Rust red water seeps from the walls.
It comes out between
dirty white tiles that
cling to the surface by only the
faintest memory of
glue or caulking.
At this point,
cleaning could do great
damage, for the whole thing is
held together by
piles of time itself.
This is no dilemma.
It’s what happens when things get old.
Notes and Credits
Photos: I took these photos in Brazil. The first is from 1998, a delapidated building in the old quarter of Salvador, Bahia, the capital of the Brazilian colony from its founding in 1549 to 1763 (when the capital was moved to Rio de Janeiro). The second is from 1993, in downtown Belém along the waterfront on the the Bahia de Guarajá at the mouth of the Amazon River. The façade stood like this for at least five more years, for I know it was that way in 1998. I can’t recall if this façade was ever torn down or refurbished as the front to a new building. Memory fails me now (see the poem).
The poem: I just moved to a new apartment, new to me, in an old building. We’re dealing with a few old building issues as I try to get settled amid the boxes upon boxes. My friend Amy calls this a “liminal period,” and she is right. Everything is up for grabs. I could throw things away. I could re-evaluate the value of things and keep them. I could completely rearrange my material surroundings and invent something different.
I moved myself with four of my friends, all dads to friends of my son. We moved me on Sunday. We felt a little older on Monday. At the same time, I am reading Ted Hughes’s Birthday Letters and Erica Wagner’s Ariel’s Gift as I prepare to finish off the next post on Brasília. In my quiet moments, I can’t help but think in short lines of verse and hear them, over and over, in the silent spaces between my thoughts and actions.
The liminal experience of moving is not fun. It unearths too much. Our dust is comfortable, even if we pretend to vacuum it away every week. Unsettling everything creates a dilemma: deal with it or shut it away as quickly as possible. The good thing about creating this posting is that it made me dig through old photographs (I knew exactly the ones I needed, and I knew exactly where the dusty boxes and albums containing them were). Some old photos aren’t easy to look at. “Too many lovers,” to quote the title of a song written by my old bandmate and best friend P.H. Fred. Others are good to find, bringing on moments of reverie that soften the blows of age and loss, reminding one of a life lived well, and pointing forward in hope, for we will continue to live well.
Dedication: To old people everywhere. May their wisdom remain with us.