Birth calls, growling tigers of the mind
Who, what, isn’t formed of scraps of all types?
Emily Dickinson died at fifty-five. Thich Nhat Hanh says because we believe we come from nothing and vanish into nothing,
we live with the fear of annihilation, of no
beginning and no end. So many years ago, at the (h)Ear Inn, Jackson Mac Low smiled a bent heart at Thich Nhat Hanh,
His reverberations in my poems, mine in his, his blanketing NYC.
“Who understands any of this?” “Jackson once said at The Project. Who understands any of this?” I hear it now, don’t you? The question that hovers over all language. Such a racket made by those who have passed.
The little gate flies open
You put your brown curls in a basket
That I carry along with my needles and yarn and pens
I miss the grasshopper
Sleep in the hair of the hills
The air dressed in white gowns. It is January, 1859. Martine
Will be born in one hundred years. She is asleep through this realm
though is elsewhere—the hinges: of doors, between states and friends,
cabinets of dreams, perennials, and architects’ pencils
I directed her to the cemetery to save her time, spare her expense
Laconic loons oceanic noons When Martine Bellen is born
She will have forgotten the kind and hallowed feeling of dying,
The fiction of pain and poetry,
Her unloaded, devoted gun, the fence and pinafore she wears to separate interstitial space
To separate herself from heavy and all-consuming air
Eight moons dressed the ruby black velvet night. Let’s talk about death and what it has to do with poetry. Some Martines might argue that they are unrelated (though what is unrelated?), that poetry proves more robust than death, doesn’t abide by its laws, resides outside of death’s realm, is blind to death’s fifty faces, that poetry alters with styles while death does not, that poetry is older than death itself, that death is more forgiving, inclusive than poetry, that poets don’t die, that death doesn’t sing
Apse of a church
Asp of the earth
Its membrane of the heart
Death poems, knells,
The spontaneity of koans
The formlessness of death
The stinking breathe of both
Everything can be a trap. Even the poem, even the koan, even death, even its opposite. Everything can be a treasury. It can’t be language if it’s translatable. If you transfer all the words of the poem (all the waves of an ocean) to other sounds (an alternate body of water) and the poem remains…
Grains of fine sand from the sieve…prose or poetry?
Identifying oneself as a poet might be like identifying oneself as a cat trainer or exotic dancer, not a door-to-door vacuum salesman. For instance, if you meet a handsome stranger at a bar and he asks you who you are, and you answer a cat trainer who dances exotically with a broom, he/she (the prosy one) will think you are toying with him. He will turn paler than light lilacs. His uncertainty will verge on poetry—he might no longer be one or the other. Like discarding roosters at night to avoid calamity. Like shaking your hand when you were so teeny there was hardly a stem holding up the flower. You might send him a scrapbook, a letter that’s a credo in disguise. You might hand him a flower, and he’ll break. He will avoid you the next time he sees you through the mirror over the bar, he will pretend you are not there, he will not believe you are you; he will be convinced you are a writer of fiction, a rewriter of form, a reformer. He will not realize he is a subject of a poem, that the poem mixes forms—human, plastic, organic, nonsentient—like the martini he drinks in a lady-shaped glass. It can’t be helped because of Shakespeare and his witches, because of Dickinson and her body of floating epistolary. Form is a hybrid in every situation/moment. He will look at himself through the mirror that frames the bar, and he will wonder if he is a translation of a poem that got mixed in with prose…
A mixologist of spirits. Though why isn’t one enough for some—look to Murasaki Shikibu, look to Emily Dickinson—look to spacetime, to Master Dogen’s Being-Time and ku-ku (space), look to John Cage…
Why is form empty, impermanent—why can’t poetry stay poetry and fiction stay prose!
If one thinks of spacetime as prose, what then is poetry? Timeless-spaceless. And mixed together? What happens to stymied space-time when poetry and prose mate?
On the hinge of life and death, though as alive as when he took his first breath, he recites his death poem (a poem of a novel?):
Takuan wrote 夢 before leaving. Dream. Only 夢.
Though some are traitors.
Velvalee Dickinson spied for Japan during World War II, using dolls to transport her messages. In encrypted letters, ostensibly about dolls, she’d send classified information—One of these three dolls is an old Fisherman with a net over this back another is an old woman of wood
In Spring and All, W.C.W writes: “The form of prose is the accuracy of its subject matter—how best to expose the multiform phases of the material”
“The form of poetry is related to the movements of the imagination revealed in words—or whatever it may be—”
In a letter, Emily wrote: A mutual plum is not a plum. W.C.W: so sweet and so cold
A confession to his wife of his thievery
Some writers are traitors and thieves. Audre Lorde said to me, “All poets are liars.”
Travel why to Nature, when she dwells with us.
Emily’s letters turned to poetry when she was leaving the quotidian, the situation (spacetime) when the butterfly hinge swings
She said, “Robins are my dolls”
Space skin or skin and space or skin space (skin milk)—the porous line where we permeate, how we become a traitor (Barbara says some of her poet friends eye her suspiciously for writing fiction). The question might be asked: When is language only poetry or only prose? When is form one or the other? The absolute and the relative. How to tame a bird.
“Like two arrow points that touch high in the sky”
Two days before the 108 gongs (the new year will begin—the old one ending, vanishing into nothingness…how can this be so?), rings of sound beginning their yearly migration, their helix of flight, their murmuration…
Look at this, and you’ll know what I mean. (Please mute sound. Listen to the poetry, the prose encircling you.)