29 December 2008
Nothing moves forward without transference—whether it is an electric current, potential energy, a passing hand, ions, or a glance. Each pathway, licked over by its counterpart, decides exactly how to deliver its message.
I cannot control how my words sound in your mouth any more than I can wiretap what I mean to transcribe to you through tips of fingers along sides. If I could, I’d be reinventing whole systems that lay inside the body like limestone or trans-Atlantic flight-patterns.
Area is unknown. Though the skin is graced like a brush fire or a field of wheat, the filaments decide where and how long messages reach the brain. Labeled-line codes map location.
Exactly how my touch tastes to your brain? A quick burst of impulses or a snail between the eyes and gut?
How one feels different lying between two very similar seconds.
Chemistry shifts inside the body like gold-flakes inside a wine-bottle. (I saw this, once, and drank two glasses, feeling myself gurgle with geological joy!).
We must excite one another. Geometry has much to do with this. As if the mail depended on how one traces a line. Because, in the body, to reach a sensation, to experience a touch, lines must connect, must clearly kiss correct spaces into being:
As though the body knows how difficult it is for us to find one another, as if the galaxies in us refuse intensity if all are not aligned as they should be—we work on all-or-nothing action potentials daily, depend on gates and maps to arrive, to think, to make out a lover’s face.
As though one second bundles enough energy to light whole countries or send one another sailing down some coastal region, unaware of our very real powerhouse.
Store me, for a millisecond, in one of those knots between your cells. If not me, then how it feels to anchor lines to me.
And no matter how many years pass over us, distorting memories and boxes of stored excitement, novelty can still be found: lines of communication are blind.
Inside, untangled, the other can be found, preserved, honest as the first day the maps were drawn, the eyes passed over bodies as crop-planes—necessary, immediate, beautiful as settled dust.
End Note:...because, while it can be poetic, intimacy is also scientific...which I find poetic
24 December 2008
Perhaps this is because I am aware of how flawed I am. Not to say I’m an awful writer or something, but that I am a flawed human being. How can I write of beauty when I am certainly tainted? How can I write of love and vulnerability when I have been unable to give love and be vulnerable, when I have recklessly run away with someone else’s heart only to cast it into a gutter, thinking only of the swiftest path away from their humanity and pain, selfishly hoarding and protecting my defenses like children?
On Christmas Eve, I celebrate with family and feel these stains melt away. I have taken their love for granted, have betrayed them, and yet they still open their hearts, constantly open their hearts, despite my past transgressions. That’s what family is about. And perhaps one day I can be a more like them.
I walk into the study where rows and rows of my books line up, books that I couldn’t take with me but couldn’t let go of. Stories full to the belly with pain, forgiveness. And my journals from the past 24 years, various sizes, pile in a box on the top shelf. I know each one like an intimate friend or stronghold—bearing both the beautiful and painful moments I could never maneuver around or deny. Can this be what remains in the home that is not my home? What does it amount to--if I was to lie down in dirt tomorrow, how would my character sketch out?
My whole life I’ve given myself over to words. And in them, I love bravely even with my sins blotting out the insides. Even with the harshest, hardened areas within me, something always softens, gives a little under the weight of curves and lines. But as I continue, I can’t help but feel a fool and a liar for not then taking this practice and living by my OWN words. Where’s the line one must cross between discipline and forgiveness?
I have this fear, you see, of sounding smug. I have this fear of not being truthful, of coming across selfish and self-involved. Are writers, by nature, selfish? Can they craft something out of their own bones? And if my words have hurt others in the past, how to rinse them? Where do I stop at punishing myself? How long is too long looking into the interrogating mirror? To refuse self-forgiveness—is this dancing on the same line of selfish intentions?
Perhaps the best I can do is never fear displaying my very real scars. If my humanity is visible only through them, perhaps to stay true to them is to stay true to what’s real, honest.
But, still, there are times I sit before my past—the books, the diaries, and put my head in my hands, knowing all the childish words stare back, defiant, in denial, arms crossed, stamping the feet. I try and reason with them, but they have sliced their ears, slowly, day after day—so that now they are almost solid walls.
To swallow all of them, take them into me when no one in their right mind would want to claim them, my most dishonorable deeds—both against the self and others.
How can I ever ask another to love a lonely library, broken hearted and arrogant?
It keeps me up at night, sometimes, at my writing desk. It’s like trying to love and create a craft with the very instruments that were once weapons.
But still, I try to gather them all up in my arms, to spread them out on the floor and make a map of them—coordinate the mistakes to make reminders of their bodies. And in their most vulnerable state, my mistakes shine, together, imperfect and harsh—a flash among darkness, and in that moment, I could almost see a future pattern on which they depend. And in this pattern hides who I have the capacity to become. It’s only a flash, only a glimpse. And I think perhaps the photons of faith vibrate there when I let go of self-deprecation, which is, in its most basic form, fear.
I have hurt myself and others. I have allowed pride and fear to build walls and dangerous combinations of words. But I have also torn down quite a few, have rinsed whole city-streets clean.
But how do I ever write again what was once so innocently written, but serrated. How do I lovingly and carefully smooth their bodies? I don’t know. I don’t have the answers.
22 December 2008
I wish I could talk to my brain:
Me: what's this for? [As it hands me a bit of moss, slimed to the sides and bottom up in my hand. ]
Brain: Town and Country down the street ran out of soda, ya know? There's been a canceled flight and I'm just damage control at this point.
Me: I don't understand. Where's the translation section?
Brain: You should not ask me about my day. Terminals are jammed. It's "All Across the Board." Give us some time to recover.
Me: Can't you just concentrate on other things, like sleep?
Brain: The same was said ages ago. This isn't rational. Deconstruction at the smallest degree is pretty painful for the first 30 t0 60 days.
Me: What if I play Bach, would that get things going...am I housecleaning at this point, or should I jump into a hazard suit?
Brain: Like I would tell you. I am not a masochist.
Me: Yes you are
Brain: That's likely, if Bach has any say in the matter.
Me: Can we have a document drawn, or is this non-negotiable?
Brain: That's not up to me--that's up to the audience.
Me: I wasn't aware there was an audience
Brain: You failed to notice the rustling of feet?
Me: I thought that was just the movement of your neurons
Brain: Not since you've downsized on receptors. Do you think Unions work for free?
Me: What if I offer whole evenings to meditation?
Brain: You're not the type.
Me: No. That's true. How long must this go on?
Brain: When is it ever safe to wind-surf, really?
Me: Not since you've provided the sharks.
Brain: I just deal with what comes up. Damage control.
Brain: Don't get smart.
Me: Isn't there a switch?
Brain: Yes. But you'll regret switching it.
Me: I regret this state as it stands
Brain: No you don't. Wait for the moss to grow.
Me: Grow, or explode?
Brain: You know...trust me in this.
Me: I don't fucking trust you.
Brain: But, I'm all you've got, love.
Me: Stop giving me headaches.
Brain: Stop overloading the damn system!
Me: I am not the one shutting off terminals! I have no control over the tributaries.
Brain: Shrimp, you're dealing with shrimp, my dear....while as I have had to accommodate sharks.
Me: I could say the same for myself. Add their pink bodies to the moss and I've been cultivating useless armies against your currents.
Brain: Leave me be.
Me: Again, I could say the same for myself.
Brain: ever heard of the ghost in the machine?
Me: Descartes, right? Is that what this is? dualism?
Brain: Not dualism. Mind-body problem. Like the sharks and shrimp.
Me: the mind-body problem *is* dualism
Brain: Is that my hand or yours?
Me: both, obviously?
Brain: are we co-dependent?
Me: in the true sense of the word, yes. I depend on you.
Brain: I need a bath
Me: Alright, just don't invite the sharks.
Brain: As long as you stop shipping me so many damn shrimp!
Me: Which bubble bath? Sweet Pea or Vanilla Bean?
Brain: let me check with the serotonin...yeah, the guys are pretty sold on Sweet Pea.
19 December 2008
But this really has nothing to do with avoiding writing—only insomuch as it put a damper on my mood and left me watching Larry King Live or CNN for an hour. Anything to distract from the self. I ate too many M&M’s, drank two Perrier’s in a row, talked to my bird (who in turn only said “come here” “love you” in response), before deciding to take a bath and read some of C. S. Lewis’ letters.
Still, I lie here with yet another bottle of Perrier and think: how to come to some agreement with the self when the self wants nothing more than to be invisible.
I don’t know if other people experience this or not—the intense desire to fade into a swirl of outside noises, to linger in the doorway of distraction, dizzy from the constant bombardment but grateful for the drowning-out-of-things… I often come to this point and that is when the writing particularly slows down.
Yeats once said: “You must draw heaven and earth into your net.” Certainly, in this casting there is the need to include the self, all bone-grit, lungs, and heaps of hair—the body cannot be denied, like earth, nor can the mind, as in the heaven, be passed over. Just as one might say how lovely the face, but the guts passed over—this cannot be done. As one may put forth only the cleverest of thoughts, the kindest, most humble, there remains the hidden ones of ignorance and mean-spirit, of self-serving and ill-mannered. Like the lover who carelessly ignores the characteristics in his love that may one day ruin the foundation on which he builds his heart’s investments—it is foolish to overlook the same when confronting the self…all bone-grit, lungs, and heaps of hair.
But I think it’s often accepted that one should turn away from unpleasant things in the self, such as inconvenient emotions or tugging ambitions that threaten to awaken desires that might throw comfort off its railings and into an unknown sierra, and instead to surround oneself with distractions and anecdotes.
I’ve tried to approach this before, and described desire as something we smother and refuse to tend to. Not desire in the erotic sense, but the passions of ones life—I guess if I were speaking in part of the church, I’d refer to it as one’s “calling.” And yes, I think “calling” is a good word, rinsed, of course, from religious connotations for universal purpose. Because a calling is something quite physical, something to be felt in the body—perhaps, in a literal sense, vibrating in the cochlea, tingling in the brain, then felt in the chest or gut. A passion contends with no thing. It does not simply die unquestioned and unnamed. It will call on you even as you sleep, restored to life when your mind leaves those subconscious doors unlocked. I have found this quite the case for me at times of suppression, times of denying the self the attention it needs, the meditation upon one’s inner rock. I like the idea of this inner rock, as it may absorb every fleeting, flowing thought or whim, desire or fancy—and along with this absorption may store all one’s memories and transferences, interactions and thought-processes. To think: as one lays dying, even then, this inner rock keeps in it’s halls all of the body and mind’s messages and scripts.
And I think it’s a fear that at that moment, or in something similar along the way, I may feel a heaviness pull me with a stamped sign “Regret”—regret-of-the-self kid--moments where I could have paid attention but chose to “shut off” all receptors and instead tuned out, spaced out, avoided. I think this is the main cause of anxiety, in fact. And some sociologists would go so far as to label it the prime example of “death-anxiety.” Quite accurate.
So what does any of this have to do with writing? Simply that writing is an act, which, if done truthfully, is facing the self, being open to discover—in all its beauty and warts. And as Yeats said, one must draw both heaven and earth into one’s net…to account for everything, from slugs to planetary stars and whirling hurricanes.
It’s not easy. Sometimes it’s even a bit lonely—okay, it IS lonely—in fact, that’s how it should be, I suppose.
16 December 2008
Trying to keep up with the therapist / client voice for the Hummingbird Series I'm working on, but am having trouble. Was reading Ted Hughes’ letters and he said something about letting the characters’ speak for themselves and not to get too mixed up on the actual work once it starts progressing. I think that’s where I’ve had my trouble. I need to get more in touch with this character, her world.
I also love his description about listening to critics and reviews:
“They tend to confirm one in one’s own conceit—unless they praise what you yourself don’t like. Also, they make you self-conscious about your virtues. Also, they create an underground opposition: applause is the beginning of abuse. Also, they deprive you of your own anarchic liberties—by electing you into the government. Also, they separate you from your devil, which hates being observed, and only works happily incognito. Also, they satisfy ambition, which only works from a radical discontent and public neglect. Also, they banish your spirit helpers. Also, they falsify your life, by forcing an identification of you and your poems. Where as bad reviews are like a humiliation: you feel you must conscript every reverse including God and the Devil, and produce the absolute reality that will withstand everything. They send you into the wilderness.”
This was in a letter Ted wrote to Anne Sexton.
Well, if I can’t write, I might as well read. Still, I find it terribly dull that all I can come up with are different versions of the same thing. I think what a large part of my problem is, is that I’m thinking too much about producing…instead of just germinating. If that makes sense…perhaps it doesn’t, I don’t know. Also, I think too much about what people will like, what they will read, when really, it’s not all that important. To write is to serve something greater than an “audience” which is, in fact, fluent and changing—even in all it’s solidity. What I guess I should serve is simply the movement, the movement of my creative impulses. That’s not to say I shouldn’t take into account the history, the contemporary and the advice of people with much more experience—of course craft factors into it…as it should…. one would hope, of course, that the training, the formalism, sort of gets embedded and plays out as the background music while one creates—music that one isn’t even aware of yet—perhaps more conscious, or in the forefront, while editing. Editing is a fine thing. Of course, there is always too much of fine things. Sometimes the poem walks away feeling molested! How to balance this perfectionist slant with gentleness?
And how to stay OPEN! It’s sometimes difficult to always keep your self attentive. I think perhaps that’s half the art right there. To be like a child again in our wonderings—that’s half the battle.
And in all this creative openness…it’s amazing. How am I not falling in love with everyone I meet? My heart must be like the moon, constantly dark and light, with a sliver of balance in-between.
So on to computers and programming. Have been dreaming of numbers lately, as each has something to say. Think of the possibilities there! Of course, I need to read Sherry Turkle’s The Second Self again. I have not read that since my junior year and I took the cyber literacy class. I started reading a couple more chapters the other day and I thought: MY GOD! How I wish I could be the person I am now and go back in time to that class. I would have paid more close attention. Don’t get me wrong, I always loved the class, and it was a large part of what started me on liking things such as programming and geeky movies like The Matrix—which then, I think gave birth to my love for physics. How could one not jump from there to there? But since then, this interest and love has grown deeper, and I just wish I could go back and take advantage of the class-community. So many smart minds in that class. We were like our own giant Supercomputer! I also wish I could go back to my High School computer programming class, which I was forced to take and hated. I got too caught up in the thought of math or something; I have no clue that I actually remember I missed the final because I was at a massage appointment! However, I was allowed to finish…it was a program we had to make that designed a diner, you know, like Denny’s or something. Mine was awful, but I got a “B” for effort.
Wish that I had enough time to do and explore all that I want to do and explore. For instance, I’d love to learn programming, hacking, what all else. I also would love to learn German and Russian. And be a neuroscientist. And I think it’s Yale that has an undergraduate degree now that combines Poetry and Physics! What?! How did this happen? Who stole my desires and made them into an undergraduate degree? Seriously.
This cold I’ve been battling for over a week has allowed me to stay still, which is a good thing. I am very bad about staying still. In fact, a highlight of my life was when I was in Utah, living in the mountains with no access to the outside world, and one of the new "tribe" leaders brought a radio / CD player in with him for the week (they came and left on a weekly basis while we, of course, stayed in the wilderness). Anyway, so he came and played The Eagles song "Learn to be Still" for us...and a) you don't know how much you miss music until you go without for months and b) that song holds a very special place in my heart, cheesy as that might be. God, I miss the mountains. I am considering being a "tribe leader" there in Utah for the summer after I get the MFA.
Anyway, yes, I think I have developed a bit of a case of ADD this semester. My mind just sort of drifts. I must not be disciplining myself enough. Or perhaps it’s the other extreme and I’ve been too rigid. This must be it. Knowing me, it is. One thing I can back up with “brain science” is that it helps to expose oneself to different environments occasionally. It builds happier baby-neurons (as does constantly learning about new topics). So, I should take this into account when I have the idea that staying in the library is more productive then going into the city.
Working on a case-study of an extreme case of Autism—actually, I shouldn’t say extreme, because really, the young man is functioning quite well, maybe borderline is the best way to put it. He’s extremely intelligent. I admire the Therapist’s ability to keep up with him, actually. But what intrigues me most about the notes and session transcripts is the language. Of course, this goes quite well with what I’m currently working on as far as my Hummingbird Series…and in fact I think my character is more Autistic perhaps than Schizophrenic—however both labels could be used. There’s an element of subjectivity in Psychology with labels. I tend to dislike labels, anyway. But yes, back to the young man. He is called “David.” David cannot express anything without metaphor, so it makes for a rather interesting read. It’s a puzzle. I was so excited to find this case because it’s exactly what I’m trying to accomplish with my Hummingbird Series (which I don’t know if that title will remain) but here it is in an actual real-life case! And of course David, the client, is interested in Science Fiction, where one can create their own universe and orchestrate all their own laws (so long as they remember to follow those created laws). It’s all very intricate and fascinating.
Just trying to keep my brain sharp and informed. I want to not only be accurate, but I’m trying to really understand and “get in the head” of this character of mine. As of now, I’ve gone through quite a dry spell with that series. Currently working on this other series, which seems to be about a conversation between a subject and their creative process, or I guess you’d call it the muse. I didn’t know that this was what I was writing until later, until more material had been made, almost as though these things must float up to the surface before being pinned down. Must wait them out--never rush things. I think my own creative process is much like a highly developed form of “playing hard to get.”
Still, back to the problem of everything sounding the same—not that they sound they SAME, but I feel I have this toolbox with the same set of tools and so that’s all that’s coming into the poetry. As though suddenly my vocabulary is quite limited…but I know every writer goes through his or her obsessions. Mine seem to hang on a bit tight, like devil’s claws to ones jeans, walking through a field. Those are horrible burrs. I once got one wrapped around my calf and still have a scar across the back to this day! Yes, my word and image obsessions seem to cling to me, which is perhaps why I’m constantly looking for another subject and more material to learn about—because with each new discipline there is a whole new set of vocabulary.
Also, this is the reason why I’ve thought a lot about considering a whole other degree after this. Why not? I could honestly pursue another passion while supplementing my writing. It’s better than roping a rich husband and lolling about all day with nothing but the Junior League or some charity auction to think about – indeed, I do think I’d turn into something of a Lady Bertram character from Mansfield Park – I’d get bored. However, if I could actually marry the Lord of a modern day Mansfield Estate…in England…I could probably find a way to manage. Haha.
But yes, perhaps I’ll actually apply myself in a whole other field. Of course, nothing too taxing, that’s the problem. I need the time to write. The job I had before was absolutely perfect. It was interesting, challenging (I basically did legal research type work) paid extremely well, better than I’ll probably hope to get again, and I had so much time and freedom to write. I wrote loads and didn’t have to worry about money. Oh, such is life. One must sacrifice for the MFA. And why even get an MFA? Because it’s about building a community and learning from each other, being in contact with one another and thriving under that intellectual environment, etc, etc.
Nice thought to end this ramble with. I was going downstairs to get more tea (I swear this cold will never go away) and the orange cat who sometimes sits outside my door, waiting for me to appear so I can pet him, followed me down the stairs like a little child and I thought to myself, this is wonderful. And I wondered to myself why I had that thought…and I realized it didn’t matter why, it just mattered that I was wise enough in that split second to realize the absolute wonderment and joy in the simplest of moments—there I was, in New York, in a lovely home with a friendly orange cat who adores me for some unknown reason, going to refill my tea before coming back to my study and books, slippers warm on my feet, Christmas decorations around—and yes, it was just wonderful.
15 December 2008
And in come the knots again. Sly as they are, but kind -- hopeful as snails but turning up their noses at the idea that I might transcribe them. And so I go on reading. One more hour of chamomile tea and perhaps your belly will give me a poem. Remember how to sail the skin. Forget it. Go down for more chamomile tea. Learn how the cranium is a continuing system that learns on contact, not a fixed program. Insert a number for the feeling: one hundred and seventy eight.. Though the knots, which sit by my bed, wiggle their circular bodies at this. “Oh, no?” I ask. They silence themselves like tulips. Looking quite innocent, though I know otherwise.
I feel this terrible weight. Having read a whole novel, I nod off and slip into the evening of a dream where we are lying on our backs, counting the breaths between us. And I want all of mine to match yours. You laugh because that’s very naïve of me—don’t I know the best of compliments are two forces running headlong into each other? No, I said, and took note of the weight of your body—the displacement between us. You laugh and explain that the word algebra means “reunion.” Your hand passes over my body like a crop-plane and I awake, imagining myself in rows.
The knots cannot take the thought of rows, hobbling around like unlined messiahs. They spit at the thought where I curl round the image of your body and sway.
The chamomile tea has gone cold. I’ve read a novel, dreamed of you, and not accomplished any writing. The weight over me persists. The knots nod in unison, vibrate against one another, refuse to reveal their coordinates. I reheat the kettle, waiting for the weight to lift, for some snail to crawl out of the kitchen window and onto my arm, for my brain to contain itself, for the knots to uncurl their bodies, for something to let loose it’s numbers for my inspection.
Nine thousand, four hundred and eight six, I repeat, as I climb the stairs to bed: nine thousand, four hundred and eighty six. Perhaps I'll write something beautiful for you tomorrow. Right now, there's a jewel in my head: nine thousand, four hundred and eighty six--space between closest bodies, angles lying next to one another, unhinged, pressed into a long surprise.
I miss conversing with you. How, when I'd be walking from the library, you'd present yourself in the widening sky. I once wrote that I imagined you reaching for a line, tugging for a boat to be anchored. The image of your sleeve dangling in the water--the silliest things which hold us here, remind us that we still occupy a space. And the line, perhaps I felt it. I cannot say. Or that I do feel it.
To occupy a space. And yours, how one walked by you, watched you enter a room, electricity around you like another god. But subtle, not for worship. Just aware of being alive.
How to tell one body from the next? Passions grow, regardless of topography.
I can't speak of him. You know this. And maybe that's why I've been left with silence. But I can't, I've tried. Something in me springs a trap. Because even now I'm betraying. How moments get fossilized, hardened in their dimensions. Though I can relive them, walk through the dendrite-web and into the occupied space, they refuse to be transcribed. I fear one word-splinter would untangle every association he and I ever had. As though languages have been lost, whole systems unwritten in order to preserve the offering. One moment can grow in the mind, a falling snow.
None of this matters. Your passion is residue, now. Every fear and joy evaporated when your mind unthread, as will mine. And two shared passions are never the same, but shared solitude, which finds, for a moment, another solitude with whom to dance.
You sit, patiently. I should be more like you.
02 December 2008
He goes on to explain that “For some reason, the larger numbers seem to be confined to linear series of segments, such as the vertebrae of mammals, the abdominal segments of insects, and the anterior segmentation of earthworms…[and an organism] will repeat that number in other parts. A lily has three sepals and then three petals and then six stamens and a trilocular ovary”
And I go off on this wandering imagining that perhaps Mr. Bateson gathered numbers in his head like finely painted ostrich eggs. As though his living room was full of imported and gorgeously detailed ostrich eggs. Where this comes from, I have no idea. But then I begin to focus on the eggs, their design, their pattern (keep in mind these are simply figments of my imagination) and I begin to see a correlation between Mr. Bateson’s imagined eggs and the lines on the leaves of grass. And then I see this as a prime example of metacommunication that he discussed in a previous chapter. Messages within text, within ideas themselves, presenting their information differently, tailored to each individual. Why, particularly, ostrich eggs became the venue through which I begin to see his personal ideas unfold, I have no clue. What neuron station held these masterpieces within their shop windows, I haven’t the slightest idea, but I am beginning to see just how complex, yet simple, not only my mind is but nature and the act of communications.
And so back to the patterns and that little field. Nothing without context. A map is not a territory. My ostrich eggs are not the content of his messages but inside their finely painted shells is the “pearl” of his message…
And then my mind sparks up again and I imagine rattling pearls within those gorgeous, delicate eggs.
I think to myself “what pearls of knowledge threaten to break my perceptions, and if so, when, and if not when, then how, and if not how, then why not?” And the answer?
Simply open doors. Simply observe. Simply take the time to bend down and see what others trample and ignore.
Because within the universal “truths” of science—the solidity of 7 and 3 is 10 and always will be, there is the imagination that dares to say: but what of 3 and 7? Gorgeous.
******** 7 AM--post posting:
Something bothered me as I woke up this morning. The whole "pearl inside the egg" image. Cliche?
What's the difference between staying true to the real image and altering it to avoid "cliche"? What's one to do to avoid, to actually TRAIN your brain, rewire, re-learn...to undo cliche...so that when you think, your don't think in cliche?
So let's say it wasn't a "pearl" in the egg...let's say I, instead, imagined an atom uranium. Because, as it splits, it gives off nuetrons that could smash together and cause fission, and perhaps this is a better analogy for the "explosiveness" of learning new ideas. This is a much more intense "breaking" of the "egg."
But it's less cliche, right?
Fuck it. I saw a pearl, not uranium atoms....
But perhaps I can retrain my brain to avoid cliche analogies.
01 December 2008
Think nothing of them, of how Unsaids go about shifting, change their clothes, wear top hats, discover that they are two hours late for a meal when, in fact, they never bothered to look at the time. Unsaids are too busy shining their shoes to open doors and ordering another whore to see that you wore a new dress, new lace button-up blouse that is a half-size too small—they never notice these things but are sure to take care of their cuticles. That’s the most infuriating element. And Unsaids write brilliant cover-letters with gorgeous, specially ordered water-marked paper-- Montblanc pen, so smooth, so cool to the touch, but never jot something like “your legs looked especially delicious stepping out of the shower this morning” on the back of your checkbook. Unsaids, however, regain composure on some menial carpet somewhere while you’re scrubbing a stain, hand on the small of your back, suddenly, because they know how much pressure, and where, yields the maximum affect. You could be sweating, swearing, furious, unable to hold in boats or sails, yet Unsaids undo every nautical knot in your body. Do not think anything of their shifting between the line of the imagined, bordering dangerous Unfields. It is here, between X amount of need and Y amount of solitary that Unsaids fly in, dig their heads down, graveyard spin planes into you. Think nothing of them.
30 November 2008
On the plane back to New York. I see the red line of sunset, the orange streak above it, onto light blue, dark, up into midnight. Lines and dots of lights down below. All of the lives, all of the people—it’s so gorgeous to me. And I love this plane, with so many strangers, sleeping. I feel loved, oddly, sitting here—loved and loving. I always feel this way on planes. The lights below are dimming, now. The land is stretching on into country. I can’t help but desire to lie down on the earth when I see it from this angle. That immediate gesture to roll about on land as a child, as a lover in bed. Do other’s feel this?
Keep thinking about intimacy. What is the root?
Beauty everywhere and everything, and how I search, still, for intimacy in the tiniest corners. In the woman sitting next to me, listening to her pink iPod (Norah Jones, I looked) and writing away in her notebook while I tap on in mine; in the man next to her, reading a novel, eyeglasses low on the bridge of his nose, white pressed shirt and tweed coat; in the two men sitting in front and on either side of the isle, heads back, mouths slightly open.
Am I simply sentimental? What of it? I could toss that word into the bin—honestly, it’s an enemy. Worry for nothing, useless.
Always, a state of newness, wonder. Let things go by in stampedes, or maybe just air, currents. I don’t know if time is in swirls, downward or up; could there be movement in an a sort of anti-direction, not a forward leaning thing…Round, everything round so that the sky’s belly kisses back into our arching length, so that to see one face in a crowd is to see your own. How to express this in words, or even music—sound is limited, as are words. I feel it in my body, though, more than any lover. I wish I could create it, too—stand there in the middle of my notes—if my body could be a note, one after another, if a lover could see them over the skin, hear whole melodies instead of seeing, touching—in last movements. This power could not be mine, ever, perhaps, without an opening up, a laying out—gathering? Hands undoing years of holding secrets.
I remember, how the hair on the head feels, tugged gently—whole body tingles down to feet and even on through the floor. How this is like cultivation, a practice in receiving, in being open. And all I need is to feel it in the gut, to relive it, allow it to grow up and around—feel someone’s touch even in solitude. Re-create softness. Open a taxi door and think only of this radiating glow—step over the railing and catch the nearest stranger’s eye.
Love isn’t something that labels, names, sequesters—how we try to though, how silly that we hoard and place-name love, colonize it, for some specific glory. The more our hearts remain open the deeper the roots must grow. Even in death, listen, that’s it. Death loves deeper because it needs to.
I want to learn to need like that—unselfish, blind, bold, imperfect, ill-timed, round, reaching up to include even our eyelids, even our guts, the fluids, strangest parts, intimate, that we never see…love even them because it refuses anything less than soil.
28 November 2008
* Lined up end-to-end, they would stretch 10 billion light-years--from here to the edge of the visible universe.
* Bacteria are the oldest known life-form having been around for at least 3.5 billion years.
* The first artificial life-form will not be a robot but a bacterium. Geneticist J. Craig Veneter is building one from scratch.
* Your body has 10 times more bacterium cells than human cells
* By programming instructions into their genes, scientists have engineered E. coli that act like computers, assembling into glowing bull's eye shapes on command!
(taken in part from Discover Magazine)
So, I was reading this on the plane the other day, imagining the cabin filled with billions of swarming bacteria...and I thought about a part in a poem of mine that I am working on...it goes:
"There are tiny cities
on the skin. I always thought this: I can witness some thing
happening on my body."
And I looked down on my arms, imagining these tiny bacterium cities (no, I was not under the influence of anything) and I thought...for some living thing, I am a planet. I am a terrain.
And then I went on, shrugging this thought off, to read:
"Atomic nuclei are bound together by the so called strong force. If that force were slightly more powerful, all the protons in the early universe would have paired off and there would be no hydrogen, which fuels long-lived stars. Water would not exist, nor would any other form of life."
If these cosmic traits were just slightly altered, life as we know it would be impossible.
Slightly altered...slightly less, more, stretching over, bending back...
When one body touches another, their little cities collide. These cities, these occupants, don't understand looks, height, skin-color, eyes. They simply mix, survive, duplicate, understand the basics.
When I look at someone else, some other planet, I can't help but make snap judgments. So I thought I'd try and think only of their bodies as bodies, skin as skin, their bacterium and mine. And everyone on the plane, every body sitting uncomfortably in the cramped seats simply became skin, eyes, hair.
And strangely swirlingly beautiful.
And then I thought, if the plane went down, we'd all burn up, explode and become dark matter versions of our bodies, equal. Which we already are, balancing, for such a short time, in a universe that exists because it's nit together just so.
Makes me feel a sort of awe and wonder. Makes me want to read Tales from the Alhambra or Dante's Inferno or Alice in Wonderland...because I can, because I'm alive. Because I am a host to bacteria...and I won't always carry around these tiny cities. One day, my land form will once again be swallowed by dark energy, sucked back to a void that radiates only promises.
I just thought I'd share my moment of awe.
Because I still can.
"All things that can not be gained by our pleading can be given to us only as something unexpected, something extra: this is why I am yet again confirmed in my belief that often nothing seems to matter in life but the longest patience."
"life's little wisdom is to wait (but wait in the proper, pure state of mind), and the great grace that is bestowed on us in return is to survive…"
Anyone who knows me knows that I have an intense affection for Rainer Maria Rilke—where the quotes above come from. I often find myself reading his "Letters on Life" over and over again during times of uncertainty. Actually, I often read him in the bath before bed, just to ground myself, set myself solidly on some sort of mountain again. So often, it seems I float in this bubble of contemplation, which can morph into worry. Now, usually I think of this as a blessing—it's what keep me driven, striving to learn more and more about whatever topic I am currently obsessed with or simply paying close attention to things most people don't pay close attention to…like colors and number sequences, people's hands or patterns in speech…the "rivers" on the page created by text, how my mind feels when I listen to Chopin, the number sequences in Chopin, how exactly to communicate this particular feeling into words, sounds, sentences and so on.
The downfall of this ability to wander around in my own created-reality is that it can swiftly turn into anxiety, worry, etc. I'll think TOO much about something and off I go, fishing for meaning or syntax bravely in a patched up boat, tossed about by uncertain and ill-behaved waves.
Today is one of those fishing days. Actually, I think the past couple of days have been fishing days. And can you blame me? Look where our economy is (not just the U.S., but the world's). I have never been in debt before in my life and chose this year of years to willingly walk into debt for a degree that, to most people seems a bit "useless." I gave up a great deal of security and even a fair amount of independence and moved far away from friends and warmth for the debt and useless degree.
Yes, but Shannon, you wanted nothing more than to pursue your dream! Of course, this is true. I am blessed beyond all possible reason to be where I am and able to do what I am doing.
But to blaze forth with the word "Faith" on my chest, I'd be a liar. I don't always have faith. It comes and goes. It's hard to possess all of the time. I wake in the middle of the night, hit square on the head with panic, sweating into my palms and think: What am I doing? I'll get dressed and faith will be lying on the dresser—I'll grab it and head for the door, but I drop it somewhere along the way between coffee-pot and car. It's especially hard when I find myself clothed in distraction, reading Times Online or various YouTube videos about the collapse of all things within the United States, knowing I should be working on a poem, working on brainstorming new work, reading that book about metals and chemical compounds (because I have that theme in a work I want to produce) etc. and Faith sort of slips out quietly from the library stacks and into the cold New York day, off to sit patiently and wait for me to go looking for it again.
Faith in the Universe, Faith in my decisions, in my ability to do hard work, in my talent, in my desire--deep, long, ancient desire-- to communicate something to someone else via the written word that might one day unfold some beauty or hold up a mirror to their own inner truth, faith in all of these things. I know I have it inside of me, wandering around through synapses gaps and down the left ventricle, taking a stroll along my spine…I carry inside me. But how often I want to tear it down, chew it up, cast it out into those fishing waters, drown it in attempts to retrieve it—how often!
And how funny life is. Because the same movement and melody that bears the talent to write also hauls on its back the tendencies to call forth this darkness. My lover and my heartbreak.
So, what do I do as I woo my elusive and beautiful faith-goddess? What do I do when I get tired and the other hand turns to pull the dark curtains?
What do I do when all signs point towards struggle, possible failure?
I am tempted to say: quick! Find a lifeboat! Cling to security! (aka, get a normal profession!)
But what is sweetness of art but in the struggle to fight for it?
"It is possible to feel so very much abandoned at times. And so much depends on the tiny indulgence of things, whether we can cope at all when they suddenly don't respond to us and move us along." (Rilke, again)
"tiny indulgence of things" like the usual comforts and security blankets? Like the well-paying job as a Title Agent? Like my own, sweet, gorgeous, lovely, quite, personal apartment in Fort Worth? Like my wonderful friends there?
And what about when something suddenly "doesn't respond to us and move us along"? Like what? My poetry? How sometimes it doesn't come easy, my Faith?
Yes. But what was that deep stirring that leapt out of me and through me to do what I am doing? What of that, of the poetry and faith? Nothing touches either entity of faith and poetry within me. Even when I feel abandoned by both, it's simply my inability to love poetry and faith and nurture them unconditionally, my short-sightedness, my impatience. How they are mountains! How they are what I wish to spend my life scaling! And of course to expect loneliness and struggle and loss of faith, like the thinning of air, but so dizzy! So dizzy spinning on feeling that much more ALIVE and true to that which I serve. Regardless of economic turmoil.
Even in times of economic bliss, of course, I'd still experience this war, this tug and pull of doubt and fear. And why not embrace doubt and fear? Are they not simply the opposite poles of that which propels me forward?
But not to embrace with the aim to smother. But to allow doubt and fear to speak, allow them to move within me, as faith moves, from left ventricle to down the spine. I think perhaps I should thank them because they are kind of like little hooks which sting and dig into the skin for a while but are what ultimately anchors me, guides me on my way to learning patience and appreciation, hauls me back when I try to run too far ahead, keeps me grounded to the very mountain which I am trying so desperately to climb.
Gen. 19:26 as Lots wife looked back and became a pillar of salt.
In the same way it is love's desire and wish that its secret source and its hidden life in the innermost being may remain a secret, that no one inquisitively and brazenly will force his way in disturbingly in order to see that which he cannot see anyway without forfeiting, because of his curiosity, the joy and blessing of it.
Yes. Because I know that once there's a taste to dine, I'll dissolve into bits of ash, or my heart will, on dinner plates. The treasure isn't possession, isn't locks of hair, isn't even how to feel one way or another; do you think God anchors blood to hems of skirts? Do you believe in something as encouraging as the weight of another? Prayer-books outline how to avoid cancer. Your better off blinding the heart's eye, hand over the rest of the gorgeousness, demand that nothing gets through. When your time grows weary of traveling, it won't be these trinkets of hearts to save you. It won't be the clanging of love-letters, it won't be the memory of her voice patterns in passionate sonnets. It won't be the caution of staying in one place, holding the hand of another for fear of snakes. It will be your daring. Then, when love does call to taste you, the flowers will bend just so, just so beautifully slant, your hands tremor. I hold this above you like a Bible. I hold this as a child. Oh, dear goddess and god, I send you this to say I always loved you. It is true: I hold this above you because my body will rot. I have nothing to offer. Turn away from me and then. And then. Recieve this and grant me the right to sing for you.
I wish your face wasn't fluttering. I wish the trees were my body as well. I told someone the other day that the feeling is like holding in bees. I went running on the treadmill and thought "God, let me die." And this shocked me. I shouldn't dare think such thoughts. The beauty of Autumn is enough. Why can't I sustain balance? I know the waves pass. I know the nausea subsides, the blinding whiteness of limbs which seem unattached in their heaviness. A mind that can't comprehend it's own space. When all I desire is non-space. Coolness. The smallest swords of stars into the side. The anger somehow subsides into a cargo of thudding weight. You know, the thudding of physical scales. Where only a melody is a saving grace. If I can just grasp a chord. Take ten measurements into my lungs, breathe out a fugue, distance myself between this century and the Black Forest, if that was possible, my body could stand it's own length of time. Instead, I find myself running on a treadmill, a mantra in my mind that crevices its way between each rib cage. Tears present themselves as if sweet. As if I had a right to long for that kind of universe. I wish your face wasn't fluttering. But the beauty of you, the beauty of you, faceless. Forgive me for thinking I could achieve your kind of grace. Your eyes, fluttering around feet on sidewalks. How to exist, simply.
I saw a pigeon today, fell from a branch right before my eyes. And it's odd because I was just reading a book about birds. It looked at me, shivering, in shock. I wanted to hold it and wished then for some sort of magical power, something to mend the bones. The bundle of its body thumping with fear, it's wings suddenly useless. It tilted to one side, swaying toward grass. Held up in the coal of its eye was an innocence, or perhaps it was simply a mirror…and suddenly, I wanted to be laid bare like that. Did you ever feel this raw? How many poems finally pleased you?
I thought about you today. I thought about how we'd probably talk about variations in stone, the color of earth, and how we try to hang our thoughts off of them like hooks. Were your thoughts useless, then? How do you feel about them now? Can you sometimes spot them running between orange groves? I like to think they get caught in children's hair. Perhaps that sleep-heavy sensation children feel as they lie down is really a collection of thoughts that have no home.
Do passions push up around us? I couldn't carry all of mine on the train the other day. I had to leave some behind. But I find that this doesn't matter, because every commuter has enough to share. How can they not see them, lying on their laps, hanging off their coat, sitting beside them in the empty seat. Sometimes I'm tempted to go up them and say "Did you lose something? I'm sorry, did you drop this?" and then kiss them.
I never talked about the lights when I was younger, until Jenny told me that inside a quartz were a million crevices that hid every secret longing you could imagine. Transcription, of course, is different. I tried to write the way bending works, in and out of the stones in my hand. One time, I sent seven down a well, and it rained so hard the horses escaped from the barn. I woke and found them dancing in the rain. This, of course, was their longing. I could taste it in their manes.
I can sometimes feel something you wish to say to me, hovering above me, or just lightly brushing my arm. It's a duller ache than the sharp missing of a lover. Your beauty, though, still rustles in the tree-tops. It's like I have to look up to hear your thoughts. And the pigeon fell from the sentences we never spoke to one another. Our disconnect embodied in the failed wings. But I swear, you do fly within me. I hope you hear me say this, type this.
I take a train again tonight. And though I won't find your words in suitcases in the overhead compartment, you're constantly falling off the shelves. I know you'd laugh at this image. I know you'd say "Thank you, Shannon, for remembering my name."
What do we do, then, but write diaries in our heads, all our lives? You probably wrote one, too. And I think, without knowing it, we're all writing it to one another.
I tried to write about something curled between my feet. Not a snail, not a rope. It's not even hissing. It just lies there, changing shape.
Knots build their homes between my ribs. I can't stop them. I can't breathe in without canceling out what should have been yesterday's lecture.
Because even if wanted to, my hands are too small.
My fingers smell like juniper. It's useless, thinking about snails coming out of their shells. I can't contain anything like that. It's absurd!
But look, I'm writing about something I'm trying not to write about. It's chewing it's way through. I will possess these eyes until I die. The sockets will shut down, will vibrate a little, then quiet. What will they do but feel a sort of dull ache, wait for a new pair, and starve?
Earlier, I went running because that's the only way I can feel anything. Not because I can't burn the roof of my mouth with morning coffee, not because of that. But because even the slightest brush against me and I pull in a bit, around the stomach. There's a leaping that occurs. Manage this for a year, I ask you. Tell me if you don't feel as though you're slowly dissolving.
Because I do, sometimes. What's to tether me to earth but a Juniper? Or something smokey-sweet. Because it's real and immediate. Because I can't wake without standing on one foot, and then the other, sloughing off heaviness of dreams.
I want to gather you up in my arms. I was going to say, pieces of sea-glass, but by that, I mean you. You're kind of smoothed off at the edges from years of collecting things in bottles, things like coins minted only on even numbered years. And because all numbers have distinctions, I wait until seven in the evening to think, just then, about your hands. Seven saves her hours in a bottle for you. Somewhere, she will reveal her true pattern, or, that's what I keep repeating to myself.
At the edge of what I write, haze gathers. Knots come again, before bed. I shrug it off the best I can. I fold and unfold my glasses. I count out the time, visualizing roman numerals. This doesn't help with sleep, but it does relax the mind. Still, there's the curling at the feet again, there's knots and the questions of how my body works so consistently, even when I don't want it to. There's faith. Against odds.
October 5, 2008
There's this line, a thin string, that ties the rest of me together. I tug on it sometimes, just to see how far I can unravel, how far I can let myself liquify (partially) before it hurts too much to not be solid. Touch me. It's all about ripples. I haven't cascaded in ages. How does one achieve this? I don't know. One time, I was walking along a park's path and I saw a patch of ferns. I crawled over to them, put my cheek to their cheek and said "how can I return to you?" But it started to rain and I had to get back in time for the bus. I never figured out their secret.
Sometimes I think I see truth in another person, wholly unknown. I imagine their lives before they live them. Each path, I guess, leads to me. I know this because I dreamed I made you from clay. I set you up on the dresser to dry in the sun, your little hands still damp and delicate...and I thought how much I'd love licking your belly in my dream. Oh, I miss your imaginary body. How can one miss an imaginary body? Just imagine you placed them on a dresser in sunlight one day before kendling them. Imagine you spent hours on the tiny pores in their skin, wanting to give them the perfect form, perfect freedom of movement. And you could, because for once, your hands could recall skeletons long forgotten somewhere in Maine. Between mud and graves you sunk your knees to find the perfect fit for your imagined body. I like to think this way, from time to time. As though my mind is really a stranger left at some bus stop and I can't quite get that sad, abandoned look out of my head.
I am avoiding molding the art that is you. I couldn't. Every time I touched you, you burned and burst into immediate ash. It leaves me wiping my brow and wrinkling my eyes, thinking "how can I love anyone and not combust?" But perhaps I am the one who keeps burning, bursting into ash....because one time I almost told you I loved you and what happened? You comforted me with something like Darling, you're so gregarious, don't feel down
But I didn't feel down. Not really, I only wanted you to take my hand.
Heartwood grows in the inner-most layer of a wood-bearing stem. It grows outward, radially, until it crushes all of the cell walls around it, which then collapse to form the bark. The bark is simply dead cells. We never see the heartwood unless we gut the plant. Gut the insides to make writing tablets from which we never wrote love letters.
If we could write love letters, some part of us would live forever masked in ink.
I had a friend once who wrote me from miles away. I'd keep all of her stamped envelopes in my sock drawer and stick the stamps on my bedpost near my lamp. At night the stamps would ripple when I half-way closed my eyes. I thought about her tongue against them, and how strangely close my dreams drifted to her. The stamps decorated the bed. Sometimes they would have flowers on them, and I learned every state bird that summer.
It's like the strings in between my hands pull tight and I need some sort of clapping.
I wanted to write you again. This time I wanted to discuss what horses we would ride together in winter. Wanted the childhood to be in tact and not a slow tear along the corner of a college-lined paper, which used to be living inside of me.
For ages I bend over the imaginary stamps, categorizing tulips and perriwinkle, primrose and dogwood. I smell only glue and U.S. Postage weight. How can I dream of words? How can the envelope float in a glass above the ceiling, pouring milkened dreams? I can't find myself, fumbling in a room of deadness. My weakness eats me like cancer. Regardless, cells regenerate themselves, knowing the script. Alive means knowing there's no end to the string, just variations in color.
And the stamps peal off the wood. The branches lose their lignin and curl in to degenerate. It will take years, but eventually, coal will form, a bit of sandalwood will wash up on the North Sea shore. Each hair on the head came from a bit of dust. Carbon fuses with hydrogen and I suppose my body will mulch itself into the root systems of plants, someday.
What do you do when there is nothing in your body.
I don't feel like writing. My face tingles because I haven't slept in ages. I think, though, that when I do sleep, it's briefly and with interesting visions. I found a man last night under me. He laughed because I didn't even know that he was smitten long before we spoke. Well, how could I, he was hiding somewhere behind my occipital lobe. I liked the fact that I still have no idea who he is.
But desire, desire. Perhaps I will do something about language. See, in my dreams I speak but it's not in a way you'd understand. It's like this:
Signs. Body gesture. Poetry. Color.
But that's not what I want to write about.
Every one has an ego that follows them around like a shadow. No one gives a shit how good your words looked on the page.
I stop myself from jumping out the window. I thought, but this is the only way to drown out that shadow, that desire. What else can I do with my time? Other than…
God Damn it. I can't even write about how I feel. You don't understand. It's like having a stroke and being unable to form words. My mouth runs with sand each time I talk or write now-a-days.
There's this part of my forehead that goes numb sometimes. It's like some strange man pressing his palm there, saying "And God anointed you keeper of signs. Angels have blessed the night with your eyes"
But then again, every sensation in my body must come from somewhere. If not a man, then a chain of chemical reactions.
So, my forehead goes numb. I think about busting my head open on a rock after climbing down from a water tower. The tumbling world in my hands.
No. That's not true. And nothing is worth anything if I don't tell the truth.
Why do you think I'm boring? God Damn It.
I had to create chaos when I was younger to match how I felt. I feel like that again, now. Not about creating chaos, but how it feels to want to create it.
I was looking at a lamppost and I thought about jumping. I swear. Sometimes I don't understand why any of us are still here at all. Because if I wrote "I don't want to exist" here, it would be dramatic. I would hate myself for writing something like that.
And that's why I can't write. Because being beautiful doesn't count. The font gets smaller and smaller until I can't see a God Damn thing. I can't even feel anything but numb men standing on my forehead. So, I avoid the truth. I say "oh, hi, lovely day for a run." And the truth says "right, right…must be going" and I sigh with relief because he didn't ask me to dinner. I wouldn't be able to hold a conversation,. This is how it would go.
Truth: You never come home before 9 anymore
Me: I am busy. I can't seem to get anything written. I need extra time.
Truth: But, why don't we cook together anymore? I bought three zucchinis last week just to watch them rot in the fridge. I even thought about taking a trip this year, somewhere in the mountains, you know, because you said you loved it.
Me: I should be happy.
Truth: Of course, of course…you have a headache, don't you?
Me: I typed over you. It took three hours to complete one sentence. I didn't even break for lunch, that's how fucked I am.
I have a headache, so this is quite difficult. I had one of those days where all I want to do is sink into some patch of grass.
Here's what I said after climbing for an hour seven years ago:
Location: Upper Rose, Miles: 12, Animals: snake, raven, lizard
Today we woke up early and hiked 4 miles up Lamordor Mountain. I was weak because I didn't eat enough, but I made it.. Hopefully my appetite will kick in.
Hiked 8 miles, no sign of drinkable water…finally had to resort to stagnant horse pond. Fires are not coming along.
Then, of course, I slip into something more like "this-is-going-to-pass-don't-think-about-killing-yourself" mode while driving down the highway,
But who can control the knob on that sucker?
God Damn It. Being beautiful doesn't count. Language is blind.
I've been way too open with you now and I'll stop. Because there's really no point in even sharing this because anything you'd have to say to me, I already know intellectually. So why send this note, really? Where do they go but under some dark paneling? If I could force myself to, I could apply this problem to similar situations from the past and I could say, look, everything obviously turns out fine. More than fine. The fabrics I can't see follow a certain pattern. No human being could fully know the equation and yet, intuitively, I know it -- maybe not its formula, but I do know its nature. I do know that this letter isn't really about reaching out for a hand, but more of a reaching inward. And why do I constantly think I need someone else for that movement? I don't. None of us do. God lies when speaking of companionship. I could fly to the highest possible altitude and still, my eyes would fail to scan the complete narrative of my life. But I predict. Daily, I predict. I get up and lie in the bath and see my body change. Some days strong, some days weak. Some thin, some not. I know my body craves touch but that's nature's force. I don't need it. I don't want it. Yet I need warmth, I want the wetness of lips. Try and give it to yourself. This morning, the gold ring with the pearl on my hand, I thought "God I love her." And if I was another, I'd kiss that hand and I'd take her up to bed again, to smell her smell like one samples rows of hibiscus. But I can't. My body is mine and I encompass only this space, only this area, no one else's. I can't step outside, even for a moment. There is no perspective but out, and in. Crawling. So no, I won't send this letter because you're probably wondering the same thing, today. You're probably, without knowing it, trying to escape or calculate your own space. Little shell. I wish you were a shell. I'd crawl inside you from time to time just to hear the walls give back my loving sounds. Of course, you'd hold me. Because holding me is creation. My own in you, a light. Can two really be that for each other? No. I will not send this letter. Because in this letter I strip down to nothing and by doing so, I abandon what never could be lost to begin with -- my strength, my bodyness all swirling around these rivers between letters, words' own water-system. My flowing heart. Still, perhaps one day I'll invite you to drink. But not today. I will not send this. Not even you deserve such honesty.
So, I've been avoiding even writing in a journal for the past couple of days. I wonder why? I have been an avid journal keeper since the age of 6.
Today, my friend Chrissie asked me how I felt about everything that's happening -- moving to New York, pursuing my dream, etc. and I just said: I am taking it one day at a time. I guess I try not to think too much about it...perhaps I feel like I might jinx something, or perhaps if I think too far ahead, I might get the wrong idea about things.
But here I am, my last night in Texas, getting ready to fly to New York tomorrow morning, forcing myself to reflect on this moment, this movement.
When I stop and think about what I am about to do, I get a little overwhelmed. Oh God. I think: can I do this? How did I get here? Is this real? I have fleeting moments of panic.
It's funny. I was sitting at Barnes and Noble in Midland today, reading a collection of poetry by Grace Paley and I thought: Here I am. Back where it started. I used to ride my bike to Barnes and Noble when I was younger and read poetry for hours. I used to look at the poetry section and try and place my book of poetry on the shelf. Shannon Hardwick...next to Hardy, that's not a bad place to be. I would read book after book of poetry, trying to learn as much as I could about who was writing, who wrote and what exactly they were doing, how they were moving, what exactly it spoke to me. And there I was today, reading a collection of poetry by a woman who helped create the writing program which I will soon be a student of. I shake my head. I read. I feel my body stir. I see a girl, curled up with a book, swallowing the beauty of sound, tasting others' observations, loving every word. How did I manange to salvage this through so many trials? Why did I make it so difficult at certain points of my life, to get here? Exactly here?
Here. Poetry and I sit and converse. I listen, mostly. I haven't written anything in a long while, and even if I have, it hasn't been anything too grand. No matter. Here I am. Poems come back to me eventually. It's been a fast-paced month, it's been an interesting road. And yet, stillness comes back to me between others' lines. Here, I find the little girl, the teenager, the present woman, the future woman I am to become. I have yet to see her beauty. I have yet to look at the world with her eyes, but I can tell it will always carry a certain beauty, no matter the place, no matter the circumstance. And the sun is setting now. West Texas. Oh, your beautiful offering. Sunset sky. My love. My reading lamp. My very heart resting before God.
Two nights ago, my sister and I were sitting in the grocery store parking lot. The sun was setting. She said "It looks like we could just climb strait to heaven, right there." And I said "yes. yes it does." She said "It's leaving! Let's go inside before we can see it go down and turn dark." I wonder, why beauty lasts just long enough for us to truly grasp it's power, it's frailty?
So. My last night in Texas. Of course, I will come back. But certainly I move on from here in order to pursue my love, my dream. How beautiful this life. How blessed. And how fleeting. Yes, like my sister, I feel like running inside before the light dims, before the height of a sunset's gold light weakens. But, of course, all things must end. And like the dazzling stars which follow the setting sun, endings are transformations into new light. Nothing is too big or small to let go of, to embrace, to linger somewhere at the base of my spine.
"I do not think the spirit can make itself anywhere so small that it would concern only our temporal existance, our here and now: where it surges toward us, there we are the dead and the living all at once." --Rilke
One day, I will forget this. One day, the world will breathe in, and I will go out of the world, understanding each event, loving each movement for what it created. I hope I have some of that wisdom now, if just a little.
Maybe I won't write anything profound. Maybe. Maybe I already have, and it's simply curled inside some distant shell, sleeping, stirring, waiting on the sun to set.
Here I go.
This was actually a tangent I went off on while writing my other blog...but I figured it deserved to be it's own little piece...that and it didn't really make sense being stuck in the middle of the other one)
Why do we feel ashamed to crave beauty? Why should we expect anything less in lovemaking? Perhaps it is the confusion that to crave passion in life is somehow immoral. Many may come to this conclusion from the roots of their religious upbringing. I know several people who feel ashamed to talk about not only their secret passions in life, but their erotic passion as well. The more I work at accepting my nature, the more I try to link my early, child-like spirituality with my passions. If you have been reading my blogs, you know that I have discussed my intense spirituality as a child, which came about without having the influence of church attendance or anything else. Then, as I got older, I fell into an extreme version of spirituality, one that punishes and labels basic human nature, specifically the idea of Eros, as sinful and immoral. Deep down, I always knew that something did not add up – that the younger spirituality and love for God, the Angels, and even Jesus, was purer and conducive with my basic human sexual nature than that which I was taught in the Evangelical society.
Thomas Moore writes in his book The Soul of Sex: "All figures of history, but none more so than Jesus, are transformed by the imagination of those who come after them." Here is another example of the idea that the imagination creates, in this case, a potentially harmful reality, following and practice. He continues:
In spite of themselves they become objects of mythic imagination. There are by now countless images of Jesus, each defended strongly and often anxiously, and among them is the Dionysian Jesus espoused by … Jung. This is the Jesus drunk on life, inebriated by vitality, and able to live with an intensity inaccessible to most. This Jesus knows the secret … that sex thrives in the air of friendship. Eros and philia, lust and intimacy, can feed each other, resulting in the stimulating and creative paradoxes of erotic chastity that characterizes the Jesus of the Gospels. Later, of course, Christianity would lose this creative, humane sexuality and become preoccupied with [suppression] (71-72).
I could go on for ages about this. I remember constantly struggling with my own nature and the ideals that were presented, not just by my time involved in the church, but also in general, by society. I have to keep asking myself why I continue to struggle with my own passion? I am learning to take joy in my own voice: because it is mine; because it is no one else's -- but I still have these hang-ups from time to time. My friend was joking the other night saying, "Everything is about sex for Shannon – even Sumo-resting is about sex!" In response to this, I'd like to add something Rilke wrote: "And in fact artistic experience lies too incredibly close to that of sex, to its pain and its ecstasy, that the two manifestations are indeed but different forms of one and the same yearning and delight. And if instead of 'living and writing in heat' one might say—sex, sex in the great, broad, clean sense, free of any insinuation of ecclesiastical error, then art would be very grand and infinitely important."
As far as every day passion in life, not just in the bedroom, it seems a great number of people are content to settle. They lack passion in their lives because they don't believe they deserve it; even if they do, they tend to stay steadfast on the path of safety -- of least resistance -- because at least here they have control. It is a control rooted in dissatisfaction that holds fast to fear of failure and disappointment: if we never allow our soul to desire, to seek the noblest, we avoid the risk of being crushed. However, coming back to the origin of things beginning in the imagination – if we never dare to imagine what we want for our lives, we will never have the chance to live out our personal desire's destiny.
In order for something to grow, we need to tend to it, care for it, feed it, and nurture it daily. If we neglect desire, if we smother its mouth and hide it away in the recesses of memory, it will drain daily from our lives; we will see the edges turn brown and like a room with a dying plant, desire's oxygen will dissipate until we are left breathing resentment and disappointment – looking constantly toward the window at the rain, wondering why so many storms pass over desire's once fruitful home. It is then our hearts ache; it is then we seek distraction and depression can easily slip inside the back door.
I don't know. I feel like a strange person sometimes…I feel like I have nowhere to place my passion. It's this trail that follows me around and I want to gather it up like a bouquet of wild flowers and give them to someone. I feel like I have too many god damn flowers. And they are useless on my mantel…beautiful, yes. But useless. I can take one down and turn it into a poem or chew on it a while, feel my brain tingling, talk to a group of friends and pass them out, pull one out of my pocket, sometimes, and send it off to someone who might need it. But that's not good enough. Because they need sunlight – I need sunlight. I can write about everything, but still, words prove only to be tiny doors. Or cracks in tiny doors. See? Sometimes I slip off my dress, stand in the middle of the room, and…wonder what to do with all these damn flowers.
my uncle and I have started a dialogue about – well, just about anything. Angels, Aliens, Physics. I'd like to start out by quoting an excerpt from one of his emails:
"One of my operating assumptions is that the universe is so large that if something could exist, it must exist somewhere in "space-time." This dry principle then leads me into a reverence for the imagination and those who proved themselves "geniuses" in the realms of imagination.
So, then, does Milton give us insights into how the cosmos operates? I indeed think so.
But even our imaginations are constrained, I think. Here's a tidbit from a genuinely smart fellow that I regard as a fundamental principle: "I have no doubt that in reality the future will be vastly more surprising than anything I can imagine. Now my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose." --JBS Haldane, Possible Worlds and Other Papers (1927), p. 286.
The whole idea of how imagination may play out in the study of such things got me thinking…
Nicholas Humphrey said in an article "What Have You Changed Your Mind About" at the website The Question Center, that "all the facts of the hard problem that we need to solve are already familiar with us – if only we could see them for what they are…change the way we imagine. Step out a little. Gain a wider area of vision."
The "hard problem" is something I came across in one of my psychology classes, and that is, consciousness. However, I also like to think perhaps this can also translate over into Big Questions, such as: is there intelligent life on other planets; how exactly did we get here – is Big Bang theory correct; is there such as thing as a Unified Theory; will we ever find proof…where can we account for, and what exactly is, the soul?
C. S. Lewis wrote a story in which he tried to explain to someone why one cannot discount the spiritual world: He explained that if you had two pennies in a drawer and then you added one more, how many would there be the next day? Well, according to the laws of arithmetic, you'd have 3 pennies. Okay, but what if a thief stole the money in the middle of the night? Well, you wouldn't have any at all…but how could you account for this? You did not see the thief. So, does by not having any money the next day go against the laws of arithmetic? No. Because in the case of an unknown, unseen thief, there is something working which is outside the known Law. This does not change the fundamentals of arithmetic, PROVIDED THAT no one tampered with the coins. Miracles, spiritual encounters, etc. do not break the laws of Nature – Laws explain an outcome only if no one interferes.
I thought this was a creative way of trying to account for things that we cannot explain – because there are certain things we cannot explain. And perhaps our limited imaginations do not allow us to comprehend that which in unknown, whatever realm -- space, the soul – that may be.
So from where, and why, do we keep on searching? I think it comes down to faith. Scientists have to have faith to continue to hypothesis. Believers have to have faith to believe.
I think it is Faith that feeds the soul -- a Universe we know nothing about whose physical reality is without definition. Just like Humphrey was saying, and many debate, where consciousness resides. What are the Laws of the soul? The unexplained bi-products of a country we have yet to explore (much like space), a landscape left to the imagination of children who are capable of glimpsing back into that Universe with clearer eyes than all of us; they have yet to be tainted by the leanings of our Universe, the Laws of our world. Just as Jesus said we must become like children to enter the Kingdom of Heaven…perhaps something similar can be said for the universe, and the soul. Maybe it lies in our own imagination.
Alison Gopink said that for human beings, the really important evolutionary advantage is our ability to create new worlds. Look around the room – all was once imaginary. Every one the objects you see started out as an imaginary fantasy in someone's mind. This is even true of our identity – why am I, who I am now? I am going to be a graduate student because I willed that into action (and some wonderfully encouraging friends); I am independent because I worked toward that independence. I am healthy because I work hard at maintaining that health, etc.
People look too often for outside influences to hold them back, when really it is their responsibility to make things happen for themselves. It is the same thing with religion. People want facts about God when really it is your responsibility to maintain faith. Do you want to believe in God? Good – believe in God. Do you want to believe in the Theory of Relativity? Believe in it. We make it real, and if what turns out to be a dead theory, well. We choose to continue hypothesizing. Want to create a table? Create it. Find the wood, figure out how to cut down the tree and saw it. Construct a reality, but don't impose it on others. Someone believes in Allah and you believe in Jesus? That's your spiritual house – you have no ruling over theirs. They worked hard to build their faith. You wouldn't go around burning your neighbors' houses, would you? Why would you want everyone on your street to live in the same Tudor style house you built? Why can't we celebrate differences? Yes, rejoice in kinship, but don't beat someone's soul into submission, into mirroring your own. You want to love a man, love a man; you want to love a woman, love a woman. Love is our construct as well.
Now, going back to Alison Goplink. She said: "the two abilities – finding the truth about the world and creating new worlds – are two sides of the same coin. Theories don't just tell us what's true – they tell us what's possible, and they tell us how to get to those possibilities from where we are now. When children learn and when they pretend they use their knowledge of the world to create new possibilities. So do we whether we are doing science or writing novels. Science and fiction – the same thing."
I absolutely love the idea of linking science and the imagination like that. It got me thinking about a discussion I had with my sister back in May. We were talking about how, when we were little, we used to make up personalities for numbers and letters in order to learn them better. I said seven was a pretty girl and five was a teenage boy. She said six had a crush on twelve and that one was very insecure. There were also colors to go with numbers. My mom, sitting behind us on the train, overheard the conversation and jumped in, saying "yeah! And certain colors had certain smells!" My sister and I looked at each other and shook our heads…we didn't take it THAT far! Haha.
To learn, we create creative ways of retaining knowledge – we still retain that knowledge, but where do those other creations that aided that learning, go (like my sister's and my own characters, for example)? As in science – energy cannot be lost but re-directed. Where do those creations go? They can't simply "die." I believe they redirect into other areas of our life. But is that knowledge that we learned by their hand more important? Is the math more important than these dreamed up characters? Does one retain more value than the other? No. Just as math can work toward such things as quantum theory, so, to, can imaginary beings help solve the mysteries of the soul, and in turn, the universe. Where do the acts of diverging, diverge? In what direction? Where did math come from? Did it not exist before it was explained? In the same line of thought – did God not exist before man (maybe not imagined him, but explained him)? Why is one concept accepted are more real than another?
There's a quote by Rilke that I came across while starting another blog (which should be posted tomorrow) about people suppressing their passions, and it talks about how if one live and wrote in heat (what Rilke calls sex), then art (and I add, the imagination) would be very grand and infinitely important. But art is not taken seriously; the impulses and imaginations of others sometimes prove odd, unimportant, unnecessary, or simply not falling into societal norms. However, both art and the imagination from which it is born are essential to everyone's nature as human beings.
It is my thought, then, that we will never be able to discover the workings of our Universe fully if we are not capable of first accepting the nature of our own being. Going back to Humphrey's idea that all of the questions to the "hard problem" of consciousness are already answered in what we have before us (if only we could learn to see properly), perhaps it is the same with the workings of the Universe. And this is not just the hard facts about what may or may not be out there, but the Truth behind the numerous Possibilities. Is it not that which we crave in our own lives? Is it not that which keeps us moving? Possibility being the roof under which we celebrate life?
I probably will never live to see the complete answers to the workings of the cosmos, but perhaps that's just the point – perhaps, like my uncle said of the imagination and our own reasoning, more to the point, spiritual eyesight, is constrained. Maybe the form in which we are capable of solving all of the theories is in Spirit, after passing one realm into another. Perhaps, like a far away memory, we already possess all of the answers in some hidden corner of the brain. But like even the most solid theory, there are always possible holes…and that, in and of itself, is essential.
I love this quote from Rilke that I think fits these musings on physics and the imagination: "Do not be bewildered by the surfaces; in the depths all becomes law."
This concept reminds me of the way in which our brain fills in gaps for us. There are those optical illusions that they showed us in my psychology of consciousness class…where you know there are "gaps" in the lines, but your brain fills them in…I don't remember exactly what these are called. It also reminds me of the telescope that NASA is trying to develop (or have?)…the fact that they are trying to see if there are other earth-like planets by sort of looking out of the corner of the eye…not trying to see the planet directly, but trying to see the gravitational "waves" that they theoretically would create. (I probably got that wrong). Maybe our own imaginations are the clue to closing those gaps. And maybe we're already making progress, as long as we keep our minds open.
See, I think too many people are quick to label someone's idea or theory as "crazy" or "preposterous." Instead, I think we should acknowledge the sheer creativity of their imaginings and realize that, while their theory may not hold up as a whole, there are, in fact, some elements that may prove helpful in gaining more knowledge in the future. Maybe there is not a higher power of aliens life in space controlling our every move, but the ideas and imagination behind such a concept may reveal building blocks to some other idea or puzzle piece.
Again, I go back to Rilke: "We must assume our existence as broadly as we in any way can; everything, even the unheard-of, must be possible in it…to have courage for the most strange, the most singular, the most inexplicable that we may encounter. … The experiences that are called "visions," the whole so-called "spirit-world," death, all those things are so closely akin to us, have by daily parrying been so crowded out of life that the senses with which we could have grasped them are atrophied. To say nothing of God."
Behind every imagining is the work of the human brain which has proven time and time again to be the most fundamental element -- not only to sheer survival, but the ability to be extraordinary human beings. Now, if only we could allow ourselves to feel, think, and imagine more deeply, without judgment.
I am sitting in Borders, reading an essay by Condaleeza Rice about Foreign Affairs, (ugh) then move on to an essay by Edward Hirsch about art and am interrupted by a strong voice of a man a table over. Not only is his voice demanding, his accent immediately catches my attention. He has one of those drawn out Southern accents, but one that you'd imagine in front of an old plantation, his white suit on, hat to the side, smoking a cigar and commenting on the grandchildren and the state of the lawn.
"I'm sure there are good people out there, I am sure," he says.
This is after he quotes from something he is reading, to his wife. I can't help but smile. He reminds me of certain family members who are long gone now. It reminds me of being a young girl at Easter when my mother's family would gather around on the country club golf course after the egg hunt…the adults drinking their drinks, smoking their various tobacco products, while the mothers warn the children to please avoid getting grass stains on their nice, bright, Easter dress or their new patent leather shoes. I had the best shoes: pink patent leather penny loafer type shoes. I adored them.
I don't know why I am writing about this man and the memories his voice recalls but frankly, I've been heart-heavy the past few days. For many reasons I've been a bit lonesome…not the kind of lonesome one has for company or a lover, not the kind where you're actually down in spirits, but the kind where something or some event might just trigger a little reaction – tug on a small string that creates a note bareley audible that usually you don't notice, but your attentions are more heightened, your "spiritual" ears a bit more attentive than usual. I guess it's been like that for me for the past couple of days.
Emerson wrote in his essay on Plato that "our strength is transitional, alternating":
The experience of poetic creativeness…is not found in staying at home, nor yet in traveling, but in transitions from one to the other, which must therefore be adroitly managed to present as much transitional surface as possible.
It is in action, in the every-day encounters with experience, that I want to move – that I wish to create. The "transitional surface" itself – perhaps that is the piece of paper (or computer screen) on which the poem is to act. Sometimes (most of the time, actually) I begin a poem without the full picture in hand. Usually, I am moved at what I encounter there (and if I am not, then it's not a complete poem). It is as if I am working with an already existing poem, and that poem (or piece of writing) is presenting itself to me – and from there, we "move," we "dance." I hope, one day, to become a better writer, so much so that it is obvious, upon each new read, that there are a million different ways in which the writing can present itself -- that each time someone approaches the work, it is as fresh as the moment it was created. I don't know if I'll ever get there…I don't even know if that makes sense, but I think it's something to strive for. This is why I bring up my encounter with the man here at Borders. His voice, triggering my memories, stirring some kind of spiritual soup inside myself, causing a bouquet of aromas I didn't know existed…a once stale feeling is brought to life and knocks on various doors in memory – it's moving. I have encountered poems (written by much more talented, mature poets) that have cause a similar chain of events. It is in those moments that I feel the depth of my own "humanity." Not that I feel my own capacity for empathy or kindness or greatness, but that I feel just how human I am, just how connected I am to everyone else who has undoubtedly experienced similar emotions. See, this is the thing: beyond all barriers of race, gender, nationality, etc., and even beyond the limitations of subjective experience (which is a gift unto itself), human emotion has the capacity to bridge any gap, connect even the furthest two points -- no matter how mathematically impossible -- between to very different, independent beating hearts. This amazes me. Of course, the possibilities are endless. Think about it: there are an infinite number of memories one single poem or painting or song can recall in a person. Now, think of how many people experience the poem or painting or song and then put the number of various memories…and…well, there's a ratio or possibility equation that exists, but I don't recall…I did tell you about my horrid experience with math, right?
Maybe all of these musings arise from the fact that I'm missing a sort of visceral or impulsive aspect in my own life. To create something that truly "lives in the moment." Perhaps a sort of physicality, as well – to engage with a poem, with words, with images…to feel as though a space exists in which one can escape the mundane and experience something new, something unexpected – to be greeted with something we didn't even know existed inside of us, a sort of introduction to new (yet preexisting) states within our own self. Wouldn't this be a type of intimacy, then, between the writer, the work, and the audience? A threesome of spirituality and intellect in artistic realms? Is this the true human connection? Because, even if the writer writes without a speific audience in mind, if they truly write for the sake of writing, even then there exists a spiritual triangular connection between the subject and it's creator and audience. Sometimes I believe that what might even orchestrate all of these ties and bonds might be something Spiritual…a sort of collective consciounce that sets out to connect us all to one another, even in the briefest of moments. However, I do tend to be a romantic in that respect.
Rilke's Elegies have been interesting me lately, and his ideas on time and connections particularly get me thinking about our existence – why we create – etc. He writes in Elegies:
We of the here-and-now are not for a moment satisfied in the world of time, nor are we bound in it; we are continually overflowing toward those who preceded us, toward our origin, and toward those who seemingly come after us. … We are the bees of the invisible. We wildly collect the honey of the visible, to store it in the great golden hive of the invisible…which [will] show us the work of the continual conversation of the beloved visible and tangible world into the invisible vibrations and agitations of our own nature…
When he mentions how we "wildly collect from the visible," I believe perhaps this partly accounts for the creative impulse—to contribute to the "continual conversation." I just felt very moved by this passage…specifically the idea of a continual conversation…because, as I was listening to that man say, with his sweet drawl, "I'm sure there are good people out there, I am sure," my heart beat a little faster…my mind sifted quickly through the collection of memories this particular sensation and trigger lured out from behind consciousness' doors, and I felt as though I could capture, at that moment, a feeling, an emotion. It felt as though I had walked into the beginning moments of a poem's (or any type of artwork's) first breaths. Maybe, just maybe one day I could tap into that well and produce the kind of work that will not only last – contributing to the "continual conversation" – but that the work would be able to re-create itself for each reader, fresh, with the same effects at calling forth emotion and romancing the invisible...because, no matter how much we avoid or deny, we will never be satisfied with time…there's never enough of it. Our loved ones are stolen away by time (of course, this is merely an illusion…because I believe they are here), our memories fade, our bodies turn against us…but a Monet is still a Monet, a child's fingerprint painting is still a child's fingerprint painting – even when the child is 60, your lover's letters still express the same sentiment, though they have long since passed – their words hovering in the cursive ink, mouth open, speaking, gathering your emotions into a basket, which needs only to be recalled…
I love you always, if that's the case. We never lose; we always gain more in this continuation.