Basil’s Brain

Because Basil’s right-side weakness is getting worse, I persuaded him to see a neurologist. His first neurology visit since teenage episodes of seizures that stopped well before he went to Black Mountain in the 50s. And well before there even were MRIs.

Unknown miniaturist, England, c. 1300.  Thank you, Wiki Commons.

Unknown miniaturist, England, c. 1300. Thank you, Wiki Commons.

He had an MRI a few weeks ago and my jaw dropped when the doc showed us the image:  On the right side is a large dark spot, signifying nothing. Meaning there is nothing there, nothing but spinal fluid.  It’s big: 4.9 x 2.8 x 5.2 cm, which I translate to about a third of the right half. In the area of the parietal lobe mostly. Either gone or never was. The doc speculated a prenatal stroke or, more likely, as Baz was told of birth injury by his parents, caused by a critical oxygen loss during his delivery by Cesarean.

Important to stress: this big black nothing is called an arachnoid cyst; it’s benign and stable. Been there all his life. Alas, the increasing weakness turns out to be just old age and the remedy is the same as it is for everyone: just keep on going on. The nerve damage caused by the cyst is responsible for symptoms Baz has had all his life: a weak underdeveloped right side, a twitchy right hand, a slightly lopsided gait. For most of his life he finessed the gait thing. Only people who were very attentive, usually people with some impairment of their own, ever noticed his right foot moves like a hockey stick. These days, it is further hidden because he uses a cane. The cane goes with his white beard and gets him seats on the subway.

There are some other things the cyst might have caused, but it didn’t.

In a way the biggest effect besides the physical ones is the feeling Baz has had all his life — that something in him is off.  What a difference it might have made if we’d both known there IS something off. Something as tangible as a big nothing where brain should be.

On the morning before seeing his MRI he wrote this first stanza:  all the rest followed in the days since then:

Mother of Pearl

Mother of pearl there is an Olmec head
In my back yard and it doesn’t stop talking
Stonehenge Easter Island
The stones the hand of a loved one
Light persists and goes unanswered
Brevity mothers the pearl
And the pearl Eiffels and towers
The Sistine ceiling fingers a man
Transported to Grand Central Station
He says he has never been to North America
He is from South America and he has never
Seen the sky depicted incorrectly * 
           Pause
 Mother of pearl there is an Olmec head
In my back yard and it doesn’t stop talking
He says he and his brothers never
Wanted anything to do with Spain
He says the women didn’t like
The Spanish beard their unwashed bodies
He says he knows that half of
The right side of my brain is filled
With spinal fluid and I was deprived
Of air at birth mother of pearl
Did you know and never tell me
The left hand never tells
The right hand what it is doing
       Pause 
Mother of pearl there is an Olmec head
In my back yard and it doesn’t stop talking
He says he wants to walk with me
I walk the city ride the Metro
And I am given a seat
I have a white beard
A cane when I sleep I dream of
Incandescent bulbs the cook serves
Two eggs hash browns coffee
A good friend once said
I’ll take the literary world
You take the art world
I didn’t and art never thanked me
People who have been picked on
Think they have the right to say
My survival is all there is
And fuck everybody else 
      Pause 
Mother of pearl there is an Olmec head
In my back yard and it doesn’t stop talking
He says he doesn’t understand my paintings
He says I put too much into them
He says Muscles and Triangles are incompatible 
He says I create a disturbance when
I want to put my hand inside of you
For Love I want to squeeze your heart
Nostrils lips falling rain
A vertical arm angers my memory
And I draw organic shapes diverse eyes
Mathematics elongates the face
Mother of pearl there is an Olmec head
In my back yard and it doesn’t stop talking
  
*From Wikipedia - On the ceiling of Grand Central Station
 “Orion is correctly and beautifully rendered, but the adjacent constellations Taurus and Gemini are reversed both internally and in their relation to Orion, with Taurus near Orion’s raised arm where Gemini should be. One possible explanation is that the overall ceiling design might have been based on the medieval custom of depicting the sky as it would appear to God looking in at the celestial sphere from outside, but that would have reversed Orion as well. A more likely explanation is partially mistaken transcription of the sketch supplied by Columbia Astronomy professor Harold Jacoby. Though the astronomical inconsistencies were noticed promptly by a commuter in 1913, they have not been corrected in any of the subsequent renovations of the ceiling.”
 
      Pause
Mother of pearl there is an Olmec head
In my back yard and it doesn’t stop talking
I bought a new sketchbook the other day
Clean pages Constable was right
The clouds in England are lower than the clouds
In America in America we have a Blue Sky no clouds
No interruption but the continental flight
Of linear men Oh, Mother of pearl
I am an artist a voyeur
I watch society men and women
In Grand Central Station
Pigeons dressed in their best
Reimburse the stars
Asparagus there is more
      Pause 
Mother of pearl there is an Olmec head
In my back yard and it doesn’t stop talking
He says he knows my nature is unpredictable
Spring summer fall and winter
The black hole in my head
Can’t be allowed to possess
The figure that fulfils intention
My hand dipped in ink
       Pause 
Mother of pearl there is an Olmec head
In my back yard and it doesn’t stop talking
He says he knows what is best for me
I should take my vitamins the A B C’s
Of health is not to indulge
But what if compromise forfeits passion
Grey between black and white
Tables engraved lines banisters
A plate a glass a knife and fork
A full set of teeth this stew
Needs onions carrots herbs
Measure the ancient crime
The disaster of knowing
The abused

                                Basil King, April 2014

 

One comment

  • April 30, 2014 - 4:51 pm | Permalink

    I like it.

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