Gut Reaction to Cummings

Quarter after one. I read thirty pages of the Cummings poetry. Some of it is great, and I see how it influenced me when I was around thirty years old. He often muses on the something of life and love versus the nothingness of death, and how could life spring from nothing? This problem is like that of Sartre, but I don’t know who had the idea first. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was Cummings. His thinking joins together Freud and Sartre but without being systematic. Still, it’s very complex, even convoluted, and always difficult to disentangle. I sometimes get the sense that love and death are identical from his poems, or at least one is inseparable from the other. He is full of paradoxes and double negatives that pull you in and force a feeling of disorientation, or maybe what Sartre calls “nausea.” Some readers may not find this very affirmative. And the equivocation does feel rather disturbing, even like Shakespeare’s Macbeth. We want the reassurance that things are what they are and not something else, not a fusion of opposites. Not a prevailing oxymoron. We want a yes, a positive and not a zero. But Cummings still makes fascinating reading. 

Halloween





The night of Walpurgis is coming soon,

All Hallows’ Eve upon a witch’s broom;

No action of the Grinch could stop it now

Nor Goodman Brown annul his wedding vow.

Deep in New England woods the sabbath calls

The autographs in cryptic bloody scrawls

Within the black book of dark forest man,

Excluding not one member of the clan.

And whether or not the legend is a hoax,

The Headless Horseman gallops through old oaks

To terrorize poor Ichabod and you

So everyone had better believe it, too.

Believe it to be safe, the rumor goes,

Or end up in a limbo no one knows. 

Rainbow Sherbet

Quarter after nine.

It’ll be Michelle at the store today, so I’m happy about that. The song in my head is “Speak Like a Child” by Jaco Pastorius, one I hadn’t thought of in a long time. I wonder what prompted it? I got my original copy of this album in the winter of 1989, but not sure where. Someplace Downtown or in the Valley River Center.

Ten thirty. I spoke with a handful of people while I was out just now. Kim gave me a piece of quiche, saying it was her first attempt at it with a crust. It tasted great to me, especially the peppers and ham. She told me a little more about her husband’s life. The first person I encountered was Colin, walking his dog Lolo up our street. We talked a bit about the postal service and receiving our ballots in the mail. At the store, Suk said hi, and Michelle assured me that there will be cottage cheese tomorrow. The weather is beautiful again today, the sunshine soft and orange. Part of me would love to glut my senses with some pleasure, as in the old days. But I have to settle for sunshine and poetry for my sources of beauty. I’ve also been invited to record with the church singers Saturday night, so maybe I’ll go and do that. It should be a colorful time to go see my friends in church. Color is what my life lacks, making it a T or F existence, logical and devoid of quality. It’s like food without flavor, no seasoning of any kind. There’s something to be said for taste in human life. I think most people would agree on the importance of color and harmony, like savoring a good rainbow sherbet. Or maybe a lyric poem by Wallace Stevens? The stark words in black and white belie the impression of a prismatic spray between the lines… 

A Pearl Sublime





I couldn’t sleep; a troubling vision works

A spell o’ my nerves: in the antique wood lurks

An elfin girl, the Pearl o’ The Scarlet Letter

Decked with wildflowers, standing in the sun,

And doubled by a pool, ambiguous one,

Not knowing for the bad or for the better.

Is she the emblem of original sin

Or rather purity? Equivocal grin

As she kissed the letter on her mother’s chest.

Artless and wild, the mannequin of Nature,

Distrustful of the church’s legislature,

A Pearl sublime by nothing is oppressed.

I tossed and turned and finally arose

To find the Hawthorne volume no one knows.

As soon as I had opened to the pages

Pertaining to the child, the spell was broken:

A mystery to occupy the sages.

Was it for nothing that I was awoken? 

What the Rain Said

The promised rain arrived tonight at last:
Rejoice and sing the rhythm of the rainfall,
Assuring us that everything’s all right,
Our trespasses forgiven as Nature sweet
Bathes all of us alike in equal grace.


If Nature of the godhead is the mask,
Then praise the Power invisible and true,
Sublime Supreme ineffable in prose,
Grand subject for the poet in the abstract.


The rain intensifies; the voice of God
Outside in blackest night is manifest
In simple feeling, nothing intricate
As logic splitting hairs, a blind man’s bluff.


And when the daylight dawns, I’ll go outside
And dust off my umbrella on the porch
Forgotten through the drought of longest summer
Now pierced, and pick my path into the day.


And as I walk, umbrella in my hand,
The drops of rain will beat a little cadence
Resolving in a mantra that will say
To always cultivate your intuition:
Imagination is the only way. 

Aqua Vitae





Mad scientist upon the witching hour

Toys with a demonstration of his power;

Outside, a bolt of lightning cracks the sky

In sympathy for enterprise too high

For a mere mortal man with which to meddle

Or maybe Nature has a score to settle.

From Florida, his spies have brought to him

A water sample from the Fount of Youth,

Elixir of everlasting life in truth

Once hidden in the Everglades so dim;

So now the madman reaches for the jar,

Unscrews the lid to relic from afar,

And from a package ordered through a book

Shakes in Sea Monkeys with a leering look. 

It Is a Time…





It is a time of contrariety

And even if you hold still like a tree,

Opposing tempests whip and scar your skin,

A hell and heaven smite you on the chin,

At war with one another and with you

If you display a color red or blue.

I often ponder on pedestrian tours

If I could quell the striving with a Coors

And thereby make the nation go away;

Yet anesthesia lasts for but a day

And then continued numbing would depend

On how far I could make my money spend.

In just another month the vote is done,

So maybe then again we’ll have some fun. 

De Anima

In early childhood once I asked my mom
The means by which a toy on wheels could go,
Particularly how could anything
Move of its own accord without a push.


My mother didn’t understand the question,
Stared at me quizzically as if I were
A dunce, and shrugged it off from that point on.


Long since I learned the answer on my own:
The sunlight energizes everything
From chlorophyll on up the food chain to
The works of humankind; but is there more?


My mom was in a rush: I had a date
To see the doctor, daring not be late.
My questions went unanswered for the day
But no distractions made them go away. 

Comfort

Eight o’clock.

The dense fog through my bedroom window was rather pretty to see just minutes ago. Aesop, my cattle dog, looked at me with love in his eyes. My mind still plays “Blue Motel Room” for some obscure reason; sometimes it morphs to “Cotton Avenue.” Right now is a lull time before Aesop’s breakfast. I slept well and my mind is clear. Yesterday the sun came out in mid afternoon, cheering the scene a bit. My red oak has been dropping leaves already, some of which are gold. Nature is a little confused, but she’s trying to repair herself and continue as usual. The hot east wind we had last month, fanning the wildfires, was like something released from hell… The Wordsworth I read yesterday was good but a bit heavy on the abstracts. Essentially he was saying he lived through the French Revolution and Robespierre had died. He faulted him with being an atheist, whereas those who supported the monarchy were religious and conservative. There’s one more section on France before The Prelude winds down and concludes. Then I may range through his other poems again… Hopefully my brain can synthesize some of this information into poetry of my own. But it takes more of an effort now than it used to. If life itself is an epic poem, then there are elements of sound and fury and complete hurly burly. Maybe an overall order presides in our lives, though often hard to see. Aesop doesn’t care, just so he gets his breakfast on time.

Quarter after ten. Karen fed me a double chocolate donut, but otherwise nothing special happened. She said Jean has come down with shingles. But life just goes on as normal, mostly. I feel lucky to be so comfortable at home, with a dog who’s mellowing over time. I content myself with little, and the little is enough. 

What Trucks Really Are

Quarter of nine.

Outside it’s gray and gloomy. Aesop needs canned food, so at nine o’clock I’ll go get some. I had a few awful nightmares, paranoid and alcoholic, and Mom was in them. I have to shake the dreams somehow.

Nine thirty five. I thought of freedom on my way to the store, and this lifted my mood. A sanitation truck was parked in front of the blue house on Fremont. Later I saw it outside of the espresso shack. The market was not very busy. I found slim pickings for dog food, so it’s probably time for another run to Grocery Outlet. Vicki’s headache still persists, going on two years. Maybe she doesn’t ask the right questions of her doctor… The songs in my head are a jumble I won’t describe. I’m of half a mind to finish reading The Prelude— finally. I don’t know if I agree with Wordsworth that reality is what we create by the activity of our minds. Naive realists say that this is just backwards; perception is passive, not active. But if Wordsworth is right, then are we able to build Jerusalem on our green and pleasant land? How strong are the imagination and the words we use?

Ten forty. I feel somewhat under the weather. I feel an impulse to transcend the mundane and touch heaven. This would be thinking with my heart, not my head. So that the garbage truck that just went by is really a blue and gray behemoth…