Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

Torching My Past on Easter Sunday…by Robert M. Katzman

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bob at 5:39 pm on Sunday, April 12, 2020

Copyright April 12, 2020 by Robert M. Katzman

***********************

During this Time of Virus

In solitary

Watching the sky

Hearing the silence

Clouds float by

Time floats by

I realize, at nearly seventy

There will never be a

Museum of my Life and Times

Like everybody else

I will evaporate

******************************

In my garage

In my basement

In closets and corners

Stacked in the shadows

Are boxes and boxes and boxes

Of records of stores

Once Wonderful and Unique

Now closed for years and forgotten

The University of the Universe

Will not be calling

*********************************

Paper bank statements from banks long gone

Paper records of every day’s sales

Medical records, pages and pages

Of so many of the

Astounding number

(even to me) of

My forty-one surgeries

By Doctors long dead

In hospitals now closed or sold

The boxes of paper

Will not fascinate my four children

“Why didn’t he dump all this stuff, damnit!”

Like I said about my own Mother’s

Mountain of the records of her life

**********************************

I have boxes of publicity

My younger picture on the covers

Colorful stories on the inside

Of now bankrupt newspapers

Paper newspapers themselves

As extinct as anything

I ever did and was written about

Maybe seventy newspapers and magazines

Who cared then?

Who cares now?

**********************************

I think about the millions of newspapers

I sold in horrible Chicago weather

But also on beautiful days

Over twenty years

When every other corner had

A shaggy old guy

Probably a crippled veteran

From World War Two

Selling newspapers from a shack

********************************

Me?

I was the shaggy young guy selling newspapers

Also from a shack

All of them are dead

Yet, somehow I linger

A walking/talking survivor

Of a Time Gone By

When the World’s news

Was printed on paper

*********************************

I accept my pending extinction

As, well, ultimately undistinguished

And so I opened my garage

Opened all the closets

Hauled out the many heavy boxes

Stacked them all up near

My massive red brick fireplace

Big enough to burn a wooden pallet

Tossed the box covers onto a still swing

Briefly examined a life that used to be

My tortured handwriting on everything

When (think of this!) writing with

Metal and plastic sticks filled with ink

Was the only way to communicate

**********************************

Becoming emotionally frozen

Remembering glass and brick stores

Gone by

Remembering a long loving marriage

To a solid partner

Who built things with me

Who closed things down with me

Who nursed me through endless surgeries

Now ashes herself in Israel and Iceland

My dear Joyce Esther

I assembled all the dry paper and twigs

Branches and logs at the ready

An inferno at my disposal

Knowing exactly what I was doing

But it was a robot who lit the match

**********************************

Burning?

Burning is mere ignition

Light the match and walk away

But Torching?

Torching is an act of passion

Heart-ripping passion

Where a man stands

Facing his life in flames

Intense searing heat

Melting the frozen parts of him

The rivers of tears

Evaporating as they fall

************************

As the small fire grew

As small fires grow

Crackling and white smoke wavering

I expertly added more dry fuel

Preparing for my paper funeral

I was moving as woodenly

As the wood I fed into the flames

My life unspooled like a shaky

Black and White movie

Flickering images of sixty years of

Shuttered entrepreneurship

Watching the flames grow

Dancing bright yellow, red and orange

Like a party was about to begin

And then I began dumping my life

Into the hungry young fire

The present engulfing my past

*********************************

The thousand pieces of paper

Took a long time to burn

Most of a day

The heavy logs I kept adding

Grew higher and higher

Creating a fiery open maw of a mouth

Gulping down:

The envelopes

The letters

The records

The forgotten fame

And eventually

The boxes themselves

Creating a miniature Alps of Ash

*******************************

It wasn’t a Viking funeral

No crowds of warriors and women

Watching mournfully from the shore

As the floating flaming fire

Gradually drifted away from them

It was just me

Transfixed by this anonymous process of

My disappearing

Before my own tired eyes

***************************

The massive logs disintegrated

An illusion of solidity

The fire itself white as if it, too

Had grown old

Covered with all the white ash

When suddenly the wind picked up

The ash swirling out of the fireplace

Like the white rain of a life

Ascending and disappearing

When the wind then stopped

And all the ashes

Rained down upon me

Like burying the living

In a thick shawl of anonymity

Fragile Fragments of what

Used to be words

A writer appreciates irony

Especially a sad writer

And I stood there

Frozen in the ashes of my life

****************************

5 Comments »

Comment by Jan Kern

April 12, 2020 @ 8:59 pm

I hope you can find pleasure in a job well done although begrudgingly.You did a good thing , you helped your kids,for the day will come and they will have to do enough with what is left. We live in an evolving world and those we leave behind, many times have no real concept of who we were. I always hope when they find the cards and letters that I have scaled down for the 3rd time , A little of me they did not know but now have found.Hope your not getting to discouraged in this confinement period of life . And praying we can soon get to a content place of whatever life will hold at that place in time . Till then Shalom

Comment by Brad Dechter

April 13, 2020 @ 6:12 am

Talk about hitting the nail on the head and making me internally look at my emotions! Sherie and I are going through the same thing now- but not on a scale like you are. We have slowly been going through the boxes on our basement- and purging. We moved into our home about 18 years ago, and never unpacked everything- it’s been in our basement since. We actually cleaned it out a few years back, put up shelving and relocated the boxes onto shelves- but unpacked nothing. Now, we are going through it all. Each of our sons baseball collections and high school memorabilia is now with each of our sons- we shipped it or handed it to them. Receipts for taxes- in case we got audited- going back to 2002 are now in the trash or recycling- we cannot burn our trash in California.
But, unlike you, who had a lifetime of memories in each paper you burnt, to me, these are things to be recycled and reused by the next generation, with our fingerprints wiped clean from life in general- except to the extent we are remembered by someone.
Hugs to you Bob! It is tough to see your life’s memories turn to ash before your eyes- but you have children and you have memories, and unlike so many others, you have published much about you and your life and your experiences- you will live on way after the rest of us, and our memories and the memories of those that remember us, are gone.
Be Happy Bob. You will, in some ways, live a very long time.
Brad

Comment by Bob

April 13, 2020 @ 7:21 am

Brd, in two words, bless you.

Comment by Bob

April 13, 2020 @ 7:22 am

Jan, thanks for responding. Seems pretty clear I hit a nerve. A very sensitive nerve.

Comment by David Griesemer

May 14, 2020 @ 1:06 am

Will there be no museum of Bob’s life?
Emily Dickinson was largely unknown till after her death. Bach was almost forgotten when his manuscripts were found by a Jewish church musician named Felix Mendelssohn.
There are rich veins of Katzman ore to be mined by some lucky student.
But what if accolades never come? As Kipling wrote, if you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same, yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.
True, it’s hard to see your life in the recycling bin. Your experience “lost in time, like tears in the rain,” as Roy Batty says at the end of Blade Runner.
From birth, our job is to die. To be converted like logs on a fire, into fuel for the next generation. Bob has given himself totally. He can justly hear the words from Matthew Chapter 25, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

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