October 25, 2005

Beginning of a Series.

I am currently working on a series of poems centered around two main characters, both conceived primarily in mythological terms (the skylark, and the lion; that is, the poet and the orphan, respectively). The project grew out of my growing fascination with the concept of the "untrue" poem or the poetic "lie." The idea of untruth intrigues me. The challenge I set before myself is to write poems I don't believe in. Yet to have them succeed as poems I am forced to develop a kind of complexity and intimacy of language and subject that transforms simple "lies" into themes and ideas that I cannot easily disagree with or dismiss. In a way, this is an exercise in confronting the shadow-self, though in this case the shadow is larger than a mere self--it becomes, in some ways, an entire shadow-culture, a shadow-reality. To what extent are we capable of imagining other ways of being? This is an important question both spiritually (in loving others and loving the Divine, for example) and politically, in resisting the "extermination of imagination" which accompanies ideology. In a sense, to imagine other ways of being--even in the context of a "lie"--is a question of freedom.

In what sense are we free, in our minds and in our lives? The following two poems, early pieces in the series, attempt to deal with this question of freedom. (Later poems will probably look at ideas of justice, mortality, love--all the major themes of art and the human condition. How can you escape them? What do you have to say that's worth saying if it isn't about this?)

To Her Son, Unconceived

Write your name
into the green acorn.
[Say: I have no father.]
Bury the hot pin
in the earth before the letters
of your name are dry.
This is how I will
conceive, my son.
[Say: My mother turns the gears
of coincidence.
[Say: My mother takes a lover,
wraps his seed in a white cloth
limp with her womb's lost
You must understand--I say
I love you to the water, and
the water is broken.
The moon is gone. Again,
you are pacing from cell to cell
in a corridor with no windows.
[Say: My mother is child-
less. She does not know me.
Wait until the acorn has gone
bronze and dead with time.
[Say: What of charm? Is there no one
not swayed by my wanting?
Swallow the acorn. Be born
of yourself, so that you, at least,
may be beyond all this willful turning.
[Say: I love you, to the water
and the water will not break.]
[Say: I am free.
I am, in this way, free.


Orphan : Genealogy

"I am free.
I am, in this way, free."

The year of my birth was the first year
the lions came, lapping at the font. Imagine
jowls, the heavy velvet sliding loosely back
and forth across jawbones, the sensual
clotting of wet mane framed by the sacred geometry
of the temple's slick tiles. The crowd
teetered together on their knees
all afternoon, locked in the upright sleep
of worship that prolonged the intensely
aching gaze, the rhythm of flight
beating in the cage of every throat.

Afterwards, no one could say
when the lions had entered the holy site,
or by which door they had gone again.
Even the most acquiescent would not
be swayed. The many witnesses could agree
only that the priestess, draped in her jade
and gold--poised, dripping sweat and baptismal
oil, just beyond the edge of the dais--
kept the infant quiet
those long hours and, when the lions
had passed, unraveled her veil
from his red fist to lay him, finally,
in the emptied marble basin.

"Many researchers believe that Bell's argument and Aspect's experiment establish convincingly that the observed correlations between widely separated particles cannot be explained by Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen reasoning--reasoning that attributes the correlations to nothing more surprising than the particles' having acquired definite, correlated properties when they were (previously) together. Others have sought to evade or lessen the stunning nonlocality conclusion to which this has led us."*

[notes on ideology:]

['power' -- 'monopoly
on the means of coercion' (?)]
[as in, we are at war :: as in, we are at liberty]

['demystification' -- contingent
upon access to knowledge]
[as in, the great golden beast is this catalyst--
we put on the skin, we prey
as in, we know ourselves qua prey]

['freedom of imagination' -- requires
within a given regime of 'power']
[as in, we cannot enter the ocean at the horizon]

[as in, we move our limbs against water
to make visible the sea we are swimming

I have drawn
the bath-
water over
the skin of a lion,
the steam and oil of its
pink mouth,
rough tongue. It lifts
its ears in the heat.
I rise, the pelt
tears open
with the weight
of this new body.
This is evaporation:
what falls back
to the water,
and what does not.
This is always happening.

* Greene, Brian. The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time and the Texture of Reality. Alfred A. Knopf Press (New York: 2004), p. 115.


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