Wednesday, August 18, 2010

End of Days

End of Days

A hard day that begins well but ends badly has its own kind of alchemy.
The alchemy of an effortless morning soured by rage come sunset,
the broken toe launched against the screen, shouting
that scares off the usual pack of robins scrounging under the pear tree.
Round up the usual assumptions. Here's an annunciation,
if you must make a habit of them: bitter breaks
of rue, islands erupting, the end of the world. Not with
a bang but a margarita. Extra salt on the rim to indicate
the absence of an ocean of tears. Nothing on the moon now but litter.
Did you expect any better? Perhaps naively, we did. It's easier by far
to assume the worst of every encounter rather than supervise
what might have been the alchemy of redemption. Easier to be bad.
Easier to be hard-armed and eyed, in iron certainty to believe the worst
because the worst is easier to believe. Which is why ugliness is considered
more realistic than short-veined beauty, especially if it's a little
rusty around the edges. Rust running from the rivets. No such thing as perfect.
Far lovelier are things a little off, that don't quite fit,
that proudly reveal their asymmetrical irregularities.
The Japanese even have a word for beautiful unevenness.
I'm sorry now for kicking the screen out, no matter
how accidentally; sorry for yelling over its fall, and the busted toe
that bled and ached all night. A normal irrationality to yell
back at fickle gods with their tittering ho-hos and eff-yous.
The thousand little gods of Venice, encased in blown glass, covered with
green sea-wrack and saltpeter, make their homes in the junkyards
at the bottom of every canal. I don't know anymore how to
heal myself, heal this wasting tide. Nothing works on land. Collapsing
into a nap after putting the groceries away, a beached whale
on the sands of the couch, tired enough that you actually do
sleep a little. Just long enough. There's still daylight
although you'd be content to miss a day. In the aquarium
fish pee the water they just drank. The couched beach
seems safer, truer somehow, only slightly maybe, yet fresh and bright.
But that's because I just woke from a dream of talking dolphins.
We have no idea how much they laugh at us or how rude the bastards are.
Who pushed me back ashore? Who carried the stormswept ragged fisher boy
back to land after everyone else had drowned? Probably the dolphin playing bus
was lonely, wanted a lover, wanted to feel smooth skin on skin.
They're almost certainly smarter. Globular Japanese net floats
green glass pitted by wave action, wash onto the beach nearby.
Witch balls. Catch in them all these dangerous imaginings and
break them, dispersing the darker vintage and setting you loose.
If not free exactly then at least untied enough to pull
your own leg out of the trap. You don't have to gnaw it off
this time anyway, to limp away. Till next time it might heal.
Lopsided, scarred, walking funny, just barely limping along in truth,
I don't have the wit to escape the day. Maybe those whales
will bring us better dreamtimes tomorrow, emerging out of the beds
and shallows where they pulse, dreaming one hemisphere
at a time.

Another in this ongoing series of poems. I seem to be writing something every two or three days, at most, sometimes with longer gaps. Not every day, because I think it needs to build up some internal pressure, before the steam turns some obscure inner valve and the printer gets triggered in the back of the mind. I still don't know if these poems are any good. I don't need to know, of course. That will get sorted out later on, when, assuming survival, I look back over this period with a more objective gimlet eye and weed the grain from the chaff. That always has to come later. You never can tell, in the moment. Well, usually, anyway.

The creative process is not necessarily under your control. I don't believe in the Muse, that embodied temptress, but I do believe in inspiration, which is sometimes a response to a moment, an experience, a vision of something or other. I don't believe in poetry that is all mental. Poems written entirely from the head usually fail. Poetry is not a grammarian's thought-experiment. It's a quality found. There's sometimes more poetry in Hubble space telescope images than in several volumes of published poetry journals. The Universe is an amazing, beautiful, inspirational place.

Even when you felt like crap.

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Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

Not with / a bang but a margarita - I'm sure if Eliot were still alive he'd be kicking himself for missing that one.

I like the image of the fish peeing the water it's just drunk. I wrote a poem many years ago where I used a similar image of a worm - dirt outside, dirt inside.

3:39 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

People forget that pretty much the entire habitable surface of the planet has at one time or another passed through a worm's alimentary canal. Or maybe they don't want to know that. Personally, I find it illuminating.

10:04 AM  

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