Friday, April 29, 2011

A poem

Part of me thinks the best part of this poem is the portion I didn't write, the epigraph by John Ashbery from an essay of his about avant-gard art.  We seem to have  collective wish to have the art of our understanding flirt, skirt and play footsie with grave and fatal matters, to ponder the eternal beyond, to take the reader/viewer/listener on a vicarious trip to the edge of whatever rim of existence and extinction our imaginations can conjure and set within us some sense of the urgent need for us to live fully, purposefully, creatively. We want our art to be dangerous, in other words, and force to understand what life is after we garner a strong, vibrant sense of what it is not. Ashbery, though, takes a another stance and dares the Wildean notion that Art has no use other than entertainment; presented wth with nothing but abstruse guesswork and blank slates in response to the Big Question, we busy ourselves with our designs and find ourselves by what we now recognize as religion, philosophy, busy systems of supposition to distract from the groaning emptiness threatening to appear should the props collapse in mid sentence. Not to have fun is to face the crushing truth that all  is likely without purpose or any sort of intelligent predestination, but we can't consider that a sure bet.

Another Side of Long Distance Calls

"...religions are beautiful because of the strong possibility that they are founded on nothing. We would all believe in God if we knew he He existed, but would this be much fun?..."
-- John Ashbery

Somewhere along the line
something was said
that made
an awful lot of sense.
an utterance so
stable in verb and stance
that my head jerked up
as if on a string
moved about
by a cruel master.
The guy who said
was smiles
for miles his white
teeth could blind.

William had his glass at the tip
of his lip
as though a toast
were to emerge from
his studied gestures,
he repeated
his wisdom,

"Jesus lives in a house on
the moon
and he can't go outside
because there is no air..."

The table spun just then,
three fast fandangos,
and in the swirl
three thousand or so years of
thinking came undone like
badly sewn stitches across
the seams of thin, historical clothing,
every fig leaf has fallen
from our shoulders and

Philosophy and faith
are seen finally
for what they are
through the bottom of
the bar glass,

a little man in a corner
holding a wet paint brush.

I used to have the idea that being vague and indistinct in your writing was the best way to achieve poetic effect and labored, or rather scribbled a good ten years with that thinking as my working principle. Clarity be damned, it was all about striking images and bizarre juxtapositions of styles, images, concepts that were the important factors in making writing achieve what was truly inexpressible in everyday language. The conceit, as you may guess, was the confidence that I had transcended the ordinary arrangements our lingua franca imposed on us and that I had , by romantic right and personal inclination, was provoking a conversation about earthly affairs in terms only God could create; the more complex approach to the common place was too much for mere linear progression--heaping leaps of faith aplenty were required of the reader, who would, ideally, "complete" the poem with the missing details of their own lives. It was the poet's version of Method Acting, raw and unpolished responses to intricate and emotional situations .

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