Let me ask you a purely academic question: Hello?
— Dean Blehert

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Note: This poem is actually twelve poems (ah, those pretentious Roman Numerals!) on a single theme: Specific times in my life where I became aware of myself as something other than the body by which I was known to others and even to myself, at first. That is, most of the poems are specific moments. A few, like the last section, are conclusions, parables, exercises for that mythical creature, "the reader". I'll add a few notes at the end. Here are the poems:


I know that bodies do not last,
but wonder if we do.
I remember once, exhausted
after too many laps, I stood
on the sand track, knees turned
to water, holding myself up
as if from above by wires,
head hanging, a leaden mass,
when before me were hive-like
crystalline golden cells, huge
grains of sand filling my vision
too close for eyes to focus, yet
unblurred, and I had time to wonder
if I'd hurt myself falling
on my face when, finding again
my eyes, I realized I still
stood, had seen or dreamed
those grains of sand at my feet
with other than my body's eyes,
"seen or dreamed" I say now,
but knew then only seeing.


If we are immortal,
we are all here.
It gives me pause,
even with those of us
who are in familiar bodies,
to think we are all here.
I sit near the window,
reading, hardly aware of the dog
asleep on his couch across the room.
He stretches, lifts his head,
scratches his chin with a few fast
rhythmic swipes of a paw, then
looks at me, and it astonishes me
to think that he is here with me,
has been with me all day, being
whatever he is just as you and I,
all along, have been with each other,
an idea that stirs me as if I were
a baby bursting with giggles
each time Momma pokes her head in view
and goes "peek-a-BOO!"


Once, sitting on the edge of a bed,
I noticed my head wasn't quite
in the right place, just an inch
or so out of kilter, my whole body
not quite right--in fact, it had
begun to slip from me, was hanging on
just barely by the habit of being me,
and I sat there or rather
it sat and I floated just above
and noticed my state and poised,
as if an unquiet breath or thought
would jar me loose to slip or glide
like a dew down a blade of grass
into alignment with the body,
and as I thought it, I did.


I don't remember much of being
anything this body was not,
but I remember one childhood day,
walking past the playground fence
on my way home, thinking, this is it,
I am really a third-grader, one of
them, whatever "them" was, I can't
remember now, but I remember
the certainty, the vividness
of what, then, being a third-grader was.
And now, if you asked me how old
I am, I would not have to look
at old albums or a wristwatch
to say "50" ("going on 51!"
as the third-grader would eagerly
add). And once, assailed by more
certainties than I could stomach,
I knew I was ageless, had seen
and done more than I wanted to know,
knew, not by remembering, but by
being unable to unpicture,
the bottomlessness of my forgetting.
It is not what I knew, but the way
I knew, as, in third grade, I knew
I was in third grade.


Right now it's more remembering
than knowing. You trot out
the same experiences for years
to prove things to yourself
and they get shopworn, encrusted
with the dust of words, the tarnish
of opinions. But I remember


When I think of an ending
to what I am, a lack
of me knowing I am, standing here
before the window, seeing
what my eyes can see, being,
somehow, a head which must be
moved to move me who am perforce
put wherever my body is put,
I wonder if this, what we call
life, this being a thing of flesh,
is not itself
that not knowing
that I am what I am,
that ending
to what I am.


A man sits in a cell and knows
(the way his forehead knows
when it cracks against the wall):
this is where he's always been
since he's been anything and
where he'll always be until
he becomes nothing at all.
What could be worse? Maybe
whatever he did to get himself
into this, maybe what he was,
could be again, must not


Odd that more people don't hate
having to go to bed. Children
understand, plead to stay up,
watch the good TV shows full of
violent action, want the hall light
left on, try to prolong goodnights
from loving giants who cannot hide
the fact that they are ready
to use whatever force is needed
to make the child be as much
as possible without sound or motion.
The child lies there trying out
different horizontal postures,
spreading the legs apart
to be a cowboy or, on his side,
drifts off, running in place,
an angel embedded in amber.
Children sense it is an unnatural thing,
an imprisonment, to be put
on a padded shelf, there to lie
almost still, only a few feet
in which to twist, having to close
their eyes and not do anything--


Perchance to dream. You can dream.
And if you don't wake up,
who will be with you in your dream?
What if, in your dream, you are still
you, but have not even a bed
to move in, are buried in your coffin,
not an inch of leeway to stretch,
utter dark, utter silence, utter
knowledge of never seeing the sky,
of no one knowing you are--
what does it mean then to say you
are still you? And if you had
no body at all but were still,
somehow, you, could you sense
anything, get in touch with
anyone? From these dreams gladly
we waken to our prison of meat.


Once, staring intently back at a cat,
suddenly I saw a human face
staring at a cat, saw from where
the cat's eyes were, saw so clearly
I could see a cat's face reflected
in the human eyes. It was a flash--
then I was seeing a cat flinch
and gallop full tilt from the room
as if she'd sensed (as cats do)
a ghost. Once, looking
at someone who looked at me
for a long time, I said to her,
"Your face just disappeared,"
and she replied, "I know.
So did yours." Once, lying
beneath pine trees, looking up
along the tall trunks through
pinwheeling branches to the sky,
I found myself in the sky,
and I could see and know
and I was I. Once, after making love,
I knew what she would say
before she said it and what
I would reply and what she'd say
to that, and I saw her knowing
me know this and I started to say
and she said, we said
as I knew we would,
"I know".


If I sit very still
I can feel it, my head a tension
and waves of tension around my head,
a force field, solid and habitual.
If bodies are traps, does death free us?
Not if, nullified by eons of force,
we've grown addicted to bodies,
think ourselves nothing without bodies,
think we must suck memories from them,
having none of our own, cannot see
without eyes, hear without ears,
we undead embedded in our heads;
releasing us is like releasing habitual
criminals. Death can't hold us,
only knowing can. We'll be back.


From beneath the earth
where we cannot move,
a worm.
From beneath the water
where we cannot breathe,
a fish.
From the fire
we could not withstand,
From our own guts,
where we will never go,
we send...where,
we choose not to know.
What can you be?
Where can you go?
If the air were a wall,
if your own flesh were a wall,
if you could see only as far
as your own retina
and could not unsee that,
if the future were a wall,
mirroring the solid past,
if...can you hear me?
From where?



Part 1: This occurred in 1964 or 1965. I'd been jogging round the track at Stanford (where I was a grad student), working out hard. I stood exhausted, looking down at the sand, and suddenly saw (as vividly as anything I'd seen) a microscopic view of the grains of sand, at first didn't realize what I was seeing, then, knowing what it was, thought I must have fallen, since my eyes seemed up against the sand, but (backing my vision back into my head), found I'd been standing up the while. As the poem says, I saw the grains in perfect focus, not blurry, as one might have expected had my eyes been a quarter of an inch from the sand.

Part 2: This sense of immortality and its corollary -- that we've all been here all along -- gives the game of "peek-aboo" a dazzling hall-of-mirrors quality. When Momma says to baby, "Peek-aBOO!", she's also saying, "Hey, don't worry so much about that cute blob of flesh. We're ancient friends, you and I." Maybe she doesn't know she's saying it. Maybe baby is trying to tell HER that. Certainly my dog seemed to be telling me we'd known each other forever. Somewhere he's scratching another chin, I'm sure.

Part 3: Briefly (1964-5) I had a few encounters with drugs. The verdict? I had drug experiences that made it obvious to me that I was not a body. But before those experiments, I'd found it fairly easy to move away from and towards my body. After them, I was kind of stuck to the body (like B'rer Rabbit to the tar baby) for years, looking for a way out. Psychedelics, I'd say, pushed me off on an elastic leash that snapped me back in, and when I snapped back, I found that I'd become sticky. (These days, I occupy a space in which, sometimes, my head is a long ways off, down by my toes -- just 6 feet from them. For example, sitting in a living room, talking with people, I'll notice that our bodies are very small and oddly distant.)

Part 4: That day when I realized, with surprise, that I was in 3rd grade, I was walking past a playground wall that was diminishing as I walked up the slight incline -- a diminishing of the wall's height that may have (inversely) heightened the realization. Numbers meant something. I'd only been in first grade for a month or two before being skipped (because I knew how to read from age 4), but had some difficulty in 2nd grade with my own immaturity and never felt I was one of the "real" 2nd graders, but on this day, well into third grade and doing a bit better (with a far more friendly teacher), it struck me that I was now a REAL 3rd grader.

Our labels, superficial though they are, are also the best way to become free of our labels. We find ourselves when we are amazed to realize that we are REALLY an adult, a lover, a tax payer, a car driver, a person with a job, an old person, a dying person, etc. We find ourselves in our amazement.

Part 5: You can't really wear out a good memory. It only seems that way when you try to use one of them to handle current upset or sadness. Instead of reanimating the past, re-creating it anew, BEING the enthusiastic child one once was, we try to buy new joy with that counterfeit, the memory, and, finding that memory (merely a verbal recitation after much use of it) ineffective, we dismiss it as "gone forever" or "useless" or "wasn't much after all." But it's all there and can be fired up again. In fact, one day, when you look around you and fall in love with the world again, you slip into that "memory" and find it fully alive and functional. (Forgive my rapidly shifting pronouns, we, one, you -- someday I'll make up my/our/one's mind(s).)

Part 6: Some slippery syntax -- that which is that that.... But I hope the point is obvious: Being in a body (to the extent that our involvement in the body clouds our knowledge of our spiritual existence) may be said to be the only death (ending) there is: We forget ourselves.

Part 7: This section suggests a few of the questions that might (if pursued) help us understand why these bodies and this belief in the absoluteness of death are so persuasive. For example, if we have done things in the past that we regret or that give us overwhelming indebtedness, we may prefer to believe that we are mortal and end at death. Where memories are painful, we may choose to believe there are no memories. In other words, though the thought of being imprisoned in a small cell is unpleasant for most of us, and though, if we think of it, the body itself is an imprisonment, there are probably things far more unpleasant that we think we avoid by being bodies. Another troubling aspect of immortality (not dealt with particularly in this set of poems, but in some of my others) is "Now what?" -- what does an immortal being do for a game?

Part 8: How huge those childhood beds seemed to my small body, how easily I could lie in bed with my legs spread wide, thinking I was being a cowboy. But such pleasures quickly palled, and on nights where I didn't easily fall asleep (perhaps because I could hear some "good" radio show downstairs, knowing it was good because of the gunshots), it was hard to avoid feeling a certain limitation, a sense of being only where I was, of being located (like a target), of being unable to be anything other than what I was. It was easier to pretend -- when awake and running about in the yard or lost in radio drama or talking to Mom or a friend -- that my limitations were temporary and flimsy, that there was future, over the horizon, just around the corner, etc. But lying in bed awake at night, I sometimes slipped from three to two dimensions, so that it was a relief to hear the distance being created by the moving a way of a distant steam locomotive's fading chuff-puff.

Part 9: Another nightmarish vision of self limited to self being no self at all, of limitlessness being another kind of limit, for if you extended to fill the universe, you would be just that, the universe. The point is not that existence is a nightmare, since we could, as players on a playing field of that scope, create newer, better games and dreams than we can conceive of from our current vantage points. In other words, we generate nightmare considerations by imagining our limited selves somehow (superficially) limitless. It's like imagining ourselves 10,000 feet above the ground, but neglecting to imagine for ourselves means of flight. But such silly nightmares do scare us back towards our illusions of mortality and are perhaps fed us through the generations to keep us under control.

Part 10: The love-making incident is a composite, but mainly refers to incidents in 1962 and 1964. My moment of filling up the sky occurred at camp when I was 12 or 13. There's a longer story to it, which you can find well into my longer poem, BLANK PAGES, on www.blehert.com. (Briefly, just as I was having some petty thoughts about how the other campers down at the campfire, wouldn't understand this experience, another camper, from behind me, used a small shovel to toss sand in my eyes, and when I cried, a counselor took me aside and tried to console me, thinking I was crying because of the sand, and I had to explain to him that it wasn't the sand, but the loss of that experience, and that I'd brought it about myself by indulging in the petty thoughts. (And I had to figure that out in order to tell him -- far less articulately than I've done so here.) The incident with the cat occurred in 1965, and one of those drug experiments precipitated it, but nonetheless, I saw what I saw, and I saw the cat seeing it too. Poor cat. (I've had other more vivid experiences in the absence of drugs (haven't touched a drug, in over 40 years -- except one flu tablet in 1974, a partial shot of novacain when a dentist forgot that I'd said no anaesthetic (in the 1980s) -- I stopped it, prefer pain to numbness; some second-hand smoke, a bit of caffeine, etc.). But here I'm pulling together a few scraps of experience that seem to me to create a larger picture.

Part 11: There have been times when I've become aware of my body as swathed in tensions, masses pressing against it, wound around it, etc. This came up during my brief period of drug experiments (about 7 of them in all) and several times before and after them when I would meditate (something I did a lot of, 1963 through 1968). I've since unwound these. (I'm no longer so "tightly wound.") I won't say that I got nothing valuable out of meditation, but it led me into some things that I found I couldn't handle with meditation, but could handle by other means and do so better by dispensing with meditation.

The idea of recidivism here is that so long as we have no strong sense of who we are, a self-definition and self-knowledge that is not dependent upon having a body, death is no escape: We'll get ourselves stuck on body after body (or drift around in a daze when bodies aren't available), because we can't conceive of any other way to have an identity and, thereby, a game.(Gotta have a uniform with a number to be on team, right?) Death won't "hold us" (apart from bodies). Only self-knowledge (becoming the player of the game or even the game maker) gives us the choice to be or not to be (a body or anything else).

Part 12: This poem is meant as a kind of exercise for the reader -- an exercise in locating oneself or dislocating oneself. It seems to be a turning inward into ever more solid introversion, with a twist at the end that perhaps points to the freedom of the being playing the game of being solid in a solid world -- and the role of live communication in freeing us.

For more data on bodies and ways of orienting oneself inside them and outside them, I recommend the books to be found at Scientology.org.

Friday, July 13, 2007


All sense is touch,
in a sense, with intervening
distance. With hearing we touch
waves of air or water and know
the motion of what sent them
(and touching the motion, know
across distance of selfhood, meaning).
With sight we touch light and know
with what force and degree of integrity
it bounced off or tore itself away from
what last it touched. Even smell
is the touch of chemical to chemical,
one sating with its excess the other's
craving. All these senses receive
couriers of distant news. Remove
all distance and we touch as now,
my love, I touch you...

Whence, then,
impervious to all my messengers,
this distance?

Note: When in closest conceivable touch, closer than flesh permits (if we were only flesh), in an instant (quicker than a bright day goes gray as a cloud slides over the sun), impossible distances intervene, sudden doubts open wider and deeper than the Grand Canyon and, as quickly, vanish. It seems, in our own universes we have distances and spaces whereof neurochemistry knows nothing.

Poetry Reading

Such a racket of feelings:
Clearly this poet lost her mommie.
That one lost his daddy.
This one needs a good cry,
that one a good lay.
This one is hungry and that one
feels guilty that others are hungry.
This one likes having loved ones,
but isn't sure about always having them,
and if not, how that changes the feeling
of having them. This one is gaga
about something I never heard of
before, but it's purple, and I think
it's some sort of flower. That one
would like to break windows until
everyone (or whoever THE SYSTEM is)
knows that he is not one of THEM
and have THEM admire him for it,
but not too much. These poets
could be anyone, but significantly,

Note: This is a mean poem. Most poetry readings are better than that, and most? -- well, many poets are saner than those described. So why did it give me such pleasure to write about these varieties of childishness? Maybe I'm just mean. (Someone said that a poem must not mean, but be. Perhaps I try to have it both ways, by being mean.)

But no, that can't be. I'm the good guy here. See my white hat? (^) So maybe even the saner, more professional poets sometimes leave me wondering: "What are you saying to me? Are you saying it to Me? Why are you saying these things? Why am I supposed to enjoy/admire/care?"

If you're a poet, please ignore my fussiness. You may have to say a few silly things to get to the good stuff.