. . . . .
So this spring I've been afflicted with sleeplessness, allergies, fog in my lungs. I wake up in the middle of the night wheezing like a dark, heavy current through a red coral reef. I used to have terrible times in the desert. The spring desert is actually filled with pollen, night blooming and perilous, practically viral in the air. Spring was a reminder of the crudity of the human body, piped together, leaking around like some paradisiacal accident. Basically I fell apart, but only partially, only enough to know it and to suffer.
Since I've moved to the beach it's been clear. A cure. Sea-elixir. Surprising because everything here grows year round. It's lush and cool enough to maintain wild lilies, roses, palms, lush green paddles, cactus, sunflower, cyclamen, clock vine, marigold, baby's breath, lavender, bromeliad, nasturtiums, poppies, wild thyme, birds of paradise, orchids, succulents, tromp de oro, tulip, agave, purple namas, fern, velvet paws, bougainvillea . . . the list goes on into the winter. . .
Not this spring. This spring is a disaster! But only at night. . . I don't know what to do, really. I pop the pills, try breathing exercises, meditation and all while I hack my brains out, feel my sinuses loading up like two islands floating on my face. What a bitch. Instead I'm up, 2, 3, 4 a.m. frustrated because my classes this semester are earlier than god. Last night read Attila Joszef, one of my secret saints, who cut his throat when he was my age, 32, and wrote nihilism into a beautiful ditch-shine.
"Just like a pile of split wood
the world lies in a heap;
so does each thing push, uphold, keep
every other thing in place,
so that everything is determined.
Only what is not can become a tree,
only what's yet to come can be a flower.
The things that exist fall into pieces."
Joszef wrote in the early part of last century and much of his poetry has a Marxist feel, poetry for the poor who have nothing, who are commanded by the pleasures they cannot have for themselves. . . there's something about this center that feels familiar: isn't this our human state too? to be afflicted by something beyond ourselves, that we wrack and hustle for, to uncertain ends? Isn't the revolutionary always struggling against the very air we breathe? Isn't revolutionary another name for a poet of mortality? . . . But Joszef's is a less philosophical approach, less about ideas than about the life that has to do while time swings off its pendulum.
This morning I walked through campus in a half-shuffle, still a zombie, mad for coffee--I saw myself reflected in the glass building all the way up into the breathspace and couldn't believe it! What old man is that? Coughing, shuffling, bellied, angry? My god! I've become some stuffy academic! All day I refuse this somnabulent version of my life! In the new Poets' & Writers there's an article, "Phd the new MFA"--and I just about cried. All this business of poetry has become part of the capitalist wallpaper that surrounds us. The life of a poet is beginning to sound to me like a commercial.
Thankfully I've my ailment to keep me up late. Thankfully, Friends and Strangers, I've got my secret saint:
TO SIT, TO STAND, TO KILL, TO DIE
To shove this chair away from here,
to squat down in front of a train,
to climb a mountain, with great care,
to empty my knapsack over the vale,
to feed a bee to my old spider,
to take an old crone, and carress her,
to sip bean soup, and eat cake,
to walk on tiptoes in the muck,
to place this hat on the railroad track,
to promenade around the lake,
to lie, all dressed up, in waters deep,
to get a suntan as waves leap,
to bloom among the sunflowers,
to let out at least one good sigh,
to shoo away a single fly,
to dust off a dusty book,
to spit at your mirror, look,
to make peace with all your foes,
to kill them all with a long knife,
to study how their blood flows,
to watch a young girl as she goes,
to sit still, and curl your toes,
to burn down the whole city,
to feed the birds and have pity,
to hurl stale bread to the floor,
to make my good gal cry for more,
to take her little sister in my lap,
and if the world wants reasons,
to run away, not give a crap--
oh you binding and dissolving,
at this moment poem-writing,
life of my own deciding!
. . . . .
Poetry, at least, is the outrage of beauty against Nothingness.
Inexplicable. Miraculous. Revolutionary. Our heart's artifact.
Even if our heart is destined to become a bulb of soft, warm mud, washed completely away by a spectacular spring rain:
"Now the peacefulness of seeds lives
in houses, horses, people,
the peacefulness of seeds that goes deep down
where all things are akin, made
of mud, everlasting, soft and warm.
How good it feels to plunge blindly
after all my thrown-away kisses!"
. . . . .
This is a an imaginary diary of facts, confessions, or messages. This is a notebook of working but broken ideas, lines, images, notes on books I'm reading, writers I admire, and brief fantasies of language. Here unfiltered all mannerings pseudo-private, publicized, ur-. Here I am art and unrevealed: poetic, political and pop. These are my moonlit rough beginnings and should not be taken literally, directly, truthfully, reliably, and none of it is legally binding. These lies are all choreographed, but only haphazardly. Beware.
My work has been awarded the Katherine C. Turner Prize from the Academy of American Poets, a Swarthout Award, and has twice been nominated and shortlisted for the Pushcart Prize. My first book, A Book Called Rats, was selected for the Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry (Eastern Washington University Press 2007). I'm curating editor for the online journal of poetry: PISTOLA and my poems and reviews most recently appear in Massachusetts Review, Beloit, Ploughshares and RAIN TAXI. I currently teach writing and literature at Santa Monica College in southern California.
FRIENDS AND STRANGERS
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