Monday, November 28, 2011

Ted Enslin Letters

I corresponded with the late Ted Enslin for something like 18 years, beginning sometime in 1993, or possibly 1994. I received his last letter on July 6th, 2011. I knew it would be his last. “Well,” he had written, “I think my condition is terminal. How long is a question. Personally I hope not very long. The past week was a stinker.”

Ted did not identify his illness or go into details about his limitations, though I had a pretty good idea, having been witness to my father’s death, mother’s death and that of my father- and mother-in-law. Ted’s evident acceptance of death was impressive, but not surprising. It was obvious from our years of correspondence that he was not only accustomed to reality but welcomed it. His poetry testifies to a no-nonsense worldview that exalted the world’s stony reverberations in a language of percussive penetration and solidity. His words were simple but carefully placed, pulsed, like the purity of notes in a composition by Eric Satie.

Ted loved music, Mahler especially. He had had a rigorous training in composition, and studied under French composer, conductor, and teacher Nadia Boulanger. Poetry provided a means for musical expression in lexical form. He believed that the same principles apply to both music and poetry and that ideally they are one art. “I became increasingly aware of the fact,” Ted remarked in an interview with Robert J. Bertholf for Web Conjunctions,

that there was a great deal of material that I could not deal with in the usual ways. For instance, I wanted to write something antiphonal, I wanted to get that spatial sense of sound, and I was attracted—as many, many people have been—to the possibilities of a concert hall such as the nave of St. Mark's in Venice, where the so-called Antiphonal School arose. The Gabrielis and their great students (Monteverdi and Schütz in particular) is where that came from. Well, I thought, yeah, this is a great idea, the idea of an echo, but spatially moved out so that it would be apparent in the readings of such a piece. Could that be done? And I tried something which I called "Antiphony", I guess it must have been in about the middle '50s. And it didn't work. I didn't have the means to do it. I did do it, however, about 22 or 23 years later and it did work. I had it performed twice, once at Bowling Green in 1989. It is based on the consideration of a rock, geologic rock, and it comes back again and again in the series of echoing and returning sounds, and in a kind of percussive sense of rock, of something against which you can't push much of anything else.

Ted was a prompt letter writer. I would sometimes take as long as two months to answer a letter. But when I did, I would have a letter from Ted in less than a week.

Ted’s letters were all identical in size: the envelope was 6 ½ by 3 ½ inches and the letter itself was most ofen a small single sheet of paper, 5 ½ inches in width and 8 ½ inches in length. They were always typewritten. Ted used a manual typewriter. When I held one of his letters, my fingers could feel the little impressions the typewriter keys made on the back side of the paper. I don’t know where Ted managed to find ribbons. He lived in a rural part of Maine, less than a mile from the seashore. He was married to an artist named Alison Enslin, but was in all other respects a hermit. He had little use for society. We shared a contempt for American culture, its militaristic hardness and brutality, its cheerless pragmatism and inability to appreciate or value anything that didn’t involve money.

Ted was particularly contemptuous of doctors. “Of course, for me, doctors, and their inane ‘tests’ are unthinkable.” Fortunately, Ted was in remarkably good health for most of the years we wrote. He must have been pushing 70 when we began our correspondence, and he frequently mentioned swimming in the Atlantic. I often complained about the cholesterol lowering medication I had to take, and he would respond by letting me know that his cholesterol level was well below 200, which was probably the result of his love of seafood. He remarked in his last letter that he always had a fondness for big Dungeness crabs, and that he’d “eaten a good clam chowder a few days ago, and haddock yesterday.”

“I have always preferred fish, shellfish, etc. to meat,” he remarked in an earlier letter. “No moral preference. I simply like seafood more. I was that way as a child. Whenever I had the choice I invariably picked seafood. Something of a merman, perhaps.”

He did not like snow. He did not like winter. Maine winters especially. “Ah,” he remarked in a letter dated 1/11/11, “but I wish I could go to Belize as I used to. Not possible now for many reasons. To go alone is unthinkable in my physical condition.”

In May of 2011 it was still there. “Yes, 130 inches of snow, what I call our white filth, is a bit mind boggling, but we are used to anywhere between 70 and 80 inches a year.”

I would sometimes remark on the deplorable ignorance and decay of America’s public schools, and there, too, Ted had a lot of contempt. He referred to himself as an autodidact: “I have always been an autodidact, and started early. Standard schooling was an utter waste on me, and I rejected it. Actually some of it was harmful to me. Despite Horace Mann, and others, I often think that public schooling in this country should be abolished. Much money saved for better purposes. The best teaching is one on one, and I am sure many others have been injured by this usual crap.”

Ted’s letters were always a comfort to me. A kind of compass heading. He proved that one could live independently of society’s suffocating bureaucracies and soul-killing commerciality. He was outside the politics of the literary academies and conventions where everyone shows off their wares and jockeys for publication opportunities. He did not own a computer. He was his own man, all the way.

Whenever I went to collect the mail, I recognized Ted’s letters immediately by their modesty of size. I could tell immediately that they weren’t bills or requests for money. I liked that.

Ted’s pleasures were as modest as his letters. He liked smoking a pipe, reading, listening to music, and drinking a glass of whiskey per day. I sensed in his letters a profoundly New England character, a love of honesty and craft and reverence for nature, for economy and the deeply gratifying pleasure of a skill achieved by hard learning, be it carpentry, music, or fishing.

Ted had had a long history with New England. Ted’s great-grandmother was first cousin to Lydia Jackson, Emerson’s second wife, and William James second son, William “Billy” James, chose Ted as a model for a number of his paintings.

I once made inquiry about Ted’s view of the afterlife, of the supernatural, and Ted answered that “my interest in paranormal evidences comes through a number of instances in my own life, which can’t be explained in ‘normal’ ways. Of course all of the evidence is colored by the way in which people think at particular times. I don’t think of ghosts in white sheets, or accounts from some pie-in-the-sky paradise. Rather, I think that there is a residuum from experience and knowledge similar to archaeologist’s soils – carbon dating etc. All of us have a bit of that kind of sensing, though it is limited, and often stunted by ‘practical’ thinking. But there are other senses, and people like Aunt Nora have them in a developed degree. Ivan Tolstoy once told me that it is mathematically demonstrable that man’s knowledge has added to the weight of the earth. I think he was thinking in the right direction.”

I will miss Ted’s letters. I have become so accustomed to receiving them. They have been a part of my life. More than an adjunct; more like a tide. A coming and going of thoughts and convictions, opinions and images. Lives shared. Feelings contrasted and shaped according to the notes of one another’s words.

I never actually met Ted. Never even spoke to him on the telephone. Yet I feel I knew him deeply. I must have, because I feel his loss deeply.

The impulse to write him remains. I suppose in time that feeling will dissipate. And, like now, I will find myself writing about him, rather than to him. There is a world of difference between those two prepositions. On one side is life, and on the other, the complete unknown.

Friday, November 25, 2011

This Is The Farm Where Candles Boil

Clumsiness is sweetened by rattling the wisecrack. Resilience was embryonic in the dream I had. The gantry forge was this parameter or inferno. The testimony propagated moon bubbles. A hirsute stepladder and bulbs that overflowed.

The wood in heartwood is longer than reticence. It is a fabric with the extent of sand. Tilted thoughts are smacked into life. Noumena swarm the book. The horizontal is sometimes gleefully housed in hardware.

This is because consciousness is stitched with rain. The blade extends grace. The stunning conclusion breaks out shouting. Nipples in salvation walk from Rome to Naples. The door’s ingredients are mirrored in the river.

Art is to experience what the oarlock is to oars. Audacity’s old hypothesis sleeps in admonition. Glasses become examples. The army moves into the opium map. Wet or adhesive the meaning of calypso dilates our tin.

A complex flower is hauled out of the garden. We serve ourselves speed and get the ceiling to sparkle. A development pumps itself into rope between the spars. Alarm whistles in steam for the coffee. Our feet pummel a pacific sidewalk.

This is the farm where candles boil. Where copperplate stirs perception. Where chiaroscuro slips through gravity’s veins and old puddles merit the play of a dachsund. Like pumps, the great octagonal truths coax our faiths to mingle and become a religion of thrills. The severity of our insults are actually sugar.

We heard that the tables are stern but flat and serviceable. Science’s phantom zippers seethe with divinity in them. During the paradigm, our truffles burst. The lost staircase spirits tumbled down the steps. The seashore climbed through the enfoldments of our clothes.

Sunlight materializes circumference. The newly built palace blazes with gold. A sparrow alights on the palette. Paper’s duty is not to the paddle but to the sonnet that replaces its letters with handsprings. Words are simulacrums until Euclid opens the door.

We step into our moccasins and the fierce new surge of being we feel is stunning. The hermitage pigments are done flapping. Expansion leaves a trail of discarded oysters. It dampens us in expanded dribble. The whole highway is fencing itself.

Demonstrate your tigers then think and interact later. The morning has no effective means to keep a secret. Fathom eyeballs are as pockets of change. Grains in suspension can rattle and multiply. Sweat grabs the skin and makes it gleam.

Goldfish arms unbend on the sandstone which burns. I had enough kisses to parody the harness. The swamp yells its examples in lines. The slide was brooding in moo drool. I put the emphasis on bounce but the hem was the first to plead its heterogeneity.

Heart salt is anything the hectic wrinkle binoculars. Jellyfish henna jarred in butane. Too blue to collect an irritation. Details unravel between your brushes. Explain the intestines. Why are incongruities always so developed that a mongrel hammer gladdens the hand of Thor and winter arrives in a harrow?

Consider parrots. Explore a sycophant. Papier collé looks chronological on muffins. It is a severity too old to pack. Fire fangs deepen the taxi.

This is a house for musk and cinnamon, not a bungalow for shouting. Wire and zippers meet certain ontological needs but we must anchor our personal sense of existence in a frame more personably oriented toward the light. Chiaroscuro branches into a texture. We sweeten our veins with adjectives. We are eager, like intellect, to swing our perspective into copper, and make it last until the chains are undone.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

48 Reasons To Write Poetry In A Time Of Aliteracy

Because words walk out of my hand like coins of fever
And the washer grumbles like a cargo plane taking off from Guam
Because lightning paints the wall with apocalypse
And staircases have implications
Because making a list of reasons for something that doesn’t require
         a reason is inexplicably convivial
Like a skeleton with scraps of paper stuck all over it
Or a catcher’s mitt turning infrared in a dream about pretzels
Because morning is a horse in Belgium
Because the dreams that clams dream are impelled by harmonica
And glass disturbs the rumors of the highway
Because whenever I make an incision in the air a charming
         sidewalk topples out of it
Because I live in the House of the Rising Sun
And the incident rate of odometer fraud is a nebula of alibis
Because there is no way to describe alpaca except with a bagpipe
         and a stepladder
Because vowels are hooked to consonants in a mathematics of
         sawdust and glue
That shine among ships and thicken into life at the exact moment
         there is music clasped to a lip from 10:00 o’clock to eternity
Because hot showers feel wonderful and T-shirts and shoes are
         marvels of sartorial conception
Because truth is slippery and cold and cognition suits the shape
         of the human skull
Like a string of sausages
In a marketplace in the highlands of Oaxaca
Because the sands of time are crucial to cooking
And consciousness is wet and goofy
Because an organ tugs music from a stone and drags it into
Because photosynthesis is an effective way to eat the sun
And rain converts to puddles on the ground
Because the formula for landscape is visibility plus trees equals
         the love of motion
And there are leaves scattered everywhere on the ground running
         the gamut from scarlet to gold
And comets and diplomats are displacements of electrical energy
And Hawaii is a backache
And lava chatters of heat
Because the sound of the alphabet flirts with immensity
And a pitcher of water imitates clouds
Because I feel powerfully alive each time sunset unveils the night
And curiously sad when I get out of bed
Because whenever an American male opens his mouth to speak I
         hear something dead inside
And whenever I hear an American woman open her mouth to
         speak I hear something frightened and dangerous
I hear incandescent capillaries sewn into a sonnet of blood
Because the Pacific ocean harvests a violin
And parables help us understand the sensations which arise from
Because defecation is an enigma more puzzling than baseball
Because airports bananas and little white clocks
Because mahogany is a beautiful and imposing wood and the
         Skookumchuck has cut Centralia in half
Because joy is a mood but life is a feeling and true power comes in
         the form of a strawberry
Because death speaks the language of birth
Because if you thrust a jacket onto the couch it will remain there
Until somebody moves it
Because understanding dust is not the same as comprehending a
         complex emotion
Because echoes in a famished soul develop into libraries
And ankles are miracles of bone and cartilage
Because the little finger thinks it is cleverer than the thumb but is
         not and must be pitied
Because pink is in turmoil and clarinets are immune to drums
Because there is mustard on the accordion and thought is smeared
         into words and the firmament speaks to the mountain in the
         language of thunder and hair
Because jellyfish wash ashore and the hooves of the horses leave
         imprints in the sand that resemble the crescents of the moon
Because destiny is the eggnog of shock
And coffee is eloquent and black
Because Jeoffry my cat is not named Jeoffry at all but Toby and
         Toby is licking himself under the lamp even as I write the odor
         of beef stew fills the apartment and traffic lights would not be
         as effective if they were round like balloons
Because to Hegel the life process of the brain is the demiurgos of
         the real world and the real world is only the external,
         phenomenal form of the Idea translated into forms of thought
And muscle is predicated on bone
Because whenever the word ‘ground’ bends into the word ‘urethra’
         I feel that something wonderful and strange has happened and
         so desire to see it put into simulacrum of floating where I howl
         with laughter and men search for honey in magical Gabon

Friday, November 18, 2011

Mallarmé Packs His Suitcase

Mallarmé packs his suitcase with flotsam and steam and the catechism of dice. There is no end to the horizon. Unlike the rain battering his window and hitting the ground in a chaos of spit and splatter. That will end, and become 200 frogs croaking in Monday drizzle.

Where is he going? What will he do when he gets there? Will he find pleasure in water? Will he find sufficient rope to tie the sky to the earth?

It is 12:58 p.m. I am anchored in front of a computer. The snow slides gently and smoothly to the ground, softening and homogenizing form in a uniformity of white. Mallarmé exists in a different space and time. But we are linked. By poetry. And an ocean of blood flowing around a complexity of muscle and bone. Which is one and the same thing.

Laugh at necessity. But don’t laugh at pewter. Swimming is difficult in an empty pool. Pain sparkles in the shadows.

I am a monk in a realm of improbability. I prefer to wear denim most of the time. I like to experiment with words. Glazes and equations. Formulas and morals. Mass times bikini equals paprika. The square root of accordion is yellow fever. Pump means nervous multiplied by taste.

The window smells like an airplane. But the color of innocence blossoms in sugar and the fire vomits sparks.

Birch excites my words. Birch is a perspective. And a shaking and a deepening. A horse flies through a sonnet. Indigo lives in a violin. Frankenstein stumbles through the forest. His clothes are rags. His eyes are flames of hot bright mustard.

Everything meaningful exists outside of time. Identity is most acute when it has no identity. Once I was Jean Jacques Rousseau. Now I am Thomas Hobbes. And the world is a leviathan.

What shall we call this world? This place without regiment, or horticulture. Let’s call it a pink balloon at the bottom of a rockery. A man pumping gas on a Saturday night in Nebraska. Three women sitting in wheelchairs in front of a Christian science church. Medallions of pork on a juniper plate. A woman in a yellow bathrobe, fingernails ablaze with pink.

The galaxy oozes visibility. Japan emerges from the fog. Water drips from the leaves, soaks into the ground, and rises back up in the form of sap.

I stop to gather healing elixirs in a garden of handsprings. Do you accept my nudity? My alphabet of needs and butterflies? Consciousness coils around a sound and becomes a word. A stirring of coal dust attacks the syntax of science. If cynicism doesn’t work, use force. If force doesn’t work, use poetry. Space holds the wind in a grove of willow. It waits for you. It is a gift from heaven. It is dangerous and strange and awakens the dead.

One of the reasons we cannot believe our senses is because the phenomenon defies any reasonable explanation. But it’s true. Snow is magic. It advances the truth of mutability. I see a haiku in your cheek. And a hunger in your eyes.

I made a strong cup of coffee this morning. Run as fast as you can if you see me coming. I am a peacock. I am a silhouette in the blinds of the window.

A man in a suit stands in the middle of a dirt road. It is Stephan Mallarmé. Holding a suitcase in one hand, and an umbrella in the other. It is 1:47 p.m. The moon is a teaspoon, an idiom of feeling. There is a pitchfork in a ditch, its prongs rusting. What is he doing? Where is he going? Does he know? Is he real?

Yes. Light is composed of waves. But no window ever got lonely by hammers, and no hassock grew a name out of antifreeze and rhetoric. It takes a nerve to pinch the temperature, and a roll of cellophane to crackle exemplification. When the bus comes, hide behind the pathos of tinfoil. Think thick thoughts of ginger. Scold reality. Surrender to the blues. Kiss the occasional peach and clap at each papaya. The world is doing what the world does, which is spin, and splash, and pivot into pantomime, weaving groceries out of words and highways out of wind.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

More About Money

Money isn’t hard to understand
People think money is wealth
But it isn’t it’s only paper
It’s less than paper it’s endeavor
Prospects and dreams convictions and schemes
It is airy nothing it isn’t even numbers
Numbers are for economists
Economists do not understand money
Politicians do not understand money
Investors and bankers do not understand money
If you want to know about money ask a poet
Poets understand money because they understand simple things
And money is simple it is so simple it is naked
Money is not astronomy money is paper
It is words like lipstick and fence
It is sloppy like feeling
Rain on a window
Money humors the intellect
With representations of time and labor
And skill and knowledge
None of which can be truly represented
Which makes money silly
Nothing in this universe has value
That can be quantified
And printed as money
Or the price of carrots or the price of guns
People kill for money how ridiculous
Is that it is less ridiculous
Than killing for religion or an idea
If somebody doesn’t like your method
Of worship or museums or weltanschauung
Tell them to go fuck themselves don’t kill them
Supply and demand is punctuation
It isn’t providence or pudding
Gross domestic product is just that
It’s gross and repellent
Because the main industry and product
Of the United States is death
Killing people directly with bombs
And bullets or more insidiously
With meaningless jobs
Why do politicians always say we need more jobs
I know how to bring more jobs
To people my policies will grow jobs
People don’t want jobs people want money
Because money is paper and folds neatly into a wallet
It isn’t even paper anymore it’s pixels
Algorithms dividends derivatives
Mutual funds collateral due diligence
What’s that it’s nothing
A poem has far greater value
Even a lousy poem
Why because a poem is based on interest
Genuine interest not the rate
At which banks charge borrowers
For the privilege of enslavement
That’s insane
Debt is insane
Unless you owe someone your life
Because they saved you from drowning
Or being eaten by a bear
A rhapsody is worth more than a Maserati any day
Medicine and education should be free
That’s a no brainer
Wealth depends on a healthy community
A community that charges exorbitant prices
For things that should be free
Is doomed to die a slow ugly death
The limbs grow gangrenous
And no one can support the corporate body
When it has scales and venom
And eats its young

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Max Jacob’s Cuff Links

This is my life, a ghost town on the verge of development. Flowers in a taxi. A headland emerging from the fog. Snow arrives in big white dollars. The water slaps its chaos against the sand. Wherever I look I see the spectral poetry of night, the prodigal poetry of day. It is a disease. Poetry is a disease. The strain of it leaves a stain of enthusiasm in my suede. Circles ripen in mutation. Duality is combustible. I can feel Montana in my shoulder. I can hear Roberta roll the compost bin up the easement.

Is there a glue for sticking daylight to an anchovy? I have carved an alphabet out of Martian air. I have preserved it in a jar. It wiggles around in abstractions of daily existence. The curious history of Max Jacob’s cufflinks serves to demonstrate the grandeur of detail in a simple piece of glass. Moonlight has broken the bottle that I hide inside.

Knock knock knock. I open the door and there stands General Grant. What are you doing here, I ask. He offers me some coffee. He comes inside. We talk about war and death and life and the weird smell of the basement. We are all Greek, he says. We are all involved in an epic struggle, when in fact we are but the puppets of capricious gods.

This is a delinquent logic, I tell him, but true. Years ago I married an asterisk in my search for the ablution of glue. I want things to cohere. I want things to stay together. But they never do.

There is an image in my heart. It is a soccer ball stuck under the tire of a green Volkswagen. I hope the owner of the car will see the ball before they start their car and squish it.

Look: I can do tricks with my wrinkles. One day you will be old too and have wrinkles like me. This is my favorite wrinkle. I pull the rain through the eye of a needle and the overhead fan dances on my spoon. A group of elves shave Elvis. An empty mug surrenders the voice of a skeleton. I hear the crackle and pop of someone opening a package they have just removed from the freezer. I reach around and scratch my back. I get up from my table. I put the sun in my pocket and the moon on my head. And I leave. I just go. I’m tired of waiting. Waiting for the wormwood of truth. Waiting for the purpose of everything to reveal itself.

Crows make such odd noises sometimes. I wonder what it means. Cats are meditations in repose. Things explain themselves by kerosene. By interrelation. By fork and formaldehyde.

Who is Nina Hagen? Do you hide yourself in wine? The romance of the lighthouse is finished. We all navigate differently now. We use satellites and pixels. We use time balls and chronometers. Wisdom and semen. Mucilage and dreams.

I like the feeling of water passing over my body. I like the feeling of air going in and out of my body. I like the feeling of music in my blood and the way candlelight permits certain intimacies. I like the way dawn imposes itself on the mountains and the way colors hold our attention until an image reaches our brain.

The exact cause of poetry is unknown. There is no reason for it to exist. There is no reason for anything to exist. The sun arrives and unpacks its light and the day begins. A new chapter crawls out of my head and sits down on a sheet of paper and attempts to mean something. Mean something so weighty that it stays there. Tugs like an act of will. But it never really does. All I see are Max Jacob’s cuff links. A sleeve and an arm and an old man leaning against a column staring off into space.

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Memory Of Ankles Boiled In Naked Rhetoric

Winter kisses the rails with rain. Two men converse in the caboose. Inflections rise through their throats and emerge as instructions and tones. Equations of movement float ideas of space huge as thought and soft as the scrotum of dusk.

Does a fetus feel the emotions of its mother? It’s normal to want to live in a shell. The orchard is filling with infantry. The United States is a giant contradiction, and I have a blister on my soul.

That is why there is a meeting today in the bank vault. Destiny is crickets. Money is mere proverb. These very words are steeped in meaning. Yet mean nothing. Language is a map for the discovery of chalk. I will employ a little plaster to substantiate my theory. The letters are real. They percolate my feelings. There is more than a single umbilicus. The veins become an energy and the desolation cracks our lips. The ratio of pain to pleasure is getting a little dicey. Something needs to be done. Something large and axiomatic. Something glorious.

Jesus enters the bank carrying a Glock and a submachine gun. He means business. He’s had it. He’s not fooling around this time. Violence failed Picasso. But it won’t fail Jesus. How do I know? I’m shaking all over.

But that’s not really a part of this story. It belongs to a sweet white hour of snow whirling in the beams of headlights and a fast and slippery chase on the icy roads of Nebraska. A time before mirth and grease expressed our reverie in rags.

Fictions aren’t written to gain our trust, but resonate parallels within the gravel of our urges. Stories are crossties in the railroad of life. Creosote insures longevity, while a search for spiritual meaning often conflicts with a need to survive. Is there really any way to know if a car mechanic is being honest?

I once owned a typewriter that emanated the sweet and sour odors of sex. I used it to reach transcendence, the peaks and valleys of Shelly’s poetry, a verisimilitude of Christmas decorations overflowing from a box high on a shelf in the basement of a distinguished misanthrope. I celebrated Thanksgiving on the moon. Prayer and embroidery traveled through telegraph wire. We listened to the Beatles in a ’62 blue Bonneville sedan. Dolley Madison repaired a zipper on my jacket. We robbed 42 banks that year. Sipped fat oysters from their shells and packed our suitcases with books and moon jellies.

Have you ever thought about hands? Really thought about hands, gave them your full attention, held them in your mind and clasped them together like a marriage in a junkyard?

The thumb is a thesis of opposition. I gather shadows and grind them into bicycles. I read Spinoza. I yearn for the jewelry of enigma. Philosophy grows parallels between existence and postage stamps. I am naked granite. My first accomplishment of the day is to set my feet on the floor and try to remain erect. It’s important that I achieve some form of balance. Why? I own a flea circus, that’s why. We don’t mess around with dermatologists here. It’s all poetry. Frankenstein in a bathtub, singing French folk songs.

It is said that poetry is a mutation and will lead one day to strange maneuvers and peculiar phenomena such as shoes and airports. Amazement will come to you in the form of a wrinkle. Or maybe a waltz. Linen and bone blossoming in an ocean of sweet sensation.

I am awed by the alacrity of digestion. I once saw a drug swallow a window. It took three days to digest. We found it in a pile of lumber, glass shattered, nails trickling from a paper bag. The view was still in it. A bride stripped bare by her bachelors oozed nebulas of unmitigated milk. There was a motel in the background, and a highway so lonesome in its misdemeanors it advanced by hope and neon. It looked like Omaha. But I’m going to guess Honolulu. The night was too anxious to do anything but glitter and rattle its chains the way it always does when there is a full moon and a little beatitude gets wedged between the words like an eye.

Can an appetite gargle you to dust? Don’t eat a window. If you must eat something, eat an emotion, a memory of ankles boiled in naked rhetoric. The aftertaste will veer into benediction.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Yahoo Yaw

I’ve never been into sailing. It has never had any appeal to me. But there is a nautical term that has a great attraction. The word is “yaw.” Yaw refers to a deviation from the course, usually for the purpose of gathering a greater amount of wind. This term strikes me as being very similar to the Japanese practice of ziuhitsu, which means “follow the brush.”

Writing, which bears many similarities to the practice of sailing, and navigation, requires deviation when the matter at hand grows stale, or a shiver of light on the horizon invites exploration. There is no shame in changing direction, particularly when the winds of inspiration open our eyes and ears to new possibilities. Fresh associations. Curious sensations.

If we remain stubborn and refuse a change of direction, we find ourselves in the doldrums. We languor in a calm, groggy with torpor, leaden with inertia.

It is said that when the winds disappear, the sea has no swells, and if there are no clouds or moonlight, but only stars reflected on the calm, mirror-like water, there is a sensation of floating in space.

There are times when it’s good to have a little calm. Some time to reflect. To make some repairs. But if we remain in this state we die. We exhaust our provisions. We grow mad for movement. Crazy for change. Hungry for some new development, even if it means a storm, or tidal wave. People often feel strangely euphoric during a catastrophe.

We need perturbation. A worry. An itch. A memory. A sudden discomfiting idea. Some new perception that shakes our model of the universe. Anything that can give us some propulsion.

Each effect has a cause. The cause of color is light. The cause of light is darkness. The cause of darkness is the absence of light. Absence is the cause of presence. Presence is the cause of absence. Circularity is the cause of circulation. Circulation is the cause of impressionism and pewter. Karakul handsprings rehearsed in a rickshaw. The savor of silver in a Kickapoo flute.

What made Mark Twain shave his head in Florence, Italy? I do not know. That is between Mark Twain and Mart Twain’s hair.

If I think of a thread, and add to that a thought of water, I may arrive at an image of hair. Hair is water pouring out of the head in the form of thread.

We converse with the dead in our dreams. William Shakespeare says hello. He hates the movie Anonymous. He wishes that everyone would stop arguing about who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays and just enjoy the plays.

Travel is good for the soul. Even if you don’t go anywhere. You can always go somewhere. Some people go all the way to Paris, or Kuala Lumpur, without going anywhere at all. Travel isn’t about distance or speed or movement. It’s a matter of seeing things differently. And deviation. Tacking. Swinging about. Shifting accents. Opposition of planes and volumes. Cross-rhythms and a slight anticipation of the beat, with the unexpected placing of accents and with the shapes of melodic phrases.

There is a yaw in music and a yaw in writing that mobilizes contrast and creates a space that is vast and infinite. It ruminates on dimes and earns perception by detonating paradigms. The chair pleads for a metaphor and the sails propose to the wind.