Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Miracle of MIndfulness: Sonnet "To Be"

After the retreat, I had a few days of consciousness. When I say "consciousness" I mean I was not dyssynchronous, a term I made up to describe how, especially in anxiety, we either get ahead of or behind ourselves, which in my case makes for many minor domestic accidents--a bump on the head, some broken glass, a burn while cooking. These sorts of things don't happen when I'm present. As Kathleen says, "There he goes again, galloping off in all directions at once."

How much of my mind's busyness is due to anxiety and how much to my mood disorder and how much to my fertile imagination and how these three are related, no one can say. But I remember as a young child, say five, how I could be present with a pool of leaves or while observing a caterpillar or capturing a lizard. It is a dream of mine to be more present, to be in the moment without my mind floating away to other things. Nowis what's important. That's where we live. You can always take time to plan, but you must not grasp your plans too tightly, as if you could control the future; you will always need to flex, to make adjustments, to make room for God.

There is also the knowledge of when you can't be present, or choose not to, or arbitrarily shift to being present with something or someone else. Certainly the composition of a sonnet does better without interruptions, but should a neighbor appear at the door, I can make a decision about either telling him to come in or asking his pardon to finish my work first. It takes self-knowledge to decide. Then the script and the choice are always made easier by mitigating circumstances, i.e., your neighbor is weeping and holding a dead pet. In that case you don't have to worry about the sonnet at all as the man's grief draws you away as it should. And then you are present with a grieving man.

Everyone knows what I'm talking about. To not be present is how most accidents happen. "The Miracle of Mindfulness" is what I mean, though I never finished that book. I'm no mystic but I could sure use more training in this discipline, because it is no miracle but the unredacted state we ought to enjoy most of the time. Today's sonnet broaches the question:

To Be

Conscious and present, to treat all things
As holy, the way you grasp a spoon or knife--
Stay with it and watch your imaginings
Yield to this moment. This is your life
Frame by frame. It's your story to tell,
A one-act play God made up for the stars.
The audience is dead, invisible
So lose your understudy. There's no cause
To think of who's ahead and who's behind.
This is your moment and it always was,
When you forget your role, and deaf and blind
Feel your way through. Put the show on pause.
Finger your spoon and forget about its use
Until the grapefruit comes. Revel in juice.

Also, that sense of concentration in childhood to which I referred is demonstrated by another poem:


As much as we arborealize,
the central trunk
should be a corpus callosum
to dip into
like water of heartwood,
each twig accessible,
the journey reversible:
red-cheeked on my tricycle
with a battered cowboy hat
admiring a pool
of autumn leaves.

Wherever we go
we should be able to go
back and out another
shoot flowering,
up the green fuse
to the white explosion
and back.

I remember
the scraping of palms
on stucco at night,
fearful pteranadon wings,
or taking acid at fourteen
naked in the Big Sur river,
its bottom stones littered
with sycamore gold.

(Depublished and available for publication)

At rodent neutral,

Craig Erick


  1. Depublished? Nifty term. You make that up yourself?

    I like Rooted a lot. Hope it finds a worthy home.

  2. Yup, I made that up, and I can give you a list of over twenty online journals that have depublished me, usually through attrition rather than by intent.

    I'm only submitting to paying venues now, so it's unlikely this will be published anytime soon.

    I enjoy getting paid for my poems.

    Glad you liked "Rooted." People seem to like the free verse poems I post better than the sonnets, but that's expected, as I rip off a sonnet every morning by intention. There's only a small chance a sonnet so composed will ever become a decent poem. But it's good exercise!

  3. "Feel your way through. Put the show on pause.
    Finger your spoon and forget about its use
    Until the grapefruit comes. Revel in juice."

    Really love that bit. And yeah, that's all I'm gonna say. 'Cause I'm not qualified to critique a sonnet.

  4. Twitches--thanks, but you don't have to be "qualified" to critique a sonnet. They are just like other poems except in form, but the worth of their voice, images, metaphors and such should be judged as in any poem. I like to say that in a good sonnet you don't even notice the form. It's so artful it's nearly invisible.

  5. Dear Craig Erick,

    I have been enjoying ALL your recent sonnets and you deserve a break. You will return refreshed and ready to aim for gold.

    In “To Be” I have only one minor quibble over the metrics.

    You have probably written the first line with the following stresses in mind.

    CONS/CIOUS and PREsent, to TREAT all THINGS

    But to my ear, this reads

    CONscious and PREsent, to TREAT all THINGS

    If this poem were mine I would insert another stress for the sake of regularity.

    CONscious and PREsent, APT to TREAT all THINGS


  6. Coral, thanks. You may not know it by the title is supposed to be part of the first line, so I hear it like this:

    to be CONscious and PRESent, to TREAT ALL THINGS. (triple spondee).

    I treat my metrics based on major stresses, and these are the ones I hear in the line. That said, it's hardly iambic!


  7. Dear Craig Erick,

    Well, golly my gosh – That was a canny trick. I ignored the title. I read it and segregated it (as usual). Forgive me.

    A triple spondee at the end, huh? Very neat. It has the effect of building into a marching tempo at the end of the line and places weight on the statement. But reading aloud, I would probably run out of breath by the end of the line; that is why I slightly demoted the word “all”. Where I see 3 stressed syllables, I demote the middle one. Where I see three unstressed syllables, I promote the middle one. I don’t know why. I think it has something to do with the brass band effect. The strong stresses represent the bass drums and the lighter stresses represent the tenors.

    Thanks for your explanation. It has been very useful.



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