The Letter Needn’t Kill

I’ve just been reading Walt Whitman tonight, and I see how he would disagree with my attitudes where I talked about people and the moon. He sees the most ordinary things to be no less grand than the greater things. Everything to him is significant— kind of the way Hindus perceive life and reality. But also it was William Blake who spoke of seeing infinity in a grain of sand. Even as I write, I notice how I tend to define and limit the things I describe, putting them in tiny boxes, suffocating them. Whitman doesn’t do this in his poetry. And if I try analyzing it then I’ll probably kill it because that’s what dissection does to every subject and everything under the sun. Somehow his poetry promotes life rather than snuffing it or etherizing it on a table. Thus I wonder what is his secret. And it reminds me of Eiseley’s policy of description instead of analysis. It’s like taking a photograph and not shooting it down as a hunter does… I will benefit by reading a lot more than I have been lately.

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Koko

The economist,

Chatting with canine Cerberus,

Paddles his troubled boat 

Through the Inferno

Of God’s forgotten friend.


For the reason

We will ask sage Koko,

The signing gorilla,

Who signs for all of nature

From an ebony throne

Under a daylight moon.

Coleridge lies in her lap,

Open to “With my crossbow

I shot the ALBATROSS.”

She closes the book and,

Hearing lunar movements,

She signs:


“You are not above nature,

But a part of it.

Ecology precedes economy

Both logically

And chronologically.

And I say to you,

Hold to your chest

The body’s commerce

With green grass

And gold flowers,

For all things are love

And love is all things.”


Then Koko hums 

To belugas in Arctic waters 

And the humpbacks in Hawaii,

As part of a telepathy

Humans still don’t understand

Because we dangle the albatross

From our necks. 

Fugitive Dove (Ascending)

Five o’clock evening.

The most poetic thing I observed today was a mourning dove perched atop a power pole outside Randy’s car lot: I stopped to look and it flew away, like the 59 wild swans in the Yeats lyric. Not that the lot of salvaged wrecks was at all poetic, but the fugitive dove graced the scene by its presence, similar to a fabulous bird in a ballet. There and gone in a twinkling to its sublime immaculate abode. This event kind of set the tone for the remainder of my day. I pondered the place of poetry in a realistic world, one that had lost its enchantment and lapsed from the Garden. Yet the Garden is only available to the imagination and sustained through poetic language. The squirrel on the magnolia limb knows a secret that he doesn’t impart. Nor does the spray of stars in the Milky Way at midnight. But perhaps with a taste of the white snake like the one in Grimm’s, all revelation is ours. I can almost decipher the cooing of the dove just now.

(Revision)


The most poetic thing I observed today was a mourning dove perched atop a power pole outside Randy’s car lot: I stopped to look and it flew away, like the 59 wild swans in the Yeats lyric. Not that the yard of salvaged wrecks was at all poetic, but the fugitive dove graced the scene by its presence, similar to a fabulous bird in a ballet. There and gone in a twinkling to its immaculate sublime. This event kind of set the tone for the remainder of my day. I pondered the place of poetry in a realistic world, one that had lost its enchantment and lapsed from the Garden. Yet Eden is only available to the imagination and sustained through poetic language… The squirrel on the magnolia limb knows a secret that he doesn’t impart. Nor does the astral spray of the Milky Way at midnight. But perhaps with a taste of the white snake like the one in Grimm’s, all revelation is ours. I can nearly decipher the coo of the dove just now.

From the Archives

Sat down to read “Fra Lippo Lippi” again

And by my chin-hairs understood this time

That God is in the details, Lippo says,

In every face and body part of life.

If soul’s not there, it isn’t anywhere,

And Lippo is a liar— have his head;

A painter is supposed to all portray

In order truth to daub, to underscore,

Discover Form from form, by piecing patch

Together on the canvas Jesus’ plan—

Immanuel alive in all to see:

That everything that lives is holy Trinity.

For a Teacher

Six forty.

I had a little malfunction with my medication for a while but now I’m back on track. I can hardly wait to use my next Peter Pauper journal, the cover design is so pretty. The image is called “Mystic Moon.” Soon I will spoil its virgin pages with the scope of my thought and probably never get anywhere; no kind of revelation that lasts more than a day. Right now I’m stuck on the problem of logic versus poetic language. If you think like a positivist, then what do you do with poetry, unless poetry is grounded in reality like with Carlos Williams? I haven’t looked at Richard Hugo’s poetry in a very long time, but I remember how dense and difficult it was. The difficulty was not due to being abstract at all, but rather the diction was quite deliberate and unexpected, original at every point, with lots of adjectives. The method of contemporary poetry is much different from Romanticism and Modernism. It cuts down all abstracts and employs details to evoke emotion in the reader. Or anyway, that’s what I was taught in my last writing workshop. It’s a lesson I mostly disregard nowadays, though maybe heeding it would benefit my writing today. And I owe this learning to Ellen, wherever she is now. She reminds me that American poetry didn’t end with the Modern movement. 

Sonnet

Hans Pfaal

On one side time, eternity the other:
The Dickinsonian sky’s a leaden veil
By grace so interposed that human eye
Won’t be offended and the heart won’t quail.

The landscape shows us nothing but a screen,
Blank sheet on which we paint the natural world
From Spiritus Mundi within ourselves,
Like raveling out the colors in us furled.

But if we really want to know the truth,
One way to revelation can obtain:
To ride the hills and canyons on the moon
For Eldorado someplace in the brain.

And travel by balloon’s the surest path:
You navigate by myth and not by math. 

Poem





Clothed in Heavenly Light,

Neil Peart appeared to me

In a half waking dream

And taught me the meaning

Of his song “Heresy”

On the Rush disc of thirty years ago.

It was important to me

Not only because of the Berlin Wall

But it was the year I fell ill

With this dreaded disease

That changed the whole course

Of my life,

Giving it a purpose 

Unguessed by the living,

But to Mr Peart

It makes perfect sense

In the unfathomed ways

Of the Other Side. 

Lift Us Up!

Quarter after eleven.

I just caught the headline on Google: starting Wednesday, mandatory face masks again by order of the governor. There’s no end in sight to the bad news stories, so what the world could really use is a dose of poetry. A vehicle to lift us up to the Sublime, the beautiful and true; to transport us to the spiritual universe. 

We may take an image like snowflakes and flowers and compare them to the stars in order to transcend the mundane. We can create a living homunculus like an immaculate conception to be our guide to antiquity: in search of Helen of Troy, the most beautiful woman in the history of the world. The Ideal is ours for the claiming, for the shaping out of the clay of common day. Sandcastles in the air are waiting to be discovered by a new calculus; it only takes a little faith in human goodness. Put me atop the Tower of Babel to unzip the blue sky and see the fourth dimension. Amid the blast of voices in my ears, still nothing can impede my project of raising humanity to the celestial plane above the moon. Not only can it be done, it must.