Westsider, Rare

The woman I loved
Chances to have drifted nearby
From across country;
Alights on a section of the city
Typically distant to me
But I happen to be there in evening
And see her photo on my phone,
A few blocks away in person
But still (safely) states away in heart.
I still proudly disbelieve in fate
But feel the irony that twists my heart
With thoughts of how we’re linked
And in the future, published,
I envision a woman reading these words –
Not her, someone else
Who I imagine myself feigning to love,
Imagine her reading and feeling sorrow
Because she never loved me in return.

Tuning Peg

I always see someone I think I know
But it turns into a different face.
Tell me –
Who did I see?
Did the face really turn
Casting uncertain quantum waves
Like a soggy blanket over my feelings
On a cold night, rain-swept and infinitesimal?

If I see you in so many faces,
Can’t you learn to see me too –
Anguished and searching all those eyes
For a semblance of someone I used to know?
Memory is not even a feeling
But a memory of a state of feeling,
An aborted daughter in the womb of childhood pain
Cut from limb to limb
But somehow still living.

Which face goes where?
Who places them like guitar strings
In their proper slot in a floating bridge?
O Floating World, over-full
Tune me tightly, like a lover
Until I snap from rage
Then turn again
And let your face be the one that I place there
Threading you through a bridge
Gently pulling you up and down
Smoothing out you’re trembling,
Wrapped in soggy night terrors,
Lost to the turning of eyes.

Evening Avenue

On Evening Avenue, the streetlights are always half lit
A sunset always permeates the space between
The circlet of a girl’s silhouetted chin
And the primordial mess of her hair
And it usually reflects back to you at a sidelong glance
From the mother walking towards you
Or a refracted flash from a driver’s ed Taurus
Might momentarily blind you
As you walk the length of the evening from it’s birth
To the night at it’s end.

As you walk down an after-dinner way
Ask yourself again what made you come this way
Or why you unexplainably sat next to someone on the train
And heard him write the novel of his life
Though narrated, unreliably, in fits and starts
Ask why you sat that way, or came this way
Or what made you leave early, or come late.
After all, at the hour just before night
Any path you take can lead you to or from the leaving sun
And you’ve not forgotten why you didn’t know
How your left or your right might lead you
To a half-light momentary suburb-like glow –
Come here again tomorrow night
And every closing storefront,
Every ten-minute-late evening dinner date
Will change, and no colors will look the same.

No, you’ve not forgotten
And the reason why you wouldn’t know
Might be a girl in a distant low-rent salon
Or a high-rise forty-second floor flat
Filled with new uncertain friends
Grouped around an ancient text
Wringing out their hands and hearts
Ringing out the feedback from the line array
That broadcasts the bloated doubts
That brought them there –
Yes, the answer might be here
In amongst the shelves of these closed books
Waiting to be read
By a man like the man on the train
Who at least could speak his mind
Like reverberating sunday evening church refrains.

Yes, an evening road like this might lead to many places
But when you find yourself
Remaining, listless, by some bleak Victorian porch
Imagining all the past embraces
And faces filled with evening sundown grace
That must have lingered in that place
Recall slowly to yourself
The other evening faces passing
Crossing differently at different ways
And let your eyes become the lanterns of the porch
That led you, years ago, to a home where wringing hands
And ringing bells
Wrought the iron in your heart
That keeps you walking down the evening way.

Something Like a Manifesto, Age 24

The more silent the poet
the more poetry he speaks
and the more he speaks
the more he feels the need to speak
and can’t help but say more
and say more of the same things
in different ways, saying
“Do you hear? Am I understood?
I’ve said it well
but I’m a slave to saying it again.”
All critics who call this poet dilettante
fear what needs to be said most
and instead say what fear heeds least.
“Do you hear? Am I understood?
I’ve said it once,
I’m afraid of not saying it again.”
He fears the loss of words –
poets only fear the loss of passion,
and where words end, passion blooms.
There the poet’s fear falters
but the critic, wide eyed,
falls into the gaping mouth of poetry.

All poets are critics.
No word can withstand scrutiny
when juxtaposed against another
and only those words that say
the thing that most needs said
are said beneath po’s condescending glare.
Poetry is criticism actualized.
The actual is poetry.
Poetry is critical.

The scientist writes with a scalpel.
Precision magnifies the illusion of infinity
until the stars befriend quarks
and questions pass away
in the face of knowing.
“Do you hear? Am I understood?
I’ve said it once
and I’ll never say it again.”
The layman who calls the scientist pedant
fears the true nature of reality
and realizes only nature’s fear.
Many scientists are laymen.
The true scientist fears nothing.
Where nothingness ends, reality resumes,
the scientist is fully known
but the layman falls prey to science.

***

In this fight between doubt and faith,
in the small hours between giving up
and giving again, convinced of mere selfishness,
belief retains a hairline split –
irreconcilable isolation
adrift in laughing bitter digress,
a split between the fixed point
and the endless sea,
between the single word and the iliad
and the poet finally finds
he believes only what chills his spine,
while the scientist admits
to trusting only
in the poet’s post-mortem spine under scalpel
and both come to find
that neither possessed a spine all along
and only the critic and the layman,
the least of these
not many wise, not many nobly born,
not influential, but called,
these possess the spines
that cause the whole of humankind to walk,
to speak and not to speak,
and the poet’s tongue is finally stilled,
and the scientist finally free to dream.

Memory

You, like little ice picks, haltingly,

Oh my snowy one,

You break into my trajectory

And say, are you reality, or just symphony?

Oh, I don’t know.

 

Blue brittle vicegrips, brokenly

Chip my teeth away

And break them into potpourri

And the scene goes from alchemy into anarchy

Like anything else.

 

But your words play on my heart like piano keys

Left in concert halls,

Eternal unremembered melodies

That you play to me, as your legs move in harmony –

Oh, let me go.

 

And these, needless words made foolhardily

Just for artiface

Conceal the emptiness of memory

Badly made into allegory, or fake history

Oh, it’s enough.

Is This a Question?

Sometimes artists have to ask the question “why should I create?” And a lot of times, there is no reason. Then the question becomes “Why can’t I create?” or “Why do I hate what I’m creating?” There is some neurotic impulse to create that is not always legitimate or praiseworthy; by way of example, I rushed to open a new document to begin writing this down as it came to mind, partially because I thought it was worth writing, and partially because I was desperate to have something to say. Why am I desperate to have something to say? Because I’ve been struggling to find meaning in my thoughts, and I’m afraid of inextricable confusion and lack of inspiration. That’s to say nothing of the depression so many artists and thinkers experience on a regular basis, of which I’m very familiar. Actually, it’s to say quite a bit about that. Now I’m going to say quite a bit about other things.

Confusion comes from the build-up of ideas and mental notes that get no outlet. If any artists are like me, they know there’s a constant sifting process going on mentally that’s looking for information about important topics. Because it’s not a logical process (step 1, step 2, step 3), it becomes overwhelming, although if you’ve been doing it your whole life, your brain is probably fairly fit to perform these random tasks. Expressing thoughts is an athletic discipline that needs regular devotion, and too often I don’t submit myself to the process. How does a person write? I don’t mean how do you use a pen, I mean how does a person synthesize thought patterns into language that other people can interface with? My thoughts are so often incomplete sentences, or even worse, not even words or recognizable language, but only emotions, triggered memories and “gut instincts”. Then when I read back my writing to myself (subtling moving my lips, which I’m ashamed of, as it’s for some reason a stereotype about low intelligence; of course I’m also embarrassed that I’m ashamed about it) I often end up just enjoying the sensual feeling of the words in my mouth and don’t actually re-address the meaning behind the words. I do this when I read other people’s writing too. But even now, as I’m writing, sometimes quickly, sometimes haltingly, I feel that sense of release and catharsis that is so familiar, but that my own neurosis (or Satan) so often keeps me from welcoming in. Now as I read back over what I’ve written, I’m impressed by my own style, and now feel guilt about that. And it’s caused me to write the previous sentence in a less pleasing style.

So why do artists have these brains (the ones I just made example of with my own brain)? Do they really have different brains, or are these just typical brains? Does anyone really have any brains? Does anyone really have any balls? The answer to both is unequivocally yes (thankfully), but on a more serious note, how do we know that artists do think differently? I don’t have the discipline to become a psychologist or a sociologist, so how can I begin to understand what (if anything) makes me and my artistic peers different? Note that difference does not equate to any qualitative judgement. I’m merely trying to understand myself, and shed light on the process of trying to understand myself for the sake of other myself’s (not my other selves, but other people who consider themselves a “myself”).

Most of the data I reference in trying to figure this stuff out is experiential. I just know from all types of relationships I’ve had that there are people who are obviously very similar to me, and there are people who are not very similar to me, and there are people who seem like a completely different species than me (I mean this in the most endearing way possible). What complicates things is that I’ve known people involved in the arts, or who practice an artform, who seem nothing like myself. This presupposes that I’m an “artistic” type of person, which the MBTI Personality Type Indicator would attest to, but I need to be careful of not jumping to conclusions based on a test. (I’m talking about myself a lot here, but the idea is for you to project yourself unto what I’m writing, which I’m sure you’re doing). So, at any rate, I’ve known musicians who don’t seem very musical at all. What to make of them in this quest of understanding brains? What sorts of brains do they have? It seems a different sort of brains than my brains. Why do we both make music? Who’s better? Why am I so self-centered as to ask this question? Why does it matter who’s better? Is quality an illusion? If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, than quality is definitely an illusion, but since quality is obviously not an illusion, do any beholders really have eyes? Sometimes the answer would seem to be “no”.

But since most of us have eyes (and those who do not tend to see better anyway), what do we do with them? They’re connected to our brains after all. It seems as if people of different personalities do behold beauty in a similar way; even if I don’t have similar artistic taste as my not-very-artistic musician friend, we both have an attraction to music, and it would seem that beauty has something to do with our attraction. This person is able to beautifully play things the “right” way. He understands how to create out of what’s there. My constant struggle is to create out of what’s not there; to create spontaneously. Is there a clue here? Some brains seem designed for connecting random things into something coherent, and these people tend to create the trends (or to pour their draughts into the rivers of trend) that become the “what’s there” that other people re-create. In simpler terms, there are creators and there are replicators, and again, I am not speaking at all of quality here; there are no logical (ha!) grounds for differentiating qualitatively between different personality types or skill sets. Sadly though, it seems like everyone wants to be a creator and not a replicator, and the internet age has given everyone the tools to do this. Is this good, or is everyone just chasing dreams that aren’t theirs? How do I know it’s my dream? How could I be so audacious as to assume it is? At least I’m not alone in thinking so…

I originally asked the question “why should I create?” I asked it because I really wanted to know, and I was feeling discouraged about something I was trying to create. Isn’t this the classic moment creators always experience? How often does it happen? All the time. Are there any clues here about the answer? Yes. I should create because I’m a questioner. I didn’t even mean to use all of the question marks that I did in this essay. It seems that I’ve worked out the answer to my question by becoming conscious of how many questions I constantly ask. Maybe this is who creators are. Why should I create? Because I asked the question.

Catherine

Sea-bald claymore,

Your name, called sea

Be protector

Trajectory

 

I, mere sailor

For bail, fear-eye,

Try endlessly

She, dressed in sky:

 

Catherinest,

Jesting her path:

Math apart from

Sum-heart Sabbath,

 

She multiplies,

Plies ship hull scree –

Hell, she goes free.

She knows me well.

 

But stout hearts end,

Bend arts, out shut

Put faces, but

What essays trust?

 

Sea-bald claymore,

Your name, called she

Sea-edge Catherine

In tragedy.