Saturday, November 27, 2010


Those who have been following this blog already know what I will quickly sketch for new readers who might need some background.  Nothing deep, just that during the last four years I’ve shared “life trajectories” with Tim Barrus and Cinematheque, his art school for boys at risk because of AIDS and the many other syndemic factors in their lives.  I didn’t travel but ransacked my library, my Divinity School notes, and the Internet to understand the daily bulletins I got and to respond or pass on ideas about things rarely discussed.

Tim and I began to write together -- not merged sentences, but responding posts -- and then Tim took flight into vlogs, merging video with print, spoken word, music.  At present our separate routines are that I produce my blog every morning and he generally posts a vlog towards suppertime.  I’m on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana and you’ll see from his images that he’s in Appalachia.  The boys have retreated to a distant and ancient monastic hospice where the dying can be protected.  It might seem that our work has no connection, but under the surface we are all heart-merged.

Blackfeet kids where I am can feel the knife of stigmatism.  Society handles people it doesn’t know in one of several ways:  demonizing them, making noble heroes out of them, simply ignoring them so they are invisible, or eliminating them by straightforward war or by economic snuffing.  ("Stop existing," says the world, so they hang themselves.)  All these things happen to Tim and the boys.  AIDS and avascular necrosis are killing Tim the same as the others because society would like them to just disappear.  But they don’t go quietly.

Two things have changed more than Tim and I.  One is that the boys who have managed to stay alive have become men and able to protect themselves.  I DO put them in the category of noble heroes.  They’ve given up their pillow fights.  Now they are building a boat and sewing its sails.  Literally.

The other is that we were writers and we thought writing was a way out of stigma, but we were wrong because writing in the sense of print has exploded.  The big publishing houses had already been bought by conglomerates, morally and aesthetically gutted in the name of profit.  But electronic communication on small screens completely changed the game.  All the middlemen (often female) who used to shape and guide writing are obsolete.  Now “books” are somewhere between a music video and a computer game and authors might be anyone, publishing directly to the reader just as I am now.

Conventional print is not gone, beautifully made books will never be obsolete, but the internet has totally collapsed the previous business models of how to make a profit by cornering value.  Our commodity-driven society is challenged.  This material is supra-national, just like the international corporations that cannot be regulated or taxed by nations.  This writing does not respond to old cultural rules about morality or politics.  These writers don’t care about best-selling or prizes.  The previous generation of critics is gone.  “Success,” whatever that is, is now “viral.”  Like AIDS.  And as deadly.  But always with the possibility of healing, a scourge of renewal.

I no longer am interested in one “religion” or another.  I want to know the roots of religion in the human brain and the planetary landscape, because maybe then I’ll know what to say to boys living under a curse and a man who just won’t stop singing. 

I’m posting the url to Tim’s current work, but open it at your peril.  This particular post is very beautiful and even serenely mystical, but it is like that swan you see, gliding so effortlessly.  Under the surface much is happening, not pretty.  If you move to other posts in this series, you may run across things you wish you had NOT seen, things normally forced into invisibility.  This is not Facebook now, where Tim played nice for a while.  (

Below is the print version of what Tim says in this post.  There’s a lot of swan imagery at the moment: economic black swans, ballet swans.  In England a swan is a symbol of death and a figurine of a swan in the window means someone in the household has died.  But this is a more mysterious vision.


people ask me what this is/ this is an orbitlogue/ what’s an orbitlogue/ as if my life could be driven by a comet’s tail and fitted to a frame/ and put each identity into separate drawers and bandaged moments/ nor does the night forget a lamp bearing at the very least a single spark and at times the blazing enormity of a sun/ poetry and music/ dancing and a silent sky/ the dead and the circumference in between/ go to the bottom of the page and you’ll find the next next and the next as near as memory allows/ it’s memory and mortality whose epoch has a basis here/ how good to be in the shadow of the tombs among these realms of orchards in the fog/ my blue lake’s arithmetic as quiet as a syllable/ to analyze perhaps the boys who arrive to throw stones into the middle of the pond at absolutely nothing. now, there’s an orbitlogue — the photographs of nothing might yet reply by way of confiscated gods such conviction as he fathoms who expends himself in this comet’s harrowing whip and snap that sweeps the bones away/ you go to the bottom and click the next and the next and the next in the revelation that you, too, sing eternity obtained in time where despair cannot win for want and poverty will not keep the dark away/ what is an orbitlogue/ all the small desires of record according to the sums and souls we connect the faces to the perished to, and to their own remembering each coffin is a paradise of first repose as frost is best conceived in cold as vicarious conviction will punctuate all the fires you could carry in your arms to keep the birds in place but paradise will fly away/ and we will rebuild yet another morning out of nothing more than sheer audacity/ what is an orbitlogue/ the latitude and the longitude asserts a prism whose wilderness suspends all the colors of us in a final yielding to the terrible tyranny invisibility shudders to attain/

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