More Than Happy

Images that shift and change even as I am describing them are nothing new. They take a light hand to keep in just enough order to prevent the dreaded mixed metaphors from breaking out all over. I’ve been reading about dreaming, especially lucid dreaming. I’ve done it, but I’ve always been a little cautious about the whole idea. Why introduce ego into a place that seems free of it, where things can otherwise play out without frightened I-me-mine interference?

This has been addressed, and it isn’t so different from what happens when I compose verses. The images have to be allowed to come of themselves; I do not interfere. Just as in dreams, this means things can get a little corny, or cliche–dammit, is that another rose?–but not for long. Nothing holds still long enough to be one simple thing. Let the pictures form and move, and let any interfering mind busy itself with prosodical concerns. Is there another word that means ____ but sounds more like ____? That sort of thing. Keep the kids occupied, and they’ll let the singer sing on.

This work has a built-in between-the-worldsness that goes so far beyond what I was warned about. The divide between the literary world and that of experiencers of liminal worlds is wide and deep. Poets are almost always people who are attracted to strangeness in the first place, but somewhere along the way, the ones who play the academic game get frightened out of most of their wits. They shut down their real interests and get professional and correct. It’s sickening to witness. They all know better, but feel so constrained. Poets have such a high suicide rate. And academia controls public poetry now more than ever, because of the popularity of creative writing graduate programs and the need to employ at least a few of those who go there and complete the expensive terms. Their biographical notes in the journals that publish their work are grim. Degrees, awards, publications, check–as many as possible. No imagination, no poetry whatsoever–officially proscribed. When I was younger, the spirits advised me that those sorts of activities are excuses to put off facing the real work one has agreed to take on.

Now I am wondering about something that has drawn me, but not caught me–do called, inspired poets have a high suicide rate, or is it mostly those who have misunderstood? Calling is real; talent is real. The non-literary thinkers and researchers I have been reading, such as those involved with the excellent book Irreducible Mind, have no problem with the idea that inspiration is real, and spiritual, and that inspired artists do not work alone. This is such a comfort, I can’t begin to tell you. All these years I have prefaced nearly every attempted discussion of what I really do with a lot of hedging and as-if-ing. It has set in as a habit, but it is one I am trying to break. No more explaining: inspiration is real, and it’s happening. No beliefs involved.

Some days are better, easier, than others. Sometimes everything gets jammed up; other times it all falls together so gracefully. That is what I mean–working by inspiration means feeling the presence of that grace and leaning lightly on its shoulder, Don’t scratch yourself on its sprouting pinions! And–we are multi-dimensional, so we cannot help being religiously multi-cultural. If it comes from a true source, it will play out true. Winged nightmare horsey angels, weep your starry tears–we come to be with you because you make us more than happy.

23 February 2021


Your Future Night-Days

She’s starting to scare me a little. She told me–not even a moment ago–there were buds

that might, in a credible future, begin to grow open–and that’s when the tears came in floods.

I knew she was telling the truth. And the petals inside, and the warmth, and the heartbeat beneath?

Petals turned out to be feathers, and soon they were cast to the wind and its sharp winter teeth.

Riding the back of a nightmare behind them, I witnessed their terror–and ultimate strength.

Nobody shines a grim light through the eyes of the one in pursuit for the full drawn-out length

of the story to follow; it glows of its own hooded malice. The feathers grow birds, and their lungs’

very air-bearing power sustains, and has often, the climber whose teeth mount the air-ladder rungs

of the storm in its gathering menace and majesty. Storm, are you made up of wind, and ill will?

I am beginning to find myself frightened. She wounded me once, and she’s dangerous still.

A dream’s coming on in the sleep I will sleep when this moment has passed and a better one dawned.

Till then, my nightmare, turn round and remind me this tale has the mouth that most certainly yawned

like a black-cactus canyon and drawn in its badness just slowly enough for as long as it took

my own heart to be burdened with knowledge of gathering madness that won’t be confined to a book

to be written at some unknown date in a future that might never happen–but suddenly–this

little magical offering, gesture, and sigh–I’m a truth-telling creature; a rocket of bliss

shot out of–the picture, as if she propelled it by sheer force of flame in the eyes of a horse.

The treasure, the delicate offering never delivered before, is advanced on its course;

the grateful recipient pictures the spirit their pleasure will conjure on seeing this gift;

the one who is prostrate and barely holds on to their nightmare in flight will feel all their spine lift;

their skin will flow over with shivers of energy everywhere recognized, even by blood;

and the universe–always the most painful burden–will open its mouth to a song in full flood,

and the one who will catch its first undilute potency must be afraid till they’ve learned its edge ways–

but the moment will pass as it always will pass like the one close behind you, your future night-days

coming on in a rush as if memory burned itself backwards in mind as the weather grows strong.

Why were you wearing a hood, but for fear of the sky’s angry tears at the lack of your song?

You’re being woven alive between petals and feathers in two pairs of hands not your own.

Look up alive at the lowering sky and be gratefully humble for this sordid zone,

this humanest place in an echoing universe–skin prickled over with pinions by night,

night being lengthened till darkness grows endles– and yet there is silence that shines a strong light,

and incense that breathes forth the ozone of heaven as under the feathers the bird’s fragrant skin–

all of a sudden–releases its wonderful message–you’re here, where we all rebegin.


About J

formal verse poetry and commentary at
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