Anyone has half a life
like salt in groggy sunlight
a dreamed acceleration
forgetfully & fully
a textile jolt
asurf in drift
on peels or wheels
--Elizabeth Willis (from Turneresque; 'Sonnets')
Tendencies of lawn and garden,
pedestrian levity of bloom below
goldfinch tee-paw, black crow vector,
hummingbird sequin, arrow raptor.
So where is a reach of distance?
Anything here, everything found,
dispersed mild light. Transparent
shadows of wishless suppositions.
Continuously under an elevated sun,
about imbued stations of ground,
the wind slides over hours of thought
and a passing sift is a leaf in whisper.
Whatever solace you have for me,
Glass of old red wine,
Whisper it into my ear
With each little sip I take,
And only in my ear,
In this hour made solemn
By the news on the radio,
The dying fires of the sunset,
And the trees in my yard
Putting on their black coats.
'You like to remain cloudy, don't you, Sarath, even to yourself?'
'I don't think clarity is necessarily truth. It's simplicity, isn't it?'
'I need to know what you think. I need to break things apart to know where someone came from. That's also an acceptance of complexity. Secrets turn powerless in open air.'
'Political secrets are not powerless, in any form,' he said.
'But the tension and danger around them, one can make them evaporate. You're an archaeologist. Truth comes finally into the light. It's in the bones and sediment.'
'It's in the character and nuance and mood.'
'That is what governs us in our lives, that's not truth.'
'For the living it is the truth,' he quietly said.
'Why did you get into such business?'
'I love history, the intimacy of entering all those landscapes. Like entering a dream. Someone nudges a stone away and there's a story.'
'Yes, a secret....'
L’éxactitude n’est pas la verité. (Exactness is not truth.)--Henri Matisse
If the greatest sources of art –truth, hope, love, joy, despair—are immeasurable, how can the art created from them be exact? I’m reminded of the seemingly various and often sexual, deific origins of art—Etruscan fertility sculptures, cave paintings at Lascaux—and also of a remark by Jasper Johns: Sometimes I see it then paint it, sometimes I paint it then see it. Both are impure situations, and I prefer neither.
Or perhaps those greater truths reside in the imagination, for they have not completely arrived yet, and like the light of stars, their distance is more alluring. The imagination, or truth partially withheld is what we don’t forget because we must work to retrieve it. Perhaps the German writer Peter Handke summarizes it best: Reason forgets, the imagination never.
In the dream they put the perfect money in God's
mouth I mean the bodies they put our bodies
in God's mouth we die that way I think
we're swallowed whole a sexual thing it is
all we never believed become us so that we are
everything and nothing at once as soon as
you grasp it it's gone that's why I want to place the then
on your lap like a shiny plate heavy with the fresh
shadow of food you would swallow "would" ha
ha (did I say shadow I meant slaughter) I think
you're beginning to understand what's going this
light leaking from bodies we once called truth.
A shark swims into the bay, swirls, and then rises with the ugly grin of millenia.
A match flame to a cigar, years later a campfire, and long after a house on fire.
Love-to forget language and act on instinct, its indestructible form.
—Something written on a piece of paper after an astonishing event. That paper found a long time later.
I am, I am, she said, licking a grape Popsicle in July. Make it last, he said right after.
It seemed as though she had leapt toward her own cremation.
A few books shining like the wood of trees. — Ones that I’ve climbed or held.
Looking to the sea, it is a line
of unbroken mountains.
It is the sky.
It is the ground. There
we live it, on it.
It is a mist
now tangent to another
quiet. Here the leaves
is the rock in evidence
What I come to do
is partial, partially kept.
When you first took LSD did you have any problem?
I had a momentary one, when I remember at one point I did enter the dualism which is “yes-no,” that binary factor. I felt it was going to be absolutely awful. I had just said something such as “this is the case” and I suddenly had an intensive experience of “this is the case—this is not the case—this is the case . . .” It was like seeing a vast checkerboard—that kind of alternating situation. Then I just, by grace of something, stepped out of it. Just stepped out. In the second experience with it, last summer, blessedly that never occurred. All through that second LSD experience I had Donovan's “There Is a Mountain.” I had a pleasant younger friend, and we'd taken it about two in the morning. We had a fire burning, and we were in a place in New England. The day broke clear and fresh and dewy, and there was all this moisture in the trees and the grass—these spider webs of moisture, and it was just idyllic. The whole tone of the house changed. The children had obviously neither concern nor interest nor knowledge that we were on LSD, but somehow the feeling went through the whole house, so that the girls walked down to a store, maybe a mile away, and bought us a chocolate cake. They also spent about an hour and a half that morning making a necklace of pinecones which they gave Bobbie, my wife. The cats and our dog were, you know, almost ravenous for us. The cats were crawling all over us. It wasn't just our hallucinating and thinking they were; they were with us every moment—intensively, rubbing up against us and purring. Then the fire in the fireplace, that light, beautiful light; then seeing the dawn come up back of us as the room began to transform into the day . . .
What do you think is the effect of hallucinatory drugs on the creative process?
Terrific! That's at least what I'd like to say. Things had been so uptight, almost for a year—writing, really our marriage as well, just a stale sense of effort and also confusions of feeling older. I think a lot, and at times I can box myself in with all the rationale of army logistics. It can get to be a hopeless logjam. So anyhow the LSD just wiped that out—and fears and tentativenesses and senses of getting lost or of being endlessly separated from the world, all that just went. I can't claim perhaps so simply that writing was thereby opened but I do know the past year has felt a very active one in consequence. The thing is, it's information—extraordinary and deeply relieving information. Just as if one were to hear that the war was over, that some imminent peril and/or bitter waste of time had stopped. Of course, there's no need to be told this over and over; that is, I don't myself feel much need to take the drug every day. It's a vision of a life, all life—and obviously that's a lot to be given by anything or anyone, and so one's not done with it, so to speak, in a day.
Bring Me the Sunflower
--Eugenio Montale (trans. by Charles Wright)
Bring me the sunflower so I can transplant it
here in my own field burned by salt-spray,
so it can show all day to the blue reflection of the sky
the anxiety of its golden face.
Darker things yearn for a clarity,
bodies fade and exhaust themselves in a flood
of colors, as colors do in music. To vanish,
therefore, is the best of all good luck.
Bring me the plant that leads us
where blond transparencies rise up
and life evaporates like an essence;
bring me the sunflower sent mad with light.
Its been found!
It's the sea overrun
My soul's eternal.
Run on entire
Through the night alone
& the day on fire.
That's how you're loose
From common prayer,
From human hymn.
Your wing is strung...
Not to hope. Erase.
Erase In the beginning.
Just knowing, just being,
Is plenty high on the cross.
Pieces of silk over fire.
...What burns in you
...Is the one vow.
It's been found!
Its the sea overrun
Metonymy as an Approach to a Real World
Whether what we sense of this world
is the what of this world only, or the what
of which of several possible worlds
--which what?--something of what we sense
may be true, may be the world, what it is, what we sense.
For the rest, a truce is possible, the tolerance
of travelers, eating foreign foods, trying words
that twist the tongue, to feel that time and place,
not thinking that this is the real world.
Conceded, that all the clocks tell local time;
conceded, that "here" is anywhere we bound
and fill a space; conceded, we make a world:
is something caught there, contained there,
something real, something which we can sense?
Once in a city blocked and filled, I saw
the light lie in the deep chasm of a street,
palpable and blue, as though it had drifted in
from say, the sea, a purity of space.
Our Daily Becoming
Like animals moving daily
through the same open field,
it should be easier to distinguish
light from dark, fabrications
from memory, rain on a sliver
of grass from dew appearing
overnight. In these moments
of desperation, a sentence
serves as a halo, the moon
hidden so the stars eclipse
our daily becoming. You think
it should be easier to define
one’s path, but with the clouds
gathering around our feet,
there’s no sense in retracing
where we’ve been or where
your tired body will carry you.
Eventually the birds become
confused and inevitable. Even our
infinite knowledge of the forecast
might make us more vulnerable
than we would be in drawn-out
ignorance. To the sun
all weeds eventually rise up.
Subjectively, the feeling that life is meaningful - that there are ultimate values, that life has a purpose - tends to point to a source of meaning, something higher than and external to the mere feeling or intuition of meaning. While sources of meaning vary greatly (and often contradict each other), the sense and expectation of meaning itself is surprisingly universal - so universal that the intuition is almost never challenged. This very universality should motivate us to be cautious about taking meaning’s claims at face value. One should be suspicious of any claim that is defended for contradictory reasons, and most people who agree that life is meaningful disagree as to what makes it so. The belief that life is meaningful tends to take the form of a strong feeling rather than a reasoned conclusion; indeed, one of the functions of meaning is to shield a person from the harmful effects of reasoning by providing a value that is justified for its own sake, a foundational rock for cognition below which no “whys” need be answered.
--from 'Every Cradle is a Grave'; Sarah Perry (2014)
The Moment Preceding
A reverie, small fabrication
of silence, some amulet or woven purse,
some moment in which the languor
is preceded by quiet, this moment comes
first in the dawnlight,
a deep and peculiar clarity, peered into,
some color scheme barely perceptible, this
in which the rigorously fought-out nightmare, the peace
established through centuries of tedious
negotiation, is not blown away
or thrown aside but breached nonetheless
by a simple, barely detectable epistemology,
this tiny shift in consciousness itself,
expressed just now by the scent of gerdenias.