Alpha Omega

On the architecture of hope.

You get this finite span of years; we have the bodies to prove it, and yet. There’s this persistent dream of forevers just beyond our knowing, held aloft as constant possibilities, and it is into these dreams that we forever pour devotions, as if there were no way to avoid a strong sense of something adjacent to these bodies, some transferable essence moving through us, across time and geography, language and species, a vastness that is in and not of us. How wildly clumsy we are in our attempts to name it, our dance the balletic gestures over cliffs of possibilities we can’t unsee, these reaching poses straining to catch what will not be grasped, washing over us most vividly as we leap towards our beginning and our ends, from rupture to renewal, and it’s hard not to wonder, which came first, creation or memory, or were these always entwined, in the dawns born of this substance ever stretching toward the ripe possibility in the amniotic bubble of the first word?

To Be Heard

It’s no longer necessary to burn the books that the tyrant would silence.

On this day in 1644, John Milton published Aeropagitica, a pamphlet decrying censorship. The following is assembled from ideas and phrases in this text, with an eye toward connecting to the current moment, where a chief concern seems to be censorship through noise, manifesting in ways that that are perhaps beyond what many writers of previous centuries might have imagined.

Let this be a certain testimony. When complaints are freely heard and deeply considered, then is civil liberty attained. 

Deliver us from tyranny, from superstition, and from flattery of idols, including ourselves––and from condemnation of the others we are unprepared still to recognize as ourselves, and from fashionable thinking and unthinking, from those superficial modes of sorting that deny what lives in those depths that frighten so many.

To silence grievance is to smother liberty. No covenant of fidelity can be kept with blind praise. Those upright in judgement know that right judgement is fluid and shared by others, including the unexpected strangers to a given land. Those who honor truth will hear them. Those who honor wisdom will welcome recognition of how it is to be practiced, a daily exercise and never a trophy to fix against a wall like the preserved carcass of a felled animal. 

Books are not dead things. Each contains a potency as active as the soul that delivered it. They may raise armies, yet consider this: to kill a man is to kill a reasonable creature. To kill a book is to kill reason itself. Revolutions of ages do not often recover the loss of truth, rejected. Beware the persecution of living labors.

It is less often the bad books that are silenced. Consider what a scholar celebrates today, those writings that were censored in their time. Also consider the silence of scholars and contemplatives. One might assume, by extension, that the starkest wisdom of our moment is also suppressed. 

The tyrants of our moment don’t need to burn books when they have noise enough to extinguish their voices. They don’t need to take what offends them from public view when they have abundant means already to keep people from reading. They need only propagate the mantras of the moment: speed, efficiency, and the idea that the only truth that matters comes in bullet points, easy to digest. If you paralyze the listening capacities of potential hearers, whomever would you need to silence?

Knots

A meditation on the ties that bind us.

In these moments of becoming, over time,

we passed our histories across tables and

channels and we followed crude maps.

Where to? Some knowing, we hoped

but would not say. We named instead 

our somewheres, each seeming distinct.

Maybe what pained us then was knowing

that none of us could arrive ––anywhere 

or ever––except with these others, strangers,

and each seeming bound to separate yesterdays

amid the crossing and re-crossing 

of inherited meanings intended with such

density of intention that we could hardly 

move anywhere before one or another

of our limbs were caught again in our own

nets and we were forever stopping to 

unknot. That was most of our trouble, 

then.

Grumbling over losses and expenditures

and the cost of the voyage, we could contrive 

no value except from what was

freely given. Eventually, we gave ourselves

up to the net, and it wrapped us in its ties

and we dropped our sails, and surrendered

to move by nothing but the current 

and whatever was binding us. What

was it? We hoped it knew us. We

waited and were silent, bound.

Sounds and Silence

To the rhythm of empty spaces, singing.

Assembled from phrases and images found in Stéphane Mallarmé’s “Crisis in Poetry,”as translated by Rosemary Lloyd.

***

One afternoon after another, in distressing bad weather, I follow the lights of a storm. Even the press needs twenty years to discover the news, and here it is: a crisis at hand, some trembling of the real. When a hero dies, the essence of their power roams after some new form. As the cycle goes, now it gleams and now it fades, waiting. 

Here is a code. Watch it, a force like gravity,

best understood by those bent on flight.

Give me pause with deliberate dissonance, 

a euphony fragmented with consent; 

the languishing gesture of a dream. Here is 

the belated eruption of a possibility

––for song, 

poetry’s compensation for the failure of language. 

Strange mystery, sing. Take the average words. Group them,

beneath the long gaze, then arrange in cushions of silence.

Now what? What is this, breathing? Music rejoins verse to form;

explosion of mystery, the pure work implies the disappearance 

of the poet through clash of words against their inequalities.

Come, illumination of reciprocal lights, a trial of fire on precious

stones. To every cry, its echo, and it’s the rhythm of the 

white spaces that sing when the poem is silenced, and the

dazzling abundance imposes itself. 

Marvel, then at the 

disappearance, 

the memory 

of named objects 

washed 

new.

Opposite the Eternal

On fleeting wonders.

An abundance of parachutes glow nightly in the dark waters

before the volcano. Open, close, open. Like the petals of a cherry blossom,

someone says, an invitation to remember

what is fleeting, the blooming magnificence of wild renewal,

before breeze fells them like blankets of snow.

***

Inspired by this article about the recent influx of luminescent jellyfish in Japan’s Yojirougahama waterway.

Flesh of the Empire

Listening in the wake of colonization by noise.

When they came for the silence of our sacred, the colonizers hid their weapons behind badges of efficiency. Speed! They said, by way of greeting, planting flags in the flesh of our flesh. Waking from sedation, we took them in, saying, Mine! rather than Out!  

After that, movement meant aggravating wounds. A body learns to stay, shouting, Here I am! Forget the still, small voice. We thought at first of walking to one another with the stories we wove, but the invaders caught our song on the wind, and blocked that, too––for a time, anyway. Trespass of the mind became a punishable offense.

Consider concrete and a moving substance, how it alters the path. The shape of a river changes. You get wind tunnels. The dammed river becomes a reservoir, its former trajectory a wasteland.  Then what?

The living will move. What this does to memory remains, as the saying goes, to be seen.

We looked and listened. Hands reached and bones breathed. There was a whisper beneath the gale, saying, Rise. No one was watching, and we heard.

The Elephant Listener

Sounds like throbbing.

Strange years: two zoos, one circus, five nations,

and these notebooks wrapped in towels when I left.

Back home, their presence recollected: through the 

rafters, the doorways, in bed. There are no indifferent

observers here, for water tastes always of the pipes.

Only a fool attempts to read their minds, and there

is no one here who has not tried.

***

With phrases from the preface of Katy Payne’s Silent Thunder.

Histories

Elegy for the erased.

Sure, it all seems impossible today, but remember. Once in our wandering we moved in search of a strange beast, something misplaced while we played in and out of schoolyards, a chimera of childhood heroes and the nightmares they would slay––next time, and again. And again.

Remember, forget. Here is the mystery, unsolved, and there, the legend, the remains buried beneath the statues of famous men. Once an ancient voyage, and the albatross, too. Imagine. What’s this one now, here? A gossamer dream, true fictions among make-believe facts. Look, we are looking.

Here, the old mine shaft. Who put that mirror there?

About Face

Veiling and unveiling.

Notice a center in the chaos, a face gathered in the netted folds.

You need a frame to hold it. To find the frame, first be hollow.

Wait in emptiness, then select materials. From? Where you are.

Notice the changing light: solid fluid, transparent form,

shapes like clouds, like smoke. Face them.

Notes:

Inspired by the artist Benjamin Shine’s series of face sculptures in tulle fabric, as described in this MyModernMet article I found this morning. 

Soul at Night

Considering the architecture of passage.

If, in the middle of these days, it’s time to leave, 

if we consider time a mid-point, holding histories, 

here is genesis, here an afterlife, and here

a map on fire.

Mineshaft, funnel, honeycombed monolith

buried in earth, nine rings of illuminated

heralds, the light blinds.

Next, a big freeze: saws, tridents, snakes.

Now the ghost-bodied eagle, the rule of

law, what recompense can follow?

Grip the talons, fingers in the sockets

of an ancient skull, soar. Hold it, this

reverence to bear other rays.