Thursday, December 13, 2012

What Is Known Is Variable and Dependent Upon Available Light, Instants Toward Cryptic Autobiography

Because I is another," said Rimbaud." - Jacques Maritain, from "Poetry's Dark Night"

Still yet we are hurled, 'thrown," as Jean Paul Sartre has it.
We find ourselves with or without poetry upon a narrow
ridge between certainty and doubt; in that chasm between
the two is consciousness or, better, witness (with-ness),
poetry-as-witness tries to lose its "self," the "I," and yet
the sky is never an occasion for doubt but for change to
a night filled with uncountable occasions of light,
companions of light, never alone as is the day's Sun.

What is known in the crowded vision,
in the visionary crowd of witness, is
variable and dependent upon available light.

- Warren Falcon, from "The Journey From Eye To Otherwise, Cryptics Metaquizzical"

 What remains clear for me now is not so much that I have been and am a follower (and not a good one...I have failed all that from early on though sincerity "were" the flowers strewn ahead of me along the glittering path), but that I have been and still am pursued, followed by some thing, an ineffable but palpable and urgent force that has business with me.  I have not consciously picked up my pace trying to outrun this that follows me but I notice my step often quickens or when sitting both my feet dance around as if to escape the still moment.  I have tried to see its face, name it or speak its name. I have been chased into strange places, religious ones, Christian fundamentalism, Pentecostal clamors, stammers, stutterers of God Holy Spirit sodden, Catholic mystical dark nights with Ecclesial "slights of hand," "Christian magic" where plain bread and wine become flesh and blood of a god-man. I've Sufi danced and chanted, eaten with enlightened Zen masters (my not knowing they were considered "heavy weights in Zen fields and mirror polishing), spent ten very productive years of weekly Kaballah studies which perhaps made the most of both senses - sense and nonsense, or rather non-sense.

Accruing more spiritual hairballs beyond the pale and the veil, I thankfully recovered enough of "realer" myself (including my anus), my rag and bone meat sack, and returned to what as a child were intuitions and the fruit of reading while treading the terrible waters of a most disturbing home and racist, Southern, Carolina culture . I quote and paraphrase Artur Rimbaud as an explanation of why I sacrificed my good intellect to such infantile spiritual entertainments, "Ah, I am so forsaken I will [and did] sacrifice at any shrine impulses toward perfection." Upon failing these sacralities,  these sacrifices, then wandering into some soothing glyphic parenthesis or other, I rediscovered what I had in childhood recognized as some meaningful thing, a constant companion not dependent upon moral purity nor levels of advancing consciousness in terms of enlightenment or wisdom, I discovered the human voice and spirit, little "s", Poetry. Capital "P".

A lover of music early on, lullaby - that words themselves could "a music make" inducing entire worlds within worlds in and out of existence or return them while returning  me to the "what is" as so far perceived and interpreted, was, and still is, miraculous.  And addictive.  A congenital condition perhaps.  Certainly a "human, all too human" one. And fraught with possibilities, infinite variations of what is known and how it can be known and how it all so very quickly can shift, fade, then emerge or surprise while one, me, "I as another," pauses at the end of a dead end or back alley that once glowed,  but then no longer, with "IT"...THIS is IT..."Nothing," says Samuel Beckett in Waiting for Godot, "to be done, "but to tend to the smatter at hand, rather, tend foot/feet wipe shit from the worn out shoe and, heads or tails, take a step in some, any, direction and continue to be, as Sartre says, "thrown" further into existence.

What has followed/pursued me and perhaps pushed/pulled me has been "the Word."  It has not been as bleak for as Beckett and Sartre have portrayed though the first 35 years of my life were more bleak than "peach and pastel, and all be merry in the dale. Still, in spite of childhood terrors and violence, my trauma blunted abilities to learn, I had recourse, surcease, strange increase, to books, and to woods.  Music, too, as I said above.  Had too, the real and sacred mysteries of the body, all its mysterious appetites and compulsions and functions and mysterious productions and effluvia - miraculous defecations, mellifluous micturitions, stand streaming at a tree or leaning  into the steaming pond-cold morning frost, delayed school bus, Leviathan, one hoped was warm on the way, but Nature would not wait and so "called" to me...the "Call" easily obeyed, the erotic warmth shooting through my boy groin upon unzipping, the reaching in and for, the exposing of self (my genital/myself) to pond or tree to just answer "the Beseeching" and "take a numinous pee." 


time's wee piss-boy
damp bunk-bed mattress fears

O stand radiant-starred late afternoon
O stained stark shadows black frieze

O stand glazed from edges
gaze to bark
vine maps of escape
astonished stooped boy-man 


Boogers, farts, encroachment hairs in once were smooth places, the whole animal lot of physical human being was then and remained mysterious until church was found and found a way to cast it all into dark, distorting frames. Then what was once known as positively numinous and pleasurable became evil for which I was somehow mysteriously responsible for and so must urgently purge. Through all this be-darkening and befuddling about human pursuits and willful/unwillful puddlings and spilling  remained "the word."  I now recall reading for the first time the word "absurd" and, once understood, what it meant, knew myself finally named, framed, diagnosed "a la conditione humaine," (sounds more noble in French, a verbal slight of hand bent toward literary redemption, words could help me know the why, the whence of my singular presence as witness, even child's witness, to existence so tempered and toned by sensation, emotion, the not knowing what is really going on but still curious and fearful of what was, is and what may lay ahead in the throw-ness. Sad to say that for me people were not containing orientations of security and care.  Quite the contraire (again "le mot literaire" seems to somehow make it mean something all the more).  "Hell," said Sartre," is other people."  And so far as my early experience was, this was most certainly true.  And the major rub of the matter was that I, too, was people.  Thus, says Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, only for me, of course, "Myself am hell."

So I betook me to books.  And the more people failed me, and I them (I was but a boy and "hell twas I"), to books I betook me more.  Dead people, even living authors, as presented in, by and through books became safe and manageable "present company," spaces to dwell within and more.  They became companions in "the best of times, the worst of times."  Words soothed me, even troubled and troubling words.  They oriented me.  Gave me a way to know, though variable.  Words, books, became "available light."  And was light enough until I or fellow darkened the life and thus I was thrust into other library aisles and files, bookshelves solid, here, full of potential available light.

By books, of course,  I mean real books. Not those kindled reductions, those blasphemies dependent upon and disappeared by childish narcissistic, tyrannical instant gratification key presses to a somewhere not really actual but virtual (oy), a key push with as much substance as a blink or a sneeze..."this is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a cyber"...o give me the too too solid word on the literal page laterally turned, born of a tree born of dirt, sun, rain, long slow processesand straining up and down in and into Time (this culture, the cyberetic/cybernetic times, hates Time, rejects chronicity and chronic fruit born of living analogue-ly...give me the Word revered as concrete existence as object, hard thing, to be hand borne and finger turned, a weighted written word in the paw demanding grip and lap, some substantial thing contrived to be rifled by the wind (remember the wind? we need Sandy's to remind) to be turned at a corner to mark one's literal place and space in the mind and imaginal realing/reeling whirl reading and the substantial presence the generative act requires to do so).

But, to return to the original mapping topical word, "followers/following," just what was following me?  what follows me still?  This tale to answer the truing question :

A day before I moved to New York City from the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, broken, lost, suicidal, a profound sense of having once again failed life, of having failed following, of never being able to get a good poem written, of not yet succeeding in giving one genuinely good thing to the culture via a piece of writing, of failing relationships human and divine, I was visiting a friend, Asa,  a missionary kid who grew up in South Korea.  He was newly married to a woman, Dahlia, who, too, had grown up in Korea, also a missionary kid.  Asa was living in Dahlia's family home and helping to take care of her very elderly grandmother who had spent her entire life as a missionary in Korea until retiring to the North Carolina village mostly occupied by retired missionaries and ministers of her particular denomination.

Grandmother was beginning to "lose it" mentally.  Her room was a dark one, small, cramped, musty with old yet well cared for black, lacquered chests from Korea, balanced, ornate but not precious shining presences in the dark space her long, occupied, fruitful life was now limited to.  A small window with faded curtains was, too, darkened by the mountain steep just outside, the house perched high at a severe grade on the obtrusive mountainside.  I was going to drive up to New York City with Asa who had a brother living in Harlem, a phd student at Columbia U.  I had decided to move to NYC a few months earlier since I had come to crisis in the mountains and needed to flee the south and the south of me.

I slept in the small guest room beside grandmother's room.  I had retired to bed earlier than usual in order to get up early in the pre-dawn to begin the drive north.  Writing in my journal, reading Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot which had become my "Bible" in mine own dark night, I heard my Dahlia enter grandmother's room.  Grandmother had been calling out in her frail voice, a voice laced with politeness and bearing, a gracious Southern woman who had managed to live an most unusual life, a non-traditional life, a life that most Southern white women were not allowed to live, dared not live.  She politely called out, "Dear? Dear? o Deeeaaarrrr?"  a lilting child's singsong charming voice, endearing the heart.  Upon hearing I was struck by a deep resonant sadness.  A natural sadness. Of "the end" of the road, the end of life and of having pursued and been pursued by a profound sense of calling and mission. Of having run the course and now the finish-line human and divine was close, close.  I had neither calling nor mission clear for me but for a desire to write, to create one good poem of "world value," a work of art, if you will, and thus redeem my existence from the mundane failures of being "human, all too human."  I had heard the young granddaughter's feet upon the old stairs as she ascended to attend to frail grandmother's beseeching.  I had listened in the dark, the dark mountain's palpable loom in my small window, too, which matched the darkness within myself having lost even available light but for that orienting flicker of Eliot's Quartets and a smear toward the north. 

I then heard the tender entrance into the ruminate room, "I'm here, grandmother.  Here I am.  Dahlia, What can i do for you, dear?"  Silence.  "How may I be of help to you before eventide and slumber?" (What world had I been so fortunate to stumble into to hear such eloquence voiced from a genteel time passed on in speech to a granddaughter just launching into her young life?)

Silence.  Then the frail, polite voice, the voice of bearing, of manners and of divine mission heeded, obeyed, answered, "I need to know, hon.  Do tell.  Is Asa doing a beautiful thing?  Is he? Is he doing a most beautiful thing?"

Stunned.  A beautiful thing? a MOST beautiful thing?  is he doing that?  Such deep emotion sudden-rush up from remote recesses in me, so much so that I nearly choked with sobs.

Available light.  Here was more than available light.  Grace.  Unexpected.  Surprising.  Invasive.  Breakthrough. Layers, accretions of fortress against inner and outer longing, trying, failing, greatly desiring but unsaid, unstated really but intuited, felt, but not known, suddenly crumbled down.

Is Warren doing a beautiful thing?  Is HE doing a most beautiful thing?

The question was more than orientation.  It was Vocation finally named.  And from a dying grandmother who was dead within weeks of my arrival in New York City.  Beauty.  A beautiful thing.  A doing of beauty.  I can keep repeating this and keep being awed.  This old woman in her final weeks ministered to a still lost boy though in adult male body. Sophia, Wisdom Herself, asked the framing question into the/my darkness and some me of me, my soul, heard it and instantly responded.

Beautiful things. It's Beauty pursues me.  Oh, not that thing commonly know, as beauty, glamor, bauble-precious dime store stuff. Sentimentality. Not the usual conjurings and prissiness of the common word... but this, this was something restorative.  Something wholling.  Even in the shit on the shoe, at the dead end,pressed within in the dark alley, the failing, and the failing.  The flailing attempts of a drowning man grasping at piss steam boy memories in lake's clear glass seeking to write his name, or that of what pursued him even then, upon darkness upon darkness in fading light.   Beauty as a containing event, force, hint, where all things, good, evil, the gray and in between, the always fragmenting things, the frailty,  and the reforming of what remains even if just another slant of light which casts the shard moment in a way that Beauty is revealed and both perceiver and that which is perceived comprise a witnessed Beauty hitherto unseen or non-existent but born even of me, the useless one trailing books, words, gods, broken relationships, paths,skins.

One framing question and a cosmos is created then.  Out of darkness, light.  God, I believe, indeed did speak the worlds into being.  And what was spoken was a question, a question about "doing a beautiful thing," and the hidden self of matter not yet mattered sudden-startle-burst into grateful, stunned being that still resonates, quakes into trembling. And trembling, finite, we return to solidity as gift.

And God saw that which was created and declared (stunned, surprised, too, and known by what was perceived and was responding back to God), It is good.

A dying, gracious lady, a grandmother, uttered forth a question and in that question I came into new being.  Pressed against a mountain steep, in a hamlet of august Presbyterians Calvin-severe, returned from the "Hermit Kingdom" driven there and back by King James Word fires, in my case "a word fitly spoken" and one odd salvation was managed in the narrowing valley of a life.   From Kingdom exile into understanding which is a kind of canyon light. Evocation lead to Vocation.  And Beauty the Name derived from both depth and height.

What is known is variable and dependent upon available light.

Think again upon these things which go about
in darkness and stumble against us begging no
pardon, intent still on passage, confused for words
or Ibn Arabi's 'Black Light' no light at all or
thing but a gnossis found, or given.
Gnossis most striven for in minutest motes is.

All this to say, Ready.
Darkness. Expand/extend
further beyond (yet into)
unsaid street corner,
into inarticulate cathedral,
into unutterable mosque,
into wholly other loci
dependent upon uninhabited
blue field, crust, what
passes for, or has, Light,
just overtones "beyond the fiddle."

my Mother
toiled with me safe
upon Her back, my first
keel, the bow upon which
I first learned to kneel
to earth, to sea

I rocked in Her motion
rowing the faithful Earth
the yielding softness of
She to me (shipwrecking
all my my future hardness
eventually) my boy hands
not yet bleeding with pens
and poems

She fed me Her workers'
songs, of earth, songs
of fragrant sweat, bitter
herbs beneath Her feet
of copper and jade,
the little potatoes
yellow and purple ones
flavored stones softened
by Her presence, Her
sure toil, lullabies wooing
endless sky into each
tuber-swell shaping
clouds for Her eyes to
see to shade Her from the
intemperate sun to cool
the hard soles of Her bare
feet, no pesetas, only
songs, for shoes

The rich cords, veins
of the sun and the moon,
conjoined in Her labor,
hardened into the lead
of my first pencil,

the lap of my first page

And conspiring late
within me ran the black ink
of Her relentless tenderness

Making Things Right In Exile

He rests awhile in the wide orchard
where bright plum flowers rain. He
unrolls his pallet to sleep inside
the humming glade.

'Raiment, ' he writes in his sleepy
head, 'of leaves and bees. An old man
puts the best plum in his sleeve to
bring home to his bitter wife.'

'Why strive when nature is bounteous
and all ills can be made right with
wet sweetness? '

Every moment is a pose,

each still gesture appears

insignificant, a supposition.


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