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If all your structures break beneath you
Do you let them fall
For the sake of truth
Or do you still believe them all?

Do you rise from the rubble and rebuild
Frame by frame
For the sake of truth
Or do you lay down at night the same?

And who can judge, if you choose to build or rest?
On which side of your thinking
Does reality really lie?
In that night, does your conscious testify or lie?

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.

Illusioned/Illumined

Only a year out from college, I already recall the experience as something distant. The social environment is so wholly different than life after. Today, again in my favorite coffee shop (and noticing that the taste has improved since the ownership changed), I observed a social interaction perfectly commonplace in a college town like this. A young student came in and ordered coffee, and then proceeded to sheepishly ask the barista, “I have kind of a weird question…is it ok if I take your picture? It’s for a class. “Do I have to pose?” “No, not at all, I just need a shot of someone working.” “Of course.”

As much as I spent many of my college years despising the money-pit, bend-over nature of the education business, I do miss this strange alternate culture that higher education creates. Thankfully for now I’m still in the area and can observe it. This feeling almost harkens back to days of playing house in the backyard. Kids spend their childhoods imagining adult life, and imaginatively living out adult life the way a kid would if he were somehow an adult. And too, in college, we do the same. We’re truly on our own for the first time. The experience bears a strange, legitimate affinity with that childhood game. This is the first time the game is fully realized by the child. Truly alone and left to his own wits and untested adult sensibilities, the college student is free to roam in the adult world, still possessing some kind of illusioned, unconscious perception of this world. Classes dictate certain things, and a student finds himself asking that awkward question, and managing to navigate into a pleasant conversation with a stranger. Travel five miles away from this cultural petri dish, and you won’t find an interaction like this for months. I’m sure the 2-3 mile square radius of college kid mobility contains several of these interactions per day.

I wish I could remain in this state. I wish I could motivate myself strongly enough to continue my self-education in a way that gives me the courage to participate in this illusioned culture. Not because it is itself an illusion. The disillusionment of the illusion of the openness of the world hasn’t yet overcome these students. Education is still The Sword. Exploration and understanding and place and sex and beauty and friendship are still theirs to create. True, the devil is fighting here in this town, but so is The Counselor. The battle is everywhere, and here, at least, the openness of the world is almost illumined into reality. The sin may be greater, and the virtue not a match for it, but as Kierkegaard wants us to know, the opposite of sin is not virtue but faith. And in the midst of disbelief and doubt, faith truly does grow here. Like a weed it spreads through the sewers and forgotten catacombs underneath these crumbling walls, and breaths The Hallelujah into hopeless certainties and illusioned imaginations alike. Yes, the sin here is greater, and the faith too. Virtue grows where it may. It certainly does not grow in the lecture halls, though it thrives in the suburbs.

The clouds here are strung out like grey-blue squid tentacles. Or like behemoth branches miles above the city that mirror the permeating roots beneath it. The clouds change shape, and so does faith, so do the roots as they grow, as they are nourished or famished. An illumined reality will exist whether or not our faith in it remains constant. But somehow, faith is what brings it into being. For now I only get glimpses of it in the illusion of an educational microcosm. I didn’t know, and I don’t know…no, but we will.