you are in the diode archives v6n3



In a Landscape: XLVI

Answer the question with a Yes or No.  Indeed.  Because
that’s how life works, right?  Yes or no, up or down, with me
or against me.  Good person.  Bad person.  Bad dog.  “I’ve been
a bad, bad boy.”  Lou Costello’s tag line.  “One can even set up
quite ridiculous cases.”  Schrödinger writes, “A cat is penned up
in a steel chamber, along with . . . a Geiger counter, there is
a tiny bit of radioactive substance, so small that perhaps
in the course of the hour, one of the atoms decays, but also,
with equal probability, perhaps none; if it happens, the counter tube
discharges, and through a relay releases a hammer that shatters
a small flask of hydrocyanic acid.  If one has left this entire system
to itself for an hour, one would say that the cat still lives
if meanwhile no atom has decayed.  The psi-function of the entire system
would express this by having in it the living and dead cat
(pardon the expression) mixed or smeared out in equal parts.”

Doing an image search on “Schrödinger’s Cat” yields mostly comics. 
My favorite of the few I looked at had this for a caption: “Schrödinger
was arrested for cruelty to animals.  His fate is uncertain.”  Is this
a realistic way to imagine fate?  To be alive and dead, smeared out
in a psi-function?  I’ve met a few people who make me think perhaps
he’s onto something.  And what about close calls?  The tree that fell on me
at my uncle’s farm the year before he died, fell with me perfectly
in the center of the V the huge limbs made.  “Missed it by that much.” 
Maxwell Smart’s tag line.  It was a Chaplinesque.  And the time I was pushed
off an eight foot wall at a birthday party in the 4th grade, landing
on the top of my head, which, thinking about it now,
could have been serious, but only left me with a headache. 

My mother’s father died on Christmas day when she was three.  My
first father died in a car accident on the 4th of July when I was
three.  How does the old joke go?  “Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln,
how was the play?”  An atom of a substance decays and the cat
is dead.  An atom of a substance remains intact and the cat lives.


In a Landscape: XLVII

Where’s the fun in doing something you’ve done a million times?  Well,
maybe it’s not what someone else has done, and they like watching you. 
It could be considered a service.  Maybe you teach them.  They say
there’s no higher calling, or almost no higher calling, depending on how
one feels about callings.  The football coach had a calling to coach
this team, it was his life dream, and he was the coach for three months
until he died last week while mowing his lawn, and now today they’re
having a Celebration of Life service for him at the stadium.  He was
49.  There will be a public viewing in an hour at the Ron Houston
Performing Arts center.  I could make it if I left right now. 

It all depends on where you think you’re going, as we say we’re going
somewhere, but we also say there’s nowhere really to get to
but in your head—which is a comfort only the safe can explore.  I was
in baseball for a year, for example, standing in the outfield wondering
what I was doing there, watching the grass.  Once, I was stung by a bee
in the fourth inning.  After games, I’d get a Mr. Pibb.  Birmingham,
AL.  Summer, 1977.  “Who is this person?” we ask, looking at pictures
of ourselves outside the premiere of Star Wars.  It’s a good question. 
A fine question.  It’s “Pick Your Skill” day, and we go around the room,
another version of “What Super Hero Would You Be.”  Eliot chooses
Anything Boy, and Natalie chooses “I Don’t Know.”  I choose falling
out of trees.  The last time I did that, I landed at Robin’s feet
with the air knocked out of me, and I couldn’t breathe or talk
for a second or so.  And then I could.  It makes a pattern. 

As for getting somewhere, I just walked around the office with my eyes closed
and did a pretty fair job of it.  Typing was kind of a mess though.  I thought
it would have been the other way around.  It’s everywhere around you,
as in those old Palmolive commercials where Madge says, “You’re
soaking in it.”  She did a lot of those commercials, from 1966 to 1992. 
He name was Jan Miner, and in France her character was named Francoise. 
In Germany, Switzerland, and Austria she was Tilly, and in Finland
she was Marissa.  For some reason that means something to me right now. 
I just looked it up, and found she died on February 18th, 2004.  She was 86. 


In a Landscape: XLVIII

What is the reason for harboring ill-will toward another? 
What is the reason for forgiving them?  There are so many examples
with a ruler and the color gray.  Who do I have to forgive? 
Who has to forgive me?  I hate that.  I hate this whole topic. 
What am I supposed to say next?  Start confessing something?  Why?
What good do such things ever do?  I’m more understanding
of someone who says, “I’m taking my confessions with me.”  Good. 
As long as they’re the garden-variety confessions.  The “say three Hail Marys
and apologize to ______” confessions.  Because confession
is supposed to lead to something.  We’re changed, right? Brand new
soul, the way the archaic torso of Apollo makes us also want to change
our lives, only we never do.  Or else, yes, of course we do, but only
for the time it takes to get to the parking lot.  “Man, it’s all been
forgiven,” as The National have it, “The swans are a-swimmin’.” And
they continue, “I’ll explain everything to the geeks.”  Sounds good to me. 

Amanda reminded me yesterday that I used to, a couple years ago,
make declarations that I was continually new, John II, and then John III,
always a new model.  Always turning a corner.  Neither of us
could remember where I left off or when.  What John am I up to now? 
Maybe XLVIII?  Agents of change, we order “The Regular,” as change
is a version of “What has this meant to you.”  It’s Neil Young’s birthday today,
November XII, MMIX.  He’s LXIV, XX years older than I am
(and what a mess Roman numerals make of these things).  Happy Birthday,
then, Neil, what has this meant to you?  And Happy Birthday
to everyone else, while I’m at it, because Happy Birthday is good, Happy Birthday
to the singular and collective, the way birthday parties sum things up:

My mother (this was years ago) bakes a cake, and takes it to the party, and
there’s this tension between them (Is this my memory, or is it a story
I was told?).  Call her Person A.  And so Person B extends her hands
to receive the cake at the door as my mother releases her grip.  The cake
(did you see this coming?) falls to the ground between them.  Woosh


In a Landscape: LXVI

On the airline, I sat next to the woman with the young child,
because I have young children.  “Children exist all around us,
through us, beyond us,” as the magazine I’m reading says.  When I
was six, the child next door drowned in their swimming pool. 
He was two.  The coffin was the size of a suitcase.  We’re all
characters in the movie, and the movie is called, “Children Are
the Only Ones Who Exist.”  According to DNA, that’s the meaning
of life.  I’m now, in January, on my birthday, the 6th (the Feast
of the Epiphany!), rereading this again.  I talk about this
a lot.  The tiny coffin.  How we got out of school to go.  It’s
2013 now.  The funeral was my first.  42 years ago, in Orange
County, California.  1971.  Our street was Caltech Circle. 
A California technical circle.  I watched out neighbor
hammering something in his garage months later, watching
the hammer strike, and the delay, and then the sound. 

The error creeps in.  The minor flaw gets amplified through
repetition until it comes to characterize the system.  I had
this thought and then I start thinking about some terrible future. 
The other night Eliot was playing in our big suitcase.  Crouching
and then jumping out.  I’m sorry.  I have this vision that they’re fragile,
my children, usually when one gets sick, which is usually Eliot
first, or I read something in the paper, with an ambulance parked
next door and then leaving slowly, without its siren.  But right now
no one’s sick.  Let’s go for a stroll.  The clean lines of a room. 
Natalie asks for help with her homework.  No one’s sick.  It’s OK. 

Not so for the waiter I knew when I was a teenager bussing tables
at The Blue Dolphin, Farmingdale, Long Island, which had a bullet hole
in the wall above the bar from when someone was mad at the owner once
(our story was it was the mob), though all it seemed to us he ever did
was smoke cigarettes and eat salad.  But the waiter is who I keep going back
to, the one who had an epiphany when he was 13, but then somehow
forgot it.  “It’s all meaningless now,” he said to me one night, but I never did
get it.  That night he jumped up on the catering tables and danced. 
He danced like the world was made of fire.  He danced like dancing
was how one remembers important things.  


John Gallaher is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Your Father on the Train of Ghosts (with G. C. Waldrep), as well as the chapbook Guidebook from Blue Hour Press. His next book, In a Landscape, will be out in September 2014. He’s currently co-editor of The Laurel Review and lives in rural Missouri.