“It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them. I was so preposterously serious in those days, such a humorless little prig. Lightly, lightly – it’s the best advice ever given me. When it comes to dying even. Nothing ponderous, or portentous, or emphatic. No rhetoric, no tremolos, no self conscious persona putting on its celebrated imitation of Christ or Little Nell. And of course, no theology, no metaphysics. Just the fact of dying and the fact of the clear light. So throw away your baggage and go forward. There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. That’s why you must walk so lightly. Lightly my darling, on tiptoes and no luggage, not even a sponge bag, completely unencumbered.”—Aldous Huxley, Island (Thank you, heartmindspirit & atelier)
I was arrested because of that internal memo, and ended up in a cell, then I was told to sit with the police and the local bigwigs. In the hushed and fast darkening room they said someone—someone—had reduced the safety margin on the airport risk factor, and I got the blame. The sky that day was a pale, clear blue, but that was happening outside, and far away.
The cop on duty would not open the tomb of the deported—sorry, departed—and as usual he had a story. Every movie, he said, depends on a script, and the narrative grows out of market research: a set of standard deviations. Art? What would they know? Open the tomb, and let me in.
I touch you as a lonely violin touches the suburbs of the faraway place patiently the river asks for its share of the drizzle and, bit by bit, a tomorrow passing in poems approaches so I carry faraway’s land and it carries me on travel’s road
On a mare made of your virtues, my soul weaves a natural sky made of your shadows, one chrysalis at a time. I am the son of what you do in the earth, son of my wounds that have lit up the pomegranate blossoms in your closed-up gardens
Out of jasmine the night’s blood streams white. Your perfume, my weakness and your secret, follows me like a snakebite. And your hair is a tent of wind autumn in color. I walk along with speech to the last of the words a bedouin told a pair of doves
I palpate you as a violin palpates the silk of the faraway time and around me and you sprouts the grass of an ancient place—anew
It’s hard being in love with fireflies. I have to do all the pots and pans. When asked to parties they always wear the same color dress. I work days, they punch in at dusk. With the radio and a beer I sit up doing bills, jealous of men who’ve fallen for the homebody stars. When things are bad they shake their asses all over town, when good my lips glow.
After I’m got, I never want to get. They hit the buzzer, then they lock me in and top me with a come-on like a threat. I never want to get unless I’ve got no money for the getting, and no spot to put my body while the doing’s done. I only want to get until I’m got. They hit the buzzer, then they lock me in.
My first week in Cambridge a car full of white boys tried to run me off the road, and spit through the window, open to ask directions. I was always asking directions and always driving: to an Armenian market in Watertown to buy figs and string cheese, apricots, dark spices and olives from barrels, tubes of paste with unreadable Arabic labels. I ate stuffed grape leaves and watched my lips swell in the mirror. The floors of my apartment would never come clean. Whenever I saw other colored people in bookshops, or museums, or cafeterias, I’d gasp, smile shyly, but they’d disappear before I spoke. What would I have said to them? Come with me? Take me home? Are you my mother? No. I sat alone in countless Chinese restaurants eating almond cookies, sipping tea with spoons and spoons of sugar. Popcorn and coffee was dinner. When I fainted from migraine in the grocery store, a Portuguese man above me mouthed: “No breakfast.” He gave me orange juice and chocolate bars. The color red sprang into relief singing Wagner’s Walküre. Entire tribes gyrated and drummed in my head. I learned the samba from a Brazilian man so tiny, so festooned with glitter I was certain that he slept inside a filigreed, Fabergé egg. No one at the door: no salesmen, Mormons, meter readers, exterminators, no Harriet Tubman, no one. Red notes sounding in a grey trolley town.
“Anne Sexton sometimes seemed like a woman without skin. She felt everything so intensely, had so little capacity to filter out pain that everyday events often seemed unbearable to her. Paradoxically it is also that skinlessness which makes a poet. One must have the gift of language, but even a great gift is useless without the other curse: the eyes that see so sharply they often want to close.”—Erica Jong, about the poet Anne Sexton (via like-a-cut)
Because You Asked about the Line between Prose and Poetry, Howard Nemerov
Sparrows were feeding in a freezing drizzle That while you watched turned into pieces of snow Riding a gradient invisible From silver aslant to random, white, and slow. There came a moment that you couldn’t tell. And then they clearly flew instead of fell.
Wash with same coloured, similarly fragrant articles, at sea level. To prevent the colours running, use bottled water. Sparkling water provides the best result. Something Spanish or Italian is ideal. Use only organic fabric softeners with a viscosity between honey (leatherwood, not clover or eucalypt) and motor oil (synthetic motor oil is fine). Do not tumble dry. Do not air dry. Consider convincing the garment to dry itself using a persuasive argument. Give examples of previous garments drying themselves successfully. Praise the garment as it becomes drier as a form of positive reinforcement.
Iron the garment by placing an assortment of crockery in the summer sun, and then piling it on top of the garment for ten to twelve minutes. Do not iron the vowels in the wording across the chest.
Pure gaze, you are lightning beyond the last trees and you are the last trees’ past, branching green lightning of terminal brain branches numened densely with summer’s hunter color, as night comes on, the ocean they conceal gone berserk, wind still rising. Pure seeing, dual vortex doors to the blue fire where sex is burned away, and all is as it was and I am being offered in your eyes, as in cupped hands, the water of to never thirst again. Again I turn away, and the future comes, all at once towering around me on every side, and I am lost. Pure looking, past pain (this is promised): we must have wed on poverty’s most hair-raising day delighting, flashing risk, risk unfailingly lighting the way, anything possible in that dissolving of seam between minds, no more golden time— each step I took the right step, words came to me finally and finding the place you had set for them, once again wrote themselves down. Till true word’s anvil ring, and solid tap of winged blind cane come, I wish you all the aloneness you hunger for. That big kitchen table where you sit laughing with friends, I see it happening. And I wish that I could not be so much with you when I’m suddenly not; that inwardly you might switch time, to sleep and winter while you went about your life, until you woke up well, our conversation resumed. Ceaseless blue lightning, this love passing through me: I know somehow it will go on reaching you, reaching you instantly when I’m not in the way; when it is no longer deflected by all the dark bents, all I tried to overcome but I could not— so much light pulled off course as it passed within reach, so much lost, lost in me, but no more.
I have fifteen cloud stamps, it says on the back cirrus means curl of hair, altocumulus lenticularis look like UFOs, I have put hair, an alien invasion, on the envelope bearing the letter you’ll read under the sky of your living room, crappy light fixture sky, falling plaster sky, have snugged in the envelope fifteen pictures of my hand holding fifteen stamps beneath the skies from which they were born, the one inch by one inch cumulus humilis beneath the ohmygod by ohmygod cumulus humilis, say that again, it suggests humility and accumulation, these are the wide and flat clouds that disappear by sunset, what if we called them soul clouds, what if we claimed to be descended from the sky, I can’t stop saying sky, how about every third word is sky, how’s it sky there, my sky? and I’ll write more often now that I can send you buoyancy, these playgrounds for airplanes, I feel better just looking at them, taller, capable of swirls and Latin, altocumulus castellanus, altostratus translucidus, here are the possible incarnations of floating gathered on a little sheet except nimbostratus, “a dark, featureless cloud marked by falling rain or snow,” why exclude a portrait of your dominant mood, it would have been nice to send a picture of how you feel beside a picture of how I wish you could feel, cirrostratus fibratus, a transparent cloud which gives the sun a halo, you might stick a dozen halos on your forehead, seven hundred on the mirror, anyway I miss you my little undulatus, sweety opacus, let’s pretend Heaven exists in the guise of postage, and though these are the kind of stamps you don’t have to lick, I do.
Today I am going to pick you up at the beige airport. My heart feels like a field of calves in the sun. My heart is wired directly to the power source of mediocre songs. I am trying to catch a ray of sunlight in my mouth.
I look forward to showing you my new furniture. I look forward to the telephone ringing, it is not you, you are in the kitchen trying to figure out the coffeemaker, you are pouring out the contents of your backpack.
I wonder if you now have golden fur? I wonder if your arsenal of kind remarks is empty? I remember when I met you you were wearing a grey dress, that was also blue, not unlike the water plus the sky.
They say it’s difficult to put a leash on a hummingbird. So let us be no longer the actuary of each other! Let us bow no longer our heads to the tyranny of numbers! Hurry off the plane, with your rhinestone covered bag
full of magazines that check up on the downfall of the stars. I will be waiting for you at the bottom of the moving stairs.
Exposition: Say there’s a white house on an old clay road. Wooden barns and tin roofs. Say all the cousins are jumping from the open porch to the soft grass, but you are two. You are two, and you wear braces on your legs. One day you will have an enviable mane of hair; One day you will not even remember the braces, save in pictures. But in that moment you are two years old, with wispypeachfuzz for hair and metal braces for legs. You want to jump, but you’re scared. You are happy, but scared. Say your father appears:
Jump! I’ll catch you! Jump!
So you jump. Only, he doesn’t catch you. It’s an accident, but he’s 22, and he’s ashamed; so he turns it into an object lesson. Dusting you off, scooping you up, he says:
Don’t ever trust anyone.
(Don’t worry, he becomes a much better father. But he’s never so good at being a husband. The heart wants what it wants. You learn duplicitous and wary. Sideways eyes and thick silence. He suffers immensely, and you finally understand, which is the only reason you end up forgiving him. After all, no one is to blame.)
[Insert good stuff here - years of rising action, of conflict. The dynamic characters, the foils. Embed the subplots. Load in the characters. Tell the truth]
from Rising Action: … Only one way to know for sure. Why always this version of trust that has no precedent? Why must you always be lashed to the tree? Why must night always fall? What dark, this? What wolf, that?
To be completely at the mercy of another - and know him with certainty. Is this trust even possible? How does the old story go, that poem?
Her body from a bone, and her soul out of nothing.
Truth is, the story rarely gets it right. Sometimes it isn’t even a story yet. Sometimes it’s just a wave rolling back and forth across the same sea. Meanwhile you are still tied to the tree, and it’s getting late.
“Dreams in which I write the perfect poem, painstakingly setting down each word, but forget it when I wake up. Dreams in which I wake up and write down the poem I’ve just dreamed to make sure that I won’t forget it, but then I wake up again and realize that I was still dreaming. Sometimes a phrase or a line lingers in my head, and it makes no sense at all.”—
Reginald Shepherd from Some Dreams He Forgot in Red Clay Weather
For those of us who live at the shoreline standing upon the constant edges of decision crucial and alone for those of us who cannot indulge the passing dreams of choice who love in doorways coming and going in the hours between dawns looking inward and outward at once before and after seeking a now that can breed futures like bread in our children’s mouths so their dreams will not reflect the death of ours:
For those of us who were imprinted with fear like a faint line in the center of our foreheads learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk for by this weapon this illusion of some safety to be found the heavy-footed hoped to silence us For all of us this instant and this triumph We were never meant to survive.
And when the sun rises we are afraid it might not remain when the sun sets we are afraid it might not rise in the morning when our stomachs are full we are afraid of indigestion when our stomachs are empty we are afraid we may never eat again when we are loved we are afraid love will vanish when we are alone we are afraid love will never return and when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcomed but when we are silent we are still afraid
So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive
“People keeping vigil across the street from the prison wore tshirts that read ‘I am Troy Davis’ and perhaps this suggested that if Davis could be killed for a murder he didn’t definitely carry out, then any of us could be. This is the ‘there but for the grace of God go I’ approach; the ‘speak out for him because I hope someone would speak out for me if I was in the same position’ argument. And these are good and important claims to make. But there’s another way we can recall that ‘I am Troy Davis.’ With his death, something is killed in all of us. Our collective humanity, the basic contract which underpins our ability to live together, is challenged when someone like this man dies. You and I may not be the people who put the needle into the veins, but we are part of the world in which it happened.
We are Troy Davis not because he is innocent but because he is human.”—
This beautifully written and thoughtful post is worth clicking through to read in full. The writer perfectly expresses why I don’t believe in the death penalty, regardless of innocence or guilt, no matter how horrific the crime.
I remember telling the joke about child molestation and seeing the face of the young man I didn’t know well enough turn from something with light inside of it into something like an animal that’s had its brain bashed in, something like that, some sky inside him breaking all over the table and the beers. It’s amazing, finding out my thoughtlessness has no bounds, is no match for any barbarian, that it runs wild and hard like the Mississippi. No, the Rio Grande. No, the Columbia. A great river of thorns and when this stranger stood up and muttered something about a cigarette, the Hazmat team in my chest begins to cordon off my heart, glowing a toxic yellow, and all I could think about was the punch line “sexy kids,” that was it, “sexy kids,” and all the children I’ve cared for, wiping their noses, rocking them to sleep, all the nieces and nephews I love, and how no one ever opened me up like a can of soup in the second grade, the man now standing on the sidewalk, smoke smothering his body, a ghost unable to hold his wrists down or make a sound like a large knee in between two small knees, but terrifying and horrible all the same.
soft white syrian jasmine blooms and showers the land where my mother lived diagonally across the street from my father its scent flutters delicately in the air over sidewalks covered in lopsided stone
we used to whisper playfully to one another us sisters insults about Assad man who insists he rule above a country of graves who chases after the setting sun our frightened young words now storm the country while thousands of claps echo in swollen alleyways and the people will march for all the days stolen from the dead
city that takes its time damascus the world is asking for your news carrier of old memories place where we used to kick soccer balls summertime between passing cars and race to buy snacks from shop owner who insisted we pay him back later each time syria is it true that your army is full of heartless killers? daraa’s streets are alive today with running voices crowded with live bodies fighting tanks live bodies fighting bullets bodies lying lifeless on the ground fighting Assad’s legitimacy while others have five more minutes left and run I hear some soldiers are still switching sides
gun shots pop, pound and heartbeats shudder the old man’s camera shakes as he watches criminals fire death into the sky and posts it online after the explosion the earth rattled so they shouted: “god is greater” who built this earth to shake showing bravery so dazzling that casts its light over light from the sun
defenders of the realm peace be on you your proud spirits will not be subdued you will bring the lion to its knees with freedom soaking in your eyes and smiles that tell of triumphs
“Some of us however – including many who regard ourselves as non-believers – suspect that the new new atheism forces the pace, distorts the issues, and underestimates the intelligence of its enemies. If the older versions of atheism – from Moses and Socrates to Shelley and Nietzsche – were less straightforward than they might have been, the reason may be the complexity of religious phenomena rather than the obtuseness of those who sought to describe them. The difficulty is that people may commit themselves to a religion without buying into any particular theory as to what does or does not exist: they are simply throwing in their lot with some historic community, identified not by doctrines but by rituals, stories and a shared sense of the sacred. Religion as it enters the lives of many believers will not be damaged by a demonstration that it is not much good as science, any more than poetry will be threatened by the collapse of literary theory, or capitalism by a refutation of neoclassical economics. We atheists should not assume that theory always gets the last laugh.”—Jonathan Ree - Varieties of irreligious experience via Julian Sanchez (via monkeytypist)
something is always burning, passion, pride, envy, desire, the internal organs going chokingly up in smoke, as some- thing outside the body exerts a pull that drags us like a match across sand- paper. something is always burning, london, paris, detroit, l.a., the neighbor-
hoods no one outside seems to see until they’re backlit by flames, when the out- siders, peering through dense, acrid, black-&-orange-rimmed fumes, mis- take their dark reflections for savages altogether alien. how hot are the london riots for west end pearls? how hot in tot-
tenham? if one bead of cream rolls down one precious neck, heads will roll in brix- ton: the science of sociology. the mark duggan principle of cause and effect: under conditions of sufficient pressure— measured roughly in years + lead ÷ £s— black blood is highly combustible.