Spring/Fall 2020

The Halifax Confessions: A Memory

By Benjamin Vandersluis

I

The Deluge greets me. Wood-smoke and cloud are mating twixt earth and sky, those seasonal lovers of cold embrace. The steam of my tea attempts to mimic this, a dance and a twirl of one for one. It is January.

Headlines reach out to grab me. Old white men mingling morality and justice like a deadly cocktail. Outrage in the streets. Suddenly everyone is political, everyone cares. Alas, it is too little, too late.

Lying flat in a binder clip is the last original of the letters to Chandler. It draws my attention. Propped up next to the headlines, I can’t help but notice how relevant those letters seem now. Thirty-two pages of lament in loose-tumble poems, written by you, my dear Halifax.

The discussion must continue. It is as important now as it was in 1995. Then War, now Hate, and always the question of Democracy, of America, the concerns of the citizen toward the State. The question of Freedom, and the value of human life. I glance at The Chandler Letters. My inkblood fingers are twitching, demanding my response.

Picking up my pen, I imagine Chandler. I become Chandler. And I begin.

II

It is February now. The rain embraces me as I walk, my umbrella nearly torn from my hand. This is the weather I love. Rain is my remedy, and in its puddles I find myself. I buck the wind and there’s peace in the struggle, and nowhere else I’d rather be.

I have faithfully been writing as Chandler once a day, sometimes more. I’m generating my own loose-tumble poems now, but perchance they are looser and tumblier than your own. All the same, I suppose it is progress. The task keeps me present in more of my moments, and I find myself writing self-addressed notes, things to be included in future ink. It is a task that I cherish.

My topics are diversifying somewhat, but I believe this is natural. After all, the original Letters meandered through topics like any other train of thought, searching for the connections and meanings that link them like daisy chains. No artist paints the same tree every day. It is not the object, but the mind of the artist and the strokes of his brush that form the links between his works.

III

Spring is here in full swing – at least we tell ourselves that, but every few days we dash for shelter from the rain. Last week it was hail, so much hail I thought it had snowed. Today it is sunshine. Damn the seasons here. The winters and summers are long, but the autumns and springs are brief and scattered. C’est la vie, that’s just the cost of living in this town. And I do love this town.

This poetry takes its toll on me. A poem a day – that’s not so hard, surely. But it is, and frankly I should be impressed that I’ve made it this far. Admittedly I’ve missed a few days here and there, but overall I’m Johnny on the Spot.

But I can’t keep this up. I tire. In your own words, Halifax, “Poetry is an incredibly efficient way to go out of your mind,” and I’m feeling it now.

IV

The sun blazes down on me from heaven’s arch, intense and vulgar upon my skin. A stinging sensation renders me momentarily blind; I cannot stop myself from swearing. There is sweat in my eye. I throw my shovel down and tear at the gloves on my hands, but they encumber my fingers as much as they protect them.

I loathe summer here. Everyone does. We all know we must endure this infernal heat once a year, every year, but the summers are long … sometimes the spirit wanes and withers under the scorching sun. It cannot be helped. It just happens.

I’ve grown weary of the outside world. The politics drone on and on, the violence escalates, another group takes up arms. Majority or minority, it doesn’t matter. Everyone’s angry, still angry, and I don’t know if or when it will go away. No small bone or boon will satiate the madness now. Nothing to calm the masses. We’ve gone far beyond such simple niceties.

As I wipe the burning sweat from my eye, I cannot help but notice how ironic it is, that such a hellish embrace of heat falls from heaven. It occurs to me that hell needn’t be anything other than the earth, and mankind its demons. The preachers wage threats with an invisible hell of invisible torments, but perhaps we have other infernos to fear.

V

You would think that October would bring the end of Summer with it, but alas, it is not so. Everything is still hot and dry, and when the right spark catches the Diablo wind … well, let’s call it an act of God. God has been very busy this month, unlike me.

You were right, Halifax. You supported my goal and I gave it the “good ol’ college try,” but you always knew I had bitten off too big a bite. It just took me several months to figure it out myself. The door has been shut for a while now, but every now and then I slip a page across the threshold for old times’ sake. I watch the letters fall from my fingers with half the spirit that they used to, I force my eyes up to the screen and imagine that I managed to put the words where they belong.

It’s not that I don’t care anymore. How could I not? We crowned a clown, but all the shouting in the world has not changed the fact. We can #resist and #staywoke all we want, but the truth is that I am so, so tired. And I don’t think I’m the only one.

Don’t mistake my meaning: the cause is noble, could not be nobler. It always will be. But it is time for me to lay down the mantle, time for someone else to pick it up. You wrote The Chandler Letters, and I wrote – or attempted to write – The Halifax Confessions. Now it is someone else’s turn.

VI

to be continued
eventually

with keys or pen
or bottle & nib

upon pixels or paper
or dinner napkins
or receipt tape

by me or by any

[this is not really]
the end

maybe the next
Chandler
is you


Benjamin Vandersluis

Benjamin Vandersluis graduated from California State University, Chico, in 2017 with a Bachelor’s in English and a minor in Religion. He worked in the commercial book industry for three years and hopes to pursue a career in editing and publishing. When he is not writing, he is standing ankle-deep in a rice field, or sipping a pint to the dark-sweet tunes of Taylor Momsen. This is his first time being published.

Spring/Fall 2020