I went to a Millennial poetry reading last night literally sitting on the train tracks. I peed in a bathroom lit only by a black light and watched the torn pieces of toilet paper scattered-squat on the floor, glowing bits of paper eyes. I heard poetry like this.
imagine trees growing out of your arm
people walking all over you
cars and trains polluting the air you breathe
octopuses spraying bad tasting ink in your mouth
nuclear bombs going off around your neck
oil rigs digging under your skin
kimono dragons fighting each other in your hand
polar bears swimming in your eyes
a dad dropping a plate of hotdogs on your knee
meteors from space hitting you in the head
the inside of your body molten hot
and you cant escape any of it
this is what is feels like to be mother earth
daniel alexander from slime dog you are my friend
And I remembered again that I am not young anymore. I am old as dirt.
Yet -I’m making a case for following this year. Artists already know the power of following. Follow inspiration to see where it leads. Allow ideas to unfold and evolve. Watch your creativity and ask how you can help it. Rather than ironing intention into a sentence to stick on the mirror/fridge for future castigation. Balled up and crushed in the trash by March.
Resolutions are limited by self-judgement – powered by self-discipline. People who are good at judgement and self-discipline profit from the model. The rest of us must follow – our passions, our ideas, our “what if life was like… this?” I’m for drawing a picture in your head (or paper) of what you want, and following that.
If you have an ambition – what does it look like? If you have a joy, find its color and keep close. If you feel trapped, cut out a door. If you are aimless, craft an arrow.
To pictures of a new year and a long swig of champagne. Cheers friends!
Watch the structure of this poem – how the words veer and weave. The poem itself feels like a car on the edge of control. Speeding between desperation and the need for some kind of personal efficacy against the unknown (or whatever you interpret as the “darkness”).
Clemente paints Creeley with one eye open, a wink and a nod perhaps to both his clear insight as a major modern poet and his characteristic humor in confronting life’s big hairy questions.
I like obstacles. They tell on me. Study your obstacles – what tale do they tell about your thinking? Elephantine obstacles require a great force of self to move, but many are completely mind made up.
In this totem, the elephant balances on a lavender egg. The elephant, remover of obstacles – is at once young and old – timeless leathered skin defined by burls in the underlying wood.
In motion. Maybe she was laid off – again. Maybe he holds divorce papers – again. Maybe she heads a faltering company or he’s losing a major client. These two-ton obstacles to happiness force us into motion. This elephant puts one uneasy foot in front of the other and though vulnerable, balances between hope and despair. She will make this egg take her where she wants to go. Perhaps finding (while plodding) a new direction. We don’t know how, but she will.
The bird, however, is stuck. Staring down a small black egg entirely avian made. Some dark ritualized judgement grounds her from flying free. A perceived tragic flaw, “I’m unlovable,” or “I’ll never reach my goals.” “I’ll always be _________. “I’m the worst ________.” Her wings pinned back. Cawing complaint.
But I see potential in this obstacle egg. Potential to find the thinking flaw. Black egg thoughts have a shady “all-or-nothing” ultimatum-ish type character – a dead give away. Hold on! I’m not the *worst* parent in the world. I messed up this time, but next time I’ll handle it differently. (deep breath)
Now we flex our wings. Now a dark egg cracks. Opens up to new and brightly life.
Allow me a moment to comment on this confounding binarism I find sandwiched between my toes.
It’s often called “black and white” thinking – the penchant of some people (me) to frame solutions in “either/or” scenarios. Do you want the pink one or the blue? This is either good or it’s bad. It’s the best thing that ever happened, or the worst. Whitman or Dickinson? Male or Female?
I have a major problem with binarism – it’s FALSE. The word “or” should be the warning light – the wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee someone is boxing up the choices. I don’t want cream or sugar – I want both, or stevia, maybe tea. A nice cup of lapsang souchong, perhaps? If we can generate multiple choice in our drinks, what about for other life challenges.
OR limits creativity to generate multiple solutions. I regularly pick up an everyday object (a mug) and think, “what could this be other than mug?” (vase, penny jar, pencil stand, plant pot, light fixture, toad house, soup or cereal bowl, jewelry holder, baling bucket, soil scoop, bug catcher, metaphysical mood meter (is glass half empty/half full?), inspiration piece, homing beacon)
I can see dividing imagined best case/worst case scenarios into a tidy binarism. To envision yourself toward a goal (sometimes frustrating) or to prepare yourself for the worst. Possibly helpful.
What about in-betweens? Hello! options not mentioned. Consider your job, done in a different way, in a different place. What’s the yellow solution, the blue idea, the green daydream? What if your choosing were colors, we wouldn’t settle for just black or white.
Yes there’s something called option anxiety – so we distill choices down to two. To short cut an otherwise too lengthy decision making process. Point taken. But.
Do you want limits or unlimited ? I’m kicking OR to the curb.
He always locks it when he leaves on business. I know it’s off limits. But I can’t help wondering what hides there. I searched the key many times, curious worm darkmawing my chest. But always empty handed.
I’m glad when he leaves town for business, a hurricane here, a revolt there. Massacres too. He assures me there’s always a demand for his skills and one day I’ll take over the family business.
When he comes home he’s so tired, his hands feel of stone. I glance up into his eyes, lost. Can’t seem to find him in shadows. His cheeks move higher on his face.
“This job is killing me,” he sighs. He brings home a dark air, some long wind foreboding and I shiver. He dusts my hair with a withered hand and I gasp. A sinking deep. A feeling to run. To scream, but my body too still. too still.
He opens a beer. Sits mute on the table. Unharmed. Tie flung aside and sunk into the recliner. His bones, a heap. Fingers dripping over arm rests. And I can’t see who I am looking at. I have forgotten.
I notice behind him the door to his room sliced open.
That dark wind swirls me. To the closet door standing - cracked. No heart in my chest. I see into space Dusk outlined souls and glint of sicklesteel and fire. Fear and trembling and teeth scattered round. My teeth falling. Then vast nothing
of no end
“I hoped you wouldn’t see this, yet”
I jump- skin out of pocket, arms tight held around me. The darkness horrible and bright. Faint smells of matches extinguished and scentless nothing.
“This is the family business?”
And his eyes stone sink back into a fleshless skull. my father, now the mask of Death.
Her half-child back and half-full sack turns, (the sagging sun too tired of the day) and sees a gloaming shade at the field’s far edge. Trudges over to lay down under winded branches, a sleeping bed of white frogfruit. To forget she’s alone. To forget her fingers purple cracked.
An owl hoots at the secret mouse and she wakes in a pool of moon. Shivers. The field spreads a dark stain. A truck forgot, she and the half picked bag. Forgotten. Someone should come for her, of course they should. Of course they would.
Panic chews at her mouth. Closed night all around. Darkness in her eyes and shivers heat to scream.
Only blind woods hears. Hearing
a melodic strain, low and thin. Silver keys thread the dark. Is it a waltz? She turns shadow eyes to a glow. Follows the music through undergrowth. Scrape and claw. She stumbles and pitched to ground, looks up in the foil moon.
Filigree door swinging open and seated on the velvet – a crystal slipper. Diamond bright. Leather tuft interior glows pearl. Melody grows with her breath
so close in.
Steps into the coach, how lovely the shoe.
Wedges foot in. Wrought toes pained. But, her hands soft, now French manicured. Her lips pout, red and full. Money rustle of silk and wrapped fur. The smell of rich and clapping for the belle of the ball.
Click door shut.
Glass shoe cold. And colder. Colding and happy and pain. Coursing up and down and into her blood, turns her breath hard. Crystal prisms. Symphonic volt and tympani drums.
Two mornings from now they find her body – chill. Toes broken back. Officer suspects foul play. An old glass slipper inside an overlarge pumpkin rolls away. A belly full of blood.
He married her in candlelight. A silver ribbon round her neck. Their love in flame. And the house and the cars and kids and the silver ribbon never left her neck. Silked velvet ribbon. Crushed in places, held high on her neck with a clasp of bone. He knew because he studied that ribbon, over coffee, over date night, over her making love. He could tell its everly crease and how the light softened over edge.
Him asking her, take it off.
“You’ll be sorry.” She says. Sometimes hazeleye laughing, sometimes eyes in storm.
Times he demanded, angry. Blood shot through eyes.
“You’ll be sorry,” clear grey tears. Fall like hourglass seconds.
PTA meetings go by, and the days. Going by. And cereal bowls rotate through the sink. He watches her ribbon to plot and scheme against it. This ribbon, a steel rebellion against him. He must have it.
Take it off – the years of denial crush in his throat.
“You’ll be sorry.” Her eyes pearl.
And the clouds hang dead, pale shroud the bulging moon. The branches scrape, scrape against night fall. Across the bed her breath rhythms the universe and he reaches. Reaches across to pull the clasp and her eyelash quivers,