Sunday, October 03, 2010

Sometimes When You Leap

Sometimes When You Leap

There's the bridge, and the water, and reflections of the lights
in the black water. There's the plummet. At the Golden Gate they say
that halfway down everyone discovers they still have something to live for,
and wish they could change their minds. I've thought about that, nights,
ass on the meditation cushion, wondering about who to phone.
There's the water pooling under the pear tree, rainy nights, a bare circle
of earth with roots like arteries falling towards the lawn.
No doubt if it. The earth is a solid facet. A troubling fact.
It's amazing what we can talk ourselves into, or out of. Belief is so
malleable, so subject to the will to deny. Whenever I drive Big Sur,
those hundred-foot cliffs plummeting from railing to waves, I wonder
who was going too fast, who missed the turn, broke the railing,
and yelled all the way down. Was it intentional? Sometimes
it seems like you want to believe that they all had a choice, to leap
or not, and that they chose wrong. But when your feet touch the railing
it doesn't feel like a choice. It feels inevitable. Be the cause of a deeper will.
Something driving you to do it. Calling it a choice seems so fucking logical.
But then you remember the dark nights, in the desert, getting colder
under that howling moon, and you hear the skitter of claws, all too close,
on the pea gravel under the scrub sage, and you remember that
you can't think your way out of things. No one who has survived the plummet
believes that rational answers had anything to do or say. If it's a choice,
you might as well choose to never get hurt, never get sick, never die.
But the choice isn't in our available hands.
There's a patch of shadow moving across the floor, as the sun moves.
Did I choose to put it there, or just to notice it? Did I make the sun?
Absurd. The gods hover around us in the dark, and we do our very best
to pretend they're not there. Sometimes the shadows are more alive than
sun, moon, stars. The lights in the sky are gods. We sing with their voices.
Sometimes you end up on the bridge, over the dark water. For awhile
it seems like flying, and for that little while, you're free.
Take wing, children. Pretend you've left the world behind. Be that freedom.
No one can take that away from you, no matter how short the plunge.
When you're drowning, go deeper, become a diver. Like those old
Cousteau documentaries when they rebreathed so far down into the trenches
they forget the sunlight, and there was nothing but the dark fall of dead flesh
falling like rain around you in the water. Floodlights only seeing so far. Sometimes it seems
like that, between sleeps, even up here, near the roof of heaven.
I spent a night camped near the bristlecone line, so high up, air so clear
it seemed I could just extend an arm and touch those stars. Did you feel that way,
or was it just the reflections of the night city skyline in the water? One night
in Chicago I scared myself thinking about the dark water lapping at the marina pier,
north of downtown, shadowed, alone. If you tripped, no one would find you there.
And those scratches of claws, a moonless predawn, on the desert hardpan.
If you rational fools think you've got it all figured it out, that everything's
some willful choice, something that could have been averted, you've suckled
your own lies. Denial is a force like riptides. But the dark water
reflecting the lights in the sky, the sound of scraping at the margins
of your window, the tick of a sudden heartsurge in the breast,
all of it moving past fear into silence.

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Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

Choice, free will, we think we have them, it’s important that we believe we have them, but I have made some pretty awful choices in my life – not to jump off the Golden Gate or any other bridge – but I’ve done things that no one has made me do that I knew were either wrong (or ill-advised at best) and I’ve wondered at the time what possessed me to decide to do what I found myself doing. I often feel I’m in competition with my body. It’s 7am just now. I’ve been awake since 4:20 when my body decided it wanted to pee and then decided it was hungry. That was not a part of the plan. So I peed and ate and Carrie woke up and here I am typing away when I should still be asleep. Yes, I chose to stay up but only because I wanted to capitalise on how clear-headed I am just now. I have no idea how long it will last.

I like the sentence, “When you're drowning, go deeper, become a diver.” Twenty-five years ago I started writing a series of poems that came to be known as ‘The Drowning Man Poems.’ The man in the poems is not literally drowning, he is drowning in emotions, and what I did in those poems was explore that condition. He was drowning but he never actually drowned. I think that’s one of the great things about being able to write. Because you can step off the Golden Gate Bridge in a poem or watch yourself drown over and over again.

1:07 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

I don't worry about anthropomorphizing things, especially in a poem, for a number of reasons: 1. it's probably unavoidable, but on the other hand what else is empathy based on but the connection between; 2. the poetic imagination allows one to step inside another's mind, and write about it. So it's not that big a leap from stepping inside another person's mind to some other species' mind; it just requires empathy and imagination. Therefore if people can be so different from each other as to seem alien, then the leap into the truly alien may not be much more. 3. And sometimes there's vision; I've written before about visionary experiences of being inside the mind a redwing blackbird, so I won't repeat that story here. Maybe it's just easier for some folks, for whatever reasons.

I've also written before about what I think is pretty much a universal truth, backed up by a lot of psychological study and experience:

People who don't know why they feel the way they do are under the spell of their emotions. They are possessed by their own feelings. They are not in control: they are being Controlled. They are wraith-driven: haunted: possessed.

That's the power of the subconscious mind, and the power of what Jung called the shadow. I think everyone experiences those moments of wondering what possessed them—and it's a good question. Edgar Allan Poe called it "the imp of the perverse," and opined that everyone experiences being taken over by that imp, at least once or twice in life.

Insomnia, on the other hand, often has physical causes. I've been fighting it all week, trying to figure out what's been causing. I still don't know, but I was able to get some good sleep last night. Tonight, who knows.

1:21 AM  

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