A Joyful Noise

The transformation of silence.

How to speak, that what would live may live,

even if bruised. Even if misunderstood.

Death will come anyway, with its final

silence. Why rush its hand?

If fear is here anyway, let us use it. Your

silence will not protect you. There is

love here, even in war. And company,

in the refusal to swallow a tyranny 

of silence, the refusal to comply

in becoming the next casualty.

In becoming, may we live visibly

to speak, share, spread life

creative and continuing

in growth,

to find 

the others.

***

Inspired by Audre Lorde’s “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action” from Sister Outsider. Italicized phrases are Lorde’s. 

Stones

Questions of architecture.

Millions of tons of stone to house the faithful.

For some, this was enough of a reason to join.

Over three centuries of construction, here’s enough stone to make a mountain range.

Each could contain an entire town, plus pilgrims.

There was much to be purchased at church, from precious stones to hens.

You don’t complete construction unless the money flows, and most didn’t.

The purchase of pardons was lucrative, but only if the townspeople had purchased the right to grant indulgences. 

Where to find materials? You can start with the bodies of ancient towns.

The builders are cloaked in an aura of mystery, each part magician, part alchemist.

The poet, considering, asks, what is an architect?

One who makes plans.

Which raises the question, which ones go missing and when does this matter?

Which has more secrets––alchemy, or chemistry? 

Neither approaches the culinary arts. Consider the kitchen secrets of these builders.

How one stone differs from another, which mortar to make where. And when, and why.

Perhaps the builders had a secret code, perhaps they followed the intuitive logic of honeycombs.

See a Holy Land in any direction, each an adventure. Choose.

The poet considers, how can the sculptor of an angel’s smile use the same hand to shape cannonballs?

Some questions remain even after the plans are long gone.

***

Inspired while reading Zbigniew Herbert’s essay, “A Stone from the Cathedral” from Barbarian in the Garden(trans. Michael March). The above uses ideas and phrases from Herbert’s essay with no claim of translating original intent.

Nonlocality

Hello, strange stranger.

Acceptance is often useful, especially with regards to nature, except. What is may be easily mistaken for an essential state instead of the realization of someone else’s dream.

As a countermeasure, it can be useful to pay attention to the outsider in any given group, the outlier in any set of circumstances. Each may call into question certain assumptions about what is possible. A witness may be reminded, sometimes, back to what has been silenced as excess.

A witness may be reminded, through such attention, of their proximity to the border between knowns and unknowns––and, how invisible it often is. The effect is sometimes to highlight how insubstantial certain walls are. In a certain light, a solid-seeming curtain is transparent.

A search is often useful, when it comes to discovery, so long as regular attention is paid to some larger questions. Chief among these, who is asking?

***

I was inspired to this line of thinking while reading Linda Nochlin’s 1971 essay, “Why Have there Been No Great Women Artists?” 

Nighthawks

A tribute to Edward Hopper.

To show this felt presence, the undiscussed ghost, you let a part stand for some concrete whole, which stood in for the imagined whole we had once dreamed to approach, when the choir sang, Nearer. My God.

Consider your figure at a gas station, far from history, community, from any sense of connection to any other moment in time. There is no house, no other human being, not even a passing car in the frame. No trees live here, only this undefined scrub of the beyonds, leaning away. We can hardly see what he does.

Another, flanked by the shadows of buildings in a boomtown, far from any landscape, the hoe replaced by the rake. His action like a still, somehow the stuff of a life, but what is it?

Here is a particular American bleakness: the cold light, harsh angles, a mechanized blandness, a puritan stiffness of rigid self-containment, waxed fruit shining in a bowl, at the center of an empty room, beside the stylized body in space. We are far from her, and she is far from herself.

***

Inspired by (and with borrowed phrases from) Linda Nochlin’s description of the work of Edward Hopper in this article, “Edward Hopper and the Imagery of Alienation” (Art Journal, Summer 1981). Citing an observation by Brian O’Doherty, Nochlin highlights how “the alienation that viewers feel in Hopper’s pictures is not the simple alienation of human beings from each other, but of individuals from themselves.”

Automat. Edward Hopper, 1927

Among Shadows

Treading light.

As I look again 

for a light in the dark, 

let me remember 

how the quality 

of its glow

will shape what 

I can see. May I 

find one to teach 

me to bear 

examination, 

which also allows

for shadows 

to magnify 

some of the shapes 

I’ve been missing, 

that I may find 

language 

and architecture 

for what is barely 

here, to coax 

its becoming, 

feeling edges 

with slow hands,

careful not to break 

the fragile wing, 

for the response 

of some soft give,

breathing.

Little

Worlds within worlds.

If every universe is wrapped in curves, each around an imagined center, 

and attention is a magnifying glass, consider the patience required

to work in miniature, to fit an entire nature in a grain of sculpture

and how the dreamer can renew the small world simply by moving

the face.

Here, too, is all of it,

and here the entrance

and 

now

here.

***

With found phrases from Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space, Ch. 7 “miniature,” (section V., 159-163). 

Bodies in Space

Where we turned in wartime.

We became a constellation of bodies, orbiting the war.

which war? any war.

We saw one another as we saw its agents, half monsters,

half men.

                                    and the children.

We looked for patterns, traced the blood, and still we

could not see its inside.

                                    still, we asked

One another, what do you see?

                                    and sometimes said nothing

And sometimes we were a chorus of bodies in orbit,

                                    looking into ––

We were there, I saw the others looking through––

                                    it was so much

We could not take it in

                                    it held us to one another

Still, we turned.

***

Inspired by the art of Roberto Matta, especially Inside Outside.

After

What the falcon sees.

The poets arrived after the disaster. We learned to change colors for camouflage, as chameleons do. Sure, we were terrified, but we were also drawn to it, the gravity of this widening gyre––out, out. Where was the invisible falcon, the one who could no longer hear the old calls? These were creatures who could see what we couldn’t, and we wondered when they scanned the below of wherever they had flown to, in the unwinding beyond far from the center where we had once thought we knew ourselves––if they saw us in it.

***

Inspired while thinking about a concept in Samuel R. Delany’s “Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones” (which I couldn’t find online this morning so am including a link to the anthology where it appears) in the context of William Butler Yeats’ “The Second Coming.”

Fragilities

Considering emergent occasions.

Common practice refers to any “I” with consistency, but there is no monument here, only these constant aberrations. A body may be well one moment, wounded the next, then ill. Same for soul, spirit, mind, and whatever else we try attaching to this ongoing flux.

Also common, at least after a certain point, to wonder each morning, how now? Check pulse, blood pressure, eyes. Are the dark circles back? I remember the years I could not look because I knew. How cold, this seeming indifference. I was angry at her, for being so much less than solid. And possibly more, too; more than I wanted to imagine. I wasn’t myself, we commonly say, looking back on moments like this. And yet, I never asked, who are you? I never asked, how is your name? or what form shall we take, next?

We move more gently now. I check the pressure, coaxing encouragement. C’mon, I whisper, while I wait. Don’t let up. The translation might be a little prayer, some invocation to this small, quaking of tentative flesh and fluctuating fluids, to hold. We are still emerging.

***

Inspired while reading John Donne’s opening meditation in Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions (1624).

Tree Service

A life of devotion.

He sleeps at the edge of the nursery, spends his days in the shade of the mango tree. He keeps the planks for his future coffin nearby. Old friends, the tree will ask questions. They keep him up some nights.

He has brought her branch after branch, hundreds of varieties. She shows him how you may begin with the same seed and grow two very different fruits. Like children, he says.

This is a place of study, he says, for the mangoes of the world.

We are fleeting, he says, but the fruit is eternal. We eat and stay a little while, and then we leave.

I am no scientist, he says, just a servant of this tree.

***

Inspired by (and with borrowed phrases from) recent New York Times article (by Mujib Mashal and Hari Kumar) about Mango Man, also profiled here