Confession: for me the process involving humans crafting and innovating artifacts is (perhaps, nearly) as pleasurable and fascinating as the delight and enjoyment of the “accomplished” creation / artifact / best-of-my-ability result.
Today I plunged into a work I project for my future – a collection of poetic writings with a provisional cohesion designated by the titular nomenclature (Parenthesis) : Swarm. I am offering the beginnings, inchoate guesswork, anticipatory effort, languaging hoping to find some concretion or sense – in case others too are fascinated by the ways in which we humans find forms, structures, outlets, mediums for the expression of our experience.
Poetry depends on its realization to activate and actualize its purposes. I think that form and structure, metaphor and language rudiments all occur as potencies – possibilities, options, offerings – to both direct and elicit, open and enclose, what we are moved, determined, or curious to communicate.
Here lies (or rises) the inception of one of this year’s projects for me… for better or worse, I hope it provides instigation or inspiration in you concerning the prospects of concocting, explaining, depicting, describing, or mediating some forms of human experiencings of our living, our worlds.
(Parenthesis) : Swarm
(The blue was an empty sector of sky) :
before the ascending clamor of birds,
blackbirds, maybe. Or wrens, sparrows, the murther of crows
at which point : (monochrome)
(Soundless activities = black / white) : an argument of colors.
(White page. Blank. Emptiness. A void) : A chaos.
Sounds, ideas, emotions bum-rushing, flood-filling, desire-aching to mark up, cross out, cross-hatch, scribble-claim, create/destroy the unwanting, unwanted : (Blank page. White. Unlined. Refusing).
(White noise. A chaos. A filler) : (A Parenthesis) : A Swarm.
Rising up or rising down? Its violence, this freedom (this emptiness, bereavement) : this horde.
(If parenthesis sounds aside reflective calm) the lettered patterns are closing in, are pressing, encroaching (an erasured calm).
There are (Breath-gaps, Awareness) : while we survive.
I am telling you a simple story. A simple story of simple things and full of details. I will be telling it the rest of my life.
It takes time to develop the details, these simple stories. Bear with me.
This year I stopped smoking. I began “vaping” e-cigarettes on Father’s Day, a reciprocal gift from my family, ostensibly FOR my family: my health – their comfort and security.
I had thought of my habit as an addiction and pleasure – it’s satisfactions including (but not limited to) the occupation of my body and sense so my mind might generate more freely – an item in the hand and oral fixative, the beautiful tedium of packing and rolling, the scents of tobaccos and sweet crackling of flame to thin paper, the distinctive clink of a Zippo. And there was the intake – that onrush of Other-air against the back of the throat, the lung’s recognition that breath is substantial – has meaning and purpose. A matter of routine, comfort, psychophysiology and control. Among other things. Fine insofar as it goes. Pieces of detail. Replacement sufficed.
Last week I contracted a version of the flu [please be patient – the process goes roughly as follows: details accumulate but require time to coalesce and organize toward a meaning – our lives as cabinets of curiosities]. Out of character for me – this was the real deal – an incapacitating sick. Associated with it was the scent and flavor, the electric verve of the nicotine-drop-oils that crackle and pop when my ecig works its vaporous magic. Compounding the problem (if illness is a “problem” per se – perhaps more appropriately “discomfort”) – my comfort no good to me.
In early October, due to an oversight in my timing (hang on – gather ingredients, let them simmer and stew, the feast is ahead), I depleted my store of these essential oils without backup, amidst a time of unusual stress. As a stop-gap measure and to avoid hurt or offense (a grouchiness and malaise isolating those around me) I purchased a package of “all-natural” tobacco cigarettes to get me by until my liquids were refilled. The cigarette had changed – no, it was I who now found it insufficient and distasteful – acrid and smelly – inconvenient and inferior to my system. So I squirreled them away – in case of emergency.
Emergency! (well, hardly, but still): slowly recovering from flu, sore and exhausted, wife away on a ten-day journey to faraway climes, two naughty puppies causing trouble, and tending and taxiing four active, hungry children, one of them herself quite ill – at day two without nicotine (happy pill / support / community / God / alcohol / touch / solitude / nature / music / food – whatever one’s personal representation/manifestation of “comfort” might be)…details…
while my daughter lay napping, the others at school, in a moment of relative quiet…I ferreted out one of those “Natural American Cigarettes,” by now all dried up and crispy, months opened and old, and slipped out to the porch…
Except not, really.
Not a sudden revelation – but an accumulation of details taking particular shape.
Not an enlightenment – but light swollen and fractured to specific degrees.
Not momentous insight – but a lens crafted and ground, melted and curved to a singular clarity.
Bic schicks. A flame. A crackle. I inhale. Nothing special to the taste, nothing tremendous for throat or lung. Just a smoky draft of air – as from the belchings of a campfire in the mountains, or a compound conflagration of a family reunion bonfire in the late of night (but it isn’t!) when the kids are down and the adults unwind (but I’m not)…
A detail I’d overlooked about smoking (amassed over more than two decades – stay with me now) was precisely that. Looking things over. Smoking drove me outside and it stopped me. For the length of a cancer stick’s burn in this anti-smoking campaign of a culture, I would be isolated from friends and family, house or home, commerce or eatery, and would be situated somewhere where all there was to do was look over and listen. My hands and mouth, neck and torso occupied – eyes and ears thus freed, for a few minutes, to simply wander and attend. Caught by details.
a Jetstream, held in a pale sky, contrasted by solid starkly swaying Winter branches, juxtaposed with the sturdy steel of a streetlight. And the dirtying yellow of late Autumn’s surprise bloomings held in some final tangled stubborn greens among deceasing leaves and grasses. Cracking boards, peeling paints and muted hues of dust in sunlight’s shadows – a vibrant puppy, warm and dark – our lives – amassing details – collating and collecting.
[Cigarettes are unnecessary for this] (a mere detail).
When my wife/partner/spouse/friend/coworking companion and lover is away, a part of me gets excited – when the children are busy with school or their moms – it portends to offer me a kind of working solitude – a something I’m forever whining about – idealizing, anticipating, “requiring,” in its absence. A chance to be temporally isolated with my brain, my body, and language – to think (ostensibly) without limit, read or write to my little heart’s content, to create or conspire with no active consciousnesses to account for but mine – no schedules to sync, no dinners to heed, the only limitations my own (and those sweet blasted puppies – a significant detail!), but still: abnormally free to dig and delve, explore and enjoinder, experiment and invoke reveries without feeling selfish…
but, the details, amassed in this way, exposed something quite different…
Jetstream, streetlamp, sky and tree. Angle of roof, discolored paint, fragmenting light – the nature of materials.
I’m at a loss for what to search or explore, discover, uncover…from what vantage point or perspective? Me? – in relation to – Me? Set out from an entire illusive fabrication? An emptiness without basis?
A point as a map is a nowhere unless there’s something surrounding. Unless there’s another point…somewhere. Me pushing through (the details profess) is a movement nowhere, without reference to something or someone outside, different, Other.
My wife is my primary referent (and “wife” is too small, as grand as it is). My person, my artist, my human. The being attached to me – not really mine at all, but for her purposings toward me. Our children, our puppies, our things. Habitat. “Econiche.” World. What I “relate” to equals me, enables me, crafts me into someONE, someWHERE, doing someTHINGS…which otherwise would NOT be…
Co-dependence? Inter-dependence? I like IN. IN-dependence – in depending, attaching, choosing and evaluating ourselves in our Others – we ARE.
Jetstream, streetlamp, color and line
background, foreground, texture, time
space and matter, energy, form
The details accrue and accrue, and with time…combine, reformulate, convene – which can feel new and curious and true, but simply go on gathering more, detailing to no end, as they relate, interact, recombine – can feel revelatory, enlightening, even profound – perhaps they all are – but they all are and ongoing…
amass and revise, amass and renew, accumulation and attention, awareness and incremental adjustments of relation…
Without Life in Relation (both the active reality, and the her that makes, with me, an us), I have little where or whom to set out from or toward
I struggled this week, this picture, and the myriad of life going on…couldn’t seem to find a spark. But in the spirit of Friday Fictioneers, felt I oughta make a go of it. So here it is – and in accord, many thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for taking up the inspirational, curatorial mantle of keeping our practice alive!
Stomps back, livid grimaced flesh flushed, shouts, more of a gritty scrape of screed: “you never…anyway…I don’t know why I ever…” huffs, seethes, jolting in a kind of place.
Unseen, steely, weight of concrete in its rage, him, silent, back there, unmoving. Something trembles.
“To record the essence of a place, so that it can be inhabited by something outside itself, is to start a story. This means searching for a language, one that we know intuitively but cannot spell out.”
“The time has come to talk of whatever we want”
-Arkadii Dragomoshchenko, Xenia–
“the work drives beyond promise, craving and time”
-Louis Zukofsky, Prepositions–
Sometimes there were birds there. They passed through in groups, in swoops.
I’ve seen people there too, but not swooping or grouping. It just isn’t that kind of place.
It felt large and open yet cloistered, contained. There were large trees all around and throughout. Somehow it seemed level.
I don’t recall there being water, but I believe it staid nearby. As if it were ready for when it was needed.
I’ve no memory of critters or pets, cycles or frogs. Only birds that might swarm like the leaves filling trees as they swayed.
Oh my, but the blur! The soft focus in apprehending! It rocks and it waves, it flows through you while sitting, I say!
I wonder the eyelids of storms. I leap lying down. I silently sing out the shrieking of birds. I love in this place. As wild or as calm as is needed, a respondent surround.
When I’m here I try to tell you, by searching for words or the making of pictures. That don’t capture.
Have you wandered here before? To the essence of a place?
On a wonderful jaunt to our public library yesterday, my wife spotted a movie based on a mega-bestselling memoir that she’d been curious to see since its release a couple of years ago. We checked it out and viewed it last night in hopes of a light, relaxing fare to happy us toward slumber.
It was excruciating. My first reaction was – can a person’s biography truly resemble such a cliché’d American self-realization mythology? Basically a woman goes on a journey away from her responsibilities to others to “find” or “heal” herself, in the process (and apparently justifiably since it delivers her to a goal of peace, happiness, pleasure and love with a seasoning of spirituality) wrecking others’ lives and forgiving herself for it, ending in the arms of a handsome foreigner on a tropical island with some standard religious “truths” in tow.
Here are things I realized about myself:
I am suspicious of personal pleasure that causes others pain.
I am oh-so-glad and grateful that I grew up in a reserved Western culture with Continental philosophy and theologies at its roots. I much prefer battling to wisdom and calm through the frenetic and anxiety-ridden vertigo of a convoluted mind ferociously doubting and investigating than through some “be here now” philosophies of higher unities and cosmic accord. Rather interrogate now than “let go” and “let be.” I am attached to the workings of our brains and our languages, pestering perception and scrutinizing sense experience with imaginative and skeptical rationales.
I radically doubt “gurus,” “prayer,” “saviors,” and other spiritual or “wholistic” practices of “balance” that accomplish “goals.” Outcome-based anything feels totalitarian and programmatic and therefore facile to me, as if there were a form or behavior we might fit ourselves to that would lessen the struggle or suffering of “to be.”
The film’s story took a year’s time, replete with life-changing habits of mind and body and some claimed resultant growth. As if wisdom came from Apple or McDonald’s. The past was hardly processed, responsibilities released like thoughts during Zen, and no effort to apologize or repair any damage or hurts the main character had caused those close to her along the way (thank goodness no children were involved!).
It was the time-tested failure of the American Dream: do what you want to get yourself comfortable in your own skin (whatever beliefs, illusions and experiences that might seem to require) and everything will be alright in your world.
I simply don’t buy it. And I won’t. If we are socially constructed realities (and my point-of-view on the cosmos supports this) then final import is not in a self, but in a system. Not toward results but a how of processing. Not a personal calm or pleasantness but a social accord.
The film made me terrifically thankful for scrutiny and doubt, fervent self-questioning in light of surroundings, and the “wisdom of no escape.” It just goes on.