PRE-ECLIPSED: When it all does not add up, and yet it still all goes on

text & photos by douglas john imbrogno

EDITOR’S NOTE: Consider this a discharge petition in advance of the local universe eclipsing itself. So, in the interests of clearing the decks and eyeing the skies (with certified protection, of course), while identifying gremlins in my line of sight, I shoo them off for a few moments of solar amazement — the clouds willing and the creek don’t rise. Free subscribe to read the companion ‘Post-Eclipse’ piece, should we be the ones who survive until tomorrow. PS: If reading on your phone, turn it longwise to maintain the line-breaks in the piece below. Or not. It’s your phone.

‘OVERTURNED HOUSE AND SKY’ | Mainsville, Ohio. | april2024 | photo

Searching for words, hunting for phrases,
When will it end?
Esteeming knowledge and gathering information,
Only maddens the spirit.
Just entrust yourself to your own nature,
Empty and illuminating
Beyond this, I have nothing to teach.

~ BANKEI (1622-1693)

Bankei has my number. I used
to think if I got the right sequence of
words right, everything would be,

finally, all right. But so very often, the
center does not hold, and the spiral arms
of the galaxy of our turgid concerns

spin out, unbounded. The blackest hole
then swallows the day. Out the other end,
spews indecision and mystification,

ill-fitting language, discomposure,
bamboozlement and the restless urge
to be somewhere far away.

‘NEW YORK CITY SUBWAY DAUGHTER’ | New York | march2013 | photo

‘As with the Hollywood fascination with Charles Manson, speculative curiosity gives retrospective glamour to evil. Hitler created a world in which women were transported with their children for days in closed train cars and then had to watch those children die alongside them, naked, gasping for breath in a gas chamber …’

~ ADAM GOPNIK, ‘The Forgotten History of Hitler’s Establishment Enablers,’ March 18, 2024 | The New Yorker

Then, in the midst of pondering our family dramatis
, the little madnesses, their simmering tiffs,
the thinking ‘We many need an intervention …,’

we confront far larger bedevilments, thrusting into our
line of sight like someone brusquely jumping a ticket line.
The ghastly Nick Fuentes types of our current Age of Don,

living embodiment of Yeats’ worst, gushing with
passionate intensity. Little Nicky’s Hitlerian affection
hungering to loose a little anarchy, so to body-surf

the blood-dimmed tide. And what are we to do but
kiss our daughters’ heads, scribble little notes for the
refrigerator: ‘Give Peace a Chance,’ and all that.

‘YELLOW LUNCH’ | Barboursville, W.Va. | april2024 | photo

“Tsze-Kung asked, ‘Is there one word with which to act in accordance throughout a lifetime?’ The Master said, ‘Is not reciprocity such a word? What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.‘”

~ CONFUCIUS, ‘The Analects’

Yet, still, we must seek our lunch. On this day,
cauliflower-crust pizza, dotted with kalamata
olives, banana and red peppers, chased with a

Negroni, spiced with Bombay Gin. Creature comforts
define comfortable America’s diurnal round. Are a
soporific, tranquillizer, calmative or an opiate.

Or all of the above. Plus, a means to gather. As we
did way back when across the broad Serengeti, before we
began the long alchemy of transforming wolf to dog.

Back when we shrank from the dark, as we still do,
yet called great trees our spirit brethren. Saw our self
as not bicameral, split between a heaven & an earth.

‘CIGARETTE MAN’ | Mainsville, Ohio | april2024 | photo

“Stoppard noticed in one of his reviews how Beckett’s characters had ‘a look of pity and ironic amusement, the exact opposite of laughing till one cries — crying till one laughs.'”

~ ANDREW O’HAGAN, “In the Act of Living,” April 29, 2021 | New York Review of Books,

And, so, we light up our smokes. Then, ponder the
shape and proximity to clouds of what escapes
our lips. Passing the time between the next

befuddlement, the fresh intoxicating despair,
the blindside moment of sublime wonder. When
the part of the sprawling universe we call home

opens its clenched fist to reveal a palm
full of diamonds, glittering like the strands of
Indra’s Net, jewel reflecting jewel, reflecting

infinite jewel. And, so, have we written away
this untidy bedlam? Our incapacity to think clear?
The night is more quiet, which may be enough.

~ west virginia | april2024


Post-eclipse, thrilling with fellow humans at what we had just witnessed, it was a stark reminder of how few and precious are the sweet collective experiences we now share in an America riven by engineered dispute. And how utterly important it is to be reminded of the significance of shared wonder. READ ON

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‘RIGHT SIDE UP’ | Mainsville, Ohio | april2024 | photo

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