On the daily work of living.
There is an obscurity so obscure that it is no longer even dramatic. There is nothing unusual or heroic to celebrate in this way of being, because there is nothing to point to: no award, no arrival, no legacy. All of it is nothing, only ordinary work. And who doesn’t dream of freedom from this?
Except. If the people you love are in it, too, how will you continue to love them except by connection through this daily toil? The grind, my father calls it, and he is right. It grinds us from our husks, makes of our once-proud autonomies something else, something worth offering only because it is transformed.
This is what makes it possible to say here, take this bread. Dearly beloved, it is the body I surrender, for you.
The italicized opening line is from Thomas Merton’s essay “Renunciation,” in New Seeds of Contemplation.
There is an elsewhere here. It breathes in the margins of activity and swims among the vessels of the plans we forever work over––arranging the sails of this one and that one, checking our courses and whether the knots will hold. Elsewhere is indifferent to all of this, or else amused.
Elsewhere can’t hold the music she holds if she keeps the door open for every cacophony that presumes to invade. She thrives in forgotten spaces and in dreams that dissipate before we can fasten them to words. Her only allegiance is to the country of lost countries. There are no flags.
Without Elsewhere, there is no one here. How may anyone name this central element of a life after the moment of recognition that it is not yours at all, but something possessed entirely by some other out there, in that nowhereland between continents, beneath these vessels, behind these words and all things seen and named; arranged and rearranged?
But even this final recognition of futility offers no freedom from the impulse toward making the worlds we keep creating as offerings, tempting her unmaking, her not-naming music, her long-shadowed disappearance of all that seems.
Let’s bring music to the reading and dance.
Let’s bring something other than what is expected.
They expect words. Let’s give them something more
and catch some holy ghosts.
We can wear our painted masks and speak
in tongues. Pass it on, we will pass
ourselves below the lasers before
we begin. Sample that.
Overheard: Yes, but what can writing even do in a world? Or with one, for that matter?
Other than explain, it might make a likeness. Or dream a new one. Or transform.
Most of us have glimpsed the silvery back of something flickering beyond time and space, entering and exiting with continual unpredictability, why not the pen?
If the beginning was the word, where is the continuance, except here, in this ongoing fraught attempt to dream it forward, repair the torn fabric of the cosmos through which we slipped from something elemental into something else?
What else does one do, but stitch new wings for some eventual return, word by word, and keep a record in the meantime––of how we fall?
Anchoring breath to breath.
If time is the rhythm of a group, breathing, consider the befores an inhalation. When tomorrow comes, we will exhale; and again, and again.
How different this is than the model of the pointed arrow, to pierce the next flesh of its landing.
If time is the rhythm, it is now, an anchor point that moves nowhere, holding the beat of our breath.
Imagine a dream where the bed is pushed aside. The dreamer overflowing from it. Then the ladder. The steps we make. And remake. Who comes. And goes in what light. Who carries. And leaves what stones. Who finally. Whispers I am who. Understands the voice how. It is not outside but inside the dream.
When we were keepers of the universe
we would tickle its edges by the tips
of the fingers of our outstretched hands
and we would hold those hands out
as we spun with its edges tipping our
heads daring to be knocked back
until we were flat on our backs
laughing the sky beaming back
seemed to know us
and later we. were
not. so sure.
Care and feeding of language.
Here is an open space, breathing. Here a heartbeat. Look at the ears on this one, and this one here is loving the new bed. Let’s take them out.
Once upon a time, a dark castle, a long walk. But then what?
Some of us are fine spinning in suspension of once. Upon a dark walk. In a long castle, in time.
There are some who will leave language crumpled in the bottom of bags, forgotten in pockets, scattered on the floor like shed clothes no one thinks to pick up, and others who prefer to let it accumulate like a fine layer of dust in a locked room. There are those who would squeeze it like citrus fruits, extracting the last drop.
And then, there are the poets, treading lightly among the words with empty hands, making soft sounds as if to soothe them, touching their skins, petting them behind their ears. The words lean in, expose their bellies, their hearts.
Some ask to be broken, promising. There is more to know in the shattering. Some ask to be held close, restored, squeezed––not to extract what is freely given, but to know the pulsing fullness of all they carry, unsaid.
The artist paints volumes.
Because one might hold too much, you offered seven. Each is a chapter, you said, of the paintings. Here is a labyrinth for excavating memory. Here are objects of desire.
Is this nostalgia? One asked, regarding certain details. You thought this strange, considering how close they were to the moment at hand. But you conceded a sense of longing, not for a particular time, but for a past. It interested you to imagine the possibility of a sense of distance between now and what came before.
Where only the poetry of the future will do, you mean to make it out of memory. And what are memories, but what we make to hold and assemble, renew and forget, and what is the medium of the history of these futures at the precipice of this moment? I have not resolved it yet, you said, I am still looking.
Inspired by the work of Meleko Mokgosi.
There were resemblances, but none of us could say what they were, not even when we consulted the book of questions. It didn’t help that the answer key was on fire in a wastebasket.
Oh well, we said. There would be no imitations because there were no tricks to hold. The form was liquid and something in it breathed. Turning each page raised a question: what remains of the one before it?
There was no way to open the book without breaking, and there were none among us that were of a single piece, which was probably why we had so many songs for endings. We went to the desert to wait between the sky and sand with everything and nothing between us.