I used to dream a lot about living in a communal house, often it was made of glass or had a lot of windows. I haven't had a dream like that in a number of years. This morning I was deeply asleep, I must have been, not only because the dream was so vivid, but because I woke up flat on my back with my arms weirdly crossed over my chest, on the sofa. I haven't been able to sleep in my bed since Casha died.
I was in a giant old house filled with things, knick knacks, miscellany, everything, including a lot of things made of iron (I suspect because I have recently gotten very interested in the chemical properties of metals).
I moved into this house as a kind of outpost. With people I know. Although I have not one idea who the people were. I can't remember. And that is unusual for dreams like this. I do know that there were close people, possible family, kids and adults, and pets. The pets were of some concern, because they go outside (and once a pet is used to going outside, it is nigh impossible to convince them to stay inside again). I can't remember why we all moved into this house, except that it was somehow related to some sort of supernatural threat. I don't think it was zombies, it was more like people who had become part of some kind of tribe of supernaturally-enhanced spies...I seem to recall there was a very dignified, stern, tall, fairly hirsute but well-kempt older man who was fairly important in this group, there was something very ghost-like about him. They were dangerous and they were out to get ... "others"? I can't quite remember. All I remember is that living in this house was because of this, and one had always to be mindful of who or what was lurking outside the house. No one could go outside without proper protection... ammo, chemicals, antidotes (to what? I don't know). In the dream we spent time trying to avoid being captured, sucked in, devoured, and fighting these other things/people off. I for some reason was very hung up on this tiny gun I had or discovered, that at first was meant to hit precision targets, but had a weird kick that messed up your aim AND it turned out actually made the people/things STRONGER. I did a lot of hiding. There was one segment where there was a kind of Ophelia-like person, who was clearly a friend of mine but I've no idea who, that I needed to hide from... I had some kind of blanket over me, and that appeared to be enough... this lady swept through the room looking for anything and as long as I was covered (under a table, against a wall, covered) she had no idea I was there. Then there was the part with the pets. It's a bit of a jumble. I just remember we were beginning to get worried about pets being a target, and the possibility that they could even be used against us. There is a lot more around this but I can't get a clear picture of it... something about men I know, movies, paint, possibly opiate paint, one last chance, a lot of running. It became clear that they had implanted something in Casha's left forepaw, on the underpart of his leg. I had to get it out, it was urgently important that I get this thing out. I found the wound where they put the thing in, I had to reopen the wound and get it out. I don't understand anymore what it was. I just remember the experience, the panic, the conflict of feeling like I was doing what I had to do versus the pain of causing my friend, who is dependent on me, pain. I sort of understand what that was about but I don't get the rest of it. The context. It was all very graphic and very vivid. It was a weird dream.
Weirder than the one I had a few weeks ago where some guy, who was running along side my car, no matter how fast I drove it, shot me from behind in my chest... with a flat gold bullet that somehow only lodged itself in my skin. It hurt, it was numb, I remember telling everyone I came across in the dream they would have to excuse me, I had just been shot, I hate to be selfish or demanding but I was going to take a day for me and lay down and hope I recover alright. Which was a pretty weird and vivid dream, but not as weird as this one this morning.
I know that many of you here have pets that are very important to you, and I know some of you have also lost important pet friends in recent years. I am grieving the loss of my cat Casha, who I had put to sleep two days ago. He was the most important everything in my life for the twelve years we had each other. He chose me at the adoption center when he was 6 weeks old. We have been nearly inseparable ever since. Even now, I think, in some way, we are not entirely apart. Part of me died when he died, and part of him lives on in me. But this hurts like hell. I miss him so terribly, and even though I know factually, scientifically that he is not coming back, I just cannot grasp that I won't see his little big eyes looking up at me in the morning, I won't ever hear his sweet little voice again, I won't ever be able to touch him again. Living in a world without Casha is unimaginable to me, even though I am picking through just that now since two days. He had become very very sick, and he actually way outlived anyone's predictions. At the beginning of this past week he had moved into a cabinet, and didn't want to come out after a day--despite having a healthy appetite. He ate, he slept. In the cabinet. On the day he didn't want to come out of the cabinet I knew he was ready to be at peace. It was hard, but at the same time not hard--my best friend was suffering, he wanted to be asleep, and suddenly it was not hard to make that call, and take him to his vet. I was there when he died. He died with me right by his side, just like I promised him when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I have wept more and harder in the last few days than I have in my entire life. But I feel no bitterness, no regret, no anger, no guilt. I know this is best for him, and he had been quite sick for a lot of his life, so this was not sudden. I wish I still had him with me, but at the same time I know if he were still here he would be suffering unimaginable pain, and I would not ever want that. So I am happy that he is free of the pain now.
But good god I miss him.
I can't bring myself to mess with the cabinet. I can't face parts of the kitchen. I can't stand silence. I go back and forth between waves of intense grief, and waves of complete numbness. Since the day he died I can't face eating, and I can't sleep in my bed. (I realize I will come round to food again, but I am not ready yet; I just can't do it) The past two nights I have had to put on a DVD and let it run continuously through the night and I try to sleep on the sofa.
Fortunately Casha and I have Tony, also a siamese cat who came to live with us three years ago (an adult cat someone had abandoned, who wanted a new family) and also a little stray cat I call Rolf who adopted us in January of this year. Tony and I became much closer watching over Casha in the last month of his life, and now we help each other through the grief. Rolf comes to see us every day, and he plays with Tony and me, and together we take care of each other. I know they miss Casha too. I am glad we have each other.
It is helping me to work through this to write about it, and especially talk to people I know have been through the same thing. It has only been two days and I know it is going to take a very long time. Casha was with me from 6 weeks old, he and I were together through graduate school, early jobs, good and painful relationships, a huge move. He was my whole life.
He liked to sit outside with me in the snow. He loved to watch birds. He loved children, he loved parties, he loved people being together. He was the most good-natured cat I've ever known.
I miss him terribly.
I know I will move past the grief, over time. But I also know I will never entirely get over this loss.
I think there is a picture of Casha in my photos here. If there is not, I will put one up today.
Whenever I am writing something academic, I fall into a kind of bubble. The rest of the world has to be shut out, I cannot be distracted by anything outside of my most selfish needs... writing is not just about writing, it is about watching other people create, listening to other people create and talk about creating; it is about ordering pizza and eating it distractedly all day, breakfast at noon, dinner at midnight, but eating all day, anyway; it is about 8-10 cups of coffee and no alcohol; it is about pacing around high tables and lying in the sun; it is about listening to the same song or movie for hours. I am not kidding, I mean HOURS. As my subconscious mind turns over whatever I am working out, my more conscious mind muses over other peoples' creations. I am writing an email to my friend the Austrian playwright. I am telling her her work is amazing, it says things I wish I could think to say, they seem like things I could, if I could find that in myself... but I have become an academic writer, I left creative writing behind me over a decade ago.
As I write that I wonder, was I ever much of a creative writer? I think about Monty Python. I think about 2 weeks in Barbados, writing Life of Brian. How do people do that, dedicate all their energy to creating something that never was before the same way I dedicate all my energy to writing books, articles, reviews...that has an anchor. I can hang on to that. How to create, how to create? I think of Terry Jones and Michael Palin, my two favorite Pythons. I muse over the Amazon List of Terry Jones's work. It is astonishing. The man has been turning out creative and very, very weird work since the late 1960s. Now he writes academically. He also wrote things like Spam. And Labyrinth. How to go into the office, shut out the world, and create... and how to do that and then have, you know, any connection to things and people outside? How can one bear to leave the creative bubble behind and re-enter that world of pulling weeds and visiting ATMs? Talking to people about door frames or curriculum revision? Entering the bubble isolates you completely, and it is the only way to write; leaving the bubble is hurtful. So is entering the bubble, though, because you have to have reached a state of being in which you NEED to shut out the everyday world, and that usually occurs as you find yourself looking around at everyone and everything and thinking, you know, f@$% all of this. I am checking out. I have concentric circles to push out.
I close my eyes, both hating and relishing this isolation, pushing through a psychological analysis about my tendency to self-isolate, to a tunnel into my past. 15 years ago. ? Longer? Living in a little medieval town in central Europe. Falling away from people I know, distracted by some other plane. How much time elapsed? I don't know. It didn't occur to me. Why do we always take so much f@$%ing time to learn things we already know about ourselves? It was not therapy. It was not cathartic. Not entirely. Cut off from my everyday life anyway, I started sleeping less and less. 6 hours a night. 4 hours a night. By the end it was 3 hours a night, and let me tell you, when you don't talk to anyone, and sleep three hours a night, the 21 hours left are long. I became prolific. I read and read, I wrote poems, plays, short stories. None of them were any good, but all of them were practice. Good lord, this is how I've always been. It drove my poor parents round the bend. My first priority is the bubble. It always has been. All other things take a distant second place to the remote possibility that that bubble may spring up. Every so often I feel very lonely about that. But given the opportunity to change it, I will pick the bubble without a second thought.
I will return to more creative writing someday. That seems very certain. I am in the bubble right now, and things that seem certain in the bubble often are--because they are unavoidable? Because this is the place where I really really know what I want?
Why am I sitting here writing this now? No idea. Self serving. But I was so compelled to do it, I can't help but think it is clearing out some corner of my mind to make space for something I am trying to get to. Or that it will lead me to something I am trying to get to.
Sort of like a yard sale! Thank you for browsing, don't feel compelled to buy. I'm just going to take a photograph and then chuck it all in the fire, whatever is left.
I've just written the title. I f@$%ing love it.
It began last fall. It's escalated since. Now even my students know I have a seriously academic fascination with not one, but TWO culturally distinct pop phenomena: Kate Bush and Lady Gaga. You may be gasping and sputtering. You may be nodding. Distinctive as they are, Kate and Gaga have aesthetic similarities that appeal very much to the poet voyeur in me, and if Kate Bush ever came to town, you can bet I'd fork over any amount of cash to see it; Gaga IS coming to town and I've forked over a reasonable amount of cash for kick-ass seats to a concert I will doubtless be one of the oldest people attending (that is, of those not accompanying minors). I am not the lone academic persona with an eye on Gaga. She's captured even the eyes of the legitimately snobby "New Yorker" and I doubt we'll have to wait long before some cultural theorist publishes on her work.
As I said, Kate and Gaga are quite different. But how they work is quite similar. They both managed to do something that few do, and that is to mostly remain in control of their production. One of my favorite distractions in graduate school was Gaffaweb, in particular the logs from the era of "The Dreaming," where one gets the distinct impression that Kate Bush and her brothers and their friends were basically indulging in artistic projects they'd been dreaming of doing anyway, just now there was also an audience for it. Not so different the "Haus of Gaga". The twist is that the main sujet is the figure of fame and a vested interest in embracing what is usually dismissed and denigrated as "pop culture". Lady Gaga is not an uncritical observer or devotee of fame--she is a pastiche of fame, a burlesque act lampooning its own cause celebre, and it just keeps getting more fun to watch.
The video for "Bad Romance," the lead single from her not-yet-released album "The Fame Monster," is the work of someone with big ideas who finally has the resources to realize them; as ever tongue in cheek, the vampire imagery--from the Monster capsule caskets in the cellar to the grimacing bat headdress and the enhanced spines, ribs and eyes--is mostly IN Lady Gaga, suggesting much of what transpires is within her grasp. She is her own victim and savior. The shoes, masks, unabashed sexuality of her act got her into this mess (in this case sold off in an auction to the Russian mafia; in "Paparazzi" pushed off a balcony by her Swedish "boyfriend") and in the end it is this very camp that saves her, as she fortunately has a bra that is also a flamethrower--a great stage prop but it turns out also a handy item for destroying potential rapists. As she stands defiantly in front of the raging flames, draped in a stunning faux polar bear wrap and made up to high heaven, I can't help but get the feeling the artist Gaga (as opposed to the fictional character Gaga) is smirking as the flames blow absurdly higher, having created this artwork, at once beautiful and ridiculous, thoroughly enjoyable and collaborative. Not unlike Kate darting her eyes back and forth, you know, in case any demons are lurking off camera.
Silent film actress Louise Brooks made a career out of her own failure. From bad personal and professional decisions to a self-devouring aura, Louise Brooks was a victim of her own Fame Monster, but managed to reforge a legacy reflecting on and embracing that failure. Lady Gaga's project takes all this from a distance Brooks didn't have at the time she was creating her hot mess and parades it in grand parody up and down the catwalk. The obvious pastiche element prevents it from being just another pathetic fashion victim or witless slave to celebrity; Lady Gaga is having fun with this object called fame, and the act exudes legitimacy in its lack of pettiness or agenda. Underneath the direction of the Disco Stick is a thoroughly critical, non-partisan examination of every aspect of "Fame", rife with material to analyse for those who are given to analysis and just fun to dance to for everyone else. Walter Benjamin wrote of Charles Baudelaire, "The depiction of the confused is not the same thing as a confused depiction." Many pop acts are confused depictions; Gaga gives a thoroughly calculated depiction of the confused. It's fabulous, it's cerebral, it's pop. And while I don't entirely agree that pop culture will never be low brow, I do absolutely agree that Lady Gaga's conception of pop culture is not low brow. And I can't wait for "Monster Ball." Maybe I'll go in my Academic Robes and Hood...and 6 inch platform heels...
Our syphilitic mad epistemological uncle Fred (Nietzsche) gave a lot of thought to the iniquity of humanity in its own mirror stage, the moment when society became aware of itself in relation to its own history (from which it had been blissfully unaware of its tethers, like a child is unaware of itself in the supermarket or unaware that its parents are actually people, with personalities)...he sat in his chair, aware of the long line of syphilitic madmen that made it possible for him to ask if God was not a metaphor, and whether humanity had outgrown that metaphor, which perhaps he thought while ingesting hugely quackey doses of mercury salts... Ecce Homo, he thought, as he swallowed a medicine that poisoned the illness off into the distance, away from the nerves it was systematically deadening...Menschliches, allzu Menschliches...human, all too human.
The grave injustice of finding that most human side of yourself through the things that make you most mortal, most vulnerable, most pathetic. It might be that most beautiful thing, the instant you are unaware of what you see, which you then realize is a human being being all too human. It hurts to see and it's beautiful in its inescapable truth. Like art is its own death, those moments where we are most human are maybe the best and worst, we enter into a state with full knowledge of our mortality or vulnerability, because we can't do otherwise; we are in that moment aware only of mortality, natality, aware of our selves and yet so aware that we cease to be self-aware. The stage after being Suspended in Gaffa.
Heinrich von Kleist wrote this great thing on Marionettes as inhuman machines... the perfect pirouette. But not the most beautiful, for its lack of menschliches, allzu menschliches. Unaware of himself, the interlocutor's young friend dances; as soon as he becomes aware of the beauty of that moment, it fades; he attempts to recreate the moment, and that in itself relinquishes it from the realm of beauty. Flashback to a moment in college, a late night in the dorms, the halls of residence, I sit in a chair in a poorly lit room with a friend, we'd fallen into silence and I sat fumbling with a children's kaleidoscope with an Alice in Wonderland motif. I slipped away from that space, having become fascinated with the project of lining up lines in the drawings. My friend was watching me intently. I didn't notice. Something drew my attention back, I don't know what. My friend was smiling at me in a very peculiar way and I said "what?". She said, "you were completely in there, weren't you. You looked so innocent, you just became this little kid again, working out a puzzle. It was beautiful." I had been part of a beautiful moment for a second and wanted desperately to be beautiful. I knowingly fumbled with my project again. "No," she said, "it doesn't work anymore. You know you're doing it." I was curiously sad and frustrated that I had missed a moment of beauty. I was at an age where I needed to know the world had beauty in it and desperately felt the need to be part of that. I had been, and I'd missed it. I was 18, I was just coming into my own epistemological mirror stage. I had a lot of need and I was aware of it. It was a project of display. It was not beautiful.
Flashforward to last night. I was reading Papa Denny Doherty's transcript of his show "Dream a Little Dream: The nearly true story of the Mamas and Papas"--a show that answered Mama Michelle's book "Dream a Little Dream: The true story of the Mamas and Papas". In it he pointed out that some of what he said was true, some not so much, but hard to distinguish because, hey, it was the 60s and Papa Denny was so tuned in that he turned off. So, true...not true... what difference does it make? It was how he remembered it. And mostly, the show came across to me as atonement...for having so profoundly misunderstood and misfollowed his own humanity. And the object of that atonement is clear enough from the title. Papa Denny was filled, it seems to the very end, with a lot of regret. It was the way he described one particular moment that made me stop short, becoming aware that THAT was a moment of humanity. One filled with injustice, one of a person so overwhelmingly human that she scared the living daylights out of people she wanted to be close to; in being deeply human, she became sort of superhuman, an impenetrable force of life who seemed too far away. And in this moment she was desperately hurt and vulnerable...
Cass Elliot carried a very bright and burning torch for Denny Doherty, and this is the moment where he broke her heart. Whether it's real or not, this is his story, this is his vision, and in it is this impenetrable force of life, scrunched in a corner crying. So aware of her own humanity that she is unaware of herself. It's an amazingly human moment. Love is such a weirdly unfair thing.
What's one to do with the people who love so deeply, so intensely, that they scare people off? You can only hope they find someone or some someones who can love them as deeply, as intensely as they can love. But of course, when they do, they can't be together, for X and Y reason. And for years they fight with destiny or ethics or destroy themselves asking questions until they've been questioned into little meaningless pieces, only to come back to the original realization that, unfair though it all is, that's the way it is and you can either be miserable and filled with regret or you can find a way to make whatever strange thing you have there--this force that no matter how hard you try to escape STILL finds you and knocks you *** over head--work in your favor. You can't be 18 or 20 and have that work. You need years of losing things and fighting for things, of becoming aware of yourself in relation to your own history, to sit down and start carving that niche the way you want it. Human, all too human.
"I was pretty unattractive for a few years there."
"I didn't really notice."
"I don't know what's coming. But I like the future."
Time is unto itself as grammar to language; I sat in a candlelit cafe reading the woes of war in verse and thinking form, when suddenly a sentence in time, some mantra I've been saying for a cosmically long stretch, came to its end and the mantra collapsed under its emphatic conclusion. I was exposed to all the things that mantra mantle had been meant to hold at bay and a moment of total honesty encircled me in the dark. For a second I cried like I'd forgotten I could and it was aweful.
Nothing has changed.
...is worth two in the bush, said Basil Fawlty (or something similar). The point is, his head injury put him in a liminal presence of mind, like those slot machines with the three picture wheels, and you pull the lever and the pictures spin and then may or may not line up--his pictures weren't lined up properly. This provided him the unique opportunity of escaping the logical confines of language...which now I think of it is sort of redundant--logic and logos are after all one and the same...ish--which as often as not provides us, the listener, with delightful, surprising new ideas that we certainly never would have thought of.
Yes, I am writing this at 6.24 in the morning. That's nothing. I've been up since the claw in the head at 3.41. I did try to go back to sleep, I only went to bed at midnight after all, but that was it--awake. But not like, I'm all well-rested and in my right mind awake. Noooo. It was, it's 3 a.m. and I have had little sleep and I've just had a claw in my head, it's the middle of the night and I can hear strange noises. That's what it was. And that's when the ideas started coming. Reason started to creep in at some point, it said "go back to sleep, you can write down these ideas tomorrow, when you have rested". Well. Fat lot it knows anyway. I know how that scenario plays out, it happened yesterday when I had some brilliant formulation, perfect, just what I needed, and I was walking somewhere and then I had to go someplace and thought, o, I'll write it later.
And promptly forgot it.
So when the idea came back at 3.50, I had to act!
Why am I writing any of this? At 6.30, or at any time?
Because the last idea I had before I started writing this was the revelation that came down from two colliding synapses in my brain, one thinking, I'm sleep-deprived, and the other remembering the report I heard on the radio yesterday about how "we" function less-well because most of "us" are sleep-deprived, and that we don't know how sleep-deprived we are, and that in American society it's become a badge of honor not to get much sleep, because we get so much done and are so super-productive, and really we are all just fooling ourselves, we'd be doing so much better, probably, if we slept more.
Well, public radio lady and others, I would just like to say that I have nothing against sleep. But sometimes, you have to be functioning at super-warped-sleepless to come up with that brilliant idea, the one just outside the box, where my spinning fruit is mis-aligned.
And now I'm going back to bed.
I've just returned from seeing "The Golden Compass." I feel the desire to write a review. Not an in-depth one, as I've seen it but once and I've not read the books, but it raised some questions and thoughts in me.
Or rather, it raised nothing but questions, in such a way that I found myself unable to come to any final decision on anything. And I am no longer certain whether that is good or bad. Is this the future of film narrative? That's what it all comes down to.
Granted, I am aware, vaguely, of all the hoo-ha surrounding the author and his religious proclivities, and I can see where all that comes from. It took me all of two minutes to establish the range of historical links between the institution of higher education as the post-scholastic, early-modern model of "atheist" (in the sense of Bacon) inquiry versus the nexus of anti-intellectual establishments who operate under the reformed-sinner mantle of "helping" the future (running the gamut from crusty church father figures to jack-booted National Socialists), and the metaphor of soul/free will embodied in the Daemon (the efficacy of which metaphor I think we could debate for...centuries, probably, which ultimately is a good thing, I think). And that was where my first question arose. No sooner were the likes of Derek Jacobi and Christopher Lee seated in down-right early Christian counsel than I thought, can we ever tell a new story again? This story is so old, I feel like I am going to spend the next two hours measuring the trajectory of the story against the effort of the filmmaker--is that what I want to do during a film? NO. I want to be delighted and amazed. Why do we tell the same story again and again?! Answer: because it is a good and important story. Question: then why am I so impatient with it? Answer: because not only is there nothing new about this story, it is truly a post-modern retelling: it is pastiche-pur, it's taken stock images from every one of these intellectual vs establishment clashes since the dawn of history (from old Norse epic and the conversion of the Norse kings embodied in irritatingly thinly-veiled "Eisbjorn" to every example of 21st-century scholars irritating the powers that be and endangering their posts, embodied everywhere) and crowded them all into a parallel universe that is essentially compressed earth-time; A midrash. Why go to all that trouble to say something so obvious? I felt extremely cheated after I'd sat through all this ADHD visionry--with every possible opportunity to say the word "Gyptian" taken--only to have Nicole Kidman say the words "free will" with 10 minutes to go. What IS this, I screamed silently.
What really bothers me about this is, I don't want to think that. I do love this essential story, what could be cooler than having every instance of it told to me at once?
I don't know. But I think it was driven home to me through the supremely off-putting Witches of the North with crypto-Finnish names who were clearly intended to mimic in their speech a skaldic, pre-Christian style of writing. This sort of syntax has the unfortunate disadvantage of being alienating, which for some reason is much easier to take on the page than it is coming out of someone's mouth. After pseudo-Andie-MacDowel flew off I found myself thinking of every film adaptation of ancient or medieval literature, and how often these fail miserably, despite the fact that they are amazing reads and some of the best narratives ever written. They are even told in a very film-like way. So why do they never film well?? I still don't quite get that, but it seemed to me that this story ultimately suffered the same ailment, which might actually be a recession in the narrative economy. It's hard to appreciate the subtleties, the rationale without a certain degree of information, and having not read the books, I was lacking that information. Which in fact seems to me to suggest a strength of the books--the images might all look completely familiar, but that is merely the surface. Otherwise it's a world in itself that I do not know enough about to appreciate. Perhaps the book is too complex to be filmed, like Beowulf or the Odyssey. Or maybe it's just a hack-job. I don't know.
Cut to the credits, where of course I sat to hear--for the first time, mind you--Kate's new song, Lyra. And there I was again, in the same dilemma. Is this just sort-of tossed off, or is it meant to resemble a very old, bardic style of ballad? I presume it's intended, it reminded me a lot of "Bertie".
But as Nicole Kidman made some of her more teary confessions, I was impressed to see that the storyline was deftly opening holes that I am genuinely interested in seeing filled. This is a trend of late, one sees it in Harry Potter as well, that those we look up to as acting in our best interests often have motives we don't or can't see, and sometimes those people even knowingly offer up their wards as a sacrifice that must be made. I realize this is sort of an old trope--I think of Isaac, or Iphigenia--and yet, here there is something that I have not consciously encountered (and I sort of plan to email some Folklorists about this): there is no higher power testing their faiths in these recent stories; it is logic and reason they act on, which makes the story, I think, about a million times more interesting. Because then it really IS about the human condition and the mettle all of us carry within, the choices and priorities people have, the ultimately arbitrary concept of "right" and "wrong", "good" and "evil".
If nothing else, the failings of the film made me want to read the books. And encouraging people to do their own research rather than buy what someone else tells you--well, that's the message anyway, isn't it. So dumb-founding as the film often was, it was definitely true to its purpose.
Once upon a time, there was a lady who was named for a city in Spain. She lived in a small dusty town in northern Texas, and had 6 sisters ahead of her, one below, and a brother to boot. She had small hands, and was frequently tricked into cleaning the lanterns; that is, until her family got their first light bulb and they all sat around staring at it in wonder like idiots. There was a picture of her with her sister below her in a donkey cart, and she squinted in the sun. She always seemed to be squinting a smile, and loved life like every day was her last.
When the Depression hit, she moved from the Dustbowl to the Dustbowl ("Grandma, why did you move there during the Depression?" "Because honey, it was Depression." "Ah.") and lived in a linen closet. She got a job at the Woolworth's. She was cute, and she knew it; one night she went to a party and danced. There was a young hot shot playing the piano. They got married and moved into a house that is no longer standing. They had kids, and in-laws, they did not fight in the war, they had one car, they tuned pianos and repaired ceramic statues. Their children stayed in town, but one, who went to college, and then left town. The children went to school, rough-housed with the neighbours, drag-raced cars and worked at drive-ups and pizza joints. The lady named for a city in Spain suffered some, but smiled and laughed mostly. The children had children, some of which also had children. They all gathered together for one holiday a year, and the children of the children played on the garage, pretending to shoot down planes, working in the woodshop, and they all danced and laughed.
Never been sick, never had a headache. (well, you have one now!)
I trust you...like I trust a rattlesnake.
Look at that lady...
(she tried to get up and go home. we had to strap her down. she should be moved to a care facility.)
Now, who are you again? Which one is Carolyn, the one with the flute? *flute noises*
When do I get to go home? Where is Dad? Where is William? (He's coming later.)
I had six sisters ahead of me, and they used to make me clean the lanterns.
Want something to drink? Don't know where mom is, got pop on ice.
Prince Albert in a can.
William! You old tomato!
Which one is Carolyn, the one with the flute?
I had six sisters ahead of me!
You learning the Dutch? I'm still working on English! What do you study at the university, boys?
O, honey, I was cute.
Pretended not to know what it meant, to park. I can't see the lights of the city facing thataway.
Where am I? Can I go home now?
One day she didn't seem to care about going home anymore. She asked where William was, and he was there. So was Tommy. She looked out at something no one else could see and her eyes were clouded over. She closed her eyes.
The funeral was a week later.
We stood over her, crying softly, trying to speak.
"Do you know what she'd say to us, if she opened her eyes right now and saw us standing here, crying?"
"You better knock it off, or I'll beat your a**!!!!"
We started snickering. Then we laughed. We laughed a lot and tears welled up in our eyes. We laid her to rest. She was cremated. The lady who was named for a city in Spain is ash, in an urn with William.
October 31st/November 1st, 1999, I had a dream. And suddenly she appeared, more life-like than ever. She looked around. "What are you doing here?"
"I decided to take a walk. I wanted to see how you all are."
She takes a walk every 1st of November. She says, "You only go around once!" The lady who was named for a city in Spain says, "You only go around once!"
She goes with me, the lady named for a city in Spain. I am making it good, just like I always said I would.
November 1st, 2007.
Tonight I did something I've never done before: I went knowingly to a place that is haunted, for the express reason that it is haunted. I've been to haunted places before, among them the Tower of London, but never thinking, "this place is haunted, and that's why I am going there." The reason for this lies firmly in the realm of the nebulously goofy. I've always believed in ghosts, but I've got no reason to do so (and therefore also no reason to doubt their existence)...but have always suspected I am the sort of person who would attract them, so I've sort of unconsciously closed off whatever part of me that would be open for it. It's something I'd really rather not deal with, but I've never wanted to say it doesn't exist either. I like there to be magic in the world.
So tonight I went to a moonlight tour of a "documented" haunted (American) Civil War battlefield. Over 2000 soldiers lost their lives on this spread of land over a few days in December of 186-something. The sky was clear, but foggy; the moon waxed and loomed heavy in the haze above as the temperature dropped and the air became clingy. I learned something I wasn't expecting to learn out there in the valleys and the barren trees. Now I am sitting in my living room listening to the radio, playing a series of 70s songs from Gilbert O'Sulivan to Barry Manilow...it strikes me as an absurd opposite, but I know this isn't the night to work and watch Halloween. No, this night is for reflection.
I had to drive through fairly dense forest and a few small towns to get to the battlefield, and the air was crackling with magic, as it tends to do in October. I turned in to the parking lot and there were already a lot of people there, and rows of lanterns leading to a check-in table (O now it's Christopher Cross!). Off to the side there was a roaring bonfire and a lot of children running around, so I DO get my bonfire after all! And I smiled to see all the children, first because I like seeing children having a good time, and second because if it's a kid-friendly activity, the fright level is about what I can take. :)
At the check-in table I learned that they'd had a big rush, and were already handing out tickets for tours beginning an hour-and-a-half later. Go home and wait? Nah. I brought a book, I like being outside. Who would want to miss out on all this jollity?? So I got my ticket and fetched my book from the car, and placed myself by the bonfire to settle in and read for a while. (Alright! "Copacabana!" I'm always gonna listen to this station!!) I ate "kettle corn" (sugared popcorn) for the first time in the states. A woman in period dress was cooking apple cider in a huge cauldron. Finally it was my turn, and I joined the very back of a group of people guided by a Southern soldier (I think--it was too dark to see if his cap was blue or gray) with a tiny lantern. He drew us away from the crowd into the darkness, into an apple orchard and proceeded to tell us that the casualties were so massive that they simply tossed the bodies into a shallow grave...right about where we were standing. The grave was so shallow that hands and feet were sticking out of the ground. Eventually the government retrieved the bodies and moved them to the National Cemetary down the road...but of course, they couldn't have gotten everything, since the bodies had decomposed somewhat. With that, we set off towards a big clapboard house. Hoping that we wouldn't be going in, I was relieved that we swung around the house, walking by a window in which one could glimpse a faintly-lit outline of a little girl watching us as we went by. It was creepy, but also very beautiful. This house is one of the documented haunted places, I've read about it on the internet. As we stood in the cold under the waxing moon, the house behind us, the guide told us about the night that inspired them to start this tour: the guides spent the night camped out outside the house, and watched as, in the dead of night, a woman opened and then drew back the curtains. The next morning, they entered the house and discovered the curtains on the floor. The children in the group drew closer to their parents and everyone turned to look at the window. We saw nothing. But...I know that house is haunted. I could feel them there. And I wondered what sort of constitution that little girl had to be in that house. Brave girl. I couldn't do that.
We proceeded down the hill into a hollow, and stopped just at the edge. The guide turned and told us he was pleased we were with him. He doesn't like going into the hollow alone, for all he knows about what happened there. Solitary soldiers attacked and were attacked on the hills on either side of the hollow, dying alone in the cold. It was at that moment that I reflected on the sadness of this place. It feels very lonely there, not in a dread way, but in a way for which you feel pity. And then I felt...this is not a place to be afraid, this is a place to be empathetic. I felt the eyes of soldiers, dying, far from home and cold, missing their mothers, missing their children and their wives, afraid and so, so sad. There weren't that many, but they seemed less lonely to me. Happy to be remembered, even if anonymously. We proceeded through the hollow, and someone fired off a musket, and we all jumped. And then we had to stand in the hollow for 10 minutes, waiting for a wagon to take us back up the hill. It was a pleasant 10 minutes, the guide told us about all the ghosts he'd seen, men and women, some in broad daylight. His wife and daughter came creeping out of the darkness and sat on a bench surrounded by lanterns. The soldier turned to them and said, "Does she miss her Papa?" and his wife said, "Yes." I looked up at the moon shining over the glen outside the hollow, the land stretching out to the river and beyond. Tree branches in relief against the foggy sky. I looked out over the field, trying to imagine the thousands and thousands of soldiers camped out. Drums and fifes. It was a beautiful night, I was so glad I came.
Finally the wagon came and we rode back up the hill, but some people walked back up with the soldier and his lantern. I was so torn, I wanted to do that, too, but I'd never been in a haywagon before, so I stayed there. We disappeared into another hollow as the soldier's lantern dwindled in the distance. There were some silly voices and things hanging in trees. The place itself seemed to take no notice of all this hooha. I didn't feel any soldiers anymore, until we got to the top of the hill...and suddenly I...saw...one. Not really saw... it's so hard to describe, I could see him, and I couldn't see him. Standing in a thicket, watching us go by. Was he there? Or was it something the guide had said... I don't know. I can't be sure. But I felt like he was there, watching us, and not feeling anything. As we rolled along I kept saying the words in my head "a place of such pain and suffering"... imprinted with the intense emotions. But not a place to be afraid. I felt at ease. I never expected to feel that way.
And then I got in my car and drove home. I learned the sense that ghosts are place-bound...I feel like I'd be the sort of person a spirit might follow home...but not these spirits. These spirits are bound to that place. I think I've been followed home before. This was very different. I feel good for having thought about these soldiers and their families.
I wanted to share that.
For a long time now I seem to use this blog as a space to tap around in when I am not sure what I want to do. It's a kind of lost space, a space I'd describe with a word I can't find at the moment...liminal. There, I found it. That's why I come here, I suppose. To find things that aren't really anywhere.
It's a Friday night, it's been a tightly-wound week, and I'm not sure what I want to do. So here I am again.
I wonder what I'll find. I found liminal, which by nature is a weird thing to find since it is by definition an ever-shifting space that one doesn't find so much as find oneself in.
...even when I have to switch off I can't. Everything is an object for observation.
Some would, and have, called me a workaholic. That is, as Eddie Izzard would have me say, 'a load of Bol**cks'.
Last week someone told me with great conviction that he lived in a place that has long held strong positions on educational development, whereas I--he felt quite certain--do not.
How that incensed me!
Among educators of a certain ilk there seem to be 2 divergent paths: the one promises some kind of cozy environment of establishment, a place to rest on one's laurels for having been placed there; the other promises a great deal of challenge, much room for development, for maintainance, for improvement. You can't just place any old person in either path, rather there are some suited to one, some suited to the other. I prefer the path of challenge. Something to do with my time, energy, ideas. Places of change and flux. I don't like establishment. I like chaos.
Tapping around in the dark to see what happens.
I think that's all I have to say.
What is this feeling, calmness? Or am I pressured-out for the day?
I'm too tired to know, I think.
A recent article, or several I suppose, have addressed the topic of a link between left-handedness and what is persistently referred to as 'mental illnesses', although scientists are hard-pressed to give much conclusive proof of such a link. Just, it seems left-handed people tend also to be different health-wise, especially where paranoia and dyslexia, and I am sure we'll hear other things as well, are concerned.
And...well I can't help noticing that almost inevitably these articles begin with a reaffirmation that the world is made for right-handed people. Well now...if the world is primarily constructed for right-handed people--and any lefty who has ever tried to do such simple things as scoop ice-cream, wash dishes, or indeed read a book will I think agree that generally, it is--wouldn't that be evidence of a right-handed way of thinking? And might not that differ fundamentally from left-handed thinking? Say, even simple things like the angle of a key or doorknob, the shape of a mouse button, that, if on the wrong side, can look downright confusing? So, perhaps it isn't that left-handed people are ill, or defective, but rather that they think and work differently? Physically and mentally?
Because let's face it- to be a lefty functioning in a predominantly right-handed world, that means basically that you are working against your instinct and thinking and acting backward. And you end up in between, where even if righthanded orientation is what you confront every day, like a language, you learn to do it, even if your prime directive is pulling you in the opposite direction, but because you haven't ever been in a 100% left-handed oriented environment, you wouldn't necessarily know what to do there, either. So, as a lefthander in the world, you gather information, and then process it to run the opposite direction, and then act--small wonder that left-handedness is linked to learning "disabilities" and "mental illness"--if it isn't just that lefthanded thinking is different, and what is now termed "illness" is just "difference," it's probably exhaustion, or perhaps confusion. Come on now, lefthanders--when you sit down to your desk, do you find it takes you longer than other people to get your workspace organized so that it makes sense to you? And doesn't that look an awful lot like an obsessive disorder? Who among you has accidently gotten a book printed backwards--and found that that was somehow...easier...than reading your standard left to right book? How many of you can write backwards--without thinking about it at all? How many of you have reading comprehension problems?
I am willing to bet all of this and much else is linked to lefthanded thinking, which honestly I've never heard a thing about--but in which I am a firm believer.
All artsy academic bally docks left aside. I just felt like coasting idly through my mind and writing whatever I crash into.
I've given my blog 5 stars, so that's good. It's a positive response, so I'm optimistic.
For a while I considered having a honest-to-goodness reflective blog with a catchy title, and the subtitle "A Midwestern Girl near La-La Land" and then I jettisoned the idea because I was too busy to notice much about being near LaLaLand apart from the same five or six thoughts, like 'I hate palm trees' and 'Was that Paris Hilton who just cut me off on the Orange Crush.' The first few times I thought that, I thought it was blog-worthy. After about a week it just seemed sort of like a catch-phrase from a sit-com. See, I didn't even realize I was already thinking in "Industry Speak." You become Californian, despite feeling alien, without really noticing it. Until you go back to the Midwest, which smells of sulfer, and realize how Californicated you've become. And just when you can't remember why California seemed so wild and foreign to you, you get on a plane with actual Californians, and realize you're not one of them. Which is fine, but then you, or I, begin to think about how you don't feel at home anywhere anymore, and how lonely you are. The cholas in the row ahead of you mix their Spanglish with Valley-Speak, the kind you hear in 80s movies about people driving around all night long on Mulholland Drive or Hollywood and Vine, where you've, or I've, been once and compared to your uncle you feel like an expert. It always seems like 3am on the 101, that dim horizon just after the party has hit its zenith and the crash hasn't set in yet, and I'm watching all of it from a car window. Because I spend most of my time here on a freeway...that's just the reference system. I'm not really always in a car. And I've been on the 101 once.
Who are you now? A corrupted file? Part metropolitan midwesterner expat, part west coast transplant, on your way back to the dim hills of the south. Execution failed. File is corrupt.
What am I doing tonight? Goofing off. I have mountains of things to do but instead I spent 2 hours reading Hollywood gossip columns, like PerezHilton. And now I am here. California is a very gothic place. I will miss it. I will miss that feeling that not an hour away, Lindsay Lohan is passed out at Hyde. Nicole Richie is probably driving the wrong way down the east-bound Santa Monica freeway. They don't seem like celebrities to me, they seem like your neighbour's messed up kids. When I am 1500 miles away, they seem like celebrities. And that's just that aspect of being not-terribly-far from LA. There is much more to say of this and that around my own neighbourhood, IE, the dirty 909. I have no idea what that means, but the kids say it. The kids say a lot of things I don't understand but that fascinate me. Like Hollaback Girl. Or cholo/chola. Dirty 909. Mija. I won't hear those things in other places.
All the good TV shows are over. the 24 season finale was last week. Survivor is over. The Riches only has 2 more episodes. My only hope is the new pirate survivor show that starts next week. It had better be good. The lack of good TV depresses me. That this depresses me distresses me. By next Thursday I'll be so desperate I won't care if the pirate show is good. I'll just be thankful it isn't Cops or I Love Lucy.
My family aren't like addicted to pain-killers, but I swear as soon as you say my _____ hurts, up pops a family member with a handy bottle of ibuprofen--do you want an aleve? ...no. I'll just hurt, until it passes...it's just pain. Can't something just hurt, and you go about your life? No, for people who have 'made it,' who have reached a stage in life where they have detergent for every conceivable clothing stain, there can be no hurt.
Who are you now?
My headphones are lying on the desk next to me. I can hear faint music. It's "The Red Shoes." I haven't listened to that in a long time. I'm not putting my headphones on.
There is not one clean bowl in the whole house. Baseball is on TV. I can't bring myself to do dishes.
I've hit a dead stop.
The letter Y is simply medieval. By this I do not mean that it barbarically assaults you with blunt and fearsome weaponry, and of course it isn't illiterate [well, or literate]. I mean rather, it is, perhaps besides the þ or ð, both still in use in modern Icelandic although long since dropped from English, the most medieval letter in existence. It has the unique property of being a hermaphrodite, mostly a consonant (masculine) but sometimes a vowel (feminine)--name me another letter that can do THAT, or indeed a mammal--, and it is this letter, the seahorse of cyphers, along with the u and double consonants that consistently attract my attention.
For this reason words like "bunny" and "pudding" (which was once spelled as you see above--with a "y") distract (but at-tract) me continuously.
U is absurd.
Y is silly.
And who needs a double consonant? We know that "pudding" is not "puding," because "puding" with one "d" would be pronounced "pyewding," which, unimaginably, is even more ridiculous than "pudding." No one would say "puding," it sounds like vomit. So pudding it is. Despite the absurdity of "dd". So tell me why we spell the present progressive of the verb "to bus": busing. Not bussing. I, for one, protest, and always write "bussing"...but I also remain convinced the personified form of "travel" should be spelled with "ll," as should the present progressive form of "to travel," despite the objections of my spell-checker. I also used to think that, depending on the context, "of" had to be spelled "ove".
In fact present progressives--that is going, doing, being, bussing, baking, etc--are a damnable thing. It is formed by adding "ing" to a root: go-> going; do-> doing; be-> being...dumple [believe it or not] -> dumpling...
P1: what are you doing there?
P1: delish! may I have a dumple? ...er...a dumpling? or a dumple. Whatever mood you are in.
so...pudding? according to the rule [these rules that tell me "busing" is right and not "bussing"...indignantly I rebuff them!!] the infinitive would be...pud. To pud. There is no "to pud" (there is "to bud," among other things! -> budding) so why no "pud"? I suggest we introduce "to pud," which would mean to mix up a vat of blood, grains, and entrails, put it in a stomach, and boil it. As there is clearly a need for it, since there is so much nominalized "pudding" about (not "puds" or "dumples," at least not in American...), we must need a verb for that activity, rather than encumbering ourselves with yet another helping verb, to make (in addition to "to be"). And if "ing" is the marker of the present progressive, then "making pudding" is downright silly.
P1: what are you making doing there?
P2: making going!
P1: you sound ridiculous!
P2: I? errr, me? you started the double progressives, you dumple!
P1: what are you doing there?
*P1 runs out the door*
But good. So dumpling is the present progressive of dumple--stay with me here, it's all logical--and pudding is the present progressive of pud, both foods and both involving a certain man-handling of ingrediants cooked in a particular manner, then what of pummel? Dumple and pummel are delightfully similar, and both involve man-handling; why is there no dish called "pummel" or "pummeling"? And whatever would it be? By definition it would have to be meat beaten beyond recognition, perhaps mince meat, for when we pummel someone, do we not make mince meat of them? So clearly, mince meat might also be called "pummeling". This would possibly have provided Sweeney Todd and Mrs Lovett with another verse for "A little Priest." How grim.
So: pummeling, dumpling, pudding are all progressives, and their roots are, respectively, pummel, dumple, and pud. Obviously "bring" is the progressive form, then, of "to br," "sing" the progressive of "to s" (or possibly "sy" with a dropped vowel) and finally "bling" must be the progressive of "to bl". To br: to kindly take an item along; To s[y]: to vocalize in an organized melodic manner; To bl: to consume conspicuously.
P1: I enjoy running, it fills me with purpose and pride.
P2: I enjoy listening, it provides me with knowledge and friends.
P1: I enjoy bussing, it provides me with opportunities to listen.
P2: I enjoy dumpling, it provides me with an outlet for my pent-up frustration and is easier on my knees than running.
P1: I enjoy pudding, it fills me with joy, it provides me a use for all my stray blood, entrails, stomachs and grain, and is easier on my joints than dumpling.
P2: I enjoy pummeling, it provides me with an outlet for my pent-up aggression, and...other things.
P1: I enjoy thing, it provides me...
P2: I enjoy bling, on any given day I bl, my friends bl, too, we bl stuff for my car, and yesterday I bled hot pink windshield wipers!!
So. Two days slow. That's what it is, two days slow.
...I am actually not certain what this project is, or will become. Just this title came to me, and it seemed so certain that it would be a title. I feel it is my task to follow it where it leads, until I've met the title whereever it originated.
What is invisible? What are the ways of being invisible? Is one always invisible to onesself? Is virtuality invisibility or are these different things?
For now, it seems to have some link to an idea like this one:
When I saw a beautiful woman I could not express my shock and desire. [ :angry2: ] I was; but she could not see all of me, that is all that I was in that moment. The invisible is the insensible. O how precarious this project is, to be all that we are, yet to remain invisible. The only way to see is to be invisible. The only way to be is to see. If I had been visible she would have ceased to be. Where is that point, and it is precarious, where you sense and in order to solidify, sanctify, actualize that sense you must express it; without that actualization it remains an uncertain flimmer, it cannot be fulfilled, cannot be. Yet to fulfill it is to endanger the other that gives rise to that sense. So you be, and you be invisible, for yourself. And then you are but a shadow...I am [a shadow]--shadow is inherent in "to be". [Mrs. Bartolozzi-Frost]
Here I am invisible. That is to say, not really. I am visible through my words, I am imagined and visible. "The I" of me is visible in this text, this text is "I" and immediately it conjurs the sound of the voice that would say it [is it a gendered voice? is it a chronological or chronotopic voice? is it high or low? laconic or chipper? is there latent joy, latent sarcasm? Am I a character that might be played by Emma Thompson? Judy Dench? Kevin Spacey?] and probably the face, the clothes, the glasses--can you imagine a non-glasses-wearer expounding on visibility??--that would adorn the voice who 'speaks' in this ( preposterous and inquisitive) way. But here I "am" [invisible, but am I a shadow?].
Another poem I wrote a fews years ago. It was the final poem for a while...
I feel like a phoenix risen
From the ashes of my solitude
Which ignited it self
While my self
Against the emptiness holding
High into the night
Long into the day
A pyre i pushed
Me around in
My eyes it sparked
While i broke
The wind of anger
Or pity blew some
New skin wet with tears
From the pain, and mourning
That makes up
Me the phoenix arisen from my ashes
I blew into the storm of history
I think this is my favorite poem I ever wrote. It would make a nice song, I think.
While you paint the fence
I see you looking back at me from my mirror
And while i imagine you seeing me
I try to guess what
I am thinking
While you paint the fence
When you come to me
And say, what is wrong with you
Who have you become
--which you don’t—
i am in here somewhere
and please just be patient
while you paint the fence
you stepped back
So i could brush the crust
Off my strengths and stuff it
Under my weaknesses
Til i stood before you
Painting the fence
You used to be the place
I could be myself in
When i took you
For granted as refuge
When i stopped taking you
I stopped being myself
And forgot who that was
I distanced myself
Out of respect for your borders
Or did you want me to be part of them?
In my mirror you
Shake my head
Look for the door
You’ll be outside
While i wonder
Who i am without you
(as opposed to
who i am)
while you paint the fence.
I already wrote about my vampire dream. I think I will make that into a story...in a short story collection involving the following things, nightmarish and funny.
They discovered the marble tomb of St. Paul the other day. Paulus's tomb had holes, so that in the middle ages, pilgrims could reach in and touch his skull or some other artifact. In the story, someone as part of a group goes to put his or her hand in the hole, and Paulus suddenly comes to and bites the person. It escalates to an unpleasant end based on a grammatical inaccuracy in the news articles I read.
A viking ends up living in what would some day be known as Southern California, which even then was groomed and landscaped to the hilt. What a nightmare for a viking. It would involve 'authentic' viking romance poetry.
When I awoke this morning, I came across strange things. As I glid silenty and slowly through that place in which I dwell, I became aware of certain things going on that would only happen if my presence was not suspected; indeed, the surity that I could not be present, and at all, was the foundation thereof. I stood stock still in my place, not intending to come across anything, and things were unaware of me. It was not any wanting to see, I didn't mean to be; as if when I had said goodnight last night, and went to sleep, I vanished and was no longer. The world went on, or went back, fell back into a place before me, and I, like in so many dreams, was a ghost in my own life, haunting hallways. Watching you without me.
And as I hovered there I pondered the meaning of things, pondered purpose and fate. Try as one might to do what one wants, there are occasions where one finds that, no matter what measures or miracles are undertook, there is simply no way in, and then, one is rather forced to ponder, what IS my purpose here? Perhaps it is to be a ghost, to hover silently in the margins and liminal spaces, help where I can, smile at the fates of others, dissipate like notes in the air. I went back to my bed, I put on my headphones, feeling rather that I wanted to lose the weight of my form and slide again along the staff of music imagined, and music heard, from a disc that contains a concerto that is current again and again, but with no orchestra or instruments. Only my ears have access and thus discarded from time, from within and without, I ceased to feel and slid along, having given up purpose and found, as it were, my natural form, a wraith, a mist, a presence perhaps sensed in some distant thought and otherwise...not.
"this is J. Evans-Pritchard as rewritten by the man who played the sublimely obtuse General Melchett in the “Blackadder” series" (--David Orr)
We can have armies of academics marching forth, measuring poetry. Certainly. But whosoever thinks one can measure the greatness of a poem through a ratio of form and meter to the appropriateness of topic is marching forth under a banner that above all seems to dip sideways, like blinders on a horse. I suppose having poetry explained by Lord/General Melchett (but really actually more the Duke of Wellington) would be appropriate in this context. Obtuse, indeed. If we are to expect a Wellington-tone, it is either pedantry beyond patience or buffoonery the like of which poetry hath not earned.
Poetry does not deal in answers. Poetry deals in many somethings, in meter, in form, in love and death, in stairwells and diseased prostitutes, patroleum, bridges, trochees, spondees, nationalism and above all in nose thumbing at the rules of conventionality.
Since it has been raised to a pedestal-manacled art form (that is "Poetry", that boring tedious pith trite with rhyme and tart with the residue of exclusion) being exposed to reading it comes with the presumption that we are about to enter authoritatively and unyieldingly charted waters. This is both true and not true. It presumes the cult of the poet-prophet, which certainly is a tradition that existed. Not only in an era, but across eras, belonging to a category of poets who seemed very delighted to be much too complicated and self-absorbed for anyone but their chosen followers to get. A cult needs followers, and there have always been plentiful supplies--armies of academics included--of aesthetes who seemed in a state of ecstasy only when they could (can) submit themselves to someone who claims to be much better, smarter, and above all more tortured than they.
Remarkably there have been enough of these followers--poets themselves, often--who have been disenchanted, dismissed or replaced by their masters, and who subsequently took to writing poems about hating their former masters, whom they often posit as a metanym for "Poetic Tradition." I'd almost be willing to suggest that this has not helped poetry's cause; but frankly, few lay readers of poetry would be aware that this is happening, precisely because of the idea that poetry is supposed to be meter and rhyme, with an appropriate subject. Hating one's master is in fact a popular topic in poetry--but it is unseemly for "Poetry", which is supposed to be about greatness, and gods, and indescribable beauty, the love of a fair maiden.
Even great works of Poetry don't only do that. Take for example the canonical "Ode on a Grecian Urn." It's about far more than one might suspect, and not really so much about appreciating ancient beauty.
But there is Poetry, and there is poetry. Or even "Poetry", Poetry, and poetry.
There is convention, there is innovation, neither of which is really absolute, and more often than not those things that seem to us extremely conventional are wickedly innovative. Bach comes to mind.
Ha! Got him with my subtle plan!
At any rate, poetry (like its alter egos "Poetry" and Poetry) is about skill with form (meter, rhyme); but it's what you do with these skills--not reproducing them perfectly, but wittily and perfectly. Rimbaud was not such a rebel when he claimed poetry is deliberate disorientation of the senses. Poets want readers to think. Poetry by definition, even back to ancient Greece, concerns itself with those things that lie outside conventional sense. It is the medium that challenges language and human use of it, pushing, breaking, aggrevating, twisting. Understanding meter and form are only part of the battle--one must see--learn to see--the passion and struggle in the strangest most commonplace things.
The washing machine.
Poetry does not (only) glorify, it explores and imagines, at times reveals or exposes.
We do not decode it, learn to abide by it. We learn to feel it, engage it, argue with it, poke and prod it. Then we learn how to count it. Because then the numbers become interesting.
There is Reading Poetry--that is what we do when we appreciate the perfect meter of the sonnet, because that is what "is done"--and there is reading poetry: that is when we focus our eyes beyond the bars of meter, syllables, and feel the language, taste it, study it. Most of us have Read Poetry in our lives; many fewer have read poetry. When you read poetry, you almost can't believe it, as if you suddenly realized the world in fact looks entirely different than you thought. If it isn't wowing you, you're Reading Poetry. But you will know when you read poetry.
You will know.
In honor of my 1 year anniversary on the forum, I am 'immortalizing' the text of the trick-or-treat aria I love so much.
Don't mind me
standing here by your tree
I am not a normal woman
my eyeballs are white
I am deceased...
aaaaaaand yet I'm waaaaaalking waaaaaaaalking around
I'm a zomby!
Dead, but living--
and that's why my hair's a fright!
yes, my skin is falling off
and my dress is stained with blood!
don't be afraid.
Give me chocolate
and I'll bother you no more.
I don't want a Butterfinger!
a bag of licorice!!!
Or you'll find some rolls of toilet paper in your trees!
Toilet paper in your trees!!!
Dark chocolate, please.
while you go find some.
[Credits: sung to the tune of an aria from Mozart's "The Magic Flute," though I don't know which; sung by "the masked soprano" (Maria Jette) on the radio programme "Prairie Home Companion". http://prairiehome.publicradio.org/programs/2006/09/09/
36 min and 19 seconds into the show. The words are funny enough, but her performance really is indescribable.]
The food of poetics and the poetics of food, and not particularly in the grotesque sense but I suppose so, excepting I am less interested in expulsion of said elements and much more concentrated on the ingestion, since words can be like food that is digested but not processed or released, it seems to me, and so the grotesque, so much about the 'ex'-factor, seems to me to play less of a role where one is incapable of removing words from the system by force or otherwise--for even when we repeat them they remain firmly, hauntingly implanted, imprinted on the tongue. Possibly elsewhere. On the hips (which I've heard don't lie--are there then no words there?) perhaps?
How queer. Queer means something you like thinking about a lot, that otherwise seems quite conventional and then on introspection and an indulgence in contemplation appears suddenly wonderfully inexplicable and marvelous unlikely.
Your nominative case is the plate upon which the food of a sentence is carried. The accusative is the salad greens, mostly lettuce, that keep us all reasonable. The dative case is the mound of mashed potatoes with a lot of homemade gravy that you save and savor. The genetive is the hand-made delicate glaze on a froofy desert, that only chef can prepare, and you save for those occasions when you want to impress. Yes. How queer. Some books are like brussel sprouts, or grisly beef, and others like a heavy bread or butter, and you stuff them into yourself guiltily, happily, putting aside that critical palate and leaving not one farthing of grease upon your glass.
Yes. Yes. Yes.
by bees and a supermarket
Three minutes I can brush my teeth in three minutes alright so go and I'm brushing my teeth 3, 4 I think 1.5 minutes bottom and 1.5 minutes top and that makes three even with my bizarre sense of numbers I'm late I said not by me of course by you who else you silly dunderhead I wasn't hurt I wonder is that always the first reaction not that I want it any more worst timing ever worst timing ever ruin everyone's life no one would want me I'd be all alone really ALL alone have to move and no money no job no insurance and a lot of explaining to do why why why why are people so interested why can't it just be great and here is some money and what if he never talks to me again or can't look at me I'm repulsive or embarrassing simplest thing in the world why the hell is it so complicated but what if I'm more beautiful what if I'm more powerful yes the world DOES look more vibrant, more clear, scared to death but feel empowered and all alone what if what if what if I am left all alone that wouldn't be fair why does that have to happen and how did I get into this mess well what mess no one is sure yet one o seven I always thought it would be just that and that would be that and when I'm awake that's how it is and then I get sleepy and suddenly I'm more scared than I've ever been and what if what if that reaction is this a sign do I have to move anyway because this is what I want well not right now but it is what I want and I seem to be the only one but o time is ticking one thirty two switch sides time and you can't just walk up to someone and say hey come on I need this or that but will I ever get it here and what kind of a reaction is that to have not by me implying o now I'm getting really mad that son of a bitch you know what that was it was a step towards being all alone that son of a bitch why can't people be happy and what am I going to do I can't do this alone one fifty three that son of a bitch how can he just drop everything and blame me like I control it him and his I have to right this second and it has to be this way or that way but if I have to work o no then I have to drop everything son of a bitch why why and why not this and why not that well doesn't matter now little me little me little him god that would be nice but it would ruin me maybe I'd have to hop a ship like Nell what a stupid idea but boy do I understand the desperation now never thought I'd feel this desperate scared to death I have to leave can't I can do this on my own have to but how god I don't want to work at Wal-Mart and I can't even go get a proper test, no money no insurance and no one to tell god I really am all alone that son of a bitch I never wanted to see blood so much in all my life can't afford a test how can I afford anything else o god o god o god two fifty five don't look don't look whole life mom dad christmas and everyone happy the world is so colorful and I have new depth three.
O my God.
Fiction, rum, roses.
Why escapism belongs to summer is beyond me. Actually it doesn't, come to think of it. My mind has been known to wander in every season but spring. But it's the places my mind wanders in summer...and the creative collisions that surprised me the other day listening to B-sides. That is summer.
Pretty Nell the handsome cabin boy. Yes I've written that as well. But without the childbirth. Obviously I'd come up with the idea before childbirth was interesting to me. I wish I'd thought of it. Tales of ladies at sea--think even as extreme of Ann Bonny and company--are splendid, o the drama of the Regency maiden, the Moll Flanders, brought into a family way out of wedlock, what to do what to do, Yentl cut your hair and hop on a boat. Whatever was she thinking...surely I'll never survive childbirth at sea? Surely I'll make it to Tortuga within 9 months, where no one cares? A crew of sailors will make a fine family? Blackmail?
It has been said that Pirates are the first democratic societies.
The escape from strictures of polite society. The barbarity of holding up individuals as model citizens; who actually wants to participate in that nonsense? Is it so much escapism as it is a true nature of sorts? People can't be people, so we have to dream about pirates and secret gardens.
Then again, isn't it what we want because we can't have it?
How funny to think someone's dream might be a corset, perhaps an arranged marriage. To be the morally impeccable frame of society.
I'll walk the plank, thanks.
You can find me under the white rose.
That's no metaphor.
That's really where I wait for her. That was our place, away from them who would not approve. Under the ivy in my garden, only my grandmother was there and she just loved love and wanted us to meet there. And we did.
And then she scared herself and ran from the garden. And I go to my garden every night to wait, under the white rose, because maybe she'll return, maybe she forgot something, or maybe, just maybe she misses me. I'll be here in case she comes, sitting in the thunder.