The news from my sister was not good. Funny how the sun can shine on a crap day, or a day of mixed tidings. I retired for a nap not at all confident that things were peachy for my family, then had dreams about my late parents. Before that, I thought maybe I ought to visit church again this Sunday, because this will be the only family left to me when my siblings are gone.
I’m not sure why I picked Keats to read this afternoon, and I saw that scholars disagree on whether he took transcendence seriously: Stillinger says he does, while Bromwich takes the contrary view that this world is good enough for Keats. What a strange disagreement. I don’t know who has the stronger case, but I tend to favor Jack Stillinger’s opinion only because I learned it in school long ago. I put aside the introduction and began reading Endymion again to let the poetry speak for itself. I got as far as his sister leading him away to a bower to fall asleep in after the worship ritual to the forest god Pan. I remember that Diana appears to him and they make love: so how can this not be transcendence? It’s the same issue as happens in “Nightingale.” Already with thee! tender is the night… Does poetry have the power to unify us with the Ideal? If Keats didn’t believe so, then Baudelaire and Mallarme wouldn’t have taken up the concern. Then what is Romanticism really about? Maybe it’s an American foible to take everything literally, even matters of spirituality. It’s hard to tell from an armchair.
We’ve been to Bi Mart and also gotten breakfast across Silver Lane from it. They were selling televisions for around $200. If I wanted to pay a cable bill each month then I’d probably consider it. It seems like a good way to kill time when that’s all you want to do. On the other hand, it’s just pollution for your mind. Some people say you have no control over what you see when you watch tv, and it’s a passive activity— not like reading a book. My main objection to it is the incredible noise it makes, and my dog would hate it as well. So I guess I’m not buying one… I saw Judi at Bi Mart and the cashier was familiar but I don’t know her name. I got dog food, PineSol, and tall kitchen bags with yellow drawstrings: $26 all together. Again today it’s sunny and the sky is a rich cerulean. I’ll probably go to church tomorrow morning. Gloria is working very hard at the vacuuming. I’m quite lucky that the PCA process has worked out for me. A lot of people who tried don’t get the service that I’ve gotten.
I never did go to the corner store this morning because of doing too much caffeine yesterday. There’s still plenty of time to go there if I want to later.
And then, I took a nap and had the most beautiful dream of a gorgeous brunette, kind of like Misty, who kissed me. This dream was like something from a literary work by Goethe or Joyce, where the focus is on passion and romantic love. After that I got up and walked back into the very unromantic world of streets and sidewalks, yet with the gossamer dream still clinging to me to dazzle the view around me like a trillion diamonds.
Five o’clock evening.
The most poetic thing I observed today was a mourning dove perched atop a power pole outside Randy’s car lot: I stopped to look and it flew away, like the 59 wild swans in the Yeats lyric. Not that the lot of salvaged wrecks was at all poetic, but the fugitive dove graced the scene by its presence, similar to a fabulous bird in a ballet. There and gone in a twinkling to its sublime immaculate abode. This event kind of set the tone for the remainder of my day. I pondered the place of poetry in a realistic world, one that had lost its enchantment and lapsed from the Garden. Yet the Garden is only available to the imagination and sustained through poetic language. The squirrel on the magnolia limb knows a secret that he doesn’t impart. Nor does the spray of stars in the Milky Way at midnight. But perhaps with a taste of the white snake like the one in Grimm’s, all revelation is ours. I can almost decipher the cooing of the dove just now.
The most poetic thing I observed today was a mourning dove perched atop a power pole outside Randy’s car lot: I stopped to look and it flew away, like the 59 wild swans in the Yeats lyric. Not that the yard of salvaged wrecks was at all poetic, but the fugitive dove graced the scene by its presence, similar to a fabulous bird in a ballet. There and gone in a twinkling to its immaculate sublime. This event kind of set the tone for the remainder of my day. I pondered the place of poetry in a realistic world, one that had lost its enchantment and lapsed from the Garden. Yet Eden is only available to the imagination and sustained through poetic language… The squirrel on the magnolia limb knows a secret that he doesn’t impart. Nor does the astral spray of the Milky Way at midnight. But perhaps with a taste of the white snake like the one in Grimm’s, all revelation is ours. I can nearly decipher the coo of the dove just now.
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.
Michelle wished me an awesome day today as I was on my way out the door. Every day has a different quality to it. I just feel lucky to be above ground sometimes. It’s cloudy now after raining all night off and on. It’d be so nice to get my pleasure thermometer on the positive side rather than just managing my pains, but it’s also about the pleasure of others. So I would urge people to enjoy life while they are still young and capable of having a good time. And don’t defer happiness to an afterlife that probably doesn’t exist. “This is not a dress rehearsal.” I have an appointment with my med prescriber this morning, a guy named Todd. It could be a fun trip if the taxi goes through town instead of on the highways. I try to get a little enthusiastic for Halloween, but today is not the day. I’m tired and feeling like a grumpy old man. I need a shot of the elixir of life, if there is such a thing, a draft from the Fountain of Youth. As it is, I can cheer on the young people who still have a chance at fulfilling their dreams.
Nine o’clock. If the truth be known, I’d rather stay home than go to the agency. I’m a walking contradiction between individualism and religion. Last night I thought of Mallarme but I didn’t look at his poetry. My life needs some beauty when all around are ugliness and pain, like the sidewalk of the Maxwell slum. Occasionally I lift my eyes to the skyline to note the shape of the clouds and their colors: an opportunity to transcend. And when the moon brights in the west it’s like a call from far away.
Quarter of nine.
It would be so nice to roll back time ten years, to when I had a great European friend. I was very privileged to be with the enlightened people. But you know, all during that time I couldn’t stop drinking, even though it was killing me. My will was to maximize pleasure for myself, and also it was like being in heaven. I thought, Why not give myself what I want? The authenticity of this was all the rationale I needed to drink to oblivion and bliss. Now, I don’t know what keeps me sober; I just do it. Perhaps there’s a satisfaction in meeting the challenge of life with a clear head. Or maybe I’ve wanted to be sane for the whole time. Today I’ve come into my own while the world goes down the tubes, like the events of “A Descent into the Maelstrom.”
Quarter of ten. Sole survivor of a shipwreck… Well the weather is quite beautiful this morning, clemently cool. It is only human beings that can mess it up, but I won’t let them get me down. Aesop’s mood is pretty good today. Someone just fired up a lawn mower on my street. If my body doesn’t cooperate with me, then I might have to give up playing the bass guitar… So many snafus in everyday life; we wish for escape to an ideal place on the prismatic wings of a dream. What keeps us from flying there? Maybe it’s the call of duty, a responsibility to the world as it is. Strapped to the chair, we watch the series of images on a big screen. Or like Odysseus, we are bound to the mast so we can listen to the Sirens’ song. Contemporary life is crazy.
Quarter of eleven. Is it worth it to throw those magic beans out the window and see the colossal beanstalk sprout up to the sky? What will Jack find above the clouds: a palace with rich giants living inside? And a hen that lays eggs of gold…
One o’clock. Suddenly I remember how I used to be my mother’s hero. I could do no wrong, and she spoiled me with professional quality music gear. Times were more prosperous than now for everybody. I miss my old friends in the music trade. I also miss seeing my brother for our notorious trips to the Oregon Coast, where we guzzled beer and watched the breakers roll in. I miss the old Safeway store next to the Bi Mart on River Road… But it couldn’t endure forever, because even our time in heaven is a lease that expires. What goes up must come down… unless it’s a bird to fly away.
My trip to Country Club Road went pretty painlessly and it’s a beautiful morning, sunny and cool. After eleven today I want to play my turquoise Fender bass. I’ve left it bagged up ever since the crappy practice I had with the band last month…
Noon hour. Now I don’t have a reason to write about poetic transcendence of the kind in Keats’s work. What do I really believe, then? I think I’m just a realist. Even psychology turns me off sometimes for being implausible and unscientific. I don’t need anything for getting my landing gear off the ground and I don’t want to live in a dream. Maybe I should quit blogging, or change my focus to something different. My options are wide open for new things and ideas.
I remember something from the fall of 2013. My life was going downhill. In September my furnace crashed and I started using space heaters for warmth. I got energy assistance through my local utility company in October and took a few quizzes for additional credit to my bills. I attended two classes in energy efficiency, held in a church downtown. The instructor didn’t like me because I was an alcoholic and a bit of a jerk at the time. But throughout that autumn I only wanted to drink beer and listen to the Herb Alpert CD I’d ripped to my computer; plus I wanted to keep emailing with my friend in Scotland every night. I think the fall of 2013 was when the wheels began to drop off my apple cart. Funny I should remember that now; so maybe I actually do need a little boost from poetry and spiritual stuff? To be lifted on angels’ wings from the prosaic?
I saw the sun as I walked outside, a big crimson coin in the gray east. Masks are required again at the store as of yesterday. They posted two signs in the glass of the door. I got my new book of Keats in the mail today, making a stark contrast to the dirty reality of the neighborhood streets I am prisoner of. I’m considering going to Barnes & Noble someday soon to hang out for an hour and try to meet some people. A much more refreshing atmosphere than psychiatric rehab or church, replete with the scent of new books and new ideas. It would be an oasis in the intellectual desert everywhere else, at least I hope. All I can find around here are the butt ends and debris of Christianity, the dust of the sidewalk. The world is ready for something better than the old trash— or is everything recycled and repeated endlessly?… The air outside is amber or umber, a glowing orange like the atmosphere of Mars. People don’t notice it much, or they don’t say anything. And now it’s time to feed my dog.
Quarter of nine. I opened the mailer with the book inside: a little shopworn, from the printing of 2003. The book is not immaculate, but the verse it contains is. I don’t know; maybe I’m just a fool for trying to transcend a world of ashes and old Snapple bottles. Can the old be young again? What was it that Ponce de Leon was looking for? It seems to me that the whole world needs rebirth and renewal; a reveille… a Renaissance.
Quarter after eleven.
I just caught the headline on Google: starting Wednesday, mandatory face masks again by order of the governor. There’s no end in sight to the bad news stories, so what the world could really use is a dose of poetry. A vehicle to lift us up to the Sublime, the beautiful and true; to transport us to the spiritual universe.
We may take an image like snowflakes and flowers and compare them to the stars in order to transcend the mundane. We can create a living homunculus like an immaculate conception to be our guide to antiquity: in search of Helen of Troy, the most beautiful woman in the history of the world. The Ideal is ours for the claiming, for the shaping out of the clay of common day. Sandcastles in the air are waiting to be discovered by a new calculus; it only takes a little faith in human goodness. Put me atop the Tower of Babel to unzip the blue sky and see the fourth dimension. Amid the blast of voices in my ears, still nothing can impede my project of raising humanity to the celestial plane above the moon. Not only can it be done, it must.
Slept poorly again, but I thought of something quite important that I’d been missing: the experience of pleasure must outweigh my daily pain, or else life becomes onerous. At the store I need to get an anti inflammatory drug for my backache, which is worse now than ever before. And for fun I might buy a two liter of Coke to try to restore my spirits. Yesterday I longed to fly over the rainbow to escape from these unhappy times, this ride for which we’re all along. Everybody needs a diversion today, or as soon as possible. I might play my guitar later today, though it’s hard when nobody else wants to join me in having fun with music… There will be church tomorrow morning. I’m staying home because of the peer pressure and the denial of what the future will truly be. I guess I’ve grown a bit cynical of how organized religion operates, and I don’t want to make any more donations… I’m embarrassed to say that I had a hallucination last night. I heard the voice of a master of ceremonies somewhere nearby; I kept expecting a band to start playing. After twenty minutes the auditory illusion disappeared.
Eight forty. I bought the way overdue ibuprofen for my back pain and took one when I got home. The sun came out temporarily and now the sky is turning dark gray. The forecast calls for rain… Away from the clinical terminology, sometimes the experience of schizophrenia can be rather poetic. And to ponder the origins of the illusions is always baffling and mysterious. Even Descartes wondered if he could be deceived by an evil genius while writing his Meditations… Feeding the dog was difficult for me, and now the pain reliever makes me woozy. I want to escape with a good book for a while over the rainbow or through the looking glass to a better place than this. The trouble with escape is that you always have to come back. Often it’s with a hangover, depending on your method.
Another possibility: how do you tell the difference between real and fantasy?