Monday, September 12, 2011

Smile on the Void

A certain lushness in the field of remembrance, before
everything else kicks in and you're brought back to ground.
It's been a long time since Europe called, with scent, sound,
and long summers. Land so long inhabited by humans
that it sometimes loses its own way; but all you have to do is
scrape down to the lime bedrock, the acid soil under the vineyard,
magnificent pink granites of those hills, and it returns
to its own character, its rhythms indifferent of ours. Its own
way and blessing. Today after months of inner gouging
I feel for the first time scraped over, the top bitumen
of scar and sacrifice backhoed loose, exposing the granite under.
Normally I'm unsentimental regolith: where did this filigree
patterned topsoil come from? How long has it been
accumulating in my valleys, behind my curves and waysides?
How long have I been being eroded?

Backlit at dawn, ultraviolet morning glories creep up the windowpane.
There's something tenacious about the riot of color promoted
by flower gardens as riotous as Monet painted in his tilled
back yard. Something permanent in spirit if never in fact.
Always growing, the way you have to grow into a life, cultivate it,
master your own tendency to over-monitor, over-weed.
Let it be a little wild, that's best. The letters I'm writing
these days don't have much more to say than, I'm still here.
That might suffice, as much as I want to write in the margins,
I've survived, yet I need contact, give me constant reminders I live.
Breeze stirs two arbors, one wrapped in vines exploding with
ultraviolet flowers, the other with pink-and-white. Behind the flower
there's a mysterious green force. Lorca said it: Only mystery
allows us to live, only mystery.
I cannot fathom this rich
floral bomb blast. I can only touch it, with eye, camera, memory,
while it never ceases exploding. Every day a different mystery.
I look through new glass at the world.

Under the house's foundations, soil slowly concretizes. It could
take me a million years to grow back what I lost. An eon
of grieving. Can you break free the stones in the dirt, fuse them
into a cemented mass, till they too find mountain streams
that will erode them? It all lies in those unfathomable shadows
under the seal, where sunlight never rows. Exposing the house
bedrock seems a blasphemy; although I constantly expose my own,
no, it's stripped away by time's bristled friction, faster than memory
can build calluses or scar over old wounds. Trace a line where flesh
has been erupted, blood seeping as slow as glowing molten rock
emerging at night from a shield volcano in the pelagic Pacific.
We conceal our hurts with florid lines like that. We use all our
verbal ecstasy to cover up one central frightener: it just hurts.
Agloom on Dover Beach, dodging between the legs of the ignorant army,
we weave a pattern into the sand that if we're lucky we can
memorize long enough to recreate in wool, or yarn, sewn squares.
Abolition and acknowledgment: coexisting cicatrice and cure.
Meanwhile the shadows lengthen on their own.

What salvages the summer from its long unavoided wasting
is the return of the year of the cicada. All night in the trees
surrounding the house, their long rise and fall of thrum, rasp,
and creak becomes a lullaby to soothe. This has been a peak year
for insect love. Walking at midnight under a moon trying to make
an imitation of a Japanese ink-case by flirting with cloud wisps
and the tree-line over the river, constant cicadas deafen.
In bed, later, window open, fan on, their clicks still dominate.
In the morning, a neighbor sweeps her driveway, an identical rasp.
Things fall silent when the thrum gets this loud. The noonday demon
emerges from chrysalis, climbs high, sonars. Inside this vast noise
there's an unquiet silence, an echo inside a cave, a whirled skirt of duende
inherent in van Gogh's crows over a wheatfield as the storm comes in.
Near the end, he stopped painting: the world became too vibrant,
an assault rather than a balm. Inside the summer he died, the summer
I too died, that insect hum fills all the world, while emptying it.
Beauty is only the beginning of terror, after all.
How do you back away from this constant re-emergence of void?
This morning I sense even inside the backlit flower a vast gap between
particles: even what we see as solid is more space than matter.
Light reflects off it, it seems determined whereas it's all just
indeterminate electron whorls, like van Gogh's skies, night or day.
You can see too much. The cicada rise and fall is the sound-call of
that very void, its own voice. I'm reminded perhaps too personally
of almost dying; then of actual dying. This reborn morning life
still uncertain, mapless, inexplicable, impossible to explore.
I'll wear a flower in my hair, attracting lifegiver bees, and hope
that's enough. Sing on, locust, sing.

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Blogger Elisabeth said...

I'm glad you're still here, Art and making such use of the horrors of your experience. This poem is powerful and intoxicating in its use of language.

You have such a fierce talent. I'm breathless and hollowed out a little with your pain, but uplifted by your grasp on beauty even in its most ugly forms.

7:30 PM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Thanks, Elisabeth. I set out this morning intoxicated by words I had read in a book of poems, having started off the day by reading in a couple of poetry books. But the poem itself veered towards the void awareness; I set out to be intoxicated, instead I ended up back seeing "the skull beneath the skin" again, a reflection on my own mortality. Again.

Thanks very much for your comments here. I really feel like I'm being heard! :) For me, that's a moderately rare feeling, so appreciated all the more.

12:01 AM  

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