The Blue Pitcher

that which may be filled and emptied

Category: Driving

Oh Lordy

It’s been years since I’ve stepped into a church for anything more than to cool down on a hot city afternoon in the pale stained glass light. Somewhere along the way, Jesus has become a feeling more than anything else; when I hear the name I think blue sky and hot milk and love; I think goodness and blackberry pie and stopping to talk to your neighbor on her stoop.

But driving from New York to North Carolina, I listened to twelve hours of talk radio. It made me feel ridiculous and naive and angry and not just a little sad. It seems Jesus ain’t blue sky to many (K. might yell at me for even thinking it!) but more of a back alley to kick people in their knees.

It makes me think of this dream I had about Brad Pitt last week. In it, he was snorting a heckuva lot of cocaine. The white stuff rimmed his nose. And I said, heartbroken but aloud, “Oh my. I can’t believe I’ve been fooled by the media.”

Roadtrip

Bring on the corn nuts and Dr. Pepper, I’m headed to the homeland!

Dr. Joseph Hefner: My Genius of a Brother

As a teenager, my brother had the habit of picking up roadkill and throwing it into the back of his Geo Tracker. He’d boil the skin off, bleach the bones in the sun and then paint colorful symbols on the skulls. Wa-La! Merry Christmas, mom–here’s a raccoon skull with an arrow!

While this habit may have led my Irish twin of a brother to be a serial killer, he did what few Hefners have done before, he took the high road! Yes, folks, my brother has finished his dissertation and is getting his doctorate. I like to refer to him as a craniologist. The man loves skulls; he’d be the first to reach out and rub your head at a party.

This is the brother who painted the walls of the room I’m in now; the brother who, at four, pretended he was Hulk Hogan, who, at eleven, break danced on cardboard, who, even now, can pull quarters from behind your ear and rabbits out of baseball caps, who can pluck a tune on the ukulele and catch a fly with his bare hands; the brother who loves quickly and fiercely, whose laugh is maybe my favorite sound in the world; the brother who I could ride around in a car with for years, not caring where we were going or if we ever got there.

This morning I am thinking about the red bag he used to carry on his weekend visits. He was living with our dad and Linda, and I was living with our mom, and weekends were magic because we got to be together. When he came to stay with us, Linda would safety pin an index card to the bag which stated its contents: 2 pairs underwear, 2 pairs socks, blue corduroys, yellow Mr. T t-shirt, green sweater.

Just thinking about the red bag twists my heart a little bit, makes me think of the long drive back, after we had dropped him off, how quiet the car seemed.

But, my brother, we’ve made it! We are neither killers nor druggies, lunatics nor thieves! Heck, we’re not even boring. You, for goodness sake, have a woman you love, a dog with a French name, and, come August, a piece of paper, you can proudly frame and display among your famous collection of skulls.

The Round Table

Last night I dreamed that one of my dear friends was keeping a hanged man in her closet. We were at a party sitting around a large round table, and Come here, she said. Now? I followed her down a corridor, and she opened the closet door. At first I just saw the man’s naked back; he had two small pimples to the right of his spine. Then I noticed he was dead. My friend smiled. I have one too, she said.

The day that followed was almost equally dreamlike: a jaunt to New Jersey. Sanj and I (and several other poets, including most notably weatherman Ira Joe Fisher) read poems at the West Caldwell Poetry Festival; Sanj may have made some people cry. Here she is, years ago, smiling:

In New Jersey, we, of course, got lost. Sanj’s Swedish lover and his Swedish parents sat in the backseat of the Yukon while we drove in circles. I kept smiling and shrugging, and they did the same.

The whole ride home–especially when the rain started falling quite heavily as we waited in line for the Lincoln Tunnel–I tried to forget about my dream with my other friend and the man in the closet, but it kept coming to me. After she showed me the dead man, we went back to the table; everyone was laughing and clinking glasses, and I understood–sort of faintly and with a kind of shame I can’t quite understand–that we all had those hanged men in our closets, that they weren’t ours to understand or ridicule or even to really think about all that much. Maybe their faint knocking against the wall is the only rhythm that quells us to sleep.

We’re given these moments, it seems–say at a poetry reading or a dinner party–and someone exposes their own hanged man. Look, they say, and so caught off are we by their honesty that we have no choice but to do just that, to look, and then, as if in a dream, we wander back to the round table not certain of what we’ve seen, just remembering two faint blemishes and the bony spine of an unfamiliar back.