The 19th of July 2010 – Chevy Chase, Maryland

(found smudged and soaked in a puddle of sweat)

Have to be better.

Have to be better have to be better have to be better but never better only the same.

Have to be the best, see the best, live the best, do the best but going to slow always

Never good enough.

Never good enough. Not ever good enough. Never, ever, ever good enough. Too much stuff to be ever good enough.

Have to be better.

Have to be better have to be better need to go fast need to go faster faster faster and better

Listen to the talk Look through their eyes Watch a few thoughts bounce through the echo chamber of their head. Demand to be better.

Is this it? This can’t be. It is. Have to be better.

Never good enough. Have to be better.

Not better. Never better. Have to be better

The 7th of July 1972 – Pinner, Middlesex

(found by a pair of shoes)

My head’s been spinning Trudy, spinning and it won’t stop.

The rug’s been pulled out. The earth quakes. The sidewalk has been split in two, and a chasm has appeared, and a thousand demons from the depths of hell are spilling out into the streets. I can barely get a straight look ahead of me. My head’s just been spinning. Spinning nonstop.

Is this the same voice I’ve always used? Are all my voices running together? What happened to the high-pitched one and the low-pitched one or have they all gotten spun together into one indistinguishable mass of gelatin and guts?

What happened to the songs we sang? Or is the guitar you used to play broken once and for all and forever? Do my ears work anymore or have the gremlins broken into my bedroom in the middle of the night to poke holes in my eardrums and make me go deaf?

Hasn’t it been lovely this summer? The heat is nice a dry. What a treat!

My feet. I swear they’re off the ground. I swear that, as I walk, my feet – the soles of my feet and the pads of my toes et cetera, et cetera – I swear that they do not touch the ground.

Oh, I’m wearing shoes.

Send my best hat.

Love,

Barbara

The 18th of March 1992 – Baton Rouge, Louisiana

(found by a popped bit of rubbery latex and a long ribbon)

Dear Ida,

Wouldn’t it be nice to just float away? This world is so heavy, so loud, so bright and garish. I wish it were easy. I wish I could make the chance. I wish I could get a better hand.

I look up into the sky most nights, every night in fact, and I see those stars. Bulbs of floating gas and totally free of the pull of all this stuff that surrounds me. How beautiful it would be, how amazing and freeing it would be to just float up there with them.

There’s blood here, Ida. Blood here everywhere. Puddles of it, and no matter how many times I go out with my broom or my mop, I have no chance of cleaning up this mess. That’s when I look up to the sky and see the clouds. My shoes stick to the tarmac sometimes. It gets dry and thick like spilled glue. Always on me, pulling me and holding me in place.

I could float like the clouds. I could do just as good a job of it as those puffy bales of water vapor can. But I never got the chance. I’m just down here with the screams and cries and headaches. The promises and the prophets and the coins. But I wish with all my heart to just float away, to leave it beneath me and to become as pure as the stars and the clouds and the bright, bright blue that goes on and on up there.

Another gunshot. Another cry and another scream.

When does this become hopeless?

-Carl

The 10th of August 1907 – Armadillo, Texas

(found by a rusted stake in an old railroad bed)

Dear Ma,

Of course it’s tough out here, but that’s exactly why I came.

I remember Grampy had the expression “like squeezing blood from a stone,” and he always made it sound like a bad thing. I always took it as a challenge. Getting the most from the least and fighting with blood and guts to get the little you can.

That’s life.

At least, that’s life out here.

There’s dust everywhere, Ma. It gets in your eyes and in your hair and in the cracks between your fingers. It gets there, and it won’t ever come out in the bath. Of course, not that you could draw a bath anyway. The water here’s scarce as kindness was back home.

And it always seems to be so hot, unbelievably hot sometimes.

But you squeeze the stone and hope that blood might, somehow, come out.

There’s an old man in a bowler cap who totters around from ranch to ranch. He carries a funny-looking stick, with a fork in it. He claims he can use his stick to find water.

Can you believe that?

He goes from ranch to ranch, one dried up bed of nothing to the next, practically begging for a few dollars so he can have the chance to maybe get you a little water out of the ground.

I’ve seen him do it. A genuine, God-given miracle!

It gives some of us hope, I think. I heard some of the ranch-hands talking about it at dinner one night. They believed all of a sudden. That even though life could be harder than baked clay, well, it could be worth it.

Blood from a stone. Water out from the desert.

All you have to do is keep squeezing.

Sweetly,

Bonnie

The 19th of June 2006 – New York, New York

(found in the park, in shreds)

What’s it about? What’s it about? What’s the goddamn thing about?

I should know. I wrote it. I lived it. I was it.

It’s about – why can’t somebody else figure that out?

IT’s about – I just don’t care. Read it. That’s what it’s about. It’s about reading it. It’s about you reading it.

It’s about –

Jesus

It’s about.

Okay.

You know how molecules all have the same net charge?

They’re all neutral. They’re all the same net charge. That’s how they form. If they weren’t all neutral – electrically or magnetically or whatever – then they wouldn’t form into molecules. There would be no molecules. There would only be frantic and chaotic atoms – ions really, I guess.

But do you know what that means?

That means that everything repels everything, magnetically. If that makes sense.

A thousand scientists shake their heads in disapproval.

I don’t care if it’s true.

That means that, no matter how hard you try, you can never touch anything. Touch is the sensation of ubiquitous and constant repulsion.

There’s a gap – a small and microscopic, imperceptible gap – and it exists between every bit of organic matter on the planet.

I felt that gap.

That’s not what it’s about.

It’s about –

Sitting on the subway and feeling her shoulder rub against mine.

The 13th of June 1949 – Baton Rouge, Louisiana

(found beneath a pile of bullets)

Dear Henry,

Currants, not raisins, now. Understand?

Never been better! And you?

Went swimming in the ocean, felt the big push of something in the water around me, beneath me and above me. Felt absolutely powerless to the power of the sea.

Men drowned around me, and children swam and woman flew. All in the power of the world to which I am completely powerless.

The sun will move without me. The moon will forget my sorry face. Clouds will cover the sky and reveal it to be as beautiful as ever before. All in due time. All in the time it takes for time to take its course.

When I stopped swimming was when I realized that. I can slap at the water all I want, but that doesn’t make the water anything other than the thing it is. You can’t even piss it off, the water. No sir, Henry! The water is what the water is, and that’s all. So’s the world.

So what is life? And what is the gift we all claim to bring to the world? And what is the point of any of that?

Flip onto your back and float. Feel the power of the ocean swell beneath and around and above you. Struggle for the things that matter, things like air and clean cooking. Against the power of the water, the power of the world – Henry, damn! – there is no fight.

The fight is over. The fight has been decided.

The sun will move without us all. The moon will forget all of our faces. All in due time, all in the infinite time that stretches beyond our comprehension, that stretches without us.

In the meantime, I guess, we’ll still keep smacking the water.

Because that’s what it is, Henry, an angry world, and a terrible world, and a world that makes us all so angry and terrible along with it. No use in fighting that, but there is use in fighting each other – at least to try to make each other a little less terrible and angry.

Currents, not raisins.

-Bill

The 10th of October 1997 – Towson, Maryland

(found under the headboard of the type of bed you would find in a house you would expect a shoemaker to keep)

So Sally,

Home now, alone now. Broadly speaking, where is the place to be now?

Haven’t we a place to be now? Or is the home to be now just the place where we are now?

Are there tears in your eyes, Sally, and – of course – why? Haven’t you heard the news? The fishing boats have lost all their crews.

Eggs on toast, first thing in the morning. Those are the memories I have of you, by the stove, hand covered by a big oven glove. Love, Sally. Isn’t there always room for more? Eggs, Sally, eggs on toast. And More and more and more.

Haven’t you, or weren’t you, or are you there already?

I feel as though I am. I feel as though I am here already and that I have been here before, if not always and already. Haven’t you? Or weren’t you? Or aren’t you?

I remember the look on your eyes, the coffee drips through fingertips burnt and the fruit flies that hovered around brown-spotted bananas. Orange.

I thought so, Sally. Sure did.

-Berty