n. infantile pattern of suckle-swallow movement in which the tongue is placed between incisor teeth or between alveolar ridges during initial stage of swallowing (if persistent can lead to various dental abnormalities) v. [content removed due to Bush campaign to clean up the internet] n. act of nyah-nyah v. pursuing with relentless abandon the need to masticate and thrust the world into every bodily incarnation in order to transform it, via the act of salivation, into nutritive agency

Saturday, April 01, 2006

ramblings of a hinge

A lovely breach of time when a frightening creature—a griffin, or hippogriff, or dark clawed creature with shine—shared time and words, the two most precious stones, while curled up in flesh nearby.

Sometimes I think that chronology has it all wrong; the past is more like a creaky hinge that swings present and future into different angles that close and open on some vast undefined space. Without someone in my corner, I feel a bit like a layer of BBC News and a Narnia fawn stitched together with some extraordinarily old lies.
What is most true is poetic. What is most true is naked life. I can only attain this mode of seeing with the aid of poetic writing. I apply myself to ‘seeing’ the world nude, that is, almost to e-nu-merating the world, with the naked, obstinate, defenseless eye of my nearsightedness. And while looking very very closely, I copy. The world written nude is poetic. (Cixous, Rootprints, 3)
This morning I woke up a little sad, not sure I wanted to jump directly out of bed, but self-made espresso beats even the laziest of lazies. I got up and started the pot brewing, and as I looked out the window, I saw my landlord and his lover scraping up the leaves out under our sidewalk tree. He is the nicest of landlords that I’ve ever had, even going so far as to replace a bad refrigerator within a day of when we called him.

So I ran outside in order to give him our rent checks, thinking that if I was fast enough, my coffee would be steaming just as I came back. A sweet grin, an envelope handed over and I was running back in. I stopped to look at the pile of mail that had already found its way into the landing, and saw just the edges of a small manila envelope. I thought to myself: “That envelope is for you.” Then I was flying up the stairs to steam my coffee before it was too late, but halfway up, I wondered why I didn’t grab the envelope if I thought it might be for me. Strange sometimes when I have these little psychic realizations, because when I backtracked with certain knowledge, that piece of mail really was for me.

It was from my father, and I ripped it open knowing it to be another of his chapbooks.

I sat down after steaming my coffee, sitting next to my window, the window I love, and read the chapbook cover to cover, something I rarely can afford to do. The title was Pictures of the Dead and it’s the first of his chapbooks that Dad has dedicated to my sister and me. I was secretly pleased that he put her name first.

Inside, beside poems, were all these pictures of family, none of which (except for the cover), I have ever seen. My great grandfather and great grandmother, my grandfather who died when I was twelve, and a few of my grandmother who died before I was born. I was really startled to see how much my grandmother looked like my sister about the eyes, and somewhat around the face.

Somewhat odd, in all. I particularly liked these two pictures of my grandma; one in which she is standing on the running board of an old car with a tight little flapper hat with a sprig. The hat makes her head look minuscule and her nose enormous. And the one on the cover where she is wearing knickers and a hunting cap, with a rifle draped over her shoulder and a great big grin on her face. In that second picture, she is even standing a bit like me, but maybe that’s just my reading into the picture with a little bit of whimsy.

The poems in the chapbook were good, and I enjoyed reading them. Contemplations of nostalgia and growing old alone, solitary, a man without any easy peers. There was a poem that I guess was for me, although the latter lines confused me somewhat. My favorite was a bash on Billy Collins, and another one that made me giggle even though I rather like Faulkner:
"John Donne Reviews Faulkner"

‘Tis the concentration of poetrie
Makes it, though prose bee obnoxiovs
So poetrie more fo, by fimple uirtve
Of fvccincnesse, the banalitie
Of lengthie profe concealeth page-to-page,
The poet gets caught naked
At the fecond ftanza;
Yet vvielded in the hands of craftfmen
Two vvords must needs perform the vvork of eight
A dab of paint, a fvggeftiue ovtlyne vvill
Svffyce, if not fo, a vvoman’s beavtie myght
Plainlie best-reprefented bee, not by vvords
Botte anatomie: fliced, ordered, taxonimifed
In Latin, tomes vvith tranfparent ouerlays
Of organs vvill fvpplant pornografie
The circvitovs, uolvminovs inteftyne
So thvs difplayed mvft fvrelie bee as proofe
That more is better.
The middle-English always gets me, so I really don’t know what the poem is saying, and I think that it’s nonsense at some points, but I quite like the fact that he has John Donne write the word pornography into a review. Infantile, I’m sure, but it gets me.

Anyhow, it was a contemplative morning.
What is most true is poetic because it is not stopped-stoppable. All that is stopped, grasped, all that is subjugated, easily transmitted, easily picked up, all that comes under the word concept, which is to say all that is taken, caged, is less true. Has lost what is life itself, which is always in the process of seething, of emitting, of transmitting itself. (Cixous, Rootprints, 4)
I mentioned spring break before, and then erased it, and now I’m mentioning it again.

It was a really nice four days, particularly the day that b and I rented a car and took off for the north. A day intense and typical of the friendship- dating- something-in-between- connection- words- movement- everything that we have/had.

That day, we went and visited the beach up in Waukegan. The port there was completely empty, not a slip with a boat in it, but trains and trash for the plenty. b and I walked along the water, and then over a stream, where I found a cellphone with a smashed out frontispiece filled with mud. We then went over the train tracks, where a derelict building at a 65-degree slant was sitting, and underneath an overpass.

A pile of rocks and a burned out fireplace suggested a passing home, and bricks lined the entryway, as if some day in the past that place wasn’t an underpass, but a road worthy of bricks and a landing. I wanted to pry out the bricks and build some kind of garden path with them; they were the most beautiful things, deposited in the middle of a dusty road so empty that the tree branches hadn’t even been cleared for quite some time.

After this, we ran into an omen-ous dead seagull and it scared b, so we left.

how can I talk about it, that day, from here: wanderings, the dire bones of a supermarket, getting lost and lost again. I drove like I hadn’t driven a car in months and was lusting after wheel. I wanted to get away from Chicago, which I love but has been making me feel surrounded, like no matter where I go, there’s going to be a tall skyscraper with hundreds of people like me pouring out of its closed mouth. Living in a city is an exercise in closeness, everywhere you go, everything is about people. There is nothing else but people. Even the trees are about people. The grass, the flower beds, the water: people.

I’ve been missing Alaska, I think, the way you go outside and absolutely nothing is about people; it’s just about being in landscape, and everything out there is being, the folks who live there as well. We blend in, and move through the trees and shore and water and hills as best we can, but nothing is about us, so you have to get used to being small, and there’s something of a relief in being small, like you can’t get to thinking that the things that happen to you are bigger than a passing moment.

So, when I drove and drove away from Chicago, I think that’s what I was looking for. The sense of other. No buildings or anything.

b and I tried to find a state park, but it took us a long time and when we found it, it was all closed up for the winter. So we got in a fit of rage and parked the car in a lot that said “no parking,” and stepped over the gate that wanted to keep us out. Inside, we found an archery range, something I’ve never seen before. It had a tower and hale bales and swingy-moving targets. I found an arrow and we found a picnic table with a pile full of charcoal for us to trace our faces in.

A pitched human battle in leaves with no underbrush, swords hewn from the fallen limbs, we re-entered imagination and found Excelsior in our hands. I stood on a stump and leapt high to avoid the onslaught, wondering what would happen if I were whacked on the hand in earnest. Except that's not what it was. What it was happened to coincide with a pitched exploration of sexual incompatibility. When we trapped each other via sword point against a tree, it wasn't what either of us wanted.

Later, a beer in an old pub with a worn women Sharp and Not Beaten behind the bar. I liked her and the conversations of gossip that we were outsiders too. b got carded as a youngin’ after having it suggested that she drink a soda-pop. We played two games of pool and had a local say hello and ask b how she was doing, like he might pick her up and change his life if he just was friendly enough. Outside, it started to snow and the snow fell for two inches and then slowly for the rest of the night.

When we were done with near-Wisconsin, we drove along the outskirts of the park and found the place where the gates were actually open. It was getting dark, but I wanted to see what we had missed: fields cloaked in snow and deer abounding (enough so that I almost hit one on the highway). Yellow-grey grass up to my thighs, and tree limbs wilting through the sunset. When we rolled down the window, only the geese could be heard, and we parked in a lot with overturned boats nearby and rolled down the windows

and listened. for as long as we could. curled up next to each other, in the back of a rented car, it was so much silence. the snow drifting lazy, birds echoing in the forest, I thought about all the quietness I miss, like I could just sit and sit and never move again.

I guess things just aren’t meant to stay that way. Not for very long.
the tectonic plates of life
have come together
while she was in the loo
the world was closed
she goes home
& gets ten hours sleep
alone: in the morning
wakes still hopeful
though she knows the script
her part: unspoken monolog

(M. Kenyon, Pictures of the Dead)
I went to a conference the next day, to see my favorite teacher from my previous school—a nail-eating comp director who I have to disarm every time I see her. She comes from the composition side of schooling, and sees me as the whimsical artist who probably wants to challenge the extent of her creativity, which I’ve never seen as divided from my own. Teaching, as far as I see it, is as near poetry as a job ever gets, but each time I see dq, I have to convince her from my side of the fence that all writing is seeking, and most of the things we seek are intangible, so why see walls where no walls should land themselves.

Being that I am also a creator of walls, I do understand where she is coming from though. Enough so that I enjoy talking with her, and re-meeting her each time we speak.

Anyhow, I liked the lecture she gave… she is doing ethnographic research on teaching habits… looking at how often college instructors, both those educated in pedagogy and those never certified as teachers, radically redesign the classroom. Interestingly, her findings show that instructors rarely radically revamp things, but most often dedicate themselves to “incremental” perfecting, or adjusting bit by bit whatever they started with. Which means the starting point is important, no? dq is also comparing this process to the process of being a student, of writing, and that is a metaphor I find most ingenious and I think proves my point about walls better than I ever do.
Human beings are equipped for daily life, with its rites, with its closure, its commodities, its furniture. When an event arrives which evicts us from ourselves, we do not know how to ‘live.’ But we must. Thus we are launched into a space-time whose coordinates are all different from those we have always been accustomed to. In addition, these violent situations are always new. Always. At no moment can a previous bereavement serve as a model. It is, frightfully, all new: this is one of the most important experiences of our human histories. At times we are thrown into strangeness. This being abroad at home is what I call entredeux. Wars cause entredeux in the histories of countries. But the worst war is the war where the enemy is on the inside; where the enemy is the person I love the most in the world, is myself. (Cixous, Rootprints, 9-10)
We went to the casino too. Its bright lights, its strands: walkways without pause, a place where playing is the action of choice.

We listened to the music and I heard the choreography of a pre-symphony warm-up. Something about the syncopation made me feel blurry and weak, and I wondered how we ended up there, and whether looking these things in the face is something that we need to do.

I decided that the only way to approach description would be to make a map and write the story of each person in front of a machine, each person leaning in to the blackjack, pushing chips forward, exchanging them in. Trading something—time, I guess—for a hopeful world of I-don’t-know. I mean, if you are going to spend hours playing a game, I don’t see how you wouldn't want a creation at the end.

That’s the very thing I don’t understand. I don’t understand how people can do a single thing that doesn’t make. Is that the commodifier in me? I don’t know; it’s not like it has to be bought and sold, or utilitarian, but that it’s a result, something tangible at the end of the night, to wake from a dream and find something lasting, or decomposing, for all the endeavor.

I get scared, very scared, when I finish a moment and find nothing at the end.

But today, although it also makes me sad, I just think that I think that chronology has it all wrong; the past is more like a creaky hinge that swings present and future into different angles that close and open on some vast undefined space.
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