Lose Your Words

A gentleman reads widely in many books basically in order to augment his innate knowledge. Instead, you have taken to memorizing the words of the ancients, accumulating them in your breast, making this your task, depending on them for something to take hold of in conversation. You are far from knowing the intent of the sages in expounding the teachings. This is what is called counting the treasure of others all day long without having half a cent of your own.

– Ta-hui

I love words, but at the end of the day, that’s really all they are: words. Sounds to which we have assigned arbitrary meanings, and which consequently serve as ironclad cages for ideas, for understanding.

During my time in graduate school, I fiddled frequently with words. As an author, I continue to do so on a daily, even hourly basis. I string them together, like so many polysyllabic beads, to form chains of conceptual jewelry. I’m doing it right now. And they shine. They glimmer and glisten and sparkle. They dance uproariously by the light of my fevered imagination.

But what do they mean? More importantly, do they allow meaning to flourish, or do they kill it where it stands? Not my words, specifically; all words, on all the pages printed, scribed, or etched throughout history. What are these words that tie us down and capture us in our own intellectual mousetraps? Shuttlecocks, all, awaiting indecent aim and an unwary forehead.

Can I give them up? I love them so. They are my children, my brain-children, my intellectual offspring–can I walk away and leave them to starve in the cold? It is painful, excruciatingly painful, impossible. But I must. Words distract from experience, like the photographer who captures only images without ever seeing the world from which he takes them. They categorize, but they do not open our eyes; they define by murdering definition; they identify while obliterating identity.

What the donkey has kicked, the rooster cannot set right. And so I struggle with words. I must treat them as what they are: meaningless, the constructs of a feeble mind unable to deal with the magnitude of experience.

Words. Nothing but words.

Silence.

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Questions

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1) I do not believe in objectivity. I do not trust subjectivity. This creates a dilemma, for if objectivity is impossible and subjectivity inadequate, what can I ever hope to see?

2) If words are distractions from meaning, how do I explain myself without destroying myself in the process?

3) If ego is merely a guest, who owns the home in which it abides?

4) If one sees oneself in a mirror, in how many pieces has the image been shattered?

Jumping Off

Here’s the thing: we’reLudwik_Solski
through, me and you; we’re
done. Stunned? And well you
might be. See, a tree is only as
broad as its branches, a tourniquet
as useful as the wound that it
stanches. And you are neither, not one.
So we’re done. Have fun!

Becoming

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABecoming, I am
in worlds at once, foot
in the one, heart in the other.

I am the leaf that falls, too
the wind that bears it, spiraling,
to the receptive ground, and I am
that which receives it.

I am the tree from which it falls, also
the space between its beginning and
its end: there when it was but a bloom,
and when its bloom has died, there as well.

Becoming, I am in worlds at once,
once and never still, and what is and what will
are one.

Becoming, I am.

Coaster

That moment,450px-Rollercoaster_expedition_geforce_holiday_park_germany
at the peak, before the car
begins its descent, spent, is
eternity in an instant. Breaks
a cold sweat, clammy,
wet; all is set to drop and never
stop until we reach the bottom.
Then a sigh: I think we just died
a little.

Seduce Me

Take a bite:480px-Francesco_Hayez_008
So fluffy light; so sweet to taste.
What a waste of complexity,
Of potential aural ecstasy, to chew on
Words that merely melt, belie the woven
Celtic knot, shot through with heartbeat threads,
Skein of scarlet, dripping red, upon which
Beauty makes its bed.

Pull, and watch the world unravel:
Hear your thoughts dissolve in Babel-mutterings,
Cut the strings and dance your dance. Life is
Chance, and you have missed it;
A lustful mouth, and I have kissed it.

Whitman v. Woods

I

I sing a song of my shelf
and everything upon it: faded photos,
equally faded memories, blurring the lines
between new friends and old enemies.
Somewhere, somehow, maybe then,
maybe now (maybe never), I must
quit myself of this tether holding me
back, gray against black, black against blue.
Me against you.211215_105067042918278_7462179_n

II

I sing a song of my shelf, with all its
broken toys, of youth with all its noise and
no sense of silence. Pilot at the ready, hands strong
and steady: life, with all its heady liquor, cannot
strengthen legs of wicker, marching to
a fading ticker. Beat by beat, stanza by stanza,
vignettes tucked away in a moldy credenza: This,
O poet, is your life. Rhyme is wife; rhythm lover;
extra-metrical affair, undercover.

III

If anyone asks,
I want to go out with the sunrise,
fitting beginning for a fitting end:
one light goes out as another lives
again. And when the dawn, curtains drawn,
shines forth once more, bar the windows,
lock the door. I’m gone to find another floor
to host my dance, to break my trance and show me
a good time. Not on your dime anymore;
just mine. Just fine.

By and By

What must I do
to escape being you?
The lies I hold true because
you once told them, and oh,
how you sold them! A bill of
ill goods, black to the core: I
ate my fill and came back for more.396280_10100316678480673_951323144_n

I put them in baskets set aside for
the winter, a wine so malign it
betrays its own vintner. And when
my eyes opened and witnessed
new light, how desperate you were
to chain me to night. And how you
delight in making me squirm, in
stealing my pudding and feeding me worms.

You promise high heaven and then
slam the gate; make off with the key while
I stand and wait, cold and alone, trampled
by rain, a chill you’ve told me is for my own gain.
And yet, there you are, happy and warm,
inside with your cocoa, while I drown in the storm…

My humble thanks…

versatileblogger11

I’ve been following the musings of a Muggle in Converse for a while now, and have enjoyed immensely the thoughts she has shared on her blog. In many ways, she has helped me understand myself better, as a thinker, as a writer, and as a person. I now consider her a friend, and I am once again in her debt. This time, for having nominated me for the Versatile Blogger award. We all want to believe that someone out there is listening, that someone out there cares what’s going on in our hearts and in our minds, and it means the world to me to know that she, for one, does.

(By the way, you should probably also check out her other blog, which is a totally different animal, but just as compelling. There’s a poet in all of us, and this is where hers comes out to play. Her fiction’s worth a look, too!)

Let’s see. Seven things that you don’t know about me. Seven things that haven’t come out in one or another of my many exercises in verbal vomit-ifying. Hmm…

1) One of the many things I discovered while I was a poor college student is that bacon bits on wheat toast is a damn tasty snack.
2) I am terrified of dentists and everything they stand for.
3) My five favorite states, in order of preference, are Missouri (I was born there), New Mexico, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Kansas (which is a much prettier state than you’ve been led to believe).
4) I never fly if I can drive (which means if it’s in the continental United States, I’m driving), not because I’m afraid of flying, but because I hate to miss out on everything in between.
5) I named my second puppy Suntan Sneezer Scrooge. I also had a turtle named Humbug. This is what happens when your father encourages you to read Dickens at a young age…
6) I have punched one person in my life, when I was 12, and I knocked out two of his teeth. Which is not to say I’m tough, so much as to explain why I’ve never punched anyone again. I think I was more traumatized than he was.
7) When I was 13 years old, I buried a time capsule (read, coffee can full of junk) on my grandparents’ farm. Then they moved the fencerow. I’ve been searching for the thing ever since.

Now that’s out of the way, here are my nominations for this lovely award:

First, my very good friend Jessica over at Shift. (By the way, the post I’ve linked to is the one that hooked me.) She’s been nominated for this award before, but I’m doing it again anyway because, well, you can’t stop me, and what’s more, I would be remiss in not mentioning writing that has meant so much to me. Whether poetry or prose, Jess always has something to say that’s more than worth hearing.

Then, there’s another good friend, Tina, over at Verbalizations & Such. I’ve known Tina for a long time; longer, in fact, than I’ve been working on this blog. She put up with me invading her office space back in my grad student days. Before that, she dubbed me Aquaman, due to my unfortunate posting as plant waterer to the Baylor Libraries. I’ve learned something about Tina since I began reading her poetry. You might not know it from passing acquaintance–I didn’t know it, or at least fully appreciate it, when I knew her at the library–but she sees the world with a subtlety that surprises and destroys (in a good way). It tears down walls and allows glimpses into an inner being of startling beauty and perception; it does not allow for subterfuge; it bleeds, it screams, it cries; it awakens. I am proud to count her among my friends. She needs more readers, so GO and see what she’s talking about.

Next, there’s Tony, at things+flesh, who brings a songwriter’s sensibility to, well, pretty much everything he sees. I have met a lot of people in my life, on a few continents, and I can honestly say that I have never encountered such a unique manner of living the world as I have reading the beautiful little snippets of experience he recounts in his posts. I have yet to read a single thing he’s written that hasn’t touched me profoundly, and I challenge you to try.

Another of my favorites is JF Toomey, at Musing Forward. (Again, the link is to one of my favorite poems.) He doesn’t write frequently, but when he does, it’s always unique, always interesting. Anyone who can make a visit to the restroom into a matter for poetry, and in doing so create a scenario with which we can all of us likely relate, is worth a listen.

And a couple of honorable mentions: there’s Madalyn the Muggle, but she nominated me, which means someone else just nominated her. But if she hadn’t nominated me, I’d have nominated her. She’s gutsy, and she says what’s on her mind, no holds barred. You may not agree with what she has to say (although I generally do), but at the very least you’ll appreciate her candor in saying it.

And Victoria, at NeuroNotes. Madalyn beat me to her with this, but if she hadn’t done it, I would have. Many of us have had the pleasure of watching Victoria emerge from her cocoon over the last year or so, and it turns out she’s quite the butterfly. I admire people who are not afraid of themselves, and she definitely is not. And she’s not afraid to share who she is with us. Bold as I may be with the things I say, without Victoria’s influence and encouragement I would not be half as bold as I am. She is a role model, and I’m grateful to call her my friend.

You are the people that make blogging a worthwhile effort for me. Each of  you has given me the joy and privilege of meeting you in your writing. You all make my days better, brighter, and more thought-provoking, and you have my thanks and my admiration for that.

Shine on!

Shadow

I’m here for you.
I’ll tell you all things
mostly true. My chest cannot
contain a heart that I would
Gladly
tear apart and spread aroundOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
the hallowed ground on which your step,
so springy light, marks the passage of
my night.

How I wish our eyes to meet
across some lonely, crowded street.
Palpitations hesitate; as a planet gravitates
toward an object of attraction, so I long for
satisfaction, some poor sign or benefaction
idly tossed in my direction. Upon reflection,
it seems so futile, to love like this,
in words so subtle, so disguised.
These demons must be exorcised.

Curtains left just so, ajar,
the muted noise of homebound cars,
impersonal, anonymous–
like the bond between the two of us–
and you, aware yet innocent
of all I’ve said and what it’s meant.
Lamp turned down, bedclothes, too.
Sleep, love.
I’m here for you.