My Life as a Jack-in-the-Box

If this dispatch seems strange to you (and I can assure you that it will, before very long) that is because it is being written by fits and starts, a few words, a few phrases, a few sentences at a time. Why? Because I can no longer sit still. I have become a jack-in-the-box, popping up again just as soon as I sit down, and no mulberry bush either, no musical run-up, just those few notes of the tune that cue the spring: Pop goes the weasel as soon as I lower my rear.

I have been wanting to write about this for days now, but couldn’t. Or rather, it has taken days, because, well, re-read the above, please. I’ll be right back.

Sorry. Saw a space on the wall that needed a poster, needed it immediately, so off I went for hammer and nail. It’s what I do now. Comes a thought, I am compelled to act on it. Instantly.

You cannot appreciate how much of a change this is that Cancerland has wrought on me, among many other changes, unless I tell you first that…Just sit tight. No time will have passed for you. For me, it may be hours before I am back here at the keyboard. You won’t know unless I tell you.

Where was…oh, yeah, the radical change this represents in me, brought about by Cancerland. See, back in my previous life, in the Healthy States of America, sitting still was what I did best, what I did most naturally, what I did most often. Not because I am lazy — though I am, to tell the truth — but because the things I most wanted to do (writing, reading, listening to music, watching movies) all are activities that call for sitting still. Yeah, sure, you can write in your head as you walk along, and you can read and listen to music and watch a movie that way too, thanks to our miracle hand-held machines. But you can’t do any of those things seriously, dedicatedly, unless you melt into a chair and let the world go hang.

And that was my favorite thing to do, melt into a chair and let world go hang.

No more, though. At my back I always hear, as Andy Marvell put it, time’s winged chariot hurrying near. Hell, Andy was lucky. A winged chariot is better than the thing I have bearing down on me, with its rasping hot bulldog’s breath scraping my eardrums and scalding my neck.

Which is why.

I say that’s why.


I suppose I shouldn’t tell you this, but I’ve been gone all day. It’s dark now. Don’t even ask. One thing led to th’other, th’other led to the toolbox, the toolbox led to the hardware store, and now my knuckles are bloody.  I don’t rightly know what all happened after that.  So many things just absolutely could not wait.

All’s I know is I gotta keep moving. The great scarred leather chair (I have a cat) I used to think was the portal to paradise now seems to me to be a trapdoor over a quicksand pit. I have to shoot out of that chair — pop goes the weasel — before the trap gives way and I am sent down to be swallowed whole.

This is the flip side of the precious current moment, about which I have written already, with admiration and delight. Now is all there is, that still is true, always was, always will be. Now is every moment’s real and true name, whatever else it may claim it is called.

But that divine now, that all-encompassing present moment, is a tyrant too, cracks the whip, urges, urges, urges, forever insists: I am all you have, make something of me, do  something with me, do not let me slip away, do not let me pass.

Lord, it is exhausting here in Cancerland, in the wonderful, terrible now  that is all there is.

Published in: on May 13, 2010 at 9:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

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