Thursday, September 17, 2020

dark water charcoaled with orange sky - a brief moment of my life

Rereading the autobiography of Wright Morris whom I've never read before, his novels, rather, 'cept for this his autobiography, A Cloak of Light, when I was in my 30's feeling trapped by New York City. No, wait, not by the city but by myself on yet another shelf even in the most adventurous city in the world, or one of them. And I so wanted adventure thus New York and my Harlem basement room where I "ensconced" reading reading reading as I did everywhere I'd lived, rather, read, on night shifts, and in between shifts, more given by introversion to inner adventures though preachers warned me that these were the worst kind. But the outer ones, the stuff which made/compelled/miseried as my shadow, "will out" but I. not yet ready for the outing, found them in the books I read, and in the twice weekly sessions with Betsy, the patient Jungian analyst, who got plenty of shadow from my dreams. More than once she'd nod out while I was talking on and on which hurt my feelings but I now realize that my shadow was so very big and as yet to be touched that I put her to sleep, made her unconscious, so as to avoid a confrontation with the shadow. I'd silently steal away, ashamed, a personal check on her side table, and walk from East 92nd and 1st Avenue to West Harlem.

Much as I desired a life "in the world" I clearly wasn't ready so in sessions as with books I couldn't turn the pages fast enough to escape a destined, Jung would warn, "doomed" encounter a few years ahead. . .but I was determined to read only about it, dream about it, take notes, keep journals, yet on some occasions late night by the Hudson River near the corner of West 142nd Street I would relent, cave, rave, shout, weep, threaten the water, life itself on both banks, even and especially that Goddamned indifferent sentinel Maxwell House Cup forever tilted with it's petrified drop never dropping, I pledged revenge, retribution, a long list of bullies spilling out of my mouth where they'd at last flounder then flush beneath the dark water charcoaled with orange sky. Only to come to life and dryer land in me again come the morning. Fuck the pigeons. Then. Me and pigeons are good now.

Reading Wright Morris, his travels and dare-thee-wells was greatly satisfying back then. Still is. Now in my late 60's, well into shadowland and vigor mortis I am companion to others who turn pages or count days until the life sentence comes in again, morning after morning, the second act of the play of life trying to play it out, resolve the clot or plot. Or not.

I am nostalgic for another child in me who has yet to be lived, fleshed out, but now said flesh such as it is/I am is on the sag and hairing up gray to white, so what's to done about it, this urge for lively living, for Blake's lost child?

Last night's dream reveals a golden pickle, yes, golden, and pickle (life's a pickle), unearthed in an ancient Egyptien ruin, that of a king named Horus. I was/am awed by the find but stumped as back then in ancient times, and now still this was/is the Key of Keys. An adventure for sure. But where's Betsy now that I need her, her dead for at last 20 years? Will make do and of it on my own. A close friend nickname in the '80's "McDoo" for "make do". I'm of a practical bent. A later analyst calls it "compensated oral." I'll not quarrel though I could. Perhaps should. The recommended healing collapse on the psychoanalytic menu offerings did not come with three sides nor a bread basket and I, basket, was already "case" enough. Humor in tact though.

The shadow boy's here in this Lorca bit truer and blue balled for LIFE as ever as I turn Morris pages, me yet again living vicariously:

"I am going to ask Christ to give
me back my childhood, ripe with sunburn and feathers and a wooden sword."

This passage, Morris's close encounter with what Jung calls the Anima, a vision real, but the road and Europe prevails so. . . . .

Friday, July 10, 2020

Mumps eyes plead 'no mountain' - from Covid Journals, Crow Flight Over Meadow

Spruce Hill Farm. Keene, NY.  Easter 2013. 

S'been a'swelter up here in higher mounts upstate NY. 90's. Humid. Like walking around with a large hot sponge over your entire head. Cue Darth Vader breathing soundtrack. But, ah, Keene in winter...glorious. Quiet. Still. Until the howl begins, the blow, the fury snow and cloud chaos obliterate all orientation but for sound. Then eventually return to stillness morning blue hues of sun and ice repainting the known world. The old barn stands a little taller proud of its long black shadow over the mascaraed field whom I affectionately call Mabel for memory of the late '70's Waffle House waitress who worked what I called the 'midnight waffles' shift from midnight to 8 am. Heavy on the make up, eyelids turquoised, eyebrows plucked out then painted in with blackest mascara, and all the rest, powder pink blush, cheek and forehead powdered sugar white, a high stack of blue hair, a Pall Mall cig stub stuck to her bottom purple lipsticked lip. Return to frozen field and qualities of color in sheer sunbright snow white clarity primaries with edged shadow subtleties. Unlike cities. Mabel and me. Now she's pretty with purple and shades of green, wild flowers sprinkled, butterflies so many that I tolerate the biting black flies to gestalt the field and flight/alight vision expanded to pixilations framed only by the extent of my unpainted eyelids. Hedge hog moves through the now tall grass. I track its movement across the wide field to the old once was a well, concrete crumbling, a good place to dig in for the season safer from the raven, the coyote and fox. Heard a yip after dusk last night. Might be the wary coyote hovering always just below the near steep lledge or at yard meets woods edge, Mumps I call him some sag or other at his left maw, a limp on forward left paw leg twisted suspect a car hit him survives now forever on edges nothing bold like a regular road crossing or crow flight over meadow or even straight up Marcie's ice scars' mountain dares still trying to pass but imperceptible cuz aeons - Mumps eyes plead 'no mountain' when we make rare eye contact I try to send some friendly thoughts trying what friend Valdosta does a wounded animal herself so, being wounded, is a healer she softly chants
come come come come
come come come come
showing both hands flat palms up for frightened animal to see
come come come come
I've seen her charm racoon-chewed dogs mauled-cats sick-horse motherless-runted-out-kittens into won-trust and life-enough
Mumps ain't having any come come come come
slow eats what's left whats offered in the meadow past dark and Mabel where ravens get to work moon or not peck for the better portions they like bones just like the furred do - Mumps near's watching content enough to eat what might be left of leftovers or excavated fare from back of fridge long forgotten all mold blue or green some slimed things even the barn cats turn their discerning noses to
Already mourning having to return to the City in mid-August.
But my Kobayashi Issa book gathers dust on the side table where I foolishly left it forgotten in my haste to escape the city return to Keene. One thing to look forward to though - Issa. And gathered things such are markers of a life, bookstacks of course, sculptures, paintings, totems, random rocks, crystals, rusted once functioning parts of machinery now in decline/dis/un-use objets d'art photos de de de epochs (brief though ever lingering) friends places meals buses' trains' windows passings through, milky filmy insides again dimmed though solid though artifact - a spider web a century(?) constancy inside containment's bottle excavated beneath 100 year old house 1980 or so who knows where the time tracking goes - dwelt in (alluded century) foot of Mount Mitchell Blue Ridge highest, more bottles 18th century an old tin of snuff snuff still in't and th' dipper one old spoon a bent fork a child's trinket gum machine ring (who wore that?), a silver metal comb needing dental work after ages hairs silvered time transluscent intwined....friends tell me it's time to sort, let go, release these things. I respond with these lines from poet and zen teacher John Tarrant:
There is a blessed fidelity in things.
Useless things grow lovely with good uses.
And these lines (to end it here) by maestro Nathaniel Mackey to sing once more for [I am] useless things -
ghost[s] of an alternative
life... They were we before
we were, ancestral, we who'd
never not be ill at ease.
A vocation for lack he'd have
said, she'd have said longing,
a world, were they to speak, be-
What wasn't, they'd
have said, went away,
would come back,
first fanatic church,
what would be...

All photos by Warren Falcon (all rights reserved to him)

Friday, April 10, 2020

"Still we call this Friday good" - "Only a God can still save us!" - "Amor Carnalis is our dwelling-place."

Christ Crucified. A detail of a modern fresco of the Crucificion
Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art.  Bilbao, Spain

Miloz Zizek: "This brings us to the third position above and beyond the first two (the sovereign God, the finite God), that of a suffering God: not a triumphalist God who always wins at the end, although "his ways are mysterious," since he secretly pulls all the strings; not a God who exerts cold justice, since he is by definition always right; but a God who – like the suffering Christ on the Cross - is agonized, assumes the burden of suffering, in solidarity with the human misery. [1] It was already Schelling who wrote: "God is a life, not merely a being. But all life has a fate and is subject to suffering and becoming. /.../ Without the concept of a humanly suffering God /.../ all of history remains incomprehensible." [2] Why? Because God’s suffering implies that He is involved in history, affected by it, not just a transcendent Master pulling the strings from above: God’s suffering means that human history is not just a theater of shadows, but the place of the real struggle, the struggle in which the Absolute itself is involved and its fate is decided. This is the philosophical background of Dietrich Bonhoffer’s deep insight that, after shoah [Evil], "only a suffering God can help us now" [3] – a proper supplement to Heidegger’s "Only a God can still save us!" from his last interview. [4] One should therefore take the statement that "the unspeakable suffering of the six millions is also the voice of the suffering of God" [5] quite literally: the very excess of this suffering over any "normal" human measure makes it divine."
During Passover week, and today, again, on Good Friday, I just reread Zizek's surprising reinterpretation yet consolidation of an intuition early blinking in human consciousness, yielding slowly through aeons of dawning awareness, incremental, chronic, barely, yet significantly, yet not significantly enough collectively, that "only a Suffering God can save us." Lest pomos (post moderns) repel in reaction to this let them ponder the Buddha's 4 Noble Truths since his teaching is now more "the rage" in the West, which, chief principle, rage, being the coin of the day focus grouped for commercial success, alas, aulterates, if not undoes, the authentic facts revealed experientially in historical and present human history as well as that of creation itself, viz St. Paul's poetic utterance, that the "entire Creation, all creatures great and small, groan/yearn after its/their Originating Source/Force."
More simply, Thomas Merton's, "My heart yearns for its Referent."
This yearning a love-sickness most mundane and divine or, rather, within its mundanity divinity resides, in its hiding it, love, is present all the more. And as there is a "resent" in "p-resent" part of that love-sickness/suffering is resentment at absence. And eventually, rage. Suffering, indeed.
Zizek's essay is a Good Friday medtitation, for sure. An ongoing enigma, for sure. Zizek's not at all a F(undamentalist of any stripe or (un)kind. Thus the reason I was shocked, surprised, pleased, disturbed, moved when I first accidentally came upon this brief in my 2019 re-study (re as in REal study) of Hegel. 
Zizek's use of one of the last recordings by Johnny Cash, When the Man Comes Around, to amplify his thesis, brilliant. See the link to Cash's performance in the comment section below this post.
Lastly -
Geoffrey Hill's, a bit, some verses from his "Tenebrae", perfect for a culture of gluttony verily toxically ungluton free and bloated:
. . . .
O light of light, supreme delight;
grace on our lips to our disgrace.
Time roosts on all such golden wrists;
our leanness is our luxury.
. . . .
This is the ash-pit of the lily-fire,
this is the questioning at the long tables,
this is true marriage of the self-in-self,
this is a raging solitude of desire,
this is the chorus of obscene consent,
this is a single voice of purest praise.
. . . .
He wounds with ecstasy. All
the wounds are his own.
He wears the martyr’s crown.
He is the Lord of Misrule.
He is the Master of the Leaping Figures,
the motley factions.
Revelling in auguries
he is the Weeper of the Valedictions. 

Cathedral Repairs, Remote, Side Road, Gers. France

* * * *

 Johnny Cash, The Man Comes Around

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Respondeo Ergo Sum - Upon Freeing The Gift Of Creativity Turned Inward

Dream Image

for Elaine, Anima-as-Fate

"There is only one real deprivation, I decided this morning, and that is not to be able to give one's gift to those one loves most...The gift turned inward, unable to be given, becomes a heavy burden, even sometimes a kind of poison. It is as though the flow of life were backed up." - May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude

This afternoon while still somewhat hungover from last night's rich meal and more than several glasses of red wine, I stumbled as one does when hungover, only today without feet but with eyes, upon the above quote by May Sarton. I had awakened this morning with fragments of a dream, repetitive of other dreams the past few months, where I am carrying something precious and just cannot put it down in any old place or upon just any available surface. I cannot put it down until I find the right surface and location.

These dreams are full of torrential flood waters, or backed up, stagnant water, toilets full of filth and pungent bright orange dark urine days old and fermenting. I cannot unhand the burden even though the urge to pee or flee or drive a car away or into flood waters is strong. I must not put down the burden odd as it is; it is my laptop carrying case (in my dream) made of canvas (as in canvas for painting). It is large enough to carry not only my laptop but also many books with which I cannot, will not, be parted from as they are the must-have-with-me-always 'bread', my staple and stability in a given-to-me world-out-of-balance.

I have understood the dreams only a little - something within the psyche is flooding up, over-spilling or has already, has not been adequately canalized, channeled, streamed and guided, shaped and formed. Or flushed. I knew that eventually, as dreams do when one sits consciously, patiently, persistently with them (since they persist, archetypal psychologist James Hillman calls them "psychological insistencies"), they would yield their messages to me and, upon revelation, these must be obeyed, brought out, externalized, into the world, Carl Jung having said that one has a moral responsibility to dreams once they are kenned they must be conscientiously acted upon in the outer world. Just dreaming is not enough. Everyone dreams but not very many know to dream them out into the world, to let their messages unfurl, flood and flow to bring forth new consciousness, to reshape old forms no longer adequate to self, place/environment and time, bringing their symbol and their sense, usually not literal, into lived reality.

And thus, only just now, upon opening up haphazardly in a book about Dostoevsky and his struggle with addictions which mirror the profound compulsion to create at any cost perhaps beyond one's capacities to renew oneself, I find May Sarton's quote and suddenly the dreams clarify and sharpen into focus; I understand them as the burden of creativity too long turned inward, the burden of writing, the burden of poetry which I have carried heavily for most of my life since middle school when I was 11 or 12 years old when books became my lifeline, my links to existenceso that I could live on in spite of not wanting to do so. Written words, books, kept me from disappearing though I was and remain a mostly invisible though enfleshed (reluctantly) word.

Thus the floods. One cannot ignore them. Alphabets tumble and roil. One dare not ignore them. One must see them without choice to not see them. In them I am suddenly made visible, bright orange piss pot and all. I am both appalled and pleased. My burden is here upon my knees.

The backed up water, the urine, is creativity. A somewhat odd symbol of creativity, there is more than enough evidence that urination is symbolic of self expression which is creativity. In ancient Rome the highly valued dirt from the urinals of boys' schools was collected to be used as a cosmetic in order to restore youthful energy and looks. A young boy, or puer in Latin, is an archetypal symbol of ongoing creativity and inspiration, the puer aeternas, the eternal youth, well springs of ongoing creativity still imaged in solid fountains of the world where eternal waters flow from the peni of cherubic youth.

I have struggled my entire life with a strong urge to create, to write, to express in words that creative daemon within which torments no matter the completion of a poem or essay, a lecture, a psalm. And now my dreams have had me consciously, urgently seeking a place to put the burden down, to perhaps come to it anew. I imagine that landing the burden means bringing it down to earth, manifesting creativity all the more by bringing my efforts to others for the strongest part of the compulsive urge in my creativity has been to contribute one good thing, one good poem or piece of writing which in some way might further the culture even if only by a flea's leg length.

The dreams urge me to let the urine flow, to let the flood waters indeed flood over, to be less self conscious of what I write and say but to have at it all and to say my say. And to let whatever waves there are crest and break upon ever receptive banks and shores whose duty it is to allow what may come from motion without complaint, the more compliant toward as yet to be fully formed purposes as yet to be scored.

Synchronistically, a few days ago I listened to a lecture by poet Allen Ginsberg about Walt Whitman and his imitators, those who were goodly influenced by his effulgent, self indulgent style, his garrulous poetry which presumed to express the very expansiveness of the North American continent over-flooded by a plague of itinerant, persistent poachers-and-prophets from Europe to Eastern disembarkation then inland and Westward turned, manicly (maniacally) compelled to overtake/sweep up land and native peoples in their possessed, pushed wake.

Ginsberg imagined himself to be a timely extension of this unruly school, as savage as the projected upon land and justly-resistant, resident humanity stretched beyond known bounds and sounds. Blood drowned and pounded, the god-hounded Christhaunted land even now floods by unleashed mighty rivers seeking, if rivers seek at all, to undo and renew in horse shoe and other shapes the crimes of unconsciousness compelled to overtake while leaving it up to human souls to repent and repair, to prepare for more powerful insurgencies of land and Self ever seeking new and nower expressions of dirt and deity both scared and sacred. There's enough history beneath layers to support the scarp and scrape of momentary yet monumental motions finally given mouths to utter what lies both beneath and within the heaping huzzahs of here here here full and deep. As in my dream, it is hard to steer in such surpassing tides and currents. Still, I am searching for holy campground that I may lay my own burden down.

I have no wish to imitate Whitman nor Ginsberg (though both are easily imitated since they did so themselves, an occupational hazard for writers (no anxiety bout that here, but assent only, to the inevitable evolution word by word by those who write them) but only to be obedient to the daemon, that urgent, emergent, creative force within. It rushes within and against me. No matter whether derived of the grandiose American continent and the even more grandiose sky or not, I have all too successfully braced against it in fear of failure, reprisal or, worse, complete indifference by/from others. My dreams now urge floods and resultant coagulations, they bring creative splurges to ground from mind/lung-hand to the hard still unplumbed world. And Nature, too, is indifferent but begs none the less and all the more to be given utterance and response.

Respondeo ergo sum. I respond, therefore I am. I respond, therefore the other, THAT other, earth, and all her ants, IS, as long as there are eyes, ears, (mouths/teeth) and scanning minds to acknowledge and touch, wrestle, bite, caress, shape/misshape - some in stuttering or sibilnnt scansions - outer from inner, inner from outer, landscapes to be all too quickly discarded in time for what is sung just ahead. And seen. Or hoped, all praise to telescopes. We would be they, so addicted to horizons (so adhered to/identified with distances), to bring them close.

Something there is needs completion-via-coagulation, forming, shaping, and sharing with whomever may be open to clods delivered. If not, rivers will, as they will without reason, continue to overrun their banks and insist upon covering designated previous cultivations. Let then excess of creativity have its say, play out, and leave the critical post-considerations to others. I will surely sit and ponder spent what spills forth, to shape, to edit, to discard. And watch my little yard sink beneath needed and needy floods.

I will have-done with deprivation and bring myself, what I have shaped and misshapen, to the world. These things, this burden, have I most loved and felt responsible for, have born the shame of. I have fought and have failed utterly again and again though my attempts have been, and still are, sincere though not blameless. Fear has been my encampment, a longing beneath knowing feet in secret cellars just beyond reach of contracted hands forever spelling hunger. I know open bastion doors and windows to now fling beyond embankments what has been wrung out of my floes and woes though hands wither from too too much turning-against-and-inward. What a relief to burst beyond boundaries too long successfully restraining**(see footnote below).

I recently wrote a poem about much too too solid bastions of self, of forceful puer energy ramming through and over-and-into long buried storms and petrified forms, of passion mangling the delusion of 'norms' ignoring too too sensitive alarms. Given May Sarton's May revelation this morning I now understand that the poem is about more than eros, it is about that powerful creative/destructive force (by any and every means necessary), the daemon/tyro that ever urges outward intent on making and staking Self in new land overtaken and, at least one aging man, wrenched and rendered from dried and calcified encrustations. I am, to borrow from the insistent dream image, beginning to leak. And to break open.

Archeology - What The Stele Says 'Upon Taking A Much Younger Lover'

That this old ground yields to plow stuns.
What begins to be, earth swell, breaks root-room
open to blood means.

Old skeins tear upon what is new terrain,
hunger worn, long appended. There is no
blame for pain is the blessing.

All hurt stings twilight now quaked into being.
Your breath falls upon me now, taut, sinew,
bruising hand, purple inside flares warrior nerves
to unknotting surprise.

I am uncovered, thin, bared upon thinner
sheets the man-ripped to many images,
torn into, landscaped to former curves.
No longer do I grieve enclosure touching
only myself delivered from layers.

Magpie dances -

Lines, veins, strung between Pole Star
and First River Mouth, an embedded ruin
uncover in milk floods.

Touch gently first what has been too long concealed.

Hard touch congeals once was telling mud remolded into
"Not again. Not yet the bleeding Centurion."
Wield roughly then through gates too long shut.

When I cry out, do not mind.
Blindly ram. Do not stop.

Magpie, my keeper, is flying.


**Psychology would call this represssion but THAT is another essay/article altogether.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

On the Nature of Daylight - Selah Upon Return to NYC after Two W eeks in France

Selah upon return to NYC after two weeks in France and 3 short sensuous days in Spain o glorious parentheses of days within too much halting along in many aftertastes meet the shock of the City. I am overdone happily run over with the whole of it to be parsed and partaken of in memory and find myself as I did yesterday in airport after airport (4 of them) trying to remain in France (Spain too) in the rain and river and tributary freshets saturated fields and vineyards (and roads) walking slowly with the swollen L'adoir (river) as soundtrack, the doves there too whose calls are unlike any I've heard on my sentinel East Village fire escape, the mud so cloying on my cheap boots trying to keep me there in most humble terroir so generous still for centuries and giving still, even an over abundance of water which I braved and prayed to with my improvised water laden walking stick, so relieved and grateful to be free of NYC money terrors and mindless manic pursuits of which I have no more use at all fall away fall away fall away all-o-that for me returning ever so slowly to pulse, and breath, and weighted meaningful steps and seeing (or trying to) the beauty in the quotidien offering in front of my nose and the rest of aging me. 
I did afterall sleep and wake to a monastery and church only a minute from my bedroom window, to that dove song choir of spatial shakuhachi tones syncopated otherly, and the chicken sqawks busy with dawn annunciations of the laying of THE acclaimed one and only egg of eggs (until the next one), the neighbor woman just yards away at other window singing softly as she hung her laundry out her window from a clever thin stringed, gray fade frayed contraption unknowingly offering me shades of veiled body parts laced or not, practically stitched and padded/weighted for certain parts, each is an interior castle to the one more than strongly hinted by the nearby monastery and church for centuries unused and unused still, appealing still to "archaic authority" (Julie Kristeva) but with enough dawn dove song and neighbor's breath-paced melodies tenderly sung to cloth enclosures and supports, and so I am pleased to find then unexpected archaic (shades of the eternal) authority (not my overriding rote unconscious kind a bob bob bobbing along) sweet, enstoned (is that a word, just wrote 'sword') giving insistent weight to sublimity (how we do sublimate such indeed) to impress such upon me the coagulate dirt pecker nozzling at whatever's beneath the feet and beak...oy. And Halleluh. To such and every I say, insist, 

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

From Castle In The Clouds To Duende's Drab Castillo In Chattanooga - Reading Kerouac While Trying To Tell Theological Shit From Peanut Butter

Passage in the Prologue to Desolation Angels....  

....speaks to me (still) as I limp (still) swole footed floundered slandered (still) down Lookout Mountain into preferred/proffered Saint Elmo fire's of said Saint to excoriate those of Calvin's ire, his tiring heaviness of mind and caucasian assurities, his distortion  of a word like 'grace' into some wrack upon which to stretch out spread eagled repentence, O drain sunshine out of bright skies, fearing thumbs and thighs, o my! boring, soul and eros killing clanning Calvinistas and ilk then and now their evangelical bubble's a mass tumor over the nation, in the White House, a distorted unholy wedding of (white) American civic faith and the real deity of the West, the Market, but despairing, but determined, but no choice at all, I fled suffocation and was relieved to read Kerouac, this:

"Hold still, man, regain your love of life [never really had it truth be told] and go down from this mountain and simply be-be-be the infinite fertilities of the one mind of infinity, make no comments, complaints, criticisms, appraisals, avowels, sayings, shooting stars of thought, just flow, flow, be you all, be you what it is, it is only what it always is."

The Castle In The Clouds, Covenant College, atop Lookout Mountain (at the Georgia and Tennesse border.  This photo was taken before massive developement since the 1970's.  Former glory now modified. Caucasian Theology's Delight.

Southside YMCA spiffied up no doubt in order to sale.  Chattanooga, Tennesee. 
An old Spanish-style YMCA built in 1929.  

When I worked post-Covenant College days, a then freshly former student there, the old YMCA was no longer operating as a YMCA, it was run-down, drab, but despite the neglect and disrepair there remained an old splendor about the pace. Having left the safe confines of Eurocentric Christian theology I found my hungry way to the valley away from John Calvin's conservative Reformation theologyenclave on the mountaintop.  Off the mountain, finally in the valley working in Chat-town, debriefing, detoxifying from conservative white culture, politics, or at least beginning to do so as it is an ongoing life long expungement, I found other sources and offerings in literature, history, philosophy, psychology and, yes, in liberal theology, better idioms for what I knew intimately but without the Spanish word which summed me then and does so now,  Duende.
Risking life and limb in the East Village today, NYC, I lumber cautiously into the too- full loft looking for my copy of Jack Kerouac's novel Desolation Angels which I read to death over and over mid-1970's in Chattanooga, TN working the all night shift in a grand old Spanish style YMCA turned into a youth residential center, delinquint boys, white and black, thrown together by the state. A combustible combination of adolescence, race, hormones, extreme home environments...the YRC program strategy was B.F. Skinner driven, behavior modification which made manipulative kids even more manipulative. Forget "conscience"? Who needs a conscience after all? Sad tales though, those kids who'd sneak downstairs to hear me read a bit from one of my books or just talk. Official job was night watchman in an iffy part of town just literally across the tracks and near the Chattanooga Choo Choo train station decrepified for years but was slated to be renovated and touristified (it was) just off downtown Chat-town. I read all night in between hourly walk throughs of the entire building, all 4 floors with 58 dorm rooms in all, a basketball court, the ground floor a giant-sized empty swimming pool with dead varmints in it, the gym-sized space eerily echoing I know not what. 
There were occasional break-ins, drunks, curious kids, petty thieves who found nothing or not much to steal in the decayed once was opulent always dingy interior (no matter how much one swept and mopped the dirt and dust and gray stayed). The perpetual smell of gas (like from a gas stove) permeated the building. I asked the maintainance guy who'd worked there for decades about it since I was afraid the place was about to blow. "Naw....'at ain't gas (pronounced ah-eenth (ain't) guy-ees (gas)...the Tennessee accent is very much British Isles...a local friend once said to me to my great delight, "Ah slipped on th' ah-ees (ice) un' fell on m'ah-ess (my ass) in th' grah-ees (grass)")....em's dead rats. 'Ey smell like (lah-eek) gas (guy-ees)." His way to kill the rats was to put coca cola in little bowls behind things where the varmints would roam. They'd drink the cola, their innards unable to digest, unable to withstand the gas bubbles so they would internally explode (which might explain the varmint filled swimming pool, the weird popping sounds and echoes in the pool area). I always wonder about how one day someone said, Hey, let's put coke cola in a bowl and let the rats drink it, and the mice, and see what happens?
But then how does one get rid of the dead varmints what die in the walls, under the tiled floors, in tight wall crawl spaces?

Anyhow, Kerouac in Chattanooga, Tennessee YMCA somehow fit in there while reading of his fire watch in fire tower in the high remote Sierras of the Pacific Northwest. He, Jack, treated his mountain varmints gently and reverently though. No cola karma for those critters cuz Buddha and such.

Now over 30 years in East Village, haunt of the Beats, I live a half block away from where Kerouac, Ginsberg, Carr and others met at this local bar long gone, neighborhood totally altered since they convivialed and face to faces finger jabbing jabbering to make drunken points:

I've walked by this NYC Village address for years and years on my way to server purgatory at the now (thankfully) closed Rocking Horse Mexican Cafe. Walk West on 10th Street to Greenwich Street, hang right (where the store is in the photo) and walk to 9th avenue, right on 9th and walk to 19th Street, RHMC just past what used to be a deli on the corner.


The duende….Where is the duende? Through the empty archway a wind of the spirit enters, blowing insistently over the heads of the dead, in search of new landscapes and unknown accents: a wind with the odour of a child’s saliva, crushed grass, and medusa’s veil, announcing the endless baptism of freshly created things. - Garcia Lorca

Entrance on Mitchell Avenue

First 16 photos of the old YMCA.  Photos by Lawrence G. Miller

Click the title to get a google preview of Desolation Angels.


And so it was I entered the broken world to trace the visionary company of love - Hart Crane

Theory and Play Of The Duende by Federico Garcia Lorca

Two Nudes

Ladies and Gentlemen.

Between 1918 when I entered the Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid, and 1928 when I left, having completed my study of Philosophy and Letters, I listened to around a thousand lectures, in that elegant salon where the old Spanish aristocracy went to do penance for its frivolity on French beaches.
Longing for air and sunlight, I was so bored I used to feel as though I was covered in fine ash, on the point of changing into peppery sneezes.
So, no, I don’t want that terrible blowfly of boredom to enter this room, threading all your heads together on the slender necklace of sleep, and setting a tiny cluster of sharp needles in your, my listeners’, eyes.
In a simple way, in the register that, in my poetic voice, holds neither the gleams of wood, nor the angles of hemlock, nor those sheep that suddenly become knives of irony, I want to see if I can give you a simple lesson on the buried spirit of saddened Spain.
Whoever travels the bull’s hide that stretches between the Júcar, Guadalfeo, Sil and Pisuerga rivers (not to mention the tributaries that meet those waves, the colour of a lion’s mane, that stir the Plata) frequently hears people say: ‘This has much duende’. Manuel Torre, great artist of the Andalusian people, said to someone who sang for him: ‘You have a voice, you understand style, but you’ll never ever succeed because you have no duende.’
All through Andalusia, from the rock of Jaén to the snail’s-shell of Cadiz, people constantly talk about the duende and recognise it wherever it appears with a fine instinct. That wonderful singer El Lebrijano, creator of the Debla, said: ‘On days when I sing with duende no one can touch me.’: the old Gypsy dancer La Malena once heard Brailowsky play a fragment of Bach, and exclaimed: ‘Olé! That has duende!’ but was bored by Gluck, Brahms and Milhaud. And Manuel Torre, a man who had more culture in his veins than anyone I’ve known, on hearing Falla play his own Nocturno del Generalife spoke this splendid sentence: ‘All that has dark sounds has duende.’ And there’s no deeper truth than that.
Those dark sounds are the mystery, the roots that cling to the mire that we all know, that we all ignore, but from which comes the very substance of art. ‘Dark sounds’ said the man of the Spanish people, agreeing with Goethe, who in speaking of Paganini hit on a definition of the duende: ‘A mysterious force that everyone feels and no philosopher has explained.’
So, then, the duende is a force not a labour, a struggle not a thought. I heard an old maestro of the guitar say: ‘The duende is not in the throat: the duende surges up, inside, from the soles of the feet.’ Meaning, it’s not a question of skill, but of a style that’s truly alive: meaning, it’s in the veins: meaning, it’s of the most ancient culture of immediate creation.
This ‘mysterious force that everyone feels and no philosopher has explained’ is, in sum, the spirit of the earth, the same duende that scorched Nietzche’s heart as he searched for its outer form on the Rialto Bridge and in Bizet’s music, without finding it, and without seeing that the duende he pursued had leapt from the Greek mysteries to the dancers of Cadiz and the headless Dionysiac scream of Silverio’s siguiriya.
So, then, I don’t want anyone to confuse the duende with the theological demon of doubt at whom Luther, with Bacchic feeling, hurled a pot of ink in Eisenach, nor the Catholic devil, destructive and of low intelligence, who disguised himself as a bitch to enter convents, nor the talking monkey carried by Cervantes’ Malgesi in his comedy of jealousies in the Andalusian woods.
No. The duende I mean, secret and shuddering, is descended from that blithe daemon, all marble and salt, of Socrates, whom it scratched at indignantly on the day when he drank the hemlock, and that other melancholy demon of Descartes, diminutive as a green almond, that, tired of lines and circles, fled along the canals to listen to the singing of drunken sailors.
For every man, every artist called Nietzsche or Cézanne, every step that he climbs in the tower of his perfection is at the expense of the struggle that he undergoes with his duende, not with an angel, as is often said, nor with his Muse. This is a precise and fundamental distinction at the root of their work.
The angel guides and grants, like St. Raphael: defends and spares, like St. Michael: proclaims and forewarns, like St. Gabriel.
The angel dazzles, but flies over a man’s head, high above, shedding its grace, and the man realises his work, or his charm, or his dance effortlessly. The angel on the road to Damascus, and that which entered through the cracks in the little balcony at Assisi, or the one that followed in Heinrich Suso’s footsteps, create order, and there is no way to oppose their light, since they beat their wings of steel in an atmosphere of predestination.
The Muse dictates, and occasionally prompts. She can do relatively little since she’s distant and so tired (I’ve seen her twice) that you’d think her heart half marble. Muse poets hear voices and don’t know where they’re from, but they’re from the Muse who inspires them and sometimes makes her meal of them, as in the case of Apollinaire, a great poet destroyed by the terrifying Muse, next to whom the divine angelic Rousseau once painted him.
The Muse stirs the intellect, bringing a landscape of columns and an illusory taste of laurel, and intellect is often poetry’s enemy, since it limits too much, since it lifts the poet into the bondage of aristocratic fineness, where he forgets that he might be eaten, suddenly, by ants, or that a huge arsenical lobster might fall on his head – things against which the Muses who inhabit monocles, or the roses of lukewarm lacquer in a tiny salon, have no power.
Angel and Muse come from outside us: the angel brings light, the Muse form (Hesiod learnt from her). Golden bread or fold of tunic, it is her norm that the poet receives in his laurel grove. While the duende has to be roused from the furthest habitations of the blood.
Reject the angel, and give the Muse a kick, and forget our fear of the scent of violets that eighteenth century poetry breathes out, and of the great telescope in whose lenses the Muse, made ill by limitation, sleeps.
The true struggle is with the duende.
The roads where one searches for God are known, whether by the barbaric way of the hermit or the subtle one of the mystic: with a tower, like St. Teresa, or by the three paths of St. John of the Cross. And though we may have to cry out, in Isaiah’s voice: Truly you are a hidden God,’ finally, in the end, God sends his primal thorns of fire to those who seek Him.
Seeking the duende, there is neither map nor discipline. We only know it burns the blood like powdered glass, that it exhausts, rejects all the sweet geometry we understand, that it shatters styles and makes Goya, master of the greys, silvers and pinks of the finest English art, paint with his knees and fists in terrible bitumen blacks, or strips Mossèn Cinto Verdaguer stark naked in the cold of the Pyrenees, or sends Jorge Manrique to wait for death in the wastes of Ocaña, or clothes Rimbaud’s delicate body in a saltimbanque’s costume, or gives the Comte de Lautréamont the eyes of a dead fish, at dawn, on the boulevard.
The great artists of Southern Spain, Gypsy or flamenco, singers dancers, musicians, know that emotion is impossible without the arrival of the duende. They might deceive people into thinking they can communicate the sense of duende without possessing it, as authors, painters, and literary fashion-makers deceive us every day, without possessing duende: but we only have to attend a little, and not be full of indifference, to discover the fraud, and chase off that clumsy artifice.
Once, the Andalusian ‘Flamenco singer’ Pastora Pavon, La Niña de Los Peines, sombre Spanish genius, equal in power of fancy to Goya or Rafael el Gallo, was singing in a little tavern in Cadiz. She played with her voice of shadows, with her voice of beaten tin, with her mossy voice, she tangled it in her hair, or soaked it in manzanilla or abandoned it to dark distant briars. But, there was nothing there: it was useless. The audience remained silent.
In the room was Ignacio Espeleta, handsome as a Roman tortoise, who was once asked: ‘Why don’t you work?’ and who replied with a smile worthy of Argantonius: ‘How should I work, if I’m from Cadiz?’
In the room was Elvira, fiery aristocrat, whore from Seville, descended in line from Soledad Vargos, who in ’30 didn’t wish to marry with a Rothschild, because he wasn’t her equal in blood. In the room were the Floridas, whom people think are butchers, but who in reality are millennial priests who still sacrifice bulls to Geryon, and in the corner was that formidable breeder of bulls, Don Pablo Murube, with the look of a Cretan mask. Pastora Pavon finished her song in silence. Only, a little man, one of those dancing midgets who leap up suddenly from behind brandy bottles, sarcastically, in a very soft voice, said: ‘Viva, Paris!’ as if to say: ‘Here ability is not important, nor technique, nor skill. What matters here is something other.’
Then La Niña de Los Peines got up like a madwoman, trembling like a medieval mourner, and drank, in one gulp, a huge glass of fiery spirits, and began to sing with a scorched throat, without voice, breath, colour, but…with duende. She managed to tear down the scaffolding of the song, but allow through a furious, burning duende, friend to those winds heavy with sand, that make listeners tear at their clothes with the same rhythm as the Negroes of the Antilles in their rite, huddled before the statue of Santa Bárbara.
La Niña de Los Peines had to tear apart her voice, because she knew experts were listening, who demanded not form but the marrow of form, pure music with a body lean enough to float on air. She had to rob herself of skill and safety: that is to say, banish her Muse, and be helpless, so her duende might come, and deign to struggle with her at close quarters. And how she sang! Her voice no longer at play, her voice a jet of blood, worthy of her pain and her sincerity, opened like a ten-fingered hand as in the feet, nailed there but storm-filled, of a Christ by Juan de Juni.
The arrival of the duende presupposes a radical change to all the old kinds of form, brings totally unknown and fresh sensations, with the qualities of a newly created rose, miraculous, generating an almost religious enthusiasm.
In all Arab music, dance, song or elegy, the arrival of duende is greeted with vigorous cries of ‘Allah! Allah!’ so close to the ‘Olé!’ of the bullfight, and who knows whether they are not the same? And in all the songs of Southern Spain, the appearance of the duende is followed by sincere cries of: ‘Viva Dios!’ deep, human, tender cries of communication with God through the five senses, thanks to the duende that shakes the voice and body of the dancer, a real, poetic escape from this world, as pure as that achieved by that rarest poet of the seventeenth century Pedro Soto de Rojas with his seven gardens, or John Climacus with his trembling ladder of tears.
Naturally when this escape is perfected, everyone feels the effect: the initiate in seeing style defeat inadequate content, and the novice in sensing authentic emotion. Years ago, an eighty year old woman came first in a dance contest in Jerez de la Frontera, against lovely women and girls with liquid waists, merely by raising her arms, throwing back her head, and stamping with her foot on the floor: but in that crowd of Muses and angels with lovely forms and smiles, who could earn the prize but her moribund duende sweeping the earth with its wings made of rusty knives.
All the arts are capable of duende, but where it naturally creates most space, as in music, dance and spoken poetry, the living flesh is needed to interpret them, since they have forms that are born and die, perpetually, and raise their contours above the precise present.
Often the composer’s duende fills the performers, and at other times, when a poet or composer is no such thing, the performer’s duende, interestingly, creates a new wonder that has the appearance of, but is not, primitive form. This was the case with the duende-haunted Eleonara Duse, who searched out failed plays to make triumphs of them through her inventiveness, and the case with Paganini, explained by Goethe, who made one hear profound melody in vulgar trifles, and the case of a delightful young girl in Port St. Marys, whom I saw singing and dancing that terrible Italian song ‘O Mari!’ with such rhythm, pauses and intensity that she turned Italian dross into a brave serpent of gold. What happened was that each effectively found something new that no one had seen before, that could give life and knowledge to bodies devoid of expression.
Every art and every country is capable of duende, angel and Muse: and just as Germany owns to the Muse, with a few exceptions, and Italy the perennial angel, Spain is, at all times, stirred by the duende, country of ancient music and dance, where the duende squeezes out those lemons of dawn, a country of death, a country open to death.
In every other country death is an ending. It appears and they close the curtains. Not in Spain. In Spain they open them. Many Spaniards live indoors till the day they die and are carried into the sun. A dead man in Spain is more alive when dead than anywhere else on earth: his profile cuts like the edge of a barber’s razor. Tales of death and the silent contemplation of it are familiar to Spaniards. From Quevedo’s dream of skulls, to Valdés Leal’s putrefying archbishop, and from Marbella in the seventeenth century, dying in childbirth, in the middle of the road, who says:
The blood of my womb
Covers the stallion.
The stallion’s hooves
Throw off sparks of black pitch…
to the youth of Salamanca, recently killed by a bull, who cried out:
Friends, I am dying:
Friends I am done for.
I’ve three scarves inside me,
And this one makes four…
stretches a rail of saltpetre flowers, where a nation goes to contemplate death, with on the side that’s more bitter, the verses of Jeremiah, and on the more lyrical side with fragrant cypress: but a country where what is most important of all finds its ultimate metallic value in death.
The hut, the wheel of a cart, the razor, and the prickly beards of shepherds, the barren moon, the flies, the damp cupboards, the rubble, the lace-covered saints, the wounding lines of eaves and balconies, in Spain grow tiny weeds of death, allusions and voices, perceptible to an alert spirit, that fill the memory with the stale air of our own passing. It’s no accident that all Spanish art is rooted in our soil, full of thistles and sharp stones: it’s no isolated example that lamentation of Pleberio’s, or the dances of that maestro Josef María de Valdivielso: it isn’t chance that among all the ballads of Europe this Spanish one stands out:
If you’re my pretty lover,
why don’t you gaze at me?
The eyes I gazed at you with
I’ve given to the dark.
If you’re my pretty lover
why aren’t you kissing me?
The lips I kissed you with
I’ve given to earth below.
If you’re my pretty lover,
why aren’t you hugging me?
The arms I hugged you with
Are covered with worms, you see.
Nor is it strange that this song is heard at the dawn of our lyrical tradition:
In the garden
I shall die,
in the rose-tree
they will kill me,
Mother I went
to gather roses,
looking for death
within the garden.
Mother I went
cutting roses,
looking for death
within the rose-tree.
In the garden
I shall die.
In the rose-tree
they’ll kill me.
Those moon-frozen heads that Zurbarán painted, the yellows of butter and lightning in El Greco, Father Sigüenza’s prose, the whole of Goya’s work, the apse of the Escorial church, all polychrome sculpture, the crypt in the Duke of Osuna’s house, the ‘death with a guitar’ in the Chapel of the Benaventes in Medina de Rioseco, equate culturally to the processions of San Andrés de Teixido, in which the dead take their places: to the dirges that the women of Asturias sing, with their flame-bright torches, in the November night: to the dance and chanting of the Sibyl in the cathedrals of Mallorca and Toledo: to the dark In recort of Tortosa: and to the endless Good Friday rituals which with the highly refined festival of the bulls, form the popular ‘triumph’ of death in Spain. In all the world only Mexico can grasp my country’s hand.
When the Muse sees death appear she closes the door, or builds a plinth, or displays an urn and writes an epitaph with her waxen hand, but afterwards she returns to tending her laurel in a silence that shivers between two breezes. Beneath the broken arch of the ode, she binds, in funereal harmony, the precise flowers painted by fifteenth century Italians and calls up Lucretius’ faithful cockerel, by whom unforeseen shadows are dispelled.
When the angel sees death appear he flies in slow circles, and with tears of ice and narcissi weaves the elegy we see trembling in the hands of Keats, Villasandino, Herrera, Bécquer, and Juan Ramón Jiménez. But how it horrifies the angel if he feels a spider, however tiny, on his tender rosy foot!
The duende, by contrast, won’t appear if he can’t see the possibility of death, if he doesn’t know he can haunt death’s house, if he’s not certain to shake those branches we all carry, that do not bring, can never bring, consolation.
With idea, sound, gesture, the duende delights in struggling freely with the creator on the edge of the pit. Angel and Muse flee, with violin and compasses, and the duendewounds, and in trying to heal that wound that never heals, lies the strangeness, the inventiveness of a man’s work.
The magic power of a poem consists in it always being filled with duende, in its baptising all who gaze at it with dark water, since with duende it is easier to love, to understand, and be certain of being loved, and being understood, and this struggle for expression and the communication of that expression in poetry sometimes acquires a fatal character.
Remember the example of the flamenca, duende-filled St. Teresa. Flamenca not for entangling an angry bull, and passing it magnificently three times, which she did: not because she thought herself pretty before Brother Juan de la Miseria: nor for slapping His Holiness’s Nuncio: but because she was one of those few creatures whose duende (not angel, for the angel never attacks anyone) pierced her with an arrow and wanted to kill her for having stolen his ultimate secret, the subtle link that joins the five senses to what is core to the living flesh, the living cloud, the living ocean of love liberated from time.
Most valiant vanquisher of the duende and the counter-example to Philip of Austria, who sought anxiously in Theology for Muse and angel, and was imprisoned by a duende of icy ardour in the Escorial Palace, where geometry borders on dream, and where the duende wears the mask of the Muse for the eternal punishment of that great king.
We have said that the duende loves the edge, the wound, and draws close to places where forms fuse in a yearning beyond visible expression.
In Spain (as among Oriental races, where the dance is religious expression) the duende has a limitless hold over the bodies of the dancers of Cadiz, praised by Martial, the breasts of those who sing, praised by Juvenal, and over all the liturgies of the bullring, an authentic religious drama, where in the same manner as in the Mass, a God is sacrificed to, and adored.
It seems as if all the duende of the Classical world is concentrated in this perfect festival, expounding the culture and the great sensibility of a nation that reveals the finest anger, bile and tears of mankind. Neither in Spanish dance nor in the bullfight does anyone enjoy himself: the duende charges itself with creating suffering by means of a drama of living forms, and clears the way for an escape from the reality that surrounds us.
The duende works on the dancer’s body like wind on sand. It changes a girl, by magic power, into a lunar paralytic, or covers the cheeks of a broken old man, begging for alms in the wine-shops, with adolescent blushes: gives a woman’s hair the odour of a midnight sea-port: and at every instant works the arms with gestures that are the mothers of the dances of all the ages.
But it’s impossible for it ever to repeat itself, and it’s important to underscore this. The duende never repeats itself, any more than the waves of the sea do in a storm.
Its most impressive effects appear in the bullring, since it must struggle on the one hand with death, which can destroy it, and on the other with geometry, measure, the fundamental basis of the festival.
The bull has its own orbit: the toreador his, and between orbit and orbit lies the point of danger, where the vertex of terrible play exists.
You can own to the Muse with the muleta, and to the angel with the banderillas, and pass for a good bullfighter, but in the work with the cape, while the bull is still free of wounds, and at the moment of the kill, the aid of the duende is required to drive home the nail of artistic truth.
The bullfighter who terrifies the public with his bravery in the ring is not fighting bulls, but has lowered himself to a ridiculous level, to doing what anyone can do, by playing with his life: but the toreador who is bitten by the duende gives a lesson in Pythagorean music and makes us forget that his is constantly throwing his heart at the horns.
Lagartijo, with his Roman duende, Joselito with his Jewish duende, Belmonte with his Baroque duende, and Cagancho with his Gypsy duende, showed, from the twilight of the bullring, poets, painters and composers the four great highways of Spanish tradition.
Spain is unique, a country where death is a national spectacle, where death sounds great bugle blasts on the arrival of Spring, and its art is always ruled by a shrewd duende which creates its different and inventive quality.
The duende who, for the first time in sculpture, stains with blood the cheeks of the saints of that master, Mateo de Compostela, is the same one who made St. John of the Cross groan, or burns naked nymphs in Lope’s religious sonnets.
The duende that raises the towers of Sahagún or bakes hot bricks in Calatayud, or Teruel, is the same as he who tears apart El Greco’s clouds, and kicks out at Quevedo’s bailiffs, and Goya’s chimeras, and drives them away.
When he rains he brings duende-haunted Velasquez, secretly, from behind his monarchic greys. When he snows he makes Herrera appear naked to show that cold does not kill: when he burns he pushes Berruguete into the flames and makes him invent new dimensions for sculpture.
Gongora’s Muse and Garcilaso’s angel must loose their laurel wreaths when St. John of the Cross’s duende passes by, when:
The wounded stag
appears, over the hill.
Gonzalo de Berceo’s Muse and the Archpriest of Hita’s angel must depart to give way to Jorge Manrique, wounded to death at the door of the castle of Belmonte. Gregorio Hernández’ Muse, and José de Mora’s angel must bow to the passage of de Mena’s duende weeping tears of blood, and Martínez Montañéz’ duende with the head of an Assyrian bull, just as the melancholic Muse of Catalonia, and the damp angel of Galicia, gaze in loving wonder at the duende of Castile, so far from their warm bread and gentle grazing cattle, with its norms of sweeping sky and dry sierra.
Quevedo’s duende and Cervantes’, the one with green anemones of phosphorus, the other with flowers of Ruidera gypsum, crown the altarpiece of Spain’s duende.
Each art, as is natural, has a distinct mode and form of duende, but their roots unite at the point from which flow the dark sounds of Manuel Torre, the ultimate matter, and uncontrollable mutual depth and extremity of wood, sound, canvas, word.
Dark sounds, behind which in tender intimacy exist volcanoes, ants, zephyrs, and the vast night pressing its waist against the Milky Way.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I have raised three arches and with clumsy hands placed within them the Muse, the angel and the duende.
The Muse remains motionless: she can have a finely pleated tunic or cow eyes like those which gaze out in Pompeii, at the four-sided nose her great friend Picasso has painted her with. The angel can disturb Antonello da Messina’s heads of hair, Lippi’s tunics, or the violins of Masolino or Rousseau.
The duende….Where is the duende? Through the empty archway a wind of the spirit enters, blowing insistently over the heads of the dead, in search of new landscapes and unknown accents: a wind with the odour of a child’s saliva, crushed grass, and medusa’s veil, announcing the endless baptism of freshly created things.


Old Friend, from one desert to another, 

let other scholars of absence break 
their burden-heads against these mute 
stones. The cactus here, perhaps knowing 
of your advent by post, has waited all 
these years to come into its radiance 
with you. Just tonight it blooms once 
only in its life, a miracle itself, a startle, 
one blossom of rarified hope. 

Distant cousin, 

you unveil too in Roman darkness there as 
we once shared silent prayer in the churchyard, 
our knees on hard stones - our God then - our 
thin books not yet written. 

One simple stone veils you where you rest, 
your books, long in the making, shoulder the 
burden so faithfully carried without complaint. 
A landscape scarred - life's hard impress has 
etched you - is now placed, framed, beside 
the new flower, sheer and here. 

I wonder how you are now that you are prayer itself 
on that hill of bones wet with penitent pilgrims tears. 

Your photograph travels all these years to 
reach me so long without news of you, my 
letters unanswered though rumors stray in 
from the same old rivals fed on envy inquiring 
about you. I never bothered to answer them. 
The postman, angel at the gate, has firmly 
placed in my hands your parcel of plain brown 
paper - FROM ROMA - it proclaims in bold 
print framed beside the other framed. 

Dear Unexpected Face, 

to see you at last, your resigned smile finally, 
gladly, admitting surrender - such repose is 
an altar where incomprehension finally breaks 
into blossom - Emptiness is Presence Divined 
in any landscape or ocean. Or mind. 

On the back of your photo you ask simply, 
briefly, a note scribbled by a weak hand, 

How fare's you, 
God's mason friend?


Dear Incomprehension,

Are gargoyles free to abandon, to forsake their vocations, to somehow, perhaps lightning struck on the temple tower, to transform, morph into human shape though still distorted and ugly, or perhaps, if grace be grace, be indeed fare of face and voice then descend to the human world, step upon the concourse, and track the human pace of embodied, ensouled, emotional subjectively shared human life? Now there's a book I'd like to read, a play, a musical, a movie I'd like to witness - when the gargoyle lays his edge burden down and has to discover the smell of the human and other herd below, grief and grovel, love and betrothal, the brothel, the bother of beauty, the awful hell of it within but out of reach for most, but ghosting in human form but this time only with motion and emotion and transcending notions gathered at oceans edge of grief and longing, the need to belong after all but it is all so appalling but one learns to appreciate the edge had, the ledge-upon-dwelled, the dormition of steeples receding into urban distances, said steeples the hairline of god, holds where fellow gargoyles perch, lurk, search 180 degrees chattering each to each, one at every direction north, south, east, west, reporting what is seen from their watch in the lurch below....the bell towers bong and so gargoyles know sound and distance from the din just behind or beneath, context is everything, everything is everywhere, all is the narrow ridge even the alleys, the byways below, the worn path of the woods, on the hill, in the valley, trailing disclosures avoided or come at last and so come to know ourselves at last for a moment as we are....''

 from 'Grokus Disclosus King Unflung But Sung and Singing'