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Archive for the ‘observations’ Category

Rowan, Oak

ROWAN emerged from the ephemeral murmurs of the forest mingled with the tree’s characteristics and myth. OAK counterplays it — a tangible yang to its elusive yin.

ROWAN

Mountain-ash, ash of sky,
mystics bend to you,
archaic itches are scratched
in the fires
your belly lights.

I worry your round, red berries
like a bursting rosary of darkness
between my thumb and forefinger.
And still you rise bold and terrifyingly
ambivalent.
The blue early mists are making
sport of clarity,
but your leaf-barriers–
fossils to simplicity,–
stitch their samplers like skin
in the paling dawn,
and resilient, puncture the fable
of delicacy.

White stars cluster in
your laurels
and when the dew dries,
the dusted ones bring
forth prophecy.
Blackbirds devour
your bloody delights;
and from your bosom,–
(luster of the eye)–
pale and moonlit,
a woman walks forth.
~

OAK

A boy at play,
a rattling in his brain
when the forest dances
and he dances with it,
recognizing the rhythms
of old drum-beats in
the depth of the forest
as his own heartbeat.

And he grabs the ground
with his toes
and twirls,
swirls, a gyrating gambol
of joy,
spinning and grinning
into the moss
at his feet,
and he sinks into its
green velvet claws,
knowing he is home.

But the years,
the years tear away his
sweet surrender.

Now,
tall, wasting in a spiritual dissention,
he is guarding his secrets
like a weapon
or a stalemate in a holding pen.
Unassured and broken,
he scars and drinks and scars more
as the world around him dreams
and seems small in the tips
of his madness.
He takes nothing,
gives nothing,
finds nothing in the scheme of neverending
blindness and unadulterated ferocity.

Brown eyes murder any desire
he might carry into tomorrow;
a reworked seam under his skin
vibrates the extensions of sound
and tears itself free.
The blood streams over his bare feet
and still, he holds himself upright
by sheer grit.

He didn’t take the blade himself,
but surrendered it to the one person
who could hurt him.
And she did,
without a second glance.

That was years ago,
but the bleeding only stops when
he breathes in and wills
himself
to step into the cut glass
that will take him into
the river.
But the river is far again.
Daily it dissolves
and drives him out of his mind
wandering,
looking for it
in its new capitulation.
Till it re-gathers and fills in the
gaps of earth
constituting a nourishment
only he can smell.

His skin,
leather like the wind,
burns with the old scrapes
of who he used to be.
Lover, fighter, a malcontent
disconcerted with what was
in the face of what could be.
Now he is faced with
a disappearing reality.
But he is bold.

And he remembers his
old heartbeat,
the murmurs of the trees,
the moss gripping his feet
and the drums
holding cadence to
a memory
of life
and hope
and wild abandon
amidst the wilder
landscape of his child self.
And knows,
instinctively,
that he is a child still.
Drinking the sap of a restless wood,
he finds his life
reassembled, anchored in the earth;—
and he no longer needs
a river that refuses
to let itself be found.

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The primal flux

Henry Miller is to writing what Tom Waits is to music. Guttural, gritty, bold in a visceral way. Each of them glistens with Life and something unreachable between the words.

Tom Waits pours out his world in throaty punctuations as if his next breath might be the best one yet. Henry Miller plows out his world in articulate and scathing detail, some of which is too lurid to reiterate here.

But this, about creating — writing in particular — isn’t:

“…the original creation, which is taking place all the time, whether one writes or doesn’t write, belongs to the primal flux: it has no dimensions, no form, no time element. In this preliminary state, which is creation and not birth, what disappears suffers no destruction; something which was already there, something imperishable, like memory, or matter, or [the divine]…is summoned and in it one flings himself like a twig into a torrent. Words, sentences, ideas, no matter how subtle or ingenious, the maddest flights of poetry, the most profound dreams, the most hallucinating visions, are but crude hieroglyphs chiseled in pain and sorrow to commemorate an event which is untransmissible….A great work of art, if it accomplishes anything, serves to remind us…of all that is fluid and intangible…It cannot be understood, it can only be accepted or rejected. If accepted, we are revitalized; if rejected we are diminished. Whatever it purports to be, it is not: it is always something more for which the last word will never be said…”
~from “Sexus”, Book 1 of the Rosy Crucifixion
(and yes, it is called Sexus for a good reason)

HMsexus

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To begin: two women — two writers, two different centuries and countries.
Both make light of their societies. One was beloved, sought after and continues to enthrall people to this day in ways I fail to appreciate.

The other damages reputations with a whip and wit as sharp as the edge of a cliff. She cracks me up.

I’m afraid I have no sense of mass appeal because the first writer is everyone’s sweetheart: Jane Austen.

The second one is Dorothy Parker. To me, her prose sizzles.  She doesn’t waste words or effort explaining stories that are full of sentimental creatures mooning over unattainable men who end up being attainable, in set-up circumstances so similar from one story to another, that all you need to do is wash down the names and locations, white-out a few character differences, and you’ve got a new story with a slightly different flavour.

Like Austen. (O dear.  Now I’ve done it.  Defies reason, almost.  Because I admire Elizabeth Gaskell and her cronies.)

Clearly, I have no idea what makes Austen appealing. I’ve tried, believe me. “Northanger Abbey” was my first. It is clear to me why the publisher who bought it refused to publish it for a long time. Wasn’t it posthumously published? I won’t bother to regale anyone with the plot–it is trite and wasteful, predictable and Austen plunges through its climax as if it were an afterthought. I get it. It’s a bald chase mocking the frivolity of Austen’s world. I just don’t know how someone could write story after story of the same thing, dressed up in different gowns, among different friends, in different (or sometimes, the same) towns.

But then, on a tangential note, Stephen King has made quite a career of this. After “Salem’s Lot”, “It”, and “The Body”, I had my fill of the King, with the exception of “Needful Things”. I know people who love him, and it’s no dig on them, but a little King goes a long way with me. Maybe it’s the monster in all of our childhoods that I prefer to leave sleeping. Who knows?

In most cases though, prolific doesn’t equate quality. Out of the few prolific writers I’ve been able to sink my teeth into, Daphne DuMaurier stands out, and God help me, I like Mary Stewart. I have an affinity for Agatha Christie, thanks to my grandmother. (I like how Christie referred to her method of writing as a “sausage factory”. Clearly, the woman humored herself, all the while owning her craft like few others.)

Another author I find delightful: Charles Dickens. Then I made the mistake of reading his biography. The mere idea that Dickens’ character, Flora Finching in “Little Dorrit” (a story I really liked), was based on his real-life first love, sickened me. How dare a writer presume to be so arrogant as to use a person in such a way? (I know it happens all the time. Still, it sickens me.)

But I digress. Obviously.

Back to Dorothy Parker. A recent discovery. And a welcome one. She adds levity to her writing. Anyone who is quoted as saying, when asked to use “horticulture” in a sentence, “You can lead a horticulture but you can’t make her think”, collapses me in giggles and admiration. Not that I am anyone notable enough from which to seek out admiration. But still, this is a writer whom I needed, just about now. Short stories like the hysterical “The Waltz”, poems that don’t take themselves too seriously, like “Bric-A-Brac”, and letters in which her brevity is charged with honest criticisms of her own work–she knows she doesn’t run with the F. Scott Fitzgeralds.  But with her bold wit and clever honesty, she is refreshing.  Light, talented, and poignant.
Dorothy Parker

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The purity of words.
The purity of saying the very thing you need to say, reading the word apropos to the moment, seeing the familiar call of another soul in another place who speaks your thoughts — the rare taste of the divine in the common moment, calling the common moment out.

Whitman isn’t among my favourites. Colette is, but both speak and the world quiets down.

Huntington beach@sunset

Whitman prepares, Colette illustrates.

“Beautiful dripping fragments, the negligent list of one after
another as I happen to call them to me or think of them,
The real poems, (what we call poems being merely pictures,)
The poems of the privacy of the night,…
drooping shy and unseen that I always carry,…”
— from “Spontaneous Me”, Walt Whitman

“Ask me…I could tell you…the dirge, the moaning in a minor key of the two pine trees that lulled my sleep, and the youthful voice, sweetly shrill, of my mother calling my name in the garden. I could open for you the books over which was bent my forehead…and in a puff I could blow away…the dark, wrinkled faces of the pansies,…which, innocent young pagan that I was, I pressed between the pages of a book. You will hear the hooting of my shy owl, and you will feel the warmth of the low wall, embroidered with snails, where I propped my elbow. You will warm your arms, folded one upon the other…” — from “Earthly Paradise”, Colette

The particular paragraph above echoes the piece that first introduced me to Colette. A chapter from “My Mother’s House” in which her mother, from the garden and from the aching spaces in her soul, called her children home — “Where, O, Where are the Children?”. I’d never read anything quite so unsettlingly pure. It was then I was riveted with writing.
Riveted with the purity of words.

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I was just reading about a poet, Jack Gilbert, who is (rightly) being celebrated all over the web today. His poetry is evocative and subtle, but direct and raw…it has the power to open old desires, reawaken some forgotten ache.

One site refers to his “Collected Poems” as “almost certainly among the two or three most important books of poetry that will be published this year.”

Even if it is (and the bits I’ve read really are enticing), I abscond from “important” works of poetry. Not that poetry isn’t important (it’s my life-blood), but, to me, poetry should be sumptuous–a feast for the senses, both felt and hinted at. When poetry is touted as “important”, it loses its self-respect (yes, I believe poetry has a sense of self-respect) and feeds into the pseudo-intellectuals who propagate its “importance”.

Read poetry for the beauty of the work, the heady sense of stepping headlong into another essence than the usual day-to-day. For instance…

“If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight…We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world…”

~from “A Brief for the Defense”

and:

“We find out the heart only by dismantling what
the heart knows. By redefining the morning,
we find a morning that comes just after darkness.
We can break through marriage into marriage.
By insisting on love we spoil it, get beyond
affection and wade mouth-deep into love.
We must unlearn the constellations to see the stars…”

~from “Tear it Down”

Jack Gilbert takes you, holds you captive for a moment in his works of blood-and-beauty, and will keep you enticed. As all incredible poetry should.

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