch what’s going on.

There is in idleness the sensation of feeling invisible; I could do with disappearing for a while.

Amy Soricelli (5 Poems)

5 poems by Bronx poet Amy Soricelli over at Underfoot poetry today.
Poems personally informed & telling, full of anecdote & a close relationship with an urban environment, the ins & outs of a well lived life & commitment to community, family & friends. There is pure life in these poems. Amy’s voice is confident & the poems flow like the dodgy step of a citizen walking through a crowded pavement.

Underfoot Poetry

Teacher Training

I cannot sit her down and say things that will make the
difference in the shape of her feet
or sounds from the kids she teaches when they ask all the time;
they ask about the world
and the lonesome way people behave.
She will say things now, on the phone,
that startle me;
like once in 3rd grade she asked me about God
and it was just sitting there;
the beliefs we carry or don’t.
She tells me about the ‘sometimes scrapes and bruises’
hidden under the kids sleeves
and how they might cling extra hard
before a long weekend.
She shows me math on little cards;
they teach with little cards that fit in my hand,
so little.
I cannot tell her to be careful because
the windows, the doors.
we need them.
if not to show them the world –
its glory and the absolute…

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“Be like your mother” (8:44 a.m.)

The next poem in my Yoon Yong series.

Be like your mother” (8:44 a.m.)

…Orange is warm & marriage is blue
—my mother is transparent | I always wanted (want…?)

her transparency | to follow her example
—what stopped me | or rather | who? My young self mostly

still straggling in the remotest substrata of me
like the flag of a bankrupt corporation.

Is my skin too lemon to wear a heart on my sleeve?
—“We will be landing shortly please make…”

“…me a cuppa’ tea darling brew it for 4 minutes like I like it.”
(That double like makes my skin crawl.)

Her husband lounging on the sofa engrossed in some Netflix
drama on his laptop | eating his way through

a pack of chocolate biscuits | crumbs gathering
in the folds of his hoody—I had too much say

in myself…

A quality insight from Mrs. Fish

A quality insight from Mrs. Fish

“Mrs Fish had concluded her story by saying that it was a peculiar but an assured fact that some human beings seemed to be ruined by their best qualities.”

This is one of the concluding paragraphs of Delmore Schwartz’s America! America!
An insightful paradox from Shenandoah Fish’s mother, a women all the details on the ins & outs of the neighbourhood’s characters. Our instinct tells us qualities enable achievement. However, we also have this underlying sense (instinctual?) of what she means.
Mrs. Fish is referring to Sidney Baumann, the son of Mr. Baumann, a self-made door to door insurance sales man & Russian immigrant, popular in his neighbourhood, trusted, a strong work ethic, thrives in groups. A man who believes in America because it equates in his mind to opportunity; he is living proof of it, in fact. It is unthinkable to a man with his history to miss out on this opportunity, even if it was originally founded on mostly hope. We admire his dutiful character. Why wouldn’t we?

His son Sidney is spoilt. He is informed, to a media standard. He thinks he is owed something. He is finicky about what he wants to do with his life. He is a snob, lazy. His mother praises this as a “sensitivity to the finer things in life.” It is due to Sidney being able to fall back on the security of his family that mean his best qualities (his good upbringing) struggle, if not outright fail, to improve him.
This is a tough paradox to solve. It is the duty of a family to raise a child well, to see their needs are met, to instruct by example, which is what the Baumann parents do. They are pious, well mannered, respected, well-off but not excessively wealthy, they understand value & worth & they want only what they think is best for their children. Regardless, these qualities are not transferred satisfactorily to their son. In fact, he is more the inverse of their best qualities.

Mrs. Fish’s insight might be re-worded as, some people are ruined by their parents’ best qualities. Of course Mrs. Fish I doubt could possibly believe such a thing, Shenandoah is after all jobless, drifting aimlessly.

Let’s say you are part of a gang of intellectuals, a variety of people who share conversation & wine in common as the group do in Schwartz’s story The World is a Wedding.
Sidney is among them. During a comparison of contemporary America & Depression era America, the subject turns to the presidential family & the natural inclination of Trump to pamper his children by whatever means, even if they are illegal & morally questionable methods that endanger his credibility, like… say… quickly passing through business-trade opportunities for his daughter before closing them to everyone else (wink wink).
You ask Sidney:
“Does Ivanka & her siblings owe their father anything for sticking his neck out?”
Sidney replies:
“We rebel against our parents because of what they expect from us. It isn’t just love, it is a debt of gratitude. We are never, & never will any human being in the future of humanity, ever be offered the choice of being born.” Somewhat cryptic, but I think we get the jist. Even if we rebel our parents owe us, we owe them nothing for their choices.
I tell him that years ago I read a silly book by Michael Talbot called The Holographic Universe. A hodge-podge of enlightened pseudo-science & human potential, LaLa land rubbish.
There was talk of reincarnation in the book, but the system outlined, hypothesized that we choose what will be reincarnated as, so that the soul might increase its knowledge. This system enabled the soul, encouraged by will, to quest after ultimate understanding.
As a thought-experiment (which is about as useful as Talbot’s book could ever be), let’s pare his outline back a little & say, before birth we are told a little (from the environs of this pre-life state outside time & space) about what to expect from life. On the sheer scale of experience we would, ignorant, be told of the polarities that are very real pressures in life; the creeping dearth of our environment, natural beauty, how difficult a definition of nature is & the polarities this creates; the easiness of loss, the fortuity of gain; love & how its power can both leave us in rapture & despair;— in essence, how easily, based on sensory inputs beyond our control, our mood may elevate, accelerate, decelerate, evaporate & all the bits n’ bobs & in-betweens.
Wouldn’t it seem sort of overwhelming? Would the necessary consequence of this information be a ubiquitous, unquestionable, yes?

Sidney nods in agreement & jumps in…

“There is no warning, no expectation. Life is bull-rushed upon us (this is where I say, ‘this is the reason babies cry on exiting the womb’, but I don’t believe that). For not falling into line with the narrative we are incorporated into, for not meeting expectation, we are labelled disappointing.
This may not be explicit (conscious), but it is implicit (sub-conscious) as our will to independence exposes. Independence is not instinctual in humans, not if we are coddled too long, if the nest is too warm & mother-bird never teaches us the value of aerodynamics & daddy the skill of the hunt. This is why Shenandoah’s father instructed my father to send me to Chicago, out into the world to stand on my own 2 feet. It failed. The safety net was firmly secure; already I had passed the formative years without being acceptably formed for the struggles ahead.”

Sidney owes his parents nothing. He is their responsibility; if he was a mistake, he is a mistake they made & therefore must take responsibility for. If you buy an expensive object, you take care of it. A child is not an expensive object; a child (being human) is an anomaly of nature, a thing without equal in nature or objects, something that is not to be brought into the world if it must meet expectations, if it must be a slave to the ideals & expectations of parents. The world changes as the child grows & their world is not the world of their parents. A child is not an insurance policy against mortality.
I read (or watched) somewhere that the American people are collateral for the exorbitant national debt (a conspiracy); regardless of whether this is a fiction or not, it is a terrible thing to consider even the remote possibility of.

In the final paragraph of Schwarz’s story Shenandoah Fish says into the mirror that
“No one truly exists in the real world because no one knows all that he is to other human beings, all that they say behind his back, and the foolishness which the future will bring him.”

Shenandoah is as insightful as his mother. His insight illustrates something of the absurdity of expectation in an indeterminate future. He also begs us to search for what we cannot see in ourselves, what we cannot know of ourselves, what others might see & how that could & should alter us & moreover, how we are, like Mr. Baumann, tied to people for a definition of who we are (consider this in the context of his profession: he is a door to door salesman).
Not having the full picture of ourselves how can we expect to know what is best for the breathing, breathless, hungry mistake (or choice) that we have made?

Right & wrong, are clear in many respects (aside from the exceptions to the rule, which I don’t like focusing on as they set a default go-to when dealing with generalizations & end up being used for one-up-man-ship in discussions) but don’t assume they’re always straightforward, there are immensely subtle, unregistered, slow burning conclusions to the actions we take.

(I’d like to add, I am not a parent, I do not believe in these ideas, they are simply ideas to be indulged, I don’t necessarily not believe them, they are not proved right or wrong, I am merely entertaining potentials.)