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. 

Nature Replaced

Quarter of noon. When I consider climate change, I think that the spiritual stuff makes no difference. All of our religious ideas are thrown into turmoil as we stand by and watch the fruition of scientists’ predictions over the past 40 years. What are we supposed to believe now? No one seems to know. As yet, there are no generalizations for us to steer by. I can only advise people not to have children, because life on Earth will be insupportable at some point, and before then, radically changed. It is pleasant to dwell on the past, on the era of arena rock, or to read books written centuries ago. It’s nice to reflect on times when there were butterflies and honeybees, and bird life abounding. But today is not the same, and tomorrow is imponderable. Still, now more than ever we need a bard for the future. Someone must come forward and do today what Whitman did 150 years ago. There are still stars to guide us, even if they turn out to be global position satellites. Maybe we can build a “machine messiah” to be the voice of reality, and maybe it will croak “nevermore” like the raven in Edgar Allan Poe. “Computerized clinic for superior cynics / Who dance to a synthetic band / In their own image their world is fashioned / No wonder they don’t understand.” 

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.

Utopian Effusions

Finally I perceive church as it really is, a place and time of worship, and now, worship makes no sense to me. What are we worshiping that we cannot see? And the communion, the ritual consumption of Jesus Christ. The whole ritual of a worship service seems hollow to me now. This is why I can’t participate in it anymore. Who’s going to pull the curtain aside and expose the Wizard of Oz? Are dogs allowed in church?… Vicious comments, I suppose. Pastor told me that my email to him hurt. I understand that and regret it a little. He thought about it for a long time and then suddenly showed up here last Thursday morning. I guess it’s really over for me with the church. Until now, I hadn’t been able to process my feelings about it. Am I just too smart for my own good? My mom and my brother have both been brilliant people. But you know, now that the end of the world seems to be a reality, does it make sense to divide people into the saved and the lost? How do we really feel about that now? Any one of us could be marked for hellfire according to scripture. I’d rather see the world continue through the pandemic, and human life with it. And together we can build our heaven right here on earth 🌍. Why not? We’ve fulfilled many of our other visions. You know we’ve got the power to pull it off, and yet we sabotage ourselves with petty greed and folly. Can’t we call together our greatest geniuses and put them to work on making the world a better place? Or do we have to stand by and watch it self destruct again and again? Are poets just fools, or instead should we start listening to them? I envision a great convention of poets and musicians and other sensitive artists with a heart ❤️ to lead us in the ultimate project of building a paradise for all the world’s citizens. It can be done. We shall do this in time or else all perish together.

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…

Control Again

Seven o’clock. I took a risk on Coca-Cola because I really wanted to drink beer or something else with alcohol. But I wonder why I picked now for a time to do this. I don’t feel very clever at this time. I feel disappointed in myself for being stupid. What was the stress that pushed me to do this? I shouldn’t be feeling any pressure at all, yet something has been bugging me since the heatwave hit us. Life seems out of control, or rather out of my own control, and maybe by drinking I believe that I could seize some power over events. At least, this is what makes sense to me. It used to be that drinking was one of the freedoms available to me, and by doing so I could assert my control over my life. In the face of everyone who said I mustn’t drink, I stubbornly persisted in doing it in order to be independent and free. Rebellion is absurd sometimes. We go to self destructive extremes in the name of freedom and power over our own lives. What is the contrary of rebellion— obedience? But what is it that we must obey? And this line of inquiry will lead me to Milton’s Paradise Lost. I never bothered to read the whole poem, but perhaps I should.

Faceless: a Letter

I can’t read people’s minds, and nobody seems to be communicating what they’re thinking; but after revisiting my email to you regarding the last time I was in church, I begin to suspect that my reaction to the sermon was significant. And Polly also believes in a biblical apocalypse. I just think it’s bizarre how no one is talking about it. WordPress is a ghost town lately. I feel a little like Prufrock right now, except my soul is probably marked for the same fate as Baudelaire’s. Prufrock was exasperated because people don’t say what they mean, or show their nerves in patterns on a screen. But does anyone out there feel the way I do? Should I be worried? If indeed I’m the only one who expresses the same feelings, then I find it very irksome.

What do you really think in your heart of hearts about eschatology? I’m interested to know, and with a growing sense of urgency. And why aren’t people talking about it? If anything, this should be a time for everyone to come together and solve our human problems— and move on to enjoy our lives as if the world has no end. Why aren’t we doing this? We scarcely make eye contact with each other in public, if there’s such a thing anymore… But no. Christianity is such a strange thing. There’s a song by Steppenwolf called “Rock Me” with this chorus:

I don’t know where we come from
I don’t know where we’re going to
But if all this should have a reason
We would be the last to know
So let’s just hope there is a promised land
Hang on till then the best that we can

I don’t know, Suzanne. I feel like stripping naked and going streaking in the streets. Maybe then somebody would react. We’re becoming inhuman, and someone has to do something.

Meanwhile I guess I’ll listen to my Steppenwolf music.