I have a friend who once described his ex girlfriend as a “flesh and blood girl”. He said it in a way that seemed to include her among an elite group of individuals – a rare breed of intensely human lovers who can weave a complicated twine around your heart. I know what he was talking about. I have known people like this in my life. They are brave and terrifying and I’m glad they move among us.
I have another friend who once referred to the late Robert Creeley’s poetry as “skin and bones” poetry. He used that description to try to explain why he likes the poetry so much. With this phrase, my friend expresses his feeling that Creeley’s poetry is somehow removed from the cannon of contemporary works that attach themselves to a rigorous apparatus of linguistically innovative poetries.
I’m pretty sure I know what he was talking about as well. It’s about the Power of the daily mundane, the hyper familiar, or as he put it, the “common place”, to catch us by surprise by reminding us that that familiar thing we know as home can sometimes be the most foreign place on earth.
May 21, 1926 – March 30, 2005
Now I recognize
it was always me
like a camera
set to expose
itself to a picture
or a pipe
through which the water
or a chicken
dead for dinner
or a plan
inside the head
of a dead man.
Nothing so wrong
when one considered
how it all began.
It was Zukofsky’s
“Born very young into a world
already very old…”
The century was well along
when I came in
and now that it’s ending,
I realize it won’t
But couldn’t it all have been
a little nicer,
as my mother’d say. Did it
have to kill everything in sight,
did right always have to be so wrong?
I know this body is impatient.
I know I constitute only a meager voice and mind.
Yet I loved, I love.
I want no sentimentality.
I want no more than home.
During his travels in China, Marco Polo misidentified a rhinoceros as a Unicorn because of its horn. The rhinoceros was unknown in his world at the time, but the mythological creature he believed he had found was very familiar within his immediate context. It was easier for him to force what he saw to fit what he knew than it was for him to reconceptualize his objectives. Marco Polo wrote of his discovery…
“scarcely smaller than elephants. They have the hair of a buffalo and feet like an elephant’s. They have a single large black horn in the middle of the forehead… They have a head like a wild boars…They spend their time by preference wallowing in mud and slime. They are very ugly brutes to look at. They are not at all such as we describe them when we relate that they let themselves be captured by virgins, but clean contrary to our notions.”
We can not say Marco Polo lied about his Unicorn. But in order to tame the madness, which threatens to explode in the face of whoever looks at it, we must acknowledge his mistake. The Heart has its secrets – the sun, storms, volcanoes, and wounds, self-consciously idolatrous, coherent in it’s own contradictions, which for us express the force of a desire.
I found the below text on the web somewhere. The photo is my pool rock star friend Erika.
In one episode of ‘Cheers’, Cliff is seated at the bar describing the ‘Buffalo Theory’ to his buddy Norm. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the concept explained any better than this…
“Well you see, Norm, it’s like this… A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo and when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members. In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Now, as we know, excessive drinking of alcohol kills brain cells. But naturally, it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine. And that, Norm, is why you always feel smarter after a few beers.”
There is an old man who walks up and down my street every day, all day long and into the night. He maneuvers along an intricate path, charted with precision on a secret map that is tucked safely away somewhere in his unconscious. He walks the same route each day, moving with short, quick steps, one hand in his pocket, the other hand often clutching a plastic bag from the convenience store at the end of the block. Every day it is the same invisible maze that he seems bound to like a magnetic lasso moving through time in self-propelled motion.
Once when I was walking home I saw him coming toward me in the distance. Just before we would have passed each other, he took a sharp left into a residential driveway, circled around the car that was parked there and came back out onto the sidewalk behind me. I assumed it was an antisocial gesture to avoid the pressure of exchanging pleasantries. But since then I’ve seen him repeat that circle time and again as I drive or walk past.
I have a friend who has lived in the neighborhood for years. She can describe every detail of his zigzags and loops. She says he makes figure eights up and down Auburn Avenue. My friend has in her mind for the old man a map that may in some ways mirror his own. But no one knows where his day begins and where it ends. For those who have noticed him, it may seem that he is living in a dream world. We do not have access to the logic in his heart that gives order to this bizarre system he is so committed to. He is probably out there walking right now. If you come back and read this later, he’ll be walking. Or even if you don’t.