When I got up at 4:30 this morning for no better reason than that I must have had enough wild dreams for one night, I had no idea that the day would be ushering in big rewards. Not those chintzy few bucks kind of rewards that bank credit card companies try to goad you into accepting just because they can. No, I'm talking, well let me tell you.
First, thanks to Al Filreis for e-mailing a link to a bunch of really wonderful poems which are great examples of the kind of poetry that has been written during the past decade. Poems that demand and are going to receive appropriately dainty scoops of my time. Second, I get another link. This, to a site that has recordings of a poet that I had never heard of before. Recordings from 1935, but clear as crystal, more than words--revelations--beamed in broadcast across time and space forward from their timeless capsule--with a voice that raised gooseflesh on my arms and the hairs on, well in certain places where images dare not go. James Weldon Johnson. You can look him up. There were more-mails to follow, like crumbs, to the chambers that hit both home and heart. Better than the spent dreams of Black Friday's slumber was the becoming light of dawn.
I delivered Hajnalka at high noon to the stoves of Evergreen House and shopped quickly for carrots as my turkey goulash waited for their splash. Onions check parsnips check celery check turkey neck check garlic check parsley check sea salt check peppercorns check bay leaves check barley check CARROTS SPLASH! Come on Baby, Light My Fire! Okay sez I, I'll run my bath while this cauldron brews some fine Saturday afternoon chowdown.
I go downstairs and grab a dozen magazines, my kindle, phones, and a book that has caught my eye, "I Shudder At Your Touch: 22 Tales of Sex and Horror", edited by Michele Slung. YES! Dyn-O-Mite! This is gonna be so hot it'll be cool. I add some Johnson's Baby Shampoo to the running water. Bubble bath's a-comin' baby! Now, I know you've been waiting for the Serendipitous stuff to start...so here goes.
There was a bookmark placed in the book at the start of a story entitled, "Consanguinity". Mind you, I haven't seen or touched this book in about 20 years. I have no idea how it got next to that random batch of magazines that I had grabbed and tossed onto the bathroom floor before settling myself into the scalding hot bathwater. The editor of the book warns that this story written "by Ronald Duncan, a poet, playwright, librettist, translator, disciple of Gandhi," would require several readings before one would truly digest the unfolded events, but there could be no guarantee that any number of readings would disclose what has transpired. Looks like I'm hooked into it and so I am.
As I do when reading any prose piece, genre, drama, fiction, essay, biography, memoir--whatever--I look for that part of the whole that stands out. That part that socks me in my brain and says, "Take me home with you. You don't want to leave me here to die in obscurity." Oblivion is a hurtful place, I know, so take it I do, as Yoda would be the first to advise and consent.
I come across this passage that seems out of place, given the title and subtitle of this book:
"Historians maintain that wars are caused by economics. They are wrong. Economics is their excuse; the reason for war is that it destroys that which we all want destroyed: the status quo, with which we identify our own inhibitions. War alone releases our personal relationships. It is not a necessary evil but a necessary pleasure. If we were honest, we would admit that all the slaughter, cruelty, and suffering that war entails remain for us merely a matter of regrettable statistics. What means something to us is that war provides us with that sense of insecurity which is life, when peace has seemed as respectable and as dull as death. It is true that a drunken orgy might provide a similar release, but it is quite difficult to remain completely drunk for several years and impossible to indulge in the briefest fling without some curious sense of remorse. In war, we can release ourselves without guilt; indeed, our excuses become duties and any behavior is condoned under the blanket of the great sacrifice which we curse publicly but enjoy privately. National disasters can be borne with comfortable fortitude: it is personal sorrow, not grief for another but a lack in our own life, which is so unbearable. It is a burden we would put down though a million men fall with it."
True or not, there is something about the passage above which begs to be explored. Close read. Translated into a language that we have taught ourselves to understand, or conversely, translated into a language that we ought to learn in order to hear what the words are really saying...which brings me to Serendipity Numero Dos.
After I finish the story, which is a ghost story it turns out--A ghost story that takes place in a village near Edinburgh, Scotland--a village which is being bombarded by the Luftwaffe during World War II, I place the book gently on the floor making a note to myself to read this story again, and maybe again. I then pick up the first magazine from the pile of magazines on the floor. I take a sip of my still-hot-honeyed tea from its container. I open up the magazine, Poets & Writers Sept./Oct. 2013, it turns out, to a random page. Page 29 ("Sometimes desire found its own desperation," today's the 29th, no screech, man.):
I read, "The Art of Reading Rosmarie Waldrop: Language in Motion", by Susannah Lawrence. I recognize the name, Rosmarie Waldrop, because I had just met her several weeks ago as she did a reading on a ModPo video that I caught. First, I remembered that I liked her European accent (though my wife's is meatier) (for a Hungarian vegetarian.)) Then I remembered that I liked that she was a publisher of new poets. Then I also remembered that I thought that she had a lot of spunk, and a lot of energy given her long life of hard work. Only finally did I remember that I liked hearing her recite her poetry so much that I looked for more of it, and found some, in an anthology of postmodern poetry that I had placed nearby my "I'm-so-ready-to-read-right-now-reclining chair."
So, then I start reading this article about Rosmarie living in a village that was under bombardment by the allied airforce during World War II. And I'm thinking, hmmm, there is more to this than mere coincidence. This is more on the level of an intervention, whether divine, or diabolical, does it really matter when it comes to the supernatural?
So, I'm reading Lawrence's close reading of the Waldrop poem, "In Early November" and a certain feeling of something seriously better left tattered and fragmented than pieced together starts to flow through me from toes to eyes. Two totally unrelated and different styles and pieces of writing have risen up phoenix-like from the ashes of war-torn Europe and had been birthed by a hell of a lot more than mere happenstance. Something, if it blows the top of your head off from blasts of shocking epiphanic proportion from sources that only moments before had lain dormant, dark, inert, waiting in absentia carrying a wagonload of desperation while waiting to cross the threshold to this plane where received trepidation would breathe life into it and speak, "And it was good."
So, what was your day like?