Saturday, February 08, 2014


This morning when I first woke and stumbled into my front room, which is all shelves of books, I looked around and realized the books were all “blogs” compressed and captured on thin leaves of paper that had some kind of order, then captured again between two boards covered with fabric that made a hinge at the back, according to the subject and writer. . . Then the vision dispersed and again I was looking at books resting on edge along boards I’d nailed together to support them.

Crackers and Squibs

The Tiny Mite, the runt who is always ravenous.

This house exists to protect these books, plus two assortments of cats: two fat “marmots” who are ten years old and live indoors, plus four ferals -- the mother, two toms and a crippled female calico who live in my back garage like foxes.  I make them beds but they prefer holes under the floor.  I’ve never been able to pet them except once I touched the Tiny Mite (the small gray striped runt tom) and it was like touching smoke, dispersing while hardly leaving a sensation.  By contrast, the indoor cat the color of a ritz cracker sleeps on my left arm and is so heavy that by morning the arm has gone numb as as though a lover had slept there.  She does love me in her patronizing way.  She thinks I’m a kitten, very large but able to open cat food cans.  

I think I’m a writer and so that’s what I do.  But what I thought was publishing no longer exists, so I just blog.  I’m a backwards version of the princess in Rumplestilskin who spun straw into gold -- I spin life into print.  The images I tuck in are just equivalent to little marginal illuminations.  They are prettier than the print and the print is far far brighter than my inner life, which slips focus back and forth with my practical real life, sometimes dark, sometimes sunny.  Always curious.

In the Sixties my step-son-in-law, Butch DeSmet, ran this service station.

In real life I try to be a contributor to progress, attending town council meetings, responding to inquiries about Bob Scriver’s sculpture, translating the notes from undergrad theatre classes for the archive about Alvina Krause, and growing my old M.Div thesis into a guide for creating intense experience -- no longer attached to dogma or institution, but far from being “woo.”  I do barely enough maintenance to keep this house from collapsing or getting me fined for tall grass.  I love this shack and find it is as convenient as I’d hoped, but it’s generally a mess.

Mostly, like Tim, I try to work through the issues in my life by writing.  I've been saving them all this time.  Like him, I try not to provide TMI, and like him, I know how to provide clues that are entirely misleading.  It’s all part of the game.  But I did live a life on the edge, just not on the same terms as he did.  It would seem pretty tame to some but it had its colorful moments.

The cold brings back full force the winter nights sleeping in my old van on a space blanket in a sleeping bag, clandestinely parked off on a spur road or between a warehouse loading dock and a railroad.  Always I was traveling, sometimes as a circuit rider and others just going somewhere.  I’d lie very still and straight, waiting for my body heat to catch up, waiting for my mind to stop wheeling through the sky and land in the tree of sleep where branches made paths for dreams.

One of the lessons from Tim’s writing is the use of the irreconcilable in both metaphor and meaning.  If one says, “bitter honey” or “scalding ice”, the brain stops its whirling and tries to understand the contradiction.   Some people will just skip it.  Others will stop and mark the phrase as “poetry” or something like that.  "Not literal."  The trick is to be insoluble, but suggestive, so that the brain finds an answer of its own.  So if I say I am a “cosmic recluse who consorts with the grass,” you’ll decide what it means but the meaning is elusive.  There is no scientific replicability or unanimity.  

If I say water has three states: vapor, liquid and solid, this is a scientific fact and the shift among the states will happen at certain temperatures except under certain other relevant forces that can be thought of and tested.  But it’s likely that you have experienced all three states.  I just brought in the feral cats’ saucepan of frozen water and put it on the stove to reduce it back to liquid.  I just put on the teakettle for coffee and listened for the vapor state to signal its boiling.  So then if I say that God is like that, you’ll have something to feel, think about, even manage -- but without any scientific basis because the idea of God is irreconcilable, irreducible, insoluble.  That's the secret.  That was often the tree where my mind roosted as my body lay stiff and straight in that van and a white cloud of breath formed above my face.  Not so much about God as about the world, so I left the ministry.

A book is more like water, but a blog is more like steam than a book.  Silence is ice.  It is the thought that is irreconcilable, immutable.  For a long time I kept a poem by Georgie Starbuck, about a man who was “sheveled, kempt and couth” -- words created by removing the prefixes.  No one even remembers her now, but she actually made a living as a poet, which she accomplished by using more than 125 pseudonyms.  In fact, she was actually a man.   His prodigious, prestidigious manipulation of words was dazzling but his major contribution to our society was stubbornness.  “Starbuck, who was born in 1931, is actually the reason loyalty oaths are illegal in the United States. When the State University of New York-Buffalo fired him in 1963 for refusing to sign one, he fought the university all the way to the Supreme Court and prevailed.”  One does not often meet a poet with the potential to change the country.  Not all poets are steely enough to engage it.

So sometimes I want to show animity, conciliability, ducibility, solubility.  I want to rip off all the prefixes and maybe now I’ll go back and rip off those monkey-tail suffix “y’s” because there are too many “y’s” in the world and not enough core meanings: anime, concile, mute, duct, soluble.  Too much aping of the Latinate and not enough walking in the grass or even parking in the trees.  

Here’s a George Starbuck poem:

"For an American Burial," 
The earth is fair;
all that the earth demands is the earth's share;
all we embrace and revel in and vow
never to lose, always to hold somehow,
we hold of earth, in temporary care.

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