It is somewhat startling to discover that “Love Me Do” was transmitted over the radio waves of England as early as 1962. But that’s not what this is about. This concerns the sternum. The sternum is a friendly and dynamic bone. It allows the propagation of words. It occupies the chest like a driveway and is absent in turtles and snakes. What is there not to like about a sternum? Is there anyone who doesn’t like the Beatles? It is obvious that each of the Beatles had a sternum.
And still do. Two do. Love me do.
The sternum is a lovely bone and its density dances in abstraction while keeping the ribs in place and shattering the rip tide with its bold cartilage and gentle advocacy of bone. In birds it is a relatively large bone and typically bears an enormous projecting keel to which the flight muscles are attached.
But enough of science. Enough of anatomy. It is time now to take your pain and wiggle it. Get rid of it. Understand it. Listen to it. Toss it in the air and catch it. What does your pain say to you? Do you have more than one pain? How many pains do you have? Do some of your pains come close to resembling pleasure? Are some of your pains dull and monotonous? Are some of your pains romantic? Flocculent and Gothic, like the clouds in a painting by Thomas Cole, or more stinging and angst-ridden, à la Francisco Goya?
Name your favorite drug, and I will guess which pain comes closest to resembling Madrid.
I like it when someone takes my pulse. Professionals trained to take your pulse have a way of holding your wrist and arm that feels soothing and has a certain aesthetic dimension like dance or patisserie that is not generally covered in modern medicine. Sometimes even the cold chrome of a stethoscope pressed against your naked ribs can be a calming occurrence. Maybe it is the attention paid to something alive and beating within you that awakens these feelings of belonging to a communal, oceanic life beyond the tiny subjective realm. One feels simultaneously mortal and immortal, ephemeral and enduring.
Sometimes a drug will arrive in the form of a capsule, a powder enveloped in a gelatinous shell, and will diffuse into the bloodstream like a flock of flamingos rising gently into the dawn.
Whatever happened to Iron Butterfly? Do you remember them? If you remember Iron Butterfly then you are my age and you know the true value of medicine.
The true value of medicine is a drawstring on a white cotton gown and begins by standing naked in an exam room looking at a chart of human anatomy. Or the watercolor of a boat moored at a dock in Santa Barbara. The décor of your typical exam room can vary wildly. As do insulin pumps, saline drips and the view from a hospital window. But let’s not get into that. Note the way the fog embraces the city. Is there anything more wonderful than the invention of sleep? Or the incision made in a sheet of paper as poem begins to take shape? The smell of the sea awakening a sense of adventure? The delicious tangents of an artistic ambiguity stretched so far that you can almost hear the apparitions of forgotten words clank onto the stage and distort the odor of wood with their overpowering vibrations and incarnations of crazy hectic sorrow?
Or joy? Or ecstasy? And let’s not forget the Requiem of the Collar Stud, or the spoons occurring together in a rattling old kitchen drawer, or the various forms of punctuation that can crack a paragraph and cause it to wobble into overtime like a drunken electrician on a sound stage.
Have you noticed, incidentally, how much John Fogerty resembles the cowboy in Mulholland Drive?
I demand the release of all six senses. I have a pretty active sense of cellulose, but I need to find the monster within. My Jim Morrison. My Arthur Rimbaud. My William Burroughs.
And what would he have to say?
The air is alive. The hills are darkening with the ache of infinity.
Yesterday I saw Jim Morrison leaning against a drugstore counter. Swirls of hot meaning surrounded his being. He wore a hat of hectic stimulations. Light broke on a ruby at the center of his belt. He held a Mexican skull of onyx with a single eyeball. Imagine living inside your eye, he mumbled. A strange emotion swung through his breath, drunk as an earthquake exhumed from a horizontal bar. Sometimes the heart tells you things that the brain doesn’t want to hear. This is called truth, for which there is whiskey.
There are wounds that take a long time to heal. They become buried in your being and assume the texture of ancient fossils. Branches swimming in the epilogue of night. The dime is a long journey to the eyes. Go, grab someone and dance around the face painted on the floor. It’s the face of a woman. Her name was Lily and she had a voice that was soft and blue.
Reality is awkward, but the English language is easily maneuvered. You can do amazing things with it. You can create battles that explode into poetry. You can create a propeller that throws the water into confusion as it propels the sentence forward into the waters of the unknown. A girl of eight or nine wanders by wearing a Mohawk of flashing colors. She gurgles appliances and paints pictures of mosquitoes bursting with blood. She is a creation of Pythagorean fire and Aristotelian spice. Her name is Rosemary. Her name is Thyme. Her name is Sage.
Examine a reflex and what you will find will astonish you. Afterwards, you will sleep, and the elements of the dream will be wet with emotion. This is called hurt, for which there is healing.
The voltage of vision is immeasurable. Wax articulates the doctrine of light. I made another incision on a piece of paper and climbed into a cloud. There, I discovered the invention of sleep. I discovered that electricity takes care of itself and sometimes assumes the form of lightning. I saw a bikini eat a singing brain and a storm laugh its head off over the gulf of Mexico.
And as soon as I smelled the sea I forgot about everything else and thought only of waves and Cubism and the flap of wings. I saw the sublime in a sternum and words sink into paper impelling and shaping my life.