Compilation--The Essential Works of Wes Stone, 
1992-1996

Copyright 1995,1996 by Wes Stone. May be reproduced or excerpted for non-commercial, not-for profit purposes as long as credit is given to the author.

Click Here to begin.






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The mind is ignited by a spark from the heart,
And words flow down
Through the fingers
And onto the page
In a stream of molten irony.
--5/4/95
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Author's Note:

Like life, this collection is continually changing as I edit it. I have just decided (8/22/96) to cut out several previously included works. I have decided that I will not miss them in any way. I continually correct typographical errors that keep creeping in. Sometimes I decide to include one work at the expense of another, and occasionally I dig through my archives and find a forgotten work that may warrant inclusion. With the advent of the Internet, publishing has become so flexible that I will never have to say that I have made my final decisions.

This all started when I had a late registration time and was unable to get into a poetry writing class during my freshman year at Lewis and Clark College. I decided that I would write on my own. Almost daily, I contributed something to an audience on the Computer Forum, which used to be LC's bastion of free speech but unfortunately has fallen into disuse. Monica Harris(tm), editor of the Radikal Radish Microzeen, read a few of these poems, and encouraged me to put some of my works in the Radish. I continued writing on the Computer Forum, under names like "PS", "Apollo", "IaI", and "Llao", and many of the pieces presented here still bear their original electronic markings. Prose and discussion, as well as poetry, leapt onto the screen as members of a small virtual community tried to get out what we were thinking and feeling.

The Radikal Radish disappeared with Monica's graduation, leaving the College considerably poorer in a way that no gift from Bob Pamplin could even start to make up for. The Computer Forum is still there, but its operation is no longer second nature in a time when everyone has e-mail. We desperately need a new technology for anonymous expression. In the midst of this desert, I offer my humble musings from days gone by. This is first and foremost a selfish venture, for I need to look back on myself as I am forced to go forward with my life. As before, I offer my thoughts to anyone else who wants them or feels that they might be helped by seeing another's triumphs and struggles.

This volume is dedicated to the users of the Computer Forum and to Monica Harris(tm), as well as to the many others who inspired these scrawls. As in "Preface", "I have kept your name[s] and face[s] out of this: Only unaccountable illiterates and louts would do otherwise."

--Wes Stone, 10/20/95

Foreword to the Hypertext Version

This is an annotated version intended for use with Netscape 1.1N. Lynx does well, too, as most of the links are text rather than images. You may select any of the links to see additional information (like what the heck I was thinking when I chose a particular word). Use the navigation buttons to work your way around. No matter how textured and divided it may seem, the whole thing is one big document. You can find anything by scrolling up or down.

When you select a link within one of the individual pieces, you will be transported to the "notes" section of the document. The note for the link you selected will be at the very top of your screen. If the document has not fully loaded, you may not be able to get to the note, so wait until it has finished loading before you select any link.





Contents

1) Steps and Pauses
2) Reconciliation
3) One Hell of a Sunset
4) Untitled (Alone)
5) Untitled (When Peace Fell to Pieces)
6) The East Wind is Blowing
7) Run
8) Detached Ambivalence
9) Preface or Sacrifice of the Pen
10) Night and Life and All That
11) Pisces to Arcturus
12) Keys to a Long and Happy Life
13) Two Poems Inspired by Daylight Sightings of Venus




1

STEPS AND PAUSES

I take a step of life: just a tiny one,
But a step nonetheless.
Enough, perhaps, to throw me
Into the path of an oncoming train
Or to enter through the golden door.
Finding neither result, I pause
For a second to wonder if the two
Would have been the same.
Life is like that for me; a series of
Steps and pauses with no clear outcome.
My voice remains in choked withdrawal
Except on those rare occasions when,
Wasted on words, I dare to take a leap.
Those are the moments of my greatest successes,
As well as my greatest downfalls.

( 2/12/92 )




2

RECONCILIATION

Did it ever really happen?
Did you ever mistake my clumsiness for aggression?
My smile for a leer?
That was so long ago.
Maybe I misjudged you and conceived our enmity
For the sake of having an enemy.
Whatever the cause, I look into your eyes now
And sense cold, empty space.
I shiver as I realize that my gaze must feel the same upon you.
You once said something that struck me;
Something about expressing emotions.
It seems that neither of us do it very well;
However, this is but one trait we have in common.
Our similarities are incredible.
We might as well destroy ourselves,
Rather than rip each other apart this way.
If we are enemies, how can there be friends in this world?
I run my eyes fleetingly over your face,
Hoping to catch the hint of a smile
In your visage or mine.
All the while I remember the day we met.
On that afternoon, we walked together,
And I thought I had found a kindred soul.

(February 26, 1992)




3

One Hell of a Sunset

There is a path stretching over the dunes
Where one can relive the past.
The sun that has fallen will rise
And the dying day will be born again.
I have walked for miles and never found this trail.
But I will keep searching; I know it is there.
The wind and sand erase my footprints,
But I will make new ones.
It is worth the steps just to believe for a while
That I will never lose this best of times.
I reach the ocean and see that I am too late.
The tears sting my face, mimicked by the salt spray.
Then I look up and smile; if I cannot live the day anew,
At least I can watch
One hell of a sunset.

March 7, 1992




4

It is a quiet walk, the short one leading to solitude;
Taken by fewer and fewer each day.
There are those who have found comfort in others
And those forced by their environment to bear company.
I am neither of those yet, so still I walk.

The walker feels the moist night air on his cheeks,
Wondering if it will ever be replaced
By the soft breath of a nymph.
A form materializes out of the mist and disappears quickly;
Another walker, bound by isolation to take a perpendicular path.
The patterns of trees are ephemeral, changing with every step;
Tricking the walker's mind into perceiving human forms.
Grass is reduced to a bridge between asphalt trails.
At the end of one of these, the walker glances up for the first time.
The sight is horrifying to him: The stars imprisoned and starved
In a cage of blinding city lights
. It is indeed horrifying to him,
But how many others would scoff at his primitive perversion?

Behind scores of these lights there are happy people,
Loving and talking and drinking, with not a hint of despair
And only pity for the walker standing in the hanging haze.
"Come in from the cold!" they would say.
But the cold is the walker's ally, freezing is almost welcome.
Voices bounce off a stone wall: a hand-holding couple
Secure in their notion of love
, oblivious to the walker's gaze.
This is the hardest sight for the walker, one that no light can match.
His eyes feed not the mind, but the heart, and the food is poison.

A silent cry forces itself up: "Is there no way to be alone?"
And the timeless answer: "None. There are always others."
The walker's only choice is to live near these others, not with them.
A painful choice, for some of the others must be good.
And there must be some good in the walker, though rarely is it found.
Enough of the choking sky, the glare of reality.
The walker trudges home, a sacrifice of loneliness for darkness.
And surely he has found just enough loneliness out here
To whet his appetite for more on the following night.

(April 1, 1992)




5

They are two points, diametrically opposed.
Ah, but they do share the same circle.
What is the power that separates
These two points, or people rather,
Forcing combat?
Missiles guided and fired by fierce eyes,
A cold war of non-words
Unnoticed by but a few.
When did it start?
How long will it last?
Even the foes themselves are not sure.
And the arrows and bullets fly on.
Each day a hope of truce rises with the sun,
But by noon, without fail,
The white flag lies trampled on the ground.

(April 8, 1992)



6

Subject: The East Wind is Blowing
From: Apollo
Date: Tuesday, January 5, 1993, 11:22 pm

The East Wind is blowing
With the force of a gale,
Shooting down the Gorge and breaking
Like a wave upon the city.
Trees and buildings and people shiver;
Water drops, water freezes,
Wind whistles, wind stings.
Wind swirls, wind sends
Snow curling down in great white plumes;
Sharp daggers that pierce the face
As the acid air pierces the body.

The East Wind is blowing
And I stand in its path,
Then shudder too soon and step inside.
Paper and plastic and metal are ripped;
Hands tremble, hands tighten,
The Moon glares, the Moon stares.
Stars sparkle, stars shine
Through the exposed slot to the East
Open to the wind in all its fury
And the sky in all its beauty.





7

Run

Wish it, seek it, find it, run from it.
I know what I am not and why I can't be it.
I don't know what you are not; I won't try to find out.
I go instead to the wilds: Fair and equal judges they are.
Put my heart, my mind, my limbs on the line,
On the trail, through the dirt, my eyes to the stars.

Massive anaerobic jog.
Get the evil out; burn it off with the trash.
Can't love, can't hate, can't watch; just wait
For something to strike me, turn me, push me to the light.
Put my creativity back where I can find it again.
Sometimes I dream you'll be the one. Yeah, right.

(November 5, 1993)




8

Subject: Detached Ambivalence
From: PS
Date: Friday, January 7, 1994, 9:39 am
----------------------------------------

I am dead.
It has taken me a couple of years to realize it,
but finally I must face the fact
that I have nothing to live for.

Do not pretend to worry about me;
I have nothing to die for, either.
They [life and death] used to be one and the same;
I guess I just drifted away.

The most important part
is that which does not get replaced once lost.
Everything else has been replaced,
but I no longer have anything (anyone) to fight for.

I cannot live, and cannot die (having already done so).
Those who claim that I am alive are liars;
Any reports of my death will merely be yesterday's news.




9

Preface
or
Sacrifice of the Pen

I must begin by informing you of the circumstances surrounding this post: I have been in quite a bad temper lately, and for reasons that unfortunately do not exclude your involvement. This may well take you aback, how your affairs could ever give rise to such weighty emotions in me, but that does not change things. Suffice it to say that the major physical effect of this bad temper so far has been the destruction of a pen. Yes, to calm that built-up rage that my psyche had collected, drastic steps were required. With much fervor and little forethought, I sacrificed the aforementioned writing instrument by shattering it on the linoleum beneath me. I had not previously known how it would break, only that it should break. I was not looking down during the event, but my ears informed me that the result was satisfactory. Half an hour later, my mind relaxed by the deed and by a cup of fine tea, I returned to the sacrificial site to find only a few small pieces, scattered to surprising distances from the point of impact. Annihilation of that pen had been my supreme goal, and so that goal was achieved.

Now that I have elucidated my present state of mind, you may conclude that I am unsound, in need of a bit of therapy or at least some extra hours of rest each night. I will not deny any of these hypothetical accusations. However, if I were to use them as an excuse for not continuing, you would be left without knowledge of why I committed my sacrifice, or how you could possibly be its ultimate cause. It takes little pain to explain the former, although the latter must eventually be addressed as well.

A pen is simply a writing instrument utilizing ink; this one happened to be humble and priced under 15 cents. All of its power is begotten from the hand of the writer, but that power is indelibility. Conferred is the ability to make marks that cannot be deleted without traces, and that ability is dangerous. I was thinking of marking in a book when the sacrifice presented itself to me, about to make a note in the margin concerning the author's interested failure to comment sufficiently on this topic or that. The gravity of what I had almost undertaken was appalling, for this was no signature of readership or appreciation I was about to add. It was a criticism that could not be fully taken back. [I make a distinction here between a book or tome and other forms of writing; academic papers start out half-written so that the other half may be added in ruddy markings that profess superior knowledge. As another example, the paper of the common press invites use as a doodling pad and, should it lack any element of beauty or information that is of use beyond the present, may serve its best purpose as a means of initiating combustion.] The literature I held in my hand was neither of these lesser forms, but a full-fledged book by a competent author, doubtless years in the making. There was feeling in there, emotion that transcended halting discourse or lackadaisical attempts at objectivity. There was a story in the true sense of the overused word. I am not saying that stories cannot be added to, simply that the pen is not worthy of making that addition. You have probably concluded by now that the pen was destroyed for this reason alone, to prevent my committing a personal sin. But you might better wait, for I have not mentioned your role yet. There is something much deeper surrounding this account.

Before I bring everything else out, I will first let you know that I am in love with you. This is not a trifle with me, nor a misstatement. You will realize this if you remember the one time that the subject of love came up between us. What I said then holds true now. As your lover (in full spirit, although not in physical consummation) I feel compelled to notice various happenings in your life. The one I noticed most recently gives me great pain: You seem to be taken with, and perhaps also by, somebody else. I fancy your reaction will be in asking me why I should be pained at this if I love you and you are happy. From you, this is sincerity, from anyone else it would be sarcasm. I have heard that you are in love with him as well; this would seem to rule out your loving me. "It is not so!" I hear you say, but you misunderstand me. You love everybody, and it is for precisely that reason I was drawn to you, even if the attraction was paired with envy of all your other loves. If one has taken precedence, the others must fall back. This is especially hard for me, as my love is exclusively for you.

There is, indeed, little life left in me as I write this. Ah, I was warned by many, not the least of whom was the author whose book I almost marked in. She described my feelings for you with impeccable clarity, and then marked them as faulty and hurtful to the object of love. Love she would not call them, so that they seem more vile. Still, the feelings are there, in a flame that could bear no name other than that of Love. What am I to do? I must resign myself to my fate, one of waiting for a transitory love to pass. I cannot tell which is ephemeral, my love for you or your love for him. If it turns out to be the former, I shall not continue to live. I now know the remainder of the reason I sacrificed my pen: I did it so as not to make any indelible statements, remarks that I would not be able to take back when a better future presents itself. In the same spirit, I will only express my pain here, where you will not see it. I have kept your name and face out of this: Only unaccountable illiterates and louts would do otherwise. I am thus satisfied that when you find those shards of plastic, you will pass it off as a mere curiosity, and nothing of any importance.

(February 20, 1994)




10

Subject: Night and Life and All That
From: IaI
Date: Wednesday, May 4, 1994, 11:02 pm

(I don't know if this message can be completed; the system is frozen as the new growth on the spruce tree at home after a surprise frost on the Fourth of July: It may recover, or it may not. I am not in a position to know.)

My name is not that important; you see that I am IaI, but many of you know me as something else. I and I, spiritual and bodily or perhaps the expressionless outside and the exploding inside. All that is me tonight, as woe and a life not yet complete but growing closer all the time. Complete failure or complete experience or both? All that I ask of myself; I do not know. I only feel, as Catullus wrote. Why live that which has already been lived? Why want for death when everyone has died? Why does existence bind yet constantly unravel its bindings to leave a frazzled remnant of a perfect plan?

These I cannot answer, and will not attempt to. I am alive, and while I am, there are experiences to savor. Dismay is savory, for it adds contrast to the brightness of a charmed life. Or, perhaps, it is the good that provides the few golden specks against a background of pain. I find myself again in no position to make a stab. As a scientist, I would experiment. All pretensions of objectivity have been ripped away, so I must approach as a thinker and more importantly as a writer. I will think and write, very soon.

(To be continued...)

------------------------

Subject: Night
From: IaI
Date: Wednesday, May 4, 1994, 11:27 pm

The woods of the ravine are a different place at night. I had seen the path clearly many times, but it was still all I could do to find my way without a light. What if the woods were truly dark, instead of in their place on the edge of a polluted, mad metropolis? I would probably have been food for something. As it was, I kept stumbling along, taking a step into the ivy here, sliding down a mud-bank there.

I fancied I saw a light on the ground, but was too busy keeping my footing to pay it any mind. Still, there it was again, not feeble at all. A double spot there among the leaves, green with bioluminescence. Foxfire (fungal mycelium)? I wasn't sure. The spots looked so much like eyes. My sense of touch betrayed me: The organism was round and small and light, but I could not discern its texture. I picked up this (as I imagined) fallen star and let it guide me through the woods, its green light flooding out from my palm. I held onto it over the bridge; the rotting wood nearby had harbored Armillaria mellea in the fall, but no glow came from it. Maybe my star was not foxfire. I ascended and descended, still slipping occasionally and splashing through invisible puddles.

Once I dropped my gem. I saw it on the ground, and could have easily picked it up again, but there was another one glowing in the bank just beyond. I fancied that it shone with a stronger light yet. This new rider revealed more of its nature to me, as it crawled along my hand. It was a caterpillar or worm of some kind. It crawled with the luminous "eyes" to the rear, and stretched to maybe an inch and a half. Why was this creature here? Why did it shine so? Its spots must have made it more plain to nocturnal predators, and if they aided its own vision why were they not placed at the other end of the body? An enticement to mating, perhaps? It seemed likely, as all creatures seem to put themselves in danger while attempting to attract the one they desire. Tonight the fate of this little voyager was in my hands, so literally.

The forest was almost at an end, and I emerged into the glaring lights of campus. The floods nearly drowned the creature's light, and it tried to crawl towards the dark tunnel of my sleeve. Afraid of the light. It showed, and made sense. How many of us are alike? I would have taken it home and identified it, but somewhere I dropped it, left it to face a foreign world and hope that it could find its way to shelter before dawn.

(Not over yet...)

------------------------

Subject: Life
From: IaI
Date: Wednesday, May 4, 1994, 11:50 pm

Perhaps I will find another creature like the one I held, or perhaps never again its kind will I see. I might be suddenly struck down: It could happen, although my body has not been as susceptible to attack as have my mind and emotions. Why am I writing all of this? Because I have to. I am cold. Why am I cold? Because I am. It might be the air from a vent below, or simply that I chilled myself more than I planned during my nighttime adventure in the ravine. I will not say that it comes from within. Were I to freeze up inside, I would be shocked. For, as I have written perhaps too often here, I direct everything within. I needed to direct a lot to my core tonight, and I am worried that enough got out. Enough to show my weakness, which I have pledged that I will not show until it becomes a strength.

I could say that I don't know where I am going anymore, but that would imply that at some point I knew. A lie. Such a fucking lie. Maybe for some it is different. I am not in their bodies, so maybe the consensus that we base all our knowledge upon is a fucking artifact of our need to be in contact with each other, to relate to one another. How many characteristics do our lives share? Would I recognize the world if I was inside someone else's mind or body?

I have stated before that I do not need anyone else. I do not question that statement. Any need I feel is a result of being around other people; when I am here in society I may actually need contact with a specific person. I certainly am not convinced of the existence of this need, considering the times I thought it before, only to feel the contact broken while my wretched existence continued.

More? Perhaps, but not tonight. I may go into the woods again and gaze at fallen stars, or I may go to sleep and take my chances with the dreamworld that always ends. Drat! I have so much to say about maintaining connections, which may be a primary reason I view my life as so disconnected and irreconcilable with others'. No hurry do I feel; all that can wait for another day.

--------------------------------------------------

[But hurry, hurry now. For another day, or maybe a week is all that remains. The rush of time will not wait; as compensation I live doubly in my dreams. There is little I can do for the amount that I feel.]

5/29/94




11

Subject: Pisces to Arcturus
From: PS
Date: Monday, December 5, 1994, 11:08 pm
------------------------------------------

Picture the night: I couldn't, as the cheap-ass Mac SE that is allocated for imaging was frozen. The water that had collected in the dome roof and rolled off was frozen by the time I left. Cold here means clear, and the clouds had rolled away to reveal the morning sky for the first time in months. Something had moved me to set my alarm and to obey it, and I was rewarded with this spectacle. Four o'clock a.m.: 12 hours, Coordinated Universal Time. I had come here to experience and to escape.

I longed to experience the satisfaction of locating a certain comet. Borrelly was in the Lynx, one of the least conspicuous constellations ever created. My eyes adjusted, and the faint stars popped out first in binoculars and then to my naked eyes. I followed my finder chart, drawing an imaginary line in the sky where the comet's path crossed the line for December 4. The star 3 Lyncis was a good starting point. The comet should have been just west of it...nope. Maybe it hid near one of those stars...to the North a bit...got it! A fuzzy, elongated glow swam into my vision. A starlike condensation was visible near the center. Borrelly, faint but pretty. For months, this comet was hidden by our beautiful weather. For years before, it had traversed the Solar System out of the reach of optical instruments. Tonight, I crossed its path for the first time. Time did not stand still, and the WWV signal reminded me of this as I made a rough sketch. Still, I was able to banish thoughts of the future from my mind. I slipped in a more powerful eyepiece and a light pollution filter. The skies of Palatine Hill aren't that bad...compared to those in SoCal. These days, Mooney's giant, glow-in-the-dark redwood phallus isn't helping things, either. I grumbled to myself that some of the money spent on those lights should have been allocated to the observatory, for a PowerBook with a grayscale monitor. Oh, well, the fact remains that pure visual observing is more fun than CCD work. The field soaked in, and I glimpsed the comet's tail. This was a privilege reserved to me, to my eyes. I sketched its length, my data-gathering methods a compromise between accuracy and brevity. This is what I call the Observer's Paradox: the more rigorous the study and the more information recorded, the less is actually perceived. This is for fun; my eyes dart around and catch a falling star for an instant.

The hours fall like that meteor, and produce many other vistas: the Great Nebula in Orion, the Eskimo Nebula, Hubble's Variable, M34, M93, M50, M47, M46, NGC2438, M96, M95, M105, M66, M65...the list goes on. These objects are special to me, but they are blobs to those without the eyes of a lynx. That's how that boreal constellation where Borrelly was hiding got its name: Only the lynx-eyed could see its stars.

I did view an object that should be more exciting to the layperson: Mars, standing proudly in Leo's sickle. Hoping to see some surface detail, I magnified it 233x. I was at first disappointed by the glaring surface, but then I realized what I was seeing: the North Polar Cap, white as could be. It was ringed by dark features, one stretching down to the small visible portion of the South Polar Cap. Canals they are not, but Mars remains the only world besides Earth and the Moon that allows ordinary observers to see its true surface.

Rising in the East, and dramatically obvious by this time, Venus was shining at maximum brilliancy. The quantification of its brightness, magnitude -4.7, does not communicate the awe with which I perceived it. The last time it seemed this striking and fearsome was years ago, when I was a kid going to nighttime recreation hour at the school gymnasium. A lot has changed since then, but Venus remains. In the telescope, it is too bright to be viewed (comfortably) without a filter; application of a polarizer makes its nature plain. Venus is a crescent. Galileo saw this, and reinforced the claim of Copernicus. What good has it done in our society? Thousands of Christians around the world will probably wake up at 6:00 and think this "star" is the sign of the Second Coming, ignorant of Venus and of Galileo's Siderius Nuncius. Venus is truly that bright and awesome, to its credit. Venus is also the Goddess of Love, as a friend reminded me the next day. Doing some quick math, I found that on this night Love was over 83 times as bright as War. If it could always be like this... [On the other hand, while War shows all the bloody details of his surface, Love keeps herself hidden in a thick veil of clouds, so that one must send out a delicate probe to see what lies beneath. Survival times of spacecraft on the surface of Venus are very short, due to the crushing pressures and tremendous heat. Is there an analogy here as well to Love's subtle cruelty?*]

Mt. Hood graces our horizon, and it showed its majestic silhouette long before sunrise on that fine morning. Also there, bright and orange, was Jupiter. That royal planet had been the object of my attention through the summer. With some regret over the time passed since, I welcome it back to the sky. I don't know why I write this, for I cannot say most of what I want to say except through wordplay and allusion. Suffice it to say that the world is a wondrous place, and sometimes experiencing that wonder leads one to pain. The pain I feel now, in a warm computer lab, dwarfs that felt by my cold fingers on the morning of which I have just informed you.




12

Subject: Keys to a Long and Happy Life
From: PS
Date: Saturday, December 17, 1994, 6:50 pm
-------------------------------------------

DARK SUBTRACTION

There. I downloaded them all. My watch alarm goes off; I forgot that I had set it. Cheap thing doesn't work half the time, and when it does I have to strangle it to turn it off. Soon, I will wish that it hadn't worked. I take a shortcut and face the inevitable. There is something about SEEING what you already know that makes it all the more real. Don't count me out, I know what you're thinking: SUICIDE CASE. Hell, I gave up on that long ago. You should know that. I recently upgraded the imaging system in my brain to store a dark frame in memory. This is the first time I have used it. I had warning in advance of this event, just enough time to hit "Command-D". While my default buffer was freaking out, the imaging system was calmly recording the value of every pixel throughout the integration period. Exposure: 10 seconds. I guessed it pretty well. That moment, surely one of the low points of my life, is now stored permanently in memory as a zero, a baseline value, something neither positive nor negative. From now on, everything starts from there and goes up. Anything below that is just noise, and will not contribute to my final image.

-------------------------------------------------------------

DEFENSIVE DRIVING

There is still plenty of snow in the Coast Range. I was there last night, so I ought to know. Plenty of snow, but more rain. I've never been that confident about driving in heavy rain at night, especially in the city. All the lines seem to disappear, and the water collects in troughs, waiting to throw a small car into a compromising position. The city was a barrier to cross, on the way to a destination in my mind. The destination was a sign I sought to remind me of my kind. I needed to be warned again of exactly who I am. When I fly out into the darkness, with the last streetlights and headlights miles behind me and something by R.E.M. on the radio, it is easier to concentrate on the road. No one else is headed my direction, so I have more leeway to experiment, to feel what my car does. The snow is piled two feet high off to the sides, but there is only slush on the road. Nevertheless, I take some degree of care with my speed and steering. I have felt what looked to be "only slush" spin my car around. There's someone who didn't make it. The car is pinned incredibly between two snowbanks, perpendicular to the road. The rain pounds harder; the river will be out of shape but I do not see it as I pass over it again and again. My journey at its farpoint, I swing around and head back, reversing the tape. Driving down the Sunset around midnight, peace finally overtakes me.

[It occurred to me, during and after the drive, that my round-trip distance was about a hundred miles. This was disconcertingly close to another distance that I would soon have the opportunity to travel. I was sure that if I indulged myself in this other drive I would wind up in trouble. In the end, the fifty miles one way became a small leg in a circuitous journey of two thousand miles. The small distance was a detour necessitated, oddly enough, by rain and flooding. I stopped only for gas.]




13

Two Poems Inspired by Daylight Sightings of Venus

Telling Time By Venus

A fitting break, the rain ceased overnight
and left an azure realm for this last dawn.
The morning star so fair to look upon
Still beckons to my eyes and casts her light.

As daytime's dazzler rises to my right,
Behind me fading Love still guides me on.
I know within the hour she will be gone;
Sunward I run; the rays confuse my sight.

Still there she stands, my own Venus, her face
Turns to me, as I knew it would, that smile
Invites me now hard feelings to erase.

No more might I see her in this place.
"Yet none of that will matter for a while,"
I think, and close my eyes while we embrace.

( January 30, 1995)
-------------------------------------------------------------

Venus Versus Violence

I used to tear trees apart,
smash all in my path
over far less than I have seen today.
Is it out of strength or impotence
that I restrain myself,
abstain from my typical violence?
Why do I catch myself, silent,
gazing at a light
above the trees,
between the clouds,
shining even at midday?

6/13/96






NOTES

On "Steps and Pauses": This is the most self-explanatory piece I've ever written.


On "Reconciliation": This is personal, but it was such a catharsis to make it public. Have you ever met somebody you thought you should get along with, and then had the whole thing fall to pieces? Were you forced to come into repeated contact with this person and act the part of friend or professional colleague? Instead of wishing that you had never met this person, did you just wish that you could get along? This is for you. Yes, it is related to #5.


On "One Hell of a Sunset": So much of my travel, my introspection, even my netsurfing revolves around getting in touch with my past. Although I'm not always successful, contemporary vistas can frame old places in a new light.


On the dunes: Ah, the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. Windswept sand blowing across the sun and at my feet. Stinging beachgrass. Glimpses of the ocean. A feeling of being alone. A knowledge that any marks made will be ephemeral. Is it any wonder that I spend so much time there?


On #4: This untitled piece was posted to the Computer Forum as "alone". Monica called it "The Loner". Take your pick. It is certainly about being alone and being lonely. Somehow the walker finds himself lonely but not alone. This is the dilemma of the introvert: really wanting contact with another without having to deal with others. Three years later, it is still relevant to my everyday life. I am still a walker.


On light pollution: City lights suck, in an evil and beautiful way. They take our attention away from the much grander natural lights, while simultaneously overpowering these stars with unnatural skyglow. It is rare to see the Milky Way from Portland, yet I would say that the multitudes of stars in our galaxy are more important and intrinsically more awe-inspiring than the glowing skyscrapers that dot our pitifully inconsequential skyline.


On #5: The futility of reconciliation. Monica's title, "When Peace Fell to Pieces", reaffirmed my belief in a subconscious connection between a writer's motivation and a reader's reaction. I will say no more.


On "The East Wind is Blowing": The header shows what a post to the Computer Forum looks like. An east wind in Portland can keep marine air at bay, providing temporary clear weather. The sky opens up, and I seek the heavens from the observatory.


On "Apollo": There are several reasons I might choose this name. I have the "Apollinian" NF temperament. I somehow got the nickname "Apple", which looks a bit like "Apollo". The darkest: Think of Apollo's pursuits in love.


On "Run": This is a statement of revitalization, although it may not look like one. Sometimes, I just feel like running.


On "Detached Ambivalence": This is yet another statement of revitalization. I was doing pretty well at this time, but I was also leaving a lot of my old thoughts behind. I think I got a bit too caught up in mourning their passing.


On "PS": Most of the early pieces in this collection were posted under this pseudonym. It is short for "Pond Scum", which has something to do with "Reconciliation" and #5.


On "Preface": A preface to what? Who knows? Just more of life. A lot more, more than one can realize when faced with what looks like a critical juncture. I think this is my best work, exploring diverse ideas while remaining true to my inner feelings and to the inspiring incident. YES, THIS IS A TRUE STORY. It was finished at 3:05 a.m., on a Sunday. Even before this weekend went to Hell, my writing was at a classic level. I wrote at least five long pieces during a four-day all-nighter, not the least of which was a term paper for Immunology. Yes, I got an "A" on it, although I haven't included it as it wouldn't exactly fit into this collection.

Did I get the girl in the story? No, but I didn't lose her, either. That's why this is just a preface.


What book? A Room of One's Own, by Virginia Woolf. I read it for an interdisciplinary class called "Genre and the Technology of Thought", but a good book will always raise issues before it is discussed in the classroom.


On newspapers: I have started lots of fires with them on cold Eastern Oregon mornings. Was I talking about the Pioneer Log here?


Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size.

--from Woolf, Virginia, A Room of One's Own. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York: 1989 edition, p. 35.

While reading this, I found that my own opinion of myself came mostly from what I saw reflected in the eyes of one person. I would have felt ashamed, but the feeling in my heart was natural. I recognized it as Love. While Woolf goes on to show that this need to be seen in a favorable light has contributed to the oppression of women, here the narrator is in no position to oppress. He is subservient to the woman he loves. He would sooner die than break the mirror through any type of confrontation. Given that these feelings exist, are they healthy? In moderation, they may be necessary to prevent the loss of the concept of beauty. Again, the ill use associates the feelings of Love with power over women rather than admiration and self-empowerment. Oppression is societal rather than individual. We need Love as individuals and as a culture, for it is something to write, sing, and feel about.


In the Conversation application on the Computer Forum, you have to title your post before you start writing. Often, I'm not sure what the heck I'll write about, so I leave the subject line as vague as possible.

The inspiration? Okay, someone was talking about leaving. Let's just leave it at that.


On "IaI": I and I, as the body of the work says. Probably also related to Llao. Who cares?


Or, more accurately, "feel".


Armillaria mellea is also known as the honey mushroom. Sometimes its mycelial threads, buried in the wood, will glow at night. This is known as foxfire. A photo of the mushrooms is available here.


Ah, remember what I said about lights before.


Of course, it was a glowworm, an organism more familiar by name than by experience. Glowworms are the larvae of fireflies. In many areas, the adults also glow, and use this trait to produce unique mating signals. On the West Coast, however, there are no firefly species whose adults glow. That the larvae retain the glow is very strange, especially in light of the vulnerability of conspicuousness.


On "Pisces to Arcturus": Pisces is an evening constellation in December. It is also a sign of the zodiac. Arcturus is a star, like the sun. It rises in the morning during early winter. Time and distance...


Here I refer to CCD (charge coupled device) imaging, which uses the same type of imaging chip as in a video camera but is able to take time exposures and store information digitally. Lewis and Clark has an ST-4 CCD camera like the one shown here.


Because of time zones, local time differs depending on one's location. When astronomers want to define the time of an event, they use Universal Time, the local standard time at the Greenwich Observatory in the United Kingdom. Universal Time is Pacific Standard Time + 8 hours, as the narrator notes. In the US, time signals can be picked up on special receivers for radio station WWV, Fort Collins, Colorado.


Lewis and Clark's president decided to put Christmas lights on a couple of campus trees. You already know how I hate unnecessary lights.


Someday I'll write this up into its own essay. Some of my thoughts on the Paradox are influenced by David Vick, who I met at a star party. He described himself as a "naturalist without a field notebook". It is the task at hand, the professionalism of it all, which keeps us from seeing and doing the very things that drew us to a field in the first place. That is why astronomy for me will always be an avocation rather than a vocation.


Astronomers use a magnitude scale to quantify the amount of light we receive from an object. Lower magnitudes are brighter, and the scale is standardized so that an object of magnitude +1 is 100 times brighter than an object of magnitude +6. Therefore, a change of one magnitude is a brightness change of about 2.512, the fifth root of 100. Comet Borrelly at magnitude +8 was not even visible to the naked eye, and some absurd fraction of the brightness of Venus.


The God of War, Mars, stood at magnitude +0.1.


*I thought I had hit upon a novel concept in this section, combining not astrology but astronomy with discussion of human emotions and the planets as deities. I was humbled to find out that Geoffrey Chaucer had done the same, masterfully, in "The Complaint of Mars". Chaucer made references to the paths of Venus and Mars across the sky; Venus travels faster than Mars, so they never stay together for long.


On "Dark Subtraction": This is a technique used to reduce noise in CCD images. Could the same thing be accomplished in the human brain?


The inevitable is "the hardest sight for the walker" in #4, with a personal touch.


Command-D is the command to take a dark frame on some imaging programs. I didn't mean for it to be confused with "logout".


On "Defensive Driving": When you can't find loneliness on a walk, try the extended distance that a drive can provide.


The Sunset Highway, US26 west of Portland.


On "Telling Time By Venus": This is a little sonnet written after the fact, undoubtedly influenced by Petrarch. Venus was still bright on the morning of December 21, 1994, and was visible to the naked eye for some time after sunrise.

I penned it under the name "Llao". Llao was the Klamath Indian god of darkness and the underworld, who lived in Mt. Mazama and threw fire at the people of the marsh until he was defeated by the god Skell. He is now back underground, somewhere below Crater Lake.


On "Venus Versus Violence": I was having a bad day on March 29, 1996, and went into the woods to get my frustrations out. I looked up, and there was Venus, shining in the afternoon sky. It was odd to be transfixed and have my rage calmed by such a chance sighting. I find myself wondering about the ways Venus is cast in both this and the preceding poem. Does she give strength or take it away? It is all a matter of perspective.


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