Life-Love 61: Mark Helprin’s Writing (Reconstruction)

I love this passage. Enough said. The nostalgia and longing that accompany life’s loves and life’s losses…

“At the dinner party, because of my silence, they thought I was thinking about them. And so I did begin to think about them, which broke the spell and brought me back. Also, my wife kicked me.

I nodded, as I do when I’m brought back. I said something, I don’t know what. You see, they imagine that I have everything that I want – cars and pools and appliances and Picassos – only because I have what they want. But what I want I cannot have. I cannot have so much time ahead of me that it is is seemingly without limit. I cannot any longer be quite so deeply in love with the world now that I know that my love for it is unrequited. I cannot ride in my father’s arms. I cannot know any of the great store of his memories that he did not tell me. And I cannot change the fact, as I am the last one who remembers him, that all he saw, and learned, and loved will have a second death when they die with me.

That is why for me, reconstruction is so urgent and its appeal so strong. Floating down, in the last quiet seconds, it is indeed possible, with precise and joyous recollection, to return to life the roseate glow that once it brought to you.  This I have tried to do, even at the risk of smashing up a dinner party or two. And when I left that night, I kissed Alicia, and we embraced for a second or two longer than anyone expected.”

– Mark Helprin, “Reconstruction”, The Pacific and Other Stories.

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  1. It reminds me of this poem called “Night”, by Patrick Lane:

    In the bright room where Albinoni’s adagio
    plays its endless variations, my friends,
    the few who know what silence is
    and know this music is the pain
    Alden Nowlan felt as he stumbled toward death
    alone, blundering against the walls, I keep
    the ivory netsuke and the fragment of blue
    tile from the baths as Caracalla.
    When I tell them of the musk of the flower
    that bloomed for one short night in summer
    they understand. The cactus sings to me.
    I have these things to share. The ephemeral
    moves among us, delicate as Cavafy’s phrase:
    like music that extinguishes far-off night.
    I think of that phrase in my study, how
    it moves among the things that are mine:
    the scarred jade lion I bought for nothing in Xian,
    the photograph of my father, the quiet one taken
    when he was young in Europe in 1943,
    and my poems, the broken ones that will never
    be seen. These I keep for myself. They are
    the other silence, the one that sings to me
    when my friends are gone and the night
    moves with great slowness in my hands.

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