Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Miracle in Words


In 2001, in that small interim in time between the death of my father in late August and the collapse of the World Trade Towers on September 11th, my wife Roberta and I enjoyed a long conversation with Philip Lamantia at his apartment in San Francisco’s North Beach area. We talked a lot about Edgar Allan Poe. Philip and I were both fascinated by the dual phenomena of hypnopompic and hypnogogic consciousness, the twilight state of consciousness that occurs just before falling asleep and just as one is coming awake. Of the two, I’ve always had a strong preference for the later. For it is upon that emergence from unconsciousness that my mind is still easy and fluid and not yet caged in logic. Wonderful lines of poetry float through my mind, often strung together in a funny, pixilated syntax, marvelous and strange. I can never remember these wonderful lines, but am always trying to duplicate them, resorting to poetry to coax them into being. Not just any poetry, but the poetry of the weird and aberrant, the visionary and phantasmagoric, the kind of poetry Philip wrote, a work at once exotic and otherworldly and yet fiercely engaged with the world. Not flighty, but tough and marvelous.
The Poe essay Philip was eager to share with us is titled “Marginalia,” which first appeared in Graham’s Magazine, March, 1846. There are two paragraphs in particular that I would like to share with you:  

How very commonly we hear it remarked, that such and such thoughts are beyond the compass of words! I do not believe that any thought, properly so called, is out of the reach of language. I fancy, rather, that where difficulty in expression is experienced, there is, in the intellect which experiences it, a want either of deliberateness or of method. For my own part, I have never had a thought which I could not set down in words, with even more distinctness than that with which I conceived it:  as I have before observed, the thought is logicalized by the effort at (written) expression.  

There is, however, a class of fancies, of exquisite delicacy, which are not thoughts, and to which, as yet, I have found it absolutely impossible to adapt language. I use the word fancies at random, and merely because I must use some word; but the idea commonly attached to the term is not even remotely applicable to the shadows of shadows in question. They seem to me rather psychal than intellectual. They arise in the soul (alas, how rarely!) only at its epochs of most intense tranquillity — when the bodily and mental health are in perfection — and at those mere points of time where the confines of the waking world blend with those of the world of dreams. I am aware of these “fancies” only when I am upon the very brink of sleep, with the consciousness that I am so. I have satisfied myself that this condition exists but for an inappreciable point of time — yet it is crowded with these “shadows of shadows;” and for absolute thought there is demanded time’s endurance.  

This link to Edgar Allan Poe is significant for a variety of reasons, but I would put at the forefront the deep connection to France Poe enjoyed due to the zeal and translations of Charles Baudelaire. It is this self-same taste for the marvelous and strange, for perversity and eccentricities of all shape and color, that a few decades later would help feed the incandescent marvels and phantasmagoria that is French surrealism. And of all American poets, Philip Lamantia is certainly its most manifest example.
Lamantia’s connection with French surrealism began in the early 1940s at a Dali retrospective at the San Francisco Museum of Art when Philip was in his early teens. Lamantia describes his odyssey into surrealism in an interview with David Meltzer in San Francisco Beat (2001), in which he shares the following details:  

I was turned on to Surrealism through a great Dali retrospective at the San Francisco Museum of Art (now SFMOMA), followed by an equally marvelous exhibition of Miró. Within weeks I had read everything available on Surrealism that I could get from the public library. There wasn't much: David Gascoyne, the premier British Surrealist poet-whose Short Survey of Surrealism was superb-Julien Levy's Surrealism, Georges Lamaître's From Cubism to Surrealism in French Literature(he was teaching at Stanford), and finally, the discovery of the luxurious New York Surrealist review, VVV-two issues edited by Breton and friends-which I found in the tiny but ample no-loan library at the museum. In almost no time I had a dozen poems ready for publication and sent some to View: A Magazine of the Arts, which was edited, in New York, by the only important American poet who was plausibly Surrealist, Charles Henri Ford. In Spring 1943 my poems were featured on one of View's large-format pages. On the cover was a photograph by Man Ray . . . It was just after this that I discovered VVV's whereabouts and sent other poems there to André Breton. He wrote, accepting three poems and requesting a letter from me "clarifying" my relation to Surrealism. Acceptance by the man I fervently believed the most important poet and mind of the century led to my decision to quit school and take off for New York. I arrived in April 1944 in Manhattan . . . (135)  

Poetry for Philip was far more than artistry. It was alchemical. It was spiritual. It provided what André Breton termed “communicating vessels,” a means to transmute the leaden, soul-suffocating repressions and routines of everyday life into the thrill of the marvelous, the soul-fulfilling wine of the sublime.
In science, communicating vessels refers to a set of vessels of varying shape and size in which a homogeneous fluid will balance out to the same level. In André Breton’s application, communicating vessels refers to the correspondence between our walking life and the realm of dreams. Breton’s view was heavily influenced by Freud. He believed that the desires that are unable to be acted upon or fulfilled during our waking life may be enacted and satisfied in our dreams. I rarely remember my dreams, nor do I take much interest in them, but I very much like the general metaphor of two polarities connected by a transporting medium. According to this view, our waking life, which I take to be associated with humdrum necessity and the tedium of labor (albeit I find this to be a very narrow outlook), is visited by the shadows and chimeras of our unconscious and excite our minds to boundless wandering, what Breton called the “undirected play of thought.” It’s the side of our natures that keep us from becoming automatons, zombies going through all the motions of life without actually living. It’s the combination of dream and reality that results in a heightened awareness which Breton called “surreality.”
Philip remarks later in his interview with David Meltzer that “Poetry is the mean term between the physical basis for imagery and the metaphysical realm of being. This is what connects the affective to the cerebral, the heart to the sensual, and the mental vehicles of reception to the visible and invisible realms of being.”
What drew the three of us so powerfully to the eloquence of Poe’s essay in Philip’s North Beach apartment that summer afternoon in 2001 was Poe’s description of an intermediary state between the poles of conscious and unconscious life, a state in which poetry would emerge with the naturalness of breathing. Problems arise, however, when we attempt to employ a medium that is based almost entirely on rules, on a mutually recognized system that  -  while not always completely logical -  is not unlike the cogs and gears of a machine. Paint is gooey and smears; dance is physical, the play of our bodies in gravity and space; music is unbound by reference to the real world; theatre is masks and illusion; sculpture is rock and clay in three dimensional form, but still and lifeless. Poetry is a panther pacing back and forth in a cage.
“Isn’t this what all poets have aspired to,” Philip remarked in his interview with David Meltzer, “seemingly failing in the attempt but finally achieving a miracle in words.”
Indeed. Listen to it. Immerse your ears in it. Immerse your eyes in it. Bathe your neurons in it. Feel your blood warm with its pulse. Winter birches sway in invisible agitations of air. Words quicken into colloidal living substance. Ink sags with the imagery of passage. Vermilion camaraderies unfold fists of sandstone abstraction. The mind secures a place in heaven. And down it rains in sparkling subtleties of primal warmth.  
Remember geometry class? Remember carrying a sharp metal object called a compass? If not, there’s a marvelous painting of one by William Blake called “The Ancient of Days setting a Compass to the Earth,” rendered in 1794. God is hunched over, long blonde hair and beard blowing to the side, leaning out of the sun holding a compass with a huge, muscular arm. The arm, which parallels his massive, powerful leg, guides the compass with ferocious firmness and precision. The meaning of the painting is blunt: science controls. Technology holds existence in balance. Watch out that it doesn’t get too disproportionately ascendant.
The twilight states between sleeping and waking, or descending into sleep from a state of wakefulness, will have a peculiar effect on the instruments of geometry and science. Imagine Dali’s melting watches, or the jubilant chaos that is Max Ernst’s “L’Ange du Foyer,” (“The Angel of the Home”) and you’ll have an approximation of the enlightening distortions and odd lucidities of unbridled reverie.
Poe was confident that language could be reconfigured and formulated to accommodate these chimeras, that its inherent malleability and charms were sufficient to induce a trance-like frame of mind in which marvels and oddities could be brought to life, envisioned, embodied, ushered onto a sheet of paper. “Now, so entire is my faith in the power of words,” he proclaims, “that, at times, I have believed it possible to embody even the evanescence of fancies such as I have attempted to describe.”
I agree. But first it’s necessary to come to terms with the mechanisms that make language work.
Language is bound by rules. Break the rules, and you cease to make sense. Sense, that is, in the conventional sense. It’s in the nature of the mind to find meaning whenever and wherever it can. A lack of conventionality can excite a remarkable inventiveness, provided that one’s sensibilities are in any way receptive to new experience.
When grammar is torqued and twisted, the words assume a character that is both strange and palpable. Palpable because they’ve ceased being the conveyors of information and occupying a utilitarian function that is virtually invisible and transparent. They’ve become something else: they’ve become objects, startling and strange. What the Russians call ostrenenie: defamiliarization, the artistic technique of presenting common, everyday things in a way that makes them unfamiliar or strange, thereby enhancing the perception of the familiar.
How cool is that?
Earlier in his essay, Poe remarked quite optimistically that “I do not believe that any thought, properly so called, is out of the reach of language.”
For those of us who might be a little wary to resort to drugs or enter a hypnotic state each time we felt the urge to write, this is good news.
That said, I don’t mean to dismiss drugs altogether. I have memories. I’ve heard stories. I’ve read books. Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception, Charles Baudelaire’s Artificial Paradises, Michael McClure’s Meat Science Essays, Henri Michaux’s The Major Ordeals of the Mind, and Some Minor Ones.” Drugs are, in their own way, illuminating. When drugs meet language, the result can be as energizing as the Beatles or Little Richard playing rock ‘n roll in Hamburg’s red light district circa 1962. Wop bop a loo bop a lop bam boom! There’s nothing like a Benzedrine buzz to thwack thwack thwack clickety click click click begin slapping words down in a state of exhilarated immediacy so that life and writing fuse into a bubbling mass of bop spontaneity. Normal syntax, the glue of the ordinary, the mortar of stiff collared Atlantic Monthly rhetoric, the stuff that makes sense, the syntax of ordinary mass and transparent point-making prose, starts doing back-flips and handstands and explodes into protoplasmic bliss. This is language with a pulse.
But that’s Benzedrine. What Poe is talking about bears a much stronger resemblance to opium. I’ve never had opium, just the occasional prescription for codeine or Vicodin, so I can’t speak with any real authority on how these medications influence writing. I know that these pharmaceuticals make me a lot more relaxed and patient and forgiving toward people and the thousand accidents and fucked-upedness of life as it is being lived and shins bumped against the coffee table and parking tickets discovered under the windshield wiper and rude bookstore employees and assholes walking unleashed dogs make you feel small and anxious. Those negative thoughts and feelings might still be there but you’re nicely distanced from them, looking down from a hot air balloon, making observations of cool indifference from an ivory throne of the mind. The mind as it is buoyed by codeine. The mind as it is softly lifted into the heavens by Sister Morphine.
And then there’s booze; booze worked pretty well for Charles Bukowski. Kerouac combined booze with benzies and the result was On the Road. Rollicking, vivid, incandescent prose. The kind of writing that makes you fall in love with words and go crazy with a wild lust to experience the world.
Booze never really worked for me. A couple of beers, a shot of whiskey and a mug of Guinness would have me feeling pretty good for maybe an hour, at most, but I rarely, if ever, felt the inclination to write, and it was never very long before I was shitfaced drunk and slurring my words much less writing anything I would want to claim as my own. The opioids don’t compromise the intellect as devastatingly as alcohol. Not for me, anyway. Reaction to drugs of any kind tends to vary wildly. Me, I’m an opiate guy. Never liked cocaine much. Loved amphetamines, but coming down was excruciating, worse than a hangover from an alcoholic binge.
As for the more exotic drugs, psychedelics and such, I would enter that realm with extreme caution. It has been many decades since I entered the portals of space and time through those doors, but I can state unequivocally that they’re not things to trifle with. I haven’t been tempted to try again. My relationship with reality isn’t what it used to be. Reality itself isn’t what it used to be.
This is what makes Poe’s confidence in language so endearing to those of us who crave a heightened awareness or more buoyant mood. Just the immersion in words alone is a journey of disembodied poetics, a wild ride through that vertiginous zone we call infinite possibility. I feel like one of those Wild West medicine show guys when I start preaching like this, but you really don’t need codeine or opium or even pot to write the kind of language that stirs and rustles in Lethean enchantment. You just need to figure out a way to do it. Because if you’re in an ordinary state of mind that in any way resembles my ordinary state of mind, you’re fucked. Most of the time I’m in a shitty mood. Angst, mortality, climate change, mass extinction, benign prostatic hyperplasia, envies, jealousies, betrayals, rejections, racism, bigotry, anti-intellectualism, a teetering economy and a flatulent fascistic oligarchy are as common to my daily existence as Wisconsin is to cheese or sewage from a poorly maintained septic tank. I call on the ghosts of Edgar Allan Poe and Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson to help me out with this.
I don’t know how they did what they did but I’m pretty sure Emily Dickinson didn’t go out back and smoke a doobie before returning to the kitchen or linen closet to finish her domestic chores. And yet she wrote marvelously, turned language into a distillery for metaphysical insights and a general euphoric buzz.
So then, what is it? What technique do you employ to get the words out there blinking like Christmas tree lights?
I use a number of tricks, including Burrough’s cut-up technique, Tristan Tzara’s cutting out words and putting them in a bag and taking them out one by one, Joycean stream of consciousness, Kerouac’s bop spontaneity, or just sitting down and writing, just doing it, just putting pen to paper, fingers on a keyboard, and begin, word after word, until a sequence forms, any sequence, it doesn’t have to make sense, in fact it’s just the opposite, I don’t especially want it to make sense, I want it to make mayhem, I want chaos, I want a storm, I want to stand high on a cliff like Prospero and make the seas toss. Do that, and consciousness will follow. What consciousness I cannot say, but consciousness, awareness, an altered perception, call it what you want.  

 

 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Cave


I’m going to take a leap and say that the earliest experience of art was incantatory, an invocation, a calling down, or calling up, of spirits, of a higher power, sky gods, earth gods, ocean gods. It was ritual and prayer. Those guys going into the caves in France and Spain during the Pleistocene, who might have been women, went there for a reason. It was hidden. It was separate from mundane reality. It was removed from the world of hunger and necessity, the world of doing, the world of eating and fire. It was a place of spirits, shadows dancing on calcareous rock, pigments derived from iron oxide and red and yellow ochre, animal fat and bone. Shapes swirled into being from horsehair were creatures rendered in a spirit of imitation but whose animations were the living embassies of the human imagination.
Meaning we are caught between two worlds. The world of the spirit and imagination and the world of hunting and brute survival. The relationship between those two domains have always been a little contentious. Daydreaming doesn’t lead to meat. Ceremony feeds the spirit but not the gut. It takes artistry to make a spear but it’s a different kind of artistry than the artistry that brings animals into grace and being on the undulant irregularities of subterranean rock.
My world has refrigerators in it, computers and clocks, but the cave is still very much with me. When I sit down to write I enter a cave. I enter a realm of darkness in which the light is tentative but the shadows it creates have an eerie autonomy. Poetry comes from the cave, and so do elves and philosopher kings, dragons and ghosts.
It’s Thanksgiving, and raining. I go to pick up Roberta who has just left work and is carrying a bag of groceries. I get in the car. The steering wheel is cold. I start the engine. Adam Levine of Maroon 5 sings “I Shall Be Released” from the Amnesty International Chimes of Freedom tribute album to Bob Dylan. My cave is still in me but has assumed a different form. It’s an amalgam of seeking and penetration, the kind of wandering one does in one’s mind during a time of trauma, in this case the recent election, the ascendancy of Père Ubu to the White House. I try to remind myself that fascism doesn’t have to triumph, there are ways to resist it, and resistance will require a cave. Bears and horses on the stone walls of an inner realm.
Once, on a trip to Oregon with my parents when I was about 14 years old, we joined a tour group and descended by elevator to the bottom of a cave. When we reached the bottom, a guide from the park department lectured us on the features of the cave, its depth, its length, its formation. He shut the lights off to let us experience the full darkness of the cave. It was the first time I saw darkness. It was so emphatically, absolutely black it was penetrating. There is the kind of dark in which we stumble and feel our way around because objects are obscured. This was not that type of dark. This dark seemed alive. It was a thing. It had being. A lit match would’ve torn into its flesh.
One’s sense of self feels peculiar in such darkness. It is purely a sensation. A feeling of self-ness that is based on nothing.
Art that attempts to imitate things is automatically dull. How can it not be? Art that attempts to mimic the processes of nature is a little more interesting. Art that drags itself across the floor like a peanut is goodnatured and lepidopterous. Art made of hot water and sugar blushes with crystal violet. Art produced in caves crushes the fossils of light-headed purport. Art that repairs the mind and heart will find violent houses minted in string smelling of solitary soot. Art that purges and arouses dangerous emotions is fallible and laughing.
Why are artists always stuck with defending art?
There are societies that promote imagination and societies that kill imagination. The societies, such as that of the United States, kill the imagination so that the people will submit to labor at the cheapest possible price.
When you enter a gallery as I have on occasion and see work selling for thousands of dollars sometimes even millions you naturally think holy shit I can do that and then I don’t have to wash dishes or sweep floors or make drinks or dig ditches or give the nightly news anymore. You can slip out of your chains and find a fullness of being immediately available. Right there, under your skin, is a furnace of capillaries and veins, hot red blood finding its way to bonanzas of expanded sensation.
Art became social when it came above ground. When it became gowns and candelabras, investments and spoons. When Norman Rockwell produced red-haired freckle-faced kids getting haircuts by benign elderly men with white hair and wisdom in their back pocket. When Andrew Wyeth painted window curtains and braids and made the world look familiar and safe and put his arm around George W. Bush.
When art becomes social it loses its autonomy. It loses its essential spirit. It serves commerce. It serves the deadening of the imagination. It serves the fashion industry. It serves the rich.
Kitsch, observed Herman Broch, is a turning away from the divine cosmic creation of values. It is resigned to the clever and cute. Jeff Koon’s monster balloon dog mocks the sublime. The sublime is dangerous because it is out of human control. Art stands in opposition to social domination. We descend into the cave in search of those beings and entities that fuel artistic impulse with blue fire, the animal desire to conquer the horizontal world, the speed and grace of the antelope, the strength of the bear, the avatars of spirit. Art keeps itself alive through its resistance to social force. It feeds on the mineral colors of flame-induced creatures. On the contour of rock. On the thick palpable darkness that sleeps in the bone and awakens in the eyes.
Art repels empirical reality. It delights in fluctuations so rapid that they have the invisible blur of the hummingbirds’ wings, the weird aerodynamics of the bumblebee, whose wings are transparent but veined, revealing networks of fragile interrelation, as do the subsonic noises of bats bounced off objects to determine their character and distance. The darkness of a cave is a living body of dark energy, the subterranean medium of labyrinth and hall and moonmilk that envelops our intimacy with the irrationality of the depths, the primal cradle of creativity.

 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Something Akin to the Soul


All works of art are founded on a certain distance from the lived reality which is represented.
Why? Why is this the case?
Reality is often a drag. Jobs, raising kids, driving in heavy traffic, road rage, corruption and greed in politics, Columbus Day, arthritis, bursitis, appendicitis, conjunctivitis, are all a drag. But they’re not reality. They’re only fractions of reality. Facets, not faucets. Aspects, not aspic.
A distance is needed from reality in its representation by artistic means for that very reason: we don’t know what reality really is. It is largely a matter of perception, largely a matter of opinion, largely a matter of what a group of people agree upon. I mean, if I punch the wall as hard as I can with my fist, it will hurt like hell and I might damage the wall. That’s reality, sure. The pain is real, the wall is real, my fist is real. It is my intention for doing that goes a little awry. Why, you might ask yourself, did that guy just punch the wall? This makes it a form of performance, and without a clear intent, it makes it a perfect form of art. It was done gratuitously to make a point, a point I’m not even sure about, but I do believe we’re on a way to a point, you and me, writer and reader, both participating in the ultimate of all art forms, which is making a paragraph, making it semantic and full of strata, random samples, cubic mass, quantum physics, quarks and bosons, cymbals and symbols, cysts and sisters, grates and graters, garters and gardens, kimonos and pianos, rutabaga, star grass, titlarks, viaducts, viaticum, Via Dolorosa.
We are, it would seem, unavoidably entangled in that which we study. Hard to say just one word without adding a bunch more to support and girder the one stuffed with sound and pushed into space.
Nothing like language and a sequence of words to remind you how interrelated everything is, and diffused with life and lime and light.
I hear a light susurrus of late November wind, the grind and groan of a piece of heavy equipment, the crash of detritus into the maw of a garbage truck. It’s rather dark, but I do see an emergent glow, the day shifting from overcast to scattered clouds, the kind that shred like rags into vapory ephemera and hang in the sky with listless beauty, or get moved by a light wind, and the light of heaven drops down to earth, commingling and interweaving with its sounds. Light shines from the rim of the aluminum foil covering an apple pie and someone tinkers with machinery across the street. Rocks glow. Leaves glow. The cat sleeps on her pillow below a Tiffany lamp.  
Light in itself is something akin to the soul, wrote Johannes Kepler.
Kepler had a penchant for Platonic ecstasy, but it was mingled with a robust skepticism. He wondered why snowflakes fell in the form of six-cornered stars, tufted like feathers, why there were only six planets instead of hundreds, and why these planets all moved in elliptical orbits rather than circles. Some people are like that. They question everything. Some animals are like that, too. Have you ever seen a cow lift her head when a stranger enters her field? I don’t even see tourists do that when I go running down the sidewalk at Kerry Park.
The world isn’t black and white. Very few things make sense.
Our cat is extremely fussy about eating. She loves to eat, but won’t eat unless, before refreshing her bowl, which is some form of metal like chrome, very shiny and flat, I wash it. Then I put it on the breadboard to dollop out some of her favorite food, tuna and pumpkin. The dish gleams in the kitchen light, distorting reflections of the ceiling and light fixtures above.
Where am I going with this?
I feel a need to get something out there, something about art and representation, something about seeing and silence and the occasional need to break that silence and say something about one’s experience in this life.
This afternoon, while out running, I saw a rosebush with three light yellow roses on it, but no leaves. This is winter. It’s cold. Two of the roses were small, but one was large, and healthy. It looked quite robust. How is this possible? Is there any sap still running through those skinny little limbs?
I don’t know. But the point is this: this is a representation. And as such, it’s at a definite remove both in space and time from the roses I saw. Which is better? The representation, or the actuality? I’m going to go with the actuality. Actuality is always better than representation. Try as hard as I can with whatever words I can find to get that actuality across, I will fail.
And I’m trying (to paraphrase Samuel Beckett) to fail as hard as I can.  

 

 

 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Phantom Cry


Heidy heidy hi. Heidy heidy ho. Listen to the chop of delicatessen Joe. Chick chunk plunk and a bumpety bump bump. Snip. Snap. Snoop. Holy befuddlement of the cheese grater. Little slices of Choctaw stump. Sioux City bristle on a fallible yarn. Dwarf star croak. Buckthorn buffalo clambake cracker. Cavefish bicycle bloom. Word salad fricassee. Feed these words your mind. Feed it rhyme. Feed it wine. Feed it a chair and a table and a Venetian blind. Feed it philosophy and blood. Employ the graceful stride of Yul Brynner. Impressionism deathwatch lamb. Deploy a reference. Gather hay. Murder snow. Squash the languor of comprehension into lush confusion. Seed the air. Grow a pack. Hang a sound of kitchen words. Excite the crisis of silence. Construction rains ash let’s crash through it. Go for a tangential stroll. I abandoned the palette and went straight to autumn. Antique smack of the moonlight reflection. I guzzle an eager beat. Exult in cardboard. Shatter the potato mirror. Glaze your denim. Enamel a configurational myth. Do it with an oat leg. Unpredictable salvation cinnamon. Caress your flutter. Euclid’s sting is close to a square. Paint this swell with heft and passion. The weight of the pumpkin chops into pulp. Cartwheels control the materiality of the Fauve octagon. Oblige me to arrive flowing through your buttons. Siege bread. Subtlety’s port exceeds the envy of earth. Trek glue. I steadily persuade my moccasin onto my foot. Fix this dynamic. The slide of my mouth occurs to a dish. The mirror spins listening. Let’s exchange streams. Exemplify absence with pharmaceuticals. Bubbles guide my hand across the paper. This is my impersonal predicament sternum. Punchbag veins. Red eyeball inside a white skull. The zipper’s reach mingles with a collar stud. My eyes grapple with a strangled coat. Vowels remedied the lost consonant. Drop and bend. Grope cod opened in jingles. Ask the escalator. Sensation’s hymn thrums through the Alleghenies. Unprecedented adaptation in slouched despair. Secrete wire. Gray enhances the sting of the tongue. Let it happen. Let it all happen. Happen and happen. See it all urged into change. Every antique knife. Every abandoned affection. Hear it cry. My phantom cry.

 

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Mystery of the Golf Tee


I’ve galvanized the tonic in order to indicate the flow of kelp. The waves come in. The waves go out. Magic eludes its own tinsel. As my dives go deeper, the stones at the bottom become brighter. These hectic strains I’ve thrown at the canvas will make better sense once the mud begins to shine. The wind turns and skitters away. The hem of a gull argues with the stern of the boat. I find a whisper of reminiscence crying in the shadows. I smell destiny in the rattle of the east.
There’s a trigger that I can pull, but that would lead to some nasty repercussions. The corollaries are violent enough. My fatigue is palpable. The words are vertical. I withdraw into coral and twinkle. The book embodies stratification. The geology is alive. My drum resembles a winter dance. I feel that there is a certain focus to be painted into neglect. Thought is kerosene. If I can swim into your eyes I can explain everything. A puddle is nothing like a hat but it will brake for children. No depth attains the surface without getting a little messy.
Language is an event, not a potato chip. If the ovation is thin it may also be extruded by a swarm of carbohydrates. For example, I go get the laundry out of the dryer. I pull it all out and feel its warmth and communion. It’s mostly underwear, T-shirts, and socks. I find a little pointy plastic object. It’s white and looks like a tiny rocket ship. I wonder what the hell it is. What does this thing have to do with clothes? Is it a pin, some sort of fastener? Should I toss it? We share the washer and dryer with three other units. What if it’s important and someone comes asking for it? Should I put it somewhere where someone can see it and reclaim it? Where would that be? On top of the dryer? One of the shelves behind the sink? It’s so small. I can’t decide if this little doohickey is important or not. I can’t decide if it’s important or not because I don’t know what it is. I bring it in with the clothes. My mind spins. What the fuck is this thing? I fold the clothes. Then I realize what it is: it’s a golf tee. There are two golfers in the building. I toss it.
And so you see, this is how the world comes to be discovered. We find shapes, we define them by their function, and give them a name. Things without a function are harder to define. Some things aren’t even things. They’re ideas. Perceptions. Intuitions. Clues.
How do you describe vision to the blind?
How do you describe a ball in the realm of the square?
How do you know when something is music or just plain noise?
Music unbuttons the air. I can smell the invocations of Gilgamesh.
Death hunts for wrinkles. We feed it bones and revolutions. I try to unite examples of clothes and instinct. It amuses the sparrows to see versions of water blown by the wind. It’s a big world with a lot of bananas and arguments on it. The blue tears of my sorrows are tilted to show the rotation of the planet. Sometimes my personality explodes out of my body. People get hurt. I try to make amends and decorate the future with French doors. The animals frolic. We sit and sew our clothes together.
I sense the grandeur of salt, whose events are peripheral to the elevation of taste. The recruitment of cantatas endures. The cylinders of the palace pump up and down. I flow beside the noise. Thousands of jellyfish wash ashore. The straw is sufficient unto itself. My faith burgeons before I can decide to linger in the wilderness or not. Faith in what I cannot say. All that I know is that if I gaze behind the curtains I may be able to identify what it is that keeps walking around in my blood looking for resolution.

 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Life


Life is an enigma. No one knows what it is, where it comes from, what to do with it. Sleep and reproduction are partial solutions. But what can one do about diphthongs, or feverfew?
Wildcats roam the cotton fields. I find myself in revolt against nearly everything. Where does it come from? This agitation. This beard of hinges. This flow of arms.
There is the sparkle of literature everywhere. It helps. A form of thick syntax rolls toward the end of the sentence and explodes into Weltanschauung.
The earth smells rich. It’s an unmistakable odor. I and the world are two, yet we are one. I can tell. Because the coffee is locally roasted, and if we can suspend thought for a moment we can also provide rides, games and food concessions.
I need new shoes. The soles are getting worn. This is a sign of determination. The transcendentalist’s desire for something more is understandable, but for now, new shoes will fit the bill.
Consider the lilies. Here is where we find spars and mistletoe. I hear someone singing. My head explodes. Hey now, don’t dream it’s over. Even if a stiffened grammar drops dead there’s still a certain feeling in the breeze, the way the cypress leans into the land, distressing the ocean, which really doesn’t give a shit, it’s just there, waves rolling in, smash splash tumble tumble froth shine, then roll out again.
The smell of desire informs us that we must look in the right places for a solution to custard.
The circus taught me how to throw knives. Conversation taught me how to construct graphs and charts. In the end, the most important thing you can do for yourself is finish reading this sentence.
There now: was that so bad?
My book is bleeding. The one over there, bubbling on the coffee table. It’s a book about how to think. It says that thinking is frisky. You know? Like hydroelectricity.
Or plums.
We hammer our denim into instruments of anonymity. Then we walk around. It feels anonymous, like streaks of cirrus sprawling against a Chine blue sky as the glow of dawn attaches itself to the mountains.
What do we mean when we talk of home? My hands left imprints in the carpet after doing push-ups. Home is where the heart is, so they say. Nobody mentions the kidneys, or dialysis machine, or Hillary Clinton grinning at you on a plasma television.
I stand among cans of paint lost in reflection. I imagine the Phantom of the Opera languishing in chiaroscuro behind stage. Someone asks if I found everything I was looking for. I can’t remember what I was looking for. Was it Clipper Ship Blue or Benton Harbor?
I’ve never been very good at math, but that never held me back from creating equations in words, things like fingers and pizza deliveries.
Ever since it was washed, the throw rug in the hallway has had a tendency to bunch up in the middle. It drives me nuts. I just thought I’d mention that before the dead rise and the Age of Reason reaches its final end as a dirty hot dog and a crumpled shako.
Which reminds me. I’d like to tour Belgium one day.
I walk among giants. Keats, Shelley, Ginsberg, Dylan.
Emily Dickinson.
I inhabit poetry like a drummer inhabits drums, the streets of Céret abandoned to moonlight, the local bus steeped in a mythology of its own.  I thought of the river, how quietly it moved. How like a swan it moved through my mind.
The poem on the page is petulant. The smell of sawdust flavors its words. I’m captivated by your interior heaven. A reflection blossoms and is approved by my head, where it seems to live, and garner respect. We believe it’s haunted, my head. It could be. It’s full of ghosts.
Is your reality my reality? Consider the dream of the collar stud. A prodigious stirring shook the cemetery ground. It rained. We dried ourselves by the fire. Have you ever met someone so vaporous you could slide your hand through them?
Life is hard enough without making things more difficult, and yet it is precisely these kinds of judgments made privately and weighed publicly  -  or weighed privately and made publicly  -  that gives presumption its sweet taste and heady aroma.
I will sometimes find a daub of red on a daub of blue and feel taut and itchy as if a surge of life were stretched across my willingness to experience life.
And sigh.
Yesterday at our favorite Mexican restaurant there was a fly in the window. I couldn’t hear a word it said. Or even if it said anything. It just seemed focused on the glass. On getting out. On finding release. Welcome. Welcome my friend to Planet Earth.
I wonder about this urge, this desire to put words together. What does it ultimately lead to? I wonder what this activity would feel like if it actually made money. Give a big kiss to Missouri. I’ve never been there. That’s one reason I write. Another is that moment in a gift shop when you realize you’re the only one there and you’re just passing time you have no plans to buy anything of the silly items they’ve got on display and self-consciousness sets in, do I look suspicious you wonder, does the clerk think I’m here to shoplift?
The idea that anything can happen is exhilarating. The poem leans toward purple. Prince waiting for a prescription, riding a mountain bike in a Minnesota parking lot. Let’s drop anchor. Let’s take a look at what’s out there. What’s really out there.
The staircase hugs its own shape. Autumn gleefully does its thing. The train goes by. It has purpose. Can I include your dream? Your dream of the train? It’s so sweet, the way you open a jar of strawberry jam. There are many instances in life in which measurement does not apply.
My hammer speaks German. Did I mention that? The highway argues with the landscape. Volcanos spew fire, meteors streak the sky. There are many of us who seek transformation. Nothing happens by itself. I try hard to find meaning in everything. I never met an armchair I didn’t like. Life is a problem solved by fable. Make something up. Tell a story about picking leaves up one by one in the window well. You will know the right story by its trajectory. You will know the grammar of shoes by walking in them.
The poem complains of too much alliteration. The big bearded borborygmic Bolshevik wore a big blue bolo tie. Royal rutilant ruffles remedied the mangy echo. We stood aghast in the bathroom. Bright lights big city lights going to my head. Even the mirror has a pulse.
Wyoming flies out of my mouth. What can I say? I’m attracted to antique stores. Genetics in the heat. I always say, each of my failures is a huge success. Angst is good. Don’t scare it away. Don’t brush it off the table. You’ve got to hold on. Just hold on. Grab something if it helps. Write something down. Make it talk. Make it swim. Make it bleed.
Our knives gleam in the bloom of day. I see the potential of water just by moving the oars. And I move ahead.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Phantom Cry


Heidy heidy hi. Heidy heidy ho. Listen to the chop of delicatessen Joe. Chick chunk plunk and a bumpety bump bump. Snip. Snap. Snoop. Holy befuddlement of the cheese grater. Little slices of Choctaw stump. Sioux City bristle on a fallible yarn. Dwarf star croak. Buckthorn buffalo clambake cracker. Cavefish bicycle bloom. Word salad fricassee. Feed these words your mind. Feed it rhyme. Feed it wine. Feed it a chair and a table and a Venetian blind. Feed it philosophy and blood. Employ the graceful stride of Yul Brynner. Impressionism deathwatch lamb. Deploy a reference. Gather hay. Murder snow. Squash the languor of comprehension into lush confusion. Seed the air. Grow a pack. Hang a sound of kitchen words. Excite the crisis of silence. Construction rains ash let’s crash through it. Go for a tangential stroll. I abandoned the palette and went straight to autumn. Antique smack of the moonlight reflection. I guzzle an eager beat. Exult in cardboard. Shatter the potato mirror. Glaze your denim. Enamel a configurational myth. Do it with an oat leg. Unpredictable salvation cinnamon. Caress your flutter. Euclid’s sting is close to a square. Paint this swell with heft and passion. The weight of the pumpkin chops into pulp. Cartwheels control the materiality of the Fauve octagon. Oblige me to arrive flowing through your buttons. Siege bread. Subtlety’s port exceeds the envy of earth. Trek glue. I steadily persuade my moccasin onto my foot. Fix this dynamic. The slide of my mouth occurs to a dish. The mirror spins listening. Let’s exchange streams. Exemplify absence with pharmaceuticals. Bubbles guide my hand across the paper. This is my impersonal predicament sternum. Punchbag veins. Red eyeball inside a white skull. The zipper’s reach mingles with a collar stud. My eyes grapple with a strangled coat. Vowels remedied the lost consonant. Drop and bend. Grope cod opened in jingles. Ask the escalator. Sensation’s hymn thrums through the Alleghenies. Unprecedented adaptation in slouched despair. Secrete wire. Gray enhances the sting of the tongue. Let it happen. Let it all happen. Happen and happen. See it all urged into change. Every antique knife. Every abandoned affection. Hear it cry. My phantom cry.