Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Kahlo-Christ Conjunctions - Sacrificed Flesh, Broken Bread, Emmaus Vision

[I first published this piece January 28, 2011.  I haven't read this for some years now but having just done so I see that an intensive rewrite and edit is much needed.  Still, time not now allowing such, I republish it as is with the intention of working this piece over again (sorely in need of commas and such to assist readers in comprehending what is admittedly surreal, not linear, is inductive as in trance inducing).

Frida Kahlo. The Broken Column. 1944. Oil on Masonite. 38.6 x 31 cm Dolores Olmedo Foundation, Mexico City, Mexico.


As with love, also the bellows.



Calavera*, the Future stands
hand to mouth, fingers to 

forehead unfolding before 
 still instatic shapes.

Hold desperately to frames 
beforethese quaking perceptions.

She could not stop there,
had to
flare out, dry paint,
and the dryer flesh
peel down
to bone, a sexless esqueleto**,

skull no longer mustached,
a calavera,
nothing more,
curved calcium reliant
forever
upon canvas, what is congealed
there
to fan and burn,
a "cauda pavonis"***.
- the author, from the text below

*Skull
**Skeleton
***Peacock's Tail (an image in alchemy).


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"Poetry such as this attempts not just a new syntax of the word. Its revolution is aimed at the syntax of the mind itself. Its structuring of experience is purposive, not dreamlike. We are dealing with a self-induced, or naturally or mysteriously come by, creative state from which two of the most fundamental human activities diverge, the aesthetic and the mystic act. The creative matrix is the same in both, and it is that state of being that is most peculiarly and characteristically human, as the resulting aesthetic and mystic experience is the purist form of human act. There is a great deal of overlapping, today especially, when art is all the religion most people have and when they demand of it experiences that few people of the past demanded of religion....A visionary poem is not a vision. The religious experience is necessitated and ultimate." - Kenneth Rexroth, World Outside the Window, the Selected Essays of Kenneth Rexroth, pg. 255-256

Rexroth's words are pertinent to the images used in this essay, Kahlo's painting above is visionary, Grunewald's are religious, and several photos are both, and all are "
aimed at the syntax of the mind itself.. Its restructuring of experience is purposive, not dreamlike." The images included in this essay, which is more a prose poem than regular prose, are meant to convey equally or more, at least as as much as, the words in their incantatory formations which may induce entrance into 'imaginal' spaces where word and image meet in a practical magic, inspire a felt understanding and perhaps gain a view or actual entrance into what ecstatic poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, calls "the Greater Relation."

I've decided to publish this piece-in-progress as it unwinds in spirals "aimed at the syntax of the mind itself...its restructuring of experience" with the understanding that it may later appear in greatly altered form. In a real sense this writing writes itself; I try to heed, copy, then hone to the bone what might be wanting to be sung, for what is below, and often what I write, is more akin to music, a vocal/verbal lilt beyond a particular solid tilt of view of a world absolute, static logos.

Heraclitus noted thousands of years ago, "All is flux."

To this I would only add, and perhaps this is what all of my writing amounts to,

"All is reflux."

Selah. WF

NYC, 1/31/11


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Many who know me know that I am passionate about Mexico, my love for the land, the people, the history and culture. Mexico embodies an ongoingly dramatic and profound conflict of body and soul in land and people. There, both pre-Christian religion and Catholic Christianity still strive with each other, traumatically rumble and stumble together a vibrant mix of dynamic images and energies, literal active volcanoes and temblores (earthquakes) add concrete umphasis to what noble telluric forces are seeking to be expressed in manifest people and geography; both the old (pre-Columbian) and the new (to the continent Christian) religions with their tectonic gods and cosmologies enamored/riveted to Star-and-Sky with their calculable notions, mathematics greater than ourselves, abstractions of once solid exigencies greater still, are compensations for blood-, earth-, carbon-, metal- deities. Incorporating the Sky, an edible notion, the more potent sacraments of plants - fungus, febrile root, vine, leaf, pulp, spore, entire chemical choirs of angels gather in a chew or brew, a puff and spew, fiber and fever swallows which lead to being swallowed by raw Existence unmasked revealing infinity forever turning in upon itself, an Uroboric Fractal to which we are not inclined in spite of religious wars to give ourselves consciously, utterly. Given this parity of storming exacting deities, revealed in their own inexorable mathematics calculated in plucked hearts and heads rolled, it is no wonder that the imagery and message of Christianity would strongly resonate in Aztecan and other indigenous psyches of Mexico.

Enter Frieda Kahlo, code in part for me, of Mexico and the maelstrom of the Twentieth century, of modernism, of vibrant culture and of passionate human suffering and creativity. Kahlo's paintings partake of this iconoclastic encounter of catastrophic theologies formed around and within the mouths/bellies of gods of trauma seeking to relieve that trauma by blood requirements either enacted ritually/symbolically in religious rituals or in literal violence acted out in unconscious identity with these instinctual gods, usually both; Carl Jung once said that "god is a most shocking problem...god is a trauma."

Each viewing
of a Kahlo painting is a viewing of her life, body and soul, its alluded metal serpents, cyclopic hulking male tyros (Rivera, Trotsky, to name only two), volcanic, engorged Titans of Malinche, chingares (goring ones as the bull gores hungrily) swallowed, too, hoping both to remain and to break free of Her, the Great Saurian Mother, Plumed Serpent, Quetzalcoatl, inherited deities extracting from Kahlo and Mexico literal blood, for paint is blood, too, gashes in brush strokes she could never quite conceal/congeal (and thus her paintings turn hemorrhage to good purposes), becoming herself the clot, her flesh an unwitting tattoo of existence's beautiful and terrible forms. A life with needles, stitched, she pitched repeatedly into the long throat of the Alimentary Great Mother, Uruboros tail in mouth, recreating Her self by hard passages, throat to anus to birth canal and cave, galactic center point waiting perhaps at the other (no) end, carbon jesters, angels teeming on Quetzal quill tips, twinkling fires in the pitch, sometimes called stars, or ravens, black heralds of colors yet to brilliantly come.

Her chosen medium of paint scores the story of soul wrenched from the body in a terrible accident, personal FATE of archetypal proportions lending images to a human century soon to be overly wed to, dependent upon, and controlled by its machines, the soul's uneasy return to a life on earth, mechanics of body, mechanics of the Twentieth century god, Pragmatics, fed by workers' blood, soul's body's become none other than alchemy's 'Cauda Pavonis', the peacock's tail, or the peacock itself, enduring a magnificent ecstasy/agony, an 'in between' phase in which many colors appear, splendid iridescence, midway point, a false conclusion, merely a digestion of polarities of the black and white flaring in brilliant tints upon glinting metal gears, upon human workers glistening sweat - all light is a glancing blow - to be further transformed not only into spiritual tinctures but into spinal ones as well in which she dips brushes, fingertips in finality no longer lingering; she pours salt into what is left of a self, a wound imaged, lived, no longer intuited, recognized as sacred for a scar is not an idol but a deity hard won.

Kahlo's images are soul trying to scry the "tragic side of life", the careening streetcar of the Future repeatedly crashing into the always pedestrian bus of Now, forever-world yet changed by the same themes such are archetypes extending at least for a life span which envisions, enlarge, into the next few centuries.
As with love, also the bellows.




Try as I may to render Kahlo as noun and verb, as event still venting from grave mouths such are canvases, my attempts fail to distill, to come to terms with what happened to her at 16 years of age, piercing metal violated flesh newly woman, which turned her into something completely utterly astonished, livid and unforgiving pain burning her to vapor, yet, still, each canvas she is ever falling back within the cruel alchemical vas, glass splinters into unrelenting nerves, encased steel-plated Virgin taking a cyclops for lover.

Love inherent in Kahlo's work is all the more Love amidst the ruins disguised as progress. Kahlo's Christ-self in thorn necklace, hummingbird in shape of the Cross, at times her eyebrows, is the "more real" to me than any I have been so far tendered but for Grunewald's painting of the Isenheim Christ (imaged just below) for the sanatorium altarpiece, a diseased Christ on the Cross covered with syphilitic sores showing "the strange beauty shining through the disgust and unbearable pain of disease" (text from the back cover of Evil, Sexuality, and Disease in Grunewald's Body of Christ, by Eugene Monick). I now run from any "offering" of Deity which drives me further away from my humanity, all of it, by which no god or gods are deposed but, rather, exposed in the fleeing to be all the more gathered, and all the more weathered, endured.

[Note the excerpted image from Grunewald's Body of Christ painting on the book cover]

I dwell more in Kahlo's world and long to someday live in her Mexico which to diminishing degree still exists, which does not refuse the comfort of iron nor of Grace, always a surprise, placed and displaced at once in the scarring conjunction of flesh and spirit, human/divine images prominent in Christianity, a dismembered and devoured Christ as only incarnation allows, insistent autonomy arguing autonomy, rough acceptance, Grunewald's unique One, especially the One with shades appealing eternity, beheld for a sickly yet shining fractured and much, much loved, begotten world.

Christianity, not the Christ, exchanged images for words, images within them breaking to openness into and beyond that mortal sign bursting still into the still more open "Word" which, too, in spite of Churchly preventions and stops, breaks free of doctrine-adequately-flavored but seeks perhaps secretly to be undone, "the bells, I say, the bells break down their towers" (Hart Crane, "The Broken Tower").

In reaction to images and imaginations leaping out of the word/Word, breaking free even within the Church, "heresies" so called, the Official Church poured concrete into molds (and pouring more still), congregations hardened to prevent further conjugations of Imagination within the Words, the Magisterial Delirium of Word/God ensnared - "once reified deified" - yet insists upon only those sanctioned shapes, and in so doing much of its soul and body wanders, strays, lost in the exchange of image/imagination for said concretions, un-altared sentences weathering in now acid rains. Granted, logos, word, needed to be cultivated in order to extend human consciousness into the past 2000 years, but words and Word ARE images in abstract, compacted, myriad "angels of the face" (a phrase in Shi'ite (mystical) Islam for the appearance of that "Other, Truer World" revealed in myriad manifest "faces/images" apparently eternally unfolding in space and time); all these it is supposed was/is compressed into a Word, "the Word made flesh which dwelt", and dwells still, "among us" donning disguises, for eyes, even God's, want to see newly through the darkening glass that always optically teases Imagination from it's coyness.

Still, such timidity ends in engorged blood, meat requirements, rendering vaporous sublimity too thin for fingers, why forks were invented.
If modernity, it's forks and faxes, returns anything of value to us stretching into denial which is all our futurity, it is the return of images, official and unofficial, which return us in turn to our official and unofficial selves, limping shod or un-, ens-not-Ens (being-not-Being) as we are chafed to particular part-selves multipli-imaged as they want or dream to be - Who are we?

Frieda with her Twentieth century stifles a yawn and "stuffs the universe into her eyes" (a line from a poem by zen poet, Shinkichi Takahashi).

My words here are not intended, nor are they able, to exclude what Word-oriented, revealed religions of "the Book" have brought to us and advanced, but now, next 2000 years, the creative struggle will be to conjoin meaningfully polygamous images of psyche into compressions (es-pressions, as in espresso) and ex-pressions (pressed out) by and with word and Word which have tendencies toward monotheism, one true meaning only, which results therefore, can't be avoided, into a heavy-handedness in terms of a perceived/derived one and only Absolute. Ironically, the Arabs discovery of always heavy Zero - which, to me, is the only Absolute of merit - gave birth to a multiplicity, diverse, perverse, all the more irascible yet embraceable, maddeningly erasable, while growing arms beyond counting, the better to carry the unforgiving densities.
Count them (or try) we must; for congenital compulsions such are calcifications - spirit, soul, life in the body - are gripped in the teeth of the world; beatific, we perceive ourselves to be in the image of deity. Still, we can believe we are "safe"within these calcified "absolutes" - o here is the "burning bush" - or we can risk the profligate ramble which is consciousness, a fire still burning, an intuition in each image that there is more here than meets the eye or thigh or deities as imaged. We all look, or try, beneath the skin of things - under what is presented, or within it - for that half-guessed/hinted at and/or "felt sense" that there is MORE beyond the barred nerve, more and "other-than" the shock of a chrome, bumper-bent world careening, aware that within all is here a Presence, all images and words assuming that Presence - Arab's gift of the non-alloyed Zero unmeasured by mass, a better name for god depending on thermal history's twisting vector, ghostly mirage, if any are to be had - the base in spite of or within the Metallic Matrix of the blacksmith heart hammering verdigris, chambers, ventricles, into shape, Newton's grave conjugations, living time solidified, hardened, stiffening Presence into dilute renderings of base metal, and chaste Frieda, her canvases chasing plutonium wire unaware, bears the blunt end of Presence at the end of the Aeon of the Fishes still barely beyond Bronze Age's just sharpened edges fluted, pre-Christian Mexico preferring obsidian ones hacked, chipped, scraped upon hard flint. Frieda, volcano born, turns into conjugal vessel, Quetzal plume conjoined to Serpent skin rebirthing extensions of crash, a returning God, boat and horse delivered from the red beard of the bloated sea confronting yet one more deity requiring blood.

Viewing Kahlo's paintings, which she came to embody, and they her, even those images and words sought which seek expression upon human tongue in human eye, still seek to deny or decry that Presence, Dark Night in broad day, all appearance, a drift beyond meaning, only a swaying bus careening yet again, repeating collision of the Virgin's hymen, amniotic Host forever a Lover divided yet again, Crepuscular Christi, all this in Kahlo, revered now, cultic, for she is Woman Christ multipli-imaged Suffering One with breasts, concealed antlered uterus wincing at anviled annunciations verified only in wavering beliefs such are weeping statues and surreal apparitions strung out on coniunctio, Gethsemani Girl seen, no longer concealed at all or hidden in plain sight, Christ-o-form agony, isolate, angry, raging, bereft human confusion, "despised and rejected", the
meanness within ourselves destined to see our deities through to the end though beyond capacity to smell necrosis, to see the exit wounds of soul coagulating disguised as skin, muscle, sinew.
But it is we who are seen and thus the imperative mercy and compassion, o endlessly, endlessly, for existence as it is and the miracle of that Shining Stranger encountered on all our Emmaus road all the more Real-ing. Lest the bread be broken by that Stranger our eyes cannot see, cannot taste the Thou in existence extending Himself, or Herself as Kahlo-Christ, into our reaching hands and mouths to take, eat all of it. We take when we can see it what is offered by that Shining Stranger who returns us to that "Thou dimension", all our suffering then contained, held, though never satisfactorily explained so easily reduced to formulaic glibness as so much theology past and presently done to this day.

The Shining Stranger knows a rod rammed in - o touch his hands and feet, his bleeding side, his weeping womb - and knows Miraculous Dimensions within the apparently real, discovers that very self to be a Miraculous Dimension, an experience, not a Word, nor an image, for both words and images do stumble punch drunk on the once-was-new Wine and Word, those paper scraps unnoticed, unseen, unread, unheeded, or if heeded are only Its, objects devoid of meaning, and not Thous, just another "drunk singing in a midnight choir" (Leonard Cohen).

Emmaus is the road I walk. I pray still. A kind of swoon. I do not balk at strangers encountered there, shining or not. When words are put to "Thou" purposes as the Shining Stranger did at the camp's cook-fire on the Emmaus road then at some point, when bread is broken eyes are opened, a whole loaf now rent into edible pieces rendering wholeness mouth by mouth, once teased ears suddenly recognize sense in sounding voice, that Meaning Itself is before them, feeding, teaching, reaching to touch our own wounded hands and feet, the bleeding sides. All is changed and yet we are returned to life again as it is, but now having heard, seen and tasted ever "Christ-haunted" for such Grace lingers in aftertaste-yet-a-foretaste, o Gloria, to say the least, even this lingering grace is a feast, a proffered shining hand remaindering our own shine dim in comparison but loved all the more by "the Face", It's "angels" shining.
Christ the Bread, also the Confounding Stone upon which all our glibness breaks.
http://www.4marks.com/videos/details.html?video_id=2258


This breaking tells. We are not unloved by that, that Rod and Presence Who knows and partakes of what Kahlo's images as did her life as lived portray. No blame. Only awareness of the stain which is existence, exquisite as the burial cloths of the One Rammed to a tree, suffering Divine Paternity, Kahlo arriving on the threshold of the bus which has just, yet again, circulatio, stopped at her stop to carry her forward into Legend.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

A Storehouse Of Treasures Opens By Itself - A Thanksgiving Day Reverie And Homage To John Tarrant

NOTE 3/29/2018:  Happy to say that I was misinformed (my mistake) that John Tarrant, zen master and writer, had died in 2010.  He is alive and kicking zen rocks up and down zen non-hills still.  I will just let this essay stand as is.

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So the grackle wrestles with the tree top...

These pentitential psalms of David play while snow flurries out over the creek below, the spruce trees sift-sort out just which large bird will try their tips to rest upon...grackles and, yesterday, an enormous eagle regally perched in stillness as the tree top bent from feather weight still, a day after the grackle's heft, gently sways. 
No need to watch the breath here in Keene.
What is seen is enough to nestle one inside and out.
Cold feet. Too ensconced to move and search - sort for socks.
Upstairs a toilet flushes. Two year old feet clumsily thump
as David laments, 
"As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. . .My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?"
Meanwhile baking turkey aroma, and sage cornbread (NO sugar) dressing, wafts downstairs where I am beside the large plate glass door waking up, espresso cup full and steaming, taking in the what is seen. And heard.
Pondering this offering from John Tarrant, Western zen teacher who, I am sad to say, I discover online just this morning, passed in 2010 and, I am surprised to read, had been living in Jersey City just a Hudson River away from my East Village perch. Had I known he was so close by I would have gladly trekked over bridge and river to sit with him. 
I discovered Tarrant years ago via an anthology of American Buddhist poetry, Beneath A Single Moon, and fell madly in love with his poem, Poem To Be Recited While Banishing Loneliness (posted in comment section below this post) where I instantly memorized the phrase, "he does not shut out any part of himself." This is the essense of Jungian psychology, Jung's notion, or more-than-notion but arrival again and again to an authentic experience of wholeness (what I experience as hold-ness) which includes everthing (natch) and does not exclude or shut out or prefer/value one quality over another. Conscious wholeness, conscious being the operative word, is what Jung means as does Tarrant's line and poem entire. 
So the grackle wrestles with the tree top where I sit with fullness and grief knowing that a remote teacher has been dead 7 years and I had often enough entertained sitting with Tarrant and perhaps find some help with my own wresting a poem, my life's too big to wrestle with, the mind not withstanding, into some good-enough resonant holding/beholding (my frozen fingers just typed "begolding", thank you Mr. Tarrant).
This koan comes to me from Tarrant now, fitting for the present view through the glass, a black cat named Shadow now at my feet, news of Tarrant taking off "the tight shoe of the body" seven years now and now the word year means nothing at all, and while I sit watching the world is shaking off its dusty robe. And will continue to do so. Did so while I slept with cold feet and nose tip, the room being frigid inspite of a heater hissing away, its blue flame, gold too, somehow burns without any motion that I can see, my eyes trying to catch some fire to warm from the outside in. Evenso, in spite of discomfort up here in winter mountain cold is the thing, reminds me that I am heavily ecstatically (a rare event in older age) alive.
Having lived in a giant city for half my life now I wouldn't exchange my freezing toes and nose, these flannel sheets, red red, for all the miracle of its bridges and its parks, the mourning dove on my fire escape waking me to receive the noise of the all too human world mugged by machines and machinations, odd treasures that they are or can be or we must alchemize into.
From John Tarrant a fitting koan for Thanksgiving day:
The storehouse of
treasures opens by 
itself. 
You can take them,
you can use them,
anyway you wish. 
I look up from this just in time to see a large black wing disappear behind a stand of spruce. What eyes and wings are for.


Sunday, October 22, 2017

Brunch With Nietzsche - A Dream With Mimosas & Twilight




In a dream 10 years ago Nietzsche spoke to me over Sunday brunch where we drank mimosas which he thought were an "absolute delight," absolute as in "I spent my entire life in search of the Absolute without much luck but for the pursuit as an adventure of mind. A century later, a mimosa will do indeed." With several already quaffed he sparkled as did the drinks and without warning or asking he proceeded to make a long confession to me, "not you, well, yah, you but also to your century and this new one just born" and so he told me many personal things, joys, sorrows, sins most severe, and sheer moments of ecstasy in and out of the body...his heart always broken over the Death of God, the Western, Judeo-Christian one, THAT Twilight, its Star setting on the world horizon. And there was his suffering too for ancestral German gods demise, cue music off friend and enemy Richard Wagner. He also mourned for Dionysus whom he revered most of all, whose very name means "born again" - dio = twice, nysos = birth), his, Dio, being ripped/torn apart at the height of epiphany and of youthful beauty flush with passion and Eros (that cousin to Dionysus), "Little did I know that I too would be twained, my vanity too large to contain for I became identified with Dio and the Other deities and so such hubris needed to be broken and so it was I entered a broken world inner and outer and became, or was perceived to be, only a shouter, a town cryer, that "The End is near." And I was right, am right still, but what brain can sustain orientation in the face of that FACT?" 
He grew silent, held the champagne flute in his hand, gazed at it, then out of a sunken but kind self said,
"History and an inaccurate interpretation of my exaggerated, sometimes effusive bombastic style of thought and writing in my work has made me sound like I was a terrible man incapable of linear logical thought and exposition, and of bad temper and arrogance but that's not true. Irreverent, yes. And bluster. Bluster counts here as disguise for I was (long pause as if struggling for the right word, then) pretty. Not handsome. Prettiness counts for much in youth, in older age it is (sadly) sacrificed for Beauty.. A necessary assault in order to grow wise. Wisdom comes from loss and blood, always of the Moon.. Even gorgeous buds must go. Nature says it so. And we can and should protest their going but in older age one loses energy to fight so gives in to what is "just so." In sorrow sore, in broken mendicant hearts, having touched tenderly and tasted the binding buds, wisdom is born."
Thus I have loved Nietzsche the man, marvel at the archetype he was and has become but his life was one of tremendous suffering in the grip not only of a personal daemon but that one of an entire aeon, it's final centuries 19th and 20th and, yes, this new one here. He was, as was Mani, Socrates, Plato, Jesus, Buddha, others, an epochal man. All these men and women who turn the wheel of a culture, an epoch, an aeon, suffer. But let us not forget Nietzche's book, Beyond Tragedy, and the gist of his oevre as a whole, this being a sketch of our table talk over brunch, his talk, rather, me the glad partaker of the grand expansive intellectual/spiritual meal being fed me; there is little of contraction in Nietzche unless it is to step one foot backward in order to leap ahead on the other, an effort catch up to the torrents flooding up from the unconscious into emotions into mind, thought, words to be quickly captured in sensation and feeling laced/infused aphorisms. 
Whether sickly Nietzsche, nervous Nietzsche, or whichever symptomatic Nietzches was the ubermensch/overman, or none of these, he was certainly uber in perspective which was projective, far seeing into the next century (or three) ahead, of floods of blood and war, conflicts of mind and nations swelling up from depth into massive tidal waves of destruction and devastation. Such are not unheard of, are synchronous as the central value of a civilization and aeon begins to wane and die, in order to renew/transform into the new central value as yet unseen but showing up as hints, portentions, in dreams, hallucinations, free-floating anxiety and mania (as in the United States of Mania) via imagination via arts all kinds and, yes, harvests of mad men and women gripped by what is unseen but felt, what is building and fragmenting within fragile sensitive egos which preceed the destruction of nation, perhaps world. 
Thus spake Nietzsche, a kind of scarer/thruster in the face of the culture of what he had powerfully felt and intuited spewing forth, spouting, proclaiming only to be merely dismissed and interpreted as a pathetic sad man defamer of Gods, of inflated calcified society and so-called Almighty Reason (all in their twilight before a new light can begin to dimly rim the Eastern horizon though Nietzsche was a part of that unwanted/rejected prescient light) - Wisdom seeks continual birth and rebirth, always new articulation, fabrication, artifice, expression, culture, beauty all kinds, to meet the tempering hammers of present mind and fashion that we humans may be satisfied with existence, with life. Or life-enough, finally foregoing demi-urges of egoic inflation and projection, anthrocentrism overruling ontic participation with all beings known and unknown.
Nietzsche spoke of fashion and fashion sense but only in the sense and tension of making, shaping, morphing thought, the language of thought, the cultural productions therefrom in order to convey some new force(s) which might bring sustained attention to what is born of creative conflict, clash, the concentration of effort to bring out the right meaning, and with such rightness, as in finding the right fit, the fit image, concept, action, expression, all the right productions of human effort, 
that we humans might transcend or, if not transcend, transform enough into greater enough beings than we already are "but still, still we remain so very far from the actualization of the new man, the new woman I have clearly seen rising out of penitential fires, and by fires I mean PASSION fires which have driven, drive still, fires of mind for, what, 3000 productive years and more...yes, we have "reaped the Whirlwind" but that only reveals how far we have come from flint sparks and scratches/scrawls on torch illuminated cave walls. 
Now Whirlwind is the challenge of this age and it may very well be the end of the homo sapiens Experiment, all the sound and fury from primal ancestral grunts and shouts to shofars to later symphonies; but for lack or loss of simple human sympathy for all creatures great and small we people may conclude as brutes after all. Magnificent brutes, yes. But to bring ourselves and everything else to ruin.........(shrugs)..."
Nietzsche tsk tsk tsks quietly, a pained look, a hint of anger too, "What a species we are." He slams his hand loudly upon the table, the cutlery and plates jumping, the flute glasses swaying and ringing, 
"What a species!....Humility....if nothing else, humility may be our salvation. Perhaps I was a bit overwrought when I wrote of the ubermensch, the over or super man. It is precisely HE that has brought the Whirlwind into all our lapse, pun intended. And it is precisely HE who must confess that tired but persistent and violent sin of hubris, Satanic indeed. For that majestic Angel most sublime, dark and powerful wanted to run the whole show, go for broke and be God Almighty. He does so still. So down he flew, thrown down. And so here we all flounder, magnificently, makers all, such great things of power, might, sound and sight, but we must kneel here at the near end, bend the knee and take our penitient place and...and justly pathetic, confess to having too much fire for our own good, all force with little or no goal or plan but for immediate gain which when desired becomes the only absolute in town.
Have, or can, we finally understand that what we can do, what we can create is indeed innately good when adequately understood and known? So good. But we undo it by our self-obsession with transcendence for its own sake for we mistake such transcendence for power.
Whom have we served from the beginning to now (which may be the end or near) after all? 
Only our sad and presumptuous selves. 
We must take the knee, plead our case before Existence Itself and hopefully be successful enough in turning the inexorable Wheel, Its great momentum, of the Whirlwind another way, slow it, perhaps harnass it, whatever it may take to tame it, turn it as ourselves to the better for once and all. It is the heart, the human heart, that may do this if enough are broken open in the face, the grind, of what is overwhelming the globe."
Raising his his glass to me, gulping down the last few swallows of his mimosa, he smiled, eyes sad, kind, but then a flash of mischievousness,
"Well," he said, "let's get on with it, empty another glass and then let's you and me be all about this Ecce Homo-Ecce Whirlwind business, shall we?"
He winked at the handsome young waiter whom he fancied who seemed to magically apear at the "shall we?"

"Another last round, dear...hmmm....Adagio. Shall I call you Adagio?"
"Yes," chuckled the joven, "why, yes you can." He casually strolls away swinging his arms side to side as the ballet dancer that he is should, to the bar for our final mimosas.
Nietzsche's eyes remain upon the youth. 
He says softly, but to whom, me? himself? "Ahhh-dagio...more mimosas...more...more Adagios.....of sunlight....Adagios of sunlight. Yes. That the right thing for now."
He shakes his head to break the revery, says to me, 
"They" (the mimosas, Adagio), go quite well with twilight, yes?"

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Nietzsche's musical compositions may be heard here:

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Genet By Accident - Faithful As A Pigeon: Of Divine, Her Mythopoesis, A Tribute To Jean Genet & "Our Lady Of The Flowers"

"He may go far away, but he is as faithful as a pigeon." - Jean Genet

ENANTIODROMIA. . .best definition, or one of them, this by Jean Genet: "Her perfume is violent and vulgar. From it we can already tell that she is fond of vulgarity. Divine has sure taste, good taste, and it is most upsetting that life always puts someone so delicate into vulgar positions, into contact with all kinds of filth. She cherishes vulgarity because her greatest love was for a dark skinned gypsy. On him, under him, when with his mouth pressed to hers he sang to her gypsy songs that pierced her body, she learned to submit to the charm of such vulgar cloths as silk and gold braid which are becoming to immodest persons.”
Of Divne, such mythopoeisis: "Let her consent to be the frozen statue. But I know that the poor Demiurge is forced to make his creature in his own image and that he did not invent Lucifer. In my cell, little by little, I shall have to give my thrills to the granite. I shall be alone with it for a long long time, and I shall make it live with my breath and the smell of my farts, both the solemn and the mild ones. It will take me an entire book before I draw her from her petrifaction and little by little impart to her my suffering, little by little deliver her from evil, and, holding her by the hand, lead her to saintliness."
Searching for a passage from Jean Genet's Our Lady of the Flowers (having left the worn out novel at home) a-googling I will go (sung in my best Elmer Fudd voice heh-eh-eh-ehhh), I stumble upon this too too short marvel with said quote, not the full passage I want but will do...of desire there is much to say, and more say than do though do is a fit for another shoe (I'm hunting wabbits Heh-eh-eh-ehhhhh) having been bred a fundamentalist fool from Bayou Evangeline moss to barnacled Baptist pier-ology dour deity, all toxin and lace such is Protestant grace poisoned with too much imagination-for-evil everywhere-in-everything, to convince a child of this so early on is such profanity, unforgiveable....
...when at 18 I came across Genet by accident, a freshman in a Christian college, Our Lady of the Flowers, non-virginal this Our Lady, the pox within broke out as did, some years later, with good analysis, I break down and into Genet-ian cadences, unbathed though sprinkled (not dunked but dipped in good Presbyterian fashion shallow baptismal fountain, a silver bowl is all it wuz-y) (comes eventually unsought "was found blind but now I ssss..."
Jean Genet's deep pool inundation of feeling and evocation "a cadence of veils and sweet cakes"...I came to forgive King David his Bathsheba moment for he once in his youth had but lost his heart and soul to Jonathan, loved him, even exchanged his underwear with him, it's in the Bible true, passion will out so David who murdered a Giant murdered one of his own, ended his best general for what the promise of vision of Bathsheba portended)...what is repentence for - grace all the more - robed in bodies, wants, desires from which we'll all expire while turning such to prayer and dare to live, exchange underwear and more - breath and the heart, the human heart, to teach that divine one there's more to heart than aerie light [makes no sense...just a fun thing to say..such is wabbit hunting].
Sketch of Warren by Paul Brahms from some years ago
...Jean's a saint in my world inner and outer, hiding out in my tower dorm room, the sleep room (such is dormition sleeping) secret communing and whispers, fogs engulfing the tower for weeks at a time, odd in Tennessee wind howl and, again, airee whistle as I moan shut in, enclosed on purpose behind bedsheets and shower curtain, between Holy Bible and Our Lady of the Flowers)(and Graham Green's The Power and the Glory but that's another story to come)...
...an angel visited my little carcair (monk cell) a month ago, palpable beside me as I slept/wept on the pallet on the floor. I could only see the filthy hem of the heavenly once was white robe now gray and stained making me marvel and love all the more...never one for silk and such my desire tucked away till the day of my glad marry to come, had been, had been a thief indeed (Genet's Thief Journal), me, until undone by Christ and Buddha, warriors and wheelturners (chakravartins) both, ensuing for me a redemption of desire and the "dirty world upon my shoulders [and more] (Basho haiku)" -
body full bore to Manhattan then I came, Spanish Harlem replete with Roses, Florida Water, Siete Machos (men's colognes found in Latin America) and more, Puerto Rican/Domincan park bench dominos I would bike by down by the Hudson 3 am bound for Wall Street and Staten Island Ferry some kind of quiet, not mountain quiet that I had in Carolina, but that of early a.m. NYC streets, me tracking graffiti scripture on every train and station wall. I needed what I got, but did not know it too soon but never soon enough, I needed Catholic Imagination, that of extremes, of heaven, of hell, even limbo where one's toes and more are singed but aroma of Roses, Our Lady, tinge noses, infringe upon our all too human suffering for re-evaluation. I found it soon enough in Harlem, in personal estrangement, the city kind, countering the country boy kind, which holds/contains/frames all estrangement, all extremes, a Catholicity most necessary where not only I am redeemed but by poetry and urban/machine sound and rhythm God is redeemed and enters, visionary company at last, once again, tracing, tracing (Hart Crane) into the broken world.
Catholicity and France and human gore produced Genet, the give-away grace, the reframe of guilt, blame, small favors of mourning, and such adoration as only parted persons, divided ones, can give. I was "not in Kansas anymore" unless it was a god and flesh storm tornadic with a froo froo instinct, little Toto, in the basket tucked, my anima/myself sucked up and away too into an Oz-y-man-dias such is an occassion for worship (worth-ship, what it means).
A black pentecostal church just next door to my basement room beneath West 142nd Street, the glad shouts, the sad earnest prayers, the tamborine and hand clap intertwine Latin beats, car horns, conga drums alive up the street on stoops all night, breaking bottles, tapping bottle caps on concrete sits young and old men bare-chested, sweating, cigarettes between drumming fingers or loose lips hand play/pound escape from day heat to river cooled darkness...new saturation/inundation for me, no longer the Christhaunted South or nation for that matter but a passionate parenthesis
of so much flesh, perspiration, desire, ejaculation, celebration in-the-face of large Orange Sky, the all night comidas place lively with taxi drivers, orange rice, pork all kinds and cafe con leche only 40 cents a cup...a place to escape one's self p.r.n., all that grease and men....
Enough evocation 1980 Bway and West 142nd and near...the cadence of Genet 1971 in my hand straight to heart, then/now, and now still inwardly wear him, angelic robe all tatters, stains - "I would be a monk but for the dust of the world on my shoulders (Basho)."
“Her perfume is violent and vulgar. From it we can already tell that she is fond of vulgarity. Divine has sure taste, good taste, and it is most upsetting that life always puts someone so delicate into vulgar positions, into contact with all kinds of filth. She cherishes vulgarity because her greatest love was for a dark skinned gypsy. On him, under him, when with his mouth pressed to hers he sang to her gypsy songs that pierced her body, she learned to submit to the charm of such vulgar cloths as silk and gold braid which are becoming to immodest persons.”
"Do you know some poison−poem that would burst my cell into a spray of myosotis? A weapon that would kill the perfect young man who inhabits me and makes me give asylum to a whole agglomeration of animals?. . .Swallows nest under his arms. They have masoned a nest there of dry earth.
Snuff−colored velvet caterpillars mingle with the curls of his hair. Beneath his feet, a hive of bees, and broods of asps behind his eyes. Nothing moves him. Nothing disturbs him, save little girls taking first communion who stick out their tongues at the priest as they clasp their hands and lower their eyes. He is cold as snow. I know he's sly. Gold makes him smile faintly, but if he does smile, he has the grace of angels. What gypsy would be quick enough to rid me of him with an inevitable dagger? It takes promptness, a good eye and a fine indifference. And... the murderer would take his place. He got back this morning from a round of the dives. He had sailors and whores, and one of the tarts has left the trace of a bloody hand on his cheek. He may go far away, but he is as faithful as a pigeon. The other night, an old actress left her camellia in his button−hole. I wanted to crumple it; the petals fell on the rug (but what rug? my cell is paved with flat stones) in big, warm transparent drops of water. I hardly dare look at him now, for my eyes go through his crystal flesh, and all those hard angles make so many rainbows there that that's why I cry. The end.
It doesn't seem like much to you, but yet this poem has relieved me."

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Small Favors Of Mourning - An Early Journey, A Later Arrival (Almost)

Stars, as well as friends,
Are angry with the noble ruin.
Saints depart in several directions.
Be still:
There is no longer any need of comment.
It was a lucky wind
That blew away his halo with his cares,
A lucky sea that drowned his reputation.
Here you will find
Neither a proverb nor a memorandum.
There are no ways,
No methods to admire
Where poverty is no achievement.
His God lives in his emptiness like an affliction...
— Thomas Merton, from the poem "When In the Soul of the Serene Disciple, from A Thomas Merton Reader


"A song to go with your image de moi now that Value is and will be internalized, integrated and is foundation for the further raison d'etre revealing itself...my first unpublished book of poetry writ in my 20's and early 30's, pitiful things with some shining moments of image, a musical phrase, an imagistic apt saying/conveying, is titled, 

Small Favors of Mourning.  

It spilled out one basement morning in Harlem 1982 as I wrote a dream for my upcoming analysis session (Jungian)...I had moved to NYC, it suddenly occurred to basemented-me, to consciously mourn the first third of my existence...thank god for William Blake, Rilke, Roethke, Eliot, Kenneth Patchen (a constant companion in my coat pocket always), Asian poets and the very many other poets, writers, artists, musicians and, yes, mystics and misfits of the church and Church (Thomas Merton, others) who ratified the mystic in me whose name, Dark Night, was given to me by an old Swiss-German nun smelling of soap and incense (but not peppermint) on a Greyhound bus crossing the nation east to west late '70's middle of and through the long straight highway night, she with her rosary praying/sleeping/counting an occassional bead between snores leaning in hard upon my left shoulder...I was reading Merton, the Thomas Merton Reader, selections from his then published writing and though I was not yet officially Jungian (but one in soul already) I knew it, She, was no accident...she was curious about me and my Merton book and the other, The Journal of Albion Moonlight by Kenneth Patchen..."vas ist dis Chournal?" she asks me in the illuminated spotlight cone of overhead buslight to read by, "dis Passion fellow?"  

I explain what I know of him, his extreme physical anguish from crippling arthritis, his prolific creativity of writing poetry, prose, and paintings, collages, his readings with jazz musicians playing along with him, his profound mysticism which does not escape the world of suffering but finds the mystical within that very world and its very suffering.  

"Ah," she smiles, nodding her head, pleased, "like Ch-esus, like all mystics, dis suffering renders us to IT, zee mystical, or can...it ist alvays like dis but IT ist such sveetness dis...yah?" Silence. Her hands disappear into the massive folds of her habit, they appear to dig deeply into her thighs but then eventually a hand emerges in the cone of light overhead, opens, a handful of caramels. "So good," she giggles pulling up her shoulders joyfully partaking of a forbidden pleasure. She shares her candy soft and body warm from her deep, dare I say, mystical folds, a pouch, an altar in there somewhere with a crucifix, a scapular, and a bag of Kraft caramels. At her request I read her some Patchen:

"(In my foolish youth, beholding one noxious thing after another, I marvelled at the purity, the kindness, gentleness, sweetness, modesty, and essential goodness of mankind; the mystery increases within me. Right or wrong, rain or shine, I am a man of faith and good works. I no longer despair of the future; yet, having once more considered the matter, despair of it I must . . . 
I am hungry for a good, solid individuality...)" 

And:

"JULY 17 - My window is thrown open by the rain; it beats in with the aggressiveness of liberty. Somewhere church bells peal out over the drenched fields--the eaves drip Sunday. There is something vulgar and satisfying about it . . .On the bed Jackeen lies, her arms flung wide and a perilous spittal on her lips. The hour has come . . ."

Sister, or Mother (I was not at all savvy to Catholic heirachrical designations), nods her head once, slowly. Silence. "I vill pray...I vill pray for zis Passion fellow. He ist und gut man . . . not too long in zie purgatory . . . I feel he has made some-zing beautiful in "zie Hell, from zie fire, for God who ist also fire, who may, I pray, throw open all our windows," she opens both hands and flings outward, "like vat it ist, a rain of liberty..."  

I stare at her incredulously. Wha'? In all my Fundamentalist Calvinist upbringing and education/indoctrination I had never EVER heard such a miraculous statement. Unable to fully comprehend what she said, it IS indeed a Mystery, I nevertheless felt it resonate deeply in my very being, my body being. This, thought I, is Grace indeed...and a chore for me too. Like Passion's, to render "sompzing beautiful from zie Hell." 

Dawn is coming on and in between her dozes and caramels we speak of Merton. Between her sleeps and prayers, bead, snore, by bead, snore, of mystical presence, snore, and suffering, snore, the meaning of an eternally suffering "Jesus" (or Ch-esus in her Cherman charming accented English) who refuses to leave His Cross until all creatures great and small in all forms know the liberating loving presense of the Father is gently suggested...she is the first to reframe my own suffering, "zie Hell" and longing in such a way as I had yet been able to feel was possible/true/accurate and therefore orienting, making meaning of the chaos that was my history and zie then present on-the-bus-in-zie-veeds me.

Just before she exits in Phoenix, pressing another caramel into my palm she quietly says to me, "Here [or was it "hear"?], dear Dark Night [I look around for whom she's calling Dark Night] , some sveetness for your chourney 
t-rough zie Dark Night...He [the mystical Christ, the Shining Stranger] ist sveeter than zis hint [the candy] but take zie Hint und you vill find zat Joy comes as a surprise in zie morning..." She squeezes my hand, full. O full by buslight, in cone light. Darkness yielding to just dawning light, an always everyday new horizon.

Moved, uncomfortable, but knowing that she is probably an angel sent to me at the right time, I accept her candy, her message, and ponder silently as exquisite austere desert expanse passes by the window of my inward-searching and yearning.

Passion/Patchen writes, insists:

"Do not overreach the sky; you will only have another world to contend with...

With the policeman in the alley's black lip. The approach to the inner city. Cats clawing the face of a slobbering drunk. We men at washlines. Chimneys stretching up like the red, pocked thighs of siphillistic crones...

The green tea being poured down the rough throats of the cabmen...

The head of the universe pissing into the gutter...

The great deal of slack to that little lady's churchly ways...

The handsome behind me eats an orange by the garden wall...

The wind blows out the flowers' brains. Not too dark, God. Not too cold, God. Not too lonely, God. What is the case against me?...

I plead guilty. (Get my heirs to explain this.) My parents and friends will attest to the solemnity of my deportment...

Was that a drop of rain?...

Lower childhood into the furrow made by a hurricane of birds....

Close the door on this cell . . . I lament for mankind."

Next stop, unplanned, mid-desert, past midnight, nowhere, further west, opens a bus door. Enters a young Native American youth, probably 16 or 17 years old, sits next to me...he smells of booze and cigarettes. And sweat. He shivers from waiting for hours afer-sunset cold desert sands. He too falls asleep on my shoulder. First a nun, now a young Indian youth, hair long, thin frame pressed against my shoulder/body, perfectly shaped tears slowly falling from his sleeping eyes, I wonder "just what is this bus I have caught for my journey to the west?" 

At a bus stop in another town he awakens looking a little frightened and confused...looks at me puzzled..."we're in ______," I say (can't remember the town)...He blinks, shakes his head, rubs his eyes and face hard and long to adjust himself, to inwardly orient to the moment in his hands, behind his face, and beyond it/them. I offer him a caramel. He takes it. He offers me a sip of whiskey from a small bottle. I decline. A large orange moon slowly lifts though his proffered bottle from behind a jagged dark purple mountain range

Is it
feathers
dawn shoe

through
which
blood
casings
mourn
the Orange
Moon? 

Alyosha
the old
animal heat
turns in on
itself

burns
beneath skin

the bone bruise
fuses out
against what
yearning once
meant in
wetlands
between

navel

moon

corona

pubis

We strike up a conversation...he tells me he is on his way to ________ to get his brother out of jail. What? his younger brother is in jail, I can't remember why. He's going to get his brother out of the jailhouse and then they are going together, he says staring onto some distant but present invisible map of a plan, "to leave the res..." There are friends and some distant family in California so that is the destination.  

He was orphaned, raised "on the res by the res", grandmothers, families...he is devoted to his brother whom he is very protective of, AND he also loves to dance.  

Dance?  

"Yes, pow wow dance, but," looks shyly out the window, "I want to be a ballet dancer."  

WOW. What?! (this in my thoughts, not said)...

"I saw ballet dance on my cousin's tv and knew that's what I want to do...I love pow wow dance, too, but that's a different thing. I want to fly like ballet dancers do. And I can learn to dance ballet in LA." 

I admire his clear vision though his daily vision is blurred by orphan light and deserted desert plight. He has had his "vision" though via television as have millions of youths now. And he is going to get his brother out of jail, get to LA, settle in, find a ballet school, and dance. Stunned. How much poignancy can I stand from this vortex of a bus ride, this waking dream? The Sister and the Warrior Dancer and me with my lost fartedness and nunfall of caramels, a mystic book, no, two, to eat/drink/think from.  

We connect. Daniel, his name. Daniel Eaglefeather. He thinks that I am Indian (I have some Cherokee from my mom's side and, then time of that ride, I have long dark brown hair and her (mom's) high cheekbones, I am thin with a dreamy but thoughtful look my head always in a book or a cloud reverie) and when he hears my name he exclaims, "Falcon! you Indian, man!" 

Whiskey bottle almost empty, the bus pulls into his destination for brother retrieval. We embrace after I buy us some coffee, some donuts, some peanuts. "No whiskey. Buy you and your brother a good meal then move on out toward the Pacific." I give him $5 bucks of the $10 that I have to my name. He grins, intense, concentratred eyes flashing, turns quickly toward his mission, he is prepared to battle and to even kill to set his brother free, so rushes out the door into the blinding glare of the too too clean streets the 

too too straight 

too too rigid streets 

their planned

murdering geometry

their belly laugh

their gut punch
and rabbit

that moment
of consent
entwined
with bridges
rooftops
orange sky
concrete

asphalt
and assholes
a cigarette
each hand a
bottle of gin

a back pocket
search for
quinine the
brine of men

the run-on
trousers limp
the cobbled
street where
a spring
silvers
beneath

navel

moon

corona

pubis

Why all this recounting? 

All this recounting has to do with the sketched wings, I think.  

And Calling/Vocation, or "raison d'etre" which is daimon - the unique force that drives the stem of the flower, or life, and prayer even when I could then, though young, only "kneel where prayer had once been valid" (T.S. Eliot), already disconsolate.

As the bus pulls out of the jailing city I am conscious enough to pray to the "Mother/Sister/Angel of Mount Caramel" and Thomas Merton and to Daniel's ancestor spirits, the Elements, the Great Spirit, that he be successful in his mission to liberate his brother O Israel from captivity and to become his dream, his wounding into Beauty ("Beauty before me, Beauty behind me...that Hopi Prayer), a ballet dancer.  

I didn't know it then but I was already at my own work in my own way and with my own fledgling already molting wings - "what I do is me/for that I came" (Gerard Manley Hopkins) - what I DO now, who I am now...those early years of childhood/youthful mourning, by the time I got to NYC, not Phoenix, not at all rising, but deeply depressed "these my greatest sufferings (Duino Rilke), had begun to yield some small but signifant and signifying fruit and though the inner weather was despondency-much I began to find that hope, as Emily Dickinson sings, "is that thing with wings" a feather of meaning beginning to arrive from the alchemical sullenities the post-teen murmurs mutters smatterings which brought little surprises of grace - insights, aha's, what I found myself writing down in a Harlem basement room o dark dark as - "small favors" arriving from the big fissures and fractures already

much the
Monk 

falls for
(One) love
each night
from the
belfry

smells
of pitch 

the
avenue smells
of singed
hair

a humming
boy hums

pokes bits
of scalp on
the walk

small
white thumbs
alone touch
the white
lattice kiosk

selling the
Stranger's
face again

navel

moon

corona

pubis

- from "Midnight In Dostoyevsky", Norman Nightingale, from The Cathected Poems.

So, good news is - 

joy, new Value, new meaning, continually comes through the mourning into the new morning, the new Center, the new raison d'etre formed from/built upon the foundation of the earlier one(s) and always based upon transpersonal fundaments/dynamics seeking to be lived uniquely new life by life, person by person.

I am still, now more than ever 
"Madly Singing In the Mountains" 
- Po Chu-I (772-846)  

There is no one among men that has not a special failing; 
And my failing consists in writing verses.
I have broken away from the thousand ties of life; 
But this infimity still remains behind.
Each time I look at a fine landscape, 
Each time that I meet a loved friend, 
I raise my voice and recite a stanza of poetry
And marvel as though a God had crossed my path.
Ever since the day I was banished to Hsun-yang
Half my time I have lived among the hills.
And often, when I have finished a new poem, 
Alone I climb the road to the Eastern Rock.
I lean my body on the banks of white stone; 
I pull down with my hands a green cassia branch.
My mad singing startles the valleys and hills; 
The apes and birds all come to peep.
Fearing to become a laughing-stock to the world, 
I choose a place that is unfrequented by men.