"Lotus Opening" by L. Folk

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Conviction, Pupas, and the Proverbial Axe to Grind

May 22, 2011

This morning I found myself asking myself that age old question: what is the purpose of being a writer, anyway? And I gave myself that age old answer: the purpose of being a writer is to rid yourself of swamp mind, of the ambiguous, the gray, to pronounce your words with clarity and conviction. To achieve the miraculous voice of unique self despite all the other amalgams of voices speaking in your ear. Also, to create, to have those solitary moments of creative radiance where you feel as if you are communing with something higher than yourself. What is that thing? What the hell is that? God? The ethos of life, death, past, future, hope, despair, empathy? Think about a Greek woman during Homer's time, is she so different from yourself? Is her mind's energy still coagulating somewhere in the atmosphere? Maybe you are privy to it, maybe not. What about the criminals besides Christ on the cross, is their energy up there too? And the Jews at Auschwitz? And the Haitians under the rubble of the earthquake and the Japanese who swallowed the tide? You tap into stories in the ethos and you are part of something greater. You leave your own words behind. Sometimes people read them, sometimes they don't; either way, it's still a connection, a mile marker of where you've been.
I look back at stuff I wrote in my late twenties and early thirties and I cringe. But this is dumb. I can't blame myself for being a pupa, a worm, an adolescent brimming with bravado. Now I have been cut and carved and I have even more things to say. When I write a sentence that rings true, I am successful as a writer. If someone reads it and gasps and steps on that ground of empathy with me, I am doubly successful.

So I have had this blow, this infertile awakening. There is a good possibility I may not have a child. What then? says mind. What now? What is my purpose, anyway? I don't have any answers to this. The Buddhist would ask, why would you want an answer, it's only a lie. No one officially has a purpose; it's all just an illusion. But I need a stick to measure myself up against. I can't help it. Go and be, says the old Buddhist monk sitting on my shoulder. Go and be what? I ask. No, you're not getting it. For the fifty millionth time, just go and be.
If I can't be anything else, I'll measure myself by my sentences.
So we to to Europe today to visit the Alsace region and view charming castles and villages. I keep thinking of the plane blowing up do to someone with an axe to grind. Listen, terrorist, or freedom fighter, or whatever you call yourself, we all have axes to grind. What I say to you and to me, and everyone else is, let's bury that goddamn hatchet. I promise to listen. I am a fairly good listener for an American. Really. I know what it's like not to be heard. I read Three Cups of Tea and loved it. I'm not your enemy. No one is, aside from your own corrupt thoughts. But I have corrupt thoughts too. It happens to those who are not heard, who are marginalized.  Maybe if you reach into the ethos and I reach into the ethos, we can read each others stories.  You can see how I am not so very different.
Seriously, there's got to be a better way.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The World of Vapor

To deal with these avatars wearing scarlet letters: first, create stories. In these, they shall live. Sure they will be altered slightly, sure they are collages of truth, intermixed with perception. So what. These are the stuffs mythology is made of and mythology is a way for the dead to live opn. Second, follow traditions of the old and create ones of the new. This is what makes the flow of life a continuum and gives grief a place to channel its energy.

Josie and I walked in the woods today among the burgeoning green and the mist. It was sumptuous and alive and I thought to myself, even the vapor droplets are lovers, here. The ferns put on quite a display with their fronds unfolding upward. They were curiously vertical, not yet unfolded and appeared almost as elegant green spouts. The woods, this time of year, seems to me a grand organism professing green, professing the earth's answer to sun and water. And yet, I have stayed in my house and looked out and cursed this damp, rainy, gray weather. I have gone so far as to worry about it and wonder if moving will someday be a necessity. Then I just said, fuck it, I'm going out, and I put on my rain gear and into the woods I went and I found that the woods were happy, even though I was a grump, and it's happiness started to affect me. The dancing fronds, the offerings of buds to the air, the hush of rain was not inherently gloomy. 
You know, if you commune with these gray days, you'll begin to see there are actual variances within the gray. The sky will brighten, at times, to almost a glowing white. Your heart skips a beat, thinking perhaps there will be a clearing. Then it darkens again, just slightly, and you plummet. This is the world of vapor, light and everything else is commanded by it. Maybe it too his its secrets worthy of reckoning.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Religion of Poetry and the Interface of Heartache and Disease

May 15, 2011

The warriorship continues. It is a constant battle to proclaim centeredness, or rather, arrange for centeredness. This morning I finally went back to the mat, to the bolster, to the tree after a long absence. Immediately I thought of the people I met last night at the Poetry Festival and was thankful to connect with them. Meeting these bright souls who electrify my heart, who are compassionate and reach out in their work, who have given their ego a chair, who have the scars of time on their faces, who have fallen and risen and fallen and risen again, who still tend the fires of life in their gut, is like communion, is recognizing the recognizable God amongst the throngs.
I have been writing a lot of poetry lately. Through writing this blog, I have found my own sacred words. I have mentored myself. I am less concerned with “the auction of the mind” as Emily Dickinson puts it. She was the last writer we discussed in my American lit class and when I came across this verse, I felt validated. I explained to the class how, despite Dickinson's family joining the First Church of Christ, she remained wary of religion. And then out it leapt from my mouth, “Poetry was her religion.” So if it's good enough for E.D, it's good enough for me. Fiction may be my craft, but poetry is my religion.
I thought perhaps I should have my own definition of what poetry is to me. There must be evidence of craft and evidence of spirit. There must be poignancy of image and/or emotion; there should be an element of surprise or deep recognition that makes the reader gasp. That makes the poet gasp.

I dreamt last night of my uncle and aunt who have become somewhat estranged to us. I wrote this poem:

I dream of you, the estranged.
I dream of putting my arms around you
walking with you and laughing.
We breathe the breath of reconciliation,
can speak to one another without
the blade severing our throats and hearts.
Oh, be God, you whom I have lost, too.
Be present with me now.
Sit with me, tell me the names of your
children, let us drink and reminisce
of yesteryear when all the pieces
fit to place.

Here is another poem:

This is how I feel
when God is in the room
the four walls fall flat,
my heart, a bird, ascends
with wings outstretched,
my lips direct upward, part,
speak the name.

I have been thinking a lot about memory. It blooms inside me with a whiff of lilacs or garlic; there, my grandfather at the table with a nutcracker in his hands, my grandmother in her apron, my aunt with her long black hair and low rise jeans, my mother catering to her kids, my father in front of a heaping plate, my uncle smelling sweet and manly, my other uncle cracking jokes. I think of the mystery of death and how my mind grapples with it at night, how the dead are alive in my dreams, but they are tainted. Scarred. It's as if they are wearing a scarlet letter we cannot see. Then I think about my grandmother's last ten years of life, how she was robbed of memory and I wondered what that landscape looked like. Do you live in the moment without memory? Without expectation and fantasy? Do you see the trees? I remember my grandmother crying for my Aunt Lauretta while she was downstairs in the rocking chair in front of the television set. I did not know what to say to her, a woman who had lost her child. Was it this memory that relinquished all memories?
We can only speculate at the interface of heartache and disease.