Thursday, January 27, 2011

Bright shiny new things

I''ll be posting over on tumblr from now on. Please follow me

hugs and smooches!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What we should have known

I don't believe in the narrative of my childhood. By that, I mean, I don't trust my recollections. It seems equally possible that I sprang fully formed into early adulthood as it does that I was once small and open to the possibilities of the world. Only my raging disappointments tether me to the belief that I must have once been a child. It is the only way to explain my anger. I keep thinking about SXR's brilliant line, "mourn the lost years". From mourning, it is a short hop to regret and a quick trip to things-i-wish-i-had-known-then.

I wish I had read Tropic of Cancer sooner, perhaps around age 13. And Bukowski - all of him. I am glad I fell in love with Henry David Thoreau when I did. I found Salinger at just the right time. I tried too hard with Nietzsche - it was a time when I was an acolyte in the cult of precocity. Instead of Nietzsche in college, I wish I had read Marx and Emerson. I wish someone had said to me, as a proto-freshman in college when I was a very young 17 years old, "check out the European Philosophers and if that interests you, you may find value in the lingua franca of American legal thought." It never occurred to me that there was a great tradition, equal to the French novel, an intense tradition around the law and theorizing around it. That the law celebrates precise language - the power of words. I am on the fence about Twain. I enjoyed him in school. I love him now. Vonnegut too.

Do books find you when you need them? Is there a difference between
assigned reading and found reading? What do you wish you had known?
What do you wish you had found and when?

Zipper Skin

I disconnected for a while, a week, to dip into the white hot book of days ten degrees north of the Equator. Each morning rising like mango-scented Pomona, blooming in the flame of day. I was not eager to return to the gray days of winter, the rough texture of wool socks and hard-soled shoes. I anticipated a moss-slick snow-salted wall of melancholy.

I had not taken Pacazo with me. It was too unwieldy to manage, too solid to be thrown carelessly in a canvas sack, tossed lightly on hot sand, to read with wet hands. A week without a computer, without a phone, without access, without required reading. Free to dream under the shadows of passing clouds.

If I asked my mother to select one photo of me as a child, her favorite photo, which would she choose and how long would she have to think about it? These clementines peel so easily, the skin bright and flexible, ripping easily under a thumb nail. In Costa Rica there was a cave that you could explore at low tide but at high tide it transformed into a maw of swirling chaos and noise. You could only see as far as the water would retreat. You could only hear the ocean. It occurs to me that everything can be wonderful and still no one is happy.

The weak light of winter hurts my eyes. I want to crawl into a coconut, wave my fingers at the feeding pelicans, count the devil rays as they fly into the wavy heat of the bay.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Ghost in the Machine

I've been thinking hard and heavy on the importance of the mother/child symbolism in Deus Ex Machina by Andrew Foster Altschul (the December book for Rumpus Book Club). It was something that completely escaped my notice until a fellow Rumpuser brought it to my attention during an online discussion. What does the mother/child connection represent? The truest form of love? Connection, in the sense we've talked about before? Acceptance? Potential? If we assume that the parent/infant relationship is a proxy for love (Love??) then what of:

  • The Producer and his wife - conceiving love but unable to bear it into the world, expelled by the body before it can survive, not even still-born, but early abortion of a never fully formed thing. Who/what is at fault when the body cannot sustain it's creation?
  • Patel and his wife and child - when Patel's wife says, "I see you." the intimacy of her voice "stabs the Producer near his solar plexus" (p 74) and he literally begins to crawl away on all fours, away from the tableau of father, mother, Baby. But there is something wrong with the girl. "Her face is blank and strangely slack, her eyes dull and drowsy; she's being held by someone off-camera..." Even when love is born into the world, you can't control what it will look like, how it will behave, if it will absorb all you have to give without giving back. The Producer watches the interaction from the shadows, and the interaction is not happening in front of him in the flesh, it is happening over 1000s of miles, remote, "flattened by the camera". He leaves the control room and thinks of the cave, the invisible but real thing in the cave and then Gloria Hamm and his concern for her.
  • And then - the native woman and child - "In her arms she holds a tiny black bundle: the Producer can make out a wizened scalp, a lumped face with no eyes, a small mouth frozen into a cry." (p. 190) An eyeless black bundle (eyes and windows and souls), mouth open. A love that is not love. A child that should not have been born into the world and was punished. A connection the result of a rape, of abuse, of avarice. "A stark figure of accusation, of fear, shame." And Gloria doesn't look away and she eventually takes the dead child out of the mother's hands. Miley squeezes the Producer's hand. Shaneequio collapses into Alejandra's arms. Paco doesn't slaughter the goats. Connection, Connection, Connection.

So perhaps, DEM is a book about love and connection, defined by their absence? Our connection isn’t that we were all brought into this world covered in blood. Our connection is that we have all somehow forgotten. We have forgotten that we were vulnerable to the tender mercies someone gifted us. Covered, as we were, in blood and shit and urine, someone washed us, pulled the plugs out of our nostrils and unblocked our mouth so that we could pull that first great suck of wind deep down into the well of our throats and release our guttural cry into the world.

We have lost the memory of our base sameness. We have come to believe- to the point of truth- that we are somehow different, better than or worse than each other. We put on our fine clothes, our hard-soled shoes, run a blunt-edged nail around the corner of a business card and think it means something real.

We ignore those of us who live on the shadow-side of the street. We beat each other with a measuring stick we call beauty. We bare our teeth and call it a smile. We pass judgment and we are found wanting. We are so closely watching each other we never notice the ant mill until we die of exhaustion.

We are a special kind of insane.

Our connection begins at birth in blood and chaos and ends at death. Between the alpha and the omega, we navigate our contemporary inferno with love and sorrow, but no cheap pity or promise of ultimate happiness. Our human task is to suffer, shudder, and struggle courageously in the face of relentless self-criticism, inescapable fallibilism, and inevitable death. And to talk about love.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Rumpus Book Club goes slightly off topic

SX posed a question: "@everyone I'd like to use the impetus of that Bucky Sinister poem on The Rumpus today and today's fluid, fluent TRBC thread on music from Johnny Mathis through Bob Dylan to Kanye or Arcade Fire to ask a simple question of all of you that I do not know the answer to. This question is nothing but sincere, and pleading, maybe. Why is it so easy, and so fulfilling, to talk about music, inc. the rhymes, lyrics, thoughts, craft, precedents in music, and so daunting to talk about or react to any kind of poetry? That is the question. I would be so grateful for anything large or small any of you are willing to say on this today or at any future date. Thank you in advance. (Please answer . . . ) —sxr

I responded:
@SX I'll counter your question with a sincere question of my own: how are music and poetry so different? Is that a naive question? I'm asking honestly. I have always believed the two were twined together, a twisting banyan tree of our efforts to grasp appearance and reality, opinion and knowledge, illusion and truth - of beauty, love, our deepest passions and yearnings, and the collective struggle of learning to live by learning to die. Maybe the conversations on music represents a modern lightness of being, a new dialogue on poetry.

I don't know what I don't know about music/poetry- I don't uncover them, seek them, excavate them, so much as let them fall on me as rain would. Until recently, music and poetry have been interesting background static, white noise to take up space - squatters in the open gray spaces of my mind. But now that I am going insane, which is its own thing all together, a different kind of chaos, the result of plugging into a connected network without an adequate firewall in place, I find myself crumpled by two words next to each other, gored open by a coda, and poured out by the turn of a phrase, like bathwater over a tiled floor, seeping behind the drywall, flowing down wooden steps. Music and poetry, when they are good are a grand expedition into and transfiguration of our guttural cry. Music and poetry, when they are very good, when at their best, transfigure our guttural cry into a call to care - for causes bigger and grander than our own precious cry.

But a personal response to your question - I do not understand the mechanics of music or of poetry, form and function, I don't have the vocabulary to describe the power of poetry and music to yank me from my anchor. I don't feel qualified to even say, I like - I love - I hate. But poetry and music have the power to unhinge me; perhaps I don't want to talk about such insane things in polite company.
- Show quoted text -

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Connection is a form of insanity

Connection is not communication. Connection is not one hundred people writing some variation of “happy birthday” on a Facebook page or a blog post. It isn’t Paris on Christmas Day or the ring on the left hand or the shared bed or a tattoo. Connection is not found in a box of folded letters or between the thighs. It isn’t blood. Connection isn’t elements linked by time or pattern or result, though it is easy to be confused.

Connection is not being afraid to be the first to say, “I love you”. Connection is telling someone you love you aren’t happy and things might not be ok. Connection is floating on salty swells under the dome of a dark heaven knowing that there are dangerous creatures below you and still turning all of your focused attention to the marvelous outlines of the lunar seas. Connection is a state of openness; a willingness to be seen and heard. Connection is the act of listening. Connection is having patience with every unresolved thing in your heart and the will to live the questions now. Connection is a form of insanity.

If faith is an absence of fear, connection is an absence of shame.

The things we could tell each other about shame. If I shared my shame with you and you shared your shame with me, would we wound each other? Would we automatically fall in love? Would I be dramatic and would you get quiet or would we just pretend that we weren’t vulnerable, the conversation a fever-dream hallucination had at opposite sides of a couch on a random Wednesday evening.

Connection is the one thing that I want in life, above all other things, in a word.

Monday, November 29, 2010

strangely poetic g-chat

me: i read the Julie Greicius essay last night
instead of Bukowski
and I wept
and turned my face to the wall
so that my tears
would be mine
and I had a dream
me: in this dream
i kept trying to push
a great sadness out of my body
and my body would clench
to both push
and hold on
me: and I dreamed a poem
that dissolved
just before I surfaced
to the buzzing of an alarm
and the soft static of the shower
and i lay there
with my soul half leaning out of me