Wednesday, October 06, 2010

that unnaming that takes us

deeper into the truth of things.

cairn trees. piles of broken branches climb
up the dry hills to the sun. a rest day,
still feeling restless. the rocks, too tired
to move, to dare anything but lay in the sun,
still cannot sleep. warm sun on their sleepy backs.

a thousand place-names scatter through the mind.
none of them matter. does the dry gulch river
care if it's named. only the namers concern
themselves with naming: named things do not.
every blade of the green long-wavers knows what it is.

hearing the true names ring in the mind
in a cascade of syllables: a sudden choice.
defining the glossaries of being: that's another.
if the wild fierce-eyed hook-beaked flyer
comes to perch on your sill, offers you its name—

fly out back over the corn: bow in respect. the least
you can do. as young girls, still half-wild, step
out of the carved porches into the sun's forge,
brush their shoulders with shy fingertips, look off
into the hazed distance and, bow to the Hawk. give respect.

piles of bones. we wear wrapped clothing to hold
ourselves in: to keep from spilling out, flying apart.
Hawk, now named, shreds us. who are we but what
has eaten us, made us part of its bone and blood,
spat out the rest, left us pelleted and hollow?

who are we but what we eat? till we are eaten.
the fading hills wiped with bitter alluvial napkins.
topped with harder ridges, a spine of lizard-plates.
a single true name for every grain, mostly unspoken,
mostly unused: except by that single great voice

the heart of this light striking the sand.

Notes on the poem series:

Another poem from this new series from this past summer, albeit in a more fixed form. The title, as often happens, came last, not first. I rarely write to a title. Usually a title comes at the end of the process. Sometimes it's taken from the body of the poem.

Another invented form. I didn't plan it, but the title worked out being something that flows into the poem, as part of the poem, not a separate entity with a full stop between title and poem. Sometimes that full stop between title and poem is necessary, but in a poem like this it's a blockage rather than an assist. This is about flow.

I don't like to over-interpret, or over-analyze, or over-intellectualize a poem. Being a Taoist at heart, I tend to mistrust overly-intellectual interpretation of the arts anyway, since this tends to be all head and no heart. Words have limited usefulness at times. So I don't like to say what a poem of mine "means," thereby fixing it for all time. I like layers of meaning, so that the reader brings their own life's experience to the poem, and sometimes finds things in a poem I didn't know were there. That's a good kind of surprise.

So I'll say what this poem means to me, not what it means.

I pretty much lost the entire summer this year, to illness, to a flare-up or relapse that turned life-threatening and kept me housebound or in the hospital most the actual summer, followed by weeks of home retreat, and only an occasional voyage out into the world. I began this series of poems at the time I was close, it turns out in retrospect, to dying. I was only saved by several blood transfusions and a new treatment regimen of powerful IV drugs. I hesitate to say that things are going well now; and they are going better. I have a long way to go in my recovery.

These poems came out of life-threatening circumstances. I began a series of Elegies, which morphed into other poems in that long-line prose-poem form which I can only call Letters, and which also included some individual poems in other, invented forms, and a few Aubades in loose free verse.

Most of these poems are fairly long in length. I set an initial arbitrary length limitation to two pages in my handwritten journal, which is a large-format artist's sketchbook. But this can mean quite a few lines. Sometimes the poems have veered off in unexpected directions, surprising me. Sometimes they've been tighter and more focused, as this one is, in my opinion.

You should know by now never to completely trust the artist's opinions of his or her own work. We miss things, because we're immersed inside the work; and we also see things that no-one else does; and sometimes we don't talk about our own art very well. I'm inclined to say that not even those poets who are glib in their poems are to be trusted as equally glib in their comments about their poems. I usually see things in poems by others that they might acknowledge are there, even actively deny. And least trustworthy of all are those poets who over-intellectualize their poems and analyses alike.

This poem for me was about that mistrust in words, accompanied by my deep trust in things. it is early in the sequence of composition; there are several other feints early in this sequence that I'm still not sure are anything more than fragments, and may never be finished poems. Some will prove to grow with time, till they bear leaves and fruit, in time. Some will stay as fragments in the journal, and never be seen.

This poem was made in a quick flash, as most in this series were. That is to say, the writing itself was of a morning, but the poem itself spun inside me for days beforehand, before its writing. Most of the poems in this group are spaced apart by a few days. The pressure takes time to build up, before it spills out. One or two of these poems are unlike anything I've ever done before. A few seem like a culmination of a long-term contemplation of a particular thing or moment. A feint towards some permanent record of consciousness.

In this poem, some insight into unknowing, a kind of spiritual progress, an unnaming and a recognition that everything, as the wizards, has a hidden, true name. Once one encounters and knows that true name, one finds a deeper way of being, a deeper communion, a heart-level, body-level, spirit-level connection. Perhaps we are all one, indeed. Perhaps the one Name that is behind all other names is the true Name of the Creator.

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