Saturday, November 22, 2008

Something in the Nature of a Box

Is it a gift or a casket? It is the gift if a casket: reader, bury your desires. It is a casket of a gift: beware the offerings of strangers, for all pleasure is a foretelling.

As the composer of this gift I have no perspective. I have a condition. My condition as of the moment is that of a man who recognizes that he has accomplished what he set out to do. It is neither good or bad, this accomplishment. I have written the poems in the manuscripts I needed to write. I have done my work. I have made it available. I have settled the contract. In that, I take pride. I am through. And I will move on.

And so, I place and arrange the boxes of my strophes in the boxes of my poems in the boxes of my books into the box which is detailed in the beginning to the end, from the depth of my experience to the height of my ambition. I present this box to you, the reader. May you be as successful in doing what you set out to do, and a good deal wiser than I in recognizing when you have finished your work.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Watchful in Times

I find myself on the verge of speech, then shy away, somehow fearful and afraid. I can't say why. I don't know why. It is not for lack of trust or content. Perhaps it is for lack of color.

So, I am working on a painting. I have been stuck on the initial image for a few weeks now. It is a paltry image. A burlap canvas crossed by separate horizontal, elongated patches of white gesso. Over two patches toward the bottom, I applied Phthalo Blue, then Phthalo Green to the other. Then I have a slash of yellow centered by a red swirl on a gesso patch up and to the right. All this will dry, then I will begin to actually paint.

So I am laying out my color, then I will begin to paint.

This process impacts the writing, but I can't say why or how. My personal world is very much up in the air, so perhaps my unconscious has seized on "color" as a vehicle for clarity and voice. I just can't say. Really though, this signification of color, sponsored by my ever-damnable consciousness, appears to have some pretty odd effects. For instance, I am drawn to a cherry red toy car at Target - for my son's sake, provisionally - but the car, the color, stays in my mind. I think to myself, I must have that toy car if I am to advance in my life. Just as I must execute this current painting, just so, or just as I must understand myself.

Even so, I am skeptical, seeing myself as middle-aged, grasping at odd objects and sensations as if to resurrect the impressionability of youth, when random occurrences were made to add up to something definite. Is that skepticism the key which will lead me to accepting a new relationship to the world, or should I follow my impressions?

I do not have an answer. For now, I lead myself to work even as fear the outcome. Perhaps what I am being led to by some better sense of myself than what I consciously accept, is a process and a completion which I can point to and rely on. I sometimes feel like I am one mistuned string away from a proper instrument, or that my pace is just out of kilter with those around me. So I go to readings, not reading myself of course, and I work as best I can in a mood of fearful watchfulness.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Civil in Poetry and in Marriage

Experience suggests that strong feelings right the craft, eventually. At that point, one may notice one has company in the form of friends that have sustained you, sometimes with nothing more than their friendship; and in the form of commitments in the nature of decisions and breakthroughs on issues that you had time for when you struggled to write.

So we are righted, and we look about not wanting to lose anyone or anything. We look back at what we did to put ourselves in peril, making mental notes, then to the sides and ahead, suggesting to ourselves, I must remember this.

I was very young as a writer when I saw how little poets could say for themselves that seemed to me to take part in what I saw of their poetry. Well, we throw ourselves ahead in our words, don't we, and can scarcely be held accountable for a hit or a miss, for an appointment gone awry. Even when I am right, I have to laugh at how little it matters in a world where my writing is of all the things the least significant, my goodness. But when the words come with the heart racing, pushing them forward, I am with strong friends then, some of whom are listened to and who do make a difference.

We travel together, my friends and I. We depend on each other to be civil to each other, to remain friends. We count on each other to do the best with what one has, on a given day, etc. We do not keep track, I don't think. But we watch each other closely, because watching means learning, and learning tends to be good for writers and their families.

There's not much writers ask for, other than the right to be themselves and with other writers. Their commitments are real and quite strong. In this vein, the writers I know are asking for some certain rights to be granted their friends, that they be allowed to marry in a civil union. We ask this because life is difficult enough without two people who love each other not being allowed to sign the contract of their love. We ask this because we are uncomfortable asking for our friends' support in a society that grants rights so negligently, that it allows one to vote, but cannot recognize the right to commitment.

The right to marriage may eventually be composed in an act or an amendment. I can't say, being largely uneducated on what the actual goals should be. But I do challenge myself here and now to make a difference, to put time into the change that must and will happen. I am not alone in being tired of the stratification that inhibits this society. We must support and free those who so willingly and I think magnanimously call us friends.