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.
Someone asked me how my day was. What do you do? That sounds boring.
And so, wanting to write something, but wanting a break from poetry, I tried to exlplain my day, how I precieved it...surreal as it may seem...this is what I came up with:
Tired. Trying to get my mind around something. I told myself this morning that I was going to have a beautiful day, and it was. Heat pressing on all sides, wind through my hair, screaming; it was beautiful. Working all day reading legal documents, dust from old county courthouses, cursive from 1800s and I can barely see…still, it reminded me of the power of human intellect. We strive to remind, record, who owned, bought, sold, died, mortgaged, lent. How many acres divided, what father passed on land to a son, who in turn had children, where's his Will? Searching, rummaging through big stacks of books, heavy, I lift them, drag them onto the table. Man says "need help?" I smile and nod. This binding is impossible, he says, I laugh. He smells like hay and tobacco—which doesn't surprise me because this is Johnson County, in the middle of nowhere on the way to Austin, Texas. A dry county, he says, closest place to buy beer is off of 67, Glen Rose Exit. The binding comes loose. I copy. I read. It smells like moth. Like a library. Busy, everyone is busy. The heat gets unrealistic; I feel hazy. I only slept 4 hours last night, so the buzz in my head from the heat and the people in the basement of the courthouse makes time seem a dream. I feel as though we could all be lifted, any moment, each one of us, looking at our books, document, computer screens, into a sort of bubble, up through the stained-glass ceiling the Masons built in 1880. Each one of us a body unto our self – collective. I think we all sighed at once. We find, scan, read, fill in gaps in time, linking so many histories, families, lives, land. Plot, acre, subdivision – which translates into – farms, hopes, dreams, babies, growth, foreclosures, divorce, death, remarriage, division, coming together again. Is this your first time in Johnson County? Someone asks, yes, first time. Welcome to hell, he says. I laugh. Sure, this is a tiny room, we're all searching, sweaty, hot, looking for chains, names, liens…but look at us, I think, look! We're learning. I think we're beautiful. Each going our separate ways, digging up the past. I get goosebumps, even though it's damp with body-heat, because someone brushed past my shoulder, lightly. I know it's because I only slept 4 hours, but it feels like an instant intimacy, throughout my body, we're brushing each other, we transfer. Oh, my whole body in feathery down. The pages turn, crisp. I wonder about this handwriting, from 1916, loops, dust-jacket. Not unlike my own. The woman announces the printer is broken. The whole room lets out a noise, deflating, just so. Look at us! We disapprove in unison. How human of us, how beautiful. The man next to me says, It always breaks down in the afternoon it seems. Perhaps it's tired, I said. He laughs a big belly laugh, perhaps it wants to go home and drink a beer. I think, yes, perhaps we should all go home and drink a beer, together, with the broken printer. This man has strong hands, kind eyes. Strange, these chains in our lives, weaving us all together, at this exact moment, in a courthouse, with a broken printer. Beautiful, I think, though I'm dazed from 4 hours of sleep; yes, heat pressing on all sides, wind. We're all spirits in a courthouse, reading legal documents.
"The fear of poetry is an indication that we are cut off from our own reality" -- Muriel Rukeyser
I've been in a bit of a dry spell lately and I know certain people who would scoff at that statement, shake their heads and say "Shannon, you can't produce publishable work every damn day!" (that's almost a direct quote). Of which I'd say…well, of course not…I hardly think I produce publishable work each year, let alone day. Anyway, I've been frustrated lately. I demand too much, I think, of myself. Perhaps I demand too much from others as a result. But I digress.
I get in these mental blocks where I fling myself around (in my head, mind you) and despair that I will NEVER write another poem AGAIN! Surely I will never be blessed with inspiration or even a good image or two, again. Right? Why did I ever write a poem to begin with? Who was I kidding? And so I read things, I study thing (right now it's the work of Richard Feynman – how did I not know about this character? What the hell was wrong with my education that it lacked so desperately in the Math and Science department? Sigh…expect more on him soon).
Anyway, so I study things…. hoping that I might learn things, hoping I might be able to hold a conversation about computer programming or nuclear science if ever the need arose…but the end result is maybe, just maybe, if I become just that much more knowledgeable, it might help me somewhere down the line in my poetry. I long to learn more and more about whatever I can. I was almost ANGRY when I first started reading about physics and stuff because why the hell didn't I know any of this? Where the hell have I been for 23ish years? Oh, yeah, reading poetry and Jane Austen, Milton, stuff about the British Empire, etc. and ignoring anything having to remotely do with science or math because I have what you call "Math Anxiety."
It's true. I actually enjoyed Chemistry and Algebra 1 in high school…but when I got to college, I opted to take the course called "Topics in Mathematics" which is supposed to be "easy." You know, for the Humanities students who only need one credit of math to graduate? Anyway, so I took it…and my teacher didn't speak English…more like…Japenglish. So, after a heart attack on my first day, I switched classes so I could get a different professor, one that spoke s-l-o-w-l-y when discussing equations and moles and statistics and what all else (I really didn't learn anything). But still, I got a D on my first exam. I walked out of class, got in my car, lit up a cigarette (back when I had that disgusting habit) and cried for about an hour…. Surely my life was over. So I decided to go to a tutor. He was nice enough. He was brilliant, actually. But brilliant in that "I can understand what you're talking about, thanks for explaining it to me in laymen's terms" way. However, even he, a programming, computing genius, said "Shannon, you should have taken calculus or something….this 'Topics in Math' B.S. is really f****ing hard!" Thanks, I know. Anyway, then he decided to try and get me to sleep with him, which was quite unfortunate. So, needless to say, I hated math.
So, back to my writing problem: I just feel a bit strange…because I have all of these ideas, but once again it's like someone has taken away my ability to implement them into eloquent lines. When this happens, I'll be running down a sidewalk (something I do quite often, run, that is) and I'll think of a great image, an idea…and then poof! It's gone. And I sit down, sweating, heart pounding and think "damn, I'm such a failure." When this happens, I immediately think about what I always say to anyone else who has this problem "have faith. It's ok. You are a writer and the Muse will grace your door again soon." However, this is ME we're talking about, and so of course I never listen to my own advice.
It's odd to describe this type of panic. I was reading The Life of Poetry by Muriel Rukeyser (AMAZING book, a must read for anyone who loves poetry) on the plane a couple days ago and…you guessed it….I started kind of crying…but not really because I was sitting next to this kind of scary looking man. Anyway, she writes so passionately about the art…I actually had a whole blog written up dedicated to this book, but perhaps I'll post it another time… She discusses the fear of poetry…why people may resist the art…because "a poem invites you to feel. More than that: it invites you to respond. And better than that: a poem invites a total response." Hmm, perhaps that's why some people are uncomfortable with poetry.
Anyway, she explains further:
"Faith is found here …. Do you accept your own gestures and symbols? Do you believe what you yourself say? When you act, do you believe what you are doing? … It comes to that if form is going to be achieved in life or art…"
Then, she speaks directly, again, to the poet:
"Facing and communicating, that will be our life, in the world and in poetry…All we can show to people is themselves: show them what passion they possess, and we will all have come to the poetry. This is the knowledge of communication, and it is the fear of it which has cut us down. …Our lives may rest on this; and our lives are our images"
OK, so that's some powerful stuff right there…believing in oneself, in ones authenticity. I know I have trouble with that a lot. I over analyze, sometimes, the things I write. I question myself. I have learned to do that less and less, but it's a struggle. And about Faith -- especially in times of "writer's block" – in oneself, faith Poetry, in inner-beauty, truth. But here's where I almost started crying (keep in mind I had also just finished "The Best Day The Worst Day" about Donald Hall and Jane Kenyon's life together and about her dying of cancer…(geez, I'm so upbeat, aren't I?) anyway, this sentiment here:
" We are cut off from large areas in ourselves, and we make the specialized skills and expressions our goals. … We think in terms of property, weapons, secrets; we exalt the means….less and less do we imagine ourselves and believe ourselves. We make a criterion of adjustment, which glorifies the status quo, and denies the dynamic character of our lives, denies time, possibility, and the human spirit….What is the fear of poetry? (here she goes back to society's resistance to poetry) The fear is fear of disclosure, but, in this instance, of disclosure to oneself of areas within the individual, areas with which he is not trained to deal, and which will only bring him hostile relationships with his complacent neighbor, whose approval he wants."
So, I'm going back and forth here between my frustration with my writer's block, and the sort of frustration I feel as far as being a "poet." Let's face it…if I was this passionate about, say, medicine, and I was going off to be a Dr., that would fall more in the social norm category, right? But, I think both of these frustrations are inherently linked…because in times of doubt in myself, it's easier to feel insecure as a whole…."why am I even wasting my time pursuing this, etc. My family would rather I do business or law, etc. I'd be more financially secure, etc." You get my point.
But then I look at myself a couple years ago…heck, a couple months ago, and I thank God I am pursuing this….even if I am in a dry spell and doubt I'll ever write another acceptable poem….because, for the first time in my life, I feel like I'm honoring Shannon…I'm listening to her passion speak up for itself. Does that make sense? It's still so hard. I write a poem and think "ugh, this sucks…" or I spend too much time comparing it to something someone else wrote…or I listen to certain people go on about how I shouldn't write about that or shouldn't disclose that or "don't I have any filters" etc. But what of this communication? Honestly? How much of that queer feeling is their insecurity? Their discomfort?
Why is it not easier to have Faith and Conviction about my practice? When will I be bold and passionate 100% of the time when it comes to my writing? I'm not talking about thinking I'm brilliant or anything, because Lord, the day I think that is the day I stop becoming a better writer, but what I mean is, the kind of conviction and passion that Wordsworth's Prelude had, or Milton…or Muriel Rukeyser (yes, I am placing her in ranks with them, this book is brilliant, go get it)
Perhaps when I have a bit more confidence in myself. It's funny…I feel like I have gained a lot of confidence of late…but do you know what? I have this sort of residual feeling of guilt…I think to myself "Oh man…I sound arrogant…do I sound arrogant? Should I not come across so passionate? Maybe that passion comes across in a false light?" But on the flip side, I feel guilty for not being as passionate, or retreating in my enthusiasm.
Patience. I think it comes down to being patient….with the self and with the audience.
Anyway, I will sit back and allow myself to fall in love again and again with poetry and people like Muriel Rukeyser and Wordsworth, etc. I shan't feel ashamed of my desires. I do not want to keep crawling back and seeking the approval of my complacent neighbor.
And as for writer's block…again, Faith. Keeping my eyes and heart open to my emotions, my reactions. Not allowing my fear to shut those feelers down. For example: tonight I was walking from my car to my front door and I smelled the most amazing smell. I almost resisted stopping and instead rushing inside…but I did stop and breathe it in deeply, allowing my mind to wander. It smelled like my grandmother's old house…though I never knew my grandmother (she died when I was 3) we used to go to her house a lot when I was younger…and the way my mother looked one time, going over her mother's old journals, tears on her cheeks. And the way I saw my grandmother standing over her, hand on my mother's shoulder. I was always speaking to my dead grandmother, seeing her here and there…Of course, perhaps it was my own childish imagination, but I did see her a lot. And anyway, so many times I've dismissed it…told my now adult self that that's a lie…but the purity of such things as a child—the different way in which children really do feel and see the world. Anyway, I think it's the Magnolia tree that recalled the smell. Do Magnolias smell? Either that or these vines my landlord has, with the yellow honeysuckle flowers on them…I used to suck the juice out of the stem when I was a kid.
Sometimes I just want to feel everything like that again…in a state of constant wonder, and always believing blindly what one feels. Not "how should I feel right now" but "how do I feel?"
I miss that intimacy. And yet, you'd never know it.
Now why the hell can't I write a poem?
Breath. Patience. Faith.
And why is it I need to write? To communicate….communicate from the deepest, purest areas of the being…creating that intimacy between poet and witness. To create a living, breathing account of Truth. Who am I to even attempt this miracle? Really?
Wondering: wondering about the self. Do we really want to know people? Or do we just want to know someone in as much as we want them to confirm our own self-worth, our own world-view?
And when do we stop being "us"? Do we even notice it ourselves? How many people really connect to themselves each day – the person they are after the façade and "social masks" are taken off?
Someone was telling me this weekend that I seem to lack a filter when it comes to approaching people. This certain person was reporting about how I seem to brazenly message or talk to someone of a more public status…I guess you'd say a "celebrity"? A writer, established. I don't know…I simply see people as people, you know? So, I don't put people on too high of pedestals, from which they are certain to fall. I mean, I admire them, sure…I respect them, but I don't "revere" them. Reverence is for gods.
Anyway, of course, social filters ARE a good thing. We don't want people running around department stores naked or you know, invading your "personal space" (something which I personally cannot stand– I treasure my space!).
I was reading from Joyce Carol Oats' Journal today and came across this entry, she writes:
"Daily life, a matter of "and so on and so forth," and one must force onself to consider, to examine, to see the person with whom one lives and blunders through these adventures"
Now, she's talking about marriage and how, in daily life, you can kind of "blend" together….but when I first read it, I thought it very much applied to the SELF. Your self. Who you are, what your desires are, day to day. So many people I know kind of avoid the self, avoid feeling certain things…distract themselves with "stuff" or dissociative activities…Of course, we can all fall victim to just getting lost in a haze…especially when life seems to be too hectic and we don't have the time to relax, etc…
I guess I just spend a fair amount of time thinking, analyzing, internalizing…and, in fact, too much of that can be harmful. I think I fell victim to that a lot when I was younger…and still do from time to time, though I think I've learned the tools to recognize the patterns. You know, how sometimes you can "dwell" too long on something or, you feel like staying in but deep down you know that you should probably go out, if just for a bit, and you'd feel better.
It's all about balance. Anyway, but as I was saying – I feel like there's a lot of people who just don't know who they are, fundamentally. And I mean, I would go mad…I HAVE gone mad, from lack of being in tune with myself.
But what about getting to know others? I mean, why do people even read blogs? Do you really want to know what I'm thinking, do I want to know what I'm really thinking, etc.
I am interested in the people we play, the numbers of persona we inhabit, create. How aware are we of the myriad of selves employed form day-to-day, setting to setting?
Sometimes I shock myself. I do. I find myself writing something and going "did I write that? DID I?" It's fascinating. There's a whole other universe in me and I have only discovered perhaps a small percentage. Think of two people combined! That's an infinite number of galaxies! Darkness, light, space, beauty, rage…lifetimes of selves! And what's more, some people want so badly to "discover" someone else, but often times, once they do draw back that curtain, they retreat…because subconsciously, this desire to "discover" someone, to fall in love and "cure" another or somehow become "complete" by finding a mate…is really the desire to know the self…your own being – which is infinite. Think about it….you are infinite. I mean, of course you're mortal, etc…but you have worlds of capabilities at your fingertips! And why is it that most people are more afraid of themselves than any other human being?
God, if I could become like the Galileo Galilie of human beings! But even Galileo, did he know the vastness of the self? Surely. But maybe not.
Oh, Sunday. I love her. She's such a tease and leaves me wanting more each time she comes round.
So, I spent most of the day reading various books...one of them being The Demon and the Angel by Edward Hirsch. It pretty much talks about sources of artistic inspiration. But what I found most interesting was his thoughts on duende and Federico Garcia Lorca
sigh. Reading it reminded me of my time in Spain. I adore Spain, but most of all, the Southern Province of Spain -- Andalusia. I went there for a summer to study...lived in Seville and traveled all over Andalusia -- my favorite city, though, was Granada (though Seville is a close second). I can't explain how beautiful and moving an experience it was to go to the Alhambra and walk the "weeping streets" that Lorca wrote about in his poetry. I wrote an essay on it for my Religion class that I took while studying abraod. Here's a portion of it (and don't laugh):
Upon arriving in Granada via the train from Seville, I noticed the lush green landscape of the Vega against the backdrop of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I knew I was in a place unlike any other. It is hard to describe the atmosphere of Granada; poets and artists have tried for centuries to capture the mood that one enters into while walking its streets. Federico Garcia Lorca described the town in a letter to Melchor Fernandez Almargo dated October 27, 1927:
Granada looks splendid…it is an astounding richness, which, no matter how stylized, cannot be captured. Granada isn't pictorial, even for an Impressionist. It isn't pictorial, just as a river is not architectonic. Everything runs, plays, and slips away. Poetry and Music. A city of fugues without a skeleton. Melancholy with vertebrae. (Season in Granada, 50)
There's a lot more going on there as far as the city of Granada as it represents the loss of a culture (end of Muslim rule in 1400's) and how that loss ties into the present culture of Spain, etc. The loss of the Alhambra from the Moors was "a terrible moment" Lorca said, "for an admirable civilization was lost, with poetry, astronomy, architecture, and delicacy that were unequaled in the world" (Maurer xiv).
However, what was not lost was a culture who embraces their history--which includes the idea of duende.
Edward Hirsch wrote that Lorca's duende "is an enabling figure … because it makes something visible that might otherwise be invisible" (Hirsch xiii).
Duende is like a spirit that creative and gifted people "have." For example: a flamenco dancer is said to "have duende" (tener duende) in other words, is possessed – driven by some force to create…caught in a spell of emotion, and Lorca said in one of his lectures that "all over Andalusia, from the rock of the Jaen to the whorled shell of Cadiz, the people speak constantly of the 'duende,' and identify is accurately and instinctively wherever it appears" (Deep Song).
They sure do! Okay, you know how I'm always talking about how I cry in public places? If I can cry from reading a collection of poetry in Borders in Fort Worth, Texas -- just imagine me, sitting in a tapa, listening to flamenco music -- watching dancers, hearing the sounds of deunde coming from their chests as they sing, mourn. Or how about as I walk along the gardens of the Generalife? Or stand in the Cathedral in Seville on St. Anthony day and a woman comes over to me, places her hand on my arm and says: tienes deunde.
No joke: she said that I HAD duende. And I had heard this term before...my Spanish language professor was talking about it one day when we got on the topic of the sacredness of bullfights, the imminent death there...yet, by death, celebrating life, re-birth -- and then, when I met and slightly fell in love with my "intercambio" David -- (intercambio means that we met a couple times a week and practiced each other's language...he helped me with Spanish, I helped him with English) anyway, he got the idea to take me to an outdoor theatre play (it was amazing, about Moorish king or something -- I don't remember but it was in the gardens at night and the whole thing was so...moving, lots of dance and wine and passion and mourning) The heat was intense, even though it was nighttime...anyway, he said that the garden was filled with it or something and he then said "You have deunde, poets, they have it."
(of course, I thought perhaps he was just saying this to be nice, you know, in hope...)
However, I think we all have this passion inside of us...some of us just are more aware of it than others. It also takes a sense of being aware of death...of how precious life is...you know, that sort of thing that most people don't want to think about. But Spaniards do! In fact, so many other cultures are more embracing of death compared to the West, specifically America. But that's a WHOLE OTHER blog!
Also, I do know that the Spanish like poets more than most people I've encountered here. Here, it's like "You're a poet? weird!" In Spain, whenever I talked openly about my poetic pursuits, people would go on and on about duende and passion and beauty and how noble a pursuit it was -- then they'd buy me a drink (but maybe that was because I was blond and most of them were men....)
I don't know -- what I'm saying is -- I don't even know what I'm saying...but, you want to know the moment I decided that yes, I will do this whole peotry thing and not be shy about it?
I was standing in Lorca's park in Granda (where his house stands, which is now a museum) I was about to leave Spain altogether actually -- I was getting on a train that day back to Seville where the next day I would board a train to Madrid (where I flew out of and I stayed with my cousin who lives there). Anyway, I just had to see Lorca's house before I left, so I picked up a map from the Hotel lobbey and clumsily found my way over to the park...When I got to the park, I saw an old man sitting on a bench with several paintings beside him...he actually was in the process of painting another picture...anyway, he looked at me, and like we'd known each other for years he said: "Oh, fellow artist, how are you?" and I said hello, etc. and then asked him how he knew I was an artist and he said "duende!" Then he asked me what I did and I said I was a student. He said, "No, no, what do you DO" and I said "Oh, I am a poet" and he flung up his hands and said "You came to see Lorca's house! Of course, of course!" and then he took my hand, kissed it and said "You are a poet; never stop writing. Whatever your passion, keep it close. This is life." (something along those lines).
And I don't know -- just something about that old man with his paintings.
And somehow, also, the conversation was all in Spanish and I did not struggle one bit in speaking or understanding. Usually, in Spain, the only times I think I am not struggling and am speaking fluently, is when I've had a couple too many Sangrias or Cruz Campos. LOL
Anyway, I don't know the reason for this blog and it's randomness, other than Hirsch's essays on duende today reminded me of my experience in Spain two summers ago...and...I miss that community that you artists can find there -- the passion, the culture -- specifically in Andalusia.
And, it makes me feel a bit less abnormal...because, in Spain, if you become overwhelmed with emotion, if you start crying in public, lifting your hands to the sky or dropping to your knees -- if you sing or write...all of these things...you're not weird -- you're blessed....you're staying true to your passion...you simply have duende.
Been thinking a lot about death lately. I wrote a poem earlier in the weekend called "Imagine my Death, Never Having Been to Connecticut" (go check it out, it's below this blog post) and it's a response, sort of, to my experience reading Donald Hall's poetry—specifically his "Letters" to his late wife, poet Jane Kenyon. I also bought the book "Simply Lasting—Writers on Jane Kenyon".
I don't know, perhaps it's the fact that I'm hormonal right now (always trying to categorize my dramatics via some concrete, outside explanation) and while that's true, I am also just very quick to feel things. But anyone, reading over Hall's poetry and bits on him and Jane's life (Jane having died young from leukemia) I just kept thinking about it all: life, art, death, who we leave (what we leave) behind. Hall and Kenyon met when she was studying as an undergraduate and Hall was her Intro to Poetry professor. There's this line in one of Hall's "Letter" Poems (letters, meaning: poems he wrote to her after her death). The part of the poem Letter After a Year goes:
When we first spoke of marriage
We dismissed the notion
because you'd be a widow
twenty-five years, or maybe
I wouldn't be able to make love
while desire still flared in you.
Sometimes now I feel crazy
with desire again
as if I were forty, drinking,
and just divorced.
You see, they met when he was 40 and she was in her early 20's. They must have figured she would live on long after he died; however, obviously, they still married. I don't know why their lives interest me so much—but I feel as though I have loved and lost Jane Kenyon myself, simply after reading her friend's accounts of her and Hall's almost too painful to read, poetry. I, once again, was sitting in Borders crying my eyes silly, reading of him waiting up all night as she slowly faded into death, or his post-death poems…I even feel like crying now—just thinking about such loss as this. And, as noted by the book "Simply Lasting" the loss spilled over onto the poetic community as well—losing such a wonderful female poet during her "prime." She had just won a national award for her book "Let Evening Come" when she fell ill with cancer.
Anyway, my point is, I don't understand why I care so much about these peoples' stories. Of course, I shouldn't question it; I should just be grateful—to feel things deeply, hormones aside.
I drove home, crying. If only I could know everything there was to know about life, right now, in my early 20s—but what else would I be able to do? Nothing. I can only love those around me, try to pursue an honest goal, enhance others' lives and take each day as a gift. Another poem by Donald Hall really struck me today—I mean, I read it and just about wanted to crumble in tears or make love or climb a mountain…something…but with someone else; what purpose would it be to experience joy or sorrow, alone? (more on that point later, but first, the poem):
In June's high light she stood at the sink
With a glass of wine,
And listened for the bobolink,
And crushed garlic in late sunshine.
I watched her cooking, from my char.
She pressed her lips
Together, reached for the kitchenware,
And tasted sauce from her fingertips.
"It's ready now. Come on," she said.
"You light the candle."
We ate, and talked, and went to bed,
And slept. It was a miracle.
It was a miracle. Yes. I can see that. I had to go home soon after that poem—I had spent way too long crying in public, and that poem just about did me in.
I feel torn, you see. I envy Hall and Kenyon…though I don't think I could do that: commit my life to one person. But what of death? Of the dying? Our dying? Perhaps I'm plainly naïve, don't know yet what to think of love and devotion—however, I just feel like there's too many people to love. So many people I want to love and share moments just like this with. And I admit it—here, in this myspace blog—for the first time, that yet—I even want to experience moments like that with men and women. To me, people are just people—no matter what sex they happen to be.
This is where my whole worldview goes against the grain. What of family, marriage? What about, when we are on our deathbeds and have not been married, do not have a husband or wife, children, to surround us? Where is that idea of home? I guess we can only be lucky enough to have many dear friends.
I think, deep down, my fear of loss, of death, keeps me from getting too close to people. Oh sure, I want to be close to many people—I want to love people, truly—but what of this intimacy like Hall and Kenyon's? What am I to do with my love for so many, even unconventional love? And is it love, what one defines as love, devotion?
Is it selfish, really, this longing to be a part of something, a marriage? When it comes down to it, is it actually fear of death that drives on into marriage, children, etc? Perhaps that is the case…perhaps that's why I want to write—this idea of "carrying on" in the world after death via one's work.
C. K. Williams wrote a poem (and don't ask me the title, I'm too lazy at the moment to look it up—but it's in his collection Love about Love) and he writes about wanting to write all of his ex-lover's—the whole world—a poem. I feel like that always. I feel like I might explode if I can't love everyone—but how could that be achieved, democratically? So, can I write the world -- the whole world -- a poem?
After reading the quite heavy (almost too depressing) poems by Hall about his grief…I looked out the window and there as a young girl skipping outside—she had on the most brilliant Kelly-green goulashes…she looked like she was having quite the time. I wanted to join her—wanted to shake some of this grief and worry I had inherited from the poems and just skip around, dancing with my shadow. I imagine she was feeling the same euphoria I felt as a kid when I would swing on the swings, leaning my head back, watching the world, skyline, tumbling. I ache, too, for children sometimes. Again, I find ways to attribute this to a) fear of death and b) hormones. But really, how simple she looked, happy in not knowing anything but that she was going to live forever.
I don't even know where I am going with this—so many topics. I sat down, after arriving home, and started drafting a poem. The poem, in its rough, drafted stages right now, (I'll let you know when I finish it/post it) explores the idea of where I am in life. Who I long to love uninhibitedly, who I think about when making love to myself, though I try and pretend it's not him—or her, or maybe it's some version of myself—imagining a scene in nature, together—feeling the beauty of the mountain, together—climbing toward climax….But God, is that possible? I am so naïve. I know nothing. And I couldn't really love this person, or that person, how they would want me to love them--because I love too much, too deeply, too many. And they never know it, they never see this love—because perhaps I just channel it into my work. Anyway, the poem (as of now) kind of concludes with the idea that, perhaps we want monogamy, to live in another being's mind—eternal…that is, until they die—until we die. Who will ache for me after I am gone? Is that what desiring intimate companionship is about?
Still, I want to wake up some morning, you there—watching me arrive from dreams.
But—there are so many "you's" to deal with—I am impossible to love—impossible to grieve.
It's all down to hormones.
Remind me not to go to grocery stores at times like these—too many cute babies cooing and smiling. Too many lovers. It's like food—consume, be in love, forget about our mortality, get full on good emotions.
Sex-Death, that's all we talk about, really.