‘Time Being Book 2’
This excerpt, weaving a rich tapestry of a well contemplated daily existence, is from “Time Being Book 2,” a work-in-progress that Joseph Torra is hoping to complete this November.
6AM awake internet down brew red tea first clear sunrise in days Celeste writes she won’t be home until Saturday Mitch writes from LA the center of the manufactured illusion next stop San Francisco it’s easy to talk about the wisdom of the ancients difficult to practice it once a man thought he could win a kingdom and butted his head against a mountain to move it out of his way but slipped and fell into the ocean and drowned the Way is impartial has no entrusted interests during the 17th and 18th centuries Somerville Ave. then Milk Row a trade route connecting Boston with the countryside she sits on the park bench legs crossed pink hair stares off lifts her cigarette to black lips in death we dissolve and merge with all things two hours this morning with the UMass IT Helpdesk Blackboard not sending out
my class assignments first long chat exchange then long phone call clear your browser try another browser remove and install Google Chrome again if something disrupts a stream and ruins the flow the stream reverts or takes on a new form keeps on flowing Amanda writes that she absolutely loves tacos how she needs three little buttons the three little buttons she got for the task are too small Peter sends galleys of my memoir with some edit suggestions my painting on the cover more mice around but none going for the peanut butter bait in traps Zoom meeting with Renata first meeting and conversation in over a year gossip news life art writing let’s do it again soon several inches snow overnight just enough to shovel clear up to end of driveway clean off cars drive to grocery store wait in line cash out forgot my wallet in my other coat drive home back to market home again change bait in mousetraps from peanut butter to hot dog pieces snow falling heavier through the day wait until it ends before I shovel again try to flush out muddy water with clear water and you churn up more dirt the Tao is best left alone you cannot improve on it what makes everything happen some need to know someone must be huffing and puffing making the winds blow and the world turn hang on to those questions you will only be confused too much thinking bruises the spirit butternut squash soup for lunch bread and butter cup of tea read student memoirs send out assignments for next week’s classes watch the snowflakes fall all afternoon more snow more shoveling hard at work on edits for the memoir add new material tighten down sentences read sections aloud in order to listen Miller’s River long since filled in exuded noxious gasses while low tide flats exposed decomposing animal waste from slaughterhouses and sausage factories along the shore come go create dissolve appear disappear inhale exhale spirit and body merge with the natural rise and fall of energy new file from Hugh for the next song that we will record upload it into
GarageBand practice guitar parts rhythm solo fills and finally vocals rise early read and grade eight student quizzes thirteen more to go tea yoga breakfast banana cranberry bread toasted ready for eleven AM class Amanda writes that this little piggy went to a new home today Peter writes that everything tastes like salt it is said that once a man wandered as if lost in a wilderness beyond the dust of this world with no duties to perform another man wore his knowledge like a piece of jewelry to appear enlightened as if he held the sun and moon in his hands every morning slam bangs of planks power tools delivery trucks shouts in Spanish over the noise month after month and the house next door still not complete Celeste roasts vegetables spread hummus on rollups fill with vegetables and feta cheese these are the moments easily forgotten over a half million pandemic deaths across the country still not one vaccine appointment available in the entire state governor says we must wait not enough vaccines to go around two chickadees bathing in the melted planter ice splash flap wings submerge completely chirping celebrating this sunny warm winter day early settlers discovered at least seven streams with origins in the Mystic River now new condos rise everywhere with million dollar price tags in my childhood people called Somerville Slummerville a relative once asked me you’re going to move there Gerrit’s birthday I think I heard him calling to the birds at sunrise still no word on the vaccine availability though promises it’s on the way finish reading student quizzes for one class onto essays for another what are the key turning points in the Frederick Douglass book that led to his escape from slavery atop Cobble Hill property values rose as they pushed back and crowded out entirely the pigpen neighborhoods below awake before the sunrise brew tea watch Glen Dickson solo performance allow it to wash over me like the dawning of the new day suddenly birds outside begin to respond to Glen’s call become one
all things connected six hour dentist appointment three sets of Novocain injections ground four teeth to fit the new bridge jaw sore gums raw and tender throbbing headache soup for supper ice cream dessert first virus vaccine shot scheduled for Thursday restrictions being lifted around the state accompanied by a rise of infections I don’t want a fancy car a big house a flock of disciples I have enough to think about enough to see enough to hear today and tomorrow the same last year this year no change trying to become enlightened is easy ending delusions is hard ice melts but the sky says snow who knows how many breaths are left before the let go I don’t Amanda sings about a fox in the snow and a girl in the snow and a boy on a bike and a kid in the snow what do they know make the most of it while you can haircut goatee trim clear morning sunlight through windowpane falls on flowers atop table across wooden floor heavy winds during the night continue last year’s leaves still blow off trees gutters rattle I shudder to think about all the Chinese people being attacked ignorance and hatred a way of life it’s hard not to mind how others act on this very day in 1955 a black schoolgirl Claudette Colvin refused to give up her bus seat for a white person arrested and charged with multiple offenses people busy day and night to achieve their goals heads aswirl busy all their lives unaware how fast the breath of existence how trying to find what’s real becomes more distant the ups and downs of the world weigh heavy upon us it is said that grinding a brick on a rock is a waste upload new guitar tracks into band folder marinate steaks in wine onions and garlic before broiling saute asparagus with butter shallots and white wine over noodles wait in huge room until 9:45 appointments called to check in line sanitize hands put on new mask move slowly safe distance answer questions receive paperwork assigned sit in chair in another big room as vaccinators walk up and down the aisles to give shots Johnson & Johnson only one shot required wait fifteen minutes in case of a reaction watch for side effects next two days sun bright chilly late afternoon walk up and over the hill more and more traffic fewer people out walking far off horn of commuter rail taking workers back to the suburbs home for a meal and a night’s rest to return again tomorrow we bloom and fade like flowers gather and disperse like clouds I wish I could see through worldly concerns but worry burns won’t set me free read student short stories explosions reform school rape futuristic worlds seeing life with a new eye working in a coffee shop unable to speak English drill sergeants military training lost love dead parents drug addiction dead cats trunk containing a severed hand detective tracking serial killers coming out to parents teenage pregnancy don’t go down to the basement despite their dislike of dangerous places people are always fooled into going what’s gone is gone what hasn’t come needs no thought a lot of what passes for success is merely bondage and chains loss and gain delusions Jim posts a photo of The Cut in Gloucester last time there before recovery Gerrit drops THC tincture on my tongue when I arrive at his house says let’s go for a ride drives us around town our eyes aglow smiles on our faces says let’s go to The Cut we walk out towards the lighthouse my leg slips between a gap in the granite slabs bruised and bloody I still have the scars Amy Winehouse is at the club where my band is playing but we are having equipment problems and can’t get the sound to come out Amy approaches the stage says there’s some kind of electrical short in the wiring but we don’t have a way to repair it I ask what are you doing here she answers that once before anyone knew her she sang here I tell her she is very beautiful and she kisses me on the cheek and Levi says she’s is not Amy Winehouse but she looks
like her after 18,000 years elapsed Pang died his breath became wind mist and clouds his voice thunder his left eye the sun his right eye the moon his head the mountains his blood rivers his muscles fertile land his facial hairs the stars and Milky Way his fur forests his bones valuable minerals his bone marrow sacred diamonds his sweat rain and the fleas on his fur carried away by wind became animals spring-like day temps hit 60 folks out in shorts and t-shirts bike path overrun walkers bikers joggers parents with strollers folks sit on porches sip drinks speaking stories of our lives thoughts feelings endeavors concerns aspirations the very definitions of what we are as if we were the center of identities we assume ourselves to be dear Tao that nestles the 10,000 things into a single living tissue please shine the path of light that stretches across the darkness carries with it our deeply felt human experiences until everything opens away as it does drive to Bob’s for chicken cutlets then to market for vegetables and fruit jazz on the radio “Monk’s Dream” oversize hawk circles air pockets against sunset pink feathered clouds shift in currents adapt second by second to changes the Tao in motion the activity of Nature never ceases snow melt bodies writhe and coil in water rushing down the street into the sewer to the sea final changes in new book off to publisher one year ago UMass Boston closed because of pandemic two weeks’ time to return and teach online official email claims we might be back on campus this fall young woman in market looks at me I turn my head away finish checking out groceries she looks again I turn my eyes away uneasy she approaches maybe I know her and can’t tell because of her mask she says something I can’t make it out I ask what she repeats louder I like your outfit perhaps this is some kind of joke I am wearing my beat up overalls and a jeans jacket are you kidding I ask no she says you look really cool I look like an old man who needs a new outfit I tell her no no no she says you look really cool the mice eat baits from traps without triggering them not so dumb these little creatures tiny buds appear on branches dance in the warm breeze from these preludes to spring hope springs seasons slide into each other changes come and go before you even know an end clocks turned ahead for spring mornings dark evenings light but the Tao knows no time past present future one continuum the moon slides across the sky wind blows through trees moonlight and wind sounds wear away layer after layer temps drop back down this morning 18 degrees feels like 6 with wind why can’t I forget my worries accept the world of dust everything we know and see will vanish sooner or later there’s no need to arrange a thing body is a bubble lasts ‘til bursting sound of metal crashing and bouncing smoking car upside down side of the road hissing noises electric sparks people inside I shout get out get out of the car get out get out of the car walk closer but fear an explosion four bodies upside down a man looks at me let’s get out let’s get out he says to the others they slowly climb through broken windows shattered glass everywhere battered and beaten one left inside isn’t moving he’s gone one man yells leave him I’m dialing 911 on my cell the same man screams at me to drop my phone he has a gun out take him out take him out another man yells I turn and run for woods on the side of the road shot fired behind me a bullet whistles by strikes a tree get him get him hear them another shot misses into the trees run for my life and crouch behind a boulder rid of the bondage the depression I know ends when young I drank to mourn the ways of the world but that’s wasted effort now I see clearly the ways of the world in morning radiance outside my window birds celebrate freed from my shackles leave the tangles behind the eyes reach beyond what ruins our lives one year a thousand years distance upon distance how can it be any less sitting on the sofa wrapped in wool blanket the heat clicks on new day old day same day sometimes I think I have traveled extensively in Somerville other times I think I have not yet begun to travel a few words can channel the universe from the sky turn it to dust gathers on the windowsill Amanda Zoom performance plays ukulele sings drinks shots of whiskey says who drinks brandy when you have whiskey clicks an old fashioned typewriter for rhythm I write Facebook comment Amanda is divine variation of the dream again out of town some literary event staying at a hotel time to return home but can’t get to the airport unable to pack my bags too many clothes more I pack more clothes appear Molly says I must have some kind of fear of being far away in strange surroundings another three hour session at the dentist filing front teeth taking impression for permanent bridge on Prospect Hill the first flag ever raised against the British where cattle grazed the Great Pasture now children play under masked parents’ watchful eyes temps warming again sunny days yet people refuse vaccines others seem to think everything is back to normal businesses reopen traffic increases still cries the pandemic is a hoax most mornings I try to return to sleep but unable I wake make tea read the house quiet Jim posts views of the ocean texts that Wieners is receiving more attention than ever too bad it didn’t come when he was alive Michele sends video her talk on music for justice in preparation for her visit to my American Stories class times differ but stories remain the same how to know what’s true what’s platitude what’s affectation Yonghong writes there’s sleeve flapping in the night sky inside a hand that manipulates stars turns them on and off I no longer fill my cup and toast the wine gods when gloom comes I wait until it disappears as the story of our lives opens away yet we cannot leave the world’s tangles behind remind me again about forms of poetry we force words into cages or cells until wild joy no longer wanders boundless and free how did someone like me get here how to see through this mess first t-shirt walk of the year sun warm on my shoulders parents push baby strollers cyclists joggers dog walkers folks gather on lawns in back yards front and back porches smell food on grills pot smoke wafts in the air along with music voices intermingle who thew the frisbee onto the street back home cook turkey meatloaf noodles and broccoli darkness falls later each evening another day drifting in this dream of life no origin no end these words of mine drift and scatter with the ten thousand things more shootings more killings week in and week out headlines pass like water forgotten as quickly as they flash thoughts and prayers won’t change a thing lip service is all some people hate six days a week only to pray to Jesus on the seventh if Jesus walked amongst us he’d be hated by the haters sooner or later something’s got to give but for now hammers bang low clouds hang the morning bird that sang yesterday nowhere around the business of poetry makes me cringe it is said toxins are made from a pot full of bugs I remember inkwells in school desks I urge my students write your poem drafts with pencils in notebooks connect body spirit mind breath don’t worry about misspells typos bad grammar wrong words or saying the wrong thing I hear a workman sing and whistle all heart spacious and free the comings and goings of the day blossom then fade away stir change never the same always the same if you reach out to touch stars you startle a millennium Ed writes that the lockdown has seen him put together two new manuscripts he and Jennie will spend the summer in Ireland long as they are allowed in and what changes online teaching has brought condo conversion every which way in this city buy the old gut ‘em out strip down to stud build ‘em new and mark ‘em up Mitch writes he’s back in Texas over a month on the road new poems in loads next stop Zen retreat walking in woods along wide trails and over granite knobs to fast running stream slip on rocks fall into deep pool fully clothed treading water struggle to climb out people above extend hands down to help but can’t reach pull myself up inch by inch on the ground to catch my breath clothes wet suddenly large mushrooms size of spaghetti pots fall from trees never seen any like these wonder are they edible pick one up with my two hands to carry it home plumber phones with estimate to replace the faucet and disposal wow that much drizzle wind raw temps never count your spring before it is hatched my travel along the Way is just now beginning a distant church bell marks the time I look out the window and a red cardinal flies across the neighbor’s yard leaves no tracks drops onto a branch followed by its partner here I am amongst tens of thousands in the city keeping social distances as the pandemic continues to kill people still refuse vaccines there are no shortcuts in the way of the Tao lost count of all the markers I’ve passed farther and farther from where I started yet no closer to the realm beyond sun and moon opposite side of sky no matter how hard I try I’m the same evening breeze though screens in open living room windows birds sing celebratory songs long ago it was written those who know don’t speak those who speak don’t know Chinese translation via email from student lovers on opposite ends of the Yangtze River drinking from the same water sparrow fixed statue-like on peak of neighbor’s roof heat on first time in days some mornings contentment comes in the midst of everything never remains long enough to share a meal leaves me saddened nothing had been done during our visit I need to lose the my accumulated possessions too much stuff not enough room and use for it all what good thousands of books clothes I will never wear musical instruments dozens and dozens of paintings stacked up boxes and boxes of papers letters poems and story drafts who will look after it all when I am gone which won’t be long we hurry back from where we set out this is known as hurrying back from where we set out in ancient times there were those who gave up learning to master the art of the Tao they were known as those who give up learning here where I live houses on the left houses on the right houses in front and behind dwellings fashioned true cars come and go people come and go no one thing or action the same 1843 a surveyor plots the first choice section in what becomes known as Spring Hill one of the city’s seven hills Yonghong says translation is like dancing with chains looking through death dark and light call you by the new name no-name wild joy boundless free look too closely vision blurs nothing to be seen listen closely ears go numb nothing to be heard the flow of energy rises ever upward Gerrit lives among the stars leaving the human crowd behind he visits us in unseen dazzling excellence having left the dust for greater purity says the Tao is so small it contains nothing inside it yet big enough it has no bounds I await the passing seasons aware my essence will fade all too soon clinging to passing clouds floating with them in grand procession while roads stretch far off in all directions yet never reach beyond the world Michele guest in the American Stories class stories as songs discuss immigration English as a second language class pandemic the American Dream she and Dan sing and play songs together he guitar she flute internet down again regular thing these days roast red peppers broiled chicken mashed potatoes 6:41 in the evening still light out John posts photo of Gabe reading a poem in Gerrit’s solarium blue jay bounces on the porch railing in the pouring rain neighbor’s dogs bark up a frenzy at their back door want back in the energy throughout our bodies is a complete network oblivion is difficult to imagine this is known as trying to imagine oblivion is difficult MFA student theses readings today poets fiction writers ready to graduate and go out into the world more writers more degrees does the world need more writers I can’t help but wonder where will all the words go whirling around the endless landscape of eternity oh sun oh moon that shine on this earth teach me to stop wallowing in ignorance liberate me so I might begin the path of the long ascent Julia calls can I drive her to the homemade pasta store she’s making a Bolognese sauce buys linguine mafalde and gnocchi I’ll put some in the freezer she says load of towels in the washer water in the basement boxes in the living room up to the attic read student poems and Bartleby essays I prefer not to too but trapped like Nippers Turkey Ginger Nuts and the narrator vacuum floors clear clutter in kitchen and living room prep for Julia’s twenty-fifth birthday celebration falafel tzatziki lentil soup Greek salad Greek meatballs pita bread baklava cookies and cream cheesecake I write to John about my dream pedaling to Gloucester to visit him on an old-fashioned three-wheeled tricycle in the blackest of nights when I reach Stage Fort Park giant sky-high ice blocks cover the harbor crashing over the park and Western Ave. I turn around in terror fearing I’ll be crushed pedal madly away John writes the ice blocks are the ones who name label and identify the howling void thereby making real only their story and that my bike is the vehicle of anarchy that saved me my escort through paradise I’m lucky to have been inoculated in my youth with some Frank Zappa serum of the present-day composer who refuses to die Jim writes he hates National Poetry Month I write back I do too John writes that poets are on the loose and the authorities will round up the usual suspects