Friday, January 30, 2009

New Poem: Why I Never Bring a Camera on Vacation

I am busy querying editors for book reviews and waiting for my copies to arrive so I can negotiate with local bookstores and start some readings. The long arc of promotion begins with exposure, then interaction, finally (one hopes) purchase. The longest journey begins with a single step; we do not know what fruit our actions will bear. What is important is to stay in the process, detached from results. The only way to travel.

Below, the last two posts of '07, first on the morality of feeling good, then a few New Year's sayings.

But first, in this extra-long triple post, a new poem:

Why I Never Bring a Camera on Vacation

Beached jellyfish:
saucers on gravel, translucent
as silicon gel, see through to shingle.
In the tuft of globules on top
I imagine a man-in-the-moon
with a gaping mouth.

The pathetic fallacy:
corpuscular indignation of blistering kelp.

Bull kelp bobbing on the pink-blue sea--
sometimes you think a seal.

Wind-quilted hollows of wavelets
exhaling susurrations of hissing foam.

The rich wood floors of my brother's house,
a blond fire warming your feet.

On his deck the burnished aluminum chairs
are patterned with holes, holes that won't make
a cross at right angles in my mind,
only a broken kite, a parallelogram's skeleton.
Were we and God saved both?

I'm playing the game, 'Go'
with my abacus of empty nightmares,
trying to put it all in code
like XHTML, like this--
why I never bring a camera on vacation.

Jasmine climbs the wooden trellis,
crosses of slats at angles.

The neighbor's live oak:
trunks bigger than the biggest
python swallowing a pig.

A raven on a far fir's top
caws me awake.
Hand-rolled and coffee.
Take your pills.

My land is likewise crossed
by northwest winds cutting latitudes
in parallelograms.
Who knows how well
the Roman carpenters did?
A good carpenter
would get the joint right.

Slightly irregular or not,
a cross can only meet in its center.
Its tips are alone,
sterile branches, stubs of nothingness.
Only the vital center matters.

My brother said he once
abandoned himself to God,
or rather “surrendered.”
“It was a good feeling,” he said,
“I felt like a child without responsibilities.
When I finally gave it up my friends said,
'Good to have you back.'”
But was he really gone?




From 12/30, The Morality of Feeling Good:

Yesterday's post (12/29/07) was, I admit, discouraging to say the least. To compound my sins I described to my daughter the method I would use if I were to commit suicide while of course promising not to do it. Such a sick mixed message. If my children weren't legally adults I shouldn't be allowed to be around them.

Happiness is contagious to a degree and so is gloom. Why they should matter to us so much is what I don't understand. Why do we all want to "feel good?" Isn't this the most basic of hedonisms? And why does an organism even harbor the expectation of feeling good? And if feelings are amoral, why do we judge our morality so much on the feeling outcome?

And yet bad feelings are the most painful of experiences, one reason why cutting is popular. The distraction of the physical pain is more pleasurable, or less uncomfortable, than an awareness of painful feelings. When badly depressed I rejoice in my back pain because it distracts from the holocaust of my heart.

I have had a couple of thoughts: First, if you're as sick as I am, and I mean really sick, it's very important to accept yourself as such instead of walloping your pride with the bludgeon of failure. My brain is sick; it is therefore unreliable and I ought not to listen to it.

And here: Why not pursue whatever beauty and truth has traditionally given you joy, even if you are at present incapable of experiencing joy? Surely it must prime the pump to some extent. I should try reading Eliot and Shakespeare and listening to Jimi Hendrix.

As for Christmas, I had a thought as well. What if I was not put here for myself, to pursue my art and interests, but for the sake of others? Christ was not sent here for himself. A healthy tenet of a Christian faith is the belief that this is true: we are gifts to others, not ourselves. The less we concern ourselves with our own gifts and the more we concentrate on being gifts to others the sooner we forget our misery.

In my philosophy, happiness and "feeling good" are not the purpose of life. They can be by-products of living a good life. Still, my actions don't confirm my beliefs--unless you admit I am only trying to feel "normal," not "happy," which is how I understand it.

The first mark of goodness is honesty, inseparable from humility. To have "a sober assessment of oneself" is the prerequisite reality check for consciously doing good. But how black our hearts are! As soon as we see ourselves in our place we begin, Walter Mitty-like, to imagine ourselves in a more exalted position. As a manic-depressive blogging for my own sanity I should have no illusions that what I do is noble; I do it to distract myself, to keep my brain from feeding on itself.
Madness can be made into art and art into madness. To think we are all driven by a desire for good feelings, how very simple! Too bad that for some, good feelings only come at the expense of others.


12/31/07 A Few New Year's Sayings

If your beliefs conflict with the truth, open your eyes and tame your heart.

I felt sorry for a man without feet until I saw a man with no knees, but when I met a man with no hips my compassion tanked.

If science can duplicate nature, why is "natural" still used as a promotional quality?

To train the young mind: music, math and essays.

Aging is not for cowards.

The more critical a person, the more sensitive.

We labor under the illusion that life makes sense. All our fantasies, religious and otherwise, are directed toward supporting that illusion. If we have such a need to make sense, does it make sense that it really does make sense?

The traits you least like in others are your own.

The key to happiness is to be born with a sunny temperament.

God is not on your side. His is the only side.

The Internet is the virtual end of privacy. Either live by subsistence in the woods or drop your pants.

Does anyone today really want privacy? Only after celebrity has been achieved.


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