Wednesday, March 22, 2006

This is for my friend.
For damning dreams.

Having it Out with Melancholy by Jane Kenyon

If many remedies are prescribed for an illness, you may be certain that the illness has no cure.

A. P. CHEKHOV The Cherry Orchard

When I was born, you waited 
behind a pile of linen in the nursery, 
and when we were alone, you lay down 
on top of me, pressing
the bile of desolation into every pore.
And from that day on 
everything under the sun and moon 
made me sad -- even the yellow 
wooden beads that slid and spun 
along a spindle on my crib.
You taught me to exist without gratitude. 
You ruined my manners toward God:
"We're here simply to wait for death; 
the pleasures of earth are overrated."
I only appeared to belong to my mother, 
to live among blocks and cotton undershirts 
with snaps; among red tin lunch boxes
and report cards in ugly brown slipcases. 
I was already yours -- the anti-urge, 
the mutilator of souls.
           2  BOTTLES
Elavil, Ludiomil, Doxepin, 
Norpramin, Prozac, Lithium, Xanax, 
Wellbutrin, Parnate, Nardil, Zoloft. 
The coated ones smell sweet or have 
no smell; the powdery ones smell 
like the chemistry lab at school 
that made me hold my breath.
You wouldn't be so depressed
if you really believed in God.
           4  OFTEN
Often I go to bed as soon after dinner 
as seems adult
(I mean I try to wait for dark)
in order to push away 
from the massive pain in sleep's 
frail wicker coracle.
Once, in my early thirties, I saw 
that I was a speck of light in the great 
river of light that undulates through time.
I was floating with the whole 
human family. We were all colors -- those 
who are living now, those who have died, 
those who are not yet born. For a few
moments I floated, completely calm, 
and I no longer hated having to exist.
Like a crow who smells hot blood 
you came flying to pull me out 
of the glowing stream.
"I'll hold you up. I never let my dear 
ones drown!" After that, I wept for days.
       6  IN AND OUT
The dog searches until he finds me 
upstairs, lies down with a clatter 
of elbows, puts his head on my foot.
Sometimes the sound of his breathing 
saves my life -- in and out, in 
and out; a pause, a long sigh. . . . 
           7  PARDON
A piece of burned meat 
wears my clothes, speaks 
in my voice, dispatches obligations 
haltingly, or not at all.
It is tired of trying 
to be stouthearted, tired 
beyond measure.
We move on to the monoamine 
oxidase inhibitors. Day and night 
I feel as if I had drunk six cups 
of coffee, but the pain stops
abruptly. With the wonder 
and bitterness of someone pardoned 
for a crime she did not commit 
I come back to marriage and friends, 
to pink fringed hollyhocks; come back 
to my desk, books, and chair.
           8  CREDO
Pharmaceutical wonders are at work 
but I believe only in this moment 
of well-being. Unholy ghost, 
you are certain to come again.
Coarse, mean, you'll put your feet 
on the coffee table, lean back, 
and turn me into someone who can't 
take the trouble to speak; someone 
who can't sleep, or who does nothing 
but sleep; can't read, or call 
for an appointment for help.
There is nothing I can do 
against your coming. 
When I awake, I am still with thee.
High on Nardil and June light 
I wake at four, 
waiting greedily for the first
note of the wood thrush. Easeful air 
presses through the screen 
with the wild, complex song 
of the bird, and I am overcome
by ordinary contentment. 
What hurt me so terribly 
all my life until this moment? 
How I love the small, swiftly 
beating heart of the bird 
singing in the great maples; 
its bright, unequivocal eye.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

I saw V for Vendetta this weekend. It was all at the same time maddening, inpsiring, glossy, trite and angry. It was I think the most brilliant piece of advertising to come out this year. Its merits as a film are another matter but I will say I was moved and angry too.

Strangely, today Sissy sent me this poem by Louise Erdrich. It is haunting and damning in a completely different way, more beautiful and brutal than I can express yet there is anger. Always anger. Here the words do justice and they, if you'll forgive my schoolboy metaphor, slice like knives.

Dear John Wayne

August and the drive-in picture is packed.

We lounge on the hood of the Pontiac

surrounded by the slow-burning spirals they sell

at the window, to vanquish the hordes of mosquitoes.

Nothing works. They break through the smoke screen for blood.

Always the lookout spots the Indians first,

spread north to south, barring progress.

The Sioux or some other Plains bunch

in spectacular columns, ICBM missiles,

feathers bristling in the meaningful sunset.

The drum breaks. There will be no parlance.

Only the arrows whining, a death-cloud of nerves

swarming down on the settlers

who die beautifully, tumbling like dust weeds

into the history that brought us all here

together: this wide screen beneath the sign of the bear.

The sky fills, acres of blue squint and eye

that the crowd cheers. His face moves over us,

a thick cloud of vengeance, pitted

like the land that was one flesh. Each rut,

each scar makes a promise: It is

not over, this fight, not as long as you, resist.

Everything we see belongs to us.

A few laughing Indians fall over the hood

slipping in the hot spilled butter.

The eye sees a lot, John, but the heart is so blind.

Death makes us owners of nothing.

He smiles, a horizon of teeth

the credits reel over, and then the white fields.

again blowing in the true-to-life dark.

The dark films over everything.

We get into the car

scratching our mosquito bites, speechless and small

as people are when the movie is done.

We are back in our skins.

How can we help but keep hearing his voice,

the flip side of the sound track, still playing:

Come on, boys, we got them

where we want them, drunk, running.

They’ll give us what we want, what we need.

Even his disease was the idea of taking everything.

Those cells, burning, doubling, splitting out of their skins.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Sissy sent me the link to this photo which is unbelievably gorgeous and which I like, for those who know me and my work, for obvious reasons. It's from photographer Sergio Larrain.

Beware the Ides of March

I have new art to show. Any critique criticism suggestion welcome. I posted them on Flickr and I will post them here too. The Flickr ones have comments.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

It is National Colon Cancer Awareness Month.

Thanks to Seema Patel for the heads up.