First Knowing

What powers may be.

There is knowing before proof, before language––a well of strength,

and a voice. All humans are creatures first, and does the oriole argue

for song? Is the song her testament? No, the song is what she is

singing, because she is.

For us, of course, sensation is not enough. But it is a useful power,

this measure between chaos and the beginning of self. How tragic

it would be, has been, may still be––when knowing is limited to 

what can be readily explained.

Beyond what simply is, what is it that matters? This is not about

what is done, but how. Not ends but means. If there are no ends

but this, imagine the meaning of a life, this fullness.

Here is a power born of chaos and from it, music moves, and through

its force, a body may learn its dance. What songs are missed when

this is muted, what unimagined means, and into what might we

pass, from this dark hour?

***

Inspired by Audre Lorde’s “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power” published in Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. And birdsong.

Last Landscape

A choreography of separation and rebirth.

In exile, a body becomes the means for making truth, denied.

The artist’s body a surrogate, the absent and the dead shine through.

In this container of memory, the present is only fleeting:

bird, river, house. Drip, wind, birdsong.

Gather now, impossible communion.

Human form becomes arid field, then a river

running. Witness, can you remember 

the homes of your lives

and your deaths?

The body is the song,

the message, 

the map,

the only home

and the last stranger on earth.

***

Inspired by Last Landscape, choreographed by Josef Nadj, with music by Vladimir Tarasov. 

Firefly Watch

Air, bread, poetry.

Let defense of ideology be drowned by birdsong. Let feeling, dream, heredity project forward and out, free of realism, a hallucinatory language of hiccup and fumbling spasm, following these enigmas of moving points of light until they erupt from your watch, another sun giving way to the next, the seismic pulse of these collective lights.

***

Inspired by (and with phrases from) the (translated) work of Aimé Césaire, Martinician poet, playwright, educator, and politician born on this day in June 1913. He died in 2008.

Scaling the Hours

Experiments in measurement.

An experiment in time, the idea for breaking it at the hours. You can, if you are willing, do what most children won’t. You can carve them as one would with an animal at the harvest, follow the joints––or lumber, into pieces to be assembled again, one segment at a time, the collected tasks the bearings for the dizzy hand, some terms that a body less willing to invite the dizzy spins can hold. Only by these cuts can we arrive at the conclusion, so often remarked by the aging, about how short it is. A child knows that a while a moment may be short, a glide, a song––Again, again!     

    ––it may also be made of so much forever that it becomes impossible to tell a body’s beginning from its end.

First Flights

Tracing the texture of a dream.

Here is a book of time, someone told us, to translate a voice in the heart of the sky. It reminded us forward to the hour of the story inside the essence of the dream through which we flew to the beginning of the word on a current of makers.

Sighing creation, we ran, particles of ourselves in waves at the shore, piling sand into a world we could live in, and we admired the work of our hands until the tide took it back. 

We borrowed the insights of distant lightning to hold back the night, and with wet hands we peeled the dawn to eat it raw, dew dripping from our laughing chins.

The Memory Tower

For Leonora Carrington.

Everything happened after my birth, you said, as you left on the boat of the herons, a new Eve, refusing to be devoured as anybody’s muse. You had spells to cast, self-portraits as alchemy, your spine a hearing trumpet, listening between the worlds; mère, mer; now mother, now sea.

The solar systems of your eyes kindled by your own light, you rode the seventh horse away from the house of fear, passing through the stone door to the land where the serpents sing stories from the well to the pilgrims ascending the memory tower.

El Mundo Mágico de los Mayas, Leonora Carington

***

Inspired by the life and work of artist Leonora Carrington, with phrases borrowed from the titles of her paintings and stories, as well as her interviews. 

Reparations of a Body

Old woman, new art.

Past, present, future: body. It’s a reaching place, this blood house, this mother’s form––out, out, she paints balloon bodies bursting with anxieties of desire, washing together in tides of pink, crimson, vermillion. She paints the sound and the fury of the gaping mouth, wild eyes; body like a net, like a sac, flower petal breasts like octopus arms: reach.  

The images shock. The nerve, to dare production beyond her reproductive years. With a nod to decorum, might she not try creeping around the flesh?

Given her advanced age, wasn’t she supposed to have floated into something ethereal by now? Suffusions of light, passive serenity, reflections on a lake? Flowers would be appropriate. Ripe fruit, perhaps. 

With flamboyant irony, she rejects easy ripeness, preferring instead to quarrel with time, to paint within her bodies the unresolved contradictions of her still-becoming self.

I am about to find the past, she says. I feel it, she says.  I own it forever. 

Her mornings continue in this manner, her mourning still undone.

***

Inspired by Louise Bourgeois, whose life and works are of deep interest to me lately. This morning, I was reading Rosemary Betterton’s article, Louise Bourgeois, ageing, and maternal bodies, published in a 2009 issue of Feminist Review.

Reverb

Sound bodies.

Break in two directions, a fork in the tuner. Between the moment and knowing, this ear: feather, canal, chamber, drum, window. It sounds.

Like? The echo of a summons, an access, a mode, rooted in another rhythm.

––No, not another. Also, here. One sighs out sound through saxophone, another finds what already is, moving hands over strings, keys. Also, hear: wing against air, what enters and exits an alley, the joint between the next step and the road.

What mediates the muttering storm over a body but the tools it makes or finds? All that shatters can also pass: through a body’s channels, into some semblance of harbor–– to these ports of ear, skin, breath. To dig is to become bodily implicated in the soil, mind and mud continually passing through one another, folding into braided bars of birdsong and the cadence of calls back and forth between creatures in and out of doors.

Here is the universe in a time of rain, a song line from the crown to the roots, alive with noise.

***

Inspired by Mary Pinard’s article in Interdisciplinary Literary Studies: Alice Oswald, Voice(s) of the Poet-Gardener: Alice Oswald and the Poetry of Acoustic Encounter, particularly Pinard’s reference to Oswald’s “echo-poetics.” The italicized phrases above come from Oswald.  

Soundscapes

Dreaming with echolocation.

I am going with the divers. To immerse myself in their world, so to speak. The landscape: evanescent jellies over shadowy blue-green depths. Spider crabs over brown boulders. Sound bubbles murmuring like echoes of the lost continent. Muffled pings of distant sonar. Voices of the others, recording as I am now. 

We used to play a game in pools. We called it see if you can tell what I am saying. We’d face one another underwater through goggles and the speaker would shout-scream, making exaggerated facial movements. We would interrupt ourselves with eruptions of laughter, come up coughing, decide in unison: try again

Observations: submerged in this cylindrical ship, we become a collective cyborg. Once called the silent world, it becomes sonorous, an exercise in transduction. Transduce: to alter the physical nature of a signal; to convert variations in one medium into corresponding variations in another medium. Accoustemology: a sonic way of being.

It has been observed that in rural France, the circumference of a village could be defined by the reach of reverberating church bells. 

And what are we doing here? If vision is for surfaces, hearing is for the interior. I think we are all here waiting for the sounds of the bells we missed, that we might gain access to a village we haven’t yet imagined. 

We are listening. We hope that when we hear it, we will know.

***

Inspired by something I was wondering about last night, related to dreams and echolocation, which led me to Stefan Helmreich’s 2007 article in American Ethnologist, An Anthropologist Underwater: Immersive Soundscapes, Submarine Cyborgs, and Transductive Ethnography. I am intrigued by Helmreich’s idea for an anthropological take on the ecosystem within a submarine.

Muttering Thunder

Music lessons with the rake.

The poet likened gardening to an act of listening. Poets are known to do a lot with the old gardening metaphor, and she resisted this. Nothing was like a garden, not really. Not when you waited. Not when you took its music on its own terms. She called the rake a dew’s harp and her favorite instrument. The method for playing it meant finding what was already there, which is the opposite of working it into something else. 

***

Inspired by the work of Alice Oswald, particularly The Thunder Mutters: 101 Poems for The Planet.