What I yearn for—like you—is a just a notch of catastrophe. Rising up from the soul like pewter rainbows, swimming golden lead, funny and relevant all at the same time—catastrophe. Secret substance of hope, infectious balance; if nothing’s broken it’s all boring.
Boredom is safe, too secure. Too responsible. So predictable. Left handle of balance, tipped so easily in this modern day of ours, this bright-eyed America this lit sculpture.
Routine is how the money is made. How the green is saved. How the children are raised. It’s good, yeah—as the left handle. Got a goal? Unless it’s chaos, routine is your bedfellow. I’ve got one. Gotten friendly with routine here in Hawai’i, week two. You have to. Everything must have Reason. Everything is just-i-fiable, everything is sound. It’s all accompanied with the pageantry of because, the long-sweeping ball gown of that fair dame swiveling around your ankles every step you take.
Which—you can’t save money without saving money. You can’t learn the skills unless you learn them. What do you want? That’s what you do.
But boy—do I yearn for catastrophe. Just a little. A whelp of a tidal wave, please, just anything to soak the ankles. The earth spins its tapestry before I remember to look down even once. Nothing irreversible. Nothing unraveling. Just a bit of that chocolate-covered right handle, just a lick.
I spend all the time outside of work at the Hawai’i State Library. Because? Because I can’t help myself. Jazz lingers in every dusty volume, every smokey courtyard table, every trade-wind breeze with its collage of seawater. Art in community, “living in a spiritualized world endeavoring to interpret the wars and solitudes of the flesh.” It’s bliss here, and that’s because here is the blessed right handle and it looks like poetry.
Social-going-about is predictable, habitualized, normalcy. Trudging to the beat of Staying Alive in the 5 o’clock grind—wait for the green man here, say hi to Herb here, pass the shanty head-down mind dark.
Small poetry, bright poetry, stands in the cob-webbed corners shouting, “What is Reason!” The plaque she holds is dull-orange, and it makes her beautiful.
The more I learn from her, the more I hold her proffered hand and go to the cellars, the more I understand my fascination.
Poetry is the disrupter of normalcy. The bearer of catastrophe. Great and sudden damage to the Way It Works. She says, “So much depends / upon / a red wheel barrow” and we go—that one? That one right there? The one that we pass every day on the way to the car? Replies: “Yes, see it for once.” Only in the cosmic ether does that shit matter, and that’s where she pulls you. To that which matters; namely, the life that smells like orchids which passes, sadly, as we stare unblinking ahead.
Matthew Zapruder articulates it thusly: “The technique of art is to make objects ‘unfamiliar’, to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged . . . it is in poetry that we see . . . how language can be made deliberately strange, how it becomes especially ‘a difficult, roughened, impeded language’ in order to jar us awake.”
In “The Gravel Walks”, Seamus Heaney writes, “Beautiful in or out of the river, / The kingdom of gravel was inside you too—”
In high-school, my compatriots wailed, “why doesn’t he just say what he means?” I wailed alongside. “Why why why?”—little to know, eventually to realize, that was always the answer. Poetry, devoid of distractions of story, or exhaustive explanation, punches you in the shoulder, straightens your tie, and smiles, relieved, after you stop for a second to shout WHY.
In routine, in “flow”, in habit, there is no room for the cheeky why. To “why” is to throw a Molotav at the conveyer belt of life-passing-you-by.
Poetry, she’s all about that. She says, “no, it’s not a bird—it’s a feathered thing, a restless thing, a nesting thing” and you say, what are you talking about? Wildness? Spirit? Indecorum? Dance? And she says, “yes”—and you just have to sit there for a bit, feeling in your palm the heaviness of the right handle as catastrophe ignites your soul.
“Poetry makes possible a conscious energy into the preconscious mind, a lucid dreaming . . . poems are there, waiting, whenever we feel we need our minds to think in a different way.”
Rising up from the soul, a soul hopelessly untouched by routine.
Peace and blessings,