Barns huddle over the horns
of cattle, whose dreams
the white hearts of winter.
In the shadows of thorns,
the farmers are without
Under the roots,
the warm slow sleepers
are not dreaming of us.
Their breaths pass into
the myths of animals.
All November fields are dark
passages into the earth.
What the owl flies into
we call night.
The moon is a windfall, a pear
weathering to the core.
The scarecrow is quiet;
a small wind lifts
his eyeless sack of a head.
When the Harvest God comes,
he wears a suit black
as parson's cloth.
His tongue is a brown leaf,
his sermon a mouthful of wheat.
What we leave in the fields
is his: misshapen pumpkins,
spotted apples, rotted beans.
Where the soft decay touches
the soil, mouths form,
then heads thick as clay,
bodies like corn shocks,
hands, fingers, legs, toes
like odd-sized gourds.
In the furrows of our beds,
we hear their clumping walk
and dream of weak breaths,
lungful of seeds.
They circle our houses,
tapping the windows,
their pale tongues
sprouting out to us
in our mutual darkness.
The Reality of Autumn
In my season as red as the red-breasted
woodpecker, I am the parts I fall from;
the urban accidents climbing from the ditch,
the years in reverse before the eclipse;
the voices crackling like pods,
too wary to break the glass wheels
of the mirror, dance with the cubistic
caravan, the teeter-totter benefactors.
As the incurables in the photographs fade
with the sun, the day withdraws, takes
the fire, what I built from scars,
the earth, the mythology of dream.
What does it matter that I am
the animal whose one pliant structure
dies a song? So I look for the birth
of myself once more in the eyes of a woman
whose seesaw gift is joy and pain.
To mold the dark to the dark.
The Dice Changer
Raven steals your name for an autumn joke:
buries you along with it under
the thickest hemlock known to chipmunks.
Too bad you were awake for the event.
He accuses you of asking all
the wrong questions over and over.
You attempt revolt to prove his medicine
wheel is cracked and filling up its own pit.
He hollers your face is unmasked and madness
has found a home. All stink and rotten fur,
he says to you, claims you had a choice
and forgot what it was. Now he says
your pain must run for the river,
the river for the wind.
He chuckles and the dark chatters, turning
you around until your shadow is the earth’s.
I’m trying to create an option for all
these doors in life. You’re inside
or out, outside or in. Of late, doors
have failed us more than the two-party system
or marriages comprising only one person.
We’ve been fooled into thousands of dualisms
which the Buddha says is a bad idea.
Nature has portals rather than doors.
There are two vast cottonwoods near a creek
and when I walk between them I shiver.
Winding through my field of seventy-seven
large white pine stumps from about 1903
I take various paths depending on spirit.
The sky is a door never closed to us.
The sun and moon aren’t doorknobs.
Dersu Uzala slept outside for forty-five years.
When he finally moved inside he died.
Antaeus magazine wanted me to write a piece for their issue about nature. I told them I couldn’t write about nature but that I’d write them a little piece about getting lost and all the profoundly good aspects of being lost—the immense fresh feeling of really being lost. I said there that my definition of magic in the human personality, in fiction and in poetry, is the ultimate level of attentiveness. Nearly everyone goes through life with the same potential perceptions and baggage, whether it’s marriage, children, education, or unhappy childhoods, whatever; and when I say attentiveness I don’t mean just to reality, but to what’s exponentially possible in reality..... This old Chippewa I know—he’s about seventy-five years old—said to me, “Did you know that there are people who don’t know that every tree is different from every other tree?” This amazed him. Or don’t know that a nation has a soul as well as a history, or that the ground has ghosts that stay in one area. All this is true, but why are people incapable of ascribing to the natural world the kind of mystery that they think they are somehow deserving of but have never reached? This attentiveness is your main tool in life, and in fiction, or else you’re going to be boring. As Rimbaud said, which I believed very much when I was nineteen and which now I’ve come back to, for our purposes as artists, everything we are taught is false—everything.
-- Jim Harrison
[via Paris Review, The Art of Fiction No. 104]
-- Jim Harrison
[via Paris Review, The Art of Fiction No. 104]
From the nightstand ( The Road Home ; Jim Harrison ):
It is easy to forget that in the main we die only seven times more slowly than our dogs. The simplicity of this law of proportions came to me early in life, growing up as I did so remotely that dogs were my closest childhood friends. It is for this reason I've always been a slow talker, though if my vocal cords had been otherwise constructed I may have done well at a growl or bark or howl at scented but unseen dangers beyond the light we think surrounds us, but more often enshrouds us.
From George Kalamaras, "Deceiving the Great Ear of Poetry: Notes toward a Formal Lecture on Hound Dog Poetics":
“for thirty years mere mist mere haze
mist haze sixty years eat Buddha shit die”
—Ikkyu, Crazy Cloud
A syllabic line of ten steady beats
Rhythm of a hound dog’s defecation
Hound dog’s deception, hound dog’s deception
“[As a poet I] hold the most archaic values on earth … the fertility of the soil, the magic of animals, the power-vision in solitude, the terrifying initiation and rebirth, the love and ecstasy of the dance, the common work of the tribe.”
—Gary Snyder, The Real Work: Interviews & Talks 1964–1979
The hound dog universe is a description of what we might call “the great ear of poetry.” Hound-dog beautiful. Hound dog beautiful. Hound-dog my ear. Hound-dog my heart.
“the ordinary of his commonplace”
—Wallace Stevens, “Prologues to What Is Possible”
Beautiful little hound rounding out my blood.
Perhaps you swallowed a star. Perhaps the star ate you.
a place through which I
can wake myself towards you”
Come, follow the scented scent of the soil, the hound dogs bay, their tails lifted, swaying in the wind. Feel for the tiniest pleasure moans. The tiniest hookworm of desire. Of deceit. Feel for a place through which we can wake ourselves, up, through you.
[via web conjunctions]
Why are there beings at all instead of nothing? That is the question. Presumably it is not arbitrary question, “Why are there beings at all instead of nothing”- this is obviously the first of all questions. Of course it is not the first question in the chronological sense […] And yet, we are each touched once, maybe even every now and then, by the concealed power of this question, without properly grasping what is happening to us. In great despair, for example, when all weight tends to dwindle away from things and the sense of things grows dark, the question looms.
--from 'Being and Time'; Martin Heidegger
Self and Dream Self
Routines of decaying time
fade, and your waking life
gets laborious as science.
You huddle in, becoming
the deathless younger self
who will survive your dreams
and vanish in surviving.
Dream brings on its story
at the pace of drift
in twilight, sunless color,
its settings are believed,
a library of wood shingles,
plain mythic furniture
vivid drone of talk,
yet few loves return:
trysts seem unkeepable.
Urgencies from your time
join with the browner suits
walking those arcades with you
but then you are apart,
aghast, beside the numberless
defiling down steep fence
into an imminence —
as in the ancient burrow
you, with an ever-changing cast,
survive deciding episodes
till you are dismissed
and a restart of tense
summons your waking size
out through shreds of story.
[ via POETRY, November 2015]
Daydream, which is to thought as the nebula is to the star, borders on sleep, and is concerned with it as its frontier. An atmosphere inhabited by living transparencies: there’s a beginning of the unknown. But beyond it the Possible opens out, immense. Other beings, other facts, are there. No supernaturalism, only the occult continuation of infinite nature … Sleep is in contact with the Possible, which we also call the improbable. The world of the night is a world. Night, as night, is a universe… The dark things of the unknown world become neighbors of man, whether by true communication or by a visionary enlargement of the distances of the abyss… and the sleeper, not quite seeing, not quite unconscious, glimpses the strange animalities, weird vegetations, terrible or radiant pallors, ghosts, masks, figures, hydras, confusions, moonless moonlights, obscure unmakings of miracle, growths and vanishings within a murky depth, shapes floating in shadow, the whole mystery which we call Dreaming, and which is nothing other than the approach of an invisible reality. The dream is the aquarium of Night.
--from 'Les Travailleurs De La Mer'; Victor Hugo
--Edgar Allan Poe
Romance, who loves to nod and sing,
With drowsy head and folded wing,
Among the green leaves as they shake
Far down within some shadowy lake,
To me a painted paroquet
Hath been—a most familiar bird—
Taught me my alphabet to say—
To lisp my very earliest word
While in the wild wood I did lie,
A child—with a most knowing eye.
Of late, eternal Condor years
So shake the very Heaven on high
With tumult as they thunder by,
I have no time for idle cares
Through gazing on the unquiet sky.
And when an hour with calmer wings
Its down upon my spirit flings—
That little time with lyre and rhyme
To while away—forbidden things!
My heart would feel to be a crime
Unless it trembled with the strings.
The Painter of the Night
..Someone called in a report that she had
seen a man painting in the dark over by the
pond. A police car was dispatched to go in-
vestigate. The two officers with their big
flashlights walked all around the pond, but
found nothing suspicious. Hatcher was the
younger of the two, and he said to Johnson,
"What do you think he was painting?" Johnson
looked bemused and said, "The dark, stupid.
What else could he have been painting?" Hatcher,
a little hurt, said, "Frogs in the Dark, Lily-
pads in the Dark, Pond in the Dark. Just as
many things exist in the dark as they do in
the light." Johnson paused, exasperated. Then
Hatcher added, "I'd like to see them. Hell,
I might even buy one. Maybe there's more out
there than we know. We are the police, after-
all. We need to know."
The Whole World's Sadly
Talking to Itself (W B Yeats)
Hands full of sand, I say:
take this, this is what I have saved;
I earned this with my genius,
and because I love you...
take this, hurry.
I am dropping everything.
And I listened:
I was not saying anything;
out of all that had gone into
the composition of the language
and what I knew of it
I had chiselled these words--
take this, hurry--
and you could not hear me.
I had said nothing.
And then I am leaving,
making ready to go to another street,
when you, mingled between sleep
and delirium, turned,
and handed me an empty sack:
take this, friend;
I am not coming back. The ghost
of a flower poised on your lip.
Let the Light Stand
Let the light stand for nothing
but illumination. Let
the naked man and woman
out for air. Let the curtain hide
only another side of the
curtain. Let the food consumed
be consummated. Let the
consommé be a dish. Let the
dish into the bedroom
because she is there for the
cat. Let the cat be cool as Miles.
Let it all happen again
if you can. Let it happen again
if you can. Let the first word
spoken during intercourse be the
only definition you require. Let
need be need. Let love be need
also, if need be. And let
it all happen again because it can.
[via POETRY, October 2015]
This gathering of chance,
each of us, a swirl of
occassions, flesh their
first coincidence, what
passes through us,
waiting some arrangement
of our smallest parts
a clear space opened
into an eyepiece or a lens
and beyond, symmetry of planets
not, finally, geometry
spherical or plane, sweet
press of movement, place
where the space is
always closed, always opens,
eye to eye, each eye unseen;
what we brim up to each
other called vision, touch
moves so readily among
something is passing through.
The Finality of a Poem
All day, that
they fall, leaves,
as blindly as
hours into hours
and the chill
do you expect
spilling from one
roof to another,
like words from
lips to lips, your
say in all of this
unsure of where
the camera is
and how the light
is placed and what
it is that’s ending.
Song of Myself
I think it's enough just to sit and meditate, heedless
of the needs of others close to us and of
their perpetual demands that seem to sap the
strength from us. My doorway and the morning dew
are all I need to make my day, and that
is where I'll plan to be. And if that marks
me misanthropic, if that threatens to end our
relationship, I say that is not my problem, closing
my door. Thoreau knew how to spend the day
alone with his peas and beans and ledgers, and we
can do the same. So much for the ties that bind.
"We must find our occasions in ourselves,"
said self-reliant Thoreau. And so I'm going to sing to
myself. And the birds. And you. And one or two others.
Note: "Song of Myself" and the other sonnets spread throughout For Dear Life, designated by the presence of epigraphs such as "after Basho" and "after Issa" and so on, are built on haiku. The last words of each line of each poem, read vertically from top to bottom, form a haiku by a classical Japanese master.
[via poetry daily]