Solfege

Six twenty.

At the crack of dawn I will probably go to the store for a soda and things to eat. And yet the ritual has gone so smooth. The groove has become a rut. What could break the monotony? Just about anything. I could go to Grocery Outlet and buy some banana peppers and some artichoke hearts. But this is for people whose taste buds are all in their mouth. My mother used to say that. I see the first light of day out my front window. The only hope now resides with instrumental music, music with no words. The sounds of music are feeling. Feeling describes; it cannot prescribe. It can’t moralize— and really, it is the moral that we need to get rid of, with everything we face today. The only poetry we need, a most blasphemous thing, is that of Edgar Allan Poe. To recite “The Bells” again over our gravesite is to be sublime. Poe made poetry for the music of it, for the sound, not the sense. His verse slips under the net of language and meaning. Music is the one art form to which the other art forms aspire to be. Walter Pater said this. Poe anticipated the Aesthetic Movement by a few decades, inspiring especially the French… People need something to make them feel good. To my mind, the greatest help to us right now is instrumental music. And the best that words can do is to strive to be music.

Turned to Stone

Turned to Stone




Humanity with fear is paralyzed,
Unable to enjoy a single pleasure,
Dissatisfied to even shed a tear
As if a Gorgon stared us into stone.
Medusa, hair of snakes, in spirit form
Sends out a signal petrifying all,
Revenge against her slayer Perseus.


But Perseus, the favored of the gods,
Is not asleep, and armed with sword and shield,
Is ready to behead her as before,
Releasing everybody from her spell.
So once again the world is free to feel
The joys and sorrows proper to its kind,
And more important, act accordingly.

Time Capsule

Nine forty.

It’s another sunny morning, and the high temperature is supposed to be 93 degrees. When I work up the courage, I may try uploading more music tracks of my own to SoundCloud using my laptop. But I don’t know if it’s worth the time and grief. Earlier this morning I dreamed about home recording, and it was very exciting to hear new music from myself. Much easier dreamed than done, unfortunately. The new digital technologies are very difficult for me to master. I loved the old days of four track cassette recorders and intuitively obvious drum machines. Those were the days when the technology was still dumber than human beings. Today, all these gadgets are a cryptogram for old school musicians. So, once in a while I have a dream about recording, but it might not be realistic… Tomorrow morning I have an appointment in Springfield for a blood draw. My clinic has its own lab unaffiliated with Q— Diagnostics. This makes things a little easier. Last winter, my healthcare service dropped my insurance company and left many people scrambling to find new providers. I had a couple of options, but I stayed with the same insurance and eliminated P—Health. I made this decision based on the experiences I’d had with both organizations.

Eleven forty. Now I’m curious about hooking up my external hard drive to my laptop and delving into some old files. The project could be rather painful emotionally, but there may be some little gems worth preserving.

One thirty. Most of the old poems I looked at were quite smutty, like Henry Miller attempting to write poetry. Not so good. Some of them weren’t even very clever. The mood was definitely rebellious and frustrated with a culture I perceived as repressed. But probably my overindulgence in alcohol increased the desire for love, and moreover, I’d had such lousy role models in my parents. I don’t know. It also seems that I blew my chance to fulfill my secular dreams with Kate. Maybe the secularism wasn’t working for me, or at least I couldn’t stop drinking and ruining my health until I tried something different. While I was surfing my old files, I listened to “Clockwork Angels” by Rush. This pitched me into remorse about losing my opportunity with Kate. However, thinking about it, if I had continued with the same “secular” friends and lifestyle, very likely I would be dead by now. Vicki told me about an acquaintance who had recently died of alcoholism at 52 years of age. The thing about Kate that really makes me kick myself is how smart she was, how worldly wise and a little bit defiant and daring. But no, I couldn’t keep it up. It wasn’t so much that I “blew it.” Rather, I wanted to live beyond my fifties. 

We Can’t Breathe: a Letter

What a lifeless kind of day it’s been today! I can’t get a reaction out of anybody. And the food pantry fell flat this morning. What is everyone thinking? T.S. Eliot was right: we’re going out not with a bang, but a whimper. And Queen: I’ve got something to say: it’s better to burn out than fade away. I just watched the video of this week’s service. It was pretty lame, to be honest. I did fine reading at the lectern, but still the whole worship was done without conviction. The image in my mind is of a freshly caught salmon flopping around on the dock before the fisherman finally bashes its brains in to make it stop. Or maybe this is only my own faith dying of asphyxiation. Like George Floyd, it can’t breathe.
Well I did go buy that ice cream this morning. Vanilla bean. It was so early that I barely remember going there. And the pantry was pretty much over before it was begun. I must’ve come home at around eleven twenty. I felt quite tired as I sat here eating my gift Girl Scout cookies, sharing some with Aesop. I guzzled ginger ale and basically felt like a vegetable all day. And I think my feelings are a mirror of the general condition of people today. We are the Hollow Men. That corpse you planted… did it sprout? This is the way the world ends… The soul has gone right out of American life. And right now it resembles an Eliot poem more than a sci-fi movie. The weather here was beautiful, mostly sunny and cool with a bit of a breeze. But there was nary a sign of human life going on outside. I don’t know. I think we have to take responsibility for our morale and pull ourselves out of the pits. By the way I liked the video you linked to your post, the one with the cellist playing in a ruined coliseum. It implies that music has the power to heal and restore sanity to a messed up world. For me, I think the greatest healer is poetry in the abstract. Especially Romantic poetry, which reminds me that I should pull out my big Goethe and read all of Faust. When I say “poetry,” I’m including certain poetic prose as well. I may even reread The Sorrows of Young Werther, the most beautiful thing I ever read. The descriptions of being alone with nature are Wordsworthian before the real Wordsworth ever picked up a pen.
So anyway, I was saying that we’re responsible for the general tone of our times. Our response to the situation so far has been submissive and masochistic— and that’s sick, IMO. If this is the end of the world, then we should go out fighting.

The Paterson Slogan

Wee hours of Wednesday. Sometimes I feel saved by Carlos Williams; by minutiae, by no ideas but in things. In a world of religious abstraction, one feels the need to be grounded in terra firma, in details, in stuff rather than fluff. There’s nothing amazing about the piece of furniture I’m sitting on, yet it supports my weight. How often do we stop to consider the red wheelbarrow beside the white chickens? To transcend is to go mad, to take leave of our senses. Still, we insist on doing this while the little things go neglected. It is an odd mode of operation. Why do people take matter so for granted? What if we didn’t have reality to sit on? I hadn’t thought about the literal things in life until yesterday afternoon. It came to me like a revelation. Stuff is the only reality we can test and know. Chances are you are sitting on it right now.

Mandalay Moon

Eight ten.

I feel a little wiped out, but my mood is fairly cheerful. Early this morning the moon shone through my bedroom window, bright and full. Under its spell I thought of my mother in her last two years, after Dad had passed away. We drank a lot! And she made breakfast for dinner often, or else I would get takeout from Tio Pepe, the Mexican restaurant on River Road. I lived in sort of a dream then. My friends in music must have thought I was strange to be living with my mother. But I was comfortable. I had no worries financially. I bought a lot of books and read every day. And I learned more about my mother’s aesthetic mentality, although it was beginning to decay. She told me about a song her parents used to sing for their parties, “The Road to Mandalay,” with words by Rudyard Kipling. On one of my trips to the bookstore I bought a big book of Kipling’s verse that contained “Mandalay.” I brought it home and read it to Mom. I also purchased two novels by Harold Robbins in an effort to make sense of the thinking of my parents. I was very aware that it was different from most people I knew. Quite amoral, in fact, like the poetry of Edgar Poe. Maybe what I sought was the root of schizophrenia. There was such a schism between Mom’s beliefs and those of everyone else that madness could result. But that’s only a theory. Perhaps Mom was simply more intelligent than the average people I knew…

A Minor Crime

The book share on Fremont,

A chartreuse A frame on a pole,

Stands beside a wooden bench

At the entrance to the alley

Leading on a sidewalk to Maxwell.

Perfidious thorny stems to either side

Dangle over the graffiti fences,

And amidst other litter can be found

The occasional syringe.

The builder of the little structure

Lives hard by in a forest green house,

A kind and conscientious man

Named Johnny.

Once a vandal bashed off

The door of the green box

And flung it across the street

Where it lay at the curb.

The crime was symbolic.

I picked up the glass door

Framed with white painted wood

And laid it on the gray seat

Next to the damaged book share.

No note was necessary,

And the next time I ambled by,

The door had been replaced

Silently, as if the elves cared more

Than kids for erudition.

Poem: i

Alpha, beta

To begin without ending

Not sleepless but a dream

Gamma: perhaps alpha = beta

In the law of non identity

Where the reflection is reality.

Cool summer wee hours

Half of the windows wide open

Letting in the black chill

That detaches itself from outside

To be the ideal within,

A brainchild.

Perchance to dream

Of women dancing a jig

You and I stifle a snicker

As the dancer is afraid of mice

Hoisting her skirt, stamping

At this interruption.

Some dreams are gentle

Like a pasture of grazers

Or a skyway of stargazers

Telescope inverted to minimize the I

So that the lower case

Regains the smallness of its dot.

What a Poem Can Do

Two o’clock. I just started reading A Cold Spring. So far, much better than North & South. Bishop’s use of details is really great. I like her idea that the world is her teacher, her source of knowledge. And she substantiates this with her love of travel. Her sketches are so realistic, with surprises here and there. Lots of colors. She interprets landscapes and scenes on their own merits, gives them their own expression, as little biased as possible. In A Cold Spring, she advances from being simply personal to being a chronicler, transmuting these places with her poetic voice into a revelation. It’s like the art of Van Gogh in this sense, except more realistic and not so impressionist. And the difference between a poem and a photograph is exactly this kind of Platonic revelation that a poet can give. A poem reaches in and pulls out the sublime essence of an image. Emily Dickinson was a genius at doing this.

I miss the soda I didn’t buy this morning. I might make a run for my cranberry ginger ale even now. It doesn’t feel too warm this afternoon, so why not?

Pastoral: Distanced

Eleven thirty. My color impression of the day is sea green fading to slate green. There’s a lot of green on gray. Now the sun is trying to come out, though it is not very orange; more pale yellow on the cement of my back patio. When was the last time I saw the moon? Just now the sky appears sonic blue as the clouds part a little. I don’t hear many sounds except for the refrigerator hum. Hardly any signs of life out there, and the extant ones are “distanced.” Finally the sunlight goes peach on the ground. My dog sprawls on the carpet, probably bored, but this is better than stressed out. The silence and vapidity of the scene are like a blank screen for a new beginning. Open at Page One. A new leaf is turned over, ready for adventures. Acorns bounce off the roof at intervals while the white clouds evaporate, leaving the sun to dominate mutely. So much seen and not heard. You who have ears… The patio walkway is lemon and cracked. The magnolia stands waxy avocado green. Inside, all these unopened boxes of unwanted junk collect dust. Someday… Somewhere northwest, a car groans like a dinosaur. If it were nighttime, the lizard would be real. No sunshine to prove it otherwise. A slammed door up the street. Still, every sound is spaced by at least six feet…