Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Is It Not

The Poet as cliff, rock, shore
Is it not by his high superfluousness we know
Our God? For to be equal a need
Is natural, animal, mineral: but to fling
Rainbows over the rain
And beauty above the moon, and secret rainbows
On the domes of deep sea-shells,
And make the necessary embrace of breeding
Beautiful also as fire,
Not even the weeds to multiply without blossom
Nor the birds without music:
There is the great humaneness at the heart of things,
The extravagant kindness, the fountain
Humanity can understand, and would flow likewise
If power and desire were perch-mates.

- Robinson Jeffers, "The Excesses of God"

* * *

The fucked are blind. The fucked spend their days in lack. The fucked take their wounds too seriously and miss the extravagant kindness that surrounds and attends them. The fucked are, in a word, fucked.

* * *

I have come late to this dance, but I pray there is a song or two left in the band. If not, then such is my reward for believing only in the absences and not the endless, endless, endless thingness of my life, of any life, of all life.

Poetry is thingness plus a mind to order it, to say, "From these things - cliff, rock, shore - unseen things flow: imprint, myth, mystery, consciousness, meaning, solace, joy." Does joy have a physical presence, or is it perception and spirit? And mystery? Consciousness? They are as real as any physical thing, and it is in the created world we find the representations of what we know only in thought, in desire, internally. Poets point us to things and then push us past the thing itself to the thing behind it: creation. If you are fucked you create nothing. You exist outside the flow of the excesses of God - not as an outcast, but as one who refuses to enter.

* * *

A few weekends ago I sat along side a shallow stream that emptied off a small, marshy lake. Spring had yet to fill out the trees and it was overcast, rainy, cool. I sat with my back against a dead tree and watched ducks, cranes and herons take flight or stalk through the shallows. My battered copy of Jeffers poetry with me and I read in the solitude of being near water. I read to myself and then whispered the words out loud and finally read the poems in full voice to the ducks, cranes and herons. Jeffers made me notice, attend to my surroundings and the stillness was astoundingly full. There is only so much information your brain will process on default, but if you attend, if you focus then it all unspools and you see small things that mean more than large things. You become aware of your own thingness. Such is the true value of poetry: attendance.

I was by the marshy lake on a retreat with a group of mentors and their charges. We were encouraged to spend some time alone and just let it soak in. When I got back from my time by the water one of the kids was also back, but jumpy, alone, distracted, unengaged. I was asked to help him. So we hiked back to the spot by the shallow stream. It was as if I hadn't been there just minutes before. I saw more than I did before - paths through the thicket, the bones of animals scoured of their flesh by coyotes, birds and finally the insects that glean what is left behind, and the ugly presence of garbage left behind by others who had walked this way with blinders on. In a silty bed, the kid saw a large fresh-water mussel shell and asked if I could fish it out. I leaned out over the water and scooped it up. Once rinsed of the fine, melted chocolate mud that covered the inside of the shell it gleamed with mother-of-pearl iridescence: the domed secret rainbow of the shell.

It could only be called an extravagance, a superfluous gesture that meant nothing to the creature who lived inside the shell, but because we saw it we imbued it with wonder that such a thing could be so. The shell was just the shell. I decided it was beautiful. I placed Jeffers excesses of God there for no reason other than it was already there.

Like I said, the fucked are blind to the thingnesses of their lives. Yes, the shell was indifferent to my wonder, but I was not and that is the difference between being fucked and being unfucked.

You can read all about it in Mr. Jeffers poems. Mr. Blake's, Mr. Whitman's, Mr. Yeats', and an infinitude of others as well. You just have to open your eyes.



  1. What if you can't get to your joy in life? What if it's already gone and there's no way to get it back? What if you have this problem? I do. It's really hard to get around. What should I do now?

  2. If you can't get joy back in your life, it is you stopping it. The past cannot be recovered. Let it go. Live for something larger than your trial. If you haven't already, please read "Man's Search For Meaning," by Viktor Frankl. You aren't the only person who has ever lost something and struggled to find their way. Read and you'll understand that you are not alone. Good luck.