Monday, April 30, 2012

Poetry Requires Difference

Dante and his Comedy between heaven and hell.
Poetry requires difference by its nature. If poetry makes itself out of ordinary boring imprecise language (as much published poetry does), it is mediocre or bad poetry. Poetry to be beautiful must separate itself from the ordinary –– by extravagance, by purity, by precision, by original vision or imagination.

- Donald Hall, Their Ancient Glittering Eyes

* * *

If it is true for poetry (and it is true), then how can it not be so in life?

* * *

"I read poetry all the time. It's where I get the news." So said an old friend almost 20 years ago. When she said it I knew she was right. That is, if the news you seek is about something other than current events. Poetry aims elsewhere. It can take the quotidian and fashion something eternal, or it can take those fleetingly current events and freeze time. Poetry aims elsewhere - outside of time. It is a stake stuck in the ground insisting that this not be washed away in the endless waters of time; it insists on its voice, it's prerogatives, it's one clear moment of understanding carved out of nothing but thought and cadence. 

Others taunt me with having knelt at well-curbs
Always wrong to the light, so never seeing
Deeper down in the well than where the water
Gives me back in a shining surface picture
Me myself in the summer heaven godlike
Looking out of a wreath of fern and cloud puffs.
Once, when trying with chin against a well-curb,
I discerned, as I thought, beyond the picture,
Through the picture, a something white, uncertain,
Something more of the depths—and then I lost it.
Water came to rebuke the too clear water.
One drop fell from a fern, and lo, a ripple
Shook whatever it was lay there at bottom,
Blurred it, blotted it out. What was that whiteness?
Truth? A pebble of quartz? For once, then, something.
 Poetry aims elsewhere, and for once, then, something emerges and that makes all the difference.

* * *

What is being fucked other than always being wrong to the light? If you think poetry is about lilies of the field and weepy love, then you have only been reading Hall's mediocre or bad poetry. If you think your life is supposed to be a jaunt through high meadows in full flower, then you are living a mediocre and bad life. Life, if you would live it awake, requires difference by its nature. If your life is fucked it is because you have been imprecise or have not insisted upon your vision. You have failed to be extravagant in the living of your life. 

What hems you in? What whispers in your ear and says, "That's too much to hope for?"

If you are to unfuck what's been fucked you must, by purity of vision, by exactitude, take what is ordinary - being alive - and transform it into eternity. All within the bounds of your rotting body. This is what makes man great. This is what makes life, unfair in its premise, worth wrestling with, worth shaping, worth carving, worth meeting and insisting that this moment not be lost, this moment not be a formless blip, but instead be something.

It does not matter what you aspire to. Aspire.
It does not matter if you care about poetry. You are a poem.
It does not matter how long that stake you pound into the ground lasts. The good it can do for you is while you are alive and if you have been precise, if your vision is purely your own, if you have loved your life extravagantly, then there will be good left behind when you leave: others you have touched who find in your example the courage to look beyond the surface reflecting back their own image and aim elsewhere.

* * *


Friday, April 27, 2012

Well Maybe We've

Well maybe we've all got our missions
and they're doled out like seeds into the ground.

- Lia Ices, "You Will"

* * *

It's like this: the challenge you and me face is to see. Clearly. Without clouded, maudlin, woeisme eyes. We all got trouble, brother. We all got trouble, sister, and that is the least of it. Tell me something new. Tell me what you see. Tell me what you see that trouble cannot destroy. Tell me what you see in the midst of trouble, through the trouble, in spite of the trouble, because of the trouble, beyond your troubles.

We all got trouble, brother.
We all got trouble, sister.

Now, tell me what you see.

* * *

I drive a long way to work. It is a country road drive past mansions and shacks and farms, through small towns and great tilled fields and great fallow fields, and I am sometimes slowed by tractors and tillers using the road to get from one parcel of land to the next. There are fewer people along this route than other routes I could take, and I like the lack of density and I drive and drive and sail along. The drive takes over an hour and I listen to music, the digital equivalent of the mix-tapes I made in high school, to settle my mind, to transition from the guy who wakes early to write his way out of trouble, to the guy who works to buy his way out of trouble. It all ends too soon: the writing the ride the music the quiet that settles me the sense of calling duty mission I have with the writing the ride the music.

And I see lives I'll never know. Lives lived in a manner I'll never know. I wonder about who lives in that ridiculous McMansion with too many horses on too little land. I wonder about the lives lived so that hulks of non-working cars and boats and trucks populate the yard and a brand new swing set shines in the middle of that junk. I wonder about the people in the cars going in the opposite direction, in the cars that turn off, in the cars I pass. I think about their dreams. I wonder what they are like. On this sparsely traveled road past and through towns with less than 500 people I think there are too many people for us all to find meaning, for us all to find our way. Some of us are always going to be lost. Some are always going to be fucked and the guy with the horses is no better off than the guy with the rusted out cars. Same with the guy driving my car.

Who am I to think I get a pass, or that because I write and still make mix-tapes to soothe my mind, to woo women, to listen for something that is recognizable in me that the guy in the car that just passed me isn't thinking, "Better him than me."

And that is just a trick bag of fear, as if there is a finite amount of meaning or happiness or purpose in the world. Yes, there are too many of us, too many who are living pig-fucked lives of fear and ignorance and hatred and intolerance and just fucking giving up because it is hard to see beyond the trouble, to live alongside trouble, in the midst of it. Too fucking hard.

But maybe we've all got our missions and they're doled out like seeds into the ground.

It takes a measure of faith to believe in the work of seeds. All the work is done out of sight, underground, in utero, and then...


* * *

The seed doesn't need you. It is you who needs the seed.


Monday, April 23, 2012

I Do What

I do what is mine to do; the rest doesn't disturb me. The rest is inanimate, or has no logos or it wanders at random and has lost the road.

- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, Book 6, 22.

* * *

Last night, I started reading a copy of Calvino's Invisible Cities that I'd bought second hand some time a go and had never gotten around to (I sold my original copy years ago with most of my library to raise some money. I sometimes think I'll run into one or two of them again as I go about re-building what I'd decimated.) On the inside of the back cover, written in a forceful hand in blue ink I found this:

I am broken at last – not by anyone but me. Broken and free at last to do the living on my terms: not by circumstance or anyone else's opinion on how I should live.

There was no other note written in the book, no marginalia about Marco Polo and the Great Khan, or the fact that all the cities in Calvino's book are all given women's names. Nothing but this stark statement about being broken and free.

It reminded me of Aurelius. (Most things do.)

* * *

I wondered about the anonymous note writer. He, the handwriting is decidedly male, found it necessary to write this note, to place it on a piece of paper, on, perhaps, the nearest thing he could write on - the urgency of it still visible in the indentation his writing made on the soft, thin paper stock of the cover. Why would he need to write it down? If his statement was true, surely he would remember it without the aid of a note written on the inside of a paperback book. Did he write the note there and leave it at that, or did he re-write it elsewhere, expand on it. He was reading Calvino, so words meant something to him. But more than these questions (I, too, will write on anything at hand and often fill the books I'm reading with notes and story starts and exclamations such this) was the shock of recognition.

The dude was writing about me.
He was writing about you, too.

If you are diligent, or lucky, if you persevere to the point destruction, if you have been held captive by other's plans, by your own fears, if you have covered your body in the wounds you have received along the way - their scarring thick and heavy, if you have allowed the authority for your life to drift from your hands in the name of making money, or accepting an offer of love in exchange for your acquiescence, if you have become proud of the limits you've imposed on yourself the most valuable thing that can happen to you is to be broken.

Not like a horse, but a vase.

Whatever shape you've contorted your life into through fear, through false pride, through false suffering, through indecision, through the inability to choose this over that, it is not the shape you would have given yourself, but instead is the one you fashioned out other's expectations - their fears, their inability to cope with life, their ignorance abut what life is for.

Listen, listen, life is not for making money, or even falling in love, nor is it to find Jesus or Buddha or Ganesha. Life is to be experienced as you are. The privilege of a lifetime is to live it.

And if you've been fucked, you need to have that shit broken.

* * *

I do what is mine to do. Your purpose in this world is to discover your work and then with your whole heart give yourself over to it. This is the gift you give others: a soul engaged.

The rest doesn't disturb me. You will either encounter other's fully engaged in living and so receive their gifts, or you will find the blind, the stumbling, the fucked. Either way you cannot live their lives for them. Let go of trying to do so. Live. Your example will be enough for anyone else chooses to see.

The rest is inanimate, or has no logos or it wanders at random and has lost the road. Logos is meaning and lives can be lived without meaning, without purpose. It wanders at random and has lost the road. This you know too well. Don't waste your time yelling at the deaf. Don't waste your breath. Don't waste your heart. Don't blister your heels running in the dark. If it is dead, it beyond reach and the living are sometime more dead than a corpse.

I am broken at last - not by anyone but me. Being broken by circumstance is being fucked. Being broken, at last, by your own hand is freedom from the past. When there is no pride left in being fucked, you are free to experience your life: broken and free at last to do the living on your own terms.

* * *

One last thing. Do not mistake what I say as an excuse to be self-indulgent, self-important, to ignore others (I'm not ignoring you, right?). When you get to the point where you have been broken, where you have discovered your work - regardless of your circumstance - and you have given yourself over to that work, immersed yourself in it, the product of that effort is always facing outward. Your inward work becomes an outward expression and that and that and that is the gift of knowing your name.

One more last thing: the metaphor of being broken is just that: a metaphor. You, the essential you is not broken. You are fine. What needs shattering is the shell of other's expectations and opinions that have closed you off from your life. Break that and you'll see you are unbroken.

* * *


Monday, April 16, 2012

Well You Go

Well, you go through the drama 
and you work in the dharma
Then you stand up, 
stand up and wipe, wipe the mirror clean
And she go steppin' out queen, 
steppin' out, steppin' out, steppin' out, steppin' out

- Van Morrison, Steppin' Out Queen

* * *

You are making this more complicated than it needs to be. The mind expects grand, profound solutions to the existential drama that is a fucked life. But honestly, that's just your ego running ahead of you announcing your profundity. It is one of the things that keeps you fucked, my profound, deep-feeling friend. You can go a long time down that road. It is masochistically soothing to hurt all the time: at least you are feeling something and you can offer up that hurt, that suffering, that confusion to some belief you think is higher, grander, more profound than you.

Right on.
Been there.
It sucks.

That would be the drama Mr. Morrison is writing about.

It is dramatic to feel it all, to feel you can feel it all. It is feel-y. It is also feeble. The easiest path to follow is the one worn smooth with mea-culpas, self-blame and self-importance. None of this is honest. It is false suffering, useless, self-serving, ego-stroking suffering. "Hey, everybody, look at me! Look how much I feel!"

You feel me?

Like I said, you can camp out there for a long time, but sometimes it happens that you get sick of it, of your dis-honesty and you venture off that path. You decide it is time to get to work - on yourself, on living, on believing in something other than the hurt this world can put on you.

You enter the Law, the Universal Law that girds our phenomenological experience: Mr. Morrison's dharma. Call it religion, call it duty, call it teachings, call it ground-floor, call it anything you like. It doesn't matter. Dharma is and what you call it is meaningless to the dharma. But not to you. The dharma is where you live, where you breathe, where you build, pray, act. And when you enter it, you believe, you believe, you believe, you believe.

Right on.
Been there.
It's beautiful.

Spend the rest of your days working in the dharma and you will be happy, at peace, content to know your place, your work and you will rest in an easy bed. Promise. And here's the thing, you can't help but work in the dharma. Like I said, dharma is.

But sometimes it happens that your life is still fucked. Things are out of step, even just a bit, and it gnaws and troubles you. "What gives?," you think. What the fuck? Right?

Try this on:  the Buddha said if you meet the Buddha on the road you must kill him.

You feel me?

It is up to you to learn how to live your life. Anything handed to you, will, by definition, be less than what you need. The missing element is your choice, your discernment, your surrender, your active participation in walking the hard road down.

So you stand up and wipe the mirror clean. And if you've been listening to me and Van, you go steppin' out, steppin' out, steppin' out, steppin' out, steppin' out, steppin' out.

* * *

You are here for a short time. You might as well make it a good time. What that looks like on you, only you can answer. And here's the news: that is the best news possible.

* * *



Thursday, April 12, 2012

I Will Hold

I will hold this love against God,
eternal damnation, anything.
That is true love.

- Joseph Campbell

* * *

There is a story, a hidden story, a forgotten story that I have always loved (is it not the unearthed story that tells all the truths? What you can say out loud is only that which you care to be judged by). It goes something like this:

Back in the day, long before there were men, there were only angels. They hummed and vibrated a radiant light of pure love as they surrounded and exalted God. God said to them, "You'll put no other before me." And they did not. Into this light God brought them a gift: man. God said to his angels, "Bow before my creation." And they did. Except for one. Lucifer. He said to God, "I love you. How can I bow before man? It is to you I pledge my love. There is no other. Only you." God will not suffer disobedience and casts Lucifer from the humming, vibrating bright light of love, damning him for eternity for his insolence. Lucifer bears up this pall because his love of God is greater than God's blindness.

The End.

* * *

Here, let me say it to you plainly: in order to unfuck your life, you must love someone, something beyond yourself, something you are willing into suffer for, but more than that - something you are willing to live for.

It is easy to call it a day and say it is beyond your ability to change what has become of your life. And to a point, that is true. You cannot change what has occurred, what is occurring. You can only change how you process it, how you react to it, how you incorporate it into your life.

What is your Promethean liver? What are you suffering for, what is it that has you chained to a rock? Can you name it? I've been able to name mine for a while now, but something was missing, something kept me chained. I thought once I could identify it, name it, call it out, I could vanquish it. But it is not so with me.

Let me tell you what I was missing. Maybe it is what you are missing as well: love. A fierce love of life, of someone, of something other than me and my suffering. I found I could bear much, but without a love beyond my suffering, beyond my trials, I was forever bound to those trials. I could not be free. There are chains we wear because they are foisted upon us, and there are chains we build for ourselves. There are times, maybe the length of your lifetime, that you cannot be free of your outward circumstances. I doubt I'll be free of mine, yet I have a choice as to whether or not those circumstances are the sum total of my life. On bad days, on fucked days, it is so.

Freedom arrives with a fierce love, a love you are willing to hold against God, eternal damnation, anything, because through this love you are free of such things as God and eternal damnation and anything else. You are timeless. This is what frees you. Reject the parameters handed to you, told to you, imposed on you. Choose to live for something beyond those strictures.

The rest can go fuck themselves.

* * *

Lucifer is not evil. He is a spurned lover trying to find his way home.

The quote from Campbell is about Lancelot's inability to see the Grail. It was forbidden to him because of his love of Guinevere. But he and Guinevere knew something the Grail boys did not: a love that could be held against God.

Bear up your pall with love, fierce love and it ceases to be a pall.
Bear up your pall with love and you are free and someday they'll write stories about you, hidden stories, stories to be unearthed and finally spoken aloud - regardless of how it is judged.

* * *

Boom, motherfucker. Boom


Saturday, April 7, 2012

I Need You

Ices (Isis)
I need you wild 
(Is this what we're living for, 
to be known and a little more?)

- Lia Ices, "Grown Unknown"

* * *

There are questions we never ask, desires untold, and they, and they, and they more than the things we say and do are our true selves. This was our pulse. Our desire. Our own force through the green fuse that lights the flower, that we extinguish, that we exchange for a place in line, a place at the table, a place we promise is where we'll make the stand we've refused to take to date.

Is this what we're living for?

Here's some unshakeable news: the universe is 13.72 billion years old. Human-ish beings have been scraping their knuckles on the ground since about 200,000 years ago and then 50,000 years ago they started thinking, creating, believing. Team Man.

Our puniness is breathtaking.

Into an ancient void we spring up like a weed: self-important, certain, fearing, never looking at how unlikely we are. To stem the tide of collective nausea that comes with such distances, such vistas of time, we have used our creative capacities to organize systems of belief that answer or refute 13.72 billion years of a history we cannot imagine.

And yet we are here. Puny, no doubt, but here anyway.

Into this unlikely circumstance we have poured our energies into what? commerce? war? fear? conformity? a circling of the wagons against the depth of space? vacuity? sleep?

I need you wild.

* * *

I cannot tell you if God exists in the canyons of time.
I can only tell you what I know: we are here anyway and we fill our days with utterly useless, constricted, fearborn doings. We refuse our own impulse in exchange for such paltry rewards that it embarrasses the soul to be bought so cheap.

Is this what we're living for?

Tell me no. I need to know that the answer is no.

14 billion years, give or take a few hundred million, is a long time. We get around 80 if all goes well. Tell me again why you want to spend a single breath with anything less than what makes you wild, makes you the unique, ridiculously small, unlikely and the only you there will ever be. Tell me about those questions you never asked, those desires you rejected for something else, for someone else's desires. Is your life fucked? Tell me no. I need to know the answer is no, not ever again, not now, not while there's a breath left on your lips. Tell me you know yourself, no part left out. Then, then, then only then is there any hope for you to know me.

This is what religion and slow dancing and songs and the invention of love and Sunday mornings sleeping in and the hour before dawn and sacrifice and desire and tenderness and forgiveness and the sweetsweet words "Run into my arms" and handmade gifts and dinners cooked late at night and poetry and fireplaces and pillow talk and children and talismans and healing wells and transformation is for: to be known and a little more in the canyons of time.

It's our only defense.

I need you wild. I need to be wild. The rules we've been handed are there to trade one fear for another: the void of time for the void of more immediate hatreds and fears. These we know how to handle: barbarians, others, tribes unlike our own.

But I need you wild.
You need to be wild.
14 billions years won't die, but you will.
Tell me again what you're living for?

There is nothing higher for us than to be known and a little more.

Be wild.

* * *