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


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:

" 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:

" 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 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.