Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Art of Complaining

I have never understood the taboo against complaining. Why are people so offended by it ? Why are there so many complaints about complaining ? Why is it considered to be the social equivalent of a public fart? Could it be people haven’t learned how to complain ? Isn’t that what stand-up comics do ? Because stand-up comics are really great at showing how fucked up life can be, and making us laugh. Complaining does not necessarily exclude a sense of humor. Satire is complaining with a keen sense of subversive wit. Irony is complaining with the trenchant blade of a feisty romantic. Tragedy is complaining with the sublime eloquence of ancient Greek drama. A joke is a complaint in the guise of a clown.
I love to complain. I revel in it. I complain about the weather. I complain about people. I complain about ugly buildings, bad drivers, duplicitous politicians, overly expensive lawyers, a lame and corrupt judicial system, thick, impenetrable denial, and off-leash dogs on city streeets.
One of my favorite complaints is noise. This is an area in which I can really wax eloquent. My entire life has been a battle against noise. A quest for quiet. A place to do my writing without having leaf-blower engines, car alarms, heavy metal, rap, barking dogs, power tools, and screaming children shoved down my ear holes.
Which pretty much means I’m complaining all the time, because the culture in which I live loves to make noise.
Complain long enough, and you get pretty good at it. The top award for complaining goes to Hamlet. That guy knew how to complain. Christ he was good at it. Every speech in Hamlet is a testament to the power of a good complaint.
The male role model I grew up with was John Wayne. He never complained. Complaining was for sissies. Hamlet, by Wayneian standards, would be a class A sissy. A real pussy. But I did not grow up emulating Mr. Wayne and his eternally taciturn tough-it-out, bite-the-bullet philosophy. Fuck no. I went for the Hamlet model. « O that this too too solid flesh would melt, / Thaw and resolve itself into a dew ; Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d / His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter ! « 
Of course, it could be, and will be, argued that complaining was what led to Hamlet’s tragic demise. Had he acted, instead of wander the stone halls of Elsinore brooding and scheming and complaining, he would have become king and gone on to fight another day.
But that doesn’t deter me. No sir. I will not keep my tongue. I will not be silent. I will not be John Wayne.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Carpe Diem and All That

I can’t stop thinking about it : morality. I feel silly thinking about it. I attained adulthood in the late 60s. Morality was eschewed. Morality, that is, as I had come to think of it up to that time. I associated it with stiff, prudish, self-righteous dogmatists, WASP-ish Presbyterians with neatly mown lawns and fat, tidy incomes. Morality was an obstacle to the pursuit of individual freedom, to self-realization, to the pursuit of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. In short, the pursuit of happiness. That fiendishly elusive lotus of enlightened well-being, that chimerical divinity of hedonistic redemption. It was the driving force of the Me Generation. The true meaning behind Jack Nicholson’s irreverent grin. 
Redemption, indeed. As if redemption can be found through self-serving, uninhibited pleasure. Well, it can to some extent. I believe Blake was correct when he said You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough. Amen! Right on! Live for today! Do it! Go for it! Carpe diem and all that!
But no. I would not want to argue a case for redemption through naked impulse and if you can’t be with the one you love love the one you’re with and all that sixties claptrap which did not work. People just ended up divorced and hating one another.
My concept of morality was completely wrong-headed. I won’t go so far as to demonize hedonistic behavior the way Chris Hedges does, but his emphasis on self-sacrifice is the truer course to happiness, as much as I hate to admit it.
Morality does not exist in nature. When a lion brings a gazelle down, killing it with brutal, merciless efficiency, there is nothing immoral about it. That’s what a lion does. That’s how a lion survives. Morality does not enter the equation. Nor more than morality has anything to do with a hurricane, tornado, tsunami, earthquake, or volcanic eruption.
Morality is a human invention. It is designed so that people can live harmoniously in a community. When morality breaks down, community breaks down. When community breaks down, morality breaks down. And sooner or later you  have people killing one another  in the streets. A president who kills innocent people. A president who kills from a distance. And smiles and jokes about it.
Unless you’re on heavy drugs, sleepwalking, or living in a cave, I’m sure you’ve noticed that our world is falling apart. There isn’t much holding it together at this point, despite the comforting illusions created by technological wizardry, computers, iPods, Smartphones, Facebook and Twitter. There is a simulacrum of community. But real communities occur in much smaller places. Actual rooms with actual tables and chairs. And actual flesh and blood people making an effort to be courteous. You don’t find that much anymore. Remember the last time you were at a social gathering ? Were you introduced to other people ? Were you interrupted in mid-sentence ? Did you feel accepted ? Did you feel that people were listening to you ?
Or how about the last open mic you attended : did everyone stay to hear you read, or did they get up and glide nonchalantly to the door after their husband, wife, nephew, niece, son, daughter, buddy, lover got done reading ?
I’m not trying to be depressing. I’m trying to write something for people who, like myself, are a little perplexed by what’s going on, and feel some comfort in expressing and reflecting on it. There may be no answers, but pondering these issues is strangely comforting. I don’t know why.
R.M. Hare, in his earlier books (The Language of Morals, Freedom and Reason) regarded moral judgments as those judgments that override all nonmoral judgments and that the person would universalize. This account of moral judgments naturally leads to a view of morality as being concerned with behavior that a person regards as most important and as a guide to conduct that he wants everyone to adopt. He emphasizes, however, that there are no antecedent principles. That is not what he means by universalize. Life is far too complex and diverse for that. What he means is that as we grow older, our moral development consists in making our moral principles more and more specific. I know, that does sound a little muzzy, doesn’t it? The important thing is to try. If the impulse is there to do the right thing, and act out of kindness rather than dogma, the chances are you will do the right thing, and feel good about it.
Maybe. There is no guarantee. The golden rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, is simplistic, but true. Though I do wish my neighbors subscribed to it more often.
I am far from being a moral person. Had I acted on any number of impulses, I would be in jail right now. When morality doesn’t work, the law often acts as a reliable deterrent.
Unless, of course, you’re the leader of a powerful, war-like nation. The law don’t mean a thing. You make up your own law. You make up your own reality. The citizens of these nations tend not to be very happy. Case in point: Syria.
Or Bradley Manning. Here is a supremely moral guy who acted out of a very high principled stance and is now in solitary confinement in a military prison. Weird what can happen sometimes when one person’s morality conflicts with another person’s need to hide the truth.
And who doesn’t envy, at least occasionally, the sociopaths? People who act freely, uninhibitedly, do bad things to other people to serve their own interests with no remorse, no guilt, no ugly emotions at all. Shit! I wish I could do that sometimes.
But I can’t. Something in me holds me back, urges me to do the right thing. Or try to do the right thing. Most often the emphasis is on try. I heard a great line by Dylan earlier today that sums it up nicely: Lots of things can get in the way when you’re tryin’ to do what’s right.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Human Body: A Morality Play

Each day I am witness to a drama called my body. Headaches, muscle aches, sores, cuts, abrasions, fatigue, arousals, heartburn and sinusitis. All the shocks that flesh is heir to. Nothing, so far, too terribly serious. No life-threatening disease. No broken bones. No amputations. No phantom limbs or prosthetic devices. No physical therapy. Just routine visits to my doctor for a physical once a year, a colonoscopy every five years. Future maladies must be considered as characters in a narrative that is still in development. And now that I’m old, it is inevitable that the plot will, as they say, thicken. It cannot help but thicken. No one gets out alive.

But why a theater ? Why that metaphor ? Are diseases characters in a tragedy ? Yes, absolutely. I like that idea. Diseases are characters. Awful, despicable characters with cruel but transformative powers. They themselves are evil, but the changes they bring about are quite often salvational. 

Or should we consider the body a comedy ? I mean, look at it. It’s funny. The arms and hands are always looking for a way to justify themselves. If they’re not holding something they become awkward and embarrassed. They need to be encumbered to be unencumbered. The legs have an undeniable dignity but the feet are goofy. They just are. It’s the toes. They look so whimsical, and all they can do is wiggle. Genitalia can be summed up in a word : grotesque. But the real clown of the body is the head. The head is, essentially, an exaggerated coconut with an exuberant geography of runnels, pools, and freakish protuberances.

Tragedy or comedy, the body is not a sitcom. Its theater is more asbtruse. It smacks of country longing. Haylofts and heather. We should, in the words of Polonius, consider the body a pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral. If the body is a drama, it must be emblazoned with all the fevers native to its existence. The would include woodbine, ayahuasca , and Beaujolais.

The theatrical metaphor works best from the Cartesian point of view. This is the thought that the mind and body are separate. It is not new. It was popular in Europe in the Middle Ages. I am reminded of the medieval morality plays dramatizing a contentious dialogue between Everyman and a host of abstractions, such as Knowledge, Death, Good-Deeds, Beauty, Strength, Discretion, Five-Wits and Fellowship.

I like this idea. I like this way of framing experience. Here, for example, is a contemporary morality play by Yours Truly:

Everyman: I want to drive a car anymore. I want to fly.

Body: You can’t fly.

Everyman: Why not? 

Knowledge: Because the body doesn’t have wings.

Everyman: Who asked you?

Discretion: Be nice.

Everyman: I’ll try.

Death: Hey, dude what’s happening?

Everyman: I don’t want to die.

Death: Don’t worry. I’m on vacation. But you do know, sooner or later, it’s going to happen. My advice is to party while you can.

Five-Wits: That’s actually pretty good advice. Have you had any of this Merlot?

Everyman: I quit, remember? I’m in a twelve step program now.

Alcohol: Oh sweetie, that’s too bad, we had some great times together.

Everyman: We sure did. I wish we could get back together some day.

Sobriety: Careful. You’re on a slippery slope.

Slippery Slope: Yes. Please get off.

Strength: I will help you.

Everyman: Thank you. You’ve always been a good friend.

Fellowship: We all get by with a little help from our friends.

Death: Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song and I’ll try not to sing out of key.

Ears: I hear you, man.

Mind: I’ve had enough of this. I’m leaving.

Everyman: Where are you going?

Mind: Anywhere. So long as it is out of this world.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Questions of Form

Form is a pharmacy of theory. Nothing is tangible. Meaning that void itself has palpable form. Or that nothing at all has palpable form. And really, what difference does it make?
The marriage of form and content is a chimera. Horses glow in the jaw and occur as tangible living entities in the imagination of the poet whose brain is a boiling cauldron of form seeking form.
In Metaphysics Ζ, Aristotle introduces the distinction between matter and form synchronically, applying it to an individual substance at a particular time. The matter of a substance is the stuff it is composed of; the form is the way that stuff is put together so that the whole it constitutes can perform its characteristic functions. But soon he begins to apply the distinction diachronically, across time. This connects the matter/form distinction to another key Aristotelian distinction, that between potentiality (dunamis) and actuality (entelecheia or energeia).
Because really, there is no form. There is energy and potentiality and what the human mind chooses to put there. Things with flavor and quality but without shape or outline. Shadows and drafts. Drapery and waves.  Phantoms and winds converging in rain. There may be patterns available for these phenomena, sonnets or haikus, but that doesn't mean they're ready to get bisqued and glazed. It means that being is said in many different ways.
Consider, for example, a piece of wood, which can be carved or shaped into a table or into a bowl. In Aristotle's terminology, the wood has (at least) two different potentialities, since it is potentially a table and also potentially a bowl. The matter (in this case, wood) is linked with potentialty; the substance (in this case, the table or the bowl) is linked with actuality. The as yet uncarved wood is only potentially a table, and so it might seem that once it is carved the wood is actually a table.
But what of feeling? What of sensation taken in its purest form, which is formlessness. You can’t wash an emotion, can you? I mean wash it like a shirt or a pair of socks. I can’t even say what I mean by that.
We all have different notions of truth and reality. Questions of form pertain to structure. Sidewalks, bridges, mathematical equations. I can dig this aspect of it. I get silly and mean when I hear about form in the rarefied settings of the university lecture hall and art gallery and museum. You get a bunch of Ph.ds together on a panel and you’ve got a major headache in the making. Water goes softly into the air but not Ph.ds. They overcomplicate everything.
Perhaps I am being a little unfair. I know I’m being unfair. Ph.Ds have invested a great deal of time and money in obfuscation. I should learn to have a higher opinion of obfuscation. There can be no poetry without obfuscation. Or am I confusing obfuscation with ambiguity?
Ambiguity gives form a multi-dimensionality, a revolving-door exchange of ideas that turn vagabond in the country and dialectical on the sofa. But this is not obfuscation. This is dissemination. Inspissation. Imbrication.
Words thicken in passion. Meaning trickles through them like boiling water trickles through finely ground coffee beans in a coffee filter. Meaning meaning is always implicit. It percolates. The more it is pondered the more potent it becomes in its potentiality. The tincture grows silly with polysemy and drift. Footing is less secure. Can it be that this is the reason young men are so attracted to the idea of duty? Of following orders? Is it a matter of gender? Are young women also drawn to swords and shiny buttons and assholes barking orders in the crisp dawn air?
I live in a culture that prides itself on how efficiently it kills people. Poetry is despised. It is frowned on like a disease. It’s easy to see why. Militancy involves rigor. Narrowness. Rigidity. Poetry is the opposite of that. It is a form of meandering. Of submergence and aberration. It feeds on anomaly. So that the forms it assumes vary wildly. So much so that the whole question of form becomes a problem bordering on hallucination. And is, ultimately, seditious. It usurps certainty. So that killing people with drones is a patent impossibility.
Even when I find someone disgusting and repellent in the extreme I have to question myself and ask if I am being overly judgmental, if my perception of that person is skewed, if my perceptions are enfeebled or distorted by an abscess of unfocused rage. And let me tell you it’s maddening. It leads to fantasies of living in the wild west in the 19th century and leading a very different kind of life. Not the life of Henry James, that I can assure you.
Nature, according to Aristotle, is an inner principle of change and being at rest This means that when an entity moves or is at rest its nature may serve as an explanation of the event. The nature of the entity is in and of itself sufficient to induce and to explain the process once the relevant circumstances do not preempt it.
A jug or bottle is shaped a certain way in order to contain wine or water but also so that it may be handled easily when it comes time to pour the wine or water out of the jug. But this is not the case with words. The desk is oak but the words are chimeras. Spirits flutter above the sand. Prospero stands on the shore and creates a storm. He puts the world into chaos to achieve his ends. How does a person acquire such power? This is the power of the poet as it was imagined by Shakespeare. And really, how sad it is when you think about the reality of the poet’s situation. The agitations that go into creating a form. As if it were aform of brocade. An embellishment of thread. A pattern raised on cloth. Perceptions shaped into lobsters. Ducks. Bed springs. It isn’t insoluble just a little nuts. Experience shapes perception. Perception shapes experience. And somewhere in between is the notion of form. Purple swans on a black lake.  

Thursday, June 14, 2012

An Exhilarating Book

 It’s true. Proust relaxes me. It’s those huge paragraphs. They’re just so mesmerizing. I go into solitude and discover there is an ocean in me. I feel it slap against my sides. I wander the world in a robe of feathers whispering that something has vanished. Do not tread on my dreams I say and someone says Yeats said that. Yes I know but this has nothing to do with Yeats. This is how I feel not how Yeats felt. I feel more akin to Proust don’t ask why. It’s like trees. I can’t take a tree in in its entirety. There are too many branches. Too many leaves. Too many textures and irregularities and variations of color in the bark. Each tree is a narrative. It might not be as exciting as a novel by Elmore Leonard or James Ellroy but that doesn’t matter. I’m talking about Proust here. A spoon yells out its bright metal proposition and I think “that’s it, that’s what a spoon is about.” I give my body what it wants. Food, clothing, codeine. Coffee slides through my nerves awakening just about everything. Nerves respond to stimuli. But what stimuli? Not all stimuli is visible. Or even material. Sometimes, in fact most of the time, you have to act as if life were coherent. Even though, deep down, you know that life is not coherent. Study the motion of the hand when it’s writing. I am at the age when I notice these things. This is a sadness, because it doesn’t promise anything in the way of eternity. Quite the opposite. Impermanence is one of the first things you notice in life. Even as a kid. Remember your parents? One day you’re cute and you can do no wrong and people wipe your butt and the next day you’re not so cute and it’s off to school for you. Get out of the house. Go get a job. Clean your room. Mow the lawn. You know what I mean. No need to belabor these points. We all know what it feels like to get kicked out of paradise. Apple my foot. It’s got nothing to do with apples. Can we ever know reality? We all want to find a buried treasure. Especially a treasure buried in ourselves. Our own true selves. And that’s where writers like Proust and Virginia Woolf happen. They happen in rare settings and crystal abstractions. They happen in incongruity and the hot refining winds of intuition. Intuition cannot be pushed or pulled. Watch how the eyeball swallows the world. It’s all a matter of dilation. Life is an exhilarating book. But it helps to consider the syntax. It’s not just a matter of content it’s a matter of undulation. How perception is shaped by language. And vice versa. A box arrives in the mail and a hand comes out and pats you on the head. It’s like that. A knowledge that forms unexpectedly, a vague but persistent sense of reciprocity with the world, rounded and hypothetical like the finger of a ghost.  

Friday, June 8, 2012

Plenary Indulgence

I give the body what it wants: sweets
and caresses, fatty substances, firm
beds to support it. 

-           William Bronk

And warm clothes. You need them where I live. Seattle. The land of eternal winter. I like coats with big pockets, or at least one big pocket, for carrying a book. It’s important to have a book available for those occasions when I have to wait for something. A doctor. A dentist. A bank teller. I used to be able to read books at the airport until they installed televisions everywhere. I’m not religious, but I could go to a chapel. Most airports have chapels, do they not? I could read there. I am assuming the chapels are equipped with speakers so that you can hear your flight announced in the relative quiet of the chapel. Reading a book feels increasingly quixotic these days. The human imagination feels under continual assault. It’s a feeling akin to standing kneedeep in the surf feeling the sand pulled out from your feet by the current. I feel that everything meaningful in the culture is getting pulled out from beneath my feet by a current of conformity. Conformity to corporate values. Which aren’t good values at all. Consequently I am always in pursuit of something that feels inherently anachronistic. Like reading a book. Or engorging my soul with something oracular. Which isn’t easy. There are so many temptations. So many diversions. Learning self-forgiveness is crucial. A formulation for indulgence should include explorations of a sensual nature, like soaking all day in a hot spring, or tasting fine wines. Or drifting through a sentence juggling high explosives. I have a theorem concerning indulgences and it is this: avoid cold. Avoid war. Avoid work. But above all avoid stucco. It’s just so ugly.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


What does blood do all day? And what has it got to do with me?
Every day approximately 1.5 gallons of blood circulate through the veins and arteries and capillaries of my body.
Fine. But what does it do?
Blood brings oxygen and iron to the places where oxygen and iron are needed. Like the lungs. Like just about everywhere. Muscles, organs, cuticles, guts.
Blood is pumped by the heart, which is a large muscle, swelling and contracting in the center of the chest cavity, just to the left. Lub dub, lub dub, lub dub, lub dub.
If the heart stops, you’re in big trouble. If the skin breaks, and the blood runs out, you’ve basically got a mess. Have you seen the scene in Limitless after Eddie Mora stabs Gennady and Gennady falls dead to the floor and his blood starts oozing out from under his body onto the hardwood floor of Eddie Mora’s superexpensive Manhattan penthouse and Eddie, who is lying next to Gennady in a state of exhaustion, gets the idea of drinking Gennady’s blood because it contains the drug that makes you super smart and able to make connections at lightning speed and get yourself out of dangerous situations by quickly reading all the available possibilities?
Blood, as  it turns out, is also extremely photogenic. Because it’s so red. So deeply, deeply red.
There are, not surprisingly, many movies with blood in the title. Blood Alley. Blood Beach. Blood Brothers. Blood Castle. Blood Dolls. Blood Frenzy. Blood Money. Blood Moon. Blood of a Poet. Blood of the Innocent. Blood Relations. Blood Simple.
All beauty comes from beautiful blood and a beautiful brain, says Walt Whitman.
Or said Walt Whitman when he had blood running in his veins.
It inspires me to think of ink as blood. Ink is the blood making Walt Whitman’s words have life in them. Though they could exist as pixels on a computer screen. In which case the metaphor could be transferred to electricity instead of ink. But it’s so much easier to think of ink as blood. Damn computers. They mess up everything. Because they don’t’have blood  in them.
Have you ever met someone who seemed to have circuits instead of blood? I’m sure you have. I know I have. I live in Seattle, home of Microsoft and Amazon. Need I say more?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Du Mouvement

Le mouvement est intrinsèquement amusant. Plupart du temps. Pas tout le temps. Mais la plupart du temps. Le mouvement est franche et symphonique.  Je ne peux pas cacher mes jambes quand mes jambes sont en mouvement. Je ne peux pas cacher mes bras lorsque mes bras sont en mouvement. Quand vous me voyez en mouvement, vous verrez un homme en mouvement. Tout d'abord une jambe se déplace vers l'avant. Ensuite, il est suivi par l'autre jambe. Il n'a pas besoin d'être suivi par l'autre jambe. Mais si cette symphonie doit être continue, puis une jambe doit suivre l'autre jambe et créer un rythme. Parce que c'est une symphonie qui nécessite une surface dure (je préfère asphalte, bien que le béton est prêt à servir), un peu du paysage et la volonté libérale de s'étendre dans l'espace. Une fois qu'une impulsion est atteint, le reste est plus facile. On pourrait penser de l'excursion comme une fugue, si on se sent désorienté, ou une toccata, si l'on se sent comme se déplaçant à un tempo rapide.

J'ai une forte préférence pour les espaces plats et ouverts, mais le destin, qui aime jouer les blagues sur les gens, m'a placé dans une ville de collines. Ascensions sont souvent raides.  Juste ce côté de ne pas exiger des crampons. J’incline vers l'avant. Juste un peu. Alors, hisser toutes ma volonté dans mon coeur et mon esprit, je soulève mon pied et le faire tomber quelques pouces à l'avance. Je répète cet effort avec mon autre jambe. Si elle réussit, j'augmentera. Si elle ne le fait pas, je fera une pause pour réfléchir sur les conséquences du reste stationnaire pour une période de temps indéterminée.

Bien sûr, pas tous les mouvements consiste à marcher. Il y a aussi la flexion. Je n'aime pas à se pencher. Se baisser. Se courber. S’accroupir. Je trouve la sensation d'être un peu désagréable. Il n'est pas aussi lourde que d'aider quelqu'un à lever un matelas dans une maison. Mais si je peux l'éviter, j'éviterai. Si un penny vole de ma poche lorsque je tends la main pour mes clés et le penny roule sous la voiture, je accepterai sa perte. Je peux me permettre de perdre un penny. Je ne suis pas indifférent à sa perte. Mais il y a des fois où il est plus commode de laisser les choses à faire que de faire un effort pour les récupérer. Mais si, comme hier, ma carte de crédit est tombée à même le sol d'un restaurant, je dois plier ma volonté vers la nécessité de plier mon corps.  

Mes favoris mouvements impliquent mon bras et les mains. Caresser le chat. Retirer une charge de vêtements chauds de la sécheuse. Remuer une marmite de soupe avec une cuiller en bois. Changer de vitesses. Lever une fourche avec un morceau de viande de ma bouche. Tenir une femme. Écrire. Frotter. Manipuler. Massage.

Je ne dois pas oublier les mouvements subtils de la langue, sans qui, aucune de ces choses seraient en forme et fourni avec le son. Qui est  un mouvement de vagues. Qui est une animation du sang. Qui est un tourbillon barbouillé avec une brosse de boulevards.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Mania Of The Moment

A gust of consciousness animates a garden of words and voila! there is a birdbath filling with rain. There is a string of words all claiming to be gems of available light. Goya doesn’t babble about such things, but he doesn’t have to. He paints. Me, I continue my search for universal mind, the measureless untouchable source of all things. What is this universe but a lot of waves? The smell of thought floats in this very sentence. Imitating mountains. Finding their momentum in the wings of the hummingbird. Giving birth to dragons and gargoyles.  Bubbling out of the paragraph like France, or a fiddler crab gleaming with Hibernian light.

This is how we make a world and live in the world we make. We make it with words. We make it with bricks and mortar. Bubbles scintillate in the sink. Blood circulates in a kind of dream. And we find that when we are done with our shapes and maps we are left with a bruise of recognition. We find that something has come alive. Something that we must nourish. And reach. There is always the danger that the world we make will become too literal, and incline toward mahogany.

Our thoughts can become a cage if we don’t challenge them. The noise of emotions eludes the lacquer of description. Stars spill out of my pockets. Sweating is strange, it’s like being caressed by a warm bath coming out of your skin.

The world comes out of us in different ways. Some people must have Hefty bags on the ready. Others are content to sit all day staring at a garage door. The poem, meanwhile, gets whatever it wants. Raspberries, fire, a handful of drugs. A frequency crawling out of the radio. The sound of a door opening in a west side hotel. A jar of stars. The metamorphosis of bread.

I find a strange satisfaction in breaking an egg with a butterknife. The egg feels just right in my hand, a perfect shape. The butterknife feels shiny. It is shiny, but it also feels shiny. As if light had a feeling like stainless steel. Together the egg and the knife are balanced. The challenge is to hit the egg with enough force to crack the shell, but not so hard that the knife penetrates the yolk. It doesn’t really matter if I break the yolk. It’s just a nice little challenge to see if I can break the egg without messing up the yolk. And then I pry the shells apart so that the contents fall into the hole I have made in the bread, now frying in the skillet. It’s called Egg in a Basket. Something I learned from V for Vendetta. It’s delicious. The perfect meal for the subterranean  miscreant.

My thumbs yield numerous diversion as well. More about that later. For now, I must mention something about the life of the poet in the 21st Century. The life of the poet in the 21st Century is exotic. And I am reminded how Jacque and Etienne Montgolfier’s balloon rose at the court of Versailles on September 19th, 1783, and flew for eight minutes, covered two miles and obtained an altitude of about 1,000 feet. It’s crew, a rooster, a duck, and a sheep, landed unharmed. That’s what a poem must achieve. It must walk with mountains. It must serve the experiments of the marvelous. It must be a vehicle for exaltation.

I once saw a ball of gas squeeze into a consonant and give birth to a vowel. The sound it made was heartbreaking and russet. It was hungry for expression and meaning. Crying out for water and thread and fantasy. This is not, however, the way things usually evolve. When talk becomes visible it resembles a stew. And we can continue to think that the world is what we think it is.

Seeing things differently leads to conflict. Artists and visionaries celebrate the obscure not because it hides anything but because it’s ungovernable. Glass honors its transparency not by showing us a view of what we know is already there but by evolving into mirrors.

Or breaking the light into a thousand colors.

The disintegration of Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss)  in Close Encounters of the Third Kind was, in fact, a spiritual awakening. First he is fired. His employers don’t even want to talk to him. He has had a vision. He is therefore contagious. His transcendent vision is a threat to the tyranny of routine. His wife Ronnie, played by Teri Garr, tries to bring him round. Bring him back to the mundane realities of everyday existence, the exigencies of child rearing and paying the mortgage and bills and, most importantly, an intimacy based on normalcy. It doesn’t work. He is drawn inexorably to his fate on Devil’s Tower.

Words flow. They do not tick. This was written on an old brown desk that once belonged to my grandmother. She kept a diary about her life on a farm in North Dakota. The weather, the price of wheat and milk, people coming and going.

People are always coming and going.

Whatever happened to Major Hoople? Where did Lil Abner go? No one is speaking. The hives are silent. I continue to push one absurdity after another into the world. Clouds push the sky to another country. Where is that other country? Does Lil Abner live there? Does Major Hoople still wear a fez? How can we escape from the prison of the world?

We think the world is real because we made it up. But this is only partly true. Take my hand. There’s something I’d like to show you. A lobster shaving in a men’s room. You can see how such things happen. The words are crucial. The words are magnets giving themselves to the mania of the moment. Everything is happening. A swallow swoops and glides. Its intent is unclear. But it dips and thrusts and swerves. Burning like a presence in the morning air.