Birds are singing loud in Virginia. Some are in Spanish.
Así así – Así así – Así así – Así así
(They repeat because they have something important to say And they might get drowned out by their neighbor in the cedar). If they don’t repeat like a sweet little broken record no one will know what they hold in their hearts. (Their time for singing is brief you know.) My gift right now is knowing nothing about birds So everything about them seems like a miracle. Just for example, that some speak Spanish. Many come from far away like me I am from Vermont where the birds mute themselves. I sing too. My songs come from deep inside And they are simple.
No entiendo – No entiendo – No entiendo – No entiendo
That is my default song. It changes from season to season And decade to decade. I used to sing very loudly. When I was 30 and 40 I sang:
Salve el planeta! – Salve el planeta! – Salve el planeta! – Salve el planeta!
Now I sing:
Querido Dios (dear god) – Querido Dios – Querido Dios – Querido Dios – Dame un sueño! (give me a dream!)
That is my sweet broken record these days:
Querido Dios – Dame un sueño!
Thoughts / a correspondence:
Ron Ridenour: So SAD and so SORRY — because of what just happened in Ecuador where the good guy (Andrés Arauz, a 36-year-old leftist) who could have helped “salve el planeta” (save the planet) a la Gary, lost to one of the U.S. candidates, lover of greedy capitalism and destroyer of the planet (Guillermo Lasso). The birds who sing in Spanish (not only in Ecuador but also in Virginia) and the poet who sings in Spanish “no entiendo” — Exactly. Me too.”I don’t understand” either. How f–king stupid so many human beings are today (yesterday too, but it seems more so today, especially since the 1930s, 1960-70s). This f–king long-live-consumerism-and-identity politics is ruining everything else.
Me to Ron: Been away visiting fam in our new camper, hence my poem about birds in Virginia. When I wrote it the birds were exactly as you said, emissaries from far to the south with important news in Spanish awakening my own bird-nature. Sometimes this country (with so much unrealized potential) just makes me so sad (!!), my poems have to work hard to track hope, especially when it isn’t anywhere close to be found. I was in Virginia, which is as beautiful as VT in places, but the further south I go the darker the American shadow (which I am not going to unpack here or name) . . . The relief I feel in corresponding with kindred folk comes from not having to explain everything, because we share a common back-story of resistance and standing up for certain values and principles. When I write poems I trust my intuitions and you know what Jung said about birds in dreams? He said they symbolize our intuitions.
Reflection: When I wrote this poem, as Ron surmised, I was not thinking of the tragic outcome of the election in Ecuador. And maybe that’s part of the problem with Americanism, that we (whoever “we” is) are profoundly out of touch with the rest of the world, which is why our government can get away with so much shit, through direct intervention and by proxy internationally. This poem is hopeful in that the birds awaken me to my far-flying intuitions, but they are singing in Spanish. In a way that makes total sense to me, even though it is very sad, that I can’t converse with my own intuitions because I am such a victim of my ethnocentricity, I need a translator to understand my own intuitive bird-nature.
Birds singing rising Cows sunning singing Sun rising singing
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Just a thought:
Virginia might be for lovers but Vermont is for people who love Vermont, i.e., long winters, short summers, arguably one of the best places for writing, albeit I’m not sure the sun or the cows sing there. When I go back there I will have to listen closer (with my hearing aids on). This poem starts with 3 conventional descriptive lines and segues to a more psychedelic landscape more like the The Land of Submarine with everything singing and rising and shining.
What is the difference between DDT And Glyphosate? There is no difference.
Not to me anyway. And I’m not thinking about how They both cause cancer
And slowly kill us. That’s just the tip of the iceberg! Neither is it that both
Are the darlings of industrial agriculture. Love is blind. But don’t judge. How do you be objective about something
That’s In your muscles and bones Your blood and brain? You don’t have to listen to this,
Coming from someone with chronic Lyme. After all, whatever I say might just Be the Lyme talking!
Or it might be the caffeine of my coffee, Or it might be a bitter karmic spirit Tickling some obscure lobe of my brain.
I confess, I ate a clementine yesterday And glyphosate started whispering, “There, there, admit it, you love me.
You need me, I am your darling Stop worrying so much. When you die it won’t be from me.”
I should have known by now, Being an American: When you Debate with a poison, you lose.
This poem comes out of a place of . . . rancor? Sometimes I have to write a poem just to draw a line, a magical poetic line, between me and what is fomenting my antipathy, to differentiate between the space I occupy and the repulsiveness of whatever is pissing me off, and these days there is a lot out there that is pissing me off and repelling me. I am not into writing poems just to create solidarity around an issue that is pissing me off or distressing me . That would be very selfish. There are lots of poems that are like that, but I don’t save them and I certainly don’t post them. What keeps this poem from being a sour-grapes dead-beat poem is the last stanza:
I should have known by now, Being an American: When you Debate with a poison, you lose.
When I wrote those lines, the feeling was, Oh, so that’s what this poem is about. It’s about how you can’t win when you are treating a poison with the respect that you would grant a worthy opponent in a debate or some kind of contest. Trying to explain why you despise something that is obviously toxic and deadly is to enter into a universe where any number of terrible things are tolerated because to admit intolerance of the toxic or deadly thing means that you are taking a moral stand and then everything has to change. I think we all know what I am trying to say here. If we stopped being tolerant of things like glyphosate, we would be drawing line after line in the sand, calling out the toxic, announcing that we are no longer willing to debate or shadow-box with the intolerable, which is what we have all been doing for decades, but we’re ending the relationship once and for all. So, yes, as an American, this is something I have learned, and it certainly doesn’t make my life any easier: When you debate with a poison you lose.
Some like to test the acuity of their brain To see if they are losing any powers of cognition, But I have watched more than just cognition wane From coast to coast across this fogged-in nation. It used to be smog that made it hard to breathe But now it’s something else that steals my breath. May I interest you in a cool drink from the Lethe? And what’s that dreadful knocking? I feel like MacBeth! Knock, knock. Who’s there? My soul? Or maybe it’s my conscience or my heart. I was guilty of forgetting, but now I’m on parole, So Knock, knock. Who’s there? A fresh start? I’ve served time in this prison of shitty kharma. It might be time to embrace a different dharma.
Thoughts about writing sonnets:
Writing sonnets, for me, opens a special part of my brain that is just for writing sonnets. I’m glad that I’ve discovered that about myself. I wouldn’t have tried my hand at it if not for John Hawkins, who, in addition to having a cool name, is a very gifted and prolific writer and poet whose postings can be found on https://www.opednews.com.
He just announced today that he is challenging himself to write a sonnet a day for a year. I highly recommend reading him. You will probably, like me, be inspired by his many gifts, not least of which is his seemingly boundless wit.
A reflection on what is meant by “dharma”:
When we are living our lives in reaction to things that have happened to us or things in our personalities that were genetically down-loaded (i.e., “he has his grandfather’s temper. . .”I come from a broken home”. . .”I was a foster child”.). . .that is our karma, and this, for most people, defines the first half of life, if you want to divide life into two “halves”. (We can transform our karma with hard work during our lives, but if we just accept our karma (or “lot” in life) we are living under its yoke and “fate” becomes the most powerful force in our lives. (Things just “happen” to us.)
But at some point something shifts. Maybe for some folks it is when they have kids or they quit a stifling job or they move to Vermont from a city! When we begin to live by future causes then there is a sea change and we begin see a path into the future unfold and karma is no longer the dominant factor in our lives. We begin to explore our “dharma”. Now read this couplet:
I’ve served time in this prison of shitty kharma.
It might be time to embrace a different dharma.
I pulled some books from my library to get a good definition of dharma to help us understand what this couplet is saying:
Dharma might be thought of as: The ultimate value or meaning of one’s life that can “dawn on one” via a vision or in the course of following a path or practice, that can change the course of one’s life. But it is not “the” or “a” path (such as the path of Buddhism) unless it is experienced as your unique path of the flowering of your own Buddha nature. (Riding the Ox Home Willard Johnson)
Another way of thinking of dharma: A dawning of the fullness of one’s dharma can awaken one from one’s habitually cherished way of thinking (rut) . . .The dharma may be “devoid of substance” and yet powerful enough to awaken a vision of another world or another world of possibilities. But the dharma is nothing if not personal that might be experienced as “growing out of oneself” (or one’s old self), as opposed to having some new awareness being “poured into” one. (Essays in Zen Buddhism D.T Suzuki)
The dharma arises not from the assimilation of a wisdom or teaching leading to a practice but it arises from continuous and never-ceasing inner growth that manifests as one’s way or path. (Essays in Buddhism D.T. Suzuki)
At a certain point in life, because of a synchronicity or a culmination of chance events, we arrive at an intersection where we can choose to step onto a path that is our unique path. For a Jungian it means “individuating”. For a Native American it means “taking one’s power“. For a Buddhist it means fulfilling one’s dharma.
In this poem I am peeling myself away from associating with the bad karma of the United States so that I might walk my own Dharma-path.
Again: “The dharma arises not from the assimilation of a wisdom or teaching leading to a practice but it arises from continuous and never-ceasing inner growth that manifests as one’s way or path.”
Stay here as my guest You’ll be in good hands Trance is not difficult
Can teach us nothing Though his eyes were open In the middle of the night
Watched in dumb shock Some things don’t translate Under existing conditions
His toes were webbed As we have discussed To get the children smiling
Filled with animal noises I sang in the high mass To meet the bear
We had to go naked To the great mountains Passed a burning house
Eaten up with fury Robin’s eggs and diamonds Something fresh and new
All the props and sets Living with his choices Either of his horses
Some sort of compensation That’s most of us these days Mad-rattling his shields
Fought hard for the sun You may get thrown In another darker story
Came at me like a tornado From now on It wouldn’t have mattered
For so many centuries Yielding up a vivid miniature Behind all such moments
We finally gave up Another space and time Use to tirelessly repeat
Came to my house With only inner traces Taken as a whole
When it was over Sufficient time had elapsed There is only the spiral
High pitch of feeling Whispered to him, saying Why do you draw back?
Pulled back the blankets Why do you draw back? Whispered to him, saying
In their complex hearts At their council Blooming in secret
Saddened by the closure His face was hot More than a game
Straight spout of black There was a poem called Tear down your house
And all the rest Tear down your house The sorrow that he knew
The metal-walled community I returned to them Bore him along the horizon
Not vanishing then He listened to her words He tried to speak
Standing on a bridge They assumed he was gone Deeply held things
He had half-promised Needing some kind of mirror I write these pages
Took a deep breath Have dared to dream It poured hard all night
Tucked it under his arm Once you have touched it I’m going to mail it
Then fall into and sleep In contemplating oldness I feel such tiredness
Close-fitting grey hat Around those dead cells Watching them leave
For the time being The trinket was passed around They only seemed to retreat
Not a little nettled One can imagine that Sufficient time had elapsed
I am no longer young We picked up the pace Your own story grows
The lonely darkness He went through the motions Responsible as the stars
From every possible angle Harmonize the art Surprised you remember how
The Real Wrexham G. Daves The Magnificent Obsession L.C. Douglas Gilgamesh — A Verse Narrative Mason How the Irish Saved Civilization T. Cahill Endless Path R. Martin And a Voice to Sing With J. Baez The Drummer’s Path S. G. Wilson The Golem I. B. Singer Albert Einstein In His Own Words Einstein
So what is this poem about? I think it is about the responsibility (?) the burden (?) the other responsibilities of the shamanic poet, or poet-as-shaman.
The last stanza says it all: (In) The lonely darkness / He went through the motions / Responsible as the stars / From every possible angle / (to) Harmonize the art / Surprised you remember how
The poet evolves through many selves, many “I”s, not just in a lifetime but sometimes in the course of a single day. The worldly one who brings in the wood or washes the dishes or makes dinner, isn’t of much use when it comes to writing a poem like “From now on, we”. In the last line he is talking to himself. He is always surprised that he remembers how to “harmonize the art”. The “art” is, of course, the writing of this kind of open-ended, soul-liberating poem that enters upon unexplored territory outside of my familiar beat. The “lonely darkness” is the self-imposed blindness of starting out in the pitch dark of uncharted space, inching my way along, feeling for objects, peering into the darkness for any kind of illumination.
I have written about this technique of repurposing fragments of sentences extracted from books pulled from my library. The justification for the invention of this “oracular” technique derives from the assumption that what we already know isn’t working, that conventional metaphors aren’t getting us to where we need to go fast enough, the assumption that time is short . . . That, if poets can manage it, they should use their art to journey shamanically, to press into the darkness, to “burn down the house” where you have been hanging your poetic hat. “Tear down” your poetic address and get naked to “meet the bear” in the great mountains. The challenge is, if one has it in them to be a shamanic poet, don’t wait. This would be the time.
The first day of Spring Is not March 21. It is whenever the muddy road Yanks my car back and forth As it struggles to get me home. It is when the snow has melted But only on the south-facing hillsides. It is when I go for a walk And have to zip up my coat in the shade, Unzip it in the sun, And carry it up the hill. It is when the voice of the brook Turns lilting And wood smoke Hangs over the neighborhood. It is when I hear the trill Of the Red Winged Blackbird And when I catch myself whistling Some carefree nameless tune. It is when, Somewhere around this time, Most likely on a walk, I allow myself to believe It’s here.
This poem was “written” on a walk. I should say conceived. It is a list poem. All of the signs of real Spring were things I was experiencing on the walk except for the wood smoke hanging over the neighborhood, but that was so vivid in my mind’s eye that I couldn’t leave it out.Two of my favorite list poems are Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and Edmund Spencer’s Faerie Queen, which was required reading in my Renaissance Lit class in grad school. In both of these works listing is the poet’s way to channel ecstasy, the ecstasy of their overwrought, overflowing imaginations. In my poem it is simply a device to help myself remember the images in the proper order so I could jot everything down when I got back to my car at the end of my walk. I was reciting it aloud of course as I walked. Lists are a natural aid to oral recitation.
Spenser invites all the great rivers of the world to the Bridal Feast — last but not least, the rivers of Ireland. (I think it was these stanzas that inspired T.S. Eliot to personify the Thames in his Dry Salvages, Four Quartets): “I think that the river / Is a strong brown god”. (Four Quartets — Dry Salvages)
Here is Spenser:
There was the Liffy Lolling downe the lea;
The sandy Slane; the stony Aubrian;
The spacious Shenan spreading like the sea;
The pleasant Boyne; the fishy fruitful Ban;
Swift Awniduff which of the English man
Is cal’de Blacke-water, and the Liffar deep;
Sad Trowis that once his people over-ran;
Strong Allo tumbling from Slewlogher steep;
And Mulla mine whose waves I whilom taught to weep.