I work in a laboratory of language. Current experiments revolve around Ava Gardner, English hair styles of the 15th century, and Pythagorean eyeball adobe. Each time I get a glimpse of the sublime or hear a helicopter hovering over the Aurora Bridge my thoughts turn literal and harden into the semiotics of traffic. I must add tonic. There is nothing symbolic about mosquitos. I can feel the expansion of language press against my ears and move perceptions forward, counting on the paraffin of the mind to produce a flame of silent heat.
My desk is a dark nineteenth century oak that is ideal for describing armchairs and romanticism and Shelley’s urge toward Swiss mountain climbing. I have a formula for slamming doors on the immediate bruise of eternity and access to the broom in the storage closet in case the neighbors get too noisy and I have to pound the ceiling with the handle.
I only rarely employ turpentine. I find metaphors wherever I sense the presence of the oblique, something ineffable, something too fine for words but too fat for a normal sentence. Was it Auden who called this The Age of Anxiety? Are we still in that age? I still have anxiety. But also the weather of a doorknob placed carefully in a jar and a hydraulic lift I use for moving heavy ideas around the poem. This is an exciting planet. Many of its structures are geometric and require special handling.
Sometimes I will strain behind a joke to socialize my fingers, or demonstrate the viability of protoplasm by bouncing a little red ball through a Rolling Stones song.
I have a sack stirring with a thousand winds and a religion refrigerated in Russian ice. Whenever I’m feeling unfettered I skulk around the apartment describing the mind of a mountain with a few dishrags and a glass of milk.
Charcoal presents a more subjective state, but I prefer it for its other more operational qualities, such as sketching rattlesnakes as they casually jump rope or the symbolic weight of a crab rendered in quiet abstraction. I will stare at a teabag as it slowly revolves dripping tea, until it has stopped dripping tea, and hangs, still moist, still a shade of light brown, reminding me of my first night in North Dakota in the middle of winter. But then it wasn’t tea it was whiskey and the actual month was June and the temperature was above 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Some of my experiments go a little awry. But what was it Francis Bacon said? “If we begin with certainties, we shall end in doubts; but if we begin with doubts, and are patient in them, we shall end in certainties.”
Perhaps this is why I always find morning a little more compelling than sunset. The sun is the very start of a scream, a silent scream, a nuclear furnace rising out of the void and casting shadows over the prairie, the dragonfly on the fire escape and the murmur of air in the wheat.
The chemistry of writing is largely sexual. The hand glides over the paper in rain and thunder leaving a trail of grammar and elliptical debris. I cannot repair this imagery. But if you press hard enough on a proposition such as this, quarks will begin their little dance of mass and energy and Ava Gardner will sway to the chuff chuff chuff of a maraca’s beat.