First Maps of Stars and Missing Persons (On Lineage)
Originally delivered as a lecture, Naropa SWP, Boulder, CO, June 2014
23h 56min Right Ascension
72deg 50min Declination
Last summer, a young man set up outside the King Soopers near my apartment. Though he rarely held a sign, his location seemed deliberate, positioned at an intersection that had both a stop light and a left turn into the parking lot. He had beside him a small shopping cart of belongings, plastic grocery sacks stuffed with filthy clothes, blankets, a twin radio cassette deck. For the first weeks he stood, looking into traffic that approached the intersection. He made verbal appeals for help as I passed him. He held a cigarette, always burning just before the filter.
I will say it again: he was a young man. It was summer. He wore too many clothes. His fingers were black at the ends. I don’t know when or where he dispensed with his shopping cart but it disappeared from the corner, and he started to sit on the pavement instead of standing, or even leaning against the King Soopers railings. Now he had a sign on box cardboard but it lay on the sidewalk in front of him so you could only see it if you were walking, not if you were driving. And he didn’t speak to anyone anymore but occupied the whole sidewalk at the corner, sprawled, closer to an awkward recline, and he wore fewer clothes and got in everyone’s way and the shoppers from King Soopers mostly crossed the street to avoid him. If they did not, they made exaggerated steps over him and tutted and indirectly expressed their annoyance that this young man, this kid, was there on their corner, no longer asking for anything, just lying in the street.
That same summer, somebody bought the vacant warehouse across from my apartment building that had previously housed an overpriced antique mall. A week or so after the signs changed from For Sale to Sold, the faint outlines of a huge animal appeared in spray paint on the alley-side wall. Each day as I walked home from King Soopers the image became clearer until a two-headed, six-legged dog occupied the entire wall of the warehouse, staring down onto the parking lot and dumpsters beneath. I began to move in this rhythm: my apartment, the grocery store, the kid at the corner, the dogs. My apartment, the grocery store, the kid at the corner, the dogs. It was not comfortable. It was what I had.
Without warning, a package appeared beside the dumpster, in full view of the dogs. It was an open twelve pack of orange soda with a note attached. FREE, said the note. An offering from the dogs, perhaps? I felt I should accept. Although the packaging bore a brand with which I was not familiar, I took it upstairs and poured one of the cans into a tumbler. It was an unsettling liquid to be sure, its orange color too rich to be a natural phenomenon. I examined the can. The list of ingredients resembled the more challenging nomenclature questions in the organic chemistry textbook. The soda fizzed in the tumbler. I brought it to my lips.
There was no need to visit the grocery store so I made straight for the corner. The kid had propped himself against the railings and sat leaning back on the sidewalk. I offered him a can of the dogs’ soda. He hesitated, then took it in his hand. “May I sit here?” I asked. There came no reply, so I slid down the railings beside him. I took out another can. The pavement was hot and the kid had his usual cigarette, so close to the filter. I cracked my soda. The kid looked at me and did the same. Here was the Colorado sky: a beating kind of blue, paler where it met the mountains, drifting toward indigo above us. The kid nodded. Shoppers stepped over us. On the way home the dogs said nothing at all.
That was the summer, and it moved into September and started to fade. I began a new job and visited the grocery store less and less. I got caught up in myself and becoming a father and learning biochemistry. I don’t know where the kid went or when he left the corner but it was October when I noticed he was gone.
I came from a country where it often rained. I would wake in the morning, pull back the shades and feel the blank sky pushing down on the city.
I sat down at his empty corner. The pavement was cooler now and the afternoon darkened over the mountains. I had saved the last can of soda from the summer. I drank it slowly. There were only a few shoppers. There was no one to nod at me. “How did I get here?” I asked the space the kid had left. I asked each shopper as they passed. I asked the railings and the pavement. I asked the last, spent soda can. I walked back to my apartment and asked the dogs in the alley and they looked down on the dumpsters and the parking lot, and like the sidewalk, the shoppers, and the railings, they too made no reply.
10h 41min Right Ascension
71deg 6min Declination
This is an attempt toward lineage. These are the opening credits, superimposed upon the end of the story I have told. I want that story to bleed into what I have to say, because the questions of lineage are the same questions of the story: how did I come to be here, doing these things I am doing? What has propelled me toward this situation? What is holding me in place?
It is typical to consider lineage as a kind of artistic genealogy. And I think this is appropriate, but I want to investigate both the possible dimensions of this genealogy, and our freedom to control the expression of our own artistic genetics.
The word ‘lineage’ contains the word ‘line.’ It follows to consider oneself as the origin of this line, and in the sense of a pedigree or family tree, this line extends vertically both above and below us (the subject). Moreover, the ‘line’ of lineage is almost certainly not straight. Nor is it governed only by linear time but exists across and within time, curves through space, jinks, fades, absents itself, and reappears.
Think, first, of the sanitized and vertical Messianic chains of the gospels in which Abraham begat Isaac, Isaac begat Jacob, Jacob begat Judah and his brethren, and through King David we arrive eventually at Joseph then Jesus of Nazareth. Men begetting men, without even a mention of a mother. The meanders here: smoothed over, woven into lineage of a single dimension for particular purposes. But I want to know how lineage handles its gaps, how it moves not only from behind us, but also before us, extends around us and drills within, to the places only accessible to us.
– – –
I first met Joanna Ruocco at the University of Denver, five years before we stood in the ground floor atrium of the Denver Art Museum this past March, and she described to me an idea of horizontal lineage. We were underdressed for the company – men in suits with open necked shirts, women in dresses that cost more than my car. We stood by the refreshment table, my baby son in his stroller, and we hashed out a Three Dimensional Theory of Lineage.
Figure 1. The Subject’s Position at the Origin.
The assumption here is that you—I, the observer, the subject—exists at the origin: the place where all three axes cross. And from that point of intersection (which we can think of as our own points of observation, our own existence) so extends our lineage in infinite iterations of three dimensions.
How shall we name these dimensions?
1. The Vertical
In graphical terms, using the Cartesian coordinate system, this would be considered the y-axis. It represents the most typical conception of lineage, that moves in time, that steps across generations and can be traced with a kind of cause and effect as far back (really) as you please.
This is the vertical theory of lineage, expressed in terms of length: you are a link in a chain that extends far before you and with any luck, far beyond.
2. The Horizontal
The x-axis on the plot. As Joanna suggested, horizontal lineage is a lineage of breadth that occurs in the same moment but across spatial distance. For example, it is the poet writing in the Netherlands with whom you have corresponded and shared exhilarations and anxieties. It is your friends around you, separated by the boundaries of the body. It is those engaged in your same pursuit, whether known or unknown to you, in all worlds, but in this moment. And as such the horizontal lineage cannot be held down: it is lilting, it is evolving in every moment. It is, in the truest sense of the word, alive.
This is the horizontal theory of lineage: a theory of community, that at any given moment you are held in place by those like-minded, whether known or unknown to you, whether known or unknown to each other.
3. The Interior
The z-axis. The axis that punctures the two-dimensional plane created by the x and y. This is the reflexive lineage. As counterpart to length and breadth, this is a lineage of depth, that pushes into its origin, into us: the darkest places inside, the most brilliant. These are the collections of moments, independent of time and distance, that shape your individuality. This is the private world that is given meaning by our public and temporal existences.
The writer Zadie Smith talks about how no page can be left fully blank. That there is something beneath the words that is entirely yours, that cannot be erased – a watermark within each page, before you have written even a single word.
This is the interior theory of lineage: the deeply personal that transcends the vertical and horizontal: memory, experience, hope, fear.
– – –
Only one of the infinite possible iterations of each dimension is shown on this crude diagram (Figure 1). Obviously, if all were shown then the diagram would be rendered a sheet of ink, the picture of eternity: beautiful, but in this circumstance, less useful.
9h 12min Right Ascension
61deg 25min Declination
The earliest known star maps were discovered in Germany, 1979, the year I was born. Archaeologists found the constellation Orion carved into the ivory of a woolly mammoth tusk, dated at over 30,000 years old. Maps of other constellations have been since discovered from the same period—Pleiades, Taurus, maps that feature the sun, and moon—then as the we move into the common era, the medieval and early modern, they include constellations visible from both hemispheres, from multiple points of view, until the relative positions of individual stars are recorded.
I have thought of lineage as the sum of all constellations, a sky comprised of personal, celestial bodies burning at various distances relative to the observer, recognized in patterns that overlap, some appearing more readily, others known but elusive. What is important is that the whole sky be considered, that there be possibilities for interactions that create new shapes, new formations depending on the angle of approach.
Our writings are not the product of a single line of precedents but the intersection of many lines. We stand at a purely individual position. We are not a culmination but a continuation. We have the capacity for movement: to shift the angle by which we approach what has come before us, to recontextualize what has enabled us to create, to realize, to exist. Such is our relative moment: the radical ability to reassess the past in the light of our ever-changing projected future.
– – –
The positions of stars are described using two angles relative to the celestial equator: the right ascension (measured in hours from 0 to 24) and the declination (measured in degrees from 90 to negative 90).
What is most important here is the sense of relativity. We observe our lineage, our own group of constellations, from a particular point, and we possess the irrevocable ability to shift, to alter the point of reference, to reassess all of the things that we think we know. This is how we can control the expression of our own artistic genetics, by reassessing not what they are, but what they mean to us.
What is amazing is that we have the capacity to change the location of the origin, and this in turn changes the appearance of our lineage. In terms of this diagram (Figure 1), it necessitates an entirely new plot—it changes the sum of all our observed constellations, and again in turn, this changes us, who we believe we have been, and who we believe we will be.
This is our potential for movement: our agency in the face of a dissolved world.
8h 36min Right Ascension
57deg 8min Declination
In 1972, Allen Ginsberg described a sexual lineage that leads back to Whitman:
Allen Ginsberg who slept with Neal Cassady.
Neal Cassady, Kerouac’s heterosexual hero, Dean Moriarty, who slept with Gavin Arthur, grandson of Chester Arthur, 21st president of the United States.
Gavin Arthur who slept with Edward Carpenter, the English poet and socialist.
Edward Carpenter who slept with Walt Whitman.
Walt Whitman who made love to Edward Carpenter the same way Carpenter made love to Gavin Arthur and so passed on the Whispered Transmission of that love, a love that was then whispered to Cassady, and then by Cassady to Ginsberg.
So, to find a passage from Whitman to Ginsberg, we can of course look to their respective texts, the line, the tone, etc. The more visceral, the more tender, the more immediate lineage is the whispered transmission of this love, Tibetan Buddhism’s kagyu.
What does this mean? It means we should stay alert, because the passage of a lineage may be unexpected and varied. It means that your lineage may reveal itself to you in ways that will surprise you. After all, sound, even sound as soft as a whisper, can travel round corners. And I remind you, lineage is unlikely to travel in a straight line.
– – –
I never met Allen Ginsberg. He had been dead five years by the time I arrived in Boulder. I remember how it made the BBC news, on a small television set in the kitchen of my parents’ house in Bristol. It leads me to the question: how does lineage arrive? And the answer I think is not in fact as a means but as an end. It arrives as you.
Whereas in the Biblical sense, to beget is to sire offspring in the fashion of Abraham and Isaac, Isaac and Jacob, etc. To beget, in this multi-dimensional sense, is to exist only as a perfect rendition of yourself: an honest, natural performance, vital in the moment and embodying for this brevity all that comes before, all that lies ahead, all that surrounds you. You are your lineage. You are the embodiment of a disembodied poetic.
So I give you this—my most honest performance—which I must give you if I am to talk about lineage, about constellations, axes and lines: these first maps of the stars and missing persons in which I find myself—the structures that hold me in place, that surround me in all dimensions.
What I give you can only be from my current point of origin. These observations are recorded and described only from my own particular point of view, the crudest of maps, drawn in words, of where I have come from, and where perhaps I might go. And as such, like everything, it is subject to change, to movement, and to silence.
8h 11min Right Ascension
56deg 15min Declination
The man wore a drab green overcoat. He carried a leather satchel and walked with the flow of traffic, where the sidewalks would have been had the council deemed sidewalks necessary. He was grey, of an age that when seen from the windows of the school bus settled without number into only the category of ‘old.’ As such, he could have been anywhere from 65 to 90, after all, he was not decrepit. He did not seem to tire. He did not return our waves.
The story was that he left his house somewhere in Long Ashton hours before the sun rose. Dressed for office work, he strode down the dual carriageways through Leigh Woods toward the suspension bridge. Nobody knew exactly where he ended up. His destination was said to be the office of his former employer, and when he arrived around midday, he promptly turned about and set off back home on the other side of the bridge. He did this every day, including weekends. When it was warm he dispensed with his overcoat. He carried an umbrella when it rained.
These were the basics. Further details followed though many felt overly speculative. Nonetheless, the stories stuck to him easily: he was widowed and the impetus for his walking was the loss not of his job but of his wife; he was once the richest man in the city and even after losing his fortune continued to visit his place of business daily as it was all he had ever known; he was himself deceased and what we saw was only a phantom, passing through our public world, moving between the trucks and hedgerows.
Around this time, my father brought home a huge atlas of the known world. It was the largest book I had ever seen. My first impulse was to look up my own name in the index. And there it was, in Saskatchewan, Canada, the small town of Froude.
According to the internet, it would take 258 hours to walk there from my front door in Denver, Colorado. 792 miles north-northeast. I would make for Wyoming, drift into South then North Dakota staying close to the Montana line. By the time I crossed the border into Canada I would only have around 90 miles to go, and 90 miles when you’ve already done 700 doesn’t really sound that bad. If I could walk for 8 or 9 hours a day then I could be there in about a month.
This is my fallback plan. If there comes a day when my world dissolves then I set out, that night, for Saskatchewan. The truth is that there’s nothing atypical that I want: only this potential for movement, this potential to dislodge myself from wherever it is I might be and transfer into the familiar unknown. In other words: I know there is a bush that burns and carries the voice of God. But I do not know where that bush can be found or, if found, how it should properly be addressed: Sir, or Madam, or your highness, or my friend?
And as I consider the circumstances that would prompt this walking, I realize that the tragedy I need is not a tragedy at all but only the world in which I find myself. Because I do not want that world to dissolve. I do not want to ever set out for Saskatchewan. I only want the confidence that if all else fails, IF ALL ELSE fails, then like the man in the green overcoat that we saw from the school bus windows, I can give myself over to movement. I need to be capable of disappearance, to come loose of everything I know and reappraise my life in new circumstances that enable me to continue to exist.
7h 22min Right Ascension
48deg 19min Declination
What does it mean to stand at an intersection?
What is the significance of the crossroads?
Against the backdrop of infinity are not the words vertical and horizontal entirely meaningless?
In April 1998 I lived in Ottawa, Ontario. I slept on a black couch in an apartment leased by the Thai government. The apartment was on the 21st floor of a huge tenement that had no 13th floor and a small convenience store in the basement. I worked as the night janitor for a now defunct English pub in the city. I often went to bed at 8am and rose at 6 in the evening. I ate lunch at midnight with friends I had made on the 6th floor then left for work at 2 a.m. Our apartment was so high off the ground that when I returned in the early morning the balcony was surrounded by clouds. Whenever I stepped off the elevator in the basement I felt uneasy, off balance, as if the concrete beneath my feet would swallow me, but I dutifully purchased my bread and Gatorade and returned to the clouds of the 21st floor to spread out my blanket on the black couch and read from a small red paperback.
I had found the book a couple of weeks previous. The circumstances were not ostensibly magical. I had visited a large chain bookstore in a rare instance of being awake during business hours, and in a poetry section occupied by the usual suspects: Rumi, Blake’s Songs, something edited by Garrison Keillor, there was a slim volume called Beat Voices. At this point I had read On The Road, The Dharma Bums. I had begun to like the idea of poetry even if I had no clear sense of what it could really be. I remember sitting on the carpeted floor of the bookstore reading the names in the table of contents, many I was seeing for the first time: Philip Whalen, Joanne Kyger, Gregory Corso, Amiri Baraka, Anne Waldman. So they became the first constellation.
6h 28min Right Ascension
42deg 42min Declination
The plaque was on the outside wall of a red-brick bomb shelter facing out onto the street:
Upon this ground
in a junior House Match
in June 1899 scored
628 NOT OUT
THIS INNINGS IS THE HIGHEST
RECORDED IN THE HISTORY
The schoolhouse on Guthrie Road looked out onto Collins’ Piece. This was where I imagined Haresh had died a year earlier, before I came to the school. We said prayers for him every week in assembly: the boy, sent running in gym class, wheezing for breath on the damp turf. I’m not sure if it was ever explained that this was indeed where it had happened, or that I had settled on Collins’ field because it felt to me like the holiest of places. I would look down from our classroom on the top floor, over the red-brick and chestnut trees onto the field. As I remember it now, the sky was always dark, heavy with rain, the grass of the field impossibly green. I waited for summer, then waited for each Wednesday, beautiful Wednesday, when we would process out across Guthrie Road and we would drive the stumps into easy earth, pick teams, take guard, and play cricket.
There was something magic in the number of Collins’ score, 628 NOT OUT, undefeated, an achievement so astronomic that even the heroes of bedroom walls on their very best days could only hope to get halfway. In the game of cricket, unfamiliar to Americans I am aware, 300 is a huge individual score. 500 has only been passed in the first class game once. When Collins made his score, he was a schoolboy—it was after all a junior house match—a pale, 13 year-old who over six days in 1899, came to touch God. Because there was immortality in the number, 628, and the NOT OUT following it only added to this otherworldly air. It felt right to me that if a schoolboy had to die, he would die on Collins’ Piece. I want to go there now and lie on the lower slopes: in summer, where we sat like assholes, calling at the girls as they came by, trying to get them to stay. I want to walk beneath the trees against the far wall, down toward the sanatorium and tennis courts.
I spoilt myself because I came to expect the magic I found in the number. To some extent I still expect it: my first experience of the impossible made real. My adult equivalent of Collins’ score would be winning the Nobel prize, the Heisman trophy, the Oscar for best picture and the lottery, all in the same afternoon. It suggested that these things were possible, and not only possible but could happen under rain heavy skies just across the road. This is the first stroke of my watermark, the cornerstone of my own interior lineage. Collins himself, perhaps the brightest star.
For better or worse, it is what cricket taught me: to expect the immortal in myself and others whilst still aware of our indifferent mortality. After all, only fifteen years after striking his otherworldly score, Collins would be killed in action at the first battle of Ypres, November 11th, 1914. As it happened, on a Wednesday.
5h 12min Right Ascension
37deg 19min Declination
When I was studying for my doctoral exams in the summer of 2009, part of my preparation was to read everything by William Carlos Williams as well as several volumes of essays about him and his work, biographies, interviews, all that. I don’t remember the text that prompted the realization but I found a symmetry in time:
In 1817, John Keats wrote a letter to his brother in which he first verbalized his idea of negative capability, the capacity, as we have heard, to hold two ambiguous ideas in mind at once without irritable reaching for closure, the capacity for uncertainty. Ninety-six years later, in 1913, William Carlos Williams published his second collection The Tempers, a book Williams himself described as a result of immersion in Keats. Then, another 96 years later, in 2009 and I make this connection from a yellow armchair. John Keats—96 years—William Carlos Williams—96 years—me?
So the magic number is 96. Why is it magic? Because it connects me to Williams and then Williams to Keats and thus allows me to touch their stars.
It was how I received this whisper. For me, one who is drawn to number, to patterns: it was the cipher I required, meaningless in itself, but when placed in context, revealed the simplest connection—time. It is tantalizing in this respect, the way a whisper is tantalizing, the way our bodies border empty space.
I am aware of the apparent arrogance that places oneself in such a line but to recognize lineage is not to equate oneself with those who have come before. Rather, it is to acknowledge with respect (or otherwise) who and what has enabled, for better or worse, the brute fact of your creative existence. To make this acknowledgment is to take on the burden of lineage, and most importantly to carry that burden forward. It is to be charged, as Kerouac wrote, “not only to give life, but the great consciousness of life.”
The night that followed the day of this realization I met Williams at my old middle school. We sat in the room where I learnt history. It had been emptied of all but two desks and we sat opposite each other, he leaning forward. Exposed pipes ran across the wall beneath the windows. He told me I was doing just fine. “You’ll be fine,” he said, and he laughed, like there was something else he had to tell me, something urgent perhaps he had to say, but he just offered his hand, chubbier than I had imagined, and the night then was over and it was the next day and I returned to the yellow armchair, and to reading.
4h 46min Right Ascension
27deg 41min Declination
On May 15th 1991, Richey James Edwards, guitarist and lyricist for the Manic Street Preachers, cut the words 4 REAL into his left forearm. He had been baited by the journalist Steve Lamacq, repeatedly accused of wearing his anger, his suffering, as a costume. So he took up a razor blade during the interview and carved the words into his arm. The number 4, then R-E-A-L. It was big news in England. We all saw the pictures.
I disliked Richey Edwards. I disliked him so much that I loved him. I thought about him when I took the bus to school. I thought about him when we were supposed to be writing down notes in science class.
I would not put the pictures on my wall but kept one inside my school folder and one beside my bed. When the story broke, articles claimed you could see the bone through his gashes but that was not true. There is only blood and skin, his pale shirt—you can barely even make out the letters. I have never been able to write about this.
These are the facts: nearly four years later, on February 1st 1995, Richey Edwards left the Embassy Hotel in London. On each of the last 14 days he had withdrawn £200 cash from his bank account. He drove to his apartment in Cardiff. He paid a taxi driver a fare equivalent to over $100 to drive him past his childhood home, through the valleys of South Wales. On February 7th, his car was found parked at the Severn View service station, beside the Severn Bridge between England and Wales. He had arranged his clothes, his passport, neatly on the front seat. He had opened the driver’s door. He had left.
Later, police said that the car showed evidence of having been lived in. It should be noted here that the Severn Bridge is as popular a suicide location as any in the UK. It should also be noted that this is exactly what Richey would have wanted us to think.
My first job was at an industrial laundry on the docks. All night I stood at the top of a ladder pressing sheets inside a huge steamer. Every time I opened the steamer, which was every 3 minutes, a blast of wet heat engulfed me. It stung my cheeks and nostrils. And I sweated. Within the first 15 minutes my shirt was soaked. When I clocked off at 5am, my whole body was dripping. I kept pajamas in my car and I changed in the parking lot, then I picked up my friend Jake whose job was even worse than mine. He had to walk through the tight aisles of an intensive chicken battery, checking the cages and picking up the bodies of dead birds. He put them in a blue garbage bag and when it was full threw the bag into the incinerator. When he got into the car he smelt like chicken shit and grilled hair. We drove together to the Severn View service station because it was the only place open. We smoked, ate cornflakes in the cafeteria, and gambled on the slot machines.
I always expected Richey, even though by then he had been gone for 6 years. I mean, I still expect him: at the back of crowded rooms, at baggage claim carousels, waiting at stoplights as a young man, his fingernails filthy, his belongings in a shopping cart at his side.
There have been sightings, of course, first in Goa, then Fuerteventura and Lanzarote, mediterranean resorts full of the British drunk. He is not there.
He is the darkest part of me. He is also more beautiful than I am. This is how I know he is not dead. Not because beautiful things do not die. But because even if his body is gone, into the Severn, into the space between England and Wales, or somewhere else entirely, he exists as my expectation of him, as my realization that we are not the same, that there are gaps between our bodies, rifts that can never be bridged.
This is the cost of movement. That the world will not move with us.
You have the capacity to disappear, into death, or new iterations of your life, but this act of making is also an act of breaking. To reassess your place in your lineage is to reassess your present moment, to reassess your past, and in doing so your future.
I never met Allen Ginsberg but I miss him more than many I did know who are gone.
I never met Richey Edwards, Arthur Collins, William Carlos Williams, or the stars. I have never been to Froude, SK. I do not understand the significance of the number 96. I still see myself as the 19-year-old on the carpet of a Canadian bookstore flipping through the pages of an anthology of beat poets. I will always be this boy, the way I have never been this boy.
I came from a country where it often rained. I would wake in the morning, pull back the shades and feel the blank sky pushing down on the city.
When we reassess the reality of our moment, when we shift our point of origin, when we choose to understand what is before and around us in a new way, we are moving alone. We are not changing what has come before, we are only changing how we choose to understand it. It remains our same lineage, we just see it from a new angle.
So we can disappear. We can choose to understand our past, present, and future afresh. But the cost of this relativity is that world WILL NOT move with us. The cost is that we are alone. As much as this is a lecture about lineage, it is also a lecture about individuality and loneliness. A state not as emotive as loneliness but even more stark. Alone-ness. The cost of movement is silence. The capacity to change includes the capacity to be alone.
To recognize our lineage is to recognize that we occupy distinct bodies. This is the great gift of our lives. It is also the source of our rupture.
3h 19min Right Ascension
26deg 17min Declination
2h 11min Right Ascension
13deg 12min Declination
1h 8min Right Ascension
6deg 8min Declination
0h 4min Right Ascension
0deg 2min Declination
The places where I would like my ashes to be scattered.
0h 0min Right Ascension
0deg 0min Declination
What have I told you?
That you are the intersection of infinite lines. These lines stretch above and below. They reach out from you in every horizontal direction. They dig into you, as deep as anything can go. This is your lineage, and you have the power to redefine it in every moment—not to change it, but to change the way you experience it. To do so is to change who you are, who you have been, and who you will be. A diagram alone cannot tell you this.
In the evenings I stand at the corner outside King Soopers. The kid with filthy hands stands there before me and he places his belongings at my feet. And beside the kid is Richey Edwards. And he lays his disappearance before me, a burden in the shape of lead weights. And beside Richey is Arthur Collins, who lays his death at Ypres before me. And beside Collins is Haresh, the schoolboy who died, and he lays his wheezing chest before me. And beside him is Allen Ginsberg, and beside him is Kerouac, and Williams, and Whitman, and Joanna, and Anne, and the poet writing in the Netherlands with whom I have corresponded and shared exhilarations and anxieties, and the man in the green overcoat, and all of those known and unknown to me, a throng of faces stretching back beyond the grocery store and apartment block, beyond the walls and rooftops into the night sky, faces burning with the incandescence of stars that I will never know.
And I try to pick up everything they have set before me, and I try to carry it forward but I cannot. You will all fail your lineage, just as I am failing mine. And when you accept this, you will live as yourself, that perfect rendition of yourself in which you embody your lineage, without deliberation, without intention, in your natural, beautiful rhythm.
This is how I want to come to language. This is the watermark in every page I approach. And it is clear now that the whiteness of every blank page is only an instance of too much light, like a photograph over-exposed. And if that brightness could be dialed back, if the canvas made darker, then these faces would emerge, both pitiful and triumphant.
Maybe I will see you in Saskatchewan. Maybe when the world dissolves and you exercise your potential to move, we will find ourselves together in an unknown town. Sometimes it feels like the world is caving in on everyone. That the gaps between us, even when we are touching, are too vast and cannot be bridged, with a whisper, with a number, with our own perfect bodies.
But, to be a part of these constellations, with the potential to burn for others the way we see the stars burning for us. This is enough to be alive. It is enough even to give life.
So this is what I can give you, an account of my own view from the origin, looking southwest at this particular moment, on this particular day, June 16th, 2014, in Boulder, Colorado.
And I challenge you to locate yourselves: to record the sum of your own constellations, to observe the nexus of your own axes—the vertical, the horizontal, the interior—a personal lineage in three dimensions. Stare deeply into the night sky. Let it populate with the moments that have made you yourself.
And I challenge you to let these moments move through you.
And I challenge you to try on these different axes, to assess and reassess.
And I challenge you finally, to move, to recognize, to break, to live as the fluid being that you are—this perfect rendition of yourself.
 It should be added here that the three dimensions I have listed should not be considered exhaustive. There is the lineage we are aware of and the lineage we are not, or have no adequate language for, just as we have limited adequate geometry to express dimensions beyond the three familiar dimensions of space. Just because something is difficult for us to talk about, does not mean it is not there, and does not mean that it is not influencing our lives in every moment.
 There is then a third possible coordinate that describes the distance of the star from its observer.
 Originally: “sitting in a chair on a stage here at Naropa, held in place by all of you.”