Tuesday, June 25, 2013

dance break

so m. gives me advice, or rather, asks the right question.  "how about taking a break from analyzing?"   

i fall back on that boring template of an excuse: how could i?  this is all i am.  anxiety rules me, i live inside of analysis, one leads the other by both of my hands, we are all inseparable...

yet.  i have come to love those hard, impossible questions (thanks m!), those pressure points.

he adds [something like] "your analytical mind is a survival tool, which is not good or bad.  yet it is overdeveloped & has crowded out other tools.  maybe your impulsive self is child-like.  why don't you turn off the analysis and let yourself be impulsive?  grow up."

i have agreed.  i will whittle away or cut off or redirect the analysis for awhile.  to be in my body, to feel my feelings, to melt away the ice block that i've become.

this goes along well with my current (temporary?  permanent?) breakup with buddhism, meditation.  it is ironic timing, actually.  i have recently realized that i no longer feel so anxious most of the time.  however, i haven't been able to feel my body, or feel anything really.  so is my choice between feeling+anxiety or no feeling+no anxiety?  hmmmmmm

so, for life to have meaning, i have to feel alive.  to feel alive, i have to feel anxiety?  really?  and... how do i get there again?

there's been alcohol.  lots of homemade nachos.  going on dates.  having a new, enormous crush (feelings! for such a highly impulsive/creative human being).  getting sun-drenched & sore-limbed at the garden.  cuddling hardcore with guts, my neglected cat.

little moments of emotion return in their odd waves, usually in the form of compassion: a. listens to a podcast on immigrant rights activists and detention center infiltrations, tears lurk under my face.  my sister tells me about a kid in my niece's class who appears quite neglected by his parents.  immediately i well up & want to adopt a fleet of children. 

i AM starting to feel again!  it is pain that alerts me, but i keep at it.  i sign up for a modern dance summer class.

during the first hour of the first class, i adore the calm voice & careful visualizations of the instructor.  i love thinking about my lumbar spine again, feeling the creases in my hip joints, the weight of my heels.

then we go into the sequences.  i cannot figure it out.  the split between my brain & body echoes, grows enormous.  i am trapped.

here are my eyes, watching the footsteps, observing the arms.  here are my ears, listening for rhythm.  here are my shoulders remembering their role and one two three four one two three four one two three four five fucking six which foot where / arms go how / why am i dying

fourteen eighteen twenty-five tries (or so it seems), i am the only one in the class who does not get it.  thinking leads to over-thinking which brings so much head, no body.  i can't feel anything, how again was that supposed to go?  what is the rhythm why am i here how can i escape what if i start crying 

yet i am laughing, goofy faces, aloof or clumsy or whoever i am performing

the instructor, she is wise and kind.  she looks for ways to help, she compliments my breathing.

i watch the clock, the final 30 minutes moving backwards, where is the rhythm why is this wide open space

we switch sequences.  the new one goes one two three one two three one two three four.  there are jumps, i get it, i am gliding across the floor.  she calls it "walk-falling".  we are always doing it, in those little moments before the heel hits the ground. this one feels fluid, familiar

(this is why i am here.  to walk-fall my way around, to feel-fall my way through.  to discover the fluid-familiar.) 

now.  this is a journal entry, an impulsive one, broadcast almost live near & far, to no one.

this mind invests itself in a disappearing act, a switcher of flips, a poker of soft spots, a presser of tension.  but my body sense, my feeling sense (the i & mine that i've come to know) is invested in being seen, validated, cared for, and ultimately, recognized.

my mind loves the no, the boundary
everything else loves the yes

between sense and non-sense
i remain torn and split but leaning heavily
how to: coordinate. integrate.
always i breathe until

Thursday, June 20, 2013

acceptable dissociations

By sina queyras


Meanwhile the expressway’s hum, it roars into
Her, the expressway cargo and tree-lined, stretched
Radio towers, mowers its horns and hogs, its beef

And bread vans, hour after hour, laptop, radar
Detectors from New Mexico, Idaho potatoes, HoHos
And Cheetos, all organic grain-fed, pieces of chicken,

Pieces of cow, slices of pig, kernals of corn, diced carrot,
All packaged meals, she of drums, her mile after mile
Of interchange escape into itself rest stop, progress

Is welcoming and bidding adieu, states drinking
Her progress, passing tolls, Motel 6 she hum as glass
And EconoLodge, passing itself traces of Ashland

And Peoria, Willingboro, Paterson, every inch of it grafted,
Numbered, planted, barriered, mowed, guardrailed,
O my citizen consumers, for the time, infinite,

Replaceable, scaling these walls of sound and motion,
Dipping in, expressing oneself, expressing oneself,
Expressing oneself.


Wonder warships at citizens in blue, the number
Lining the leaf, infinite expressways, and scaling
Blood, soil a Camden, shouting over water Sunday

Steel passing the in and sky noise, another abandoned
By of one to mills, at steel, above bone, gazing (euphoria,
Nostalgia!) citizens, up leaf, citizens, wonder! Infinite warships

Sunday and abandoned a shouting expressways, noise,
Across in blood, steel, lining passing bone, at gazing
Blue mills, scaling the water another number to in

The above soil by of steel up one and sky at the
Over Camden, citizens, euphoria nostalgia!
All along the avenue spronging, tent-like, their attitudes

Way ahead of them. My computer screen, waving. Where
Is your horse?
she said, and there was nothing I could say.
What I want is generally tidy. What I get often can’t dance.

What wants a date who can’t dance?
Who wants a line without rhythm?
Who wants a line without thought?


Occasionally there is anger. Occasionally she takes her one good foot and applies it to surfaces otherwise flat and safe, the expressway progressing itself through her, expressly.

(I live here because the country I once lived in is now a corporate washroom, where there were once gardens now oil refineries turn night into day and farmers into militiamen—you won’t even understand this, and your teeth gleam!)

Once again the feeling comes, like a sprong in the groin, an abundance of feeling that is sharp, almost hostile in its need to overtake. Several women in pink felt it coming. They turned, their pierced ears like arrows in her thigh.

Sprong, sarong. I ask you?

Over the course of several weeks developers wiped out all the trees in a town in A to avoid having them designated as essential sites after a rare woodpecker was found to be nesting in the town. Woodpeckers are not essential. Trees are not essential. Trees are ornamental. Humanity is ornamental. Prophet is everything.

This poem resembles urban sprawl. This poem resembles the freedom to charge a fee. The fee occurs in the gaps. It is an event. It is not without precedent. It is a moment in which you pay money. It is a tribute to freedom of choice.

Reality is a parking lot in Qatar. Reality is an airstrip in Malawi.

Meanwhile the expressway encloses, the expressway round and around the perimeters like wagon trains circling the bonfire, all of them, guns pointed, Busby Berkeley in the night sky.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

breath, passing through

tis the spiderweb
season, lilac
quickened.  with slick
walks off the lightning
street, with hand in a bag,
(wrapped in a fist)
                 the drizzled
day bends and cracks.
burnt yellow paint shoved over
and over against the ages
of a wall.  lines ticked with tall
decisions, certain flecks stick
to t-shirts, pale purple.  here
lies the mirror mark: fingers
extend, appendages.

crack it two times,
a lucky double.     
                              do you
believe me?
you shouldn't.

                         you are not
little but lying repeatedly
then standing focused, heels hinged.
forehead, unwrinkled.  with hips
swinging home, someone punches      
the scattered drunks
the overdarkened parks
those twisting twisting clouds.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

more r.d. laing

from the politics of experience

"There seems to be no agent more effective than another person in bringing a world for oneself alive, or, by a glance, a gesture, or a remark, shrivelling up the reality in which one is lodged." -erving goffman

 . . .

Let us take the simplest possible interpersonal scheme. Consider Jack and Jill in relation. Then Jack's behaviour towards Jill is experienced by Jill in particular ways. How she experiences him affects considerably how she behaves towards him. How she behaves towards him influences (without by any means totally determining) how he experiences her. And his experience of her contributes to his way of behaving towards her which in turn . . . etc.

Each person may take two fundamentally distinguishable forms of action in this interpersonal system. Each may act on his own experience or upon the other person's experience, and there is no other form of personal action possible within this system. That is to say, as long as we are considering personal action of self to self or self to other, the only way one can ever act is on one's own experience or on the other's experience.

Personal action can either open out possibilities of enriched experience or it can shut off possibilities. Personal action is either predominantly validating, confirming, encouraging, supportive, enhancing, or it is invalidating, disconfirming, discouraging, undermining and constricting. It can be creative or destructive.

In a world where the normal condition is one of alienation, most personal action must be destructive both of one's own experience and of that of the other. I shall outline here some of the ways this can be done. I leave the reader to consider from his own experience how pervasive these kinds of action are.

Under the heading of "defence mechanisms", psychoanalysis describes a number of ways in which a person becomes alienated from himself. For example, repression, denial, splitting, projection, introjection. These "mechanisms" are often described in psychoanalytic terms as themselves "unconscious", that is, the person himself appears to be unaware that he is doing this to himself. Even when a person develops sufficient insight to see that "splitting", for example, is going on, he usually experiences this splitting as indeed a mechanism, so to say, an impersonal process which has taken over, which he can observe but cannot control or stop.

There is thus some phenomenological validity in referring to such "defences" by the term "mechanism". But we must not stop there. They have this mechanical quality, because the person as he experiences himself is dissociated from them. He appears to himself and to others to suffer from them. They seem to be processes he undergoes, and as such he experiences himself as a patient, with a particular psychopathology.

But this is so only from the perspective of his own alienated experience. As he becomes de alienated he is able first of all to become aware of them, if he has not already done so, and then to take the second, even more crucial, step of progressively realising that these are things he does or has done to himself. Process becomes converted back to praxis, the patient becomes an agent.

Ultimately it is possible to regain the ground that has been lost. These defence mechanisms are actions taken by the person on his own experience. On top of this he has dissociated himself from his own action. The end-product of this twofold violence is a person who no longer experiences himself fully as a person, but as a part of a person, invaded by destructive psychopathological "mechanisms" in the face of which he is a relatively helpless victim.

These "defences" are action on oneself. But "defences" are not only intrapersonal, they are transpersonal. I act not only on myself, I can act upon you. And you act not only on yourself, you act upon me. In each case, on experience.

If Jack succeeds in forgetting something, this is of little use if Jill continues to remind him of it. He must induce her not to do so. The safest way would be not just to make her keep quiet about it, but to induce her to forget it also.

Jack may act upon Jill in many ways. He may make her feel guilty for keeping on "bringing it up". He may invalidate her experience. This can be done-more or less radically. He can indicate merely that it is unimportant or trivial, whereas it is important and significant to her. Going further, he can shift the modality of her experience from memory to imagination: "It"s all in your imagination." Further still, he can invalidate the content. "It never happened that way." Finally, he can invalidate not only the significance, modality and content, but her very capacity to remember at all, and make her feel guilty for doing so into the bargain.

This is not unusual. People are doing such things to each other all the time. In order for such transpersonal invalidation to work, however, it is advisable to overlay it with a thick patina of mystification. For instance, by denying that this is what one is doing, and further invalidating any perception that it is being done, by ascriptions such as "How can you think such a thing?" "You must be paranoid." And so on.

. . .

Man, most fundamentally, is not engaged in the discovery of what is there, nor in production, nor even in communication, nor in invention. He is enabling being to emerge from non-being.

The experience of being the actual medium for a continual process of creation takes one past all depression or persecution or vain glory, past, even, chaos or emptiness, into the very mystery of that continual flip of non-being into being, and can be the occasion of that great liberation when one makes the transition from being afraid of nothing, to the realisation that there is nothing to fear. Nevertheless, it is very easy to lose one's way at any stage, and especially when one is nearest.

. . .

In our "normal" alienation from being, the person who has a perilous awareness of the non-being of what we take to be being (the pseudo-wants, pseudo-values, pseudo-realities of the endemic delusions of what are taken to be life and death and so on) gives us in our present epoch the acts of creation that we despise and crave.

Words in a poem, sounds in movement, rhythm in space, attempt to recapture personal meaning in personal time and space from out of the sights and sounds of a depersonalised, dehumanised world. They are bridgeheads into alien territory. They are acts of insurrection. Their source is from the Silence at the centre of each of us. Wherever and whenever such a whorl of patterned sound or space is established in the external world, the power that it contains generates new lines of forces whose effects are felt for centuries.

Monday, June 17, 2013

not into but out of

from the politics of experience by r.d. laing

we experience the objects of our experience as there in the outside world.  the source of our experience seems to be outside ourselves.  in the creative experience, we experience the source of the created images, pattern, sounds, to be within ourselves but still beyond ourselves.  colors emanate from a source of pre-light itself unlit, sounds from silence, patterns from formlessness.  this pre-formed pre-light, this pre-sound, this pre-form is no-thing, and yet it is the source of all created things.

we are separated from and related to one another physically.  persons as embodied beings relate to each other through the medium of space.  and we are separated and joined by our different perspectives, educations, backgrounds, organizations, group-loyalties, affiliations, ideologies, socio-economic class interests, temperaments.  these social 'things' that unite us are by the same token so many things, so many social figments that come between us.  but if we could strip away all the exigencies and contingencies, and reveal to each other our naked presence?  if you take away everything, all the clothes, the disguises, the crutches, the grease paint, also the common projects, the games that provide the pretexts for the occasions that masquerade as meetings - if we could meet, if there were such a happening, a happy coincidence of human beings, what would now separate us?

two people with first and finally nothing between us.  between us nothing.  no thing.  that which is really 'between' cannot be named by any things that come between.  the between is itself no-thing.

if i draw a pattern on a piece of paper, here is an action i am taking on the ground of my experience of my situation.  what do i experience myself as doing and what intention have i?  am i trying to convey something to someone (communication)?  am i rearranging the elements of some internal kaleidoscopic jigsaw (invention)?  am i trying to discover the properties of the new gestalten that emerge (discovery)?  am i amazed that something is appearing that did not exist before?  that these lines did not exist on this paper until i put them there?  here we are approaching the experience of creation and of nothing.

what is called a poem is compounded perhaps of communication, invention, fecundation, discovery, production, creation.  through all the contention of intentions and motives a miracle has occurred.  there is something new under the sun; being has emerged from nonbeing; a spring has bubbled out of a rock.

without the miracle nothing has happened.  machines are already becoming better at communication with each other than human beings are with human beings.  the situation is ironical.  more and more concern about communication, less and less to communicate.

we are not so much concerned with experiences of 'filling a gap' in theory or knowledge, of filling up a hole, of occupying an empty space.  it is not a question of putting something into nothing, but of the creation of something out of nothing.  ex nihilo.  the no thing out of which the creation emerges, at its purest, is not an empty space, or an empty stretch of time.

at the point of nonbeing we are at the outer reaches of what language can state, but we can indicate by language why language cannot say what it cannot say.  i cannot say what cannot be said, but sounds can make us listen to the silence.  within the confines of language it is possible to indicate when the dots must begin. . .but in using a word, a letter, a sound, OM, one cannot put a sound to soundlessness, or name the unnameable.

the silence of the preformation expressed in and through language, cannot be expressed by language.  but language can be used to convey what it cannot say - by its interstices, by its emptiness and lapses, by the latticework of words, syntax, sound and meanings.  the modulations of pitch and volume delineate the form precisely by not filling in the spaces between the lines.  but it is a grave mistake to mistake the lines for the pattern, or the pattern for that which it is patterning.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

persons and experience

from the politics of experience by r.d. laing

our task is both to experience and to conceive the concrete, that is to say, reality in its fullness and wholeness.

but this is quite impossible, immediately.  experientially and conceptually, we have fragments.

we can begin from concepts of the single person, from the relations between two or more persons, from groups or from society at large; or from the material world, and conceive of individuals as secondary.  we can derive the main determinants of our individual and social behavior from external exigencies.  all these views are partial vistas and partial concepts.  theoretically one needs a spiral of expanding and contracting schemata that enable us to move freely and without discontinuity from varying degrees of abstraction to greater and lesser degrees of concreteness.  theory is the articulated version of experience.  this book begins and ends with the person.

can human beings be persons today?  can a man be his actual self with another man or womyn?  before we can ask such an optimistic question as 'what is a personal relationship?', we have to ask if a personal relationship is possible, or are persons possible in our present situation?  we are concerned with the possibility of man.  this question can be asked only through its facets.  is love possible?  is freedom possible?

whether or not all, or some, or no human beings are persons, i wish to define a person in a twofold way: in terms of experience, as a center of orientation of the objective universe; and in terms of behavior, as the origin of actions.  personal experience transforms a given field into a field of intention and action: only through action can our experience be transformed.  it is tempting and facile to regard 'persons' as only separate objects in space, who can be studied as any other natural objects can be studied.  but just as kierkegaard remarked that one will never find consciousness by looking down a microscope at brain cells or anything else, so one will never find persons by studying persons as thought they were only objects.  a person is the me or you, he or she, whereby an object is experienced.  are these centers of experience, and origins of actions, living in entirely unrelated worlds of their own composition?  everyone must refer here to their own experience.  my own experience as a center of experience and origin of action tells me that this is not so.  my experience and my action occur in a social field of reciprocal influence and interaction.

. . .

it is quite possible to study the visible, audible, smellable effulgences of human bodies, and much study of human behavior has been in those terms.  one can lump together very large numbers of units of behavior and regard them as a statistical population, in no way different from the multiplicity constituting a system of non-human objects.  but one will not be studying persons.  in a science of persons, i shall state as axiomatic that: behavior is a function of experience; and both experience and behavior are always in relation to someone or something other than self.

when two (or more) persons are in relation, the behavior of each towards the other is mediated by the experience by each of the other, and the experience of each is mediated by the behavior of each.  there is no contiguity between the behavior of one person and that of the other.  much human behavior can be seen as unilateral or bilateral attempts to eliminate experience.  a person may treat another as though he was not a person.  there is no contiguity between one person's experience and another.  my experience of you is always mediated through your behavior.  behavior that is the direct consequence of impact, as of one billiard-ball hitting another, or experience directly transmitted to experience, as in the possible cases of extra-sensory perception, is not personal. 

. . .

what we call 'normal' is a product of repression, denial, splitting, projection, introjection, and other forms of destructive action on experience.  it is radically estranged from the structure of being.

the more one sees this, the more senseless it is to continue with generalized descriptions of supposedly specifically schizoid, schizophrenic, hysterical 'mechanisms'.

. . .

experience is invisible to the other.  but experience is not 'subjective' rather than 'objective', not 'inner' rather than 'outer', not process rather than praxis, not input rather than output, not psychic rather than somatic, not some doubtful data dredged up from introspection rather than extrospection.  least of all is experience 'intra-psychic process'.  such transactions, object-relations, interpersonal relations, transference, counter-transference, as we suppose to go on between people are not the interplay merely of two objects in space, each equipped with ongoing intra-psychic processes.

this distinction between outer and inner usually refers to the distinction between behavior and experience; but sometimes it refers to some experiences that are supposed to be 'inner' in contrast to others that are 'outer'.  more accurately this is a distinction between different modalities of experience, namely, perception (as outer) in contrast to imagination etc. (as inner). but perceptions, imagination, phantasy, reverie, dreams, memory, are simply different modalities of experience, none more 'inner' or 'outer' than any others.

yet this way of talking does reflect a split in our experience.  we seem to live in two worlds, and many people are aware only of the 'outer' rump.  as long as we remember that the 'inner' world is not some space 'inside' the body or the mind, this way of talking can serve our purpose. . . the 'inner', then, is our personal idiom of experiencing our bodies, other people, the animate and inanimate world: imagination, dreams, phantasy, and beyond that to ever further reaches of experience.

. . .

men have, however, always been weighed down not only by their sense of subordination to fate and chance, to ordained external necessities or contingencies, but by a sense that their very own thoughts and feelings, in their most intimate insterstices, are the outcome, the resultant, of processes which they undergo.

a man can estrange himself from himself by mystifying himself and others.  he can also have what he does stolen from him by the agency of others.

if we are stripped of our experience, we are stripped of our deeds; and if our deeds are, so to say, taken out of our hands like toys from the hands of children, we are bereft of our humanity.  we cannot be deceived.  men can and do destroy the humanity of other men, and the condition of this possibility is that we are interdependent.  we are not self-contained monads producing no effects on each other except our reflections.  we are both acted upon, changed for good or ill, by other men; and we are agents who act upon others to affect them in different ways.  each of us is the other to the others.  man is a patient-agent, agent-patient, interexperiencing and interacting with his fellows.

it is quite certain that unless we can regulate our behavior much more satisfactorily than at the present, then we are going to exterminate ourselves.  but as we experience the world, so we act, and this principle holds even when action conceals rather than discloses our experience.

we are not able even to think adequately about the behavior that is at the annihilating edge.  but what we think is less than what we know: what we know is less than what we love: what we love is so much less than what there is.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

the end of the world

from hard-boiled wonderland and the end of the world by haruki murakami

"the wall is far too grand to capture on a map.  it is not static.  its pulse is too intense, its curves too sublime.  its face changes dramatically with each new angle.  an accurate rendering on paper cannot be possible.  i feel a futility in my attempt to do so in my sketchbook.
i shut my eyes to doze.  the wind swirls at an incessant pitch, but the trees and the wall offer protection from the chill.  i think about my shadow.  i think of the map he has asked for.  there is not much time left.
my map is lacking in precision and detail.  the inner reaches of the woods are a near blank.  but winter is almost here.  there will be less and less opportunity to explore further.  in the sketchbook i have drawn a general outline of the town, including the location of landmarks and buildings.  i have made annotations of facts i have learned.
it is not certain that the gatekeeper will allow me near my shadow, even as he has promised to let us meet once the days are shorter and my shadow is weaker.  now that winter is near, these conditions would seem surely to be fulfilled.
my eyes still closed, i think about the librarian.  i am filled with sadness, although i cannot locate the source of these feelings.
i have been seeing the librarian daily, but the void in me remains.  i have read the old dreams in the library.  she has sat beside me.  we have supped together.  i have walked her home.  we have talked of many things.  unreasonably, my sorrow only seems to grow, to deepen.  whatever is the loss becomes greater each time we meet.  it is a well that will never be filled.  it is dark, unbearably so.
i suppose these feelings are linked to forgotten memories.  i have sought for some connection in her.  i learn nothing in myself.  the mystery does not yield.  my own existence seems weak, uncertain.
i shake these convoluted thoughts from my head and seek out sleep.

i awake to find that the day is nearly over, that the temperature has dropped sharply.  i am shivering.  i pull my coat tight around me.  as i stand and brush off the grass, flakes of snow touch my cheek.  i look up.  the clouds are low, a forbidding gloom builds.  there is a flurry of large snowflakes drifting gently down.  winter is come.
before i begin my way back,  i steal one more glance at the wall.  beneath the snow-swept heavens, it rears up more stately, more perfect than ever.  as i gaze up at it, i feel them peering at me.  what are you doing here?  they seem to say.  what are you looking for?
questions i cannot answer.  the short sleep in the cold has consumed all warmth in me, leaving my head swimming with abstract shapes.  do i occupy the body of another?  everything is so ponderously heavy, so vague."

Friday, June 14, 2013

for this day

crept upwards behind the clock and the sheets.
the cat snuck in with an open door, quickly
left with a cry. bodies became a hot
mess, blurred breath & edges breathing.

i or you with sighted
fingers, this wet attention
stunned me. with eyes
and eyelashes, with whole
nudging mouth

all the pores open and we called it
let's just say it clearly,
it is what it


tingling, these tremors belie
an epic stillness. rawness
look like slowness when patience
looks like


that's who 
decided to keep
hidden under cryptic covers,

hold the lingering
with pillowcases of scent.

hours ago in these careful
sheets, with cautious eyes
and heavy breath. with cautious eyes
and heavy breath. with heavy breath and
cautious chest the wind around me
purrs and lifts

warm belly and electric skin


Thursday, June 13, 2013

so we can hold ourselves

they were a pronoun housed in a body floating down a river of saltwater.
don't we all wanted to be naked and unbothered

he didn't work, she didn't work, we were all together, many of them, the we, the they

is my sorrow more or less
is my sorrow real or religious
is my sorrow mine

it was a loose call that day, anyone could be seen by anyone
what suits to wear into the courtroom
what cabanas and beach

on a bad day, the stares
on a good day, the stares
in the country, out about
and around the city
eyes stab eyes make sore limbs
what space, what shrinking

under eyelids they could be a threat in a brain
not hard lines they will not participate
violence is a magnet leaned away from on the daily
to have these hips, to have this beard,
so we can hold our shoulders
this sweet face says

take real

make us



Wednesday, June 12, 2013

a perfect mess

by mary karr
I read somewhere
that if   pedestrians didn’t break traffic laws to cross
Times Square whenever and by whatever means possible,
the whole city
would stop, it would stop.
Cars would back up to Rhode Island,
an epic gridlock not even a cat
could thread through. It’s not law but the sprawl
of our separate wills that keeps us all flowing. Today I loved
the unprecedented gall
of the piano movers, shoving a roped-up baby grand
up Ninth Avenue before a thunderstorm.
They were a grim and hefty pair, cynical
as any day laborers. They knew what was coming,
the instrument white lacquered, the sky bulging black
as a bad water balloon and in one pinprick instant
it burst. A downpour like a fire hose.
For a few heartbeats, the whole city stalled,
paused, a heart thump, then it all went staccato.
And it was my pleasure to witness a not
insignificant miracle: in one instant every black
umbrella in Hell’s Kitchen opened on cue, everyone
still moving. It was a scene from an unwritten opera,
the sails of some vast armada.
And four old ladies interrupted their own slow progress
to accompany the piano movers.
each holding what might have once been
lace parasols over the grunting men. I passed next
the crowd of pastel ballerinas huddled
under the corner awning,
in line for an open call — stork-limbed, ankles
zigzagged with ribbon, a few passing a lit cigarette
around. The city feeds on beauty, starves
for it, breeds it. Coming home after midnight,
to my deserted block with its famously high
subway-rat count, I heard a tenor exhale pure
longing down the brick canyons, the steaming moon
opened its mouth to drink from on high ...

Monday, June 10, 2013

swim upstream

from an unentangled knowing by upasika kee nanayon

"in developing mindfulness as a foundation for probing in to know the truth within yourself, you have to apply a level of effort and persistence appropriate to the task."

"with some things - such as giving up addictions - you can mount a full-scale campaign and come out winning without killing yourself in the process.  but with other things, more subtle and deep, you have to be more perceptive so as to figure out how to overcome them over the long haul, digging up their roots so that they gradually weaken to the point where your mindfulness and discernment can overwhelm them."

"pleasure is more treacherous than pain because it's hard to fathom and easy to fall for."

"intelligent people, even though they see things clearly, always keep an eye out for the enemies lying in wait for them on the deeper, more subtle levels ahead.  they have to keep penetrating further and further in.  they have no sense that this or that level is plenty enough - for how can it be enough?  the defilements are still burning away, so how can you brag?  even though your knowledge may be true, how can you be complacent when your mind has yet to establish a foundation for itself?"

"if we turn within and discern the deceits and conceits of self, a profound feeling of disenchantment and dismay arises, causing us to pity ourselves for our own stupidity, for the amount to which we've deluded ourselves all along, and for how much effort we'll still need to put into the practice."

"to let go of anything, you first have to see its drawbacks.  if you simply tell yourself to let go, let go let go, you can't really let go. . . we haven't yet realized the heat of sensual passions, which is why we still like them so much.  even though every attachment is stressful by its very nature, we see it as good."

"this is because the mind has never grown weary of sensuality, hasn't developed any sense of renunciation, any desire to be free from sensuality.  it still like to lie soaking in sensuality.  if it gains sensual pleasure, it's satisfied.  if it doesn't, it gets angry and resentful."

"the type of dhamma that pokes at our sore points is something that goes against the grain with all of us.  this is because we don't like criticism.  we don't like being reprimanded.  we want nothing but praise and admiration, to the point where we swell up with air.  but people with real mindfulness and discernment don't want any of that.  they want to hear helpful criticism, helpful reprimands.  this is what it means to have discernment and intelligence: you know how to take criticism in an intelligent way."

"whenever we see stress, we see its truth.  when we see the cause of stress, we see its truth.  we both know and see because we've focused on it.  if you don't focus on stress, you won't know it; but as soon as you focus on it, you will.  it's because the mind hasn't focused here that it wanders out oblivious, chasing after its preoccupations."

"to practice the dhamma, then, is to go against the flow, to go upstream against suffering and stress, because suffering and stress are the main problems.  if you don't really contemplate stress, your practice will go nowhere.  stress is where you start, and then you try to trace out its root cause.  you have to use your discernment to track down exactly where stress originates, for stress is a result.  once you see the result, you have to track down the cause.  those who are mindful and discerning are never complacent.  whenever stress arises they're sure to search out its causes so that they can eliminate them.  this sort of investigation can proceed on many levels, from the coarse to the refined, and requires that you seek advice so that you don't stumble.  otherwise, you may think you can figure it all out in your head - which won't work at all!"

"the more you practice and contemplate, the more you become sensitive to this on deeper and deeper levels.  your interest in blatant things outside - good and bad people, good and bad things - gets swept away.  you don't have to concern yourself with them, for you're concerned solely with penetrating yourself within, destroying your pride and conceit."

"those who still latch on to the body, feeling, perceptions, thought-fabrications, and consciousness as self need to contemplate until they see that the body is stressful, feelings are stressful, perceptions are stressful, thought-fabrications are stressful, consciousness is stressful - in short, name is stressful and so is form, or in even plainer terms, the body is stressful and so is the mind.  you have to focus on stress."

"the reason we contemplate the body and mind over and over again is so that we won't feel desire for anything outside, won't get engrossed in anything outside.  the more you contemplate, the more things outside seem pitiful and not worth getting engrossed in at all."

Friday, June 7, 2013

stop and still

from an unentangled knowing by upasika kee nanayon

"you'll see with every mental moment that things disband, disband, disband - really nothing at all.  the important point is that you don't go forming issues out of nothing."

"if you keep watch on bare arising and disbanding like this, you're sure to arrive at insight.  but if you keep watch with labels - "that's the sound of a cow," "that's the bark of a dog" - you won't be watching the bare sensation of sound, the bare sensation of arising and disbanding.  as soon as there's labeling, thought-fabrications come along with it.  your senses of touch, sight, hearing and so forth will continue their bare arising and disbanding, but you won't know it.  instead, you'll label everything - sights, sounds, etc. - and then there will be attachments, feelings of pleasure and displeasure, and you won't know the truth."

"so when you turn to look inward, you shouldn't use concepts and labels to do your looking for you.  if you use concepts and labels to do your looking, there will be nothing but concepts arising, changing, and disbanding.  everything will get all concocted into thoughts - and then how will you be able to watch in utter silence? . . . if you carry all the paraphernalia of the concepts and standards you've gained from your learning to gauge things inside you, you can search to your dying day and yet won't meet with any real truths at all.  this is why you have to hold to only one theme in your practice.  if the mind has lots of themes to concern itself with, it's still just wandering around - wandering around to know this and that, going out of bounds without realizing it and not really wanting to know itself.  this is why those with a lot of learning like to teach others, to show off their level of understanding.  and this is precisely how the desire to stand out keeps the mind obscured."

"we need the discernment that comes with right view and the virtue that comes with self-discipline.  . . discernment is what enables you to know; virtue is what enables you to let go, to relinquish, to destroy your addictions.  virtue isn't just a matter of the five or eight precepts, you know.  it has to deal with the finest details.  whatever your discernment sees as a cause of suffering, you have to stop, you have to let go.  virtue is something that gets very subtle and precise.  letting go, giving up, renouncing, abstaining, cutting away, and destroying: all of these things are an affair of virtue."

"if we concoct very much of this 'me', we can get very angry.  just this fact alone should enable us to observe that as soon as our 'self' gets involved, we suffer immediately."

"if the mind is really stable in its concentration. . . desire won't be able to provoke it.  when concentration is stable, the fires of passion, aversion, and delusion won't be able to burn it.  try to see within yourself how the stability of the mind can withstand these things, disbanding the stress, putting out the flames."

"the practice is a matter of stopping so that the mind can settle down and stand fast. . . if you know the state of the mind when it's centered, immovable, no longer wavering, no longer weak, then the basic level of the mind will be free and empty - empty of the things that would burn it, empty because there's no attachment."

Thursday, June 6, 2013

poem-a-day #35

the slam, the pen
down there, the hand,
up here, the words.

it deserved a slap.

in a colorless
hollow ringing,
who? are? you

it was a silly question.

against windows, tall fingerprinted streaks
took out a few dinners, smeared
and cluttered the backroads, storms
away.  downed branches

outside, undistinguished
greens, there is one
pulse.  i put my fingers
to the wind and cough. all sky
ever did was open its
toothy mouth and drive.

gray matter in a rainy mouth.

i saw no fencepost to lean upon.
brains outgrew their nest,
one head was not enough.

was i scammed
was that pile of dust fragile

how?  and laughter. a moment

trapped between alone

i was never before

slammed in your face
state, slight glancing a silence

you miss your dream

by calling out "you"
by calling for answers


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

poem-a-day #32

wore me out, a living
trail near gardens of sound
with steep rock faces and
i sat near
you, barefoot, while
the empty alley rang quiet.
don't believe me.
i am a prop on a lawn
chair, reading a diagnosis
like a cookbook.  my mother
once tended the garden
of sound, i said, and she never
once sang


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

a flight and a return

quotes from the book the labyrinth of solitude by octavio paz

from "the pachuco and other extremes"

"his whole being is sheer negative impulse, a tangle of contradictions, an enigma.  even his very name is enigmatic: pachuco, a word of uncertain derivation, saying nothing and saying everything.  it is a strange word with no definite meaning; or, to be more exact, it is charged like all popular creations with a diversity of meanings."

 "the pachuco has lost his whole inheritance: language, religion, customs, beliefs.  he is left with only a body and a soul with which to confront the elements, defenseless against the stares of everyone.  his disguise is a protection, but it also differentiates and isolates him: it both hides him and points him out."

"one of the principles that rules in north american fashions is that clothing must be comfortable, and the pachuco, by changing ordinary apparel into art, makes it 'impractical'.  hence it negates the very principles of the model that inspired it.  hence its aggressiveness.
this rebelliousness is only an empty gesture, because it is an exaggeration of the models against which he is trying to rebel, rather than a return to the dress of his forebears or the creation of a new style of his own.  eccentrics usually emphasize their decision to break away from society - either to form new and more tightly closed groups or to assert their individuality - through their way of dressing.  in the case of the pachuco there is an obvious ambiguity: his clothing spotlights and isolates him, but at the same time it pays homage to the society he is attempting to deny."

"he knows that it is dangerous to stand out and that his behavior irritates society, but nevertheless he seeks and attracts persecution and scandal.  it is the only way he can establish a more vital relationship with the society he is antagonizing.  as a victim, he can occupy a place in the world that previously had ignored him; as a delinquent, he can become one of its wicked heroes.
i believe that the north american's irritation results from his seeing the pachuco as a mythological figure, and therefore, in effect, a danger.  his dangerousness lies in his singularity.  everyone agrees in finding something hybrid about him, something disturbing and fascinating.  he is surrounded by an aura of ambivalent notions: his singularity seems to be nourished by powers that are alternately evil and beneficient."

 "when he thrusts himself outward, it is not to unite with what surrounds him but rather to defy it.  this is a suicidal gesture, because the pachuco does not affirm or defend anything except his exasperated will-not-to-be.  he is not divulging his most intimate feelings: he is revealing an ulcer, exhibiting a wound.  a wound that is also a grotesque, capricious, barbaric adornment."

"but his solitude is vaster and profounder than his sense of inferiority.  it is impossible to equate these two attitudes: when you sense that you are alone, it does not mean that you feel inferior, but rather that you feel you are different.  also, a sense of inferiority may sometimes be an illusion, but solitude is a hard fact.  we are truly different.  and we are truly alone."

"our solitude has the same roots as religious feelings.  it is a form of orphanhood, an obscure awareness that we have been torn from the All, and an ardent search: a flight and a return, an effort to re-establish the bond that unite us with the universe."

"our cult of death is also a cult of life, in the same way that love is a hunger for life and a longing for death.  our fondness for self-destruction derives not only from our masochistic tendencies but also from a certain variety of religious emotion."

"it is possible that what we call 'sin' is only a mythical expression of our self-consciousness, our solitude.  i remember that in spain during the civil war i had a revelation of 'the other man' and of another kind of solitude: not closed, not mechanical, but open to the transcendent."