BROKENESS

My tools are broken. Isn't that a shame? I think it's a shame but I could laugh or cry really it doesn't matter now where I am. Where am I? I'll get to that. First I will explain about my tools, what I brought with me, about all I brought up here. Should I tell you now where I am? I don't know. It's been a long time between conversations so these questions are difficult to frame. I mean, I know its time to leave but where can I go? This whole experiment of mind has failed, ah, a pleasant enough failure and since I've been alone I don't rightly care one way or another. So what if the owls peer at night and know? That's actually dedication. What if I met someone on the road and he expected me to say something? I'd faint away I'd guess. I can see that. Falling away at his first word so he has to bend down from the waist to pick me up. If he want me to be up, I mean it's his prerogative. Myself, I'd think twice about it. When I lived in the city a bum walked into a pole and fell to the sidewalk. I watched it amused. He swore at the pole from top to bottom like an old woman. On his back he was in languid tones cussing the lamplight. He had one veined fist in the air. He was wearing a kind of buckskin coat. I could have used that coat up here where it's damnable cold at nights. I was standing no more than five yards from him and didn't move. He picked himself up by wrapping his hands around the pole and pulling up. I felt bad the rest of the day. I mean my conscience bothered me that I hadn't helped the poor fellow. We have our moments. A pole is in the way. Down one goes simply stunned. A guy watches then moves away.

I'm writing this for myself, no one else. I'm speaking out loud before writing the words down. It's quiet around me but the words grasp between the burdens of the pain and sweetly return to me. I ran away and came up here. Iíll get to the details. Yes, I've settled that between myself now that the details are crystal clear. If someone should ask me I need a story and a story is only a story if it has details.

But the details are only as sharp as my tools permit. Ah, my first dilemma! Now I feel human and dirty and can carry an attitude around with me.

To be human is to confess the brokenness of your tools, even skills. "Everything has changed!" And then the sinking feeling that you will not survive the first waves of change and be relegated to a complaint. A complaint sitting on a sidewalk somewhere reading Rimbaud or staring off into space while college girls throw you cigarettes. So it was an emergency of sorts. Why are they broken? Why did God do this to me, at this time? If God is real. Perhaps God is broken too although it seems impossible given the fact we only know as much as God permits.

It's as though they are laying now at my feet a useless reminder of something beautiful that the crowds step over and around as they hurry through life. I often thought they could come and take them if they wanted to, even trample them until they were bits and pieces. The crowds rule these days. They can do anything they want and get away with it, even murder thousands of people. If the crowds will it it is done. I would have none of it which is why my tools seemed bent and withered at my feet as I left my apartment on a cruddy afternoon in the middle of summer. Summer! It was a release into the heat of the sun! And I had, perhaps for the very first time, been optimistic or, at least, confident as a young person. Confident and brazen almost. Even arrogant in a way because I knew things and I had been in places.

Sometimes memory of them suffices to fill me with a glowing joy that pushes out vestiges of the awful day. Yes, in that sense they are like floating deities that flit back and forth across the closing skies of the mind. They fly with mischievous smiles and tongues lolling out waiting for some signal I suppose to show me how to replicate them. Oh, I tell them, don't give me the burden please!

A girlfriend used to laugh at me, "Good God, they enrich themselves now with all kinds of devices. They don't need your tools." This always pissed me off when she said this. I always took it as a challenge because she didn't appreciate how profoundly the tools had moved me. They moved me more than she did, I'll say that much. Maybe she was jealous. She couldn't compete for the affection I had for these wonderful tools.

Not that the crowds cared. I thought foolishly that once the tools were whole I'd take them and show them to the crowds who would know instantly my heroism. But quite the opposite occurred although I presented plans rather than the tools themselves. And every time the crowds competed with each other to destroy me of my fantasy. At first I was assured this was perfectly ok. "It's the way it happens." But then, after a time, it began to feel as though the crowds really had no interest in my tools or the good I would do them. And I pled my case like a trooper bringing in vast knowledge that went back into antiquity. But, the crowds were either scowling at me or laughing at my expense and throwing up insults that stung deep on occasion.

And certainly a person here or there would recognize the dilemma and look at me with sad eyes and say, "it's the way it is..." I felt, on those occasions, like a man exiled to an island in the Pacific where rumors say they kill the islands with nuclear bombs. So you wait for it to fall. You even, in a wistful moment, prepare yourself for some joyous and instant vision of the constituent matter of things and so grasp before your annihilation what happens. What happens! Perhaps our pulverized minds are picked up by the explosion and held over everything we did not know. Good, bring it on I am ready. So I would think but then I would say, "no, you are just bitter because your tools are useless in this age." And who ever said or thought up the idea that tools are extensions of human beings and so compatriots in a manner of speaking was telling the truth of the matter. You have a skill, it allows you to work on the tools to get something done. The mind is occupied, the heart is in sync with the skill, the heart rises as you see it taking place, the thing, building up, breathing as you breathe, an old composer plays and comes down with the renunciation as you finish it off. It's a privilege. And you are told that. "Few can have this relation to your tools so you will never be happy with them. You will always hear their voices taunting you, questioning you."

Before the fracture you could eye that thing down the whole of its length and see all its roundness, its suppleness, its necessity to exist in just that way. I was tempted to treat it as an instrument rather than a tool and that threw me off a bit and I felt very awkward. No, it was a tool and it felt wonderfully machined in one of those shops I used to pass when I worked down there where they do that sort of work. They cut, glaze, solder, spin, down there and that made me appreciate the damn thing. The voluptuous care of one who is unknown. He, all hair and cuss kneading the transparency while whistling a song he heard back in the day.

What go me more than anything was that former defenders of the tool turned against it. "Throw it out we don't need it any longer. Look, look what we have...." And they would hold up an obvious imitation that smelled like money and not devotion. You can smell that on things, what makes it and why. Oh well, I would say at least I know the truth. I saw them all flood into the falsehood and gain power, that was their intention all along. Boy, was I fooled! I was an idiot but that is life. So many things had already battered down my lame illusions I just shrugged my shoulder. Let them get power. Let them revel in this life and light up when the dangling things jounce and their eyes get wide. Let them howl in derision. It's a big jungle anyway, that's what they tell me. "It's a big jungle. The big fish eat the little fish." On and on they would go convincing me that my tool was insufficient in the jungle that had been made. And perhaps they were right. In fact, the tool may have been mutated into something opposite of what I wanted it to be had it not been broken and laid out useless as it was.

It was an idiot, a regular clown, who taught me a very valuable lesson. He had seen the tool at my feet, broken and dissembled, and pointed it out to me.

"Yes I know, it is a shattered thing at my feet."

"Well, what are you going to do about it." And he had a big goofy smile on. I thought his eyes were going to leap out at me like an old cartoon character.

"Why should I do anything? It's mine, my possession."

"Ah, you only think it's yours. But it interferes with the feeling that we, the public, are safe and can walk around without worrying about getting tripped by this broken thing."

"The public," I scoffed. "If that were the case I could claim the same thing for all the broken brains and broken hearts I see walking around the public space."

"Hee-hee, you are a clever guy." And he did a pirouette of some sort and took out a weird, tin cap and stuck it on his head.

I did not notice it at first but a crowd started to gather. It was a hot day and little girls were eating ice cream cones and the mothers all had expensive carriages for their darling babies. The men must be in offices, I thought to myself. I looked at the city built up around us at that moment and it all seemed fit together seamlessly with building edge fit to building edge and rooftops parallel, the fountain spewing effortlessly with hands cupping the water and drawing it out to wipe the face. And without question my broken tool looked inappropriate and I felt embarrassed for it. It angered me that such a small thing could get me riled up and disturb my day but that's how it was if you felt responsible for the tool that was broken.

But then there was a crowd! And the clown who had been bothering me was firing up the crowd against me and it divided the crowd and a few of them were actually for me and stared at me with imploring eyes as if to get me to do something. "Put it together," those eyes whispered. "Put it together and raise it high in victory and shut this clown up." I was jarred for a moment.

I had never understood the value the broken tool had for certain minds. I didn't want to figure it out and backed off for a time while some of the people in the crowd moved closer to the broken tool and inspected it, leaned over it with their hands behind their backs, one even got down on his knees, a young man, and eyed it from the ground level.

I watched from a distance. Perhaps it did really belong to them, at least when it was in the public. Once I took it away and put it in my basement it was mine I was convinced of that. And before long the crowd became distracted by something else. A few women had taken their shirts off and were strolling in the fountain bare-breasted as the teen-age boys hooted and howled. The women linked arms and I discovered later they were in a protest of some sort. Sure enough the cameras arrived, then the cops, everyone was smiling. The women put their shirts back on and by that the gravity of the situation had drifted north where the fountain was and I was left standing with the broken tool. I quickly picked it up and put it under my arm all prickly in the belief someone would see me with it.

That's why I came up here, to get away and be with my thoughts. It does good, no, no good, hard to say. I figured I could repair those tools up here away from the destructive vibrations down there, probably where you are. I could make them heroic again. But then they'd have to stay up here wouldn't they? The whole purpose would be lost which was, after all, to prove that the tools still performed at a high degree and were useful, even beautiful if I'm allowed a strange word. A broken word if ever there was one. Up here I saw the fragment of sun on a leaf magnified by the falls water. And a spider was tenderly walking on its new web, to the leaf and to the center of the fragment. Just that moment. No words. You hide here for a time then the ugliness calls you back. I go back. It's always like the woman I met at the airport all fine in my brain but when she came out of the gate my mind and body sank and everything was ruined.

I thought if I were up here for some time word would get out about the guy with the tools up there in the woods and young guys, even women, would make their way up to find out what I was up to. I suppose the curiosity of people has been damaged by so much information and stimulation. For a brief moment that gave me hope that they'd need the tools now more than ever.

I was up here so long I started talking to myself and hallucinating. I began to talk to the tools when they were laid out straight and passive with that gleam on them that radiates with its own pride. It was later that I began to hate them. That's when I realized the world gets in you whether you like it or not and won't let you go until you do its bidding. It will shake a man loose of everything he thinks he is or has until he's running like a nut trying to find himself again. And often I walked the long path, through the old gate, past the open pit, next to the stream, up beyond where the boards and old carts were and felt relaxed and decent. I'd sit for hours on a rock and talk to it about how sad the world was. I think it laughed at me. And most of the wilderness, if not laughing, had a mock-stern expression as though it were a puzzle I had to solve. 'Old trees, old rocks," I used to say, "you were here before and will be here after. You are starkly alive in my mind but then will burn down one of these days and be ash. So what do you really have to teach but our cares are meaningless. Is that what you teach tree and rock?"

I was slipping, I admit it. In moonlit nights with the stars pounding down at me I would stand erect and vomit out a ton of words finally breaking them up with little nonsensical expressions. And the nightlife would get real quiet. And I would stop and feel like an idiot and go back inside.

I didn't figure out anything. I tossed the tools and lived without them. I felt lighter and well. That's when I decided to go down again to the thing again, down where it all happens and discover new tools, the undiscovered tools. I had seen them and I knew they were there.




David Eide
January 24, 2014