A piece of junk mail flutters in my hand, but a few of the words are already feathers torn out and sifting in the air somewhere between the floor of my consciousness and the floor I am standing on. Like the wings of a dead bird, the ripped envelope still hugs the mutilated letter, but a few of the words fly off one by one and then fall into a new formation: a solicitation from the Save the Ice Floes Foundation on the ripped-off half, the sheet of paper (heavy stock!) I intended for the waste basket. Or is it an invitation, a strange one I cannot quite make out even when I step closer to the window? The words are still obscure, ornate with hints of things to come and things already gone, in a tone suffused with enthusiasm, much like the glaze on the art nouveau vase on the windowsill which obscures its contours with a color scheme rife with conflicts. (By Wilhelm Schiller & Son, Bohemia, ca 1900). The streak of light it reflects only makes the other side even darker and more mysterious. Tell me, is it a memorial service or a birthday party? Celebrating the birth of a baby or a new book? Or a new era?
Letting go of the dead bird I strike up a conversation with the vase. Or is it she who starts talking to me, her questions swirling in a typical art nouveau whiplash pattern around me? I too try flying and may or may not be airborne. I know what I know, and I know not to admit what I do and what I don’t. That’s what makes it easy for me to open an empty yet hungry compartment of my soul to friend and foe while I fill it with their and my own word concoctions.
The vase believes me, but she’s still full of doubts. I assure her the world is no stranger to me. Or did you mean my inner world? That is a story told by bipolar bears in between ice floes of phrases; indeterminate like an angel who might be a boy or a girl, depending on the weather. Or the weather report. Angels are civil servants and must go by reports. Read them and write them on time. Celestial time. Which means any time. In a time continuum. A point in time dissolved in the infinity sludge. No end of it. No wonder bipolar bears wallow in it.
And the outer world? The so-called real world? I too check the weather reports. And the report from the latest war. I skim over the headlines and print out news of special interest from the NY Times. And Joe Weil’s musings to the Morning Poetry Club from Facebook. The dining table is covered in correspondence and has been taking flying lessons of late. It cannot spread its wings but is doing better with its legs. All spread wide. Ready to run and claim the runway. So far it has only kicked me in the shin. The chairs are rooting for it, and when there’s no one sitting on them they sit on one another. One another. So much fun to watch. And you tell me I’ve lost contact? Me? It’s possible, of course, but that’s not why I keep reaching out and why my reasons, my rational arguments come back empty handed.
Now the vase and I are watching each other. Maybe too much or not enough. It’s not clear what she says; we still know in the gut who is who. But not always. Slacken off, take it easy! We can both cry out for help when we need it. Or just cry for no reason at all except to delight in our tears. At least we could, way back when this room was different. Empty and clean. Now the doors open the wrong way, no matter which way we try. It doesn’t matter, I assure everyone, we only go to the kitchen and/or the bathroom. And those rooms have shed their doors, they fly naked and unencumbered by invitations.
I too strip my mind of the paper wings of that dead bird and let the invitation swirl in its whiplash course around the dining table. Nothing to worry about, there’s no place to land there, it’s buried under unpaid bills and solicitation, letters from editors who don’t want to know me and letters from creditors who know me only too well. Stamps though add a spot of color. The scotch tape will keep the ice floes together. We bipolar bears have seen it all. That is, speaking for myself. The others are learning to fly.
By the way, Wilhelm Schiller & Sohn went out of business in 1914. The descendants welcomed the Wehrmacht in 1939 and in 1945 fled the advancing Soviet Army to the American Zone. Many of the vases are still in exile all over the world. But beware: most of them are badly chipped or broken and mended; however, the glaze is still ablaze with erotic energy and neurotic fin-de-siecle angst. Dying swans, that’s what they are, these secessionist (or Jugend Stihl?) vases from a Mittel Europa in the throes of Liebestot.
Now, a hundred years later we don’t know what we’re dying of. That much for progress. It came to a dead end and never bothered to turn around. Some of us even deny we’re dying. Sure, I deny it too, but don’t you see my eyes? How eclectically they are glazed over? That’s right, it’s not the polar bears but us, we are the ones dying. Hang on to the tail of a polar bear. Better yet, an aurora borealis. The artisans and craftsmen at Schiller & Son saw the colors and the colors saw them. It was an instant union of colors longing to feel their glaze and hands rubbing open sleepless eyes.