The published piece by @Ariadne is a vibrant ochre gem.
Like tree resin fused into amber, this poem has fossilized in my soul like a coating of honey on the brain. A perfect image for the season, the cycles, the changes.
My son and I decided to pitch a tent in the backyard recently. A season for fires. It was frigid cold and we did not mind, even as the firepit puttered out.
Butternut squash and acorn squash grew from our small composting grounds. A busy year with a newborn left the garden unattended though flora have their own agenda in being and becoming in the world. Ten butternut. Five acorn! I will be reminded of Consuelos de Cocina as the knife and hand silently perform.
Soon we will be adding Reighn’s parents to the household, arriving as immigrants from the Philippines. They will teach my sons and I the circles of life and death.
Thank you @Ariadne for a delicious piece that burns its memory into the palette.
What a generous and beautiful response, it is so very much appreciated, especially the personal details you’ve included.
Thank you and warm (!) wishes to you and your son in your backyard adventures, Maia
(Hope this gets posted!) I meant to tell you that your response to my poem
feels to me like a poem in itself.
Also, I tried to respond to this comment of yours : “Cafe dedicated to interspecies communiques and other worlds. Haraway and Hitchcock are strange bedfellows as we contemplate how animals and humans affect each other and the boundaries blur between us and them. Can we imagine some alternate realities? Can we become a companion species before it is too late? Crayons are recommended.” but website keeps spitting me out in various ways! This topic is my current focus, in life and writing and I so appreciate you bringing this in. Is this discussion going to happen or are you suggesting it as a possibility?
@johnnydavis54 will be leading out this Cafe on 11/6 at 12PM Mountain Time. We have been exploring this topic in another thread called Alternate Realities and Dreaming. It also keeps seeping into the Aurobindo discussions as we explore what it means to go beyond the mind into a higher reality. Loren Eiseley is one I will explore that @Geoffrey_Edwards has suggested. Another is David Abrams; his Becoming Animal casts a sensuous spell as the reader reads. I would like to hear/read/see how you are exploring this @Ariadne…I love what you have brought forth thus far!
Thank you, Douggins! In most all my poetry and fiction, as well as bits of essay-like writing, non-humans in intimate/spiritualrelation to humans is the subject, not only animals but plants, rocks, clouds, sea. (Both my books are filled with this) It’s my “obsession” you might say, just because I can’t help it being so and always has been, but also because “this” that we used to know so bone-deeply, appears to me to be what we modern humans are most in dire need of, while being nearly entirely unaware of it, and so are seeking that deep fulfillment of being a beloved member of the Living community in the exactly wrong places: owning things, prestige, “success” ie, all the usual post-modern ways. The value of an old tree set against an automobile, eg, is almost impossible to convey. I have a neighbor who is constantly cutting big branches from a tree we share the shade of because it sheds leaves and berries on his car which he obsessively cares for. Writ large, this is the condition of our modern life: the magic and deep fulfillment of being a full member of a “living cosmos” among all our relations, one of the Earth Community, is rarely to be seen, or even dreamed. I’ve read the books you mention but long ago and have no money to buy books. So I will listen to any recorded meetings you all have with delight and comment where I can, but it just makes me glad to know that you are looking into these deeper things I am/we are so hungry for!
Hi Maia Maia,
There are many aspects of this poem that I enjoy and appreciate. Let me mention just a few.
First, your setting up of the context in the first two lines is masterful. “Hands of the dead here in my living hands/ as I split stony squash with a crack of the blade…” Setting the poem at the exchange point between the living and the dead prompts me to read the whole of the rest of the piece in a different light. The first line is both physical and metaphysical, concrete and abstract. You then immediately plunge the reader into the sensuous reverie that characterizes much of the rest of the poem—“as I split the stony squash with a crack of the blade.” In many traditions, sound—the ringing of a bell, the shaking of a rattle, the pounding of a staff, the beating of a drum, the intoning of a chant—is a key element in the initiation of a ritual. The “crack” of the blade serves this purpose as well, announcing both the beginning of the preparation of a meal and extending an invitation to those not physically present but yet somehow—possibly—willing and able to participate in the act. To the dead: “Your attention, please!”
Second, your use of alliteration and onomatopoeia are unusually vivid—“scoop seeds, oil flesh for the fire”; “sliding squash into fiery oven”; “testing impatiently for tenderness”: “the voluptuous swallow whetting lust for another.” Your use of these devices leaps beyond simple description to an almost hallucinatory effect, in which we are not so much perceiving the objects that we see and hear and touch as we taking note of their full independent existence; the objects seem to be actively reaching out to us in an attempt to shift the balance of the subject/object divide.
And third, the couplet has become a widely popular form for perhaps the first time since the 18th Century. It does serve as a convenient device for the ordering of one’s thoughts and for the creation of a poem that looks clean and orderly and balanced on the page, even when there is nothing especially rigorous going on. In “Consuelos de Cochina,” however, I feel that you do use the form to great effect. The progression of the poem down the page is very much a kind of dance, and you create genuine grammatical tension with your line breaks—“as I split stony squash with a crack of the blade,/ scoop seeds”; “hands/ of women and men in my hands”; “the old pleasure/ of sliding squash into fiery oven”; “irradiating/ bones of the face and chest as this fruity vegetable/ deity becomes human flesh…” With each line break, I may or may not be able to guess where you are going next; I nonetheless nod with satisfaction to see and hear just how you get there.
I look forward to reading more of your work.
Brian! Hello and deep thanks for your deep reading, such a rare pleasure, a bodily pleasure, that is reminiscent of the complex pleasure (which contains some of its “opposite”) I am always yearning to communicate in all of my writing, but especially poetry. Do you write yourself? It seems that surely you must. Or else you are an ideal reader, that is a reader who knows how to merge, how to live, really, inside of the writing of others and has the skill to tell the tale, so to speak! I am delighted.
If you do write, I’d truly enjoy reading something here from you. And if we like, exchange further… no obligation on either of our parts, of course. I hate the prefab smilie icons, so just imagine a real smile here…
Hi Maia Maia,
I’m afraid that I have been missing in action when it comes to Metapsychosis forums for the past year or so. I hope to become more active again. I’m glad that you found my comment perceptive. When I was younger, I was for many years surrounded by a circle of writers, and we would spend hours on end critiquing one another’s poems. This was in equal parts exciting and maddening. Being part of a living circle has a wonderful effect on your psychic health. Even a dozen or two people can counterbalance the sense that massive forces are arrayed against you. The world becomes a bit less of a battleground and a bit more of a playground. At the same time, such support can come with a cost. Whether consciously or not, groups generate a shared identity and a set of expectations, some aesthetic, some cultural, and some spiritual. A series of dotted lines get drawn around what the writer is permitted to explore.
It is a fairly tricky thing to offer useful feedback on a poem. Too often, a writer will tell you that what you have done is all very well and good but that you should really have written an entirely different poem— a poem that looks and sounds quite mysteriously like one that this other writer would have produced! In the later days of my circle, before we all drifted in our separate directions, I was very much aware of how much I had received, of how essential the support of my friends was to my development. It was also a good thing that the circle broke when it did. Even years afterwards, when I wrote a piece, I could imagine, word for word, how everyone in the circle might respond. At a certain point, this became more of an imposition than a help. These people are still present, even the few who have passed on. Now, though, I feel no obligation to pay any attention to their opinions. I can consult them only if and when I choose, much as though I were taking a once favorite book down from a shelf.
This is a very round about way of saying that I think that good criticism should not be “critical,” as such. The real challenge is to get inside the writer’s head, to surrender to the spell of the poem, to approach it as a fully living physical body, to move with its movements, to follow where it leads, and then beyond. Even for the person who produced the poem, the work itself is really no more than a place to start, a matrix of possibilities. The reader as much as the writer can participate in the constantly-to-be-updated completion of the poem, which—with the proper care and watering from each—will show new aspects of itself on each occasion it is read.
Here are a few pieces of my writing:
Metapsychosis (There are some good exchanges in the forums for the pieces. There is also a recording that goes with the prose-poem “Autumnal Fallout. Most of the pieces are illustrated with my artwork.):
Dark Mountain (This is probably the most accessible piece. Like your poem, it touches on the relationship between the living and the dead.) :
The Finch (There is an essay and three prose-poems.):
I look forward to reading more of your work.
Hello, Brian…you’ve pointed me to an embarrassment of riches, a feast I can’t possibly describe the tasting of…even so far, let alone the digesting, engenderings, disintegrations, recognitions of respiration— reverse photosynthesis… A joy to read the unfolding conversation with others around your pieces, what a luxury of nuance and association! So many branching responses, desires to write of them… branches bitg discrete and fusing, But I am limited by time and circumstance, for now want to say how illuminating it was to hear your reasons for leaving a “successful” writing group. I feel I understand what you are saying: successful forms eventually constrict and we are faced with tempering ourselves/writing to “please” the group entity, so to speak, or individuals within it, and so in time are forced break the form. Break out and find, if we are fortunate, ourselves writing in a larger world of being. For awhile, anyway. I read in public for more than ten years, was part of several writing groups, sent out ms to publishers, et al, the usual, and then quit it all and returned to the labor of keeping true to the north star of the writing itself, would be one way of saying it, inadequate as any way of saying it must be. Even at length. How do you speak of what is not speakable but longs to be spoken?
You wrote of sentences “…where abstract knowledge and personal experience are fused. For me…both writing and reading are profoundly physical acts. The body of a piece of writing is an actual body, with a life and an energy system of its own.” Yes! Such pleasure fully containing its mirroring grief, at hearing expressed something I’ve not heard straight out before. Or else I’ve forgotten when or if I last, long ago, heard it aloud…
To me your voice conveys quite effortlessly, all this, and I’m grateful you have not felt the pull to “intone” as so many poets/readers aloud do, in that rocking/rolling obscuring cadence that masks the native sounds “weighed in the hand or sounded by the psyche…”
I will be reading and re-reading these writings of yours— thank you.
I admit I am feeling a bit intimidated by the power of them already, and hesitate to send anything. I like to avoid consciously choosing, see what catches my attention. As I said to Marco, the hard part is choosing which (among hundreds if not quite ten thousand) poems to send. The last one I was working on might do for now (which is how Cocina got posted), so here goes: First Cricket After Winter: Five Takes.
Ooops. Sorry. I posted it, but the line breaks and spacing came out truly messed up, so I’ll have to think about how to get around this problem. Best would be to send poems in attachments, but not sure how I could do that…
Okay, for now I’ll keep reading you… thanks again.
Brian, Autumnal Fallout stays with me after my first reading and especially after hearing the words come through your measured voice which magnifies, for me, the breath-stopping quality throughout which transforms as it goes, crossing borders between the lifelong, repeating nightmare, in which the end of the world, the murder of the world, really, comes both with agonizing repetitive slowness, and with sudden blinding brightness. This most familiar, horrific dream like a flow of lava, seamed with brilliance. The layered, cumulative insight and uniqueness of your writing carries the nightmare in a way that feels “enlightening” in the deepest sense, a terrible liberating dynamic of opposites…Thinking of Rilke’s line here, about beauty, the beginning of terror…which, on truly hearing, paradoxically leaves us MORE whole.
Since childhood we’ve dreamed this ending of the world, murder of the world, really, this universal contamination and ruin, both ancient and post-modern, inevitable, fated, moving backward and forward in time. " I am become Death".
Your paintings are like your writing, stunning in original energy, with that same border-crossing, multi-dimensional power that strikes a hot-freezing blow. The highest praise I can give is that your writing/art/voice evokes in me what I cannot expess, but which releases my own primary voice/being, even if the moment before, no hint of that was evident. Your writing feels both large and extremely intimate, a correspondence through time, as though the entire piece is spoken TO, directly to, the one who listens, who recognizes, the one who is addressed from depth, and who, as she listens, remembers the voices of beings and things silently aching to speak through her. Your writing, even on the page, is fully oral and fully embodied, sounding through and around and across our brief human/inhuman capacity for being and hearing. You have found a voice like water to speak of fire. A voice lyrical and exactlingly horrific, as its subject demands.
AI bot just hates multiple posts in reply to the same comment, but here’s another try at posting a poem that might keep its shape.
Great Blue Heron At Dawn in Picasso Park
you and I regard one another—familiar
strangers, by the empty swings, and one abandoned
shoe, a picture book ruined in a month of dew
under the burned-out pit of the barbeque,
your ringed pupils penetrate, watercolor blues
and grays, precise reflections, sky above rooftops
sea-clouds newly breathed off the Pacific,
and the pale broken dome of a day-moon.
Great Blue, your names come and go, poets die
reborn in other poets weave, my hands, flow,
my veins in other dawns, other herons—
we don’t know, never will, where we’re off to, why
or how, after the Dance is done and the lights
go down— maybe a butterfly urn emptied out
jettisoned on an oak branch or maybe
a thrown knife from the willow at sunrise.
We regard one another here at first light,
beside the sagging boards of Gravity’s Bench
wearing our borrowed colors, peculiar hungers—
the story ends with a question—will you
winged one, speak in my ear
hhhhhhhhh now and at closing time
in the hour when the lost shoe finds its mate
or doesn’t, when the Bench is pried apart
for fuel to keep the exile warm—will it be you
I once followed a hundred feet above
the ground? Or will it be the whistle
and the downfall, without you?
What a great wave of enthusiasm, Maia. I enjoyed reading what you wrote, and I like your poems too. You have music in you in your sense for words. Definitely more than I have. Having some familiarity with Brian’s work, what is overwhelming and intimidating about it, what is thrilling and inspiring, what is terrifying down to what is aggravating and downright maddening about it, and having as well become acquainted more personally with the man in email exchanges, I fully appreciate in my slender 49 year old frame how much it can take out of one to lift even just a couple stones of thought, weighty and durable, and carry them with the aim of assisting him, or attempt with a running start and a burst of energy to return to him something in thanks. I think you have succeeded in creating some illuminating sparks.
This that you wrote, for instance, really jumps out at me: “You have found a voice like water to speak of fire.” I think you have spotted the tail of the same insight I have had about him and his work. I wrote to Brian back on January 15 of this year:
“I often think of your body of work as an immense serpent of archetypal power with rare stones (glyphs) embedded in it, a serpent with a sixth sense for the labyrinth, instinctively knowing all the twists and turns and dead-ends almost like a hand fits a glove. You yourself are warm and generous in personal interaction, but the serpent which is your work has freezing cold blood and has incredibly hard scales. The serpent also can be cut or cut itself into pieces without dying, each piece sprouting a new head and tail, to better fit or squeeze into this or that tight or enclosed space. All the cut pieces which have sprouted new heads and tails, after slithering around and soaking up all the information to be had in this or that environment eventually return like streams and rivers and fuse back into being one immense serpent which could perhaps swallow Moby Dick whole.
The serpent in its totality is perhaps equivalent to the ocean. You refer to the ocean a lot in your imagery.”
It’s a wonder that Brian and I have gotten on at all. I have more fire in my nature than water, but I’d like to think that I keep it under control. How about you, Maia? I have a sense that you have a whole forest in you inhabited by not only rare and fabulous creatures but also quite ordinary ones, both large and small, which are familiar to all humans, and that you love them all, or at least try your best to appreciate them. Ariadne, after all, was turned into a spider.
Hi Maia Maia,
Many thanks for your extravagant and wildly intuitive and articulate response to “Autumnal Fallout.” It is a very strange piece, and not everyone knows what to do with it. The best bet is always just to listen to the words, to sound them out, to allow yourself to be carried by their pulse, and to slip through whatever chinks might spontaneously pop open. All of this you have done. Responses such as yours renew my faith in the future reception of my work.
Earlier this week, I had written to John Dockus, “I had never wanted to play along with the cliché of the starving, unappreciated genius, out of touch with his contemporaries, undiscovered until after he is dead. Well, I am not starving, which is good, and I am not unappreciated by those who know me, however small a group that is. With each year that goes by, however, I find myself wondering more and more about how many artists, writers, composers, etc. have disappeared without a trace. I had always assumed that I knew the key figures and broad outlines of development in most of the arts, at least until the late 1980s or so. Now, I am not so sure. So much seems to depend upon the writer or artist becoming visible at a certain breaking moment, usually as part of an easily identifiable group, with the help of at least a few high-powered critics (who use the artists that they advocate for their own immediate ends), and with all of the colorful mythological stories being told.”
I have little or no natural talent for self-promotion, and no interest in becoming a “brand.” Or perhaps this “lack of talent” is just a rationalization for my refusal to make an effort, to step outside my comfort zone. For the past 30 or so years, I have followed Flaubert’s maxim, “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.” If the advice has proved productive, it has also come with a cost. I will have more free time to play with after February—when I plan to let go of one of my jobs—and I hope to push myself to take chances. Responses such as yours help to nudge me down this path.
You write, ““Your writing feels both large and extremely intimate, a correspondence through time, as though the entire piece is spoken TO, directly to, the one who listens, who recognizes, the one who is addressed from depth, and who, as she listens, remembers the voices of beings and things silently aching to speak through her.” This sense of intimate—yet somehow other than personal—communication, that the poet is whispering directly into your ear, is something that I have often experienced while reading Rumi and Rilke. The sensation is an uncanny one, both comforting and unsettling, as though you are hearing something you have always know but, for unknown reasons, have been forbidden to remember. Through much of the 1990s, I attempted to duplicate this effect, with very limited success. On a different level, this was also an attempt to give full recognition to my Daimon, to a voice that came and went in my head, to a presence that I did not so much want to channel as to welcome as a guest. Over time, and through many failures, a different voice emerged, a mode of expression designed to take both poet and Daimon by surprise. I have dared to hope that this voice will become more audible to others. There is usually some period of initial difficulty with my work. When a reader experiences an “Aha!” moment, I think that it is less a question of figuring everything out that it is of turning up the volume of this voice.
You write, in “Great Blue Heron At Dawn in Picasso Park,” “you and I regard one another—familiar/ strangers.” This tension between almost opposites, this play between the familiar and the strange is, I think, the essential attitude if one wants to probe into the mystery of the Other, whether this other is a bird, a person, a spirit, an archetype, a tradition, a star, or a dimension. To commune with other beings at all, we must—at least partially—let go of our belief that we are special or superior. In becoming less, paradoxically, we may find that we are more.
In On Being Human , Olivier Clement writes, “An infinite vulnerability is the condition of this unknowing, where the more the known is known, the more it is revealed as unknown. No, the God of Christians is not the summit—reassuring and plain to see—of a pyramid of beings. He is the depth who reveals depths everywhere, making the most familiar creature a thing unknown.” Martin Lings, in his book What is Sufism , echoes this idea. He writes, “To follow the path of the mystics is to acquire as it were an extra dimension, for this path is nothing other than the dimension of depth…The Tree of Life is sometimes depicted as having its roots in Heaven, lest it be forgotten that depth and height are spiritually identical.”
In your poem, I tend to see both bird and poet as subsets of the sky. In navigating through its heights and depths, I was struck by two key organizing images—that of the concentric rings of the eye and that of a vast net, with centers linked by resonance rather than proximity. You write, “your ringed pupils penetrate, watercolor blues/ and grays, precise reflections, sky above rooftops/ sea-clouds newly breathed off the Pacific,/ and the pale broken dome of a day-moon.” I love this section. Its play of light and focused detail and atmosphere and refraction reminds me, just a bit, of the Cubist explorations of Pierre Reverdy. The “ringed pupils” of the heron penetrate my mind and memory as easily as they breathe the clouds of the Pacific; as the sky opens and divides and recalibrates itself, my own eyes fixate on these pupils. I am reminded, too, of Rene Magritte’s painting of a human eye, inside of which is a blue sky filled with clouds.
The other organizing image, that of a vast net, compliments rather than contradicts the first. You write, “Great Blue, your names come and go, poets die/ reborn in other poets weave, my hands, flow,/ my veins in other dawns, other herons—/ we don’t know, never will, where we’re off to…” Bird and poet share a common space, two points in Picasso Park that will soon return to the sky, as they have on those countless occasions that these two—or two similar presences—have met before. The condition of such sharing would seem to be the refusal to hold on. To begin to grasp the Other, with such knowledge as the sky-net makes available, is to celebrate the very incompleteness of one’s vision, to grant that this Other reveals itself only in order to disappear.
A sharp intake of breath is my first response to what you’ve written above. Second, I find I want to send this poem. (Third and more, below)
Little Cloud Sutra
_wholly dead and wholly alive_ Dogen, from Mountain and Water Sutra
Raincloud, loose cumulus
without a ray of doubt
or hope divining this noisy
sky behind our eyes—
all us fire-breathers down here
ready or not
follow the flux, the riverine tides
knowing and unknowing
and all we ever understood or loved
washes us out along the watercourse
the rip, the whirl, the rapids…
until we travel cloud to cloud
by way of the whistling grackle,
passengers—ancient clan of wingless lice
our fate thrown in with her wind,
riding the long black tail…
or here in the stillness
of this glistening book
in a single drop of water
facing pages open—
glistening butterfly of the lungs—
where Dogen speaks
to us now
Bodymind is swifter than discursive mind – inplosion of breath, eyes blur, ears prick, then ring within ring of feeling opens, as water when the stone drops and keeps on plummeting, disturbing, ecstatic. Such fleeting inscription, as you say, of what immediately disappears, and … changes forever. I know my words might seem extravagant, excessive, but as far as I am capable, they are true, in intention, meant to convey that spirit-touch of direct speech which comes from before (and still), from where, as the Greeks describe, Earth and Hell and Heaven were never forced apart. To be heard IN the place from which we/theworld speak, is, for an instant, utter fulfillment.
I am grateful to know, at least, that my response to Autumnal Fallout, your paintings, and writings here and more, have not flown so high (or low!) they missed their aim of praising yes, but of encouraging you to pour out more.
There’s a soaring risk in this enterprise, I know. Can’t help thinking of Icarus…although I’ve always felt that some aspect of that myth is unfinished or over-writen, or? One of the things I love about all myths is their multifarious, multiparous, reincarnational nature and existence . There are many versions of them all, and they are never complete. Once, I had the exhilarating nerve-wracking experience of finding myself re-visioning Shakepeare’s character/creation/ Ophelia, while I still had no idea what that might really mean, where she wanted to go. Aside from the “literary worth”–and very aside—there is the work of transformation which is its own reason for being, in the writer and in the listener/reader.
So even if our longing to be truly heard by larger numbers of persons never comes about, the transformation is the thing, and I feel what is sometimes called the “world soul” is our primary listener, which has its roots, as you remind me, in the sky as well as the earth, in light as well as deepest dark. Sometimes I say that everything is well hidden, and other times I say it is blazing, right here. And of course, as always, one bends around to touch and complete the other, and in that moment, another spiral and spectrum, is born, so that completion never ends as a noun but lives forever as a verb: “to celebrate the very incompleteness of one’s vision, to grant that this Other reveals itself only in order to disappear.”
Maybe it’s illusion, likely so, but I feel I could write on and on in response to each of your sentences…and want to, and yet…I will stop here–for now— in the echo of your “only to disappear”…
Thank you! For all you’ve seen into, what you have to say about my writing and Brian’s, everything else I’ve read of you here and elsewhere (comments to Brian where his work is posted). Where I live now, and as I write this, the ocean (literally )reminds me of her presence, both because I live physically very near the Pacific, near enough to feel pulsing tides, breath of life, at least on quiet nights, and I have listened intently for more than forty years. Somewhere in those years (and before, when I look back I can’t find any absolute beginning) that sound became as much tragic as consoling, knowing what I/we now more openly know, what we (humans) have “accomplished” in our lurch toward absolute power, to become Death., while utterly convinced our project is heroic, some glorious progressive salvation. This lament is sounding everywhere, not only ocean, though simultaneously the great elemental things/beings remain in their alternating hiddenness among trees, in the gravity of mountains, stars, deserts, where did it begin?? But I’m growing incoherent, navigating history’s atemporal, repetitive “falleness” of the natural world, in one guise, then another, now reified, externalized in whirlpools of spilled oil and drowned pelicans, radioactive refuse… the lumious pristine nature of origins are not destroyable/destroyed, but…the dark face, dark star, is clearly radiant as ever. Without THIS too, otherwise unbearable to live — ocean of waters, ocean of air, cloud, bird, forest… but enough in this vein for now.
Here’s something of what I meant to say…
I love all that you wrote about Brian’s voice, about the desire to return something of what he gives, and the primordial serpent who gives birth and annihilates simultaneously, with a jewel-like adamantine aspect, as well as human warmth and generosity : we are offered all , and happily receive it!
In a detail from a mural by Diego Rivera, called Portrait of Frida Kahlo (one of my pantheon of muses) just such a serpent emerges behind her right ear and shoulder, from a maze of coils, the blunt head emerges–Mother Serpent who dreams and is dreamed by those who love with revolutionary love, those who, you might say, are capable of enduring such love.
So much more to say, as this conversation, I do hope, winds on…