I want to let you know that I’ve settled on a pact with myself to mainly listen & to support those listening & over time (however long or short) will hopefully learn better ways than I currently know for connecting & acting. I understand very well the fingers I see pointing lately/ the voices sternly reminding “marching is not enough.” & have been trying to adhere to a process of “ok” “yes” “continue…” & even though the literature after that seems largely lacking in specifics (when we say something’s not enough, probably it would be good to follow that up with something, because to those of us who don’t quite know a lot else to do other than write things & walk places & make the occasional phone call, the message of “not enough” can be overwhelmingly convincing & encourage us to feel guilty about walking without a particular “next” in mind. Can start to feel maybe if I don’t know the whole road, I’d better not march.
But I remember in the march I participated in, the route became a kind of uncertain thing at a few points, & I chose at the time to try & watch how we were being directed as best I could, remain aware of the potentiality of dangers, but mostly focused on the fact of this together-movement.
This was enough for me, in that moment, to help create an internal model for how a longer, more figurative walking might look. It was more than just some “euphoria of demonstrating” that gets folks inspired & giddy & “feeling” like they are a part of something when in someone else’s fact (mind) they are just there for show. It’s metaphor in how solidarity works. It’s instructive about the tenor of one’s movement. We can see how each other are treating a moment. How open we are to discussion. How focused we seem on hearing one another. It doesn’t seem like “just a show of support” to me. It seems to beg the question of “next”—it can go some part of the way toward answering that question) your own message did not lack some specific places to look next. & I will look in those places next. & I plan to continue study & solidarity & building of my own sense of how to act.
& I wish I’d come to this moment as prepared as some seem. I feel I have a sense for empathy that is always needed & a servant’s heart & a willing set of hands & a strong back. Just… a big cloud of uncertainty as to where those things ought to/can best be put to use.
At least there is the fact of Poets I can wrap my heart around.
I love you,
Listen it’s not so scary America Death
is coming, free and simple without a vote don’t
even get out of bed. The angels have you it’s
only the end the clown cars in the sky have fallen.
The trumpets have spoken, listen to the music.
Clean as despair, white as flight, have
a tiny flag for your trouble. Forget
your voice, it’s illegal to use it, but don’t keep
it in your pocket either, they can look there.
Come on America it’s only fascism how many
branches of government do you need? There’s apple pie
on the table and Jimmy Stewart having a dream
and you were there and you were there but nobody
from these seven countries. We get our vanilla beans
from Texas, our avocados from California. Chocolate
may go extinct but soon so will democracy small
price to pay to re-legalize cross burnings.
It’s tradition America, what our forefathers
would have wanted. Freedom of decay and a dog
in every Subaru. The King of Mexico can go
back to Africa and Putin can come to dinner
whenever he likes. Why are you crying?
It was a good 200-year experiment but it’s
over now. The revolution will be written behind
closed doors and transmitted to you via state-
approved channels. This is what you asked for
America, 2% lower taxes and crushing violence.
Let’s all shake hands with the National Guard
at the next counter-protest. Color-code
your neighbors and gift them to Homeland Security.
All lives matter America, especially ours.
I’ve been keeping the same record (a single notebook) since June of 2008. It was a rough year, but also a particularly beautiful one. My divorce—or at least the legal end of the thing—was finalized that month; was drinking pretty heavily & eating whatever pill or other thing probably shouldn’t go with drinking heavily a lot; was waking up on the front lawn some when my neighbor came out to let the dogs play & the are-you-okay of her was noticeable but I didn’t pay the empathy of these kinds of exchanges much nevermind. Yes, I’m perfect, I thought, said, dim city stars phasing double-single-shifting under a great diseased magnolia; I watched Venus almost exclusively; jazz around the corner kept me close, & I’d sit understoop in the afternoons with mosquitos & whiskey, Erin played piano behind the near window & I wish I could remember what she played. Lovely & small. Would go on these tears with pages—ripping, cutting up, plastering my empty wooden floor with a pretty dumb fragmented narrative about a man named Leonard & some trees & a girl who did not displace the water in her bathtub.
I thought about the bathtub a lot. And so I started taking a lot of baths & when I was in the bath I found myself reading whatever spiritual work I could find—anything it didn’t matter; this is where I read Gandhi’s …Experiments with the Truth, & somewhere in this I found myself in a silent sort of prayer. I wouldn’t ask things or say things, would just sit in the steam with the window cracked & bright & watch the old pipes & listen for god. Listen to god.
& this is when I was beginning to take walks to the springs to sit under an oakshade & contemplate. & I started a dream journal & I’ve been keeping it ever since. So as I look back, I can see at first I was trying to describe my dreams to the page. It sounds an awful lot like an office friend telling you about a dream. It sounds like I know I sound when I try to tell you a dream. I start to tell it & immediately it sours itself. It isn’t right anymore with the feeling I’d carried over from the sleeping world.
No one can share your unique conventions. The sensation of flying & the mechanism that takes on—I’ve discovered in asking, for example—sounds drastically distinct from one dream-flyer to the next. But also the emotional impact of an event might be lost & carried into a kind of literal embarrassment (which is incredibly destructive to maintaining the integrity of recall) when perhaps the nightmare was a man in a paper hat driving by, the exhaust of his beat-up truck smelling distinctly of bratwurst—No. This is not frightening. But in the dream (this was one I had as a kid) it was these facts-symbolic that had struck fear. There is no way to scare someone with that story.
It’s nice to kind of chuckle at yourself over the sillyness of a nightmare, but in keeping a record, something is lost in the way one has to qualify the difference between the literal imagery of a dream & its emotive expressions within the dreamer. Descriptions begin to separate out the unity of the dreamed experience & eventually there is little left of the dream itself to recollect; what I end up remembering is the description or the sense I made up about what the description meant to me. This is an obvious thing. It applies to all memory. But in keeping record, it never fit me quite right. I can always go back & describe a dream over & over & over. What I can’t always do is just now wake up from this dream. & so I have wanted to stay with the unique waking moment as a thought about keeping a record of dreams.
(or else to remain in the energy which I feel in that transitional state: I have been known to leap out of bed and dart across the house, not really as a fully conscious decision, but somehow as a decision taken when in the dream it had been incredibly important to dart away or charge towards, but mainly it is about remaining still) not blink, not shift the direction of the eyes, not scratch an itch, not think at all. Just allow the transition from sleep to waking to take a long, full time of occurring. It’s not a willful paralysis, but a natural feeling of waking and being in the place in body & mind where you are in all of these different places at once & just not disturbing that, becoming aware of a multiple awareness. Too quickly engaging the woken body into its wakeful state is very natural, but it interrupts the multiplicity & fullness of the experience of experiencing a dream, once I’ve woken.
Sometimes there are sentences. Sometimes there are not-really-words. Sketching visually can happen but this is not something I’ve really learned to trust in my body. I don’t think I’m a very good artist & when I start to draw things I also start engaging my doubts about what is being made, so as a part of dream work it’s something I don’t really do, even though I think it would be a valuable tool in the process. I trust the dark. The pen goes where it goes wherever in the dark. I am not recording what happened. I am staying with the dream & doing with the pen what the dream is doing with me with the pen. I trust the light. The pen can be watched on the page in the early sunlight, it kind of goes the rest of the way of bringing me into this waking way of being from another way of being. Interestingly, this process has left me less (& not more) certain what the differences between the two (or more) really are.
I want to say something about the value of this process. It’s difficult to put into words. On a few occasions I’ve had the opportunity to listen to Rikki Ducornet talking—& if you haven’t read The Complete Butcher’s Tales or Gazelle, they are glorious, stark, expansive, real, nightmares; I am always returning to them in contemplation of narrative’s dimensions in reality—talking about writing “near dream time.” She said this as a reason, it was the end of the thought. Why sit in the morning and write?—“because it’s close to dream time.” This ought be the end of the case, maybe.
It is one of the ways a dream represents to me. It is one of the more share-able/linear pages of late:
wheels along the highway speeding down a nervous warbles we & we & all
“you are going faster” they say, “I know, than you wish”
& in the prior meadow of Oz-poppies
time it was it was a time it was it was a time
“apple jack pull apple apple jack pull apple”
they singing Indigo in the trees
& earlier still
on the darkening peak, alone
I took photographs
of luminous fingerprints
some antsciente leetol
now! screeech your wrist to try & halt a war
a Flinstone stop.
Curtis says it’s getting dark
& I see that he’s right
it’s very dark now
too dark for all this Marching
How much further in the notsolight?
pulling up by the hand
bodies by the hand Straw rope
arm in arm on arm
bodies by the hand Straw Wrope
of eye & eye in fire on fire
teek a reek a neeki nang
“Now we can see
clear lines of love
sing the marchers in the arm of the ropes
up in balloons
after a hard climb
lined up in a ferris wheel
There you are, across
like we used to do at Reed’s
I love you,
I was out walking in the front range, a day in early fall, clear. And a woman there and I was there and she and that was all. She waved me down across our paths and I walked over to her and she was shaking.
“I’m having a heart attack, I think,” she said, she said, “I’m having a heart attack.”
But she wasn’t having a heart attack. At least not the sort she meant.
“Let’s sit down here,” I said, and we sat and I watched her for a while and she told me where she had been staying in a group in a tent with a man who seemed to me not so much a man, but a fearful animal prone to fearful violence. And I asked her if she had people somewhere and she said, yes, a daughter and a son, and they had tried to get her to stay with them to take care of her, but she wouldn’t.
And we looked at the grass and the trees together and her breathing got slower and she began to talk about the mountains and the police and the animals and the city and she was shaking less and less. She asked me for a cigarette.
“Are you sure?” I asked, “It would seem like an awful thing to do to a heart in need of medical attention.”
“Yeah, I’ll be fine,” she said, and I looked and only had one in my pack, so we shared it.
About the end of the smoke another fellow came walking by and seemed he knew this woman a little, just to see her and say hello, and as he came toward us the woman started breathing heavy again and told him she was having a heart attack. She needed to go to the hospital. The man took out his phone and dialed some numbers and asked for help and sat down on the other side next to the woman and told her help was on the way.
“I need to go to the hospital” she kept saying. And she wasn’t having a heart attack.
But I had no doubt that she needed help. That she needed medicine of some sort or other. That she needed care.
The police arrived a little ahead of the ambulance. Two officers stood over this woman, shouting at her like she was deaf. “You don’t need to go to the hospital,” they kept saying. And they smirked at one another. Probably they’ve met her before, I thought. Probably they know her. Probably she does this a lot, she panics in need of help and can think of no other words to say than that she’s having a heart attack and needs to go to the hospital. The other man with us was offering alternatives. Maybe there’s a shelter she can go to instead, she clearly needs help. No, insisted the officers, she needs no help. She’s fine. And refused to speak to me or the other man again on the matter, and continued berating the woman—who needed help. I kept thinking maybe they get this a lot and that’s why they think they know better. Maybe they see this kind of thing all the time and have come to think of it as a nuisance—they might be helping folks willing to be helped. They could take her somewhere but she’d just be out again tomorrow calling ambulances. Must be this is why. But I still couldn’t understand, why speak to her as though she wasn’t a person. Must be it’s part of the job. Any job. Like a restaurant or a bar or an office or whatever. You get used to the rhythms and forget where you are with people and you start to think about what you need to get done before going home and how the person in front of you is just making you do extra work and you stop trying to see what they must be going through or that they’re just trying to take advantage of you.
But the one thing I knew. That it ached to know. Was this woman was in need of help and that she was asking for help, and nobody knew how to help her.
Did I say or know this was the name of the wine dark heart of wayfarers’ love?
Odysseus was born onto the shore from a sea of misgiving
and after them that frolicked did he walk & though
at home, such seething hands of crippling
did he drink and eat with an Island’s king
and spun a song in days and nights in lyre drawn
and javelin to his arm did prove upon his hosts himself
deserving of a boat
that the joy of poetry unwinds us to our coiled kept hearts
and sets in us a clock for keeping the gentle
heart of returns—a heart open, as they say,
to the sameness of our guests and us
I rejoice in thought of your selfness,
though I weep for the hour of the ape
I celebrate your sacrament
though blood boils in the hour of the ape
and here’s a wine to darken your tongue
in this sad sweet hour of the ape
“Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” is a line from the synoptic gospels I want to think about a little here in light of how I’ve treated a thought about the president and our political system in general and our current state of collective reasoning. This “render” passage has been used to say—and maybe it does really mean—pay your taxes and obey the laws of the land, now “what is God’s, give to God.”
“Don’t give too much worry away to the affairs of the powerful,” is also what I hear. It’s especially an interesting thought to apply when ostensibly one’s government is also one’s self-and-community. When “we” are Caesar—but of course “I” am not—then to render unto the affairs of state is also a directive to participate in collective decision-making, is it not?
Something I am also seeing in this Caesar/God render-directive is a call to keep one’s aims focused & properly delineated.
In pursuit of Justice, then, do so justly.
In pursuit of Peace, do so with a peaceful heart.
(I do not mean here to say that all shows of force are unpeaceful in their ends, but that too often a response to injustice and oppression represents not a struggle for justice and freedom, but merely the other side of the aggressive coin. Violence begotten by violence remains violent. Blood feuds eventually forget whose cause is right, only remembering whose blood was last spilled and how much more dearly the others must pay.)
In pursuit of a relationship with one’s creator, a consideration of what that creative force represents is necessary. If I happen to relate to God as being “a person” expressed from out of a particular set of books, those books can give me some idea. If I happen not to ascribe to a personal-god philosophy, but to humanistic tradition of moral vision—I am still, I think, seeking out a way toward “the good,” and I can call this thing my center and I can name it my creator in some sense, that which makes me what I am. What I mean is that it isn’t necessary to carry around the name “God” to find oneself in search of the underlying principles required by a maker of its creation. & likely it couldn’t hurt for one ‘faith’ to recognize it shares some kindred relationships between itself & seemingly disparate belief systems. It’s not my goal here to litigate all the differences, but merely to express my own heart/mind on the matter, & in brief. & so too—
In pursuit of God, do so with a heart after that of God.
In the midst of a lot of wild political meanderings yesterday, I found a comment by a good friend—and one of my favorite poets—that helped illuminate for me what I find true about a notion of rendering unto Caesar in the parlance of our times:
I don’t know if it’s his line. I couldn’t find it elsewhere. It doesn’t really matter. It highlights the specific intentions of a political thought about how we might best as a society affect great change towards better taking care of one another, while at the same time acknowledging that such things require time & effort & struggle & consent. In the mean time, there remain those around us who need help. & so we are called to help.
If we are to give over to the state that which the state requires of us, we participate in debate, we follow the law to the best of our ability—without doing harm or finding ourselves complicit in harm, as much as possible. We work toward a more just society of living sentient things.
If we are to give over to our maker that which our maker requires of us, we spend time in spiritual/moral/prayerful contemplation. We educate our hearts. We feed those in need of food. We encourage the downtrodden. We do our best to love one another.
I think this is also one of the goals of the separation of church & state, and of the separate treatment of disciplines: not to draw battle lines, nor to make walls between belief systems, nor to declare for all time that, say, scientific endeavor and religious endeavor be found endlessly at odds; but instead to allow us to proceed with clarity and freedom.
When we remember where to appropriately render what may be rendered, we may also act.
It may convict us to speak out in favor of another way, but too often—and I have felt it—there is a sense of paralysis which comes into the broad political concerns. On a national stage, there is one moment to look at—an election, & that takes forever—& then from there we fall to trembling & name-calling & whatever else lies in a forest made of fear.
So, for example, many have pointed to Brexit & the ascension of Trump & nationalism on a global scale & now this current treatment of refugees—they (we) have drawn parallels to the state of the world in the early-to-mid part of the 20th century. They (we, I) have exampled the radicals of that era in attempt to educate and dissuade us from a path that seems heads us further into suffering, violence, separation.
To draw comparisons between a world leader of today & one remembered from our not-long-past is to invite vitriol & a general agreement that hyperbole of this kind is uncalled-for.
The comparison has lost all its probative value. Remember that, at first, there was a snake in the garden, & by the end he was called a dragon. The evolution of both our heroes & our monsters is ever such that from age to age they all become as vapors—unreal, overlarge. We forget what humanity is capable of because we see the past in black & white & the present we do not see & we yearn for the colors of a future that never arrives & the present—we do not see. We forget that all our monsters have had mothers. We forget that all our heroes have had demons (& whether or not one can look at a duck and call it a duck, there seem so many unwilling to believe it is a duck).
But calling a thing what it seems to us it is—& having that rejected by the powers that be—need not also be a signal to us to lose heart, nor to lean into the anger we may rightly carry with us for all we see in our midst (& ever pouring our way)…all that might have been prevented.
We may educate our hearts & speak truth to power & listen to one another. & we may never forget the fact that we will always have the poor among us. That there will always be someone who needs help. & we must always strive toward the unity of need with assistance. The unity of action with principle. The unity of ourselves with our maker.
Maintain perspective. Work toward the good. Never give up.