Monday, November 30, 2015

Out the Well the Mushrooms Grow

The night was busy pulling the rope all sleeplong
until the bucket hit the air.
Do not deny the precision of the gills.
Do not deny the seriousness of attire.
Do not deny that you can not even begin to imagine
that which stands before you
sudden body,
stately, homely.
Stop wasting time wondering if something comes from nothing.
You've eyes for the first act only,
annihilation so severe
you'll no nothing for the duration of rope's bucket.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

genealogy, hope and a christmas turkey

there is within me a persistent unrest, a yearning i cannot define, imperative and absorbing...I want to hope, I should like to know. I need limitless illusions....
Senancour, Obermann

the first time Christmas died for you 
   you were ten or so
but you didn't know it had died;
   you only knew that something in the air was different,
or worse, 
   something inside of you, 
as though a casket had become the casing of your body.
   so you bore down with your reserves and continued to learn
and demonstrate how necessary it was/is to lie to yourself
   to be able to convincingly lie to others.
you continued to open presents marked from santa
   opening your mouth
as you opened the gifts, wide, 
   in a wild kind of feigned frantic felicity (slightly demonic).

then Christmas bloomed again a few years later 
   in its deceit,
rose a little like an awkward 
   off-white balloon
and became something else - 
   mild.
and you became comfortable enough  
   echoing down your long pine throughways
knowing that all of the others, 
   older than you,
must be sloughing somatically down their personal corridors too.
   and anyway, strange, 
your mother still sang on Christmas mornings, 
   arias, badly,
while she pulled the turkey, to baste, temporarily out of the oven,
   she an emblem of a genial kind of happiness which might be sustained.

then you had kids and you hijacked their happiness. 
   oh, you were only too willing
to jump aboard that train of naiveté and delirious delight, 
   wonder the highest of highs and weren't you a junkie?
were you completely daft?  
   did you not then realize that that train was the same as your own,
which, in time, would wind down? 
   and did you not then realize that that pain, second time around,
would be more acute then ever? 
   when Christmas for your kids died
the casket of your body become the coffin of your mind, 
   future twilights (hope fires) stifled.
how remarkable your mother would then seem in your memory's eye,
   her ragged perm highlighted by the wet jewels from the turkey's heat,
her 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. rising and falling, faltering, recovered, warbling arias,
   her simple kitchen joy which maintained you through your most brutal crises in belief,
your inevitable discoveries and despondencies
   and your hard-earned, time willing, recoveries from trauma.

Friday, November 27, 2015

confluence, notes, and three important texts (november 25)

sitting on the couch afterwards my husband says, we have this morning, we have these tributaries coming together, these writers, these thinkers.

i like to remember things. (what are we otherwise?)

i have my legs up in the stirrups. my feet are uneven. not resting orderly or neatly. no congruent or forgiving angles. i notice my body awkward here where it is impossible to have a perfect metal to person interface. here is the doctor again between my legs. his eyes huge and green. ancient and fish-like. he is a soft man. small. inquisitive. exploratory. this is his day. i feel like an ocean. he goes under. i don't see him any more. the nurse is busy all around me. but i am an island now and she will not come to shore.

no one touches my skin with their skin. not once.

the needle sinks in. inside me. in inside me. and i have to trust in science. i have to be blind to the reality that i exist from the centre of my body. this body that this man. this doctor. works inside of.

they have warned me that my heart will do something different. that it will beat hard. like perhaps after i have been running. (we have shared these intimate facts. that i go to the forest. that i move in the world for pleasure.)

it is nothing like this.

my heart is beating like the elbow of a man pounding on a door at regular intervals. in my stomach. does my stomach jump with each blow? below where i grasp my own two hands together over my chest, a stanchion to the pain. whoever is pounding wants inside the building. needs in. he will die if he can't get in. or kill something once he is inside.

the clock on the wall advances from the wall. moves into my ears. then around my face. does it have a colour? is it brown? i can almost see it. time and me have become a singular apparatus. time comes from inside me now. or is me now. we are conjoined.

are you alright?

are you crazy, i want to ask back.

yes. fine.

the doctor cuts parts of my body out. (the nurse has leaned over me. in knowing conspiracy has whispered the word barbaric.) the vacuum sucks superfluous pieces of me away.

but. even here. even like this. i notice how beautiful my right thigh might be if a hand were to touch it.

the nurse has used the brace of my arms to hold a corrugated tube. for? i don't know. she has run the translucent vacuum tube over my left thigh. (i will see my flesh flash through this and think venison, sirloin.) she has draped a heavy for its girth skin-toned cord over my right thigh. it is cool but warms.

it's supple.

it feels akin to something human.

i feel anchored here in this intimacy. me and the cord. i almost coo from deep inside me, it is lovely.

the doctor scrapes my core. cuts. burns? (he will do this countless times today. countless days. countless wombs. year after year. he gets paid for this careful and brutal work to remove with aggression what is aggressive.)

the cords all run toward my center. my legs are up. my knees like mountains. i can't see beyond.

i am mountains. i am valley. i am both ocean and island.

my husband later says things and means them. severely. we have this morning. we have these tributaries coming together. these writers. these thinkers.

and we do. (three important texts. intuitively connected. and connected for us through our history together. today.)

we are the luckiest.

 ***

the first: Étienne Pivert de Senancour, Obermann

Saint-Maurice, Sept. 3rd (I) 
 
I have been up as far as the perennial snow-fields, on 
the Dent du Midi. Before the sun had risen on the 
valley I had already reached the top of the great cliff 
which overhangs the town, and was crossing the partly- 
cultivated terrace above it. I kept on up a steep slope, 
through thick pine-forests, which in places had been 
laid low in winters long gone by, forming an inextricable 
tangle of decaying remains and vegetation growing out 
of it. At eight o'clock I arrived at the bare peak which 
rises above this slope and forms the first step of that 
stupendous stairway from whose summit I was still so 
remote. 

At this point I sent back my guide and trusted to my 
own resources. I did not want any mercenary bond to 
interfere with this mountain freedom, or any mere plain- 
dweller to tone down the sternness of nature at her 
wildest. I felt my whole being expand as I thus faced 
alone these forbidding obstacles and dangers, far from 
the artificial restrictions and tyrannical ingenuity of 
men. 

With a thrill of delicious independence I watched the 
disappearing figure of the only man I was likely to meet 
among those great precipices. I left on the ground my 
watch, my money, and everything I had with me, as 
well as most of my clothing, and strode away without 
even troubling to hide them. So you will say that my 
first independent action was an eccentric one, to say the 
least of it, and that I was like children who have been 
too much repressed, and who do all sorts of absurd 
things when left to themselves. I admit that there was 
something childish in my eagerness to leave everything 
behind, and in my hovel get-up, but I moved more 
freely for it, and set myself to climb on hands and knees 
the rocky ridge which joins this minor peak to the main 
body of the hill, most of the time holding between my 
teeth the stick I had cut to help me on the downward 
slopes. Here and there I crawled along between two 
abysses which I could not see to the bottom of. Thus 
I reached at last the granite. 

My guide had told me that I should not be able to 
climb beyond that point, and, as a matter of fact, I was 
brought to a standstill for some time; but at last by 
going down again a little, I found an easier ascent. 
Attacking it with the daring of a mountaineer, I 
reached a basin-like depression, full of hard frozen snow 
which summer never melted. I climbed much higher 
still, but when I arrived at the foot of the highest peak 
in the range I could not scale it. The face of the rock 
was almost perpendicular, and towered to a height of 
some 500 feet above where I stood. 

Although the snow I had crossed was trifling in 
extent, I had made no provision for it: my eyes were 
tired with its glare, and dazzled by the reflection of the 
midday sun from its frozen surface, and I could not see 
anything distinctly. Moreover, many of the peaks I 
did see were unknown to me; I could only be sure of 
the most striking. Since I came to Switzerland I have 
given all my time to reading de Saussure, Bourrit, the 
Tableau de la Suisse, and the like, but I am still quite 
a novice among the Alps. I could not, however, 
mistake the huge bulk of Mont Blanc, which towered 
perceptibly above me, nor that of Velan; another further 
off but higher, I took to be Mont Rosa. On the 
opposite side of the valley, not far away, but lower 
down, beyond the abysses, was the Dent de Morcle. 
The mass I could not climb interfered considerably with 
what was probably the most striking part of this 
magnificent view. Behind that lay the long deep trough 
of the Valais, streaked on either hand by the glaciers 
of Sanetsch, Lauter-brunnen, and the Pennines, and 
closed by the domes of Gotthard and Titlis, the snows 
of Furka, the pyramids of the Schreckhorn and 
Finster-aar-horn. 

But this view of mountain tops beneath one's feet, 
grand and imposing as it was, and far removed from 
the blank monotony of the plains, was not after all the 
object of my quest in this region of unfettered Nature, 
of silent stillness and pure air. On lower levels man as 
he is by nature cannot but be warped by breathing the 
turbid and restless atmosphere of social life, full of 
ferment as it is, always disturbed by the din of human 
occupations, and the bustle of so-called pleasures, by 
cries of hate and never-ending groans of anxiety and 
pain. But there, in mountain solitudes, where the sky 
is vast, the air calmer, the flight of time less hurried, 
and life more permanent; there, all nature expresses a 
nobler plan, a more evident harmony, an eternal whole- 
ness. There, man recovers that true self which may be 
warped, but cannot perish; he breathes a free air 
untainted by the exhalations of social life. He exists 
for himself as he does for the Universe; he lives a real 
life of his own in the sublime unity of things. 

This was what I wanted to experience, what I was in 
quest of at least. Unsure of myself in the scheme of 
things arranged at great cost by a race of clever 
children, I went to the hills to inquire of Nature why 
I am ill at ease among my fellows. I wanted to settle 
the point whether it is my existence that is alien to the 
human scheme, or the actual social order that has 
drifted away from the eternal harmony, and become 
something abnormal and exceptional in the develop- 
ment of the world. Now at last I believe I am sure of 
myself. There are single moments that put to flight 
doubt, mistrust, prejudice; moments in which one 
recognizes the real by an imperative and unshakable 
conviction. 

Be it so then. I shall live unhappy, and almost an 
object of ridicule, in a world enslaved to the fancies of 
this fleeting age, counteracting my boredom by the 
conviction which sets me inwardly beside man as he 
might be. And if there ever crosses my path any one 
with a disposition so unyielding that his nature, 
moulded on the primal type, cannot take the stamp of 
social forms—if, I say, it should ever be my lot to meet 
such a man, we shall understand each other; he will 
link himself with me, and I will be his for all time. 

Each of us will transfer to the other his relations with 
the world outside, and rid of other men whose vain 
desires we will pity, we will follow if possible a more 
natural and evenly balanced life. And yet who can tell 
whether it would be any happier, since it would still be 
out of tune with its surroundings, and spent in the 
midst of suffering humanity! 

I should be at a loss to give you a clear idea of this 
new world, and to describe the permanence of the 
mountains in the vocabulary of the plains. The hours 
seemed to me alike calmer and more fruitful, and in 
the deliberateness and intensity of my thought I was 
conscious of a progress which was more rapid than 
usual and yet unhurried, as though the spheric revolu- 
tions had been slowed down in the all-pervading calm. 
When I wanted to reckon how long this march of 
thought had lasted, I found the sun had not kept pace 
with it, and I inferred that the consciousness of exist- 
ence actually weighs more heavily and is more barren 
in the unrest of human surroundings. I saw that on 
tranquil mountain heights, where thought is less 
hurried, it is more truly active, in spite of the apparent 
slowness of its movements. The dweller in the valley 
devours without enjoyment his chafed and restless 
span of life, like those unresting insects that waste 
their energies in idly darting to and fro, and are left 
behind by others, as weak as themselves but calmer, 
that keep steadily moving onward. 

The day was hot, the horizon dim, and the valleys 
hazy. The reflected glare of the ice-fields scattered 
gleams of light through the lower air, but an unknown 
purity seemed characteristic of the air I breathed. At 
that height no exhalation from below, no play of light, 
disturbed or divided up the dark and limitless depth of 
the sky. Its apparent colour was not that pale and 
luminous blue which vaults the plains, that charming 
and delicate tint which gives the inhabited world a 
palpable sphere as the resting-place and boundary of 
vision. Up there the impalpable ether allows the sight 
to lose itself in boundless space; from amid the glare 
of sun and glaciers it goes out in quest of other worlds 
and other suns, as though under a midnight sky; it 
reaches a universe of night beyond the air illumined by 
the lights of day. 

Imperceptibly vapours rose from the glaciers and 
formed clouds beneath my feet. The glare of the snow 
no longer tired my eyes, and the sky grew darker and 
deeper than ever. A mist settled upon the Alps, and 
only a few solitary peaks stood out above the sea of 
cloud; some streaks of snow that lingered in their 
furrowed sides made the granite look all the more 
black and forbidding. The snow-clad dome of Mount 
Blanc heaved its ponderous bulk out of this grey and 
shifting sea, above the piling fogs, which the wind 
ridged and furrowed into mighty waves. A black speck 
appeared in the midst of them; it rose swiftly and came 
straight towards me; it was the mighty Alpine eagle; 
its wings were mist-drenched and its eye was ravenous; 
it was hunting for prey, but on seeing a human form 
it turned to flee with an ominous cry, and disappeared 
headlong in the clouds. The cry was twenty times 
re-echoed, but in sharp, dry sounds, like so many 
separate cries in the all-pervading silence. Then an 
absolute calm fell upon everything; it was as if sound 
itself had ceased to be, as if the property of sonorous 
bodies had been struck out of the universe. Such 
silence is never known in the bustling valleys; it is 
only on the cold heights that stillness like this holds 
sway; no tongue can describe, no imagination con- 
ceive, its impressive abidingness. But for memories 
brought from the plains one could not believe that 
outside oneself there was such a thing as movement 
in Nature; the revolution of the heavenly bodies would 
be inexplicable, and everything would seem permanent 
in the very act of changing, even the transformation 
of the clouds themselves. Each present moment seem- 
ing endless, one would witness the fact without having 
the feeling of the succession of events, and the un- 
ceasing changes of the universe would be to one's 
thought an insoluble problem. 

I should have liked to retain more definite impres- 
sions not only of my moods of mind in those silent 
regions—there is no fear of my forgetting them—but 
of the thoughts they gave rise to, for of these my 
memory has retained scarcely anything. In places so 
different, imagination can scarcely recapture a train 
of thought which surrounding objects seem to banish. 
I should have had to write down what I felt, but in 
that case the mood of exaltation would soon have de- 
serted me. In the very act of recording one's thought 
for future reference there is something that savours of 
bondage and the cares of a life of dependence. In 
moments of intensity one is not concerned with other 
times and other men; one does not then pay any heed 
to artificial conventions, to fame, or even public good. 
We are more spontaneous, not even considering how 
to utilize the present moment; we do not control our 
ideas, or will to follow out a train of thought, we do 
not set ourselves to get to the bottom of a thing, to 
make new discoveries, to say what has not been said 
before. Thought at such times is not aggressive and 
directed, but passive and free; we dream and let our- 
selves go; we think profoundly without mental effort; 
we are great without enthusiasm, energetic without 
volition; it is dreaming, not meditation. 

You need not be surprised that I have nothing to 
tell you after experiencing for more than six hours 
emotions and ideas which the whole of my future life 
will perhaps never bring me again. You know how 
disappointed those men of Dauphind were when they 
went botanizing with Jean Jacques. They reached a 
hill-top which was just the place to kindle poetic 
genius; they waited for a fine outburst of eloquence, 
but the author of Julia sat himself down, started play- 
ing with some grass blades, and said never a word. 

It might be about five o'clock when I noticed how 
the shadows were lengthening, and felt a touch of 
cold in the westward-facing nook where I had stayed 
motionless so long on the granite. I could not have 
moved about; walking was too difficult among those 
crags. The clouds had dispersed, and I saw that the 
evening would be fine, even in the valleys. 

If the clouds had thickened I should have been in 
real danger, but this had never occurred to me till 
that very moment. The stratum of turbid air which 
clings to the earth was too remote from me in the 
pure air I was breathing, close to where ether begins; 
all caution had deserted me, as if it were only a con- 
vention of artificial life. 

As I came down to inhabited regions I felt that I 
was taking up again the long chain of cares and 
boredoms. I reached home at ten o'clock; the moon 
was shining in at my window. The Rhone babbled 
noisily along; there was no wind, the whole town was 
asleep. I dreamt of the mountains I was about to 
leave, of Charrieres where I am going to live, of the 
freedom I had won.
 
***
 
the second: Phillippe Jaccottet, Seedtime
 
1959, November 
 
It is by no means certain that the modern era, with all its negative components—an enormous mass that darkens the sky—does not have a happy message for us as well: we are children of time and we are given all things through time; all opposites are not to be dissolved and we must not, and cannot, escape from contradiction; our only task is not to let one of its terms grow stronger than the other.

Our condition is strange because it does not include substantial progress, because we never come near to any definitive answer. We know we shall not find an answer, and yet we go on asking questions, because that is the essence of our nature. Strange also that nothing religious or philosophical, for instance, is ever experienced for others; the experience must be repeated, lived again, to be of any valuge; and so one must always start again.

Hence the irritating feeling of marking time:  Seinesgleichen geschieht, says Musil. [the phrase is usually translated as “pseudoreality prevails,” but literally means 'the like of it happens'.]

The same holds true, for example, for the intuition that is the origin of many poems. Someone says, more or less, “I then felt as if the order of the world had been revealed to me” or else “I understood the language of the birds” or “The veil that is normally between us and reality was rent” (which is also a theme in fairy tales). These are, indubitably, facts, of course, experiences (you can treat them as lies, but they happen, nonetheless) --- an experience of that kind can take on various forms, but the result is always the same. It has happened ever since man first appeared on earth, and you can find hundreds of examples in mystic, philosophical, or purely literary texts. You could object that such an experience is a mirage, but what makes such a mirage possible, and why could it not have a meaning, even as a mirage?

That mirage, or that intuition, revelation, or dream, sets an order against disorder, a fullness against the void, and wonder, enthusiasm, hope against disgust. Is it possible to believe that man’s obsession with order in so many different fields could be totally devoid of sense? And do we not have the duty, or at least the right, to listen to that very deep nostalgia within ourselves, as if it really said something important and true? Is it not narrow-minded to refuse to believe in the enigma that attracts and enlightens us? Is it more equitable to believe only in skeletons, ruins? Would life not, indeed, flow into us if we grew more supple? Let us remain faithful to our immediate experience, rather than be eager to listen to whatever may contradict it from outside.
 
 
***
 
the third: Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

 
"And if it worries and torments you to think of childhood and of the 
simplicity and silence that accompanies it, because you can no longer 
believe in God, who appears in it everywhere, then ask yourself, dear 
Mr. Kappus, whether you have really lost God? Isn't it much truer to say
that you have never yet possessed him? For when could that have been? 
Do you think that a child can hold him, him whom grown men bear only 
with great effort and whose weight crushes the old? Do you suppose that 
someone who really has him could lose him like a little stone? Or don't 
you think that someone who once had him could only be lost by him? But 
if you realize that he did not exist in your childhood, and did not 
exist previously, if you suspect that Christ was deluded by his yearning
and Muhammad deceived by his pride - and if you are terrified to feel 
that even now he does not exist, even at this moment when we are 
speaking about him - what justifies you then, if he never existed, in 
missing him like someone who has passed away and in searching for him as
though he were lost?

Why don't you think of him as the one who is coming, who has been approaching 
from all eternity, the one who will someday arrive, the ultimate fruit of a tree 
whose leaves we are? What keeps you from projecting his birth into the ages that are 
coming into existence, and living your life as a painful and lovely day in the 
history of a great gestation? Don't you see how everything that happens 
is again and again a beginning, and couldn't it be His beginning, since,
in itself, starting is always so beautiful? If he is the most perfect 
one, must not what is less perfect precede him, so that he can choose 
himself out of fullness and superabundance? Must he not be the last one,
so that he can include everything in himself, and what meaning would we
have if he whom we are longing for has already existed?

As bees gather honey, so do we fetch the sweetest out of all things and build 
Him. Even with the trivial, with the insignificant (as long as it is 
done out of love) we begin, with work and with the repose that comes 
afterward, with a silence or with a small solitary joy, with everything 
that we do alone, without anyone to join or help us, we start Him whom 
we will not live to see, just as our ancestors could not live to see us.
And yet they, who passed away long ago, still exist in us, as 
predisposition, as burden upon our destiny, as murmuring blood, and as 
gesture that rises up from the depths of time.

Is there anything that can deprive you of the hope that in this way you will someday exist
in Him, who is the farthest, the outermost limit?

Dear Mr. Kappus, celebrate Christmas in this devout feeling, that perhaps He 
needs this very fear of life from you in order to begin; these very days
of your transition are perhaps the time when everything in you is 
working at Him, as you have already once, in childhood, breathlessly 
worked at Him.  Be patient and without resentment and think that the 
least we can do is to make his becoming not more difficult for Him than 
the earth makes it for the spring when it wants to come.

And be glad and confident."

(a combination of two translations, one found on-line and the other from our copy of his letters.)
 

Monday, November 23, 2015

the photograph is a little lie we like to worship

hold your breath, blink 
and hold that image from your eye
antechamber darkroom - develop it
first snow of winter, a purge
erasure, set free to redefine
   a rightening 
one notch on the infinite wheel
for a beat
outside of time -
   suspended

before cart wheels trundle by
where once was
and is again - 
   roadway
where under heat
   slush begins.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

collision

we're sitting and holding hands and then wrists and then hands again, experimenting with carrying the vases and vessels of warm blood that flow through them and all the knowledge that exists because of this between us, and we raise our eyes and take in what it is to be each of us, and then we lower our eyes again, and I think, here we are upon this moment and we understand, almost, how volatile and vulnerable it is, but we will survive this, even if only for a few more weeks, or months, or possibly years, and outside there is the year's first snow and the day aglow and then dim again and then aglow, and just weeks ago sitting inside our car as comfortable and uneventful as cardboard we were hit from behind and the collision caused our vertebrae to do the arched dance that it is known by doctors to do, and it hurt like a fact, a curious and observable fact after the fact, for the collision was far too fast and unsuspected.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

a story is interrupted in reisterdam

the man moves his dark musk across the floor. anxiously plays at the curtains. sits. stands. sits again. the length from his feet to his knees is enormous. he takes up a book. holds it in his lap. passes his fingers across the title. he is not feeling the title. he is not reading the words. in fact, or close to fact, his fingers in their unseeingness are erasing the meaning. in his mind the hem of a skirt is trailing the penumbra of words like the tails of curtains. in his mind are shadows and a moving soft presence. light is being interrupted. he thinks he is thinking of a woman. he thinks he is leaning toward a beginning. a specific woman. a specific beginning. but every woman has already been. every story is already over.

sir, it is ok if you remain in your chair. sir, it is ok if you stop strumming the cover. it is ok if you open the book and begin to review the story. it is not a woman you begin. in fact, or close to fact, there is no beginning.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Parsnips Are Radical Anachronisms

We teach the body little tricks
like how to sit and beg for sugar,
how to prance,
how to roll over.

Refined - we like to say.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

up north in november

north is the vacancy that flowers 
                                     - Hayden Carruth

what can one say in november
when the birches lay down their briefcases
and stand there blankly and dumbly, numbly,
confused office clerks in train stations and airport lobbies,
not sure whether they are going or coming? -

men like hayden carruth long robed in the soil -
are his teeth already unnumbered dice, lucky talisman, runes? -

one wants nothing more, if one were a women
and from a particular persuasion, in a november wind,
than to have a man such as carruth come forward
steadfastly, human clothed, manly, over the hillock
and hold you in this able arms
and perhaps even hurt you there in your mutual stillness
before he and his empathy, passion, requited
and nonnegotiable ruin, flood the gulf between you,
sending in spirals the unpaid turnstiles clicking - 

hold me, carruth, hold me! -

but november locks cold
and not even the coldest.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

twenty-four hours, notes

each day consists of this: to garner.

and then: to dispel.

each day.

is this ridiculous? fruitless?

are they empty gestures?

and yet I can't help myself. each day I wake to get. eyes ravenous. but slow. suspicious. like a detective's. a detective wary of being tripped up. eager to disband concealment. reveal true identity. gather clues and information. discover what's behind the masks. behind the ordinary enshroudments. hands itching to hold. the fans of the mind opening like a filter. ears perked within the skull. the full blooming body soon clamoring behind this like an eager dog. a fist. a dumb but pure. faithful. muscle. then something of the mind pushed further upward. through and above the ocean's wake. like a clitoris. a periscope. an ocean creature's crest. to be stimulated. to intercept. to be intercepted. all day long. a looking. an anticipation. and then by bed. the closing of the fan. the languor of the hands. the giving up of sight. but not to blindness. the hearing in the skull. ears tuned in. sound turned up. but now to the talk of coral. or leaves scraping in the air. then the lowering of the voices to small waves. or the release of branches. then pure land. as such the lowering of the nub. the expected revelation - none of it was of the body at all. but the poor cotton sack of the mind. which must be. nightly. emptied out. then the turning over. eager. needful. toward soil. maybe the last sound one strike of the shovel. then quiet. turning further toward the close colour of water. no colour at all. the pushing of the face toward the white wall. no eyes now. toward stone. toward clean and empty space. the holder of the interval. integer. mother of truth. or. toward the father himself. nothing. with everything. waiting. in his empty pockets to be discovered.

***

as happens, by lucky chance after thinking these things, I encounter this poem about value:

Economic Man by Howard Nemerov (thanks to Stephen Pentz)

He would have liked to find a use for leaves,
So simple a thing it seemed, so many of them
Flying and falling, going to waste and wet
And stopping up the gutters and the drains
Or drying in the still November days
Until swept into heaps, gone up in smoke
As if all summer's shade had never been.

And so he dreamed, and idly enough,
For many summers, many falls, until
His spell upon the earth was done, come time
To fall, while the useless leaves still came and went,
And the green had told him nothing, nor the sere,
That he might leave for men to profit by.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

november 12

perhaps tonight it will snow for the first time....


imagine that. (your face is as clean as ever in the light of this imagining.)


imagine your eyelids closed, hoods pulled low over the domes of your inner eyes. imagine close, inside, small white flakes scattering themselves, being scattered, you both open and light, dreaming and floating, at the mercy of the will of the world.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

snail, notes, and november

I don't want to befoul things any more. besmirch them. i want to ring three times only. clear like a bell.

Yet i awake daily and move through the thousand small vagaries of the body. and through the world's mighty varied body.

If i were a poem would i say anything at all?

Or would i stand tall in the distance behind the band of unkempt cedars on the shores of the ice-cold north channel like the old lighthouse at gore bay, once an essential working body, but now no longer a part of this world's dialogue? yet standing on. a relic. a quiet telling relic. if only someone somewhere knew what it was to listen....

But i'm not a poem. instead i have eased further into the learning of what it is to wear an undershirt and panties two or three days running. what it is to wear a sweater to bed and to be so cold i must rise in it. what it is to grow a hairy pelt in my underarms. to grow a soft and voluminous slug-marked belly. so much evidence of so much body. blearing.

And then this selfsame body goes about sloughing through all the mundane trivialities that tarry us up and pitch us forward. my livingness is my continual unsilence.

Dirty trail of snail. i can't learn to be quiet....

Grandma Izor is dead. just a small variable to my story. not even my story. adjunct. now my children's story. away from me they attended the funeral. my son said this sentence which seemed to me adrift like an iceberg, "i don't like to see dead bodies." my daughter said (with annoyance? with hilarity? in disbelief? - i can't fully distinguish meaning now without continual tone and presence), "while they buried her you could hear music, low, and somewhat off in the distance, somewhat muffled. the song: what does the fox say?"

Then my son added, "when bob cried, i nearly lost it." (oh son, what are you trying to keep?)

My children experience death. and i wake up again. keep on breathing. dragging my scent along further into my din.

But of course, this isn't what i intended to say at all~

***

november

the fog of November doesn't even do the justice of spreading
but is, upon waking, and even maintains itself, without movement
through the day's entire duration

i feel the black horse, which grazed late october
galloping, galloping out, galvanized from a splinter off my spinal cord
hooves tearing divots through the glommy puddles of my heart
its black rider reckless, thrust forward through the shutters of my exhalations

he will ride and he will ride
near soundlessly, like an idea, or an echo 
through each unday of November

to finally break the grey veil with a hooved flourish
pulling back, pulling back on the black reins
to the spilling out  
of the white vat of winter

***

also,

there are so few things in this small town. so few points of interest, might we say. at least to most people. there is a restaurant. now two. a café. two corner stores. a gas station. a horrible museum now moved away from the old house which once housed it, to a perfectly functioning cement floored modern building. a post office, open sometimes. there's Irene's on the corner, which was an old mechanic's, once gas station, now building bulging with the cast-offs (cast-ins?) of a hoarder. she puts her stuff out daily in more decent weather, which most people will never buy (for they've dumped their unwanted stuff on her in the first place).

once there was another thrift store, with two store-front windows with two or three shelves across them, filled with jars of marbles and old children's books, small tin cars, wind-up toys, torn comics. all sorts of alluring bric-à-brac. jack knives and tea cups. the store itself smelling suspiciously of cat piss. the owner who knew me (how?) by first name. i would walk by it with my son on a daily adventure perhaps to the hardware store with its uneven floors, the grocery store (now closed) with its annually recycled decorations, or the post office. or maybe even the library with its old puzzles and puppets. and we would stop in front of the windows of the thrift store. dreaming. dreaming of what? i couldn't tell you for sure. but it felt like the moon bloomed right there in our chests. the marbles maybe planets swelling in orbit to our reflections there together.

today i walked by those windows by myself. the bargain signs long been ripped down. one window so dirty i could not see inside. the other blocked almost fully by a mattress up in its side. near the top crack of the window there were four calico cats dozing. their legs gently hanging over the side of the mattress. like ribbons. or banners.

***

How difficult to grasp what is essential! One is always tempted to go too far or not far enough, to be too vague or too precise. These things should be grasped suddenly, but exactly, like a shot from a rifle.

from October 1962, Seedtime, by Philippe Jaccottet

Monday, November 9, 2015

the sun is so short

if life is supposed to be a widening and widening,
then I have failed.

my life now, as I grow older, is the width of two twigs,

the length of one dove's feather.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

still life with fallen bowl or chalice

repositories
toppled.

where then the vinaigrette?
how then the salad?

mid-life and every olive revolving en pointe
upon the kitchen floor,
flavour of ligneous language (woody words)
so far from the moist mouth.

we're not talking about emptiness here;
we're talking about loss.
emptiness has no emotion,
while loss is the bowl remembering,
the olive aching.

might it have been easier to handle
if plato's top stayed still or moved?

we lift these bone wrought chalices
spinning, celebratory, to the sun,
tipping, tipping amber ale,
extinguishing even our knowledge of fire.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

that's all, notes

this is true; not sentiment.

he has come into the store and maneuvered himself so that he is in my way. I have countless other things to do and this one must be completed first. but he won't leave. he has inserted himself. made himself into an obstacle. claimed my space.

I try to bear down upon this space to move him. release him like a splinter.

but he makes only small movements with his feet. he has asserted himself. he wants this space. the same space I need so that I might complete my work.

what's more valuable? work. or wasting time.

how many times every day I play this game with people. as customers, do we ever realize we play it? entitlement of place, often under the bluff of obliviousness. it's a power play. who gets to own which plot of place.

he touches the product with his fingers. gently.

I'm thinking, you're feigning interest.

I know he's watching me out of his peripheral vision.

he's elderly. wears baggy work pants with suspenders. a threadbare plaid flannel shirt. he'll not buy anything. after all these years it is so easy to profile.

he turns toward me his small face. I see his teeth are rotten. not actively rotten, like he works at it. but rotten as a reflex. a testament to time.

he's standing in the candle area.

honey, he says.

he's slow when he's speaking, but he's asking my forgiveness.

he motions to his head. thirty-three years ago, he labours. they said I would die. the numbers said so. something like ninety-five...

he's looking into my eyes. his face is so thin. I think of a bird's skull, or a precious form like a wasp's nest which might easily be crushed or broken. he isn't shielding his teeth. or any part of him. I can see his pants are two inches too wide at the waist.

when I came to I couldn't communicate. couldn't get on with people. he moves his feet a little as he talks. baby steps. we're two people close to one another in the least busy area of the store.

he's quiet then. but still looking at me.

I touch his elbow.

couldn't get on with people, he repeats, and suddenly, with this, I understand deeply. thinking of Senancour's Obermann which i am currently reading. recalling a radio programme about humanity's survival (or otherwise), an interview with Farley Mowat. knowing myself. 

but I could with... he searches... with the honey. he motions to the beeswax candles that he has been touching.

kept honey. (he means bees.)

worked for the government before. with numbers. ha! and people. but couldn't any more.

only thing that made sense for me was... honey.

he and I are as close as any married couple. I've got my hand on his arm still and I am wishing I knew his name. my eyes are filling and I'm asking for his forgiveness, but not saying anything.

so, my wife - he motions beyond our small space - is doing her thing. and I'm staying here.

he shakes his head. it's so quiet where we are. clearly he feels safe here.

he wants to know if I understand. I think he can see that I do.

I wish I could tell him about Rilke's bees of the invisible or Bly and eating the honey of words. or Berry. he looks like one of Wendell Berry's people.

I wish I could tell him I admire him. but what exactly would it be I was admiring? circumstance and response. biology, its curses and its blessings.

I feel like a fraud as I listen. a low-down fraud that's been found out.

I reprimand myself.

once a sentence came to me profoundly about life, my whole being snapping upright as though someone I knew well had just walked into a room in the most unusual of circumstances and spoken - if you want to get to the honey, you'll have to go deeper (july 8, 2013).

words, he says. I have trouble with words now.

he rubs his face. scratches his head in desperation. he wants to say something else. he grows anxious. nearly angry with himself. and then throws his arm into the space. gives up. and begins to turn away.

well, that's all. he says. that's all i have. i'll wait here.

he turns toward the neat rows of beeswax candles.

Friday, November 6, 2015

the fight, notes

a story from my adolescence.

how bravely and fully (for a time) we threw ourselves into love, this boy and i.

one day some neighbourhood ruffians, right dirty scoundrels, social misfits with the additional aspect of not caring about the future (for what future had they to care about?) stopped out front of my mother's house and hurled expletives at us. they cussed us, they cursed us, and urged us on. i don't remember what they said or why it might have mattered to us. perhaps because it figured into the drama which unfolds for all people, especially adolescents, to determine who they are and how they fit into this world.

one of the boys, the toughest (his muscles dared to bulge like clams from beneath his t-shirt's rumpled sleeves despite the cold - you know the type) made a bold movement toward us.

the boy i thought i loved immediately skirted around and hid behind my mother's car. even today i feel his retreat like a frightened bird's shadow, the shadow of something deep inside him.

i moved toward the boys. daring them. afraid too. but eager this collision, this opportunity, so that i might understand - something.

i think it must be like this inside each of our beings. the mortal body moves to shield itself, a reflex. now, how does the soul behave?

Thursday, November 5, 2015

every bit the urge of the child (and notes)

ten. i tear from my mother's door. intent on another to play marbles with. what aesthetic pleasure! dirty hands. a thrust. a clink. a connection. to the earth. and to another orb. dream-coloured. made of glass. and with you who play the game as well. i earn some ground. steal some from you. you earn some ground. steal some from me. in the end we tally. not to count. but to touch one another. and that thing with the curved side.

***

in the morning i think about the photographs of sunflowers i posted on the photo blog. i have to think long on the word sunflowers to understand if this is in fact what they are photos of. on the one hand i believe the word. on the other hand i understand that it is only good enough. i leave room for the possibility that i have gotten it completely wrong and they are in fact automobiles, machines, or molds

(they are also, no matter what they are, automobiles, machines, and molds.)

these photographs are important to me. something comes out of them.  

what is it that comes out of the sunflowers?

if i look into a mirror and cross my eyes, can i look beyond myself? lose this world's focus to gain focus to the other?

there in my gaze is my desire. it is there, hiding amongst the sunflowers in the garden. it is curved.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

November Something

It was a day in November
When I was standing at a window in the hallway
When I finally determined the soul is eternal.

I could as easily have turned
And determined the inverse

But then might never have known the strength
To enter the next room.

***

 
notes

november 3, 2015

standing on the hill in the warm november sun. the bed of wet brown leaves shining like glass along the trail. the birch a holy assemblage of quiet. humility, humility, and more humility continually wearing me thin. i feel like a sheet of vellum. as close to unthinking as ever.

how thin might one become?

standing (beyond time?) i wait the grouse out that i didn't know was waiting for me in the thickets. its body moves through my sudden scream which moves out to the trees and then is thrown back into the valley.

as i stand - at no certain denomination of time - one of autumn's last oak leaves unhinges. 

many beats unmeasured.

then another.

some leaves will hold fast, remarkably, throughout winter.

today i see i have nowhere to hurry from and nowhere to hurry to.

the moss i kiss earlier on the trail has, after its early october seeming-sleep, become once again revitalized through rain and warm temperatures. lush green, intense - a frontal lobe of hurting colour.

browns and greens. gains and losses.

i had no idea i would lose my children. but i also knew i would. (and realize, of course, i have not lost them at all.)

i had no idea poverty could be such a burden. but i also knew.

my health. such a surprise. and yet i've always known.

between two countries i have no home. but home as much as anyone.

i dreamed. and then i awoke. 

i'll dream again.

i will lose everything. everything. i practice. but still know nothing of the losing.

even this november sun warms me so pleasantly. i take off my coat. i stand in the sun. ahead of me the light on the dead leaves sparkles. ahead of that - winter. and ahead of that -

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

as the dreamer wakes

three or four solemn nuns will clasp their hands,
their silence and their small steps the dreamer's sins,
her offences her greatest efforts not accomplished.

this morning from the warmth and sanctity of her bed
she'll hear a siren cut its teeth along the horizon's edge.
the can it opens is not hers, but the world it will spoil is.

by breakfast she will have buttoned her shirt and shod her feet.
a sprig of cedar she put to vase will allow its scent if you crush its scaly leaves.
its roots will swell and look like a drowned man snagged in water.

Monday, November 2, 2015

i will not be "that woman"

addressing the chaplains of poetry of the chamber of commerce of america

i won't write what you want me to.

i will not write that i awoke and the whole day rolled out before me.

i won't write that the day was hard but the blessings plenty.

i will not write, come on, give just a little more elbow grease.

i won't write that i am most satisfied to be a wife, a mother, a member.

i will not write that god is good, or even that it is good that we know that god isn't.

i won't write what you want me to.

i will not say i'm decent.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

the moon is held by a pinch of skin in the waters below, a generation diorama

to shock me my daughter has invited her teen friends to use my computer, and so
now to sign into certain sites, prompts surface, such as: goldenslumbersex and fuckya69!

i tell my daughter i've been reading stories of quilting bees and blizzards dashing lost and ambling calves.
at school they're reading macabre tales of matricide, patricide and heroin injections to keep their attention.

as darkness pulls its mantilla low over its eyes, i pull down the quilt and invite my husband inside 
with prompts such as goldenslumbersex and dear,amblehereplease

where we'll inject our minds through the soft wear of bodies, sacred texts, to the lunacy of love,
while outside the calves will amble further off, lost, lost...