One of the loveliest, more complex poems I’ve read in a long time. Thank you thank you for sharing your abundant gifts and vision.
“The glacier knocks in the cupboard
The desert sighs in the bed
And the crack in the teacup opens
a lane to the land of the dead.”
~~ W.H. Auden
I have grown weary of “I.”
It is so tiresome, to be thinking always of oneself, to write always of oneself. Writing about the intricacies of a daily life, one’s own daily life and history, has value only in that others might see a breathing thread of union, or a mirror of their own joys, passings, miseries.
Eventually language ceases. Where, then, goes the binding thread?
The ceasing is a death. Isn’t it? Or is the ceasing a pause in the recitative, a momentary relief from the constant chorus?
Writing in this little world, my world, is constant, almost compulsive. On my last trip to Florence and Paris I filled a journal of several hundred pages with notes, essays, observations. And, of course, complaint. Perhaps it is the compulsive nature of my need, our need, to communicate, to keep record, that has finally exhausted and humbled me.
I have arrived, I believe, at the limits of language. Or to my admittedly limited creative capacity to use it.
The second to last day I was in Paris, the air itself was alive with trembling vivid color: green of Cezanne, domed sky of an aged Rubens – blue both soft and electric – limestone glowing a secret inner sun. Wandering from the shadows of the old Jewish quarter in the 3rd into the stunned openness of the Tuileries, the sheer odd fact of my own presence, of this finite body taking part in the communion of the reborn Earth, buds of spring, lovers intertwined like vines, came upon me with a force of brutal primordial Joy.
These are moments given not earned; they come suddenly and are gone. They carry with them all the baroque wisdom of ancient gods, and like gods they disappear as quickly as they unexpectedly arrive.
I once knew a man who understood gods, who like them spoke the language of grandeur and fearless exploration. He did not observe art, or books, or philosophy; he entered them, encased himself in a life of inquiry, appreciation, and Love for the finest monuments of human creation.
Had he been with me during that perfect moment in Paris, I think I might have clutched his hand. I think I might have said, “The Light.” That’s all. Almost too much. Because he would have been lost in the same wonder.
This is companionship. Brotherhood. Sisterhood. This is Indra’s Net: Union through Communion. Oh, how he knew. He just… knew.
Until he didn’t. At some point the knowing turned to arrogance, the arrogance turned to isolation, the isolation turned to rage, the rage turned on itself, an inferno inverted.
A few months ago he killed himself.
And now his absence is an even bigger presence than ever his life was, and perhaps this was part of his intention in taking his life with such settled annihilation. Self. Murder. He took the perpetrator with him, but we will always ask, “Are we not also perpetrators? At what point does the crime committed become collective? Is there a beginning?” We know, of course, there is no end.
Sometimes the richness of existence is too much. However complex the analysis of existence, or however simple a life seems through the lens of meditative awareness: it is too much, and the only sensation one knows is pain.
Through luck, love, work, a trick of the brain, that pain can be treated with time, a pause in the flowing phrases of one’s life. In the pause lies both relief and danger: linger too long and agony appears permanent, and those Parisian days drift further away, someone else’s movie.
On that sublime afternoon my thoughts stayed a long time with this death. I traced as well as I knew how the mystery of this man’s mind as it turned slowly against itself, the months and years it took to turn his back to the light right in front of him. I wanted him with me, I could feel his rough hand, fingers thick and strong.
“Look,” I wanted to say. “Come back. Come back. And just look.”
~~ For my Father
The Best Love Letters are Brief
To my son, who is grieving –
To my son, who is brilliant –
To my son, who is too small to be this sad –
To my son, who is too young to be this worldly –
when you were conceived on a bright spring day many years ago, this body, my body, already knew you and your History and your Present and your Future.
It takes a long time to learn that you are only Infinity.
You must humble yourself to storm clouds, bow to poisoned lakes, and honor the fish who live there as your brother, your sister, even as you might slaughter them.
Wholeness comes from Wholeness, and the attempt to disassemble a piece (of Soul, of Flesh, of Story, of Family) will not disrupt the Whole.
When you were a very young child and could still hear about Love, I used to say to you:
“I Love you more than there are Stars in the Sky.”
But it was a lie.
You are the Love.
You are the Stars.
You are the Sky.
Traffic on Park Ave
(to the man who walked away)
When there was space it was better, not by much, but better. We could always see the air, coming in from one of my old man’s jobs up north. Filthy, and dusty, but pretty damn empty. Our house, too. Not great but we ate, and for those few years I remember Mom didn’t have to work. She was in the kitchen a lot then, I remember she liked old country, Patsy Kline and Loretta. She loved to make big casseroles she learned from her grandma back in Kansas. I never met her because of the cancer, but while she cooked Mom would talk to me about her, about the tomatoes they grew, and how she was out in the garden one day when she saw her mother walk out of the house. She never saw her again, but I think that was for the best who the Hell knows.
Now I’m fucking sitting here with a Texan in front of me and some bitch with too much makeup and loud music in the rearview and I’m feeling fucking squeezed. Under the bridge it used to be ugly, really bad – kids and drugs and vets, but it was their place, we knew it, they knew it. There was division. Proper. Now they’re gone I don’t know where and there’s a bunch of buildings blinding my eyes the windows are so bright. It’s crowded, crowded with bullshit and money and people I don’t get, people who live in these buildings and keep making more, ripping out all the stuff that used to be here, that was here forever. Every day the bricks leave, the glass comes in; every day my truck swerves to avoid some kid with an ugly beard or a chic with sunglasses and earbuds, looking at me like I’m a fucking alien, like they own this goddamn place.
Few years back I was really getting shit going. I finally asked Beth to marry me. I loved her, really loved her, I still don’t know how I screwed it, she was the best person I’d ever known. But then one day she was done, she said she needed a change, needed more talk and less anger; later I heard she moved outside of Manitou somewhere and stopped drinking so much. I’m glad I guess, at least one of us kept on the road, I’m glad it was her. She’s a fine person, a fine woman. I remember her hips when we would go out – there was this old bar way out on East Colfax – and she would move in this different sort of way when she was drinking. I loved it, she knew I loved it. Maybe that’s why she left.
It’s not moving. This lane of traffic is dead, there’s a line of cones up ahead. Now there’s always a line of cones, and the same assholes driving right up to it, as if the closer they get the sooner the cones will disappear. Everything is clogged and new and ugly, my head is clogged, and nothing is moving.
Nothing moves. It’s like there’s all this life happening, but it’s behind these new walls, these glass windows that keep the A/C in, the crappy air out. But I still feel strangled, I don’t know why. The air is dead or something. I can’t breathe all this dead used up air.
Maybe I can move. My truck, it’s old and no replacement for the sweet sedan I had with Beth. This truck is as stuck as the rest of this bullshit. But I can move. I’ve heard of jackasses that just do that, or maybe I just saw it in a movie once. But I’m no different. I could just…. move. Fuck it, fuck it all, maybe I’ll come back later. Maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll call Beth, see how she’s doing. I’ve got my phone, I’ve got my cash,
they can keep the keys – –
A Poem by (for) my Daughter
How vital (vita – life) her hand upon
the blank book, the pen not yet tamed, motions
unpracticed, new – she makes her way in straight
sky-blue lines across the page. The black scratch
of inked waves sometimes form a word. “Being”
is one. Another is “Bubbles,” all in caps
perhaps for bouyancy’s sake. The thick
and round B’s are bubbles themselves; I think
that she is on to something, a meaning,
a mirror: word to object, small conjurer.
Look closer. More letters, all bound and tight
from charmed inexperience; a mother’s eye
frees and separates and then binds again
the large letters into small words. There is
a sentence, here and there, the first one reads
“We are in a Book”….Then: “I think someone
is lookin’ at us who is Looking, why
A Monster. No. It is a reader a
reader is reading us reading those word
BUBBLES (ah, now I see) we are a book
We are in a book that is so cool we
are being RED I have a good idea
I can make the reader say a word YOU
can make the reader say a word I can
if the reader reads outloud Here I Go:
Banana. Ha! You have to say that, the
reader, (it’s in the book) say it outloud
This book is going too fast I have more
to say more words more jokes I just want
to be read I have an idea: Wisper
I can whisper whisper. Yes that is good.”
So this is her secret, this girl with hair
of speckled gold and limbs as soft and dark
as wet sand from a warm sea, her spider-
thin legs and eyes forever cast in dream:
The tales we tell in twilight, to distant song
of birds in spring or the yip of winter’s
new grown fox, are not possessed by picture
and page alone but live outside all spine
and cover. Her brother, I think, might be
September in December
First, the arrival. Second, high white stars
and black night, the glow of distant Tulum
in the southern horizon; black the sea
black the sand and soft surf, darkened
palms swaying with the wind like a woman
in ecstasy or perhaps grief or more
likely both, one following the other
until the indistinguishable union;
your skin bare to the undulating waves
voluminous silence, all embracing
greater even than the sound of sea and wind.
Suddenly, the visitation of light,
brilliant orbs strung like trapped stars, pearls and pearls
of lustrous lanterns, illuminating
an abandoned celebration, tables
and white Fellini banquettes, a phantom
tableau of dancers, lovers departed
or never perhaps were there, the party
repeating itself, beyond all reach of time,
la Dolce Vita caught in a broken reel
erasing the revelers, their residue
displayed for every weary wanderer.
No. It must have been a shared dream, the sort
known only by bodies interwoven
by the root of many years and children
dead and living and the suffering gaze
of age and love. But it was not a dream,
you will tell me. Do you not remember
the song? The one that slipped through the silence,
not quite breaking it but adding to it –
“September.” And how could we not join hands
and dance to the wind and the earth in the sand?
So simple, austere, beautiful. Simply lovely
Sometimes it pauses and the light
translates what we’ve lost,
momentarily framing the taste
entering our bodies through
mouth and nose and eye,
the knowledge of dissolution
enhanced. One bite
and it all returns: fire, peat,
water, the retracted
flesh become another’s
endeavor, as if giving form
to the world of air.
we steal its most intimate self.
A few weeks ago I had the rare opportunity to attend an actual yoga class, instead of practicing at home. I love practicing with community. I also love to know that the person doing the teaching, or the studio doing the advertising, actually understands the lineage or “type” of yoga on offer.
The class I attended was held at one the most popular studios in Denver. I used to teach there, and there is a huge student roster. The class I chose was advertised as an Ashtanga class. It was not an Ashtanga class.
It was barely a vinyasa class. In the yoga industry, it would be so wonderful if at the very least studio owners practiced honesty in advertising. Not only was I out about 50$ (babysitters!) for that non-Ashtanga class, but every student in that class was in essence deceived about one of the most foundational practices in the Western yoga world. Without Ashtanga yoga, these studio owners wouldn’t have “power” yoga, or “vinyasa” yoga; it’s the backbone of the yoga most practitioners know, and should be honored as such.
October 23, 2014
I’m listening to the Robert Fagles translation of the Odyssey, read by Ian Mckellen. It’s so wonderful, a great gift to hear it. However. Where is the song of Penelope? What are her thoughts and griefs and, what one would assume, maddening rage at her loss and the continued violation of her home and treasure? There need to be more songs from Penelope in this world.
October 16, 2014
I just opened the current issue of the New Yorker. Two pages in and what do I find? An advertisement for Louis Vuitton in which the greatly influential (and I’m assuming, absurdly rich) artist Cindy Sherman is hawking the company wares. Why? I know we live in an era in which there hardly remains any concept of “selling out,” but….. really, Cindy? She changed the landscape of the art world with her shifting images of changing identities, all created with her own body. She wields remarkable power. And commands incredible sums for her prints ($3.8 million the last I checked). Does she really need to be in league with Vuitton? The increasing blur between art and fashion is diluting and cheapening the former, while doing nothing to increase the creative vibrancy of the latter.
October 18, 2014