Clouds and Trees

"Nothing ever goes away enough or arrives enough,/ and I want to cry when I think of my heart,/ muscle pounding in muscle, greedy always for joy." – 'A Warning', Eric Anderson

Category: Philosophical

Conversation about Perspective

“Manhattan is great, sure, but like anything
you have to get the right perspective.
You have to see it from a distance,
so that it starts to look inanimate.
Like something totally vibrant and virile
that died suddenly. An ant colony calcified,
or someone wearing incredibly tight pants
hit by a car, frozen in mid air.
Like waves on the ocean
which look like clouds from high above.
What I’m trying to say is, with enough activity
and distance, there is stillness. And so the universe
is a photograph developing. That is why
I am climbing this building,”
King Kong said to the fighter pilot.
Though from the pilot’s perspective
it sounded more like,
“mmgRRAARRad…whiiRRAARssoo,”
and thus was lost in translation.

Suits

The average New York City
subway rat lives about 80 years
fortified by potato grease
and vigorous exercise.

Because of this, they develop
robust internal culture.

Each withstands a profusion
of menial, violent, and beautiful
daily impulses driven by endless,
repetitive, personal history.

Rats are as often killed by the subway,
as by their jobs, or by disease,
though it can be difficult to tell.

Some are captivated by shallow puddles
in which they drown themselves
whilst staring at the moon and just beginning
to grasp the meaning of a metaphor.

bhlf

Favorite Poem of the Day – “The Play of Light and Shadow” by D. Nurkse

This poem is by my first teacher and adviser during my undergrad studies at Sarah Lawrence College. Technically he’s my ‘Don’; I’ll leave it to all of you to discern what that means. I’ve always felt incredibly lucky to have a personal relationship with this guy because besides being a brilliant, universally wonderful (or to use a word I’ve only ever heard him use, numinous) person, he’s also become one of my favorite poets in the world.

The Play of Light and Shadow

We want to give ourselves away utterly
but afterwards we resent it, it is the same
with the sparrows, their eyes burn so coldly
under the dusty pines, their small chests swell
as they dispute a crumb, or the empty place
where a seed was once: this is our law too,
to peck and peck at the Self, to take turns
being I, to die in a fierce sidelong glance,
then to hold the entire forest in one tilt
of a tufted head, to take flight suddenly
and fuck in midair, tumbling upward.

On the Steps Ahead

1.

Tchaikovsky, like this other side
of lostness, is incomplete again.
I lean into violin on the train

To hear it absolutely. I want
to make purpose of, complete,
ugliness. My era. I see beauty

if I crane my neck enough
somewhere back there in the rain.
Violin Concerto in D, Op. 35, I know

is behind the mis-colored sky.
I hear it pushing subway cars.
Spilling out as umbrellas open.

2.

I have been living under skyline.
In the negative space. The only place
For pieces of you, Tchaikovsky,

a leaf caught on the raincoated
concrete step. The life we have yet
To live. In windows, wall-less

if I could paint them, if I had paint-
buckets of rain and you
over and over again, every step

ever upwards. When I carry you
I am together with my discomfort.
I am walking so close beneath beauty.

Jokes

A horse walks into a bar and the bartender doesn’t even like horses because of something to do with the length of their faces but his daughter is giving him those eyes and he groans like, “not those eyes!” and later when the bar closes they take the horse home.

In this one dimension, the big bang occurs in such a way that the universe is a bar and everything walks into it.

Osama Bin Laden walks into a bar and the special forces throw everyone’s bodies into the ocean.

A boy, a bear, a piglet, a tiger, a rabbit, and a donkey all walk into a bar, mess the place up, and pay in honey.

God walks into a bar and Jesus is already there and there’s this Awkward Silence.

A serial killer walks into a bar and kills everybody.

A bar walks into a bar.

A bar walks in on a bar and it’s uncomfortable and the first bar doesn’t know what to say and just closes the door.

A man and a woman walk into a bar and then later out of a bar.

Sisyphus pushes a bar all the way up a hill and when he is about to walk into the bar it rolls back down again.

A psychotic maniac charges into a bar but is very well spoken and makes a lot of friends. Later they’re all into regime change.

God kills himself in the bathroom of a bar and all of time is spent piecing him together.

War is in a bar and never leaves because a genie keeps refilling its glass.

A bomb goes off in a bar and destroys everything and your philosopher friends are like, “Well, what really is ‘a place’?”

The wind blows into a bar and Dawn is in the back spinning a frisbee on her fingers.

State of Mind

     My state of mind strikes me in the head as I wake up from another unintended nap in my seat on the airplane. I had been sure, without realizing it, that in this transitional space, this quarter-orbit of Earth from a place I will never be again to a place I haven’t been for a year, the place where I grew up, where my parents are waiting for me, that my memories, or rather, my outer-layer, somehow reliant upon context, which I thought I must need in order truly to have ‘been there’, would drift away and disappear like flakes of skin into the plane engines. I must have thought that I would arrive and, with my first step onto American land, be an entirely new person, or just that layers of experience, my accumulated self, would be washed away by time and distance. Once at home, in my natural environment, I would be renewed, like a deck which, when power-washed, reveals clean wood beneath or even like a book whose new and temporary owner holds in his hand the same binding, the same words, the same unbuttoning of story, but it is a matter of debate whether something in the pages remembers hands which have held them before, the person who, in releasing their secrets, could not help also being released and becoming something entirely new.

    It seems to me that this is what is crucial to understand: either I always am the same self, or no such thing exists, and either way, it makes no difference. Just as the eye dilates when I look back into the plane cabin after having gazed out the window at the sun-bright absolutely blazing white clouds and at that instant the cabin appears in an entirely different range of the visual spectrum before being adjusted back to a more appropriate level, so that either there is a standard of light and thus change has significance, or everything is just a perceptual mish-mash; it makes no difference. What is lost? I am, it is.

Standing Next to Shadows (excerpt)

Between the sun and myself on the metal railing stood two pigeons which had been made into absolute shadows. They appeared to be printed on the spherical surface of my vision, tiny birds pre-existent on my brain projected by the light of my eyes. They were momentary avatars of  my ‘self-centerness’ within my world. I seemed now satellite to them: from them grew the metal railing, the deck, myself sitting and watching them, the water of The Serpentine, all of the park bounded by the expanse of my knowledge of London, then what was visible of the sky progressively unveiled by the retreating storm.

As I walked I considered the notion that we experience most truly in memory, and this seemed to be accurate in some way. In certain moments, when we are ‘traveling’ say, there is a divorce between expectation, which exists ‘pre-present’, and actuality, which by its mere reality cannot stand up to imagination. In the duality between evaluation against preexistent mental world and existing physical world, actuality acquires a strange distance of its own, as if it is more unreal than how we imagined it in the first place. In remembering the event we are able to reattach the plastic of imagination though this time colored with our chosen emotion, so that it is either a fantasy or a nightmare, but either way more ‘real’ than the moment of its experience.

But as I reflected on sitting by the lake and reading, it seemed to me that this notion was incomplete. There was a feeling in that present moment, unadulterated by expectation or memory; it was the ‘inside’ of what was physically before me, what I knew I would attempt to describe to myself as I walked away from it. I knew also that even during describing there was a feeling, an inside to that moment as well. This is the endless paradox of experience, lived out through the struggle of the writer: we live in the present moment and all the ones superseding it and to describe, to stand up and turn around, is to change bodies, to move through time, to lose and renew the position you looked out from a moment before, living, perpetual recrystallization.