Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Painter


There is something you should know about painting: it’s a declaration of knobs. Yaks. Conviction. The sag of a cemetery willow. The uncanny dialects of a woman’s arm. The insinuation of streets when they’re wet and the cars go by with people in them dreaming, talking, yelling, crying, laughing.
How do you paint that? There is always that question when I sit down to paint. I draw a snake. I paint the snake. The snake coils into a variegated iridescence and flicks a scarlet tongue.
Then I get into density. The volumes of things. Houses, forklifts, cows. Animals with horns. And sometimes something small, a fingernail, a pin in a map, a pickle.
Or a screw. I admire the machinery of the screw. Such a simple thing. I can feel the truth of its existence in the torque of its threads.
Art is a matter of experience not principles. The clarity of any given moment.  There’s so much reality in a moment. But then, as we are all wont to ask, what the fuck is reality?
Reality is the activity of consciousness. It comes into being through interrelationship. Parables and paraffin and abalone and hills. The tea of incident, the brightness of valor. Bubbles rising in a ginger ale on a flight to Oaxaca. Sexual somersaults, injuries of the spur. Alligator gravity flying saucer soup a ghost hoeing a garden in Guadalajara.
I feel seized by a stunning translucence. My mind is a mass of fireworks. The stars journey over the prairie, ripping the sky open until eternity shines through.
My brush moves a flower into a woman’s hand and her eyes light the world on fire.
I include a cherry. A bright red cherry. So juicy it sings. So real that it expects my bite.
I love the thingness of things. Das ding an sich. The thing-in-itself. A knife that is a real knife. A wheel that is a real wheel. An eye that is a true eye. The luster of pain in a swoon of pleasure.
A saguaro sun drawing lemon from a gourd of carnelian and jade.
Alchemist holding a blue liquid in a careful measure.
Scarlet trumpet vine. Maidenhair fern. Night scented jasmine in a forest glade.  

 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Skull Flower


Time shapes life, gives it a chronology. There’s a beginning, a middle, and an end. One is pushed into the world wet and tiny and howling. Everything is murky. The world, which isn’t a world yet since ‘world’ is a concept that has not yet been processed, is a chaos of sensations, sounds, textures, rattles, trinkets, animals, entertainments, and bowls of gooey food. One grows, ramifies, elongates, elaborates, strengthens. The body fills with hormones. Its chemistry changes. Desires, conflicts, frustrations, preferences, aversions, ambitions fill the mind. But the mind is not a bucket. Fill is the wrong word. The mind does not fill with the needs of the body so much as it is generated by the needs of the body. A philosophy develops in order to cope with the world and to provide something akin to a compass, an astrolabe, a navigational system. Instinct, intuition, ideology. One makes choices. Mistakes. Has a family or doesn’t have a family. Has a career or doesn’t have a career. Goes to war or refrains from war. Ages and dies. Each life is different, each life has its own unique narrative.
Life feels very different outside the chronology of time. Outside the constructions of time, its minutes and hours, months and years, seconds and eons. These are the trappings of time. Time itself is more of a mystery. Newton and Plato believed that time is like an empty container into which things and events may be placed, but that it is a container that exists independently of what is placed in it: ships, wrinkles, blood, contracts, stems, steam, war, history, monuments, truths, progenies, picnics, ants. Aristotle and Leibniz believed that time does not exist independently of the events that occur in time but is itself a system of temporal relations among things and events. Time is synonymous with change. With motion and occurrence. Growth and maturation. Diminishment and erosion. The formation of hills, the actions of a stream. The touch of a finger, the gleam of an eye. The way a vision rides our nerves, the way a shower hits the water when a river swerves.

I do not feel time. I can see time if I look at a clock. I can see that minutes have passed. But I don’t feel the passage of time. Each moment feels whole. There’s a simultaneity of experience, of sensations and perceptions flowing together, amalgamating into a single event that has the appearance and feeling of being free of the dictates of the clock. In reality each passage is a hallmark of time. Is time. The movement of my fingers on a keyboard putting letters together so that they become words and the words become ideas is the very essence of time, although it doesn’t feel like time, it feels phenomenal. It feels quick and erratic like a school of fish making a sudden, unpredictable swerve, or a flight of birds, all in motion, but outside the framework of time. It’s when I begin to worry about the future or obsess about an event in the past that time becomes evident. That I feel severed from the immediacy of the moment and caught up in the network of time. Tangled in abstractions. Tangled up in blue, as Dylan expressed it. Tangled in ticks, tangled in tocks.
Tangled in sticks. Time consists of two sticks: the long stick of hours, the short stick of minute by minute.
Letters are sticks. O is a stick curved into an O. L is two sticks. M is four sticks. Q is a stick curved into a hole with a tiny tail. Letters are evidence of time because time is sticks and sticky and sticks to the mind like peanut butter sticks to the roof of the mouth.
There are times when the past becomes so engulfing that I feel swallowed by it. It keeps me agitated and awake. I cannot sleep. I feel injured by my own rumination. “There is a degree of insomnia,” observed Friedrich Nietzsche, “of rumination, of historical sense which injures every living thing and finally destroys it, be it a man, a people, or a culture.”
To determine this degree, and through it the limit beyond which the past must be forgotten if it is not to become the gravedigger of the present, one would have to know precisely how great the plastic power of a man, a people, or a culture is. I mean the power to grow out of itself, transforming and assimilating everything past and alien, to heal wounds, replace what is lost and reshape broken forms out of itself. There are men who have this power to so small a degree that they will incurably bleed to death over a single experience, a single pain, frequently over a single delicate injustice, as from quite a small bleeding laceration. On the other hand, there are those who are affected so little by the wildest and most gruesome calamities of life and even by their own malicious acts, that in the midst of them or shortly thereafter they achieve a tolerable degree of well-being and a kind of clear conscience. 
It is when I stay focused on the immediacy of the present that I elude the injuries of time. There are motions and change but the motions and change do not feel part of the structure of time they feel uniquely a part of the moment, flavors of a phenomenal chapter in my narrative that is free to feed into a plot or not. Unless I’m being chased by a tiger or defending myself with karate chops or a sword there is no narrative. That’s what I dig about poetry. Poetry is that moment. Poetry is that flash that burns and obscures the walls of the container that is time and frees the imagination, focuses the mind on the present.
My life becomes pointless. In a good way. Poetry is pointless. It is wonderfully, giddily pointless. Emotions are mirrors that distort the images of the present or magnify the events of the past. Emotions are linked to time by grammar. Disrupt grammar and you disrupt time. When Jackson Pollock disrupted the representation of recognizable images and focused on the physicality of his movements above the canvas he remained focused on the immediacy of the moment and recreated that immediacy and physicality in paint. That’s precisely my goal in poetry.
I build things. Boats and explosions. Houses and sounds. I accept the singing of glass and the grandeur of bacteria. The pour of olive oil into a skillet, the insertion of a key into the ignition switch of a car. Or, better yet, a time machine. A machine that removes us from the prison of time and takes us anywhere in time we want to go. But, you say, isn’t there a danger there? Even if we can maneuver in and out of past and future events we lose the present. And yes, that’s correct. It isn’t the time machine that liberates us from time it’s the present moment. Time evaporates and leaves behind it a seed.
It becomes, to quote Philip Whalen, “a howling flower in my skull.”

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Hollywood Sugar


Is this pain private? No pain is private. How can it be? Pain feels private but it’s not. Emotional pain is surprisingly adhesive but in actuality it’s no different than a pronoun run amok in our personal biographies. Like all assumptions, it’s probably wrong. But sometimes being wrong helps us maneuver our words in ways that appeal to our sense of longhand. For example: here I am holding a word. Can you guess what word it is? That’s right, it’s pork chop. Which is two words. It takes two words to make one word because all connections begin with a plug. When pain is painted it flickers into the eyes like a giant handshake with God. We feel more than slightly Etruscan. We might feel Sicilian, or Nigerian, or echo a noise so emphatically that our granulations resemble the camaraderie of the stars and their perfect silence over the deserts of New Mexico. I can slobber like a cow if you’d like me to but I’d rather go on writing as if the sentences were leading us somewhere. Not enough has been said about cutlery. I think it’s only fair to describe time as a bear rubbing itself against a tree. There’s a story about this in the bungalow but I’m too weighted with matter to go and get it. All it takes is a bumped shin to remind me that the subject of pain is fraught with cramps. Let us engage the composition of pain by the scruff of its neck and take it somewhere abstract. There’s a despair so beautiful in its nihilistic distillations that even Dagwood would crawl through the echoes of his existence trying to find the secret behind all those dots that comprise the panels in which Blondie frets about housework and Beetle Bailey is chased by Sarge on the other page. I find most things painful but lately my moaning has assumed a greater resonance. How else describe pain than as a garden of signals and neuronal impulses that produce huge orchids of understanding, black and white and purple and yellow, their pistils yearning for pollination. We must court consciousness as if its answers were embedded in our minds like shovels exhuming the past in great steaming clods of past association, roots dangling, little bone fragments spilling out. Life is erratic. Revolt does little good, but it’s a start. Our actions swarm with it. Words vomit their meaning all over the page and the ether carries their fumes into the algebra of clouds. Eternal flux. That’s where pain is defeated. That cotton floating up there in corduroy and fat. Diamonds sparkle in the palace. The palace of pain. Whose subtleties of architecture fill volumes with the approximate language of existence. The brain reflects on its own reflections until the syntax creaks open revealing a book of shadows, stories constructing themselves out of tenderness and Hollywood sugar. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Feeling a Feeling


Consciousness is haunted by the prospect of eternal life. Paper swans milked in the heat of a window. Heavenly dots slammed into decoration. The sand sags by an open fire. Name your favorite emotion. Mine is snow falling on a river. I like that feeling. It makes me feel clean and graceful like a hat. What I see in the sidewalk is gum and time. The concentration of a moment falling into big fat words and creating a sentence that clashes with reality. But in a good way. Like dreaming a conversation with a guitar. There is an open dynamic in music that drips with the silk of intuition. Surely the whole thing is more than a brightness crawling out of the neck. I have a great respect for mint. But the cabbage mistakes our digestion for Ohio. This is not Ohio. This is vapor. Rain on an antenna. Symmetry carries other obligations. Even the way a serape is folded bears certain implications. Secrets spun into the yarn like water. Like tears, or warts. Similes are always so eager to be fulfilled. Metaphors are different. They just sit around and moo. Coins slosh around in my pockets like the symbolism we find in anthologies of French symbolism. Which is to say their metal is not of this world. And so I wander around in my head until I fall asleep. I herd wildebeests. I open doors to other worlds. I bring opinions to the wind. The wind doesn’t care. The wind has its own opinions. I can smell them. They smell like headlights and mustard. And when Mick Jagger asked me to join the Rolling Stones I didn’t tell him I couldn’t sing or play a guitar. No siree. I just got up on the stage and wiggled. Everything changed when André Breton arrived. He lost some buttons and was trying to find some sand for a fable he was writing. I helped with his allegory and he helped me find that moment of the day when there’s nothing to do but explode into light. If reality is as real as it thinks it is, well then, all I have to say is get on with it. But does reality think? Reality is an abstraction. Abstractions don’t think. What would happen if I reached up and touched the moon? I’ll tell you: absolutely nothing. It’s gravity that juggles the stars. Perceptions are there to flatter consciousness into believing that England is punctuated by time and that time itself is a paradigm bursting with pickles and incendiary nouns. Crisis carves its horrors out of the air, not the clock. The clock just sits on the shelf ticking and tocking the way a clock is supposed to. The hands move, the hours follow. And at three o’clock in the afternoon the Hunchback of Notre Dame arrives whispering of bells and waterfalls. Feeling, he says, is one way to feel a feeling. Another is to hop from bell to bell in a glorious hysteria of sound. This is how the rain gets nailed to the stationary and words evoke everything there is in the world except how to be silent. And that takes guts. There is nothing in the mind but shadows, and the mind itself is nothing. We swim in the sounds below our life and when we agree to remember the cabbage it jellies into concentration.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Philosophy Toast



Muscles are lush and germinate mind. Then at devotion a needle cures one’s irritations and accumulates sleep. Buckskin Cytherea pushes a glass tack into an early arrival of content. There is sand about and poles and red bottles such as mussels. Warm oats pushed into a sheen of nacreous sagacity is simply chins. Camellias make the stadium wild. The ocean is ever crammed feeling for its sticks. I have thrilled with such hotels as my very sleeves attest. I have banged on foibles and cured apricot with herring, laced roller skates with fog. Or did I mean white blood cells? This is a sudden area of zip code absorption. Bog saddle. Blueprint of gauze for a paper lion amid crocodile birds. The whistle is not a soliloquy so much as a knot of power. The uninhibited knock that comes with monsters. Bikini diaphragm, or corner glazed with boiling tongues. Suddenly Tuesday appears French as cobblestones and this sentence has a plywood heart. The stomach has its drapery and archaeology has its moss. Lagniappe is a sandwich if a philosophy crackles. Distance is as beautiful as Monday. The snowshoes are a form of negotiation. It is the nature of things to spit because morality offers kites. But why morality? Why not just nerves? Geniality and canvas? The bikini suits me although I’m male and have no breasts, other than what nature has given me, which is popcorn to my dreams of Montana. I feel buxom as a zigzag. And sometimes I’m a river. Philosophy requires toast because it’s Gothic and consciousness tugs at the acetylene poetry of silver and gold. Poetry is an event. Language is a phenomenon. Heartbeats come with tarantulas. There is a tarantula in all of us, and a skeleton and a  pain that cannot be described as broth or leather but will require the grammar of realism and the physics of romance. I feel closer to my neck today than I have before and this is partly the result of singing and partly the result of thought. Sometimes standing in the doorway makes me feel like an alley in the rain. And this, too, is a form of philosophy. If I cater to feathers then the tourists will scrawl their names on the wall and buttons cause the morning to dive into pine. That’s where the breezes go and the air smells sharply and dialectical. There’s leather in light and light in leather. This makes the leather light and the raft depends on inflammations of water.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

When Words Grow Wanton


Words are words. It’s important to remember that. Words are representations of things, not the actual things. This is a good thing. This is freedom.  Since words are untethered from empirical realities, they may be used to express anything. They can express phenomena with no correlatives to the world of milk and grass. The world of physical laws and abbeys and jodhpurs and jute. Paul Eluard’s surrealist line “The world is blue as an orange” serves an example of the kind of journeys words are capable of creating.

Words like ‘universe,’ ‘soul,’ or ‘thought’ have a profundity and charge that are automatic in expression but in reality are no different than the words ‘pencil,’ ‘bread,’ or ‘worm.’ Their values differ in our imagination but as entities in a system of signs there is no difference in depth, intensity, or heft. This is where thought is liberated from the dry abstractions of ordinary experience and acquire the sorcery of music. Just as there are no factual correlatives to the mood and atmosphere created by melody, harmonic structure and combinations of tone, there are no factual correlatives to lines of poetry such as César Vallejo’s marvelous invocation to time “vigorously dragging its misery” or “the sound of singing testicles” or “flora of style” “cited in swamps of honor by auditory roses.” These are realities of a different nature than those of differential calculus or scientific measurement. Their charge comes from an amperage of human imagination, the flow of electrons from finger to finger in the dance of our writing.
Words are propositions. Each word is a proposition. Not just nouns, but prepositions, adverbs, adjectives and pronouns. “Of” and “above” and “fast” and “slowly” and “them” and “you” are all propositions. Offerings from the treasure hold of language to the wingspread of the mind. Traction, transmission, tone. Matter, time, justice, almond, space, thunder: propositions.
Words reveal a system that appears to be unshakeable and stable but is, in fact, open and volatile. They’re pieces in a game of classification in which the nebulous chaos of sensation assumes the order and identity of horses and headlights. Words vibrate with witness. Ideas flourish in their example. Processions of knife and knuckle flutter through the vapor of generality and take on specificity and purpose. Caught trout sputter in the butter of eternity. Words are amalgams that help mold perception. They create a sense of cohesion and permanence. But in reality the cohesion and permanence are functions of syntax. Products of grammar. Articulations of sequence. The amalgam can fly apart at any moment, explode into confetti, erupt into cockatoos.
I love fireworks. I love anything that explodes and rains down as stars. But there are subtleties that elude our fundamental assumptions about the universe and revel in our perceptions like the teasing gaieties of unguent and wool. Porosities augment our absorption. Coffee sharpens our nerves. Each second we’re inundated with sensation. But the place where conscious awareness and sensation intersect are tangled and derailed by distraction. Receptivity turns to static. The algebra of circumstance diminishes in our attention and reduces to a vulgar denomination, stale categories of class and description.
It’s in the combinatory power of language that these subtleties of sense are best able to be captured. The language of words bears some resemblance to the language of numbers. Differential calculus was designed to describe a universe in flux. The combinatory power of words acts in a similar manner. It brings elements together and mixes them in an ebullition of nerve and word whose infusions sublimate or distill into a new ingredient, or idea.
Remove words from the equation and we’re left with gesture. I touch a knife, then a loaf of bread, and then make a swinging motion with my arm. Hopefully, the idea of slicing a loaf of bread will be communicated, and not the intent to stab anybody. Most experiences are nowhere near this simplistic. There are emotions whose complexities exceed that of convection currents and kinetic energy equations. Were we to limit ourselves to gesture it would take a bizarre form of acrobatics, a kind of Japanese butoh, to express the inner realms of our being.
This is the sorcery of combination. It happens in chemistry all the time. Take two hydrogen atoms and add to them an atom of oxygen and voila! you have water. Compress a mass of hydrogen atoms at great temperature and pressure so that they fuse to form atoms of helium and in the process you will create a big ball of heat and light called a sun.
The instant pen is put to paper or a cursor is set on the screen and the fingers begin to prance on a keyboard and words are formed we’re involved in the sorcery of combination. Of collage. Of comparison and contrast. The products may be nebulous or thin or concrete as a sidewalk, colorful and vibrant as music or loaded with summer like a gleam of sunlight on a blister.

Structural invariants, whether atomic or relational, are essential to linguistics. Language is a shared activity. It is what holds a community together. There are constraints, but they are the kind of constraints that liberate the sorcery of predication. An abstract machine may be built around variables and variations. Language is essentially a heterogeneous reality. If I want to make an appointment with an electrician to come and install an outlet for an electric range I will  not need to know how amperage works but I will need to know how to structure a place and time. I will need to describe the circumstances, state of the wiring, size of the range. The wiring of language will be a shared circumstance requiring alternating currents, harmonic distortion. The freedom to create a reality different than the normative one of daily reality will be based on the same structure, but its capacity to create new elements will be as limitless as music. And once I get the stove plugged in, I can make a pot of coffee and sit down to learn what a watt is, and amperage and texture and sine waves and seclusion. I can do equations. I can drag time into space. I can swing like Tarzan from language to language. For the jungle is full of vines, and the world is blue as an orange. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 
 
 
 
 
 



Monday, October 6, 2014

Concertina


Cubism plays flirtation into helium. Baffled clutters of intent fidget through morality. Metamorphosis sips the forehead. Honor sits in a cemetery. A thumb does ham and it’s magically red. An indigo phonograph serious as an airplane landing in an oasis of introversion deepens the stars. Candy is an invention, a pleasure of visceral lucidity in food. My medication resuscitates its own peculiarities. Structure begs for development. The texture of a sleeve tastes of pagan stubble. Wrinkles of rawhide find their foam of a perfect moment. Finger and mouth go resonant in a concentric propinquity. The sky murmurs of a Fauvist train remembered as an engine of sound. The winches and pulleys of consciousness create a linguistic element that occurs as a wisecrack in the ice and seizes chemicals never before aired on TV and so goes about the interior of the head disguised as an arena in a flake of wax. The mathematics of this is where the squirrels come in. They leave behind a skeleton of numbers. And Cubism arrives at last in a sedan chair of nipples figured by thread. In other words, a perfect concertina. Romance galvanized by a fez, a face in the asphalt, Nikola Tesla standing in an alley in the rain squeezing it in, letting it out, so that a wheeze of music cools into a marvelous stew of shrubbery chalk.