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

Thursday, May 07, 2009


No poem this time to give me the excuse of calling my essay "notes." I just want to describe a recent experience.

I was sitting in a library near a window, reading. In the corner of my eye, I caught something shiny (metal?) in the grass outside. I stared at it. The gleam came and went, seemed less metalic. I kept looking, finally saw it, just a small square of whitish paper, leaning on grassblades, wobbling in the faint breeze, which shifted it so that, from time to time, it caught and reflected a sun beam.

I did all this looking without thinking, but intently. I didn't really have the thought "I'm looking to see what's shining in the grass" until I was mildly surprised to find it was just a bit of paper, but by that time I'd drifted into a state of deep relaxation. It seems that in order to perceive at that distance that what I was seeing was a scrap of paper, I'd had to "let go" and give my perceptions full sway, and having achieved that state (where, without focus on the shiny spot, I could see what it was), I just sat there and continued to let what was in front of me fill my eyes.

What did I see? A few birds (starlings, I think, four of them) rise from the grass to a tree. Various bugs flitting. Grass blades shifting. A car driving out of the lot, a person moving down a path....

And it was fascinating. I felt no urge to move or look away or to do anything else ever again. That is, I felt I could sit there looking at the motions and comings and goings of the scene in front of me (not Grand Canyon or the Pacific, just lawn, some trees, some parking-lot asphalt) -- sit there forever and continue to find it interesting. Every motion created space, right there in front of me. Things could move in or away or to one side or any combo of these. Everything was moving. And for some reason or no reason, it was INTERESTING!

Space and time and things were interesting. Isn't that interesting! And I knew (and know still) that there was no limit to this interest. After all, it's MY interest. I create it.

I did not decide to continue to sit in that chair and stare at the scene forever, or until at closing time, someone had me carted away to a mental hospital. But the knowledge that I'd have been happy with no more than my little theater of space, time and motions, that I needed nothing more for myself (I don't speak of the body's needs) left me free, incredibly free.

After all, the usual view of entrapment is the Eastern notion that we are caught up in the wheel of events/time/illusion by desire, a flame that enfolds and consumes us. I don't know that I escaped desire. I have no desire to be without desire. But I learned that I could dispense with it. I learned that I could find all the joy I wanted in myself.

Of course, I was taking great pleasure in the bare bones of the physical universe, all the little happenings among blades of grass. But these props were so minimal that I could easily sense myself as the source of my pleasure and interest. I was palpably extending over the scene my own admiration, like a second and subtler sun light.

So I became free from desire, free to have or not have it, for desire is easy to let go of when you know how much you can create, how little you need.

(But it's still hard to resist a two-for-the-price-of-one sale on Ben and Jerry's ice cream. Me ye have yet for a little while! Or, speaking as a tricky poet, for a little wile.)


The Art of the Fugue

If all the world except the two of us
lying in this bed were suddenly to disappear --

and it did --

then the power of our suddenly unfettered

(Look at us! We are the center of
creation, our love the seed
crystal, in thunder our bodies
cracking out "Let there be light! Planets!
Creatures!"--eyes seeing in eyes

(or only the idea of eyes, all
that remains of us until we
put back the rest)

what we have made, that it is good, and
there was evening and there was morning, the
next day, lying late, lolling in the vast
smiling space we have made, making
leisurely additions (the bed, sheets,
wallpaper, a ghostly shaft of sunlight,
bird whistles, cluttery airplane noise,
the dog's tongue hot on my cheek) to our dream,
knowing a world that once seemed to be
disappeared last night, but that by the time

(let there be time
(again?)) --

by the time we leave the room
we have made, the suddenly unfettered
fecundity of our dreams

(and who can say if anything
has changed, since we, both makers
and seers, are changed

(though it seems
we've been this forever),

making and seeing the old
newly when we put it back?)

will have put it all back)

would put it all back.

Notes: I've had this experience, for example, lying in bed with someone, looking at one another, having everything but the other person's eyes vanish, having her perceive that same vanishment, having the world reappear, having it feel as though we were putting it back, having present time thereafter seem (for a time) a continual instant re-creation, in-the-beginning being always now.

The form of the poem is a fuguing of "If all the world..." and the fact of it happening, subjunctive (if) and declarative (and it did). This is, among other things, my attempt to convey the stuttery quality time takes on when one is half in it and half outside time. I get that feeling of being exterior to time when I listen closely to a complex Bach fugue and try to track all the melodies at once and, suddenly, am just there, containing them all. I've had a similar experience (though more spatial than temporal) when, looking at trees or grass, I let myself become aware of all the tiny motions that fill my visual field, all the breeze-twitched leaves and grass blades, and at some point I seem to overflow my visual field and to contain my entire body inside a much larger space that I fill up. Once, for a very long instant, I became the entire sky.

[I mean this literally. I experienced it with at least as much reality as ever I've experienced being a body named Dean Blehert.]

I've written elsewhere about time stuttering (now now now) and compared it to old movies where the heroine is tied to the train tracks or to the path of a rotary saw, and we see the train coming, the heroine screaming, the hero galloping, then the train coming again, but it seems to have lost ground and be coming over the same space again. That has happened to me with time: I've seen it stumble, falter,go back slightly and repeat. Or so it seemed, always when I felt on the verge of putting time there myself. Or perhaps of living in my own time and sensing how the agreed-upon time was and was not MY time.

After all, there are many nows. Now you are reading this. Now I am writing this. Are these the same "now." Now two of you are reading this, but for one of you, it "is" 2009, and for the other, it is 2012! Into what incredible tangles we weave time!

The poem assumes (as I do) that mastery of time (which implies prediction) is also mastery of creation, or step towards it. When I can predict something, I am close to understanding it well enough to cause it (create an effect). As a baby, perhaps, not sure yet what this body was or that I owned it, I would lie there, wiggling my feet in the air. I'd observe this, and gradually associate the motions of my feet with specific impulses (intentions) of my own. At first, I'd simply notice I could predict when my foot would move. But at some point I'd take responsibility for that motion, extend myself to own it, to call it my own, and then I'd be able to decide to move or not move that foot.

Similarly, if one pays a very focused attention to what one is looking at, things may begin to vanish and return. One simply observes this at first (perhaps with shock or dismay, perhaps just curiosity), then begins to be able to predict it, then to cause it, at which point one has become, if not a creator, then a co-creator of the physical universe. What PRESUMPTION! Maybe. I'd call it an observation.

By the way, the words "seeing...that it was good, and there was evening, and there was morning" allude to similar phrasing in the Book of Genesis concerning creation.
Well, let there be...an end to this note.


Shhhhh! Or Else!

The soot-grayed lions of the New York Public Library
look snooty, their noses serenely arched,
their eyes deigning to be vaguely aware
of what goes on beneath their line
of stoned vision.

Symbols of wisdom? Or perhaps
guarding wisdom from our
voracious stupidity.

In any case, symbols, solid ones,
much in demand among those
who pore over insubstantial symbols
like these.

If you spend enough time with printed words,
they begin to seem to speak loudly,
but really they are so soft that a nearby whisper
drowns them out, exposes their silence,
shattering scholarly illusions and evoking
real roars that only one newly arrived
hears as soft, abrupt hisses.

Perhaps the lions represent the proud rage
pent up by disturbed scholars, who can only say
"Shush" and wring their eyebrows meaningfully.

Readers are like animal lovers, proud
that cats and dogs come to them and rub
against their legs. We are proud that books
talk to us. "See, Homer must like you.
He won't talk to everyone." A voice
in the library's noisy hush silences
our books. We fear they will not speak to us
again. We are furious.

We protect our libraries
with lions, each dangling a huge forepaw
over the edge, each relaxed, but formidable,
ready to defend with relentless silence
the gentler silence in which books
can be heard.

Notes: One day (I think as a teen), while reading, I realized that when I read, silently, I heard the words. I didn't hear them literally, with full audio perceptics, but I felt someone was talking to me. I felt the books had voices.

It's hard for me to articulate how this did and did not resemble an actual voice. (And one must make such distinctions, because people who "really hear voices" are often forced to take lethal medications, for some reason.) One way to put it is that while I didn't hear an actual voice, I'd instantly react with rejection if someone read the same text aloud to me in a "wrong" voice.

There's hearing and then there's hearing. When I was about 11 years old, I heard my voice on a tape recorder, and couldn't believe it. It was a child's voice (my body's voice hadn't changed yet). I grew up with radio, no TV until age 10. On the radio, people (that is adults) had deep voices. Occasionally there'd be a child on a show, and the child's shrill voice struck me as odd. Somehow, for eleven years, I imagined my own voice was not a child's voice. I didn't hear my own voice. I heard a far deeper voice, like an adult's.

Once when my Dad was talking angrily to my Mom, thinking to defend her, I (about 4 years old) yelled at him as loud as I could, and heard myself as having a voice much like his own, full and resonant. (Fortunately, my parents chose to find this laughable, and I lived to tell about it.) When we were kids, pretending to be adults, we would deepen our voices and hear them as deep, though a recording would have exposed them as the voices of small children one or two notes lowered in pitch.

Certainly when I was little, I could hear my own voice. I even remember some of the things I said. But I didn't hear it the way the tape machine did.

And when I read silently, the voice I gave the books I read (you might say, my own mental voice) was far deeper and more resonant than my own speaking voice. But different authors had different voices and different characters had different voices. Again, this becomes obvious to anyone who hears a work he's only read done aloud by others, whereupon he instantly recognizes which voices are "right" and which are "wrong."

(I suspect when one speed-reads, our internal voices lag behind the finger that sweeps down the page, poor breathless voices.)

In my library poem, I represent this ability (that comes with reading) to hear books talk to us as something odd, like the ability of the boy in the movie "The Sixth Sense": "I see dead people." Since many books are, indeed, the voices of dead people, that similarity is strengthened. Books are one way the dead are alive, and sometimes (for example, with most text books and way too many books of poetry) the way the live are deadened--both writers and readers.

Communication is lifeblood to the spirit. It's what all our games consist of. We grow starved for live communication--for example, real people saying real things to us. Books can be considered a desperate solution to the lack of live communication in our lives. Or, more positively, we can say that some of us have the gift to enjoy live communication from books, so that our lives are rich in communication--and perhaps when we read, the communication is two-way, the authors somehow getting our responses, our contributions to the worlds they create in their books. I know that when (as now) I feel I'm speaking to readers, I also feel I'm receiving something back from those readers. (And, if my work lasts, some of them may not be born yet--at least not born into the bodies that will read [are reading] this paragraph.

Why is silence enforced in libraries? Why are noises so distracting (to those who have not been raised in homes with lots of noisy younger siblings and quarreling parents and have not learned to study with the TV on and various arguments going on overhead and underfoot)? The poem proposes, fancifully (or do I believe it?) that when people in a library are reading, they are "hearing" the book, but not really, as I grew up "hearing" my childish voice, but not really. When someone nearby talks or even whispers in a "real" voice or even sets a book down too heavily, making a "real" noise, the "merely imaginary" voices and gun shots and screams of books are exposed as phonies, even the deep, cavernous tones of the classics being less than the tiny tinny hum of a mosquito when compared to whispers from across the library table. The readers feel as I did, hearing my "real" eleven-year-old voice on the tape-recorder: They reject it. That's not the real voice of the books!

And they reject the distractions that expose their internal voices as tiny things.

Quite rightly, too. Our loudest screams and strongest laughter, our most eloquent perorations are often (to others) inaudible. But they are huge. We live in them. It's a matter of convention, like considering something bad manners or good manners, that we grant to the sounds everyone hears the bigness and loudness that makes them a distraction. When I was eleven, the voice on the tape recorder was wrong. I had my own voice. Can you hear it here? For it is here that I lay claim to my own voice--and to yours.

Friday, March 06, 2009


What follows is a long riff on humor. I just wrote it. It's still a bit raw, tries to be a poem, but doesn't make it (the "Humorland"/"Disneyland" tour metaphor not turning into anything worth saving), and it's conclusions are probably a bit obvious. However, it was fun to write, nostalgia value, and may prove fun to read as well. I hope so. (I keep thinking of favorite bits of humor I'd like to add!)


On your left you can see literary humor. There –
a white southern boy and a run-away black slave,
best friends, drifting up-river together on a raft.
They meet charming scoundrels, self-righteous
church folk – a whole world passes through
their odd, innocent, crookedly intersecting
universes. And just beyond you see
another boy getting others to help him
paint a fence by pretending to enjoy doing it.
(No, that's a different world, where two teen-agers
excite themselves ribaldly with the words "doing it.")
Perhaps the joke is, the fence-painting boy
begins to believe his own pretense.

Ah, now here's something you don't see
every day: This ordinary fellow has woken up
to discover that he is inhabiting the body
of a giant dung beetle, and all he can thing of
is that he'll be in trouble if this makes him
late for work. Later, he dies, shrivels up,
and his parents (relieved) sweep him up
into a dust pan, and the next day, on the bus,
they notice with pleasure that the sister
of the man who changed into a beetle
is also changing, becoming a woman.
This doesn't terrify them, which is (how
can this be?) funny.

Now this one shows Mr. Pickwick, a sanguine fellow,
plumb, benevolent (with a stubborn streak), who,
despite age, spectacles and all the exterior trappings
of dignity (if absent-minded dignity), gets himself
into the rudest slap-stick messes...and there's
a sober fellow, speaks in platitudes, of all things,
a Jew in Dublin, a little guy – but we have been
listening to his thoughts, which are brisk,
energetic, humorous, interested in everything,
missing nothing. In this scene, we see him
from the point of view of a lush in a bar, where
a huge anti-Semitic Irish Patriot condemns all Jews,
and this meek, dapper little man dares to speak up,
telling the Citizen that his savior was a Jew
and so was Christ's father and...but the burly one
snarls (as does his huge slavering dog, at his side)
that Christ had not father, to which our hero cries out,
Well...his UNCLE was a Jew! – and is chased
from the bar, which amuses the lush and all
the good company, this mating of courage
and ridiculousness.

But we mustn't savor this too long – there's
too much more to see, the pomposity
of the Rev. Mr. Collins rejecting, with formal
and self-congratulatory prissiness, the woman
who has already turned him down. And there
(Oh Lord, can such things be funny?)
the ultra-civilized pedophile, all asimmer,
who cannot quite bring himself to violate
his innocent Lolita (because, somehow,
love has gotten mixed up with his compound
of lust, romantic ideals and world-weariness,
but he doesn't know that yet), until she offers
to show him what Charlie taught her at camp...

and there, in a Georgia swamp, an alligator
puffs on his CEEgar while admiring his beret
and false beard in a mirror (funny how a good-lookin'
man look good in anything...), while an owl
and a turtle troubador argue as idiotically
as the bar patrons on Amsterdam Avenue
in Manhatten (where crooks meet in a back room
to plan capers as complex as the Manhatten Project
[which is still no joke?]), but, to get back
to the swamp, this time the last word goes to
one of the three bats in silly, suspendered trousers...

and there's the boy with his tigeer – everyone else
sees no tiger, just a small, bedraggled tiger doll,
but we, seeing both, cannot unsee the REAL tiger
and all the other cavorting dreams this child visits –
often catastrophically – upon this world of ordinary
snowmen that just stand there until their three globes
become a dirty puddle. And way over there,
behind the boy and his tiger and his scary
snowmen, an elderly Spanish gentleman
in rusty armor on a swaybacked, spavined horse,
accompanied by a fat, vulgar peasant with ten
homey proverbs for every situation – the old man
is attacking a windmill! And here's one
you might have missed: He looks something like
Sancho Panza, has the street smarts and the bulk,
but every minute of every day he feels he's attacking
windmills. His name is Andy Sipowisc. He's a cop
in New York. He's uncomfortable with this stuff –
you can tell by the way he wipes his forehead.
It makes you laugh, it does! Sometimes sad things
are funny. Witchcraft.

There's much much more to see – look,
a man called issa locks the wooden gate
by placing a snail on it! But it's not just
literature: What about that angry duck?
I can't understand a word he's saying!
And the nearly blind blusterer who denies
he can't see a thing, supported by a Providence
Who always provides something – anything! –
at the last moment, a turtles back in a stream,
a falling board that, just in time, lands across
the gap between two beams high in the sky
just in time for our hero to stride, blithely across
that narrow bridge between where we see
he is and the heroic world he imagines
he is conquering.

And the exquisite suffering of two musicians
in drag (they join an all-girl bad) to save their lives,
who must control their hormones while being best buddies
with the sexiest blonde who ever turned out to be
(and somehow this is funny, desperately funny)
dreamily sad – oh, she's far too good at being
dreamily sad. But, we learn, nobody (and no body)
is perfect.

And there's a nervous, croaky-voiced young man
in bed with the neurotic wife of his Dad's partner,
and after sex, they can find nothing to talk about --
which suits her, but bothers him, because he's
still alive, so he tries valiantly, asking --
as foolhardy as the Dublin Jew -- "What
was your major?" It was art. Art? – what happened?
he asks this sullen drunk, which turns out to be, er,
a non-starter.

Say, look at how that little, raggedly dapper fellow in the derby,
so pertly mustached, walks, a cartoon amalgamation
of anxiety, self-assurance, bluff, leeriness and obliviousness,
ready at any instant to find himself terrified or exhilarated,
a walk that somehow impel him forward, while moving
in every direction at once, not so much a funny walk
as an expectancy of funny, so much that is jerky
and mechanical welded so tightly to what is
only alive.

Enough! Yes, yes, there's much more to see –
it takes days, weeks, years, lifetimes to get through
all of it, but we must save time to see HUMOR,
not what great artists have made of it, but the real thing,
as raw as a poke in the funny bone, a dead fish
in the face, Joe Miller's joke book, the last pages
of Boy's Life magazine (where the blacksmith
tells his apprentice, "I'll hold the horseshoe,
and when I nod my head, you hit it with the hammer,"
thus teaching his apprentice the importance
of clear syntax in which the correct antecedents
for pronouns cannot be mistaken), the "ADULT"
jokes that make little boys squirm with delight...

but let's have a look, here, to you right: something
ou rarely see -- a minister, a priest and a rabbi
are walking into a bar together. Over there
the same by is entered by a man with a dog,
who will be refused service, even though the dog
can talk. And there the same unlikely clerical trio
are on an airplane that is breaking apart – who
gets to use the only parachute? And who knew
that rabbis, priests and ministers spent so much
quality ecumenical time together!

Here are similar scenarios featuring an Englishman,
a German, a Frenchman, an Italian, a Spaniard,
maybe a Swede or Russian or Scot – and sometimes
a Jew (nationality not specified), none of them clerics,
each reacting differently to such things as writing
books about elephants (inspired, no doubt,
by the six blind men, in the future to be replaced,
perhaps, by tales of how Five Gay Men
redesign the elephant), jumping out of that
plummeting parachute-challenged airplane
(most of them valiantly and without a chute) –

by the way, we never do find out if that plane crashes.
Perhaps not, for it's used in joke after joke.
Anyway, our United Nations prototype shows us
again and again that Englishmen are cold, stiff-upper-lipped
and practical, Germans verbose and abstract, French
lecherous, Italians excited, Scotsmen cheap, Jews
sly, Americans crude but savvy – I don't know
why any of this is funny, but it is, it is.

(The funniest humor is the kind of humor people
of which you don't like very much would say,
"THAT'S NOT FUNNY!" But it is, and it's
so much funnier when someone insists it isn't.)

Even though Hitler's minions killed 6,000,000 Jews
for their exaggerated, imaginary Jewishness, yet
exaggerated Jewishness can be funny, not to mention
unexpected Yiddish words. Even though these same Nazis
(and Nazis too can be funny – Ve haf vays uf making zem
funny) justified the enslavement of millions of Poles
because they were, after all, slavs, destined to be slaves
of un-ironic Aryans, yet that "Polock" over there,
the one getting married in his best bowling shirt,
and there he's slapping his forehead, and there,
on his honeymoon, naked on the bed, he's waiting
for the swelling to go down — even this fancied
stupidity of all Polish people (don't think of
Chopin, for example – think only of how stupid
you feel when you try to pronounce the names
of Polish athletes) is funny, don't deny it! Art can
play with or against that, but already (as crude oil
is oil, as rough diamonds are diamonds, as trite similes
are similies) – already what's funny is funny, even
the black man (descended from the end man on the right
of the Minstrel Show troupe), the one who is so easily
terrified, who, with saucer eyes and squeaking voice,
must be forced to walk past a graveyard, and
if wind in the trees rises to shrillness, will –
before fleeing – tell his feets to do their thing.

Speaking of blacks, listen to these kids on a street corner
finding new ways to describe the promiscuity, ugliness
and obesity of one another's mothers, insults worthy
of ancient Greeks and Trojans to be hurled across
the lines before battle, and surely these kids
will kill one another...but no, they insults are too
incredible, and they are laughing! (And their mothers
would laugh too.)

Over here elephants (though threatened with extinction)
become jokes – what, for example, is gray and
ejaculates in large quantities? (Oops, sorry, I mean
"...gray and comes in quartz," though
I don't see what difference it makes...OH! Comes in
QUARTS! OK, now I get it.)

In this next scene, someone (perhaps a news lady)
asks Mrs. Lincoln if, apart from THAT, she enjoyed
the play. We are not told Mrs. Lincoln's answer, a serious
fault to be found in many jokes – the most important things
are left unsaid or drowned out by laughter.

Here are thousands of similar scenes, traditionally
used for sex education before there was sex education,
all involving a traveling salesman, a tough old farmer
and the farmer's plump and eager-to-please and lonely
daughter. These scenes usually include a barn, straw,
a cow, a bedroom, maybe a shotgun. And always
the salesman gives or at least offers the farmer's
daughter (and sometimes his wife and even a cow or two)
a free sample of his generically bodified seed (pure –
or impure – corn), that is, he fucks her or tries to.
The farmer disapproves. And what's funny about that?
But it is, O all the instruments (mostly male tools)
nod in agreement – it's funny. I guess you had
to be there.

That crowd over there? They are watching a chicken
cross the road, each (and they are mostly well-known people,
their views flavored by celebrity) – each explaining
why the chicken is crossing or has crossed the road,
all opinion, no double-blind, randomized studies here.
And behind them we have (and this was once funny enough
to fuel a thousand variations) and older, simpler statement
that the chicken is crossing the road to get to the other side.
(But why did the moron throw butter out the window?)
Nearly as funny as being promised (by one's grandfather,
perhaps0 to be told a dirty joke, then being told
that a pig fell in the mud. To make such jokes funnier,
we have the elaborated form...see those shaggy dogs
over there? It seems a stupid punchline is funnier
if it takes forever to get there (we wait in line).

Well, not forever, but a long time. Taking forever
to get to a punchline is over on the art-side (or outre side).
There, that cadaverous guy – one of the funniest writers ever,
told us about man who woke up a beetle. That man
had a cousin, Mr. K, who was told a story about another man
(or another cousin) who waits for an answer. (He dies,
unanswered, but that doesn't mean he's not still waiting.)
He can't get through to the person in the palace who has
the answer, because there are huge guards at the gate
to prevent him from entering, so he sits by the gate
day after day, waiting. As he's dying, the guards
close the gate. "Why?" he gasps. Because, he is told,
this gate is no longer needed. It was put there
especially for him. So is that an answer after all?
And, in any case, is it funny? Isn't it funny
to have to ask if it's funny when one is laughing
(really, not just writing LOL, but laughing)?

But we lapse again into art. Let's keep it simple.
There's an English word for sexual intercourse
(or intercoarse) that derives from the German "ficcan" –
to beat, and that old joke, the similarity in appearance
and often in fact between one love-making and one person
beating another, reverberates through the ages
to make that four-letter word funny when some comedian
comes right out and says it again and again
(like poking out the angry purple head of an erect penis,
silly jack-in-the-box) – we just can't get enough of it.
Perhaps the word is no longer funny, but it is still funny
how we can't get enough of it – the word, that is.
The action itself we only think we can't get enough of,
as when we haven't had pizza for a long time,
we order more than we can eat. That's funny too,
like craving cream pie and getting one in the face –

Careful, don't get too near those pie-slingers!
And watch out for explosions (though they'll just
turn you temporarily black), slashing swords,
unexpected abysses, even banana peels.
That cartoon cat, sliced like a loaf of bread,
recovers in an instant, but you might not
That coyote falls a thousand feet into sharp rocks,
but recovers with only a bad headache (represented
by birds tweeting and stars), but you might not.
You probably wouldn't even be able to run on air
for a long second before plunging. But you can see,
can't you, how if we were able to recover
from anything, it might be fun to fly off cliffs
or get blown up (whee!) or to blow up others –
what sport! ZAP! POW! kaBOOM!

(Some say we CAN recover from anything,
even the loss of bodies, because we're spiritual beings,
but that's silly, because if we were really
spiritual beings, EVERYTHING would be fun.
And it's NOT. Live is NOT FUNNY!)

And those three guys with the weird haircuts,
poking one another's eyes, yanking ears and
swatting heads – they're funny too, but not nearly as funny
as the skinny dopey guy who, with a flick, lights his thumb
as if it were a cigarette lighter, and his fat, pompous pal
who, unbelieving, tries to do the same thing –
and it WORKS! so he freaks out. There's another
fine mess his friend has gotten him into. Oops,
we've blundered into art again.

Well, there's much more to see here, but
I think we've had enough for today. So what's funny?
(I'll try to explain it to you in case you're a blonde.)
Let's see, cruelty, violence, promiscuity, hypocrisy,
racism, obscenity, excrement, farts, boogers, bad smells,
injuries, death, greed, sexism, cannibals boiling missionaries,
people on couches talking to shrinks who aren't listening,
husbands and wives and mothers-in-law hating one another,
farmers, salesmen, daughter, cows, bestiality, lawyers,
chickens, elephants, snot, clerics, God talking to St. Peter,,
the Devil addressing someone newly arrived in Hell, St. Pete
addressing someone approaching Heaven, heresy,
poverty, wealth, heroic idiots, insanity, pain, the last man
on earth, genitalia, bird poop on statues, an ashtray, a hairbrush...
but this is a list of everything that's NOT funn. But it IS funny.

Funny – pertaining to fun. Making fun of serious things.
Are there serious things? Are they serious because they're things,
the too too solid things whose solidity becomes contagious,
so that we would have them melt, resolve into a
dewy laughter? Would it be fun to make fun of –
that is, make fun OUT of – death? Not to mention
marriage! (Who was that lady I saw you with
last night?) The man – over there, between art
and "the dozens" (I'm the indecent docent of the dozens) –
another guy is pointing a gun at him and saying,
"Your money or your life!" and he (a Jew, by the way)
says nothing for a long time, so the gunman yells,
"I SAID your money or you life!" to which the famous
Jewish comedian says in an exasperated tone
(annoyed by this interruption of his calculations),
"I'm thinking! I'm thinking!" – well, that same guy
would often say in that same tone, "That's not funny,
Rochester" or "That's not funny, Mary," or
"That's not funny, Dennis" – and it would be funny,

and millions of people would laugh and are still laughing,
because it was funny the way it was not funny,
and that's where humor goes right, goes wrong,
you see, because some things (like the Holocaust?)
just aren't funny, and it's a terrible thing
to make fun of that Jew's cheapness (Let's see,
my money or my life...?) or even Falstaff's fatness!

But terribleness is funny too (ah, the terrible too's).
Even a pun can be funny. I myself heard a funny pun

But some humor makes me feel good, while some doesn't,
even though I'm laughing, like a child tickled beyond
where it's fun, but he can't stop laughing – and when
the tickling stops, he's pissed off at the tickler or in tears.
There's a difference between Hitler's jokes about Jewishness
and Jack Benny's (DUH!)

The humor that most delights and haunts me
makes the agreed-upon world look ridiculous
in the light of a better, livelier world,
a more compassionate, varied, witty and noble world,
perhaps one invented by Calvin and Hobbes
or Don Quixote, perhaps one vaguely stirred up,
like the ache of a fading numbness, by Kafka.

This I prefer to the sour humor that seeks to mock
and reduce a world already ridiculous (I won't say
"absurd," because the word has been used to death
by joyless people) with no motive other than
to be of that world, one of the gang, mocking a well
the dreamers, unable to see them as other
than their world. Is this a serious thing? Not really.
See over there, the man on a tree branch
sawing off the branch on which he sits?
He is one of the mockers. He will fall.
This is funny. But it would be even funnier
if the tree fell over, leaving him sitting on his branch
in mid-air, supported by nothing, nothing at all,
not a mocker of dreams after all,

Dean Blehert
short poems at http://deanotations.blogspot.com

The War Between Form and Creation

Here's a recent poem, followed by the essay it suggested to me:

Funny how the thought of starving to death
bothers me less than the thought
of my poems vanishing.

What I will not lose, whatever the economy,
is I. Even if I forget myself, even if I try
to lose myself, I will survive as what haunts me.

but I have relearned how to know myself
as the creator, not what I create.
Poems may perish, those ripples
in the stream of creation, standing waves
of varied configuration, depending upon
the forms (boulders, pebbles, rhymes, meters
ideas, words, experience) through which
I direct that stream. They mark the joy
we create as perishable as poems,
but not our ability to create it, not
the joy of creating, not a mark
on me.

The War Between Form and Creation

Natively, creativity knows no barriers. It is a "Let there be_____!" that instantaneously puts there what is intended. But the game of art, as it is played, depends on barriers. In a way, a work of art is a form created where one's creativity plays over (lambently licks over, sprays over, bounces about on, dances over) an apparent barrier to creativity.
Why do artists nominate stones and sounds and other energy forms to be barriers and then pretend that creation is an exertion of energy against energy to create energy patterns? Why sculpt, laboriously, a David or a Venus from stone? Why not simply "let there be" a marble David, a bronze Venus?
Because we have forgotten how to create, become habituated to energy games? Or because we have all agreed to be unable to perceive one another's creations, called them "dreams" and, worse, called them "mere"? Because we've called it an "invasion of privacy" to perceive the dreams of others? Perhaps, more basic: To make a game out of creating, we pretend to be unable to perceive one another's creations – a joke: "Image of a palace?...nope, can't see it...are you sure you're not imagining things?"
And after playing that game – and having it played on us – for a long time, we become persuaded that it is hard to see the creations of others, and that our own creations are hard for others to see, and that we cannot even see our own creations ourselves – because we've agreed (despite our having a greed for creations) that they are hard to see.
How often do we, thus, create, unaware of our own creation? (That is what a mind is!) For example, I notice a tune running "in my mind," noticing also that it has been doing so for hours (since I created it this morning in the shower?). And for that long time, I didn't perceive it. It became the carrier wave for all my conscious perceptions during those hours. And what has been running through your mind, unperceived, for years? (Centuries?)
In the absence of the ability to perceive a simple creation, we all agree to perceive physical energy and mass. That becomes the legal tender of art. To play in this universe, one must agree to perceive it and be affected by energy and by that condensation of energy we call matter. So now we must WORK to create – hence works of art, which are oxymorons, really works of play, where we direct the play of creativity onto or against the creations we have agreed to call "real" or "physical." And where our energy (for we now identify our creativity with the energy we employ in order to create) meets physical energy, and, as permanent-seeming ripples and purls and eddies form on the surface of a stream, passing over obstructions and irregularities, so energy forms we call art are created where our energy meets barriers (also energy).
The complexity here is hard to unravel: We create our creative energy. We create (by agreement) the permanence of the energy forms we consider to be barriers to creativity. The we use the interaction of these created energies to create a form -- a form that we could simply have, instantaneously "dreamed" into existence and probably did, in order to use that dream (already as perfect and as real as we cared to make it, like the picture of a stream you saw and felt when I mentioned ripples, eddies and purls) -- to use that form as a pattern for our energy games.
As a further elaboration (though we tend to mistake it for simplification), we blind ourselves to our own intentions and let the physical forms seem to tell us what to create. We do "action" art, droodles, random words on a page, find all sorts of ways to persuade ourselves that the rock is telling us what form to extract from it (as if we were peeling a fruit), that the physical universe is doing all the creating, leaving us to be the bemused spectators or, at most, facilitators. Energy is the wizard. We are the wizards apprentices, doing the mickey-mouse work. If we imagine ourselves creators, we'll get in trouble. Beware of brooms bearing water. If you could make a lightning bolt stream from your pointing finger, it would melt your arm.
And yet, we choose the medium, direct the effort and choose to perceive (a form of creation in itself) the art in what results.
I'm In a room with many paintings on the walls. There's also a window – as rectangular as any painting, but with more light, more motion and more depth (though each painting emerged from a creation full of light, motion and depth). What an amazing painting I've just created, right there, where a moment ago, there was a hole in the wall though which I could view a tiny cut-out of a large scene. Now there's a whole in the wall, complete unto itself.
If there's a window where you are now, and you are inside, looking out into daylight, see how long it takes you to create such a painting by considering that window a work of art.
In a way, art is love: We grant to physical universe objects and energies everyone has agreed to call "real" – we grant them that reality and enhance it by agreeing that our creativity cannot do without it, cannot, without effort, pervade that stuff. Our creativity cannot own stuff except via more stuff of the same sort (the agreed-upon physical energy we call "work" or "effort").
Ah, but an artist's love is also love for our creative potential. He isn't only enhancing or decorating an agreement not to perceive each other's dreams. Onto the carrier wave of physical effort, he can heterodyne admiration, a frequency too fine to be blocked by any barrier, a pervasion that haunts matter with the joy of instantaneous creation, a kind of calling card that says a creator has been here, a subversive reminder, camouflaged by the complexities of the game called art, that reminds us of the nature of the game, a golden thread that one can tug upon to unravel the game, when (because we have grown) it no longer fits us, begins to strangle us.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

DISCONNECTION--a poem/essay

What follows is a long poem I wrote a few months ago that will appear (in the opening section) to be a rather obvious riff on world affairs, but which, if you keep going, will, I hope, reveal itself to be more interesting than that. It's really about how, in our daily lives, we do or don't respond to evil.

It's too slippery for an essay, flits from theme to theme, then pulls things together, then pulls them apart again, etc. It's designed to irritate those who expect a well-behaved poem. For example, as is my wont, I go on past many climactic "poem-should-end-here" points to fade out, finally, on what appears to be a trivial point. Do I have a good reason for this? It seemed to be the right thing to do at the time. It still does.

I've put a few notes at the end.

Good Connections

"Only connect, "someone said, and it's good
to make connections. We (when we are the United States)
should connect, shouldn't we, our wealth
to the poverty of nations we've...developed?
We should connect what is done to us
with what has been done in our name,
and we should connect what has been done
in our name (when our "intelligence"
replaces a democracy with a dictator,
for example) with what we ourselves
have done or failed to do (voted? inspected?
listened? understood? spoken out? thought
it enough to watch the network news between
sitcoms and (un)reality shows, yes,
it shows, doesn't it, eventually?)

Yes, connect – but ONLY connect?
What about learning when to dis-connect?
Bludgeoned by too much reality,
some can only connect. Where, beneath fists,
hammers, bombs, remains space for anything
to be separate from anything else?
It becomes impossible to go
for a long walk.

Going for a walk. Writing a long poem.
This is me writing a poem and also
my hand writing words on a page and
also my hand making ink marks
on processed wood pulp, the exercise
of various muscles, the conversion
of various nutrients into energy and efforts,
or, going the other way, the influences
of my childhood or my reading or my
stars hosing through me and my pen,
and it's me thinking out loud and hoping
I'm overheard, and it's this, right here –
lots of possible perspectives, easy
to find one where what I do and
whatever is good or bad may be considered
to connect.

"Me going for a walk' is as slippery, being
"an American takes a walk in America"
(and speaking of connections, we have felt
no need to coin the term United Statesian",
since we assume what is American is ours,
we much-damned Yankees), and it's also
a body moves in a universe on the surface
of a planet-ball. And Lord knows
what else – for one moves also through
(and thus defines) what the Lord knows.

As I (carrying in my mind like a convention label
my name, Dean) take a walk in Reston, Virginia,
where I live, and also, I hear, where lots
of retired State Department and CIA people
do whatever they do, live, maybe, but
I digress to connect – as I walk the paths
(Reston is threaded with forested asphalt
trails), I, having recently skimmed too many
newspapers (can't help it; a neighbor I hardly
ever spoke to – from Pakistan, I think – has
moved out; no one has yet moved in, but the
Washington Post keeps coming with orgiastically
bold headlines -- nobody is as excited about news
as the newspapers; there it is each morning
in the driveway, so I pick it up, just to read
the funnies – they aren't very funny now,
or is that just too much connecting? The funnies
and the puzzles, but I'm addicted to reading,
got to leave it completely alone or I read it all,
so I'm afflicted with POST-traumatic stress)

[Why all these parenthetical appendages? Because
I haven't learned to disconnect.] – as if Internet
weren't more than enough connection, I dread it,
each day a dozen more petitions and offers that, if I don't
sign them or take them up, may cost us the whales,
our constitutional rights, honest government,
non-toxic food-trees-air-water, our children, energy, money, another million killed
in Darfur-Iraq-Myamar, the wolves, baby seals, bi-polar bears, a livable climate, the chance to please my babe with a greatly enlarged penis...
but I don't, I don't, I can't, I won't
sign them all, order them all! It takes time to click,
bring up the web site, log on, add "my own words" –
time to read enough and see enough to know
which ones make sense, time to wonder if petitions
get seen, if they work, if my time, my own time
(How DARE I take a walk with vital
petitions unread, unsigned!) – if my own time
has value, as much as my name on any petition,
but isn't this everyone's time? Can I have
some of my own? (Value must involve
the creation of time.) So because I have time
or because, having none, I don't have value,
so what difference what I do? – therefore,
I take a walk,

having read too many papers and e-mailed
alarums and petitions (the antique "alarums" adds
a drum to the trumpet of "alarm"), I notice
I am also an American taking a walk
in America, the nation that is occupying
Iraq and doing something or other
in Afghanistan and planning maybe
to do worse in Iran and is fouling its own
eerie eagle aerie in the process, and that is also
(maybe REALLY is) the home of the brave,
land of the free, pilgrim's pride (though currently
addicted to grim pills), destination of teeming
masses yearning to be free (or me's yearning
to be "teams" amassing earnings, for there is no"I"
in "team"). Connect connect connect connect –
sounds more like a train ride than a walk.

And I do. I stroll. The air is mild, bright, dewy
and green-stippled. I meet no suicide bombers
this balmy day. Nothing blows up. Iraq, Iran and
(for that matter) Viet Nam are as far away,
in space or time, as the sun, whose continuing
explosion would toast this marshmallow earth
in a nanosecond were it not for 93,000,000
unremarkable, but felicitously positioned
miles (good feng shui). The sun, some say,
is burning out, one more fuel to be conserved
for our pale children. (I have none,
but I think I'll be someone's soon enough
(if we connect body to body across generations),
and, anyway, my readers are mostly in the future,
if anywhere. They'll need reading light.
Or at least warmth enough to thaw
their fingertips so that they can
distinguish braille characters. If they can get
through page one, they can burn it to read
page two in its light and so on.

But the sun's death is as far in the future
as my death was when I was a child (in a place
where almost no one died – Middle America, Mid-Twentieth Century,
where I thought that by the time I got old enough
to die – VERY old, I thought – something would
have been done about death, someone
must be taking care of it). The bombs,
though...if we fear dominoes may be headed our way,
and we nudge them so they'll fall the other way,
and the file of dominoes, extending out of sight
over mountains and oceans – if it begins here,
right behind us (where we denied
the Vietnamese the elections we promised them
in 1950 lest the Communists win – for example,
or where we ignored tribal boundaries to set up
our oil colonies – that is, nations – in the Mid-East, or
when the children we, through our federally mandated-
but-not-mandated screening programs, are put on drugs
that include among their side effects going nuts and
shooting up schools) – if the first domino
looms behind us, how long will it take
before the contagion of dominoes we shove forward
(hoping it will crush terrorism) winds around the earth and
that shadow from behind us fills the sky?

So because I am out for a walk and feeling good, alive,
safe, full of future, I think, "I will have to pay
for this." I think, "When would this be
in the history of Rome?" I think, "Domino,
I didn't do it. Take our politicians, our corporations –
can't you collapse selectively?"

But I know it has something to do with me,
with all my unnecessary second helpings
while others starved, my TV sprees, my years
of trying to be the world's greatest poet,
instead of saying something of use, my years
of doing less than my best – and though
I'm not sure what my best is, I believe –
I KNOW – I've done good things, and these
things connect too. They make – if
anything does – a difference. And I know
I could have done more.

(The shadows ARE selective, must be,
if there is connection. Hell, even on earth,
will have higher and lower circles.)

Two cabbage moths play tag across the path –
two AMERICAN moths. Must they, too,
pay? These tall oaks, must they be toppled
because retired CIA operatives enjoyed
their shade? (And can retired CIA operatives
enjoy shade, or, like Hamlet's uncle Claudius,
appearing to pray, are they cut off from such things?)
(And do I enjoy these oaks, or turn them into
props for poetry?) Or because I, who have been
a pretty good guy, but not good enough
(to save the world? to feed one fly-bait,
bloat-bellied African child? to get a good guy
elected?) – because I walk among these trees
(to forget that, not only are there nations
where it is an act of daring to walk to the corner,
but also there are vast desert-ovens where no man
can walk in daylight, and a few miles above
these trees begins a skyless dark, near
absolute zero that apparently goes on
(with brief starry interruptions, pinpricks
of nuclear heat) forever) – because I,
who could have been worse, cherish
(if only for the seconds before I swallow
them with my poem) these trees, will they
be spared?

But out there in forever I'm not an American.
That will be another payback, not for America's crimes,
but for those that come with being human.

And thinking such stuff, I notice butterflies
(tiger swallowtail, black admiral, viceroy – that's
the best I can do, Viceroy of all I survey, Vladimir)
(sorry, you may not know I mean Nabokov,
one of my addictions, a royal vice,
who taught me a few butterflies), wild flowers
(no names, they say – very hush hush), leaves
of varied greens, points and lobes (no names,
sorry, I cannot lobotomize o'er my species' grave),
and I notice birds, their songs, motion, swift rifts
of color flashing through leaves – and I disconnect
them from the argument, shrive them, want them
forgiven. (And our cat, too, though she's not out
for this walk, but she, too, must be forgiven –
or need not be.)

So I begin to disconnect. And I hear
the counter-arguments of those who only
connect: Even the butterflies of America
are corrupt, and must be punished
(broken on the wheel?) for giving pleasure
to the hordes of Satan. (Nazi death camp officers
wax ecstatic over Beethoven, whose music must,
therefore, become hateful to all good folk,
as must the word "folk", for Hitler loved it.)
Every tree, every blade of American grass
shall be blasted. (British grass, too – they're
connected. Samuel Johnson rises from his grave
to assert – irresistibly – that his cat, Hodge
shall not be harmed.)

And if I say, behold, your own empires,
past and to come, were as corrupt
and man-grinding as ours, enslaved
and tortured more...

then I hear a new set of voices, like chilled crystal.
They say, yes, it is a human blight,
not merely the American nightmare.
We need a fresh start, Kaliyurga,
the old Hindu universe-recycling system, from Iron Age
to Golden age via the incineration of everything.
Blast this place, this earth, leave it to wolves,
to cockroaches – no, say colder voices,
sterilize it, leave not a microbe, for all
is corrupted. Leave the void, waiting
for a new, pure creation, for we (Americans,
humans, life, matter) are blots, cancers afflicting
nothingness, filling it with ceaseless images and thoughts.
Remove us and all our polluted symbiotes. All
is connected, so all must go. There can be
no Noah, for it is life itself, even the possibility of life,
that blights infinite space, and space itself – why,

some say, "Don't stop at space. Undo
the universe, heat masses to thin gases,
let all explode or implode, bring back
chaos, reverse creation, make it all vanish,
especially thought, for any dream is a virus
from which new life and matter may ferment
and coagulate.

They only connect. They include themselves
in their programs, seeking oblivion – a
coward's end? Where there is possibility
of life and art, there is disconnection: A is not B.
A is not even A. (One precedes the other.)

Will we be spared for 10 good men?
Five good men? One slightly frayed
cabbage moth?

(So much poetry is only connection,
metaphor by sticky metaphor, or the struggle
to disconnect some trace of us from death,
who is always shown first to be well-connected
indeed. Death is always in-crowd, A-list; Death
has pull. Get in good with Death, and you've
got it made (as a shade). Death can get it for you
hole-sale. Even this poem will end.)

Of course we pay and of course
what we call ours (even moths and trees)
are taken from us. We pay what we have,
no more. Unless we can create more.
And we can. So what? A good cabbage moth –
not such a bad deal.

This isn't about who pays or how much.
("My treat this time." "No, mine, I insist!)
What we are is payment enough.
Nothing worse can be done to us
than to make of us what we make
of ourselves.

What do evil men make of themselves?
A righteous solidity. They are what they are
forever or until someone chisels
the pigeon shit off the monuments they've become
(statues are grave stones) to themselves,
then tickles them out of countenance.
Once one, being basically right and good,
does wrong and BECOMES a wrongness,
one – to insist on his rightness – solidifies.
(Statues are so official! How could they be
wrong?) Stupidity by stupidity one petrifies,
like a muscle that can't be unclamped,
that exertion against oneself to be right
in one's wrongness.

And we all make payment in that untender kind –
or, unstuck from any solidity, able to be
anything, what can we owe, we who own and
occupy no space or
all there is?

If we only disconnect, there's no responsibility,
no game. If we only connect, we compress
all games into a black hole. Most of my playmates
are human. How can I disconnect from you, George W. Bush?
Once I voted for you, one idiot
for a worse one. I wonder what I did (long ago)
that contributed to the terror that fermented
to burp out Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, Saddam Houssein?
Not much, for they mostly missed me,
but my world is darker for their having been in it.
A Beatles tune gives me such joy – what
did I do to earn it? Or you, by what valor
or cowardice on what battlefield did you earn
the pleasure or affliction or monotony
of this poem?

(As mathematicians might say, let U equal you,
my wife and lover, or you, my reader(s) or you,
my friends, or you, my cat, or you,
my poor undervalued left little finger...)

But I needn't account for it all. I'm a
no-account fellow, not a being-counter.

We pay by being. We connect by considering
a connection exists. We disconnect by considering
no connection exists. Fun requires the ability
to connect (Let's play!) and to perceive the connections
and to disconnect (Fuck off!) and know we've done so,
at will. That's why art, when it is, is fun.

If your left hand knows not what your right hand
does (I want to say "doth", but then I'd have to say
"thy" because I want these things to connect, God
knowth wherefore) – you're a klutz, and, in the bigger game,
(where the murderer insists his hand wielded the blade – he
had nothing to do with it) evil.

If you never let one hand's activities
escape notice, you won't be able to unknow
enough to have a game, because ones own actions
define what one gets. If you never let
one hand hide from the other (nimble hands
like two squirrels at play),
there IS no bigger game.

I am you. I am not you.
(I didn't say that. Letters on a page said it.)

I forgot to mention that I'm a big boy now
and can go for a walk to go for a walk
without dragging along U.S. failed foreign policy
or genetically modified wheat. I began pondering
the guilt of moths (giltlessly white)
because I hadn't written a poem in weeks
and thought the crimes of a cabbage moth
(for being part of America) might give me
a poem, which perhaps they did – wherever did I put it?

How to balance connect with disconnect?
(Should it be "Only balance?" Or must we
investigate the art of unbalancing?)
When to cut loose? When is escape not escapist?
How to move away without disconnecting
(the connection extending, "gold to aery thinness beat").
How the awareness of a previously unnoticed connection –
the awareness alone – makes it easier (if not unnecessary)
to do something about it. How connections become
toxic when one thinks they aren't there –
there where one put and is putting them.

Connections connect, you see.
I'm writing this to disconnect from
the newspaper and Internet world
(A net is a knotted trap) and to connect with a more
you-like world, in fact, you. Also me.

I don't dis connections.
I connect and I cut connections.
That's the state I'm in: Connect-I-cut.
That was a belabored pun. A poet once
scolded me for trivializing my "serious work"
with such stuff. He lamented my slummy choice
of connections, my getting in with a bad crowd.
Oddly, the great proponents of "Only Connect,"
(many of them poets) tend to be fixated
on disconnecting lines from poems. "Only
CUT!" they chant. Cute.

I've ambled far enough today. It's been a long walk.

Notes: The poem begins with a quotation: "Only connect." I'm not sure of the source, but I first saw it as the epigraph to the novel "Howards End" by E. M. Forster (punned later in the poem -- "coward's end."

The speaker (me) lives in Reston, Virginia, a town of 60- to 70,000 people, about 20 miles west of Washington, DC and about 5 miles east of Dulles airport. Many Restonians are retired (one hopes) CIA and State Dept. officials. The walk featured in the poem takes place in Reston, which has about 60 miles of woodsy trails.

The poem refers to dominos -- alluding to John Foster Dulles' justification of our war in Viet Nam by "domino theory" -- if Viet Nam fell to the communists, then its neighbors would fall, causing others to fall, etc., the way one domino, stood on end in a line of dominos, when knocked over, causes the next one to fall, etc.

The reference to a "federally mandated-but-not-mandated" initiative refers to the New Freedom Commission's report to President Bush and the wording of much pharmaceutical-company-sponsored legislation based on it. That report called for the screening of the entire population of the country for mental illness so that we could all be properly treated (medicated, that is). That report shares the rationale TeenScreen programs and is the basis for such stuff as the "Mother's Act" (a plan to mandate the screening of all pregnant women before, during and after pregnancy, so that no mother is left un-medicated). The wording of the report and of such legislation clearly calls for universal screening, but weasel-words it so that when someone protests against "mandatory screening," defenders of the report point out that it doesn't use that exact terminology.

The lines refering to "Vladimir" and "Nabokov" and "viceroy," etc., refer to one of my favorite writers, Vladimir Nabokov, also a distinguished lepidopterist, from whose novels I learned what little I know about butterflies. I call him "Viceroy of all I survey" because the normal phrase, "Monarch of all I survey," seems sad now that there are so few monarchs left, but we still have viceroys, who look like small monarchs.

The reference to butterflies being punished by being "broken on the wheel" is stolen from Alexander Pope's poem "Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot," where Pope, writing satirically about a corrupt and delicate homosexual courtier of the day, says he will not be too hard on this guy, for who would break a butterfly on a wheel. The wheel is a Medieval torture device, used to break someone's bones.

Later in the poem there's a reference to Kaliyurga, the Hindu iron age, part of a theory that we go through cycles, and that every eon or so we need an "iron age" when almost everything and everyone are destroyed (a cleanse), so that we can have the dawn of a new golden age.

There's a line about Sam Johnson insisting his cat shall not be harmed. Samuel Johnson, subject of the most read and revered biography in the English language, was the 18th century poet, novelist, essayist, great conversationalist and scholar who, nearly single-handedly, created the first great dictionary of the English language. When he heard talk of a nut who was walking the streets of London, shooting cats, his response was that Hodge (his own cat) would not be shot, a line ever since associated with our human tendency to view massive catastrophes from our personal, narrow viewpoiints.

A line about "lobotomizing o'er my species grave," alludes to a line in a Wordsworth poem where he is critical of science and refers to one "who would botonize o'er his mother's grave."

The reference to those wanting an end to all life, including their own says that would be a "cowards end"--punning Howard's End, a novel by E. M. Forster whose epigraph is "Only connect."

The line about "gold to aery thinness beat" is quoting from John Donne's poem, "A Valediction Forbidding Mourning," where he compares the commline to his wife when he's overseas to the thinning out of gold when it is beaten and expanded.

Saturday, January 31, 2009


Among the Missing

We must trust, even when there is no body
to see, no tiniest trace of the others,
that we are all here, all reachable,
not one of us ever irrevocably lost.

Otherwise we each become a child who plays
hide and seek so cleverly that none can find him
and we think we'll just stay hidden,
but at last wonder where everyone's gone
(we want to brag about the cleverness).
By then the seekers, deciding there must be
holes in the universe, become persuaded
that one can be utterly lost.

Then (innocent yet of death) we fear
for the persistence of play, invent lies
and compulsions to prevent others
and ourselves from leaving, say
WE ARE ALL ONE, so that there will be
no leaving, or say WE ARE EACH
there is no one else to leave.

Thus has our play been protected
out of existence, leaving us stuck
with each other in the barriers of the game
(turbulences, distances, rocks, bodies, aeons)
to the point where, even if we recall
our separateness, we can no longer
reach out to one another.

Like wind over water, we are perceived
only in what we create. In the quick, rippling
cross-currents, all perceptions flow,
come in question like the changing faces
behind the face in the mirror.

No creation can hold its creator, not
soft eyes nor hard poetry; no perception
can replace knowing you are here
and knowing I know.

No commentary this time (except this one). This time I will have faith in my poem.

What is NOT Faith?

Faith is Everything

Remembering solves not knowing.
Those who cannot remember have beliefs.
This we call faith. Between knowing
and remembering is not knowing -- being
right there with it, but not knowing.
This, too, we call faith. And the
unknowing call knowing faith.
And below belief is mystery, where
one becomes the unknown, knowing only
that nothing can be known, which also
some call faith. Even waiting
to find out what one is waiting for
is called faith. And total unconsciousness
bespeaks vast faith. In the words
of a modern theologian, "I believe
I'll have another drink."

This poem summarizes ways we know. I've seen the word "faith" used to characterize all of them (and a few not mentioned in the poem). Even the absence of faith is a kind of faith or can be seen that way. (Ask any fan of existentialism.) I suppose this is the kind of profundity that equates to triviality. If you draw a circle, you have what's inside it and what's outside it. Any mode of being attributed to an identity has, we assume, outer limits and things beyond those limits, things that aren't it. Or, more simply, whatever I know is not all that can be known. And yet I act. Or don't act. Either action or non-action can be viewed as a manifestation of faith. Here's an example:

I drive my car down the street, looking at what's ahead, checking the rear-view mirror for what's behind, looking to both sides. I'm being careful. This knowing by looking is, in a sense, the opposite of faith. Or it could be called my faith in looking. But I never look up for approaching meteors (and seldom look up to watch out for safes dropped from upper-floor windows). Carelessness? Or playing the odds? Or what's the point, since I wouldn't have time to dodge a meteor? Or faith?

Or perhaps nothing is beyond me. Perhaps I am all that is, and what I know is all there is to be known. And if I say I know this to be true (and to whom would I say it?), that would sound very much like faith.

Getting back to the poem, remembering solves not knowing because knowing is simply knowing. One remembers by looking at something (a mental picture?) in order to "remind oneself" of what one doesn't know. Odd, since we must know what we are able to make a picture of. What complicated games we play.

What are some of the other ways we know things?

Knowing about them at a slight remove, not completely able to pervade what is to be known, not quite able to be it;

looking (a greater remove), by which is meant looking, hearing, tasting, etc.--perceiving in the usual ways;

feeling emotions about and projecting emotions toward and sensing emotional responses;

interacting via effort (as when, to refute doubts of reality, Samuel Johnson kicked a stone hard);

thinking and thinking and figuring away at things, as if somehow our words will eventually become the things we are thinking about;

symbolizing things and perceiving only the symbols (concentrated packages of thinking, really);

eating (a way of knowing or admiring something);

having sex with ("...and Adam knew Eve")--where it is purely a sexual exchange;

bowing in awe before the mystery of things (a despair of knowing);

waiting for an answer or just waiting, not knowing for what or even that one is waiting;

unconsciousness (a considerable effort not to know which leaves a kind of imprinted knowledge, a scar embedded in the hard-shelled resistance to knowing, a way of not-knowing pain, a memory not easily accessed or subject to reasoning).

These constitute a scale (with many intervening steps, no doubt), steps downward from knowing (or perhaps from an unknowing total capability for knowing, at each step downward using more mechanical means to know, a more condensed and limited approach to knowing. These ideas are not my own, but my take (I emphasize, MY take--my realizations on these matters may omit or distort the source of this scale) on the "Know to Mystery Scale" developed by L. Ron Hubbard in the early 1950s. (Note: That link might be difficult for those unfamiliar with the terminology. This scale is best explained in some of his lectures. Or, if you're ambitions, you can find all needed definitions by reading all the axioms that precede the one that contain this scale.)

I was looking one day at the various intricacies of "faith" and how that word seemed to fit with equal propriety any step on that scale. I found the scale useful. I could actually find my position on that scale with respect to specific attempts by me to know. And spotting that position, I could improve it. (Why is moving up it and "improvement"? Knowledge is thus acquired more rapidly, with both greater depth and detail and is more readily and effectively applied.)

Knowing at its theoretically highest level would be creating. One would create that which is to be known and thereby know it. At much lower levels, one knows what one considers is already there to be known by interacting with it. As one moves down these levels, increasingly one ceases to know and becomes what must be known and eventually what is unknowable (or moving in that direction). Have you ever tried to understand, for example, the thoughts or feelings of a rock? Or a person who has become an erratic object? Or someone in a coma? Or a psychiatrist?

My conclusion? Discussions of faith are less useful to me than discussions of knowing and how to know and how to know one knows.

Friday, January 30, 2009


Cynics say faith and religion
try to explain away the world's
chaos and mystery.
Sometimes it's the opposite:

They try to explain all the things we KNOW,
though we see no reason in this universe
why we SHOULD know.

A cynic is one who cannot face
how much he knows,
for it is mysterious to him that one can know --

and threatening,because he has done much
that he does not want to know,
nor know that it can be known.

Cynicism, then, is an attempt to explain away
what, despite the world's chaos, we know.
Why SHOULD there be a reason in this universe
for our knowing? Why should we expect
the playground to teach us the game we play?

Some religion is pretended knowledge.
Some religion is refusal to know.
Some religion is an excuse for knowing --
an apology to the physical universe
for patronizing a competitor.

Cynicism is embarrassment about knowing.

If you know and know that you know,
you can dispense with both excuses
and embarrassment.

The poem above suggests that faith can be many things, and that it is a vast oversimplification to label all faith a crutch, a way to avoid the so-called truths (the "nitty gritty" ones). There is a kind of faith that amounts to integrity, a willingness to recognize one's own knowledge. And most cynicism, I think, amounts to an inverted crutch (must be uncomfortable to rest one's arm pits on the small end).

After all, certain things associated with faith are far from comfortable for most people. For example, if we're immortal beings, what will we do with eternity? Even visions of harps and angels suggest ultimate boredom. And if blame and shame do not end with death, how will we bear those burdens?

Isn't it comfortable to think that we will not have to experience that ordeals we've left to our descendants (possibly nuclear wars, certainly huge indebtedness, perhaps a Brave New Medicated World, etc.)? Isn't it uncomfortable to think that we don't get out of it that easy? That we may be our descendants?

Which is the crutch and which is the obvious? I think the cynical ones know damned well that they've been around longer than one lifetime. Or at least they did as children, before they erected stone walls of arguments and evasions. Why else would they dodge so clumsily? For example, if you say that we are each immortal beings, the cynic will say that that's silly, because we all know that bodies die, an odd non-sequitur. I think the cynic hopes for an end, all debts paid forever, no need ever to take responsibility for past actions. And, as the poem says, I think the cynic proclaims the impossibility of knowing certain things because the cynic hopes never to be known by others.

Of course, some forms of religiosity are refinements of cynicism--of failed cynicism, a cynic covering his ass, just in case, or putting more impenetrable walls between himself and knowing or being known.Skepticism is a different critter. What one knows can and should be tested. But tested against what? What experts say? What "everybody knows"? Actually, I think there are better tests. For example, the day (age 12) when I, drug free, looking up through birch and tall pines at woolly summer clouds, found myself far above my body, filling up the sky, I knew something. Here's a poem I wrote about that:

Growing Pains

At a distance from the bustling cookout fire,
I, twelve, awkward, unpopular,
lay back on my jacket on pine needles
to look up through branches
along tapered birch-laced pines,
rising so swiftly I found myself

suddenly alone in the sky, filled up
with millions of minute rustlings of leaf, needle
and branch, each defining with each movement
new planes of perspective,

bending, supple as wind, to touch
the curvature of clouds. My body
tiny, but I am huge, overflowing
myself, floating there...

when a kid threw sand in my face!
I wept, turned away from him, hid my face.

Wait! Retake! Close-up! Slow motion!

Yes, floating there, I looked down
at the other small bodies scuttling
about the camp-fire and thought: They
could never understand THIS--
and had started to think: THAT thought
doesn't belong to the sky--

when a kid threw sand in a body's face--mine.
Anger and self-pity whooshed out like air
from a punctured balloon, as I was swallowed upb
y my growing body.

Turning from myself, I felt myself,
watching me, weep a few bitter tears
at my silly smallness,
floating there.

But whether that's "evidence" or can be communicated to others is another subject. What I will say is that at that time I not only knew something, but knew that I knew it. Later I learned of ways others could experience something similar (with considerable predictability--and without drugs or hypnosis). Obviously anyone else's reasoning about how such a thing cannot be or cannot be known will not impinge upon my certainty of my own experience. Unless I'm so suggestible that I can be persuaded that a hot stove is cold because someone has placed a label on it saying "COLD."

But what I mainly look at is workability: Does supposed knowledge, treated as knowledge, open my life up or close it down? Do I become a more able or a less able person, brighter or stupider, better able to align data and resolve confusions or less able, more useful to others or less useful, etc.?

But this, too is another subject, not the point of the poem. My poem is subtler than I am, and doesn't seek to insist on any particular knowledge, but merely to suggest that if there is any to be obtained, it will not be obtained via cynicism. It is true, I think, that some forms of faith (for example, acceptance of dogma with no willingness to relate it to one's own experience) are obstacles to knowing. It is also true, I think, that cynicism is a barrier to knowing. Both are vested interests, based on fear.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


O Ye Faithful

Only the faithful, who believe
in what they cannot see,
allow themselves the luxury of doubt.
The faithless cannot afford to doubt,
but must be rigid in their insistence
on not seeing what looms before them:

Behold the adulterer's faith
in spouse's stupidity, in the nonexistence
of a specific agonizing future, in somehow
being able to talk his/her way out of anything
or to wait out all questions in silence
until life moves on, all questions
forgotten. Behold the faith of politicians
in our apathy and forgetfulness, the faith
of conmen, admen and newspapers
in our credibility, the faith of deadbeats
(as they waste friend after friend)
that no matter how many of us they break,
another willing crutch will appear
to prop them up (until it, too,
snaps beneath their bulk
to be replaced by yet another).

A friend suggested that this poem should begin with "Behold the adulterer's faith," and probably she's correct, since that's showing what the first stanza, abstractly and somewhat obscurely generalizes about. And it's where the poem moves from purely oracular (and who wants to hang out in an incense-choked cavern with a hag who cuts open birds to search the guts for omens and talks like a zombie?) to something with an element of wit and irony. I think it's interesting to see how much faith the supposedly faithless have. Sometimes blind dumb faith is simply blind and dumb, like all the criminals who know they'll never get caught--even after being caught again and again.

But I've kept the first stanza because I like the point that there's another kind of faith, not at all blind, which gives one the certainty (and space) needed to tolerate doubt. The criminal's faith, if faith it is, is desperate. He puts himself in a position where he can't afford doubt. It's too expensive.

Really, faith is a word we use to describe someone who seems certain of things for which we, who call it faith, see no evidence. But such faith can range from an apathetic agreement with what one has been told or had impressed upon him to desperate grope for something to which one can cling--and to someone who is simply certain of what is obvious to him, an obviousness that escapes others.

If someone had extremely sensitive hearing and could hear melodies where for others there was only silence, those of us who could not hear the melodies he danced to would call his hearing faith until all our instruments agreed with him. The one-eyed man among the blind, if they had no concept of vision, might seem to them a man, not of vision, but of faith, if he went running ahead of them without due regard for obstacles.

But it's fun, when one knows, to doubt what one knows, to challenge it. Science (derived from a word meaning "to know"), when it IS science, relishes doubting itself. I have no doubt that you are here, reading this, but it is easy for me to doubt it. I can decide you're here. I can decide you're not.

For that matter, I can decide that I'M not here. (Or am I a question?) The more certain I am of who I am, the more I can play with who I am. The more able I am to be myself, the more easily I can be anyone or anything, like a child being Daddy. I suppose such things are not really what we usually think of as doubt. They are play, fictions, art (more rudely, lies). But where certainty is simply knowing what one knows (and what one doesn't know), doubt becomes play, fictions, art.

Knowing in the absence of evidence that others can perceive--so similar to what we call insanity (he KNOWS there are giant spiders coming down the wall others see has no giant spiders on it). One difference is that one who DOES know in the absence of such evidence is not obsessive about it, is able to take the viewpoint of others who do not know. He can choose viewpoints. And, if he is artist enough, he can get others to see what he sees. The great composers have all given us music that only they, at first, could hear.

Of course, if he's indiscreet, he may still find himself burdened with a "diagnosis." But only shrinks can fail to see the difference between one clinging to a viewpoint others do not share and unable to assume any other viewpoint, and a person who is able to assume agreed-upon viewpoints, but able to assume viewpoints that are his alone.

It's not the ability to create and experience and dwell in a world no one else can perceive that is madness. It's inability to share in the agreed-upon creation we call reality. And another sort of madness is the inability to create and experience and dwell in a world no one else can perceive. Such an ability is, I think, native to all beings, so those who judge the sanity of others based on departure from agreed-upon reality are, themselves, awfully scared of slipping into knowledge and finding themselves having to take responsibility for what they can create.

That's a complex statement. To simplify: There are the normal (the so-called sane), who are not in very good shape, having lost the child's ability to pretend and perhaps a great deal more and who cling to what everyone knows, the most boring sort of faith. There are those who, having been bruised by the reality that everyone knows and having harmed others in that reality, prefer not to confront that reality, prefer to pretend it's not there or dub-in something else, rooms crawling with giant spiders, for example. (His world will be full of exaggerated manifestations of whatever he is trying to evade in reality. Resistance is pressure against something that has no space to retreat into. It oozes back into the life of the one who pushes it away.)

And there are those who are truly sane, able to choose a viewpoint, certain enough of themselves not to need to cling to agreement, nor to need to fight agreement and cling to an alternative reality. Able to create.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

What is Faith

[This is the first of a series of poems (and brief essays) on the concept: Faith.]

Someone Somewhere

Faith is the certainty,
even in the absence of perceivable life,
that there is someone there,
and not only someone,
but an infinite abundance of someone.

We dress up someone as Self, thinking,
how can one lose certainty
of self, but one can, as easily
as looking in the mirror.

Then we name it others,
until the day we extend a trembling candle,
whispering, "Is there anyone there?"

Then we call it God,
so that it has nothing to do
with us, and this works, except only God
is allowed to have certainty,

while faith has become our own
cancerous replica of certainty,
the machine's decision that machines
are not designed to operate smoothly
in the absence of the idea
of someone somewhere.

Commentary: This poem describes a reduction or decay of faith, not into cynicism, but into a mockery of itself, the way clumps of cancer cells sometimes take the shapes of the organs they destroy.

Faith, as seen in stanza one above, is a certainty. When one chooses to doubt this certainty (persuaded it is shaky? for a game?), the next step is to "solve" this doubt by putting faith in something more broadly agreed upon, more visible, like one's identity.

When that proves shaky too (and who has not at some point looked in the mirror and seen signs of mortality and weakness?), we put faith in others--for example, fall in love, and place our faith in a lover, one who will never fail us.

That failing, we put faith in something safe because it seems to us to be nothing at all (a God posited to be beyond anyone's experience). Probably we first try wooden and stone gods, looking for lastingness. Wood burns, stones shatter. But nothing can shatter what can't be experienced.

What we start with is hard to identify, but can be experienced, that infinity of presence. Whether it is called God or Self or true self or spirit or glumph, it is not only a presence, but an infinity of presence or an infinite capability in God or in ourselves of granting life. It is not a certainty one must cling to or protect. It is simply created and known (and creating is the surest knowing--the ability to create and uncreate).

Master Eckhart (best Googled as "Meister Eckhart"), a Catholic mystic, said (before the Inquisition gagged him) "The eye with which you see God is the eye with which God sees you." The faith I describe in the first stanza is, in a way, that eye. It isn't important whether that certainty is God's certainty of you or your certainty of God. They are one thing.

Or so postulates this poem.

It moves from God to God, where God begins as what is most intimately present to us (more so than the "self" we define by body, personality, attitudes, etc.), then moves to God as infinitely alien to us. It moves from faith as certainty to faith as desperate fear of having no certainty and of there being nothing it is possible to be certain of.

At the top, faith is not separable from knowledge by immediate experience, and is perhaps even communicable to others, simply by sharing that presence. It is as empirical as the expectation that a hammer blow to the finger will cause pain. At the bottom, faith becomes a footnote to one's life, an insistence on knowing what one has decided can't be known, a creed. It is this level of faith that we call different from or even incompatible with knowledge. It is when we view faith this way that we begin to classify religions as gnostic (based on the idea that one can come to know God or spiritual awareness) as opposed to faith-based.

At this level, having attributed to God all causality, all ability to create, we have defined ourselves as automatons. This is a "belief in" (I've never seen a good definition of "in" when used thus with "belief"--it makes me think we get into something, like a moving bundle of meat, in order to believe), a belief in God in the absence of God's having any presence in what we are. God's presence in what we are is a concept (in every religion, among some of its followers) that the Gospel of John expresses in "The Kingdom of Heaven is within you." There are many other similar expressions, some from people who, apparently, do not mention God.

Personally, I do not look for a theology to believe in. Any theology can be a ladder to be climbed and discarded or an anchor to hold one fixed and down. (And also fun to banter about, mustn't omit that.) But I do find--and I've worked hard at this thing that now is almost second nature--that, increasingly, I'm aware of an infinite abundance of someone, and that, increasingly, it doesn't matter what I find this "in." When I admire our cat, I find it in her (and understand why Christopher Smart included perhaps the best cat poem ever written ("For Geoffrey, His Cat") in a long religious poem, "Jubilate Agno" (rejoice in the lamb). And when I admire any person, I find it, or any tree or nothing at all.

I do not call myself a mystic, because none of this seems mysterious to me. And because I see no importance in calling myself something. Not that I have no named religion, but it's the means I use to achieve the state, not a label for a set of beliefs.

My body is alone now, in a room, typing at a computer, with a faith that you are here, infinitely here with me, if not now...then now.

Friday, January 16, 2009


When I was little, and my Dad went to "the office", his presence in the house was strongest in the front closet, where, on the top shelf, like a row of conservative silent fathers, were hats, part of the uniform, like suits and ties, part, really, of the shape of a man's head in the 1930s and 40s, narrow-brimmed, felt, front-to-back dented. Fedoras, I guess, though I heard them called only "hats"--where did they go?

They vanished before anyone heard of global warming. Why? They were hardly unmanly. Even now they don't look quaint on Bogart or McMurray or Mitchum. I read recently that the first dictator of Paraguay ordered every man to wear a hat (this in the tropics) so that respect could be shown to ladies by doffing them. (What a good word, "doff"--from "do off". Why didn't it become mob slang: "Vinnie, that asshole needs to be doffed." We'd have the Mafia Don and the Mafia Doff.) So maybe rudeness or Women's Lib unhatted us.

But, by the way, how do we account for the passing of women's hats? They were never doffers, but always hatted, not just at banquets, but whenever they left the neighborhood (e.g., to "go downtown" to shop or see a doctor) and sometimes close to home, big-brimmed bonnets and tiny pill-boxes with bits of veil in front, all shapes and shades. These, too, are gone or worn to stand out, unusual.

But hats don't characterize Mom as they do Dad. Women were most often in and around the house, bare-headed. But men -- any day downtown, lunch hour, groups of suited men passing, heads brim-crossed and muffin-creased, silk bands out, leather sweat-bands in, hair or skin (fashion was kinder to bald men then) nestled in soft silky white inner lining, just enough brim to shade the eyes -- trimmed cowboy hats for crowded city life. If they'd lasted a few years longer, I'd have gotten my first one around age 17 (1959). Were they expensive? Did blue-collar men own at least one, for going to church? I'm so ignorant. When I was a kid, a man was someone who went to an office. But I think they all--even the tramps--wore fedoras, though some were hand-me-down, frayed.

When hats vanished, how many hat makers went unemployed? (Were they all twitching-mad from chemicals used to shape hats--mad as hatters?) And how masculine those hats were! What more seductively perverse than Marlene Dietrich in a man's hat? Did poets then wonder what had become of top hats? Derbies? (Imagine Abe Lincoln in a Fedora, Bogart in a Derby.)

OK, so times and styles change. But this was so quick: It happened in my time, my Dad's time, I don't know when or how or why. There went Dad and his cohorts to work in suits, ties, overcoats and fedoras; then the same men went to work in suits, ties, overcoats and no hats. How do such things happen. Was it Eisenhower? I see Truman fedora'd, but not Ike. He was military. Fedoras were civilian. Probably it was the return of all those soldiers, not in a rush to replace one helmet with another, really in no mood for uniforms of any sort. My Dad wasn't accepted into the Army: Flat feet. Being a civilian in a fedora was not something he was proud of. In 1945 arrived a flood of demobbed, hatless heroes from the world's most informal army, known for slang, chewing gum and big-nosed Kilroy, who was here. (Hitler expected little from such easy-going troops, officers who responded to formal invitations to surrender with "Nuts!") It must have become young and heroic to be hatless. (But why didn't they do away with ties as well? What a sadly missed opportunity.)

I'm satisfied. I'm sure that's the answer, so don't tell me about the felt mines drying up in 1946--I don't want to hear it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Add Freedom and Stir

Freedom is what my love grants
any motion I choose to become.
Since I can endow it, I must
be it, becoming aware of myself
(which is becoming aware of freedom)
in the bestowing.

I grace the eagle's obsessive circling
with soaring ecstasy;
I invest the cat's wide-eyed insinuations
with her love for us, freely given;
I tease the tree's knotty algorithms
for maximizing absorption of sunlight
(another form of freedom) through
leaf surfaces – I tease them into
a naughty frolic of lacy extravagance;
I add to a dust-blued scrim of atmosphere
my own infinity into which vision
can plunge, losing itself.

All this is true, but it must be added,
what I give to what I love is also true,
and, once given, has always been,
for it is I and I (and each of us) alone
who am always and endow the gleam of now --
like sunset's red-gold sparkle racing our car
along the telephone wires -- with what I am.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

One S or Two S's?

One, Many, None.

The addict has many needles,
but is only briefly needless.
Rain. No cabs. It raises my hackles,
being hackless.
At poker my money trickles away
when I am trickless.
You pick the ticks off me: It tickles...
But I become tickless.
I blow bugs from my bugles until they are bugless.
Don't drool on your Bibles:
Never read your Bibles bibless.
No cookie crumbles crumblessly.
With toothpicks I could spear the pickles...
were I not pickless.
In pain, we welcome Death, for sickles
make us sickless.
Having many girdles, she is never girdless.
Milk that curdles is not curdless.
In his groin he feels no prickles, being prickless.
The proud teamster lost his truck, begs the bosses
for another: Truckless, he truckles.
Breathless, he dangles, dang!-less.
Lovers sing, but singles are singless.
The jungles of the Collective Unconscious may be Jungless.
In many trips to the plate, he triples,
but now, retired, he is tripless.
No man wants her with all her pimples,
so she is pimpless.
She found all men to be wimps, so became a nun.
Now, wearing wimples, she is wimpless.
Waiter, we asked for our bills. Why are our tables
Animals in old stories never use laundry detergent.
All our fables are FABless.
The minister told his hecklers to go to Hell,
for, wearied by heckles, he was Heckless.
Spaghetti without sauce, tangless tangles.
Spilt barrels: bungless bungles.
The widow's soup: Ladless, she ladles.
No spurs on our horses. These are stabless stables.
Tall silent movie idols: gabless Gables.
The passionless man idles, Idless.
How do we get to the maples, mapless?
To make us A.D.D.less, with drugs the shrink addles us.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Famous Fatty-Ass IDs

Yesterday I suggested to people
(poets marveling over the wondrous
human brain, the only bit of organic matter,
said some admired scientist, that is aware
of itself) that they were not their brains,
but themselves. One of them said,
"Not according to science" - referring,
I suppose, to some brains kept in skulls
(rather than bottles) attached to muscles
in white (probably stained) lab jackets or
dark (subtly striped) suits and discreet ties.

When I dared to mention the frequent bemusement
of such brains, when distracted by generous grants
from pharmaceutical brains (it takes money
to maintain fatty, healthy brains), he began
to lift his pencil before him and drop it
on the table and pick it up again and
drop it again, to show me that each time
the pencil, dropped, moved downward,
something he seemed to think had been discovered
by modern science. I thought this game
with his pencil was an amazing thing
for a brain to do.

Later he read us a poem (for this was
a poetry workshop - brains aware of being
brains marvelously aware of being brains
aware of being marvelous brains) that told
a story about someone referred to as "I."
A brain (with a name the brain calls "mine")
suggested replacing "I" in each occurrence
with "A brain." It didn't read well that way
(to this brain's judgment), but why should
that matter to that matter?

Posted by Dean Blehert