Friday, July 31, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
The hatch shell was filled with Haydn
Clouds moving east above it
Growing as they did, roseate
Against the fading sky, and grey.
Brahms brought the waltzing night
And a flock of geese flew to the river
The fountain in Copley Square is still.
It's basin trembling with reflections
Of the tower of Old South Church
While 8 young women pass;
Tall as giraffes and lithe
Their silk dresses bright like jewels,
Short like flags above their heeléd legs.
Laughing, they wear plastic crowns
And party beads and two hold hands.
A bachelorette party they tell me,
I wish well and happy the bride.
The man making my meal
Is blond and wears a baseball cap.
And his skin is fine. Inside
His arm is a tattoo. Initials
And small dates rank up his arm.
As he hands me the bag
And says my name I see
The list is long. He wears it with grace.
Along the park the sky is deep
I see some stars, the horizon glows.
It is beautiful.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Friday, July 17, 2009
When I was young we had in our family a book of riddles. This was before computer games. It was called something very imaginative like "101 riddles for young persons" I may have the number wrong. As is so often the case, it is the perplexing ones that I remember, to whit:
Q. When is a boy not a boy?
A. When he is abed!
The syntax should date the publication, even in the 50's we had to seek out our septuagenarian baby sitter to explain. In my youth the proposition that one's essence could be changed by simply lying down was troubling. I have come to understand that it can, puberty helped with that, and I find that the world continues to be indefinite, filled with troubling questions about the nature of things, such as:
Q. When walking through Copley place, as I will be shortly, I'm having breakfast with "The Other Reader," am I inside or outside? Also, when leaving one building and crossing the bridge to the next, does that condition change and, which is really the pressing concern, at least to those of us who have managed to outgrow baseball caps, do I remove my hat or not?
I have actually watched the bifurcated video screen at the top of the Huntington Avenue escalator for clues, thinking that Louis Vuitton's models would know, but have been unable to ascertain what is hat and what is hair, except in the case of the black bunny ears, but they are on what we can assume is a woman. She keeps them on, but women do keep them on, being relieved by the sexism of our culture from having to fumble with their hat as well as their shopping bags while trying to open a door. Or pass through a revolving door in defensive posture (more on that later.) Or still yet, press an elevator button. I say nothing about men's rooms.
Keeping my hat on in the hallway does allow me to remove it on entering a shop, which still makes a pleasant impression, and under the skylights it can still serve the stated function of protecting my aged skin from the harsh rays of the sun. That answers fairly well in regard to the bridge, and as we know, in some contexts the dear bought fedora is never removed- but those folks have evolved a different taste that eludes me as yet.
I suppose this could be extended into a contemplation of the question "where are we really when we enter the mall, is it possible to ascertain in any real sense?"
Meanwhile, I'm at the revolving door so will sign off. As I said, you'll be hearing about that too!
Friday, July 10, 2009
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Monday, July 6, 2009
My search for myself was almost fifty years long. It only ended when my diagnosis with HIV placed so many other urgencies in my way that I forgot about the search for myself for a while in my haste and worry. At that time it seemed that my years were now quite limited and that they would just have to be lived as I was. Perhaps disease is the ultimate “come as you are party.”
Circumstances were such that I felt there was justice in my being indulgent of my less practical goals in life, doing only what I wanted, was gratifying, had meaning, or a thing I would be proud to leave behind. I turned work away if I couldn’t work at my best level, tried any kind of fun on offer, and started to explore experiences I had shunned, lest I die unknowing, or worse, criticize in ignorance.
The conundrum is this: it was only then, when I was no longer searching that I found myself, or perhaps better stated, that I realized I had never lost myself. It happens this way for many, and seems peculiar to some, but I believe there is a very good reason for it. In order to search for a thing that thing must be separated from us on some level. We use our minds, eyes, and bodies to move through thought or space hoping to discover that which we seek, and certain that we will know it when we stumble on it. That which we seek, in this case is our self. It is a rather humorous image of us all inextricably bound within our selves bumping around attic and alley and bazaar in the hope of stubbing our toe on some self we think we could claim. It is after all our self that is doing the searching, but being that self is so inevitable and mundane that we can not credit it as being worthy or sufficient. What then is it we search for?
I will answer only for myself. I was searching not for myself, but for another self which would suit better the people around me and not be troubled by all the quirks and insecurities acquired through a long and unprotected life. In reality it turns out to have been more a running from myself than a searching for it.
Is there not some feeling that for all of us there is a happy place where we work at gratifying jobs with respectful people and have peace and security in our life and home and self? Could we not have that if we just could find that self that makes the promise true and doesn’t disturb others or ourselves with that which lies beyond understanding or explanation?
I say I found myself, but in truth it was more an accepting than a finding. It was compelled by a seeming necessity but the urgency brought a great gift: the knowledge that the promise was a fantasy, and like most fantasies, it’s attractiveness rested on the denial of my own complexity and richness. It required as much conformity as a suburban life might, and looked at objectively promised more boredom and less self than the present state did.I sought self, and then realized that any self that might be found would be less than the one which was seeking.
We look to heaven and forget to enjoy our earthly home, we plan for a future in focused detail while the present sails past unnoticed, we speculate on the potential of our family and friends to achieve goals and attend events, but don’t hold life’s pressures at bay while they are with us so that we can know their mind and heart, we think always of what we ought to be, or could be, refusing or unable to see what we are and feel confident in it’s rightness.
What need is there except be ourselves, as we are and as we evolve? What supposition of our own identity can be more right than the inevitability of our being as it exists this very moment? Is it even possible to see or know it with out distorting it in the process?
When we walk without self-consciousness we walk best I think, when we walk directly and without contrived intention. When we react as we react, give without thought, love without agenda. When being is our only purpose and our way of being is nothing more than the natural impulse of our native force. It is there, in being without conscious thought, just as our inner force directs that resides our self. It is inevitable and inescapable, as in flux as the passing days, and as complex and contradictory as are the infinite stimuli it responds to. What other way could it be? Could we be? Except to be less than we already are, divided from creation’s interdependence, an extraneous link in the chain of life.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
How like a house our selves are;
Our eyes and mind it’s windows
And we looking hard at others' lives
Can no more see our self as others do
Than see our house as we gaze from it
At yards and houses that obscure our view.
But those on the other side
Retuning looks from inside themselves
See our self so large that like a house
It looms from distance with a clear outline
Etched sharp against the evening sky,
The windows glowing with our inner light;
Beacon, beckoning to the passerby
That which we cannot see of self.
Need we see it? Know what that beacon offers?
Would seeing it make the offer better?
I think not. That as we are we’re meant to be
Watch each step alone, where it takes wait to see.
In my memory it seems as though it actually happed this way! I will relate it to you.
Always I felt that strange presence. It seemed to follow me everywhere, yet I could never quite understand who, or what it was. It annoyed me, dogging my footsteps, intruding into my thoughts and making me conscious of my every word. While walking along the path one day, unprovoked, unexpected, I stopped suddenly and turned 180 degrees on my heels and confronted him.
“Why are you following me!”
“But I'm not.”
“You are always right behind me.”
“Well, if you walked more slowly we could walk side by side, perhaps even talk with one another.”
“And you always seem to turn up, where ever I am.”
“Yes, that’s true.”
“And why would I want to walk beside you, and talk with you?”
“This is a useless question, neither of us has a choice, we may as well make the best of it, you are rather amusing you know.”
“Who are you?” I demanded.
But he didn’t answer, and putting his hand on my shoulder started us down the path again.
In time I became quite accustomed to him. Although he could be rather difficult, he was also a good companion, overall very fair, and at times quite funny.
I also came to realize that he was a rather attractive person and came to be quite glad of his company.
We eventually came to a place where the path was blocked by a lake. He went to find a boat while I rested. He returned with small row boat which we got into and he started rowing across the lake. The sun was high and I became drowsy, but suddenly my attention was caught by a kingfisher diving into the water. The bird caught a fish, and as he rose above the surface the writhing of the fish sent shots of fire from it’s scales. I turned to point this out to my companion, but he wasn’t there, and I was rowing. Finally I understood and I felt whole.
Soul and self-
Are they speaking?
Soul says self
Is always tweeking.
Self says soul’s
No one to talk,
The stuff he does
Makes Tweekers balk,
Says he even
Talks to God!
And God talks back,
If that’s not odd!
Then there’s Id,
They all quarrel
Like little Kids.
Each one saying
The other’s wrong.
Why can’t we all
Just get along!
It is not the least ingenuous to say
He had no idea who he saw that day
When he stopped to rest by pretty pool
And lost his heart in its rippling surface
Looking back from this end of time
It’s fair to ask “how could that be?”
But two thousand years had yet to pass
Before the arts of metal or of glass
Could perfect a reflecting surface.
So his own image he could only glean
As capricious undulations on blade or shield
Or as depicted by the imperfect arts;
But not as now with the force of light.
We reading back with our assumptions
At times seems quite unfair to me:
A complex web of strange projections,
But I see revealed in it an irony.
That as author of our ego’s love of self
Should be one as confused as we are
About what image a reflection brings;
And just as he did not know himself reflected
Reflection seldom helps us find the self we seek.
The grammar school I attended was the local parochial school, St. Luke School. After the eighth grade my parents put me in the public school system and I attended our town’s brand new junior high for ninth grade. Lloyd Broomhead was in my grade and facing this trauma together brought us into a friendship that really hadn’t existed before. The Broomheads Senior were friends of my parents so there was that familiarity to build on, and as they lived near the junior high it was natural to walk home with him. It was this association which brought me into contact with the Howes, who lived next door to the Broomheads, and whose son David was in our class.
David was a rather large overweight and somewhat goofy young man, but a true wit, even in his early teens. It was David who taught us that by carrying a clip board and pen one could get into almost anyplace, as people always assumed one to be reporting on them, and the desire to ingratiate themselves would always be more forceful than the fact that they shouldn’t let you pass. He took particular delight in the irony that the effort to get good reviews would involve actions directly contracting their purpose. It was David who used to say, “Work fascinates me, I love to watch it!”
Stopping at David’s on the way home from school became a habit, as much because of his mother as because of him. The source of his wit was soon discovered. The first time I met her she introduced herself as “Hazel” in reference to the TV character. She had been cleaning and I suppose looked the part. She was of course toying with the irony that a person in “Mrs. Howe’s” circumstance would have a maid, and I think testing for those poor souls so gullible to accept such a thing. I pity the thought of such a person at her hands. In any case she was thence always Hazel.
We were sitting at the kitchen table one day admiring a rather impressive cake she maintained that she had made “From scratch.” When she noticed that my glance had fallen on the waste basket beside me, but before I had really taken in what I was looking at she stated, “of course the box was the hardest part!”
David and I fell out of touch after High school, he going west to San Francisco and I to Ireland for college. Contact with the Howes slowly dropped off, but many, many years later I was at Symphony one night and in response to a tap on my shoulder turned to find Hazel and Mr. Howe sitting behind me. We had a warm reunion and I was pleased to find that they were well and happy. When I inquired after David her response was stunning in it’s wry statement on self knowledge:
“You know, Michael, some things never change. David is still trying to find himself, and we are still trying to lose him!”
I come from Gæa
And dwell in the damp earth.
On warm rocks
I worship the sun.
I am ancient, I am fear,
The feckless call me evil.
I bring you life,
I bring you death
I bring you seeing of yourself.
I am knowledge.
My name is Serpent.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
|AS kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme;|
|As tumbled over rim in roundy wells|
|Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s|
|Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;|
|Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:||5|
|Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;|
|Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,|
|Crying Whát I do is me: for that I came.|
|Í say móre: the just man justices;|
|Kéeps gráce: thát keeps all his goings graces;||10|
|Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is—|
|Chríst—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,|
|Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his|
|To the Father through the features of men’s faces.|