AMPERSAND

So important is the tide,
the length of day
whose reach contains both sides
of the running sea,
where the future mixes lazily
with the torchlit limbs of memory,

That waves repeat
the flooding range
of lives given to the heat,
a theoretical exchange
between the extremities
of quantum energy,

But only here
in the brown rum glare,
in the fun house mirror
of time-lapse shirts and dated hair,
does the end
of endless suns appear.

Honolulu Library
August 8th, 2005


We write because the light calls to us from our youth, it
replicates the air we remember, the smell of Bain de Soleil
and the scent of gardenias. Like Proust’s madeleine, our
lives come flooding back.

Although both young and old mix everywhere, in malls,
in California, on the Jersey shore, it’s only where you spend
the summer in your youth that you can exchange futures,
that you see your own lives flash in front of you, your own
selves exactly as they were, and you standing next to them,
what they will become.

I might thus have the same feeling in Nantucket, or
Chatham, or Truro, or Montauk, or Southampton, where
I spent the many summers of my long youth, except that
the entitled air of those places precludes any sort of revelation.
Ours was a more innocent youth, or we felt it was, as
privileged as it may have been. Maybe we all feel our youths
are the only childhoods like that in the world, which can
never be repeated, because they wouldn’t be ours. Only
the trees, the palms, the lawns, the beaches we knew as
children are real. Only our own lives and spaces conjure up
that immense warmth that travels the length of our body
when faced with a familiar scent or a well-remembered
turn in the bay. I suspect that I review my life all the time,
especially in dreams, but also half-waking every morning.
I write thousands of pages in a few minutes. When I try to
duplicate those reviews, I only get a few seconds into them
and I have fifty pages, and then life whirls me elsewhere.

But for some reason Hawaii hasn’t changed. It bumbles
around like a sailor on leave, its hordes still cluelessly
searching for love, for their own adventures. Nothing has
been found yet, and it may not be found on Waikiki. The
children may migrate to other beaches. But the chase is
in the air, the sense of longing, of potential, which is preserved
because nothing has evolved. Time is frozen there,
my own youth preserved in amber, or in amber light.

It’s all about the light, the particular clarity and yet softness
of the glare in the middle of the ocean. It doesn’t feel
like the light anywhere else. It’s part of the wormhole.

Quantum mechanics holds that there are parallel universes,
where you might open a door, or wormhole, and
pass into the 16th century, because the speeds of the
universes are different.

Only on Waikiki do I have that feeling of a wormhole,
where I can feel what it was like to have been there as a
child, wondering where my life would lead, and then see
the instant result of all that dreaming, which happened
possibly because of that dreaming. In the same way, you
can feel what it might be like to be reincarnated, to trade
places with some young lovers, or innocent kids visiting
with their parents, to live that dream again, and see where
it takes you. Novelists are always doing that, imaging backstories
and futures for everyone they glance at casually. In
Waikiki, the world seems more open to speculation in
both directions, into the past and into the future, given the
endless sea and the sense of vastness perched on the edge
of the world, and maybe on both edges of my life at once:
serious youth and serious age.

What is special to Waikiki is the feeling of being young
and yet knowing where it will lead, like looking through
the wrong end of a telescope, and its opposite: projecting
my experience onto the untouched faces of the young
and feeling, “imagine if they knew that right here, next to
them, is them in fifty years.” The fact that they don’t see it
is what makes it so innocent.

Ampersand is the “and” sign. I mean it as the sum of
the past and the future which I feel on Waikiki. It has both
amber and sand in it.

And of course there are the ravages of all that tanning,
the end of endless summer. My father died from melanoma;
but it was a life given to a good cause, to the sun.
That was the part worth dying for.

May 21st, 2013
Tropics, Waikii

5:30–6:40 p.m.
November 23rd,
Magnolia