A Dialogue: the Wick and the Carpenter

(1996)

It feels as though it is going to rain. As follows from that fact, it is also cold and darkly silent. A man in a grey overcoat steps out of an unremarkable grey house in the suburbs and walks briskly down the driveway, led by a little black dog that is trembling with excitement. The man stops suddenly and looks up at the overcast sky as if sensing for the first time the imminence of rain (although he obviously knew beforehand, as shown by the overcoat). The dog pulls impatiently on the leash and whines. The pair walk down the street together hurriedly, most likely trying to avoid the rain before it hits.
“Red! How goes it? Looks like we got some rain coming our way. Did you hear about the collapsing of the bridge? The collapsing of the bridge? All the children have gone insane. The flowers are melting into pools of wax too hot to touch. The rain is just what we need, just what we need; hopefully it won’t get too rough for the repairman out there.”
A bird falls lazily out of the sky onto the sidewalk. Red jerks his dog away from the bird and waves to his neighbor and continues walking. The sky grows darker and the silence grows pregnant with expectancy. Red threads his way carefully around pools of hot wax.
A child runs out of some hole in the sky and approaches Red with a smirk on his face while stomping gaily upon wax puddles as if they were mud. “Hey, mister,” the child shouts before turning abruptly into a piece of string sticking upright in the wax. Red’s little black dog whines and begins to lick at the string. The strings shakes and quivers and then finally pops back into the child, who promptly begins giggling, “that tickles, cut it out!” The dog’s stumpy tail waggles furiously in delight. “Animals always break through appearances,” the child tells Red in a matter-of-fact tone, the kind of voice children use when they are trying to be grown-up. The little boy scampers up onto Red’s back and seats himself comfortably with his arms around Red’s forehead.
“Now it all makes sense!” the little boy says cheerily, looking about at the world from his new perspective, “Everything is clear and simple. If you people would just let us see it from here more often, we would be able to understand everything even better than you could.”
“You don’t seem so insane to me,” Red replies, continuing on his walk as before, down the sidewalk.
“Who said anything about insane? If anyone’s crazy here, it would be you. Like how about that blue vase?”
“What?! How did you . . . “
”And the smoke rising out its translucent belly? With the cubist yellow background? C’mon! Who else would think of such a thing!”
“I . . .”
“You . . . always distorting things! Always hiding behind abstractions and intangible walls! What are you trying to get at? All you do is confuse me!”
Red stops as the little black dog does his duty on a little square patch of withered grass. Red mumbles something incoherent to the winds and then his face lightens up suddenly. “It’s like when you look at an ocean at sunset or . . . or when you want to say something but you can’t, like when you wake up in the morning and remember your dream and you know that there was something there, something that you knew while you were there . . . do you know what I mean?”
“I guess so,” the child says grudingly.
“And your throat gets all thick and you clench your fist and you know, you just know that something is there, is behind everything . . . and your soul, you soul gives this little leap . . . ”
“Wait just a second! Your soul? Your soul!”
“I mean, your heart . . .”
“No, no no! Don’t try to slip out of this one! I heard you say quite clearly, ‘your soul.’ You said, ‘your soul!’ the child says triumphantly, “So, getting a bit spiritual now, are we?”
“Well, and so what! Alright then, your soul, damn it!” Red yells as he begins walking again, “Your soul feels as if it were trapped within that infinite nutshell and it feels as if it were happy and sad all at the same moment!”
“And there you go again! What kind of contradiction is this? Always distorting things!”
“What do you want, the devil take you?!” Red splutters, fuming, before he catches himself and shakes his head about–much to the chagrin of the child, who hangs onto Red’s ears. Red helps the little boy off of his shoulders and they walk hand-in-hand. Thus calmed, Red walks in silence a little further before speaking again. “Well, I know what you want. You want happily-forever-after’s and Disneyesque epilogues. You want the redemption, the infinitely merciful judgment, the darkness and the light. You tell me that we separate things with abstractions–well, you separate things with simplicity. And so what if I do think of a translucent blue vase with smoke rising from its belly, with a cubist yellow background? Stevens had his blue guitar; Bishop had her volcanoes; Dostoevsky had his Karamazovs. We are all struggling in our universes within glass walls, forming our own realities based upon distorted perceptions.”
The child stomps his foot and whines, “But it’s because of you that we are simple! If you would let us see instead of covering everything up, we would know everything! It is you, you who have made us this way!”
Red stops and turns to the child. “But you and I cannot see the truth. Sure, you can see the hazy glorifications of innocence and the puerile basement upon which we are all built. And I can see the moody debasement of experience and the jilted heights to which we aspire. But none of this adds up into one, meaningful, absolute equation. There are always the spaces between our selves and each other for which we can never quite account. We all see through our own lenses, and everything is the struggle to bend it all into as broad a reflection as possible.” He lifts the child and kisses him upon his forehead, and the child turns into a string again, then falls down into Red’s mouth.
The rain begins to fall. It is a cold rain, a sheet of polished metal slamming into the ground like nails. The man in the grey overcoat scurries quickly back the way he came, tugging the reluctant little black dog along. At the foot of his driveway, the man pauses and scans the distant, gloomy horizon. “Ah, the bridge–it’s been fixed,” he murmurs, lost in thought.
A bird flutters like a flame through the rain and slips across the smoky blue sky like a dribble of hot wax. A yellow glint of sunlight arranges itself somewhere beyond the clouds, preparing for the post-storm flash of unburdened calm. The warm scent of flowers begins to wend through the air.

Babel

(1997)


And the Lord came down
to see the city and the tower,
which the children of men built.
And the Lord said,
Behold, the people are one,
and now nothing will be restrained
from them, which they have imagined to do.

The tower rises in the midst
of the destitute city, reaching
out in one solitary tendril stretch
to penetrate the heavens.
Like an infinite flower it builds,
striving forever for perfection
as a line struggles for the asymptote.

A river runs by the bright city,
its flowing surface reflecting
a million points of light.
Slime and trash shiver darkly
upon its pitted face–polluted
by the very lives its virile waters feed.
Deep from within the churning river,
where the glaring manufactured lights
cannot reach, where the corruption
cannot penetrate, comes the Voice.
The Voice speaks through movement:
in intangible whisperings of leaves,
in glistening cries of budding flowers,
in the incessant gurgling of the river.

The inhabitants, blinded by their
artificial lights, deafened by their
loud machines, can only hear the river
speaking at night as they lie
curled naked in their beds.
But even then the Voice is indistinct
and detached, and becomes
distorted into extremes.

Chaste and eager boys
with rapt eyes and ivory hands
grasp at the high notes in the Voice,
twisting their tongues
in pretentious articulation
and drool, dreaming of perfect worlds.
They write dry manifestos of idealism,
and march, singing fervent songs
of victory. Fill the void! they cry, aroused
by thoughts of fulfillment.
Fill the void! God is dead.

Seasoned and wrinkly women
with sagging breasts breathe in
moist whispers behind glass,
their stained faces pressed
together in dread, their tongues,
dried and withered, licking their
crucifixes in devout resignation.
They hear only the low notes.
It will fall, they murmur, excited
by masochistic thoughts,
It will fall, and He will return.

And always from outside the city gates–
if you listen closely, deeply, quietly–
moves the trembling notes of the Voice,
the stirring indifferent notes of the river Euphrates.

O beloved earth the river cries how I love thee how I adore thee how I love the mist that rises in thy morning’s breath and how the wind so delicately brushes back the hair of thy leaves and o how so true so true thou ist o earth thy sunrising heralds the fires of a new day and a new day glistens in the morning air and this and this is time slipping bubbling and frothing over into waves that tumble and race for infinity only to fall back only to rise again and again and again endlessly endlessly gurgling like a baby in innocent ecstasy.

And why dost thou strive so for climax?
And why dost thy wind and waves beat
steadily into the soft earth?
O nature, O conflict, O mother of humanity–
because thou must, thou must fight forever,
thou must–to become passive were to die.

The actual fulfillment is not the point,
no–that apocalyptic end of everything
leaving only emptiness–
one final, meaningless, apathetic
resolution where the world means nothing,
where you are nothing, where the tower
stands for nothing but as a reminder
of barren dreams and faded hopes.

It is rather the heat, the spark, the friction,
the continuous rhythm of brick upon brick,
the eternal beating of two restless hearts
melded together in a molding fire,
that keeps the fire burning.

Believe, believe in my mystery,
in my endless offering of hope.
Babylon the Great–
even in your abomination and filth
you have risen this tower.
Have faith in what once was,
now is not, and yet will come.
Perfection, destruction–love, hate–
stillness, movement–you are two and one,
melded together in a molding fire,
fighting forever, yin and yang.

So the tower stands like a phallus
without a head, rearing its
senseless shaft of creation, craving
enwrapping folds of consummation,
aching to penetrate the universe.

And in this lies the brutal splendor of life–
the whole ecstasy of it all
waiting patiently within that simple swelling
of emotions, that building friction
between two embattled worlds–
not within the hopeless burst,
the trembling, shuddering screams
of selfish pigs over slop.
The whole meaning of life
dwells humbly within
drops of anticipation
that dribble out of a word
or a look, or a touch.
The whole beauty of life is
that pulsating heart that pumps
heatedly, the fire thickening
as swollen tongues battle
endlessly for that perfect,
profound revelation of the universe
building up inside like a tower.

To Live

(written in 1996)

I

The drip, drip, dripping of time runs in rivulets down
the gaping wound on the side of the eternal boy.
The scabs continuously rub against themselves,
pouring forth new pain from the deep caverns within,
from the hungry depths of resentment and anger,
cutting away at the corpse of the man,
eating away at the decaying walls of the man,
the pain possesses, the snake entwines the host.

His bloody eye, ever roving for release,
settles upon a passing child, a little girl
who reminds him of a forgotten part of himself–
and the storm of suppressed feelings
rages into his mind, the winds blowing past
into his hands–beating, beating, remembering now
the anger, the hatred released upon his head–
he feeds upon the pain–hers–his. To make
another feel this pain, to release, to fill
the hollowness inside with another’s heart
stolen, ripped out with his bare hands–
he flies away crying hoarsely, a dying boy,
a living man.

II

I brush my hands–lightly
against my bruises,
feeling the vestiges
of another’s hurt–I
have always believed
in god until now–now
it is a hollow steel image
nailed above my bed.
I hate him.
I see strange things–
in my dreams–
barren landscapes,
charred by the fires
of wars, ruined
by the havoc of storms.
I hate myself.
Why do people turn
against themselves?
I rub my hands together,
feeling a warmth
only outside.

III

Time, the eternal lacerater, flows forever,
washing the wounds of the injured
in the blind waves of deceitful memory,
leaving restless scars in the belly
that must be stoked with the fiery touch of hope.

But what is the world without hope, where
does one fall to be saved, what is the world
without hope but emptiness and death
and pain and pain and endless pain?
Cut off from herself in the past,
she tries to reunite the shards, the pieces–
blood seeps out the cracks formed
by the forced union–never to be whole again.
There is no hope for one who has already died.
She casts her hands out into the dark space,
groping, and feels the cold rigidity of the crucifix
above her head–the hollow steel image that is him–her–
sparks fly and she wonders if there is a chance–
tobe reborn?.canI. canwe. . .
No–there is Nothing.

But a fire once started cannot be stopped
except by time and time and death.
She looks in the mirror and sees nothing–
and that is the world–everything, anything–
beautiful, the world is horrifyingly beautiful
and it was there all along, before and after
the snake–it takes death to know life–
a shattered image, broken to emptiness,
is life itself in truest form: piercingly aware
of death and its encompassing futility.

IV

I am nothing, nothing,
but part of everything;
I am nothing, nothing,
but the world, the universe;
I am nothing, nothing,
but life and death–
I have tasted the blindness
and now I can see;
I have touched the judgment
and now I can sing–

I am nothing–
nothing–
and I am beautiful.

Moon Shore Sonata

There is a rocky shore illuminated by the moon on its rocks, & the water choruses up against it, an alien form inevitably integrated, for the water is unforgiving & completely compassionate. I sit on a high tide inscripted bench, witnessing this primal interaction & trying to understand. A language beyond translation. The birds bob unperturbed on the crest of waves, their rotund opaque eyes capturing everything. Clouds coagulate on the horizon, enlightened by the moon and its reflection. & I am lost in the possibilities I missed this day. That beautiful smile leveled at me that I let go like an unharnessed sail, shooken without change. & here this water mocks me, for its armies conquers all, yet it never captures anything. So who am I to deserve grace? The rocks are hewn by relentless love. My heart is soft, & I am missing you. This moon & its ocean music mean nothing to me.

A Love Song

I loved loving you, pretty princess of the slipstream, come to me out the abyss of the unexpected. But like a breath, I’ve let you go, slow, so slow it hurt, the emptiness so close, it hurt when I drew back new blood into my heart again. I am sorry to have lost you, but I cherish the knowledge of the space you once filled. I am growing from your transference of primal understanding, the metaphysical data that has passed like your wind through my reed. We crafted together a song, an art form that was so powerful that we could only wonder in amazement after it had been passed, after it had come out of us and stood hung before our minds. I am still amazed at your memory, glazed into my skin. There is a loneliness so deep within. There is a hunger you fed that nurtured the flame. Do you know this light that comes from my heart? It is my mind and my body, thirsting for you in this unreachable void. It falls, it travels, it spans into a million stars in the nightsky of our dreams. I loved you, guapa. See the evidence written in the darkness? It may take forever to forget this–for every breath I take is an echo of the birth and death of this love.

Life, the venture of inevitable failure–we live for the fullness of balance that can only be achieved through death. In between there is the beauty, the spiralling movement forward and outward and toward the door in the sky that lets into the space. We love, we love, we love, and we understand, finally, that each and every love is the ultimate purpose for which we have been placed into our bodies.

And now I can sleep without fear of tomorrow, because I know what I have left behind.

Economics of the Corazon

True riches, in any sense, are not a gift of happenstance. They are the accumulation that comes from the denial of waste. Gaining age is a lesson in economy. As youths we waste our energy, spitting it out like radiation, seeking immediate gratification. If we learn anything at all as we grow older and less prone to outbursts of hormonal activity, it is the conservation of our energy, putting our time and love into that which we know is worth the investment. We learn to act in interest of self-preservation, rather than self-destruction; in light of longevity, rather than fleeting release. We learn that the highest reward comes with patience, concentration, and a consistent, diligent trimming of personal desire. When we want nothing, only then are we ready to receive.

Out In

What brings me higher–when my heart is widened with new, unforeseen love–also breaks me open to a new realm of emptiness, a deeper, rawer despair. Even in the midst of a bliss I had forgotten could exist, I am falling. I imagine that there is a point where the depths meet the sky, a point where intense ecstasy and intense pain are indistinguishable, a point where I am rising and falling and torn apart and left with nothing, nothing but a sweet residue of self that sits empty in the midst of the universe, filled only with the sonic wind of the sun, a puppet played but by god. But right now, my heart is strummed and snapped by the eyes of a woman, by her touch, by her lack of touch. And the penetration of her desire takes me to a level of beauty I had not known for so long. Beyond the blinded eyes of the world, beyond the compromise of daily need, beyond the groveling hunger of loneliness. Here in this place against her body, there is no such thing as victory or defeat–there is only the holding . . . and the letting go. And I pull back into myself further, feeling yet more the incredible, unfathomable distance that lies between two hearts, and marveling that this could ever traveled, and wondering, and wondering, and hoping, and despairing, that this road could ever be found out of the darkness again