Saturday, October 30, 2010

I talk to the trees

The thing about Clint Eastwood,
hidden tucked away,
behind the sneer
and the gruff remark,
is that he is
a nice guy,
who puts away his pistol
in private moments
and sang once
in love
when you were a child
watching Paint Your Wagon
on the big screen
at the movie theater
with your parents.
Dooming you
to be so
the rest of your life,
Dirty Harry
of the kind.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Okay. I wrote a book about ghosts. Or rather about the ability to see ghosts, as Hamlet does in the famous play. In the play, there is the moral element, the knowing-right-from-wrong, the ghost of Hamlet's father letting Hamlet know something in a way uncommon for beings bound to three-dimensional space/time reality and its limited perspective.

Ghosts. Maybe it sounds like crazy talk. But a metaphor, at least. How do we come into the world, to the family we have? Why do some relationships happen, why do some stick? Why are we where we are? Why do we know the people we know? What is behind it all?

Is this juvenile thinking? ("Yes," I can hear some people say.)

On Hamlet's side, we have the possibility that we know who and what we do for a reason, out of something the Universe(s) deem appropriate. In our lives we come across people and meaningful thoughts and objects, and if we are sensitive and perceptive, we see meaning. As I see meaning in having a lovely old Polish lady with a message for the world as a neighbor of infinite kindness now having passed away from her time on Earth, her spirit with us most definitely. As the Lamas see meaning when a certain child picks out the objects of the previous, piece of cake. As Lincoln saw meaning in certain words he was charged with shepherding.

On Hamlet's side, we have a readiness, a 'readiness for all.' Meaning that when something is meaningful, we take to it, we see its beauty, we see its friendship.

How the world sorts out our connections, the personality of the relationships we have with each other, is not always directly controllable. Your father is your father. Your mother is your mother. Your teacher is your teacher. Your favorite books are your favorite books. Is that too passive for some, for those who want to 'rule their own destiny?' I would think it a matter of letting something organically growing to flourish as it would. I would think it a matter of letting something develop in partly unspoken ways.

Our ghosts oblige us to do certain things, the things that feel right for us. A composer will be a composer. A heroine of Poland's independence and status as a nation will be who she is. A writer will be a writer. And one on a path can only hope that other sort of ghostly presences--we can never be sure exactly of their presence, location and identities, except by sensing them somehow in our hearts, or in the places where we decide what's right and appropriate--will be there for aid and support and direction, inspiration, courage, will and fortitude. We may be left in darkness, but still find a light that shines continuously. It all speaks to what a wonderful thing the brain (and all the nervous connections that tie it to our bodies) is.

Being haunted. Maybe it sounds strange. Maybe it sounds like a bad thing. Maybe it sounds like something best left to old bygone folklore from the West of Ireland and other forgotten places modernity hasn't quite uniformed. Tales told for free. Maybe it sounds like chicken blood superstition.

And yet, has anyone ever came up with a better answer? Has anyone ever come up with a better definition of what it means to be 'a classy guy,' a better mensch, a decent thoughtful person, a friend? Is there a better means of prayer?

Literature: the long and quietly triumphant strain of realizing the ghostly appropriateness of all things. A great beautiful theory of relativity, advanced by the likes of Cervantes and Kundera, by poets, Keats, Ted Hughes, Fellini, and thousands of others known and obscure, by Twain and Hemingway and Kerouac and too many to the point of it being the waterfall itself.

But let me finish where I started. Hamlet, in the course of a play, comes of age. He becomes a man, a just one, shaped and marked by life's events, by birth, growth, love, and events tragic. (Youthful and distracted, he's not a man in the beginning of it, which makes the story interesting. As with any male, it takes a lot of steps, something Shakespeare is quite candid about, not pulling any punches on us, quite mercilessly.) He becomes Hamlet, with dignity, and then, the play ends in a death that preserves him, a man now, for eternity. He becomes, it seems, a kind of ghost himself. Perhaps more serious than he would have ever wanted to be, behind his good-natured manner, able, after all, to see ghosts.
The old mode of the creative...
Jesus used it in the desert.
40 days, back to the way the creature thinks.
Call him an intellectual.
Scholarly because he got it.

What you find about humanity is a secret.
Both strange and eventually obvious.
People are haunted,
by ghosts.
The sensitive and the balanced of us can see that and realize it without going nuts, and even feeling more comfortable.
The dead logical ones will say they aren't haunted, but they are.
This old Irish stuff, the Czech stuff, the Basque stuff, the Polish sensibility,
yeah, all the cultures that can embrace the haunted of people,
that strange and honorable sense of moral obligation that comes,
that will be what we'll end up relying upon.

And look. Ghosts.

Halliburton has them. BP does. You and I do too.
But it's better to face them, and feel their company,
because you can't avoid you and your own.

Okay. Now as far as "I" can tell, the experience of ghosts is a very good thing, a root of education.

And those movies--the ones we see this time of year--that preach that ghosts are horror and scary and things to avoid are travesties to our psyches, and this is why they, like other things that are stupid and bad for us, make money, those movies. The sad part being that we neglect the ghost nature of everyday life.

So, again, another reason the economy is gone crap. The shut down toward seeing ghosts, ghosts being a moral sense.

Rip up the scenic plain, overbuild houses, destroy historic farmland, all for the sake of a quick buck, well, those are the people who deserve to be haunted by darker ghosts, by the expensive sport cars (paid for by raping the land with empty subdivisions) gone out of control. (You can't blame people for trying to make a living, but... seriously...)

Yes, people have a choice. And I'd like to think, the right person (righteous being such a loaded term)...listens.

Monday, October 25, 2010

As a person with type O blood, you can't help but feel co opted. The beautiful honest intelligent and resourceful creature that is the root of all humanity to come afterward, the As, the Bs, the ABs, all the natural mechanisms, of needing exercise, proper diet, the fight or flight adrenal response, taken advantage of. They come along, have an odd and persistent self-confidence, a love of money and agriculture and staying put, as if they never got bored of any of it, show off in front of the poor O creature relegated to--despite all his well-honed survival skills, strength, poetry, humor and dexterity and appetite for life--sidelines inhabited by the manipulated, the ignored, the peasant fringes, victim of marketing. The hint is dropped, O is excitable, crazy, full of odd behaviors that should be left behind if we as a race are to advance.

Strange abhorrent creature, source of all wisdom and invention, civilization.

So, modern times needs art. a way of being in touch.

Ghosts are around us.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Shane MacGowan on music

"Music is just music, really.
People just fucking put it in boxes,
you know?

Like, music,
you can hear it anywhere,
you know,
even if you haven't got an instrument,
you can hear it,
you know.

It's in the wind,
it's in the fucking rain,
it's in the fucking water,
it's in the fucking ground.

Don't know what it's about,
but, I mean,
who cares?
you know.

It's brilliant, you know.
So, that's the way I think about it."

Shane MacGowan
from Completely Pogued

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I'm a barman.
I can understand Lincoln's pain.
A form of envy
for the actor
who walks on
at just the right time
with some form of
self-confidence regained,
a new sense of purpose.
Instead of the continual
I wouldn't quite call it heartbreak
with which to proceed forward,
moral certainty, even if you can,
not much a source of satisfaction.
A sense of private defeat
one is too polite to share.
But that the whole race
in it
knowingly or not.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

It was about five AM,
about this time I write, in other words.
I heard a sobbing through the walls.
April 10, 2010.
The Polish President feared dead,
I knew enough to Google it.

She knew exactly what had happened.
Katyn Woods, Smolensk.
History repeating itself.

I heard her phone ring,
and the news was true.
She cried for a long time,
and I wondered what to do.

But she knew exactly what had happened,
that no story could cover up,
even the slick one
that said it was an accident,
a tragic coincidence,
even Putin himself rending his garments in grief.

She was crying and I heard her,
till finally she quieted,
into an awful silence,
knowing exactly what had happened.
History repeating itself.
The boldface lie,
the control of

And they got away with it.
Thieves in the night.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Further thoughts on poetry

When I was a kid, a tenth grader, we were asked to write a poem.

I strum the strings on my guitar,
and I go free, away from here,
and over trees and through the wood,
away from things I understood.

Okay, it's a little amateur. But it strikes me. I remember even then wondering how I came up with it. I probably just went with the simplest and most straight-forward thing I knew.

We're students of information much of our lives. We're asked to professionally master a good bit of data.

And here is a poem about how you can leave the barrage behind, go for a walk in the woods, and let a cramped brain let its thoughts play out, beginning as soon as you walk out the door. Poetry is found in nature, in the context of natural settings and metaphors that reflect the natural world. In some ways, a poet is a bad student, neglecting something immediate, in order to go chew and mull over things as the mind needs to, processing, out in the quiet.

The poet--again, I refer to a mode of thought--wants for everyone to be able to think poetically, that this mode is not short circuited by all the demands for our attention. (The economy sucks now because of that inattention, that 'I don't care about poetry, or care about others, or care about caring.' That regal Nazi coldness, 'fuck off, I'm minding my business.') The poet is the idiot of modern times, and yet, how else would we keep on without poetry?

To Kill a Mockingbird: here is an example of a book that is unconstrained as far as offering poetry.

JFK: sometimes a student has to neglect his studies in order to follow what he finds important, the work he will take up. Dead on, as far as poets.

Poetry is a way of considering deeper implications. One wishes the modern bank/financial institutions employed them. (They'll use that in their ads. Employ a poetic actor, a Lincoln pretender.)

Poetry: you learn by doing. And funny how you sort of know how to go about it, without too much of a push. An ocean behind you, why not add to it?
Poetry, or the poetic, is first and foremost, a way of thinking. It's a mode of thought vital to a lively brain. One can't afford to be elitist about it, but rather hope that humanity shares in it. The words themselves, the play of sounds, the poetic devices of rhythm and rhyme and meter, all that will follow, falling into place naturally. It's a good way of sorting things out in the mind, and the ear and the brain's vocabulary awakens at its employ.

Poetic thinking is as serious, viable and effective as logic. (We wouldn't be here without it.) As if all else were inadequate, Lincoln employs it in crucial moments, his moments of moral thinking, of finding a solid base for actions to follow upon. (Even as his remarkable rise from backwoods to high office suggests a wide-open world of great possibility for someone who strives with some ambition--maybe more so than our hyper-competitive times allow--it is interesting that once he'd arrived his decisions over what would be just and right were based on poetic understanding, for example, the right tack on 'all men are created equal,' through the definition of a nation at Gettysburg, to the restraint of the Second Inaugural.)

Poetry is a tool in the human tool box, vital and often underestimated. Our minds are capable of and even adept at translating poetic thoughts and putting them into, as the Buddhists say, proper action, proper speech, proper thinking.

A quiet little woman in Amherst was employing it, creating a laboratory of thought in her reclusive chamber. Melville employs it in the blank verse of prose in a great book on industry and nature and religion, Moby Dick. Earlier, Keats was bringing the gift of poetry forward, high thoughts newly accessible, so that all could read what was 'writ on water.' Each a living emblem of democracy.

The poet's ambition is to figure something out. No more, no less. And then to share in what all are capable of, as an example, as a lead, as a follower all in one.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Oh what do you do when a hero, a heroine
Where their battles a coincidence?
They were Nobel Prize material,
in their own fine humble way,
and now the light's off
front and back in that place they lived,
next to you.
When did you see them last
in good health,
but Christmastime.
And how much you missed or ignored
all the chances to have nice times,
the rare times of finding family
where one is not by blood,
that ease.

An old chair, a volume of
Encyclopedia Britannica
pulled from the rain,
a painting that hung in her house.
A letter opener.
Memories of a hostess,
of the most generous person you'll ever meet,
who lived through war,
and then saw people as
all the same.
Next door, the lawyers with cocker spaniels, who rarely say a word to anyone on the street, not that they are bad people, their sprinkler goes off. It's six AM.

I have a sip of Pernod, and go out and strum a few chords underneath the sky, big dipper up above now. It's a quiet time in the city of Washington, DC. It's the one moment the town rests. And even that is interrupted, by a flashing light, or by the traffic that is nervously anticipating all there is to do today. I keep a line to Shane MacGowan, who, oddly, keeps me feeling normal. A legal city, asking questions, why are you here, what are you doing... It's a good time to sing Rainy Night in Soho to the backyard. Before daylight catches me, before the ambitious peer out at the darkness and tell me to pipe down, there's sleep to be had before the work that makes the big bucks.

There are things that you don't like to be interrupted doing. Maybe this is baseball. Gehrig, Williams, you don't interrupt them at the plate, hey what are you doing, much as you might like.

Funny feelings arise.

I'm a barman. Twenty years I've done masterpieces of the moments of bar's healthy ruminations. And like all art, those moments slide away, down a river, held even as they were, close. Bravo to the Nobel winners. They are us.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Marketers want the ease of a level field. Marketing wants people to be, down to their depths, uniform and pliant as a box of Cheerios. Advertisers--this is where the selling happens--they want the feel of the atavistic original genius of humanity in their ads. They want to make the commercial's viewer feel as if it were he himself who were making the discovery, had invented and built, piece by piece, the Jaguar. (Success of Patagonia, of Sir Edmund's own down jacket.)

The survival genes of the race demand that original thinkers come along. Each time one comes forth he'll be viewed as something wild and heretical, foolish.

A MacGowan, a Hemingway, is able to ignore the commercial messages broadcast at him to get him to behave. He'll come along and create, enabling the 'old song,' the powers of the mind. He'll grasp the magic of objects.

This is why the best of art, architecture, painting, music, etc., walks the line between whatever advancements there may be and the primitive, the folk wisdom. Much like Shane MacGowan's, the Pogues,' music does, much like the operative moment of a Hemingway story.

But maybe, you know, it is true: Buy the Hemingway fishing pole, and you'll begin to feel your original genius coming to life.
The cats purr reveals
her closeness,
her proximity,
to litter mate and pride,
the occasional human being,
the pleasure of dining and warmth enhanced by company.
A vibration within, tactile, reaching outward
that says, I,
we, are here.
Being close is good.
It works through her chest,
outward through ribs the same as ours,
up her throat,
and remains a mystery,
a substitute for vocal chords.

The writer works,
by being psychic,
at least in as far as being able
to touch upon the things
we all think about.
Do I drink too much?
What about this job?
I think I'll stay in tonight
and be just and chaste,
and thoughtful,
and wish my neighbor were still alive.

Which is why it hurts to shop
for groceries with piped-in music
of the kind aimed at 'enhancing'
your shopping experience.
A blip, an add, the Weather Channel,
all serving to throw off what you are
about to think of in a deeper careful way.

Lincoln realized he was reincarnated,
a meaningful chip off the whole,
incarnated in his particular life
for a reason.
He encountered a lot of dumb people.
Eventually, his wisdom won out.

A cat purrs, receiving a signal,
the electric energy of touch,
her fur-covered sensitivity to
the presence of her kind.

The writer awakens ancient talents
forgotten, abandoned.
Alone in the desert, the thinker
cracks the code, picks up the signal,
realizes what is finally plain and obvious.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Things haven't changed since the times of Cervantes (and Shakespeare.) The dreamer gets involved in those silly old tomes, the ones that speak to his dreams and his subconscious. He hoards the olde books of chivalry, and eventually--how'd ole' Miquel put it--they make his head soft, and he dreams up the idea that he is a knight of those old words, more or less a writer.

And so the old knight, armed with his delusions, strikes out at the modern world, the world of windmills, practicalities that bleed in on his existence, the world of information demanded by that early and lasting form of artificial intelligence, the market economy. His is a battle of remembering the things that will be forgotten, outmoded by the latest, silly to hold on to.

The knight sets out to catalog, as a botanist might, the intrinsic habits of a humanity, a humanity striving towards decency and a broader mind. He is gifted with memory, or else we wouldn't even have the tale written about him, which is of course Don Quixote itself.

It comes as no surprise, maybe Cervantes was not the best person to assign to tax collecting, that early bombardment of the officialdom of reaching information. But, he had it right about the issue the modern complicated world, forgetfulness, the voice that comes and tells Poland, 'no, forget your silly books and ideas of nationality and character and genius; you no longer exist.'

And over in Britain, Shakespeare, makes, perhaps, a personal choice of a move that was not quite cleanly one of 'moving up in the world,' but a position that allowed him to capture the great wild untamed varied voice (democratic) of people.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Seems Melville had the same problem. When the world and the internet becomes invasive upon one's slow deep thoughts, it's time to chuck everything and get away from it all. Otherwise, you're not going to write much, and you write to solve your head's problems and work things through. Something has to give. Off to sea, 'the watery part of the world.'

Being shy, it gets a bum wrap. It's not always so bad to 'shy away' from things if that's what the mood says.
The writer--memoirist, novelist, poet--so it turns out, is the strongest defense of the brain against the invasiveness of the Net and the effect of wired technology upon our memory. Writing is something we do naturally, but I am surprised at the absolute necessity for it, the crucial role it plays in keeping the tradition of human civilization alive.

We might look at present problems like so: Obama versus Republicans, played out at different levels in different ways, regulatory matters, etc. But, no. The main thing is, as other 'countries' have experienced is the issue of memory.

The material working economy, that which, as far we can tell, generates money, is based on the handling of our collective memory. Google, etc., is such a big hit for telling us, 'eh, you don't need memory; we'll do it for you.' Okay, click away.

And we all do it. Like a drug.

Can you outsmart it? Use the Net to find something to relax, without stupification? Can you find music lessons, for instance, on the Net? Well, yes, you can, so it's not all bad.

However, it's a habit, the quick click, good or bad.

And it's hard not to reach a conclusion, after all the busy voices have said their derivative pieces about what's best: People would be much better off getting back to that core of the spirit of education, which is sitting down and reading a book. The book: a complicated but pure and truthful device that keeps us from forgetting, keeps us from distortions of history, distortions of thought.

Humanity has done such a great job laying the ground work. Look and find, and give credit. But now we could, oddly, despite the promise, become forgetful, even as we might congratulate ourselves for the sophistication we have obtained.

Friday, October 1, 2010

How would Ginsberg have put it? There is no arrogance to claiming 'the best minds of my generation;' we all have fine minds, it's just how we use them.

My thoughts are again provoked by a thoughtful author, Nicholas Carr, of a thoughtful book, The Shallows, and one can hope it's not too late.

I saw, in a generation slightly younger than mine, a bipolar ability to gather information and handle it in a sophisticated way and yet to be untouched by it all. The world came available to their fingertips via the Internet. Communications became instantaneous, and they grew to expect it, not just in certain situations, but everywhere. Bipolar, I say, because at the same time, full of information, it seemed that whatever could be garnered through careful thought and converted into substance and moral fiber and conviction--things ruminated on--had with them very little traction. In one door, out the other, with a blindness toward holding on. (Bipolar, I use, I guess, to describe the odd connection with one the one hand lots of information, and, on the other, no meaning that sticks.) Yes, they could certainly talk the talk, and grasp issues, but like parroting automatons, there was a great disconnect, and a real dimwittedness that followed about being able to distinguish who was real and who was good sounding fluff. And we can blame the pervasive reach marketing has in our lives, preaching that all things are the same, just that some are more promoted into some form of dominance and popularity. "Oh, it causes obesity and cancer? Who cares... buy it anyway, everyone else is." The political candidate become a celebrity, antics to be voted for on the basis of popular behaviors.

So, though it would sound very much like they could grasp time-honored stuff like the Golden Rule, or a sympathy toward their fellow earthly beings, when called to implement such things into action and sentiment of the kind carried through, one found a complete disconnect. For them, it seemed, the idea had been found, and having held it for two seconds, it could then be put away, effectively glossed over, as they went looking for the next little thing that caught their eye. All information, be it a statistic on dog-catchers, to a celebrity's latest habits, on up to the Beatitudes, was all the same shit, the same distant matter in a cubbyhole.

How to act around such a crowd? It's as if you're speaking a foreign language to them. Occasionally a twinkle of understanding, but a lot of blank wall.

Yes, and maybe they looked at me as some slow bumbling peasant-type, off on his walks, while they looked at glowing screens and worked on stuff that would lead to their own selfish successes, not caring about things any deeper.

One has to protect his self-confidence, to not begin to think that he himself is the problem. Yes, one has to take things very carefully.

One is reminded of how people of a certain time not far from our own looked at Lincoln, obsessed as they were about the fresh issues of commerce, expansion and slavery's powerful economic benefits, things like the Missouri Compromise. He even admitted to being slow, and just about everything ever observed about him was concurrent evidence. And here was Lincoln, in the midst of these issues, and some people had this wise intuition, it seems, about him, advancing the prairie lawyer along to a Presidency. Here was a man, in great contrast to the omnipresent 'present,' sat and stood back and thought, and went down deeply to the very root of an issue. He had this crazy idea about carrying on a conviction, and tried to do his best by it, not letting it be compromised or conveniently forgotten. All men are created equal, and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, and here we are, a nation dedicated to the principle of liberty.

Yes, he was slow for his time too. As if he were completely ignoring the issues at hand, invoking something far away and ethereal to daily practical matters.

Lincoln, to invoke him now, seems to smack of delusions of grandeur. Over that, though, he would have had a fine chuckle, and then told us to not worry about that and just keep going on ahead.

Lincoln might have anticipated a tyranny of the majority, to be held at bay through the courage to be a moral being.

I don't know how much hope one can have though. We created a totalitarian economy, enabled it, fed it, didn't think anything of it, and now it rides us, demands our own minds to be enslaved to its technology.