5am talk

As we walked down the quiet road, trudging through snow and brown slush, T told me that he wouldn’t want to raise his children here. “Where would they play?” he asked, pointing to the small, frozen-over, fenced park. Not in this city.


Being at E’s house reminded me of the potential for loneliness, and the confluence of dwelling and hiding places. And being at that establishment reminded me that no flurry of noise can drown out that internal cry. That I am like that man named Mohammed Ali from Madagascar, like that man/boy who made out with that woman/girl on our jackets, and not like him, or him, or her. I feel like myself.


For my 12th birthday, my parents bought me an easel. I would try to get up early on Saturday mornings to catch Bob Ross on PBS as he and his afro painted happy scenes, where every tree had a friend or two beside it. Those taped episodes, a 3-day course, and a Bob Ross Joy of Painting book made up the training I would need to produce these scenes in what used to be my grandmother’s room. Set up against the French windows, I would paint oil on canvas in an old lab coat that I had used for a skit in school. In my vision was the pool, the garden with its cherry, apple, and plum tree, and the blackberry and raspberry bushes by the fence. Beyond that, the winery, the lake, and the mountains. And, of course, the sky (as seen below). I would play Jewel and Enya on my CD player/ radio to keep me company, to add melody to inspiration. Jewel made me dream of Alaska and the northern lights. I have never seen the northern lights.

I used to paint a lot. I haven’t in a long time, and my grandmothers both died last year. Last year was one of the toughest years for me and my family, in more ways than we know.


Riding the train in the subway, staring at my obscure reflection in the window, I felt it. Pangs of it. And I thought of Hollow Men, which made me think of wracking my brain over T.S. Eliot in my second year in Vancouver while V told me I was crazy and pulled essays out of the air at 3 in the morning. I thought of the last portion of his work…


Here we go round the prickly pear

Prickly pear prickly pear

Here we go round the prickly pear

At five o’clock in the morning.

Between the idea

And the reality

Between the motion

And the act

Falls the Shadow

For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception

And the creation

Between the emotion

And the response

Falls the Shadow

Life is very long

Between the desire

And the spasm

Between the potency

And the existence

Between the essence

And the descent

Falls the Shadow

For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is

Life is

For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper.


It’s late and I don’t know what I’ve written. I want to go to sleep to the soft tender sounds of tall grass in the breeze, and birds chirping in the oak trees. And ____________________________________________. Happy new year.



  1. 5am and approx. 3 years and 8 months later. Choosing entries at random and I find this. Serendipity. It can be so easy to get swept away while painting. Bless those times and loved ones that have passed but not forgotten. Bob Ross quotes to mark the occasion.

    “Let’s just blend this little rascal here, ha! Happy as we can be.”
    “Tender as a mothers love… And with my mother, that was certainly true.”
    “Little raccoons and old possums ‘n’ stuff all live up in here. They’ve got to have a little place to sit.”
    “Oh, that would make a nice place to fish. I like fishing, but I’m not a very good fisherman. I always throw the fish back into the water, just put a band-aid on his mouth, tap ‘im on the patootie and let him on his way. And maybe some day, if I’m lucky, I’ll get to catch him again.”
    “And just go straight in like your going to stab it. And barely touch it…barely touch it.”
    “The secret to doing anything is believing that you can do it. Anything that you believe you can do strong enough, you can do. Anything. As long as you believe.”
    “The trees are oh so soft, oh so soft I freakin’ love it.”
    “Well, the little clock on the wall says we’re just about out of time. God bless you my friend.”

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