Well I gave my French book of Mallarme a cursory flap and found much of it unreadable, like pure nonsense, the drivel of a lunatic: psychobabble in a word. This discovery is a sign that I’m recovering from the illness more and more with time. I ought to be much more coherent now than last winter, not to mention years ago as a churchgoer. I may wish there were an Ideal dimension to the universe, but unveiling it is beyond all method… It is emotional reasoning to posit the spiritual universe; saying I feel it, therefore it must be true, but after this comes the burden of proof. It’s a difficult call to make. Is it right to categorically reject everything arrived at by intuition? And here I’ve opened up the same old can of worms as last winter. If my intuition is blind, it doesn’t make everyone else blind. I remember gifting Pastor that volume of William Blake six months ago, thinking of a particular passage in the Europe prophecy. Isaac Newton blows the last trumpet of doom, after which the angels fall from heaven and crash to the earth. In other words, scientific discovery knocks religion down. It is neither a good or bad situation; it simply is. Or maybe Blake thinks the blow to religion is regrettable… By the way, Blake is another one of those unintelligible poets, like James Joyce toward the end. Word salad. Psychosis… I don’t even know by what means I’ve been thinking since the end of springtime. Things either make sense to me or they don’t. Spirituality still is very hard for me to swallow.
Quarter after nine. However, there’s an image Mallarme uses more than once in his published poetry: something like a “snowfall of perfumed stars.” It makes me want to translate the poem myself to English. And perhaps in doing so, thereby lose my identity in his, or leave the poem extant without an author. Only the words and the reader remain, in a condition of dubious being.
But for a little color
I could repaint the spectrum’s laser light
Repair the hues to make them right
But for a shade of purple
I could weight the earth and heaven
Equalize the golden and the brazen
As swallows from the flue
Fly the roads behind the sky
In lavender amber West
A love letter from Avalon appears
On the fleeting gliding wing
Or does it come instead from old Lucretius?
The gilded and the pauper
The penniless and proper
Will balance with the reconciling sun
When the letter to Apollo
Is delivered by the swallow
And riches measured are to everyone
Window to a window
Of clouds together boiling apart
To display the witching
Chalk white breast
Watching in the night
Alone for me alone
Sleeping to wake
The cruelest month.
I dreamed of a country,
Neither Europe nor Asia nor Africa,
Whose border on the physical map
Made the shape of a red butterfly,
And this formed the birthplace
For every human race.
So I half awoke,
Resolving to learn
The Analects of Confucius
In order to start over.
Feet of Brass
If Neil Peart came back from the grave
With feet of brass,
A gold band around his chest,
And floating white hair and beard
To open the seven seals
And judge the living and the dead,
I wouldn’t be the least surprised.
I’m just beginning to understand the difference between prosaic and poetic, and what poetry is supposed to do. It is something untaught in a book like Perrine’s Sound and Sense, a mere handbook of literary devices. The effect of poetry ought to be like that of intoxication either by liquor or very abstruse ideas. It should transport the reader to heaven and back again, or to the world of Platonic Ideals. Sometimes a dream does more than fulfill a wish: it unveils the reality beyond this shadowy illusion. A dream can be a poem, and a poem can be a dream.
My dog just jumped out of bed and trotted down the hallway to see what I’m up to. In a few minutes I have to take my medication to banish “false beliefs” and perceptions that aren’t true. Occasionally I think this judgment is an arbitrary call. Still, I take the pills dutifully every night to be responsible for my behavior. And it’s worth it to be able to play my music without the assault of religious delusions on the dark side.
When I was a junior in high school, I fell into quite a depression without knowing the clinical terminology for the condition. Now it seems to me that depression is a doorway to more severe mental illness, as well as to substance abuse. These things are colloquially known as “demons.” And after all, maybe certain kinds of music really are unhealthy for the soul. How can we guard against darkness and look instead for the sunshine?
Two o’clock. Some music simply strikes me as intrinsically beautiful. Right now I remember the sound of “It’s My Life” by Talk Talk, with the words, “Funny how I plowed myself an avenue…” Around the same time, I was reading an arabesque by Lovecraft full of fantastic images, such as being aboard ship on a transparent sea and peering down at the life on the ocean floor. And again, these things are not taught in a manual like Sound and Sense.
The interior cosmic and vast, the hope
To resurrect Mallarme’s voice, the scope:
Ellipses... numbers, stars I scrawl;
Toward the universe we crawl.
The instruments of darkness know
This universe in verse is so;
But instruments of darkness? No:
The uncanny takes no part of Fall.
To drink in hate and spit out love:
Alembic guided by the Dove;
The reason flies, impelled to shove,
Imploding time beyond recall.
To climb the mountain of my mind
Is pleasure not declined,
A Gold Bug map to “X” the spot
That only I may find.
Who drew the map is no concern:
It found me on the street;
A raving Poet lost it there
Whose like I’ll never meet.
Uncanny dream remembers me,
But words like finger-holds
Will toil and sweat and gasp for breath
As summit’s truth unfolds.
I really look forward to our next band jam on Saturday. In the meantime it’s simply today with no expectations on its merits. The future is a window, not a blind wall. Right now it’s black as ink outside; the earth is turned away from the sun. With a bit of a rotation counterclockwise we’ll see daylight in a few hours. I’ve considered swapping bridges on my white Fender bass, but this would make it sound more like the others. I should take the advice of someone who said, “It’s not the bass, it’s you.” I guess inspiration either comes or it doesn’t, but the most important source of this is other people. A couple of lines from Tagore arise, where he says he’s been spending his days in stringing and unstringing his instrument, awaiting the call of his God. The inspiration comes and goes with the visitation of the divine. It cannot be forced to happen. No more than we can speed up the rotation of the earth on its axis.
The grayness of this winter’s day
Can attest to powers there at play
Or Odin’s melancholy shade
Never cast itself on the midweek
When I was born, a child full of woe.
Four and fifty years ago
Three planets so aligned in Capricorn
To bring about a most unlikely quark
Though better it may be to say
I willed my own existence from a spark.
It’s not so much the hand that I was dealt
As how I choose to play this game of cards
Or rather play the music in my brain
Born with me from the distant spheres
A tragicomic song for mental ears.