Friday, September 14, 2012

On Words And Crows

     The brain is a wonderful forest and it stretches out pretty much forever across the landscape of being.  Most people stick to the marked trails and wander off into the sidelines on rare occasion.  When worldviews are set, generally all thoughts thereafter follow those cleared roads throughout the underbrush.
     Listen to someone talk and you can discern from it how they think and what they believe and hear their surprise when you sometimes note the words spoken show either the fence around their truth or the antithesis of it.  A good listener can often learn more from the words used than the meanings the talker intended to convey and one can survey those brain trails into a map of destination that can be used to traverse that person's beingness.  Ask any psychic, psychiatrist or psychologist how this works.
     Words profile the speaker or writer just as they intrigue the thinker, listener, or reader.
     When I was younger, my brain raced with thousands of thoughts in layers tied in to all of the senses and catalogued by emotional or rational responses to whatever stimuli was around.  Writing then was more about slowing down that race and noticing the inter-relation of concepts and inner symbology and choosing and building the correct literary expression from the forest of the mind.  Creation and creativity was more about bouncing those relationships into new trails in the woods and exploring those locales.
     A poem in those days was like being a tree.  I would have an idea or a niggling, nagging snippet of round logic that was ticking off the mind's square holes that needed to walk around on paper before it made sense to me.  Using the tree metaphor, the idea and urge would be the roots, and the form would be the tree itself and the structure was the branches and the words would be in the branches, or leaves, or birds and things flying into and out of the tree itself.  The process was like recognizing or choosing what should and shouldn't be there in the building on the idea upwards into wood and bark and foliage.  Eventually, the truth of the poem would form and grow and transform the tree into its species, height, visual and appearance. 
     Sometimes, the finished tree was surprising and its truth not exactly what was envisioned in the beginning, and if the itching idea that caused it all was successfully scratched, well, it was a new trail winding through the forest and back again that pinged once walked through. 
     All good poems ping when you walk them in the mind and great ones glow and sing during and after the trek, while mediocre ones tend to kind of seem like an old, frequently used path.  Poor ones are just hard on the thinking feet and pong in rhythmic disarray.  Poems-like trees-shouldn't need much of a reference guide for one to know if they succeed or not.
     As a young man, my trees were either curiously young or strangely leaved, and I worked hard on my forests, sometimes having to clear-cut them into oblivion to have a nice stand.  The process of writing in those days was more about finding and curing the voice that made the trees than honing the process of trail walking.  A young poet is a naive and earnest mess of self-involvement who is in real danger of being self-indulgent or mundane-all depending on the forests and the trees and the listening and seeing of the wood.
     I found poetry was a nice training ground for writing prose.  If you can encapsulate worlds of meaning into a few words and lines, then prose becomes more of a recess for the brain and you can write with much more creativity and eventually be more entertaining if you can make the transition.  I left poetry at one point, abandoned the trees for the forest and the tales within.  I'd make a sapling here and there and prune some leaves, but songs and appreciation of music changes.  The brain also changes.
     My brain now is a different animal.  Whether it is natural age, medications, structural damage from life or a combination of all three, it has left me a ranger in an ancient forest, navigating the familiar, clean paths and sometimes finding a tangle of overgrowth on the trails and noting there is an end to its expanse and density.
     Writing poetry now is also different.  It is like sitting inside of the tree in a vacuum while feeling for my surroundings and searching amongst the old thick roots for newer, more supple roots-ones that can still grow.  Once found, I look above and see a lifetime of words circling like crows, cawing and calling to each other with crow instinct, in crow demesne, and I feel a bit like dying prey just sitting there in that vacuum...fighting for life of poem and avoiding the old crows while seeking sparrows.
     There are no more thousands of thoughts that fly about the gigabytes of layers and transits and my trails all begin on well worn ground, my files all long since in order.  I sit in the tree and gestate thoughts and imagine trails for sometimes days before I take one swing with a bush axe because I now know the forest has end.  The idea or urge speaks as strong as before, maybe stronger, but the art of tree building and cutting with my present brain is an art in itself rather than an act because there is infinite and there is finite and the need for the distinction.
     An idea rolls around, settles and grows in those small roots I find.  I listen to crows and a word or turn of phrase sits up on the branches and I'll pull it down into that vacuum.  After some time, the vacuum has eggs and nests suspended inside of it, swirling slow, then some words birth, find weight and land on the wood, forming a bit of bark or else, fly off.  The beginning forms, the ending speaks, the middle clings to either and the outline hardens and I see branches, see sparrows and finches and the crows fly off and their prey lives and begins to breathe and the poem is there.  I work on it and finish it in shade of itself while the sun streams in from the forest.
     When it is done, if it lives, it still surprises me, still turns a truth far from the original idea, but yet, it is a more mature truth, borne of crow prey, crow caws into lines and rhythms and pings and sparrows.  At my current age, if it trills, it works.  My younger self would run it through a million filters, testing it in a hundred ways and painting its place exactly so in the forest of mind.  Today, I just plant it down a new row and appreciate how it looks to me and hope someone else finds the tree appealing, see it warm or cool, and finds a nest not of crows deep inside, but something singing just right there.
     I've been in that vacuum for a bit recently, words gelling and settling and finding their bark.  There has been an itching urgency to finish since inception, but if age has taught me anything, it is that crow shit stains.  So, I'm patient.  I'm finding it has nice leaves and it rustles in the wind in my head and I'm just enjoying its sound before I move on.
     There are times I wish I were younger and fresher and whipping a forest into shape, but I find mostly it is just a wish to feel better and younger and sharper but with the brain I currently have-all crow instinct and crow demesne needing a time and grace of sparrows.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


     It has been almost two years since my last post and almost as long since I have even checked in on this blog.  I have been surprised by its analytics that it still has visitors, most of which spend some time here...rummaging amongst the abandoned, it seems.  I wonder why. 
     I initially began this blog to reanimate the corpse of an almost forgotten literary career and attempt to move it forward.  It was always the plan to eventually settle in and once again live a life deep in the arts, establishing what I always knew to be my life's work-what I was apparently put here to do-and not die with the words and music still inside, roiling and raging against a life diverted from its truth.
     I had the past-the reams of poetry written over a space of years in what seemed to be another life...three finished novels...outlines, notes, pages and pages of beginnings and endings and visits to places all real and new things all tidy and shiny-all the filler I needed to bloat a blog with a sampling of good, bad, genius, and pure shit.  If not anything, I figured, it will be entertaining.
     And in the midst of it all, life happened. 
     We sudddenly became parents instead of grandparents and began helping raise two young boys with damaged hearts and heads.  Our work increased, our finances dwindled, and I found I once again had no time for the vanity of writing, or a blog, or even dreaming of it.  In all honesty, I was unsure of exactly what the hell I was even doing, and if the blog was just an exercise in ego, or even scarier, an exercise in convincing myself I had (or ever had) relevance.  I figured the audience of readers would tell me that, but no-I was registering a lot of visits and views, but little feedback-so I quit, vanished, closed it down.
     Tonight I logged in with the intention of deleting it all.  I noted Blogger had changed and upgraded and wanted to walk me through all the things I had missed over the last two years.  I saw my last unfinished post still sitting in drafts.  I clicked on recent comments and there were none.  I read over some of my posts and cringed a bit, with that old feeling of seeing what appeared to be another life creeping in again.  And I got pissed.
     So fuck it.   The truth is I am not what I wish to be.  I am nowhere near the writer I once was.  This blog is somewhat of a scrapbooking type of joke.  I spent years in a very tightly structured writing schedule that, from the sheer discipline of it, drove me to the outer reaches of my abilities and brain functions.  I lived it, I breathed it, and at the end of one day I realized I was living past the line of personal best and into quite another space.  I also realized that to continue would involve selfishness to such a degree that I could not live with the outcomes of it.  So, I reigned it all in and became responsible, raised a family, started a business, did volunteer work and just showed up-all things I could not do with a young mind in a quest for literary "greatness."  The truth is I could not reconcile the dream with the actuality of the dream, so I created success in another venue.
     Be careful what you wish for...very careful...there is a price even for successful mediocrity, for giving up one individual truth for a truth that involves others can still bring one full circle back to nothing, or at least the feeling of it, and a loss...the longing for more.
     I have reinvented myself several times in my life, but of late, the reinventing is more like a chained dog wrapping himself incessantly around a tree...that full circle back to inertia.  I was hit by a drunk driver in May of 2005 and that wreck ass-ended my life.  My back was shattered, disks lost, nerves destroyed, everything inoperable, and just like that, I was told by every neurosurgeon on the block I was done...check into wheelchairs, longterm eventual care and pay on the way out.  I was legally dropped by my insurance company on technicalities, legally bound by tort reform in the lawsuit, and not on the street, a minority, or an illegal, so no government or Social Security unless I wanted to live below poverty level in a hovel.  In a year I lost everything I spent my entire working life building.
     But in that year, I committed to physical therapy.  I learned to cope, learned to put the anger into useful things and let the rest of it go.  I re-learned how to walk, and how to keep re-learning how to keep walking.  I developed a high pain tolerance.  I became self-sufficient again and began re-building my business.  I reinvented myself that year.
     In the seven years since, my condition has worsened, but I have forced it to be gradual.  After five years of agony, I finally began pain meds in 2010, but only take the lowest dose.  I'm a lucky man.  I walk, I do and I create and am blessed to have no dysfunctions.  But every day I wake up and have to make the choice to get up and do it all over again.  Every day is varying levels of pain, sometimes indescribable.  I have neurological issues, seizures, whiteout blindness, occular migraines, the list goes on.
     But I don't give up.  Giving up is not tolerable for me-never has been.  Doctors tell me I am a miracle, but it is not so.  I'm just not a pussy, and doctors love pussies and write prescriptions to help you to be a better one.  So, the truth is I'm not the man I once was...I'm not the writer I once was...but the world and life and all their varying responsibilities are just as they have always been.  So, I don't have time for a blog, or writing, or any of it.
     So, I log on after two years to wipe it all out, but then I get pissed.  Mainly, because I don't quit, but partly because I was put on this earth to do something that I haven't done as yet.  Maybe my heart was right all of those years ago and it is indeed writing.  I won't know unless I do it.  So fuck it.
     I don't know what this blog will be.  I don't know what I will write-poetry, stories, diary-type monologues, beautiful things, hard things, all the aforementioned-I don't know.  I just know it will not be reprints of old me, tales of better days and vanity-driven bullshit with photos of headier times.  If so, just tell me to fuck off.  I'm going to write what I want to write and when I wish to.  I'll tell my own truth and be true to that and if you like it, that's nice and if you don't...well, there are 30,000 other writers that may tell you what you want to hear and more than a few doctors that like pussies.
     All I know is that I neeed to write-be it of a thousand lives lived in a deep green tangle of forest or the heart of one touched by the hand of something greater...and maybe it will all go somewhere I've never been.