Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Ocean, song, death

Sleep is a foreign country sometimes, that place we can't get too long into the night because there's some nagging concern , some godawful dread has escaped the compartment we've placed it in, assuming a blunt and repetitive voice, a sound, a melody that will not let up, denying us a visa to a restful night. Matters trivial or grave, it does not matter the contents and their meaning, we have all, more or less, spent the night staring at the ceiling, memorizing the grain of the wood beams above. Jason Shindler had bigger fish to fry in his poem Ocean. It's clear that the narrator cannot sleep, a song and a probable loop of thoughts replaying through his mind--he has something on his mind that will let him rest. It is a rush of ideas that contradict each other and then blend into a single stream, the hankerings of a desperate man struggling to maintain a narrative coherence to the life he knows is coming to a final dawn.The opening lines --

Good bye again. Say there is a little song in my head

And because of it I can't sleep or change my mind
About the future.

--pretty much establishes the fact that Shindler's narrator isn't particularly thrilled with his prospects as a going concern--"...I can't...change my mind /About the future."--and gives into the general wash of the language, the variations on the undisclosed phrasings in the song and attempts to imagine an ocean with the sound of water merging with is troubling melody. Now the song runs all the way down

To the beach where I sit as if the sky

Were my room now. No one, not even you,
can hear me singing.

As if the music rose from the mouth of the ocean
.

The respite from the song, the sleepless state is to imagine the breeze of the sea air , the night sky, and imagine, vividly. that the walls of the room have given way to the larger world that this person knows they will be departing. It seems to me that this the need to deny the isolation of the end, the end, and to have the senses feel more fully, again, what is unique and textured; we might be reading about someone trying to change the tune that will not stop from a dour funeral march to a moving, rhythmic sound that might reanimate the muscles, give strength to the bones, make the labored breathing a full intake of wind. More than that--"No one, not even you, not even you,/can hear me singing./ As if the music arouse from the mouth of the ocean."-- there's a feeling that we might have walked into a room where someone was talking to themselves, speaking in odd referents as though rehearsing some lines of a sad monologue, in preparation for a large, all transforming transformation. Shindler's hero has a desire to be merge with all things that he has known and with all things that have formed him, to sing and have himself become integral to the planet.

Like rain before it reaches us.
Like wind twirling dresses on the clothesline.

Who has no one has
the history of the ocean.

Lord, give me two more days. So that
The last moments may be with someone.


It's less the prospect of death that incites the dread than it is the knowledge that one stands to be alone at the moment of passing and forgotten afterwards; delicately, persuasively we enter into the thought stream of someone in some half-awake delirium, drawn between the desire to merge with a the essence of a life bringing ocean and to remain , at the end, on the less abstract plain of being in the company of an intimate. These are the thoughts of someone on the way out, weighing up the imagined options of their end.it would seem to me that the narrator does not want to leave this life and is , at first, insisting that he deny an eternal darkness by somehow melding his spirit with the churning, endless, life giving power of the ocean. Later, though, there is acquiescence and the speaker accepts his fate, it seems, and ceases to make demands about the terms of his death and instead prays humbly for a more modest favor, two days for the arrival of the nameless "you" whom the poem addresses. There is a transition here that is quick and seamless, but not seeming arbitrary. Rather than live on forever, somehow, there is the right sized desire to have what one sees at the end be a person for whom a lifetime was worth all that came with it.