pipe

by Kirby Congdon…….

As this journalist remarked to his spouse, writing this column, with one thing or another, makes me find out who I am. When you get over that first thrill of finding a compatible editor who will even print your work, you begin to see yourself as a public person. (I assume this is the same for any endeavor.)

Another approach on that, may I say, is to look back in your files and reread what you said in public decades ago. My partner and I are trying to organize a million references in the form of essays, book reviews, arguments, poems and everything else for what they call, frighteningly enough, the archives. This merely consists of poking around, rereading, cataloging, organizing one’s life for a rather large headstone that, like heaven itself, does not really exist but in the Internet is like a grain of sand in a big, dusty dune unnoticed but, still, irreducible.

So what do I conclude and what do I advise? Keep a record of everything you do. No one cares until that odd person, coming out of the blue fog of the past, wants to inquire who are you and what did you say?

A Pipe

He found the small china pipe in the cluttered room that was plastered and partitioned off at the end of his grandmother’s long, dark attic, and he took it for himself. Affecting a French poet’s mien, although he had not been to France nor heard much of French poets, let alone seen once he took up smoking. It gave him an air. He wanted to have an air.

“Where do you think this came from, Daddy?” he asked, trying, with the studied casualness of his word to fill in the gap, once more, that seemed, always, to be between them.

“It was mine,” he answered, leaning back on his spine to ease the bending of it over his own grandfather’s field. The son tried talking as men do from one side of their mouths with the symbol in the other. But the pipe was too light. Or it was too heavy. In any case, it fell from his lips and broke apart on the huge stone ledge that rose up in an exhausted wave of history from the thin acre of potato plants that flowed out from below where an old hope, like lava, had turned from a light liquid foam to a million hard, mean grains of gravel.

“I had it when I was eighteen,” the older man said as if in some final accusation. The silence after this remark had in it that kind of reply that is complete, whole and impenetrable. That mute void said everything there is to say and for those who can hear it, even more, which is the unsayable. But the pipe was in pieces.

“Can it be repaired?” the young man asked.

“No, it can’t be repaired,” was the answer.

I don’t remember anything more. How could I? There it was. The pipe was broken. In pieces. It couldn’t be repaired.

I gave up smoking.

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