“I don’t know how to not forge identity through association”

P,

Somewhere in some Dharma Art talk, Trungpa says a thing like that one shouldn’t probably name oneself Artist. I remember reading it for Reed Bye’s class & putting a bunch of underlines & circles around it with copious argumentative notes in the margins. What I insisted for a while in discussion afterwards was that Trungpa can say whatever the fuck he wants—but that I had chosen a particular inward path that had led also to a lot of outward path & a lot of that path is a struggle (had I chosen?/ well the path is being walked & the body does so, joyfully or no), that relationships had gone by a brittle wayside, that the games that get you real-paid fall off, that I pour so much of my faith onto those hours of empty-wall-empty-page-roiling-self-emptyself-roiling, & the notion that this is somehow a good thing to do, that it helps this body that is observing this something that is its part of the everything to witness to help in some way the body of outside the body or in or I don’t know but, you know what, I’ve come a long way since believing the voices of those who say “proclaim not thyself an artist,” from youth immemorial until just this morning & will believe them no longer.

Reed tilted his ear, seemed to me like he were just putting his nose down from a fresh twig of jasmine, & said. That makes a lot of sense. I think Trungpa was probably talking to a lot of established people who were at least outwardly fond of their own opinions, for whom the name artist was a social identity & who seemed to him to heap scorn on others they deemed “lesser than.” & used the name of Artist to kind of swing their egos around. I don’t think he would be asking you to deny coming to a sense of yourself through struggle. 

I argued a little sideways for a little longer & eventually acquiesced to Reed’s way of suggesting, Sometimes we just listen for a while first & later we discover where we have differences.

‘Surrounded by Artists’ can be a pretty beautiful place, but also forgetful & easy. Boulder was an easy place to wake up inspired, to go out inspired, to go in spired. Those willing to go along with you on some wild hare of imaginative what-not seem to spring up out of the cracks in the sidewalk. If none of your friends are there to say insane shit to you, there’s plenty of strangers that will oblige. It can start to feel normal. Like this is what the planet is like.

This is what the planet is like.

But there’s a way among artists of getting isolated from the big old world where nobody’s interested in your long-ass tracks & angsty buddhism. & there’s that way that usually we think of ourselves as outsiders, marginalia, misfits—but when we’re in a club of misfits, where do we go to feed that comfortable feeling of souring in a dark corner, utterly misunderstood. I need that feeling of being alone to be there, because it’s a real thing in the physical law of forces—nothing touches anything. If I can’t feel that, if I’m in a club, I start considering myself pretty much bullshit from lung to tongue.

& if I’m not in the dark sometimes, a lot of the time, how will my songs complete the cycle of yearning, sound sweet, the way I mean them to?

& I can become complacent with my own creative activities. Get to putting flyers up for the club meetings, thinking this is how to make art.

& now here I be sitting in some local coffee whatever by a river in Texas where I like to come & notice how many folks like to sing along with Fleet Foxes also! There’s been some kind of Identity-creep. It’s just happened & I’m not planning to lop it off at the resistances. I like the old warehouse windows here. I like the lighbulbs & high walls & openness & attention to space.

Music seems all about gigs.

There’s good & shitty bands.

I don’t see a lot of people just connecting with their crafts. I don’t see a lot of people set momentarily free into their instruments. Maybe I will find this. But I miss it.

Poetry is mostly slam. & there’s some fancy-folk too, who like to speak soft & make their rooms feel important.

Not much inbetween.

I miss the places where poetry wasn’t supposed to be something & just was something together with anybody together there with it. You know, a fun time listening. Fun in exposing the human part of the human to the humans. 

I miss that. I mean it fuels me. I remember who my friends are because I’m a little perturbed by the desire so many seem to have to force whatever I’m trying to engage with them into their own preconceptions. If you’re going to ask me a question, & I give you an answer, why does it feel necessary to you (this generic you) to immediately freak out that I didn’t answer on your terms? Sorry I have different parameters. Not sorry, but sorry we can’t see each other right now. I won’t try to correct your question if you’ll agree not to start growling at me like an angry chihuahua when I give you my answer.

Sometimes I guess this is just my ego—why don’t you just immediately get me, or agree with yourself that getting me is up to you, & getting you is up to me? 

But it’s also a clear communication to me about the belonging I have felt in the Tape House, with Rumpilots, among the Poets. I know I’m a calm drink of quiet water, but the home I hold to is much as rabble in the street. Forging identity through association. Well… if there can be a JUST applied here, I think I know what you mean, because there is more to identity than association—there is one’s inner work, yes? But even in the house one associates identity through attention to the surfaces of the walls & shelves & countertops & instruments. There are the things lying around because we place them there because we want to see them there & they tell us about ourselves—some story. There are the things lying around because we are always (or regularly) interacting with them: they tell us what direction we’re heading. Sometime’s they embarrass us because they are not the things we hope to always be engaged with. Sometimes they fill us with pride when we take some mental photograph of “this is my room now… you can tell what kind of person I am by my room… & yes I don’t mind this at all.”

I appreciated much your decision in the piece you sent to lay out not the outer-cultivation of a Buddhism, but the work of seeing feeling as it stands & not judging it out of the work. Perhaps the argument-posture towards the “correcting” attitude… well I was going to say something else, but now I’m thinking that you were talking to yourself—that this voice was your own voice telling you what it thought you were “supposed” to be feeling… or how you intend to apply philosophy towards the feeling… as well as anyone who might get in on that process of admonishment with you. I don’t feel certain about the assessment, but it’s a thought. 

Much Love,

P

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The route became a kind of uncertain thing

P,

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,

P

Spraytan Makeover

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

~George Orwell

P,

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.

Love,

P

Dreamwork

“Children forget. I mean, they don’t forget, but they forget the details. They just don’t know why they have nightmares all the time. It’s very difficult.”

                            –     Mary Oliver 

“poetry work was like dreamwork…it went along to things that had been in my family’s occultist tradition, because if they talked about their alchemy, they had work to do. They taught me that dreams told you things you had to do.”

                             –    Robert Duncan

P,

I usually don’t try to describe my dreams to my dream journal.

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.

There is that way a dream is yours & yours alone, really.

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.

An important part of my process has been a practice of remaining very still when waking from a dream

(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.

Once it is time to record, there isn’t thinking how to tell the dream.

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.

I don’t remember recording this dream.

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
                                   tar-seer

                                                 for Cerulean

 

now! screeech your wrist to try & halt a war
awar
awarbling

to
had to
do
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

 

Marching
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

up
&
up
&
up

tic-a-reeki-tic
a-tic-a-reeki
tik-a-tik

reek-a-tic
a-reek-i-teek-i
ang-a-nang    ganang

teek a reek a neeki nang
anang-a-nee    ananga-nee

ateeki-reech

ateeki-rrreee

                 A reach!
                 A reach! 

A brick!
A break!

A brick!
A brick!

A break!

Now we can see
clear lines of love
&
respect
Again”

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
everybody

giggling

like we used to do at Reed’s

 

I love you,
P

Who needed help

P,

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.

,
P

“the joy of poetry that enables the rebellion to be more prayer than protest”

P,

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
greed,

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 returnsa 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

,
P