I walk out of the house and I cannot remember where I am going but still, I go there.
I walk out of the house and I cannot remember where I am going but still, I go there.
this is not spoken word. these are words, spoken. ~ this is not slam, this is the door. this is the window. this is the glaze. this is the breeze brought across your skin. this is the wind on the water and the breath on the surface. this is the ripple. ~ this is the breath of the earth brought to the sky. this is the surface where the landscape is seen. this is the landscape where we all wander. this is the place where we all are lost and this is the only place where we will ever find each other. ~ this is living a vibrant adage. this is living on a verdant ledge. this is living on that vibrating edge. ~ this is not my body. this is my voice. this is vibration brought into being. this is my mind pushing a column of air, somewhere. this is sound shaped into meaning. this is me breathing, in you. this is muscle and cavity, moving. this is diaphragm, lung, larynx, tongue, lips and jaw. these are my words in your mouth. this is my world in the mouth of your mind. ~ this is not performance, this is incantation. ~ this is where body touches mind. this is where meaning is born and this is where meaning dies. this is not finding meaning in a story. this is making a story mean something. this is not seeking meaning. this is living meaning and this is making all these things mean something. this is not seeking, this is making. this is mind making myth. this is myth-making mind. this is making myth mind. this is myth making mind and this is making me (into) a myth. ~ this is not ritual, this is invocation. ~ this is not some thing, this is something lived. this is some but not all. this is the sum. this is the current. this is the slow movement of mind and this movement is not mine. this is the company of misery. this is the beat of the beaten. this is the brand of the new. this is the spent cartridge, the smell of sulphur and a cloud of rust in a sepia sky. this is blood sucked straight from the sand. this is the tatters of the temple’s torn curtain. ~ this is pure speculation. this is mind ore. this is the whore of the mind doing its helical mambo. this is me fucking me. this is what it means. this is what “it” means. and this is all there is. this is all there is. this is all there is. ~~~~~ (I began this piece sometime in 2015 and have tinkered with it on and off ever since. As happens often with me, I get tired of looking at things or I don't know what else to do with them and so I abandon them here....
“Poems are never finished – just abandoned”
I sometimes (very rarely--when I somehow, strangely am not too embarrassed to--when I actually feel comfortable enough to--share with people that I actually write poems...) tell people, when this, that or another topic comes up in conversation, “You know, I’m actually working on a poem about that.” Recently, I have come to realize that often this “poem” that I am working on is often just a line or two sitting in its (or their) own otherwise blank document, waiting for me to finish it (or them)--sitting there in a primordial soup of meaning (or is it meaninglessness? I lose track...), like dry little sticks, poking up through that pure white nothingness of snow, waiting for spring to come and the thaw to begin and the juices to start flowing up, up from the soil from which they are growing. So where or what is this actual “poem” that I say that I am working on? (Is it the twigs? Is it the snow? Is it hiding in the earth underneath?) It’s not the grouping of words that finally finds its way onto the page, and it's definitely not those one or two lines, sitting there, all by their lonesomes on that big, blank, cold and lonely page. It’s something else, something that existed long before I even knew where those one or two lines were going to go or where they came from or where they were going to take me. It's something that spoke to me with something more (or was it less?) than words. It's something that I sometimes think of as a constellation, for lack of a better word to describe how this thing that hasn't yet made it's appearance in the world feels, or felt, back before it knew what it wanted to be. It's a thing that starts as a melange--part scent, part emotion, part kinesthetic feeling, part logical thought or conundrum or paradox, part memory or missing memory that pulls at me from the dark corners. It's like walking into a pantry (your grandmothers, your dream grand- mother's, your dream grandmother's dream), full of spices and herbs and root vegetables, dark and dusky autumnal reminiscent golden light and being overwhelmed, dumbfounded and found dumb and mute, being stopped right their in the tracks that you only just now (by virtue of this thing happening) realize you were riding on (when you thought you were in control, thought you were in the pilot's seat), by.....
...something... ...and then trying to put that something into words because words are all that you have and you know--you just Know--that someone, somewhere has had that something in their hands before, had it run between their legs like an obstinate feline, they've felt it brush by them, felt that very same thing's whispery wing push a gentle breeze across the skin of their upper arm and you just KNOW that you have to tell them, "I felt it too."
The poem is a thing that exists outside of time and space. It was there even before I wrote those one or two lines and it is something that is also else and other than the final thing that eventually finds its way on to the page. “A poem is nonetheless present from the conception, from the first germ of it crossing the mind—it must be scratched for and exhumed. There is an element of timelessness. The leading atomic scientist in Australia agreed with me the other day that time does not really exist. The finished poem is present before it is written and one corrects it. It is the final poem that dictates what is right, what is wrong.” —Robert Graves (from an interview in Paris Review) “Even the right words if ever we come to them tell of something the words never knew” --W. S. Merwin (from “What the Bridges Hear”, in his brilliant book of poems, The Shadow of Sirius) ~~~ It is thanks to Holly Lofgreen that I have come back to this Intersection and finally finished it and posted it after it sitting in my drafts folder for at least a year. We have been discussing this ephemeral nature of the poem--where it comes from...where it goes--which has helped me to crystalize these thoughts. There is power, real power--the kind that comes from a vulnerable honesty--in her work. You need to read her.
I. A little girl sits on a bench, swings her legs and reads from her book of a thousand and one jokes. I glimpse, in that act, a young woman, and I am thrilled and deeply shaken at once. II. A look crosses a woman’s face, flashes for less than a moment, too fast to be more than barely seen. The girl that once was comes passing through a passing thought and is caught —only not caught— and gone before she is known for what she is or what she was, left with only the memory of an expression of memory passed beneath the surface. The little girl is gone. III. A little boy cries out from an old man’s face, the sad one, the lost one, the last one, beyond comprehension of a hard-won heart. The learned self-given healing —even that— is gone. Pain as can only be known to a child is carried on and on, a burden that one never wants to open. IV. A son is asked by his father —but it is the cry of the lost boy, ripped from somewhere deep in the old man’s throat— “Will you be my mommy?” How can a son answer this, when his father does the asking? Is this what it feels like to be born? To lose forever the warmth that is still (but now only) known from within? We find us both lost past longing and long past lost. Incomprehensible why this happens to any of us, this slap that is existence. A son is carried by his father for so many years that he is shocked to realize he is no longer being carried, surprised to find himself standing with his own legs under him. V. A little girl sits on a bench, swings her legs and reads her book of a thousand and one jokes. I glimpse, in that act, a young woman, and I am thrilled and deeply shaken at once.
It was... …about this time that I decided to become the list, to see and feel what came next, to know from within the dead weight and heft of every single form that I could fathom, the grand scheme (if you will) of this healing human game that has played into (and out of) our history in countless ways for countless days, jogging our memory, not judging us exactly, but still keeping an eye on us from— lying just there—just inside the door, measuring and metering and giving nonce notices from the threshold, once in a while letting us pretend to be in control, (queer as that may seem) while still and stilly and quietly reassuring us about our lacks at the same time, and stretching us ever-so-gently, nursing us at the beginning and at the end, taking its time with us, not leading us directly to (never that!) but at least pointing us ever more towards understanding, placing things in our paths with the utmost veneration, teaching us the value and deep, deep roots of our wonder, opening and reopening us, encouraging us to not fixate on the x-y axis of every single thing around us, while still reminding us of the value of anchors, yearning for us still and always to always and still reach somehow beyond our zenith, and maybe—just maybe—helping us to get out there, somewhere just a little bit closer to it.
Day 13 of National Poetry Month.
And we are looking at things that we do not want to look at…
Time Colonel by Carolyn Forché WHAT YOU HAVE HEARD is true. I was in his house. His wife carried a tray of coffee and sugar. His daughter filed her nails, his son went out for the night. There were daily papers, pet dogs, a pistol on the cushion beside him. The moon swung bare on its black cord over the house. On the television was a cop show. It was in English. Broken bottles were embedded in the walls around the house to scoop the kneecaps from a man's legs or cut his hands to lace. On the windows there were gratings like those in liquor stores. We had dinner, rack of lamb, good wine, a gold bell was on the table for calling the maid. The maid brought green mangoes, salt, a type of bread. I was asked how I enjoyed the country. There was a brief commercial in Spanish. His wife took everything away. There was some talk then of how difficult it had become to govern. The parrot said hello on the terrace. The colonel told it to shut up, and pushed himself from the table. My friend said to me with his eyes: say nothing. The colonel returned with a sack used to bring groceries home. He spilled many human ears on the table. They were like dried peach halves. There is no other way to say this. He took one of them in his hands, shook it in our faces, dropped it into a water glass. It came alive there. I am tired of fooling around he said. As for the rights of anyone, tell your people they can go fuck them- selves. He swept the ears to the floor with his arm and held the last of his wine in the air. Something for your poetry, no? he said. Some of the ears on the floor caught this scrap of his voice. Some of the ears on the floor were pressed to the ground. May 1978