Whitman

Quarter of nine at night.

Gloria called and canceled her workday tomorrow morning because a friend of hers is visiting and it’s her last day here tomorrow. So I said okay. The air quality was “unhealthy” in Eugene this afternoon and I could feel the difference in my well-being: my body ached and my head hurt so I needed to rest a while. They said it would rain Tuesday or Wednesday this week, which should help clean the air.

This afternoon I peeked into the book of Walt Whitman that came last Friday. It’s a selection that zeros in on the personal side of his poetry, but still I’ll go back for a closer look later. If he was gay, then I can see why he would swear off Christianity and sort of replace Jesus with himself in his cosmos. Bloom’s language isn’t totally lucid in critiquing Whitman’s poetry and his life, or else I’m dense as a reader; but I think I tend to be more obtuse and blunt, as well as direct and perceptive… Maybe I shouldn’t mess with the book, yet I’m quite curious to understand more about it. I’m reminded of the song by John Lennon with The Beatles, “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.” It would’ve been even harder for a guy in 1855 to be gay. How much of himself did a very great poet want to share with the world? It’s hard enough in 2022 in the more jerkwater places in this country to just be yourself. It’s worth thinking about. 

City Life

Quarter after seven.

The city installed a cable on N Park to monitor the speed of drivers nearby Randy’s lot. They ought to do that on Maxwell Road, where the limit is 35mph and people actually go 50mph or faster. I didn’t see the moon this morning, though I did the last two days. “Wake up in the morning with a good face / Stare at the moon all day / Lonely as a whisper on a star chase / Does anyone care anyway?” An old Queen song by Brian May. The world needs more beauty instead of the industrial ugliness I see around me every day. To witness something pretty, I have to raise my eyes to the blue and wish upon the moon or the morning star. But this is the curse of the suburbs. The psalm goes that the Lord is my shepherd and I shall not want. I ought to be content with my daily bread. And yet so much is still desired. When the reality isn’t very attractive, this is the time to make poetry and pull humanity out of the gutter. “…Some of us are looking at the stars.” Remember that you shall not live by bread alone, but the gospel we need is beauty.

“Look in thy heart and write.”

Parameters

Wee hours.

It still is 81 degrees in my hallway. But hopefully this is the last day of the heatwave. Yesterday I asked myself what good is reminiscing on things, other than that it makes you feel happy temporarily. Now I ask what’s wrong with that. I think a revival of the Renaissance is a great idea, after we solve our most pressing problems. Some people believe that the root of our situation is laziness, so we need to be industrious and diligent to fix it. But this wouldn’t help with our inhumanity. “Can’t we find the minds to lead us closer to the heart?” Nobody is a poet anymore. I should have gone to see Primus doing A Farewell to Kings last year. They came to a place near Portland to play the old Rush album in its entirety in August. Tribute bands are on the rise currently. This might be the way for me to go if I want to keep being a minstrel. The only problems are transportation and the drugs that musicians often use… Now it’s the same old question: church or no church this morning? There seems to be no other outlet for someone like me. My objection to it is the religion. There’s a drawback to everything, so you just pick the lesser evils as long as you have any choice at all. When those options are all gone, I guess you create your own options. But life is making it much harder to pull off. I wonder why that is? The parameters are shrinking a little more day by day until no one can be a real human being anymore. This is the course America is on. The concept of the individual is going away. I hear a breeze in my maple tree outside, and in my head, the last chord to a piece by Schoenberg done in 1909. Beauty in the dissonance.

I’m sick of church. 

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. 

The Answer Is “Yes”

Quarter of one in the afternoon.

Yesterday I went across the street to ask Roger for his help with my bass guitar again, since we did a rather incomplete job the first time. He smiled and agreed to work with me tomorrow at ten o’clock. It’s sort of a symbolic truce to my mind. Though he’s a Republican and I’m a Democrat, still we are civil to each other and achieve something together in the name of music, which shouldn’t have an ideology… The unseasonable rainy weather keeps on day after day, with showers that come and go. I suspect that when the sun shines again it’ll be like summer already, so there’s no hurry on that. Gloria was here and we did some tidying up around the house. In passing, she expressed her hope that the former president doesn’t run for office again, saying how rude he was and how insane— and she’s a Republican. A few lines from a Yes song come up. “A simple peace just can’t be found / Waste another day blasting all the lives away / I heard the thunder underground / Tunneling away at the very soul of man.” And later: “There, in the heart of millions / Seen as a godsend to us / There stands our future / There can be no denying / Simple as A B C D / There stand our children’s lives…” Is this too optimistic, or too utopian for people to grasp? Have we lost our faith in the power of poetry and song? It is said that two wrongs don’t make a right. When love is no longer the solution to our problems, then humanity is in deeper dudu than ever before. This demands that we go back to the drawing board and search not just our minds but our hearts. “It takes a loving heart to see and show / This love for our own ecology.”

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.

Alcohol

Eight thirty.

Inflation is very bad, so that I can hardly afford groceries every day. For a couple of reasons I’m cutting out the Snapple tea each day and just buying bare necessities. Right now it’s mostly sunny and nice, so how could anybody have a problem? I suppose I should read more than I write to be wiser. But the older you get, the more you become a fogy and resist new ideas. I often long for not just the past but for other countries; and of course I wish I could drink beer again and sample heaven as before. When you are sober, the world weighs on your shoulders as if you were Atlas. When you are drunk, the world rolls away and you don’t even care. I know I won’t do it anymore, but I still think we are too harsh on alcoholics in hospitals and other places. Carlos Williams made a little poem about a drunkard that was quite sympathetic with him. I don’t remember the ending to the one by Robinson, “Mr Flood’s Party,” or whether he had compassion or not. Does an alcoholic have to have a reason to drink? Whatever, I think it shows strength and courage to stay sober and deal with the challenges head on rather than try to make them go away.

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. 

Poem





Palisade

A fence encloses me

Formed of impaled skulls on wooden spears

Shoved in the mud in a circle around my feet;

I stand naked in the center

And the radius between me and each spear

Is about two yards.

My cage of refuge

Is located in a tiny clearing

In a huge hazardous rain forest,

A jungle swarming with unpredictable contingencies,

Random accidents of chance,

Crazy events involving both the living and dead.

Occasionally as I scan past the treetops

For a patch of azure sky,

A parrot or bird of paradise crosses overhead

And shits on my shoulder or hair;

The skulls grin at this subversively,

But mostly they provide faithful service.

These bodiless heads are scarecrows,

Except more like a four yard diameter pentagram

In their portentousness,

Warding away evil from the heights

Of their ten foot javelins.

In the mud at my bare feet

I have scratched a crude representation

Of extravagant female breasts

And one mantric word:

REASON.

6/27/1999 

From the Otherworld

I’ve just got up from an evening nap. Then I checked my emails: someone liked my post from last October titled “A Calling,” after two other people had since Friday. I frankly didn’t remember it, so I went back and read it again. Turns out it’s about transcendence and also the moon in the sky over the Maxwell overpass: rather a romantic observation, especially when the surrounding streets are in a fallen state of poverty and squalor, ashy gray barrenness like a human desert. Above all that, the moonlight calls from very far away as I trudge the sidewalk early in the morning, the spirit of Diana luring me on (although I didn’t say that in my post). And now I think not of Mallarme but of Keats’ Endymion, which describes a lover’s tryst of himself with the moon goddess. But this wasn’t in my post either. Maybe it was better without the allusion to Keats and Diana. The best part of it is the contrast between reality and the ideal that you can feel tugging at you like the moon’s magnetism causing the tides; still I’m embellishing what is only implicit. I should probably write another post on the same subject: maybe when the moon shows up above the overpass again in the clear sky like a smudge of white chalk against the blue blackboard, a little hazy and dreamlike, a fantasy of Vishnu, not quite real. Kind of like when I walked out of the market and it was virtually framed by an arc of rainbow 🌈 to either side of the doors and the whole building, like a blessing from God, a token, a benediction from a high place, and again, a vision in a dream.