Friday, June 30, 2017

Change

Remember? Remember when that thing happened and the stuff in your lungs was replaced with thick fire? Each right cross pang catching you chestwise

breaking lines in your
thought
feel
day
nights of nightlessness

That one time you considered harm. It was something you floated in, no sign of land. Lost seas of midnight. You gave up. You died. You came back. You blinked. You slept.

And one day, against the plan, you laughed.

You shrugged it off because you remembered to be sad. Find the rut, climb back in. It's shaped like you, after all, and cold and hard and that's what you get. Dinners are made, somehow. Work. Thanks for showing up today. Very small things transpire.

And, like an unwatched kettle, it happens.

A different place. A new time. Words like 'chapter.' Laughing and crying take turns having their way with you. The trees change clothes and some summer night you see that the stars never stopped migrating. It all keeps going, and your not the center after all, not always.

Spring has become summer, my friends. Let's raise a glass to change. We're still alive to experience it. That's something. May the changes happening with you now be ones you can acknowledge and appreciate.

And you know what?

I hope they are fucking awesome.


Perfect musical accompaniment, courtesy of someone who gets it.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

We're Expecting

We all have them, and we love to feel smart by convincing ourselves we shouldn't or (better) eschew them for flexible happiness. But it's silly. Of course we do. Of course we wield them like children. Some are healthy and essential for the day-to-day.  But we are spoiled, as a culture, a species, as individual bits of grumpy dust. Give us an inch, and we expect to be promised a mile with dividends. We are not a happy lot. Meet our expectations, as we are content not happy, content. Did we not plan for them to be met? Even Steven. Many of us are fortunate enough to have food, air, shelter, pleasure even, as though all of this is some kind of payout for a bet well won.

But it isn't, and we didn't.

Each thing - a step, a smile, a meal, a kiss - these things are bonuses. Boons! For we were promised nada. No legally binding blood oaths for a stretch to live long and prosper. An aneurysm, while running. Peaceful in your sleep. The unfortunate target of dark alley random selection. It's all fair game. Tragic, yes, but only because of the accepted expectation that this will not, should not happen. We have been promised nothing, and each breath, is a gift given by *insert belief here*. Somewhere in the next town over, someone has just been hit by a car crossing the street to visit a friend, a brother, a lover. He or she, in an instant, will never walk again. Life is changed forever. For your feelings of inadequacy, bad luck, what have you; that person would give anything....anything to be able to be in your shoes, if even for a day.

I forget this all the time.

Big things. Small things. I truly believe that a major key to being happy on a regular basis is not to abandon expectations, but to manage them the way we do all the things, manage them with common sense, perspective, compassion, and emotional intelligence. Try to avoid the deficit perspective - seeing your situation and taking special note of all that is missing. That is I. That is what I have struggled with for years. It comes from a shadowy place I continue to explore. What in the world would I do if I found myself happy?

So,  here and now, I'm making yet another renewed pledge to stop looking for problems, appreciate what I experience, and do my best to move forward in love and respect for all of it, including me.





"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not seek answers, which cannot be given you, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything."

~ Rainer Maria Rilke 
from Letters to a Young Poet (trans. Stephen Mitchell)

Sunday, May 28, 2017

In Praise of Fire



Flame (n.)


a. a glowing body, generated by fire

Hot. And warm. It affects the things it touches. A nourishing heat, an indelible singe, complete consumption. Proper distance is the key to survival. If met by another of its kind - growth. And it does require. Attention and sustenance and respect and also air.



b. brilliance, a state of burning brightly

Figurative, literal, measured by means, lit by spirit. Some kinds can show the way. Others cannot help but to blind.



c. the contrasting light and dark figure seen in wood used for stringed-instrument making.

The trained eye finds the form, feels its weight, understands the value of the thing itself and how it reflects what it is not. He works, knows not to force, finds that balance between what he wants to create and the perfection of its natural state.



b. an object of passion

Elemental. Strange and like water. Light and lit approach. Curious. Hungry. Feeding.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Weather Report

Good morning. 

Here just off West 7th in Saint Paul, it's cool and cloudy. The winds are 12 miles an hour from the past, and wistfulness is at a steady 72%. Around the corner a story is having fun folding and unfolding for your pleasure. Meetings take place. A beautiful face, pillow-framed and sated. Children laugh by the water. Someone's heart stops somewhere, while another beats like never before. 

The universe if often portrayed cold and neutral, and through a telescope, it probably is. But I've always sensed emotion there, some small patch of green imbued in the grey. A town tired from the night sparks a smile that flares before falling. A slow morning shot through with fever and silence. And somewhere close a happy fool seeing a little more, draws pictures in the air.



Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Fresh Feeling





THE SHIFTING WEATHER plays a shell game with the aging.

With each missed guess, the walk gets harder. It's a type of wearing down, cheetahs and gazelles, coalitions of the quick who know how to outlast the tired and tiring. Little nips, jabs really, that take away your legs in the end. It's worse than a storm. Slow exhaustion that doesn't test your chin, but the old man strength you better be cultivating all the while.

Half asleep, a thought. My strongest emotions, welling up, seem to always drain into sadness. I wonder why that is. Good fortune my way, but the shadow looks for conspiracies, tears it down, as if looking for proof of its architecture. But not this time.

It stands. It reflects light. That's enough for me.
That will be enough for me.

Learning to convert shade into shining might be the best thing I'm finally learning to learn.

Happy Wednesday.


Monday, April 3, 2017

Morning Devotion

Holy, still morning hour. Bare and fragile these moments just before dawn find you. Sometimes you are the one singing, and sometimes the voices are in procession as you watch, as if from the sidelines of a funeral, a royal birth. So strange to feel brought low but not defeated, more like finding your knees to avoid smoke at face level. Now and again the mind races, tries to find a way to reflect some reverence proper. Instead you fumble with your hands, eyes darting. Didn't you once even bow?



Do not misunderstand. Drink and feed from the well. Convert it with all that strange machinery you have inside. Condensation. Distill.

You are broken and perfect and capable of multitudes and joy, even when seen from so far above.
Act through breath. Serve with best moments. In preparing for them, they are manifest. Do not forget the cycle called spring.

Holy still morning hour.
A genuflect of tears.
Dirt made clean
one more day.

I am grateful.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Jungle Love

"In the stream, coursing in veins between the forest pickets, stood a great hart. Silent as it went, easy like his gait against the vague shores, he collected nourishment of wildly abundant humus, which was found among the strangest cell configurations, trees, undergrowth, animals lifted aloft toward the sun. The stillness all around was eerie and stuck in your ear. A rich smack, a gurgle under the clay shore’s shaggy curtain, the slurp of suspicious caves, which now and then occurred like detonations about the woven stream, bore witness to the constant monotony of the process. Out of the forest itself came a crackling rhythm. There the great Pan still prowled.”

from Tropen by Robert Müller
(translated by the Internet + Me)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Shadows and Shade - Part I

THINKING A LOT ABOUT POTENTIAL LATELY. Energy capable of going kinetic. A kind of hope and belief in the ability to fall or fly. It feels like intuition sometimes, in that you can sense it but is only validated when it yields something else.



I was, like most people growing up, lavished upon with a healthy mix of affirmation and shame. 

It was a pretty clear Yin/Yang in our household. My father struggled to approach the changing world with his 1950s world view, a view that made real men hairy-chested, muscle-bound inseminators who could field strip a Buick blindfolded. My brother was born seven years before I was with a love for sports but a body that would prevent him from living that dream. My mother proceeded to miscarry three times before - in what I have always envisioned to be hail Mary coitus - I shot forth into the world. Finally, a chance for my father's genes to manifest in the way in which his God intended. Progeny waiting to be trained for battle, a clean slate upon which to write the ways of men.

Alas, it was not to be. In me he got the flip side of my brother. Born rosy and plump, I developed near hemophilia only to round back out around puberty. I had a general lumpiness of body that could have been molded into anything: baseball, certainly. Basketball, maybe. Football? Well, that's a stretch. The body was there, but absolutely no interest in sports, hunting, fishing, any of the things my father associated directly with maleness. I didn't have to imagine his frustration. I saw it in glances I will never forget, a chill hard to shake off.

  1. The energy possessed by a body by virtue of its position relative to others, stresses within itself, electric charge, and other factors.

Potential energy. Sounds spot on, but it didn't feel like potential to me. To that young, blonde-haired overly sensitive boy it felt like losing the race while your loved ones look on, but in a dream where it happens over and over, skipping like a record just out of reach.

Next: In which there is fire and wheelies and even some Melville...

Happy Piano Day

Monday, March 27, 2017

3/25/17









It grew dark, and somewhere he could
sense the mountain
soften, arid plains
growing wet, and floating
somewhere between them,
a song.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Dancing With Rilke

"Spring has returned. The earth
is like a child that knows poems;
much, O many...for the work
of that long learning she wins the prize."


Yes -
birth inside birth like a seed,
tomorrow's hope today
please come; help us to life again

"Strict was her teacher. We liked the white
on the old man's beard. 
Now the names of the greens, the blues
we are aloud to ask: She knows! She knows!"

Why is it that we always forget
to take your essay colors
and hoard them like grain, that we may sustain
ourselves deep inside these lines.


"Earth, school's out, you happy thing, play!
Now with the children. We want to catch you,
merry Earth. The happiest will succeed."

But you never slow your promise
to keep us young by keeping pace.
And it feels like an ancient lesson
always running beyond our grasp.


"O, what the teacher taught her, all those things
that lie pressed in roots and long
heavy branches: she sings them, she sings them!" *

But you are here;
I feel you, a lover's breath short 
and long,
and proof that we are again
alive. **


* Left side: Frühling ist wiedergekommen. Die Erde from Sonnets to Orpheus by Rainer Maria Rilke,trans. by whomever runs this blog and myself.


**Right side: My spontaneous dance to Rilke's lead.


Die Musik

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Iterative Dying

As I finally begin to feel like my old self again, or rather my new self, I look back over my shoulder to see what I leave behind on the road. As I've said, getting sick slows it all down, turns me in and into a cordial goon. When it happens in winter, you've got a good recipe for deep well pondering and sweeping out the dusty corners of thoughts and feelings. Sometimes when it's bad, like this last time, it feels like a type of coma, wherein I stare out from a working mind, unable to bridge that gap between inside and out.

When sick plays with my head, I find myself reminded of Artur Lundqvist, Swedish writer and author of another perennial on my bookshelf: Journeys in Dream and Imagination: The Hallucinatory Memoir of a Poet in a Coma. Here is another work I discovered in my earliest MN days, alongside our friend Grendel. Lonely for a familiar place, my early months found me reaching both out for new experiences and in for solace. Dreams, dream states, drunkenness, things that made more real some inner space I felt I knew better than all the strange around me. Along with our affable monster, Lundqvist comforted me by sharing his own orphic explorations as he wakes from a 2-month coma and dangles his feet from the pier of dreams.

He covers much ground in his half-dead ramblings, and I soaked up his mutterings like a distracted Zen master. Returning to them two decades later, I see new things, seeds waiting for me to help them open.

He helped me let go of my former life and embrace the present:

"...now I know that death is nothing once is has arrived, neither darkness nor visual impressions, just as if one never existed, a repose like an extinguished flame, leaving no trace...what reason is there to fear nothingness or to rejoice in it..."

He told me he understood the well of my wordy thoughts:

"...in the dreams, a different reality beckoned, one that was both enticing and terrifying, hiding that which was concealed and must not be mentioned in clear words."

But, rereading him again this year, I find I have evolved in my thinking. The sick will return, the draw back may come, but I am intent to move forward, only forward, into the what's next.

"This bug has heart. It feigns exit from the body through obvious formalities of departure. What lies within now is more subtle, clicking and note-taking along with me, synchronizing the steps home I might not notice. Its saps my strength and drugs my work, my communications, but opens these doors inside to explore. More irritating that debilitating, but then it's the simple math that screws you up...And so, starting to understand it, I scheme - small but certain stratagems toward strength, below its own nether-radar line. Ginger, sleep, pepper, focus. Closing the gaps and tempering the weakest plates in the armor. I will outlast this, again, and harden in the process. So evolution."(journal 3/9/17)


Something for the next time the Nyquil kicks and you fall back and in:


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Visiting the Monster






"I am from weak stock, yo,...told you that.
The bones of my father's grandfathers scored
with defeat, failure at every turn." (waking thought 3/2/17)




Sickness
Sickness and age
Sickness and age and winter

and monsters.

Reading Grendel by John Gardner again for the first time in more than 20 years. First book I read upon moving from Tennessee. The memories. Poor old monster, leaving his home outward toward new hills, lost and alone with a hundred soulsongs heard wrong inside his head.

The stuff that happens to Grendel is interesting, too.

I've been sick for the last week or so, and it's all slowed it down - thinking, moving, doing - and it let's the things you've outpaced catch up and needle you with nostalgia, harp songs pulling you back. The music started when, rummaging around, I found my first journal in MN, made myself. It was no less than Grendel himself who prompted me to start scribbling my own. The line-drawn pic above was still taped to the front, along with a cigarette butt. Ah, such virgin thoughts of loneliness.

What I love about Gardner's classic is that there is balance on many fronts: the magnitude of scope vs. size (Grendel comes in at well under 200 pp.). The heights of reason and the lows of brutality. Gardner himself, no doubt, valued balance, as reference to it can be found throughout the work. Too, I see Grendel himself as a fulcrum between the see-sawings of meaning and nihilism, of beauty and falsehood. The universe around him vies for Grendel's allegiance, but he is no easy follower.

So, also, do I find myself waffling between many things in this sick pause from life, many thoughts, many modes of being, many hopes, desires.

It's made me think about the nature and structure of the memoir I'm trying to write.

Perhaps no sprawling Prousitan omnium gatherum, but something small, memories to fit comfortably into your pocket, take to town, back home. Gardner knows better than to tell you everything, but through deft prose, (Thomas) Wolfe-like and flashing a spark in the direction, he leaves us to glean what we may. 

Yes, perhaps something like this, a focused beam on some center of my past, allowing the night around it to be wondered, highs and lows balanced with a knowing, childhood finally made right by the grown up, the work itself finished but waiting, as if one day if I might go back write the darkness, too.



Tuesday, February 28, 2017

First and Third

IT IS EITHER A PLATEAU OR THE BEGINNING of an end. February brought with it this year a strange introspection (yes, beyond my normal, solipsistic overthinking), one of a higher intensity or order of magnitude than in years prior. I literally feel like some astral projection of myself, having taken a step back from my life, turning my domestic routines into a boring third-person shooter. It creates both a numbness and a calm, a balance and a borderline Surreal disconnect from work, cleaning, driving, what have you. 

I was reminded of a never-finished short story I started years ago about a man going through this very thing.

"And yet at the same time his patience seemed to be deepening. Someone had pointed the nozzle of his hostility for the banalities around us straight down or in. Moments what, at one time would have resulted in a display of emotional fireworks, now were sent straight into the ground or, God forbid, directly back into the host...It could be likened to the effect of drunkenness. Left floating int he eddies of the room, the world seemed to speed by oblivious to his needs or wants. For him the stings of failure, adversity, and even disgust had lost their barb, provoking a slower reaction and one always keening toward mere disappointment." (from "The Third Person" ca. 2009)

And so life becomes art. 

It feels also like change, a pupa stage. Maybe I'll use it to do things I normally wouldn't. Take chances normally eschewed because of routine. Who knows? Maybe I will.

The Music


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Of Distance and Depth

Feeling my 49 years lately. It really does go by quickly. Writing a memoir requires you to cast your eye back behind. Climbing toward some unseen summit, they say don't look down. It is fascinating, sometimes sad, sometimes shattering.

I still remember the strange color of sunlight on adolescent grasses, the shape of that girl's face as she turned to smile on me. The pain of rejection and the shame of defeat without a fight. But, too, the feeling of lying in a woman's arms for the first time and feeling wave after wave lapping at my shore, returned in full.

You might call it time numb.




 I suppose that's what we think age can do for us. The hard times and the good test your heart and strengthen your spirit, toughening your leather with heat. Arrows don't seem to pierce the way they used to, at least that's what I've learned to say to myself. Love, however, seem to penetrate more easily than every before, so I wouldn't say numb. I love more deeply than ever before. Pain now has armies to oppose it. Maybe it is just perspective. That sounds better.

Lately, I feel like I have been floating above my life, looking down upon the black and red colonies as they scramble to finish life before nightfall. Floating higher still, organisms become electrical impulses of circuitous life, like thoughts jetting from one node to the next, synaptic train junctions of coming and going, myriad combinations propose and plan and permutations of spontaneous hope go awry. When I see things from this distant vantage, the earth grows this amazing exoskeleton of lightning and will and power. And, like some god, it must now deal with the consequence of its creation.

Good morning, friend.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Vein

Working on the memoir again. Trying to tell my story right again. Keep digging. Find a vein. Mine it. Bleed it.

Realization today:

When I think of my parents, there is a deep sense of sadness, of unresolved shame or guilt. I imagine a movie, in which I am the star, leaving my parents in some German fairy tale scenario, only to have me, in the last moments of their lives, attempt a hail Mary comeback to rectify all the wrong I feel I did them by leaving.


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Sustenance

Loving the sunshine today. Let it fill us with a lust for life, a hunger for sustenance, a will to not only move forward, but to thrive.

The Words

http://www.thrushpoetryjournal.com/july-2015-michael-k-gause.html


The Music


Friday, February 3, 2017

Deadlift Blues

At some point you stop fearing, if only because the fear has gotten too great. Like some tribal rhythm which ceases, due to its length and constancy, ceases to distinguish itself from everything else. At some point you stand up and begin to walk. The blows, once avoided, are merely shrugged off as part of the movement.

I know people who are doing just that. From under crushing weights, they find the strength to deadlift dread and begin to move forward. They have the help of people who love them. Advocacy. Hell, maybe even something like victory. I know others who are doing the helping. In so doing, their strength and purity intensifies, and I am even prouder to have them in my life. They are the ones doing the hard work, yet the ripples of the situations in which they are involved issue out, and mix with other negativity muddying the waters of our daily lives. The current political situation. The almost constant news of violence that solves nothing. All of this becomes more crushing weight that we must carry. It is heavy and it is frightening.

At some point you stop fearing, if only because the fear has gotten too great.

Move forward, always forward. I'm doing it, and you are much stronger than I. Move forward because amidst all of this, there is love and support all around. I feel it, and I attempt to share it. Take the hits and advance. Echo all the negative that comes your way with humility and love. That's ours. That shit only gets snuffed if we let it. That's what I'm trying to do, and it feels right.

Go. Be awesome.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Getting Off the Bench

"Then will we dance? I cannot believe it is so far between knowing what must be done and doing it." ~ from River Notes by Barry Lopez



Reading on the train this morning, the line stopped me cold. It reached back years and rang a bell. The work itself, imposed and imposing, was the thing. Who am I to accomplish it? The eternal question, born of fearful messaging, reared on a healthy diet of ostracizing and bullying. The shying away from anything that might be witnessed. Winning was only considered in tiny realms supported by the few. Teachers, friends. I, the dust speck born to watch, reared to stand behind and monitor the rise and fall of things. Some find the strength to push through. I have had friends who disappeared. So strange to feel one's self created a sentinel only to observe, any visible accomplishment better left to the stronger ones, the ones who build the mountains.

But now I know that work and no work feel the same. Two sides of the coin in hand. Now it is the so-much-to-be-done that overwhelms, the knowledge that I can do it all. It is the focusing and moving forward amidst the confusion and white noise all around.

With this post comes a renewed attempt to post weekly.

Comments and suggestions from you, the ones who read, are appreciated.

Cheers