October 08, 2008

In Praise of Disorganized Minds

Let us begin, then, in the beginning,
attribute spin, then, to unspinning,
bright breathing freezing form to this unforming,
        breath into sound, sound into name
        Chaos or Kali or the primordial sea,
        then from names to stillness. Old Frost-Brow,
                pale death rumbling in his voice,
                        blowing over the surface of being
                chill fear, shaky thunder crouched in his voice
                        grows trembling comical, an old fool
whose jests turn sour with knowing,
        subject as we to King Decay…

Here is a trick of fools:
        that, by fortune graced, and in time placed
        at the happy silence between two unconnected events,
                they then claim that space as their own.
        Those who look on applaud, when they do,
        neither those events, nor that silence,
                but the measured stealth by which
                a practiced hand may intersect the two.
        A fool's greatness lies in waiting,
                in quiet watching of the turning seasons,
                patient attendance to winter's approaching,
                        then, with fumbling flourish, punctuating
                        autumn's last dark days
with one well-timed blast of breath,
                                shattering the waters' singular swell
                                into a thousand-crystalled shell
        and only at that precise moment,
                with each particle of this sea grown visible
                in shimmering six-sided crystal glory
                        do fools, in smug-deep silence,
                                claim winter's hand as their own.


             …claim…winter's hand…as their own…

I should probably explain.
You see, by now, I should already have invoked the muses.
You know. To be there. For moral support.
Sort of a cheerleading squad for poets...only they don't wear those little skirts
        or do the splits and let us see their knickers for a split second,
                and even if they did,
                        they'd probably be an enormous distraction from the main game…
I mean, who needs it, really?
Because overall, it's a pretty mousey conception of the muse, isn't it?
Bit domestic, really. So, okay, she uses big words,
        because, you know, you can't just call her, you have to invoke her.  
                But it's still you that's doing the invoking.
And what I'd really like to know is,
        am I the only one here who thinks this sounds like
                some of the silly games that go on around dating?
Because I keep imagining the muse
        acting like she's not listening for her telephone to ring,
                and there's her sisters, and they're saying,
                        "Come on, Thalia, if you really feel that way about him,
                                why don't you just pick up the phone and call?"
"Oh, no, I couldn't do that.  He's supposed to invoke me."
And you know, there are nine of them, right?
        Which sounds good in theory, but come on…nine women?  
                Excuse me-nine sisters?
Sounds a bit exhausting.
And each of them has her own specialty, right?
So before I invoke,
        I'm supposed to decide just exactly what kind of words I'd like to write…
Does anyone actually write like that?  
        Sitting there, thinking, hmm…I wonder if I should try for epic or lyric today..?
So all right, so I decide, and then I invoke the appropriate muse,
        and maybe she's a little bit moody,
                but when it comes right down to it, if I call, she comes, right?
Especially if I happen to be writing a poem about how gorgeous she is.  
So, think about this for a minute,
        because, you know, if this is the right formula for writing a poem people will listen to,
                then it all works something like this:
"Oh, honey? Musey? My favorite? Could you come here for a minute?  
        I'm thinking about writing something…"
"Oh, really? What about?"
"Umm…well…I was kinda hoping you might help me with that, actually…"
"Oh. Oh. I see. Well. I don't know.
        I mean, there are so many things to write about, really."
"Well, I did have one idea…"
"Oh really? And what was that?"
"Well, I thought I might try a play, you know.
        I had this one idea-I thought maybe…"
"Well, it's about this prince, you see? The prince of Denmark, actually, and…"
"DENMARK?  But it's so cold there!
        No…no…I don't think anyone would sit still for a play about Denmark."
"Yeah, I guess you're right. So, what should I write about, then?"
"Well…let's see…I know! You could write about me!"
Well, there's an original idea.
So okay, because if I'm gonna invoke the muse, I probably ought to listen to her, right?  
        So there I am, trying to write,
                about her,
                        and she comes in wearing a cheerleader skirt,
                                and she starts in with these cheers:

                        Rah! Rah! Rise!
                        Write about my eyes!

"Er...Your eyes are like...the deepest ocean...stretched to infinity…"

                        Rah! Rah! Reeze!
                        Write about my knees!

"Your knees?
Your knees are like...the pulsing waves? Come crashing over me?"

                        Rah! Rah! Ritz!

Oh, come on, now!
I mean, imagine having to shout over that.
Especially in a pub full of horny males on the make…I mean, look at me!
Like anything I'm gonna say is gonna keep your eyes off some girl's knickers.
If that's what it's all about, this isn't about beauty, it's about vanity
        -and what's worse, it's about the vanity of some girl I can't even see.
So, you know, if I start there,
if all my power comes from some muse I can't see,
if my whole aim is to capture her beauty,
        instead of setting it free,
to cage some abstract notion in physical reality,
then it's not a poem about beauty,
it's me bragging about being able to capture beauty.
Bragging about how beautiful my girl is, and how your girl doesn't stack up.
And what's so beautiful about being captured, even if it is only in words?
A cage…is a cage…is a cage
…and any muse that'd let me drag her into one ain't the one for me.

You wanna know who really rocks my boat?
The primordial sea.
Tough girls.  
Just try that invoking shit on them. They'll kick your ass.  
The point is, though, you don't need to invoke them, do you?
Because they're already there-
        in every cloud
thundering the returning of water to river,
                        in the lightning, searing the dying branch,
        in the branch burned liquid, penetrating,
                soil to soil--in the soil,
the remains of the dead
                                housing the roots of the living,
        in every dying thing
and in every seed
and in each seed life
and the ending of life,
in every trembling shoot,
every progress, each step the last step
through the last minute, never to be relived,
                        present, horrible glory,
                                sweet lady entropy,
        undividing the indivisible
                in which part and all and all in part
                        apprehend one instant's apprehension
--not fear, but knowing cast adrift
        on the terrible sea of the infinite
                in thrall struck dumb to the tumult
                        of all words wrecked upon the rocks of being,
        and all the high-minded, bellowing beasts
                stupified into stunned silence
                        by the passing of a single instant
and in that passing the loss of all sound save praise
        for now and now again-

                praise for that unreachable,
                praise for the ice-blue core of the flame,
                praise for beauty and praise for its terrible empty eyes,
                praise for our own end and our own beginning and
                praise for the presence of both, here, now,
                        in this house
                (praise this house)
                        at this hour
                (praise this hour)
                        with this being
                (praise this being)

—Gene Justice

Posted by dwaber at October 8, 2008 07:56 PM