February 26, 2010 § Leave a comment
I should be working, but I still have a faint glow of wine from last night and the snow is still falling, the cats are asleep and I feel like writing without knowing where I’m going. Hence, blog post.
Remember how everyone hated that word ‘blog’ at first? A piece of writing like a blob or a bog? Please! Of course, it’s proved very apt and for those of us who like to think we’re not too blobby, a bog is really a wonderful thing. I always gravitated to the wet places in my moody teens (as distinct from my pellucid adulthood). I liked November and March, cloudy days, damp ground, water seeping into my shoes.
My mother wasn’t overly concerned but she did remark on my wet feet and my stepfather made (mostly harmless) fun of my meanderings in the dark wastes. So I learned that not everyone is riveted by the beauty of gray, purple and maroon leaves/mud/ skies; the damp doesn’t feel cozy to all; nor does the smell of water (sans beaches or sparkle) makes them feel poetry steaming in their brains.
I’ve lost that. Now I like the days sunny or snowy. I like light, white, bright; the bog of age has me in its close embrace and I dream of soaring.
My moods when I was young were social terror, loneliness, longing, desire, aesthetic ecstasy, joy and rage. I felt so much hostility it took constant work to contain it (which I tried so hard to do because I feared extreme punishment); now, when I despair, what comes to mind is: why not make someone else happy?
It’s a welcome change, though I don’t act on it nearly enough. I adore the cat or answer the phone without making the caller feel like he/she interrupted me butchering babies. So much of my kindness in the past was reward related and I’m not feeling that much anymore. I’m inching toward purity of heart at the same time the dynamism of ambition and anxiety fades. Where will it all lead?
* Ezra Pound’s description of London. One of the great insults of all time.
Song of Autumn
Soon we shall plunge into the cold darkness;
Farewell, vivid brightness of our short-lived summers!
Already I hear the dismal sound of firewood
Falling with a clatter on the courtyard pavements.
All winter will possess my being: wrath,
Hate, horror, shivering, hard, forced labor,
And, like the sun in his polar Hades,
My heart will be no more than a frozen red block.
All atremble I listen to each falling log;
The building of a scaffold has no duller sound.
My spirit resembles the tower which crumbles
Under the tireless blows of the battering ram.
It seems to me, lulled by these monotonous shocks,
That somewhere they’re nailing a coffin, in great haste.
For whom? — Yesterday was summer; here is autumn
That mysterious noise sounds like a departure.
I love the greenish light of your long eyes,
Sweet beauty, but today all to me is bitter;
Nothing, neither your love, your boudoir, nor your hearth
Is worth as much as the sunlight on the sea.
Yet, love me, tender heart! be a mother,
Even to an ingrate, even to a scapegrace;
Mistress or sister, be the fleeting sweetness
Of a gorgeous autumn or of a setting sun.
Short task! The tomb awaits; it is avid!
Ah! let me, with my head bowed on your knees,
Taste the sweet, yellow rays of the end of autumn,
While I mourn for the white, torrid summer!
— Charles Baudelaire, (trans. William Aggeler), The Flowers of Evil (Fresno, CA: Academy Library Guild, 1954)
Here’s Luke Kelly singing, “The Foggy Dew,” a favorite of mine once
February 18, 2010 § 2 Comments
I want you to read this poem by Lucille Clifton who just died. It holds the sadness of the world and a little hope and love, in the voice of Lucifer. Lately I’ve been reading fantasy novels in which demons and the Devil himself are rendered human-like (powerful, masculine, tortured) and this poem reminds me that the same impulse works in these different kinds of writers, the obvious and the penetrating, the vulgar and the subtle. Being somewhere in between, I like the connection. Now that I’m writing a fantasy novel to (I hope) make much-needed money, I’m feeling especially defiant toward the highbrow lit crits, which was one thing Lucille never was.
by Lucille Clifton
(being a conversation in eight poems between an aged Lucifer and God, though only Lucifer is heard. The time is long after.)
come coil with me
here in creation’s bed
among the twigs and ribbons
of the past. ihave grown old
remembering the garden,
the hum of the great cats
moving into language, the sweet
fume of the man’s rib
as it rose up and began to walk.
it was all glory then,
the winged creatures leaping
like angels, the oceans claiming
their own. let us rest here a time
like two old brothers
who watched it happen and wondered
what it meant.
how great Thou art
listen. You are beyond
even Your own understanding.
that rib and rain and clay
in all its pride,
its unsteady dominion,
is not what you believed
but it is what You are;
in your own image as some
the face, both he and she,
the odd ambition, the desire
to reach beyond the stars
is You. All You, all You
the loneliness, the perfect
as for myself
less snake than angel
less angel than man
how come i to this
watching creation from
a hood of leaves
i have foreseen the evening
of the world.
as she as she
the breast of Yourself
separated out and made to bear,
as sure as her returning,
i too am blessed with
the one gift You cherish;
to feel the living move in me
and to be unafraid.
in my own defense
what could I choose
but to slide along behind them,
they whose only sin
was being their father’s children?
as they stood with their backs
to the garden,
a new and terrible luster
burning their eyes,
only You could have called
their ineffable names,
only in their fever
could they have failed to hear.
the road led from delight
into delight. into the sharp
edge of seasons, into the sweet
puff of bread baking, the warm
vale of sheet and sweat after love,
the tinny newborn cry of calf
and cormorant and humankind.
and pain, of course,
always there was some bleeding,
but forbid me not
my meditation on the outer world
before the rest of it, before
the bruising of his heel, my head,
and so forth.
“the silence of God is God.”
tell me, tell us why
in the confusion of a mountain
of babies stacked like cordwood,
of limbs walking away from each other,
of tongues bitten through
by the language of assault,
tell me, tell us why
You neither raised your hand
Nor turned away, tell us why
You watched the excommunication of
That world and You said nothing.
still there is mercy, there is grace
could I have come to this
marble spinning in space
propelled by the great
thumb of the universe?
could the two roads
of this tongue
converge into a single
could I, a sleek old
curl one day safe and still
at Your feet, perhaps,
but, amen, Yours.
having no need to speak
You sent Your tongue
splintered into angels.
with my little piece of it
have said too much.
to ask You to explain
is to deny You.
before the word
You kiss my brother mouth.
the rest is silence.
February 16, 2010 § Leave a comment
Charles has gone home, so it’s just me and the cats and the work.
It’s snowing again, and I’m stocking up on crystals for my jewelry business. It’s always tempting to buy too much, especially the colors I haven’t seen yet. “Caribbean Blue Opal,” “Crystal Champagne.” They make me think of fairytale mountains of ice, glittering in eerie pastel. In the story my mother read me so often, the princes have to climb the ice mountain to win the princess, and all but one fall down and die along the way…which I always thought would put a pall on the wedding festivities. Surely those princes had parents, siblings, uncles and aunts? So I learned, to my detriment, to hear ‘death’ and replace it in my mind with ‘went home temporarily despondent.’
My other work today is to write an article on water. Drought, dams, sewage, floods, agricultural run off and 20-minute showers. I read how many gallons the average American uses a day, and calculate how little I could easily survive on. It energizes me with outrage. Charles remarks (by phone) that I should get the building to fix my leaky toilet. I take a break and read about dragons.
For better news, check this out: chocolate may protest against stroke.
And remember: curry once a month protects against Alzheimers, walnuts, beets, salmon and molasses are good for depression, blueberries protect against colorectal cancer, and coffee will keep you awake, conversational and occasionally witty.
Mont Blanc (first stanza)
(lines are chopped up and spaced weirdly because of this damn blog format…which I don’t understand.You can read the original here: http://www.readprint.com/work-1366/Mont-Blanc-Percy-Bysshe-Shelley
The everlasting universe of things
Flows through the mind,
and rolls its rapid waves,
Now dark – now glittering –
now reflecting gloom –
Now lending splendor,
where from secret springs
The source of human thought
its tribute brings
Of waters, – with a sound but half its own,
Such as a feeble brook
will oft assume
In the wild woods,
amon the mountains lone,
Where waterfalls around it
leap for ever,
Where woods and winds contend,
and a vast river
Over its rocks ceaselessly
bursts and raves.
February 15, 2010 § 1 Comment
check out fitzroyandmouchette.wordpress.com for a cataphilia blog.
I had a quiet and very enjoyable Valentine’s Day. Lisa came for dinner with champagne, and we talked for hours. Charles is here and gave me red roses, which Fitzroy nibbled on, and I bought a chocolate cake which I’m going to finish off shortly.
Saturday night we watched Daddy Long Legs, a new independent movie about a slightly crazed, scruffy divorced father in Manhattan, in (nominal) charge of his two young sons for his annual 2 weeks. It’s made to look like a movie from the late 70’s and the characters and attitudes are consistent with that era: the time when Charles was a slightly crazed, scruffy divorced father often overwhelmed by his children. And I was 18 or 22 and trying to be a good girlfriend then stepmother while keeping a necessary distance: mostly kind, helpful, observant and as selfish as I had to be.
The movie character was more irresponsible than we were (that’s our story anyway, and we’re sticking to it) but the fights with the ex-wife, the anxiety about childcare and last minute problems were very familiar. Before I even read about this movie I had a dream that I was back in that situation—Charles and Janet fighting about the kids, me off to the side with a sick sense that nobody was right—and it was even more awful than the reality had been. The reality, like most realities, had the advantage of feeling inevitable. The dream was an invasion. Then Charles arrived and we had a good time, and the movie was a funny/sad reminder of the way we were.
It makes sense that we’re so silly now with the cats, who perform the function of children with minimal fuss. We can shower them with love and feel cozy, spend a little money on treats, and not only is there no ‘real’ mother out there to harass us, the children can’t even speak up to tell us all the ways in which we’re inadequate. I can believe whatever I want about what’s going on in their heads, and frankly I don’t mind at all knowing that I’m spinning fantasy.
We watched Daddy Long Legs on TV, VOD. It’s worth seeing, if you like rambling, character-driven stories, low key, real life. It helps to know it was made by two brothers who lived through a childhood similar to that of the boys in the movie. They survived and flourished.
This Was Once a Love Poem
This was once a love poem, before its haunches thickened, its breath grew short, before it found itself sitting, perplexed and a little embarrassed, on the fender of a parked car, while many people passed by without turning their heads. It remembers itself dressing as if for a great engagement. It remembers choosing these shoes, this scarf or tie. Once, it drank beer for breakfast, drifted its feet in a river side by side with the feet of another. Once it pretended shyness, then grew truly shy, dropping its head so the hair would fall forward, so the eyes would not be seen. It spoke with passion of history, of art. It was lovely then, this poem. Under its chin, no fold of skin softened. Behind the knees, no pad of yellow fat. What it knew in the morning it still believed at nightfall. An unconjured confidence lifted its eyebrows, its cheeks. The longing has not diminished. Still it understands. It is time to consider a cat, the cultivation of African violets or flowering cactus. Yes, it decides: many miniature cacti, in blue and red painted pots. When it finds itself disquieted by the pure and unfamiliar silence of its new life, it will touch them-one, then another- with a single finger outstretched like a tiny flame. --Jane Hirshfield
February 9, 2010 § 2 Comments
I went to the Outsider Art Fair last weekend: ‘Outsider’ is defined as art by people without formal training, sometimes prisoners or mental patients, but just as often people who spent their lives making art without reference to the establishment. I don’t know much about the backgrounds of the artists except for one whose painting I bought years ago; he was a Cuban refugee with little schooling, a manual laborer who was in regular conversation with aliens. His paintings were mostly of these aliens smiling in garden settings: Caribbean color meets late Victorian whimsy. I still love my painting but I saw better ones this weekend, priced low. Too bad I don’t have any money.
These paintings and drawings and sculptures are not ‘great’ art but at the same time they’re not just ‘good’ or ‘pretty good’ art. The best of them come at you differently, with an astonishing ability to convey and transmit that mental state known as ‘flow.’ I looked at them and felt both deeply peaceful and gently stimulated, reminded not of the urgent mysteries of life but of the joy of swimming sideways in the creative sea, of solitude and making.
When I was a girl, I drew a lot. I read and I drew. The reading took me to other worlds; the drawing pulled worlds out of me, though they were not complex. Like many outsider artists, I drew the same images over and over, obsessive about the way my wrist felt turning the pencil, coloring the curves of faces, eyes, hair, dresses. I was often asked why I drew girls, and only girls—for hours—.
It wasn’t that I chose to draw only girls. I would have agreed with you that dogs and lions and trees and houses were of great visual interest; that wolves and wasps, milk bottles and oceans made fine subjects for pictures. But drawing girls is what brought me to the flow, the soothing balance of being alone, not thinking about my life yet still thinking, alive, in motion.
I could speculate I was obsessed with my own identity. What else could it be? I was a girl drawing girls but it felt like something else. Or maybe that’s what identity feels like: something else. The need to explain who I am, not only in relation to the world, but in relation to the part of me that focuses, that directs consciousness; the need to find boundaries that may not exist. Me is an endless place. You’re in there too. But I didn’t know that when I was young.
Both Andree and I were inspired to the same fantasy, as we wandered past the booths: an old fantasy, one I’d almost forgotten. We both, independently, desired to build a house—set apart, perhaps in a wood— a strange house, made precisely as we wanted it out of boards or stones or tinfoil or glass beads or bottle caps…I was thinking stucco; pink and indigo, egg-yolk yellow; towers, narrow passages, windows big enough to crawl out of. Today alone, tomorrow visitors.
And when we’d built our strange houses, we’d fill them with these paintings that made us remember our precious inner worlds so delightfully out there multiplying.
‘I learned that her name was Proverb’
And the secret names
of all we meet who lead us deeper
into our labyrinth
of valleys and mountains, twisting valleys
and steeper mountains—
their hidden names are always,
like Proverb, promises.
Rune, Omen, Fable, Parable,
those we meet for only
one crucial moment, gaze to gaze,
or for years know and don’t recognize
but of whom later a word
sings back to us
as if from high among leaves,
still near but beyond sight
drawing us from tree to tree
towards the time and the unknown place
where we shall know
what it is to arrive.