A Message Found in a Bottle at Sea

Sudden and deathly and full
Of madness that oozes from crevasses
I cannot find we walk

On cliffs and throw rocks
Down to tunnels that flow
Off to seas we can no longer

Find on maps we store in
The dank and dirty attics that whisper
To us on cold nights when

Rain falling is the only
Sound we care to hear – how
Did we get here? The

Captain has fallen off the ship and
We see him waving in the waves while
The storms build and there is just a

Long, lone white bird cawing in the
Wind and I lean to listen but discover
Only a howl and a crash and

The fingers sinking beneath waves that
We can no longer penetrate with cries in
This pitiful night… where

Is the light
House we once knew?

A Poem Found in a Cave

Editor’s Note: Discovered
Behind a stone in deep,
Barren dirt.

Off on ancient ridges by
Falls that tumble down to
A hand that waves at
Me in the dark I

Seem to see walls in mist and
Gray men in suits tapping
Down alleys that I knew I could
Find once but lost
To a song sung on cold

Nights by fires that burn in
Deep canyon caves that we
Can only find by the bright
Lights of hands traced on

Ancient ridge walls. I…

Think so much of days in
Forests and feelings of running
Like a child lost…

In the dark.

Sad Palmyra, Ruined Again

Such wanton madness such
Bat-blind destruction and
Death of beautiful things. I think of

Rampages at night. Cries
From the ruined walls of
Ancient sites: heads lopped
Off, temples toppled, shot
At and blown
Away. Then,

Quiet men
Taken to broken amphitheaters…
An old-time
Entertainment, renewed. Such

Madness such death
In ancient sands. As
Men grin at tattered
Statues that once held up
Grand archways over grand,
Roman parades. Of cheers

To conquering men. Of
Wine spilled of madness
On burning hill-
Sides where we see tanks
Bursting forth and still…

That silence of centuries of
Men and of women who lived
Here once but blew away like
Sandstorms on dark nights that
Blot out those distant stars we
Just can’t quite see. Lovely,

Palmyra…

Fightin’ Joe

Soft mud prints rustle
Through moon-lit trees that
Tower up through
The dark, dank – cavernous –
Crystal woods. While

Pacing in a room,
In the front left of an
Old, moldering mansion
A man stops, and turns…

As a cannonball,
All silent,
Glistens
Through the air.

Waiting Up

He moves with a graceful
Tread. So patient, so
Patient – almost plodding.

Up the stairs,
Up the stairs in
The quiet dead,
Of night. While

Pensive in bright lantern light,
Lincoln, waiting up, turns
His head.

John Brown

I wonder what he meant, among
Other things, by writing in
The past tense. He was
Still alive, still wild-
Eyed, but writing in
The past tense.

Did he know?

The pale moonlight.
The sudden nightmare of
Piercing church chimes that
Quake up a limp leg
Twisting round
And round…

An ashen tree,
In dead December.

Did he know? Man
Alive man so
Wild-eyed.

On the Apparent Uselessness of Art

If you really think about it, we live in a world absolutely obsessed by value as understood by use and practicality. We find meaning in things that have meaning, but usually only in the most painfully logical, reasonable sense. I do this and you do that because yes, it’s so rational, and things add up so nicely. Our cars get us from point a to point b, and then get us back home again, safe and secure.

But… why do we think this way? And is the truly most valuable thing that very thing that does not actually have any value? That adamantly refuses to add up?

These are the questions that I’m most interested in at the moment, and I can’t help thinking that art, or truly great art, especially in our day and age, must be absolutely, 100 percent useless. It has no value, no great purpose, or really you could say it just sits there and determinedly stares at all of those other things that insist on doing something so practical and logical for us. Other things buy us things – whereas the type of art I’m talking about is great precisely because people can’t seem to sell it. It sits unused and unwanted in the shop store window, gathering dust.

Of course, there’s nothing at all revolutionary or ground-breaking in this idea. It’s been around in various guises, this thought of uselessness versus purpose. Maybe we just need to be reminded of it? By far my favorite example of this determined uselessness comes in the 19th century in the figure of Oscar Wilde, and his flamboyant, extreme version of Aestheticism. I guess what I love so much about Wilde is the fact that he actually lived what he preached. The paper and his ideas came to life. He would deliberately shock crusty Victorian society, with its prudish ideas about morality, by living in excess, and as a true, flashy dandy. He believed that yes, art is truly beautiful for its own useless, purposeless sake. He talks most famously about this in his “Preface” to The Portrait of Dorian Gray. My favorite little passage is when he writes, “They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only beauty.” Or, simply put, don’t destroy beauty and art by assigning them grand, all-encompassing purposes. Art “means,” even though it means nothing at all, simply art – and therein lies its supreme beauty. Divorced and unfettered from stodgy, boring uses. Follow this link to check-out the entire “Preface:” http://classiclit.about.com/library/bl-etexts/owilde/bl-owilde-pic-pre.htm.

duchamp-web

A Marcel Duchamp “ready-made” from the early 20th century. This also fits with Wilde. See how Duchamp “destroys” the use of the chair? But by doing this, he makes it a piece of beautifully useless art.

Now, I bring up Wilde, and I say that he is probably my favorite example of Aestheticism, and the art for art’s sake movement, largely because of the time period he worked in. The end of the 19th century was, in many ways, a lot like our own 21st century world. This was a time of extreme industrial progress, and the rise in the power and overall invasiveness of the machine in our everyday lives. People were falling in love with their machines, and anything that made their lives easier and more efficient became God-like and divine. Notice the world efficient? Efficient tools that helped us therefore had true value. They were the toys that kept us at ease. In turn, art, in this society, seemed truly useless. What a waste of time people would declare. Make more machines! That’s how we advance as a culture. What can art ever do for me? And so you have people like Wilde, and other dandy-like figures, resolutely taking a stand against machine-determined value.

Poor Wilde - he spent most of the rest of his life in jail because of
Poor Wilde – he spent most of the rest of his life in jail because of “homosexuality.”

Beauty and art, they declare, is so important precisely because it is useless; or, at least useless in the eyes of the machine-minders and devotees of reason and the bottom line. They deliberately confuse these people. Throw wrenches in the machine for sport, and declare irrationality and beauty and art as the only truly free things. They remain outside of control. They cannot be equated. They do not add up, and it is precisely because of this stand against reason that people learn to fear them… largely because they don’t understand them. They rest outside our own grand, stabilizing equation, and, by so doing, reveal that it is in fact not that grand and all-encompassing as we had been led to believe. That which stands outside shows a gap in the center, a hole that we can’t quite fill up. At best, we can only look the other way, or convince ourselves that it somehow doesn’t exist in the first place. But that only lasts for so long.

Art, then, or what I would argue as being truly great art, must be useless. It stands aside, and looks askew at a world that it fully understands, but refuses to take part in. Unlike so many other things, it protects its freedom.

Sonnet1.com/human_maker

It seems to float along our new cold floor,
An eye a yellow eye that writhes and twists
Across glossy metal plates like steel doors,
Silent, sterile knives that never miss.

What – brain cuts – widely
Set apart eyes – is it?
Stuttering dents go by
Curled dry lips – tied to –

Stabs dig down deep

To – flesh – pads –

Dig dig

Flesh.

So let us say they lived content at last:
This image reflected in steel, glass.

A Poem for the Day

Colum-bine

The day was bright and shone with light.

The flowers grew up in April.

Down on the grasses they shot – and – and –

On our stone paths we fell down, we fell

Down on shots that ring from rooms

With signs posted: bleeding to death,

The day was, bright, and, shone, with light.

The flowers, grew up in, April?

Up in the book shelves they broke – so – much –

Of our books, of the stories we tell

To each other… and in the end

A boy fell from a window…

The day was bright – it shone with light –