I have been working on an erasure project! This is the second part. You can see the first part here and an apology to the Hare Krishnas who gave me this great book. The transcript below is a meager representation of the original; WordPress is not forgiving when it comes to line spacing and word placement.
the science of loving
The method is very simple,
it is very easy
supply food to one’s stomach
when we eat something
the largest tree. water the
I’ve been working on an ‘erasure’ project (since yesterday). I’m pretty excited about it so I thought I’d post some samples in the next few days until I finish and post the whole thing. The original book is “bhakti-yoga: The Art of Eternal Love”. DISCLAIMER: The unfortunate nature of erasure is that it involves…erasing. I don’t mean any insult to any Hare Krishnas out there! I have only the greatest respect for these very kind people, a few of whom I encountered yesterday and who gave me this book (for a dollar). Art is love y’all!
Maybe I should transcribe here:
the principles of regulation
The basic principle is that
everyone can become happy.
society teaches one
how to be situated
grows up to love
I realized just now that I’ve never posted this poem, the last line of which was the original tagline for this blog. It is my favorite poem of all time.
I found this in Czeslaw Milosz’s (Cheh-shwah Mee-lohsh is my impression of how to pronounce it) Nobel Prize portfolio. Milosz is a polish poet who is particularly fond of attempting to describe the indescribable nature of things. He is astonishingly successful at this hilariously ironic enterprise, and captures absolute beauty as he does it. I love him because he has come closer to describing anything than anyone I’ve ever read.
As a lure into more of his work I’m going to quote the last couple lines of his poem “Earth Again” which I read in his book “Unattainable Earth”. These are the lines that first made Milosz one of my favorite writers of all time.
“…for a short moment there is no death
And time does not unreel like a skein of yarn
Thrown into an abyss.”
Also search youtube for videos of him speaking/reading if you want an example of a great poet voice.
If you’re interested in other Polish poets check out Zbigniew Herbert.
I looked at that face, dumbfounded. The lights of métro stations flew by; I didn’t notice them. What can be done, if our sight lacks absolute power to devour objects ecstatically, in an instant, leaving nothing more than the void of an ideal form, a sign like a hieroglyph simplified from the drawing of an animal or bird? A slightly snub nose, a high brow with sleekly brushed-back hair, the line of the chin – but why isn’t the power of sight absolute? – and in a whiteness tinged with pink two sculpted holes, containing a dark, lustrous lava. To absorb that face but to have it simultaneously against the background of all spring boughs, walls, waves, in its weeping, its laughter, moving it back fifteen years, or ahead thirty. To have. It is not even a desire. Like a butterfly, a fish, the stem of a plant, only more mysterious. And so it befell me that after so many attempts at naming the world, I am able only to repeat, harping on one string, the highest, the unique avowal beyond which no power can attain: I am, she is. Shout, blow the trumpets, make thousands-strong marches, leap, rend your clothing, repeating only: is!
She got out at Raspail. I was left behind with the immensity of existing things. A sponge, suffering because it cannot saturate itself; a river, suffering because reflections of clouds and trees are not clouds and trees.
Last night there was another storm and he could see patches of black ice on the road where the river must have flooded. The radio crackled quietly. He looked out the window and shifted down a gear. The water had been very high and further down the river there would be rapids.
He parked in the gravel lot. As he stepped out of the car he could smell the cold. The sunlight was grey but the sky bright blue and the river, dark green and brown. It was higher than he had ever seen it and thunderous, a static cupping his ears and a resounding deep bass far away, like a drum struck by god.
He stepped through the gate with the ROAD CLOSED sign. The gravel path had disappeared into the river; it looked as if the river had exploded. The trees along the bank had already been exposed completely, the dirt entirely stripped from their roots. The forest seemed naked, shivering. He had taken a walk here with his parents right after the big storm a few years earlier. He had been looking down at his feet, stepping carefully. He looked up; his dad was helping his mom over the rocks.
Two huge fisherman were walking towards him. They nodded as they passed. One was missing his arm above the elbow, the sleeve of his waders held closed against the water with a rubber-band.
He had come hoping to find a small island in the middle of the river. He remembered the rapids in that spot had risen to almost six feet. He had stared at those waves crashing in on themselves, his face wet, but never rushing forward until his parents had said they had to move on.
When he reached the spot where it used to be there was only water, flat and fast, water rushing straight through trees. He stared at it for a minute. He took a deep breath of cold air. Once, it had been warm and the water was lower; he had jumped across the rocks and stood on the island. As it started to rain lightly he had stripped and gone into the river.
Closer to the car, the water slowed into a wide curve and a dead tree jutted out from the bank. He remembered his Dad crouching on the edge and pointing.
“Right there is where I want you to scatter my ashes.”
“Okay, Dad,” He had tried to laugh, to clasp his shoulder naturally, “Not for awhile.” Just two men by the river. When he was younger they used to walk together here and he would find sticks to throw in. He ran along the edge racing them downstream as they dipped and bucked through the rapids until they blended with the water and he lost sight of them.
Could the water see me? When I kneel
And breathe hard enough, it pounds.
As I reach into my own face
It’s so cold. Do I almost fall asleep?
I see smoke twisting downriver like oil.
I have no question; it’s an old breath of yours.
A problem philosophical:
We cannot touch each other.
I climb, my hands numb,
The tree bark, penetrating.
You are waiting, already there.
I cannot describe your face
But I try to.
I try to make a reflection stand still.
I try to put my hands, one day,
Upon a shadow.
Full crowd tonight– all of Niobe’s kids,
Eurydice, who’ll be leaving early,
and Persephone’s here. It’s Spring in Hell.
I spent this morning crossing the river
In Charon’s boat; he’s gives the best feedback.
I’m still trying to write this one poem
But it just won’t come. I think it’s about
Filling an empty place up with something,
And how the emptiness grows around it.
Sisyphus takes my shoulders in the wings;
Inside I’m trembling over this line like:
I made my world one endless metaphor.
I almost called my brother yesterday.
I just want to figure out everything.
Look at the windows:
You can forget
windows and walls
and fall into (love
with) the ground.
“I got it,” the girl says, laughing
at how incompetent I am
because I fumble at the door
as we leave the coffee place.
It is early in the morning.
And I remember this
as I am walking to school.
I regret that I didn’t ask her
to walk with me. Imagining
that could carry me all day.
We would have split here.
That song, “Can’t you see?
Oh, can’t you see…” in my head.
“It’s not that I miss my ex-girlfriend,
it’s that I miss having a girlfriend.”
My marine friend said to me,
“I just want to be back overseas.”
My professor calls it a cycle
of fullness and emptiness and he rolls
life in the air with his hands.
I cannot remember on what end
we write poetry. Does it drain
or fill us? I wonder how a marine
feels when he shoots his gun,
how it feels to truly fuck.
I went to class two stanzas back,
talked to someone, took a shit,
thought about masturbating.
Am I fuller or emptier now?
Maybe I just ruined the poem.
My mom called me.
The only other way it could be:
either you are entirely full
or empty. Like honesty, pregnancy,
you can’t be sort of complete.
I want to call my mom back,
hold her voice in my head.
It pours in and strengthens me.
Poetry is like that—
fullness shooing emptiness away.
“Do you think that someone who could make both the thing imitated and its image would allow himself to be serious about making images and put this at the forefront of his life as the best thing to do?” – Plato, The Republic (599b)
Poetry is a measure of confusion.
To explain — we poets, the confused,
write about love because we don’t know what love is,
or about clouds because we don’t know if God exists,
or about our mothers because we want to talk to our sadness
a conversation we’ve never had, but should’ve.
And the only way to do this well — is to not realize it.
Because the moment we can be in love,
and we begin to grasp what we think God is,
and we are strong enough to talk with our mothers,
after all of this confusion has been lifted,
we might find ourselves at a loss, asking:
What’s left? Do we still turn stones for poems?
Anyone can tell you that a fool is someone either
convinced that they understand everything,
or that it’s not worth trying.