Thoughts on Lost Lines

I could not find the
Best lines to write to
The lone man high
Up on trails I
Cannot find…

Giving them to the wind
Or the mailboxes with
A flag always up but
Never put down. I owe
It to a quiet stream or a

Night-time terror that half
Wakes you up and in dream
States I reach out and think of
Songs of hills and lines I threw
To the wind and now…

Cannot find.

In Praise of the Poem

In Praise of the Poem,
Written at the Start of a New Year

It refreshes me this odd
Art of putting words-to-
Words. It is a

Sense of peace in places
That seem all
Wrong. It is

Soft sound I think in
A cruel well that swallows up
Most things you throw
Down. But, this

Small sweetness remains and
Sustains if,
Only for a little while. It

Refreshes me this odd
Art of putting
Words-to-words.

J. Humbert Riddle’s Birthday Ode, Part III

J. Humbert Riddle’s Birthday Ode,
Delivered on Vacation
In the Isles, 2010

Editor’s Preface:
A new, extended version of
Perhaps Riddle’s most famous
Poem, written during a time
Of supposed sanity, and ease.

III. The Tap, Tap, Tap

In that city of passion
And poets, I mixed broken
Pigments for a shadow that
Clung to the walls, clung…
Painting and painting. Him

Dangling and hovering, him
In one hand a chisel while I
In the dark of Sixtus stare
At the impure light
Of candles at
Bare bodies born by quick,
Imperfect strokes.

An eye, quivering. The
Tap, tap, tap
Of paint dribbling
Onto
The floor. Also,

With Atahualpa once,
I and dirty and played
A game of chess one
Stormy, silent night.

Thunder
Breaking over quiet,
Distant peaks. The
Pound, pound of rain
Working on patchwork pavements
Nearby. While I

Stole his queen while the fire
Snapped nearby. I
Slipping pieces to my
Ripped pocket. The

Tap, tap of rain
Outside. Tap like

When walking
Down back alleys in
That tattered town of London.
Seeing a man –
Up against a wall,
Leaning with a broken sign swinging –

A stranger first I thought,
A man out on the sun,
And rain. Yet,

When the light hit right I saw
A beloved, immortal face
Whistling such a sweet tune,
Whistling such a sweet tune through
Puddles oozing up
Cracked, uncovered feet.
“Dah-ta,” “Dah-ta,”
“Dah-ta”
Floating like magic
Through the air.
Symphonies we cannot hear.
“Dah-ta.”
Tapping and tapping feet in tune.
“Dah-ta.”

Until, on a cold day at Whitehall I
Eyed an executioner
Masked, thinking of
A dull blade, a
Late night fire in forgotten
Forests. Then,
That Stuart of Two Shirts strutting
Out from chipped, sanctified crowns and
Sighing, sighing…

As the crowd gasps,
As the crowd gasps.

Posted as Part of Poets United Sunday Poetry Pantry

Pagosa Thoughts

I’m traveling again, and I most importantly don’t want to create a boring travel blog. One where you list where you were, what you saw, and on and on. A waste of time.

San Juan School House

My main goal is to recreate and breathe new life into the travel narrative, especially by viewing it as a type of ongoing, endless book – where each day and new spot is a type of new chapter. Or maybe just a small paragraph in a chapter. It depends on the day, I guess; how long moments in a trip deserve. This, then, is my first goal… to make a trip an ongoing, twisting odyssey. Where the journey becomes a symbol for something, and the people in a trip living and breathing characters in a book that is always unfolding. Never-ending.

My second goal is specific to this unique trip. Its main purpose is to explore ancient history in Colorado, specifically within the Southwest corner of the state. I want to understand something about the Utes and the Ancestral Puebloan people. What their culture was about and not about, how they lived and understood life, and, I think maybe most importantly, how we interact with this history today, and if we can even find it anymore. A common theme pretty much everywhere that I’ve ever been is that tourism tends to put a nice, charming sheen on things, and we’re shown a purified, flawless version of the past. Or the past that we want to see. In a sense, you could argue that the past is just a creation of us in the present. And, in the ultimate irony, we travel to see the past, but actually don’t see it at all. We see ourselves and we are happy about this.

So, with these goals laid out, what did I learn today about the early people of Colorado? As seen through my first trip south, right through the San Luis Valley, and to Pagosa Springs?

Pagosa Hot Springs

By far the main thing I was thinking about is that, basically, people are pretty much exactly the same no matter who they are, and what time period they live in. I say this because "Pagosa," in Ute, means healing. This is a place that people have always been coming to in order to heal in some way. And what I like the most about this healing theme is that people do not necessarily heal in the hot springs. This is just the most obvious example of healing. Healing I think more so relates to the pilgrimage aspect of travel. Or the healing the occurs through the voyage. Through the trip to get here. In the end, the actual spot is the least important thing. Or at least that's what I was thinking about at the hot springs, looking out on the San Juan River. For hundreds of years people have been drawn here… to heal.

San Juan River

The Late Director’s Notes

Early Morning

Rudolph breaks eggs on
The radiator, grinning
At Jill.

“She’ll never come.”

A severed hand sits on
The table, stirring
Jill’s instant juice.

“Now. It’s time.”

A grasshopper raps
On a window.

Summer, 2 Years Earlier

“Why don’t we? Yes, it’s
A fine idea.”

Three sweaty, stout men
Push the red baby grand.

“Yes.”

A shoeless foot taps
On the cold tile floor.

“Yes. Let’s go.”

Rudolph picks
Up the phone.

13 Minutes Before

The slim black cat
Laps at egg, hissing

At the noise coming
From the window.

Dusk, Late Winter

The guests arrive.

Rudolph, in another room,
Pours juice for Jill.

The guests arrive.

The Collected Aporia Pieces

Aporia I

If a poem is a: creation,
And if a creation is a:
Plug that stops a void

Than a poem blocks up
Creation from flushing down
To: a void.

Aporia II

A poem is a person that
Walks with a slight
Limp. Taps on red doors.

Whispers through grates that gush
Up to cool paving stones
Ripped from dead-men’s tombs

That once depicted a man
Walking with a limp and
Tapping… on red doors.

Aporia III

To the pass the tired poem
Trudges, so sluggish and so
Slow… like a snail

That trails a residue trail
That trails to a pass where
A poem perches, watching

A snail pass, so sluggish
And slow.

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.