never been into sailing. But there is a nautical term that has a great
attraction. The word is ziuhitsu, which means “follow the brush.” Writing, which
bears many similarities to the practice of sailing, requires a shiver of light.
There is no shame in changing direction, particularly when the winds are
curious sensations. If we remain stubborn and refuse a change of direction, we
find ourselves groggy with torpor, and if there are no clouds or moonlight,
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 propulsion. Each effect
has a cause. The cause of color is dreams. William Shakespeare says hello. He
is a frost giant groaning in the bitter Arctic air. He vacuums an elevator for
roughly five minutes. Or is it ten? Did I mention that there are woods nearby?
The woods abound with acorns. The age demanded an image and so I gave it
acorns. Hummingbirds and wine. Oak. Oak is a beautiful wood, brilliant in its
moral of pushing the poem forward, causing it to branch, emerge from the dark
and run into the streets of Manhattan full of terror. Because that’s what
poetry does. It makes a reckless infrared tennis shoe plausible as a
construction crane. Tentacles of a giant octopus swishing back and forth over
the windshield and hood. I never take the sun for granted. I lapse into
obscurity whenever I feel like it. I’m timid at parties. I despise anything
that involves badges, or potlucks. It is useless to worry. But I do it anyway.
Somebody has to do it. Meaning, like radar, determines the sound of a shovel
plunged into soft dark earth, and gives us a skull to ponder. For this is the realm
of ziuhitsu and margarita means daisy in Spanish. The elevator rises to the fourth floor. The fourth floor offers housewares
and kitchen gadgets. It is, I agree, sad to bring delicacies into this world
and then get tyrannous about it. The man in the bakery shields his face from
the heat of the oven. An upholsterer daubs a box joint with beads of glue. Life
in the United States always tends naturally and inexorably toward the
Whitmanesque. I do not know why. It must have something to do with space. Enormous
shopping malls. Walmart. Home Depot. Target. It cannot solve itself. It must
lose its geography to speed. The Navajo believed the soul to be part of a
divine being called the Holy Wind. The Holy Wind suffused the universe, giving
life, thought, speech and the power of movement to all living things. Their
sandpaintings are full of symbolically expressed motion: whirling snakes,
rotating logs, streaming head feathers, whirling rainbows and feathered travel
hoops: magical means of travel. Easy to see why Pollock was so enamored of
Navajo sandpainting. Again: Japanese zuihitsu. Starting at one place, ending up at another. Like
life. The trembling of gauze in a quiet African room. Air
mingling with air. Form mingling with form. Emily Dickinson watching through her window the light spread over the
dark imagined land. And finding the eyes to bring it to life.
John Olson is the author of numerous books of poetry and (chiefly) prose poetry,
including Dada Budapest, Larynx Galaxy, and Backscatter: New And Selected Poems. He is also the author of four novels, including In Advance of the Broken Justy, The Seeing Machine, The Nothing That Is, and Souls Of Wind.