Sunday 3 September 2006
THE LITTLE SELF
It is 9:45am. AJ is talking to me about the ego, who you think you are, and the divine, who you are. He is talking about falling, about accepting. "You are already there. You are already that." The father of a grown daughter, he is just now learning to move through the world, proud and gentle. Everything is directed in, to the center place. He is the altar and pew. A path begins at the crown of his head and wraps down, like a thread, a tap, round to the end, like an apple peeler. The end is, of course, truth. The end is the earth. Beneath the soles of his feet.
CAROSELLA (Spanish for "little war")
Taking note of my feather-pinned tulip tree, Don offered this account. A duel of doves, feather for feather, javelin speared leaves, especially here in this section, in a hard won battle for the right-hand tulip. Just imagine the fight!
Sundays, after I set down my desk, I go round to collect the trash from the meadow and forest and path, then I go round again to collect the feathers that have fallen here and there and pin them onto this tree, in honor of the feather couple. Now we have a name for these boutonnières, placed this way, in trees, in clusters, carosella.
Nowhere going. Revolving. The posture of movement. "A circle, drawn with a compass, has starting and ending points, which disappear when the circle takes life" (Ushio Amagatsu).
For once, I am seated. For once, I am the stationary thing. And everything else is moving.
I brought a metronome today, to study the rhythm, the gate, the pace of the lake. Book-ended by my heart, beating at 72 beats per minute, and the arc of the hunched crow flying for the willow at 208 beats per minute, there are the walkers pounding their feet on the path. They are beating at 116 bpm. The tempo of a Kilian. An ice dance. "The partners should skate close together. The man's right hand should clasp the lady's right hand and keep it firmly pressed on her right hip to avoid separation. The man's left hand should clasp the lady's left hand so that her left arm is firmly extended across his body." They are doing a couple's dance.
And the couple with the stroller, they are doing a beginner's dance, a waltz, at 104 bpm. Passing these, are the runners, in allegro and presto. Joy and virtuosity.
Slower than my metronome go the clouds, east and west, banding, blowing, northward going. My fat tulip quivers in the breeze, making a confused rhythm. Fancy, the messenger to Robin Hood, my bold little squirrel, dashes at his troubled pace, stops, stands, clutches a hand to his chest. Fancy has something to say about rhythm. The rhythm of the human hand cradling bread.
"Modern pacemakers sense the body's heartbeat. When they detect an abnormal rhythm, the devices produce electrical pulses to restore a normal heartbeat" (Georgia Tech Research Corporation). Could such a device reset society? Set us right? Could such a machine calm our nerves? A machine like... a waterfall in an urban mall? An electric box emitting white noise? A virtual aquarium? What is the sense in such rhythms?
Perhaps an artist could set us straight? The drummers of Japan? A Shomyo chant? Waves against the shore? Something voice-based, a lullaby, rain, or a cradle?
"Beethovan was utterly shocked when he listened to the first performances of his music, following his metronome indications. He came to the conclusion that the use of measured tempo makes no sense in music" (Matthias Rieger, Some Remarks about Speed from a Belly-dancer's Drummer).
Our impulses are gauged by the condition of our nerves, the slush of our traffic, the speed of our images. Along with rhythm, there is flow. Room for the debris to gather. Room for the debris to clog and release.
And the stationary image? What rhythm does it hold? I am beating 72.
Terrie was awfully excited to see me at my desk, being so out about poetry. She is, herself, a closet poet. As a way of overcoming, outcoming, she offered a trade. A trade of her work (as a beautician) for mine (as a poet). A facial for a critique. This shall mark my first barter. "One cements bonds between people through the circulation of gifts" (D. F. Felluga).
I have just received my first commission. I have been commissioned by Karen, Emily, Emily and Noah to write a poem about scooters, about a child's push scooter. In payment, they will read my poem, as they scoot around, to four people in passing. They will be poetry spores. I tell them to scoot in circles around my desk while I search for the words. Make poetic butter. They opt for lunch on the shore while I write:
to scoot is to dream
to scoot is to leave these feet
to roam in the mountains with the clouds
to roll like a ball down a wobbled crooked slanted
lacquered alley into a bowl & to swirl
to scoot is to be a lollipop to be a shark
to scoot is to leave these feet & find fins
to grow gills such a serious fish
i'm a shark scooting in serious waters
a dangerous thing a scooting dream
My night desk fashions another thing:
scootu yer hobblefeet
we drugg rounde
a cloze mouth
stuffe towt in a harde place
side a bowlie bawl
while th' lacquered ladies
slipt on their wily dreamms
dipt in a tippyjar
&the wild gents
glewing their gillies shutt
with yew& yer scootytu
Mary Lynne of The Village Idioms and Michael and I chatted about poetry groups and reading venues. Michael brought me some sonnets. We all exchanged e-mails and parted happily with the sense of community forming.
Mary and Erica came by with an offering. Moose. "Write a poem about Moose." Moose is Mary's elegant little mutt, which looks more like a deer than a moose, but Mary had heard the scooter poem and wants one of her own. "So, tell me about Moose. What are his weaknesses? Does he know any jokes?" Moose turned his serious head in all directions, responding to the short clip of his name. Moose moose moose. Moose.
Cloud and Kris are on the path, their smoke signal trails out over the lake. Russ called to them. I make it a rule not to call, but he beckoned. And they veered straight away off the path. Cloud held high, in his hand, a tightly burning bunch of white silver sage, which he bent to snub in the grass. Then, with a sharp-shinned hawk feather fan, he showered my desk with smoke. White sage, ceremonial plant of the Cheyenne. Purification. "One is not even supposed to ask the identity of a stranger in the Odyssey until after one has showered him with gifts; this act allows for bonds to form even among enemies" (D. F. Felluga).
I saw you once before. You were alone then too. Scooting through the meadow in a gray tweed jacket. Jabbing into the grass with your long straight beak. Flashing a rust of red. Hooked to a tree. Gray on gray. Hurried and aware, then laughing.
I went, just now, to throw my peach pit and sandwich wrapper away. As I walked back to my desk, after washing my hands in the lake, I noticed the tracks in the grass Michael's rolling chair had made. And there, the ash from Cloud's sage. And the three tracks of Emily, Emily and Noah, slipping away in the grass. Tracks writ on the land. Radial commuting patterns. Rumors of history.
My creative mind, my mythopoeic eyes, add the feathered battle, the smudging of a tulip queen, the laughter of the flicker in a mercury squiggle, and the hologram of a poet, sitting right where I am sitting, saying these words, "You move me with your poetry."
The afternoon moves by at 100 beats per minute. Andante. The walking tempo.
Ken and Dean and Eric sat through all of Andre Breton's "Freedom of Love." I warned them. I said watch it, this is sexy. Eric prepared to turn away. Periodic gasps from Ken. It went on and on, from teeth to waist to hips to toes. O Andre! Andre!
Wyatt exclaimed to a friend last week, "The time has come when we can see the people at the foot of the poet, getting their news." And it strikes me as news, the masses we have forgotten. The people we left at the lake. I blame the poets. I blame myself. Without a poet, who would kick them to the center?
Dear poet, the people must be able to hold you. Come out of the wood. Come out from hiding. Speak your name.
What are we facing? Nostalgia for a pre-modern society? Apathy? Sensory overload? A misleading dream? The demons of time? The loss of knowledge? The loss of self? The loss of community?
Poet, dear poet, you need only to speak. The velvet grass and thrushes, the hungry ears of the reeds are listening.
Helen Vanel, credited as the first authentic surrealist dancer in 1938, says dancing "must have the same mission as poetry. To rediscover the truth of being. To acquire…the sense of the invisible powers that attract…while repelling: is this not a means of surpassing ourselves, a way out of the marasmus and mediocrity – a method to attaining the grandeur that we so shamefully abandoned?"
The truth of being.
One grows nostalgic for what was, for what one dreamed might be, the myths we were making. We must regain hope, reshape our myth. Reclaim our dreams. Make a new true.
Art is a tombstone.
Art is a wet fuse.
My wish in The Middle Place is for the artists. I wish they might learn to lead. Learn to lead us to our responsibility. Learn to act as a community, to demonstrate care, to form bonds and embrace one another. Learn to overcome the elite in their art and to reach down and touch the earth. Learn to stand and be loved.
SUFFERING WITHOUT SOLACE
When Tarkovsky recommends suffering, I believe he means suffering for a thing, for art or truth or love. So that when one reaches the thing, the truth, the reward is clear, the artist feels bonded by her suffering, feels the stance and spine of her suffering. This must be sufficient reason and praise.
I have become a contradiction, a suffering without solace.
I was coupled and alone. No greater lonesome exists. Imagine, everything you want, everything you love, placed in a window, dangled on a wall, and embalmed in wax.
I was coupled and alone. Then, alone as an artist. Aloneness creates no problem. One works alone. It is only in the production of things, the event, that loneliness will not do, for which one feels a lack, a lone. Tennessee Williams is said to have made "loneliness a public demonstration" (Stan Brakhage). What are we nostalgic for? Family or the self?
If not in praise of God, what is our drive, the drive in our art? Some say that it is release. What release? Art is a necessity against which dust collects. If one were to be released by it, art would be done with after the very first act. Art is a clutching thing, feeding on itself. Art is the way to living, to understanding.
Suggesting art as a release is like suggesting breath as a release, which it is in a way, but as a necessary function, the way for our blood to obtain oxygen, breathing, exhaling, is simply the way we live.
HUMAN SEPARATION & COMMUNICATION
What I wish to recognize. Everything. To live through everything, to somehow live through and continue, despite our inabilities, in spite of our definitions, despite our failures. To reach out. To everything. Separation and communion.
I am reading about a genre of music commissioned for war, war music, a glorification of death, written for an embrace, a lasting embrace. If it is possible to write, to transmit, such music, and it is, if it is possible to live and die for a song, it is possible for poetry to make things live, which is its only purpose.
Poetry. Dance. Color. Bread. Wine. Roses. Felt. Fur. Ash. "The reach from one art to another is the most leavening process of all to each of the arts" (Stan Brakhage).
The solace of the mountain exists in the mountain. Only there, on the mountain, does nothing urban matter. Only there exists no shame. No paradox. No repair list. Just a being-observation. A situated-oneness. No thought to how to dance, or for whom.
Mechanical man, take us through your machine and into the universe!