Forget child? The human remains. In all those ways that feel disturbed and incongruous. In all those moments of triumph and resounding delight. The human remains and silences the murmurs of elevation living in the great sea of collective intensity.
Humanity; oh, macrocosm of the human. Say, please, that it is not so. Be not an association, but the hope of something finer.
The weakening wind
What with the wind of the power universal at your back, Yet you whither and fragment! So gentle a breeze as against the streaming tide of omnipotence Yet you blanch and regret! How must the stream of ages sputter when corrupted, So will you screech and moan! Set for the seedlings the flexible arena, take them apart And falsehoods shall your voice intone.
Weight of the prolonged
Under the weight of the prolonged rests the peaceful disintegration of a name. What is your hope? It is feeling, oozing past reality to where experience suffers spasmodic fits. It is the long and sullen attaining critical mass. (The belief that) with a push from the other side, the anguish disperses and comes relief. Maybe this is where you find it. In the remembering. In the soothing. To mean, to suffer -- sister soldiers of internal discourse. To verily believe the unbelievable.
Phillis Wheatley (1753-1784)
Phillis Wheatley holds the distinction of being the first published female African poet in the American colonies. Her story is a dizzying tale of enslavement, achievement and the unpredictable nature of life and talent.
It’s nearly impossible to do her justice in poetic form. While her life seems a lesson in the righteous power of the human spirit, her story is rife with irony, which makes it exceedingly difficult to honor.
Though born in West Africa, (either Senegal or Gambia) she was kidnapped, transported to the colonies and sold into slavery at 8 years old. By all accounts she was treated *kind* and given an education well beyond what most men and women (white or otherwise) received at the time. While developing her talents she embraced Christian dogma and the societal conditioning of colonial life, going so far as to decry the “pagan” nature of her homeland.
Her major work, Poems of Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773), was published prior to both the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the commencement of the Revolutionary War, putting her at the vanguard of a movement of independence that would offer no immediate relief to those in her position. She corresponded with George Washington at the start of the Revolution (he rather obnoxiously referred to himself as her ‘obedient humble servant’) and was remarked upon by Voltaire in European literary circles.
Wheatley eventually tasted freedom upon the death of her master after which she married a free black northerner. The couple had three children in all, two of which predeceased her, the third died only a few short hours after Wheatley herself, in 1784. Unfortunately, her husband had not the ability nor financial wherewithal to grieve her properly. At the time of her death at age 31, he was serving out a sentence in debtor’s prison.
I wrote the piece below in an effort to explore Wheatley’s life with its many tragedies and triumphs. I don’t pretend the piece is fully reflective of the woman — no one poem can ever do justice do someone whose life was so complex and so curious. I do hope, however, that the work serves as an homage to her many struggles and successes and brings to light some of the complexities of a woman history all too often neglects.
**Author’s apology — please excuse the .jpg formatting of the poem. Due to its length and style I found myself unable to post it directly in my blog. Hopefully the image form will not dissuade otherwise curious readers. I believe the read is worth it.
So shall the settled
And so shall the settled remain affected. Caught unaware in the blister of the street. Summer time, winter time, that holly holy, slim lined fleet... Oh, the settled shall decompose amid the bones of those with nothing but the rancor.
Heartbeats and shadows patter, beating out the cadence of the ancient lover's cry. Tense is the refrain secret endearments claim, a melting of resolve does not such deceit absolve. Were all our failings so, better that we might perceive enchantments and phantoms. Oh! The tacit consent of sweet and innocent, erectors of sturdy lore set to avert the bore. And then when uncovered, pitiful in undulations, left to strip a quiet thrill. The last of those to feel may know of shadows real, such as is plain for lovers without name.
I’m on to you
You think it's the excess that sells, but it's that excess that tells. Nothing exceeds like pretension. It bleeds, like attention it needs an audience to please. That's a hell of a hullabaloo sweet terror, and you know I'm on to you.
The knife that spoke with a buzz
This is a funny little piece I worked up after I heard an interesting story about the first use of forensic entomology — yes, using insects to solve a crime.
In the smallest nooks live the slickest crooks, using sharpest wares to strike at maidens fair. Bet that evil hounds plumb the open grounds as day turns to night to exercise their might. So in a village green far from active scenes, came a man who stood beside a newly minted bride. The man, filled with temper, did her body half dismember and escape like a breeze before the break of eve. But the foulest must admit that sharper minds do acquit the cause of justice fast and pursue until their last. As county men took over, staunch as that county boulder, and lined up all existent observing each with insistence. "Drop your wares friend and let us not pretend that the vile and refuting will halt me in my duty." So all spilt their wares upon the township square. They did look for a savior and divine, merciful favor. Ah, twas not god on the brain for county copper plain, but the nature of a buzz around a man of woolen fuzz. As copper proceeded toward he soon spotted his reward. It seems flies cannot resist where fresh blood doth persist. That resounding buzz upon the knife told a tale that must be told: the slick and vile murder of a wife who never shall grow old.
Vibrant stunning attachment(s)
The quick twitch of the double take imbeds a moment and the solidity of stunning attachment causes eyes to place themselves at the world's disposal, happy to dispense with responsibility. Take 'em wherever to places grand and small. To faces, legs, hips and frames short and tall. Let loud voices find their homes (but far from me though). And let the cities and towns rebound from so much emotion, concussed from so much commotion, that they reset the great play. Starting again in the hopes of a vibrant, stunning attachment.
Mirror woes, Mirror waves
I do not believe in the cheap trick and I would not say but that it needs to be said: far more unsettling than the predictable end is the reflection of us as we live.
The mirror woes and the mirror waves, present unsettled constitution in sedentary haze. Poor boy! Poor us for living. That he might know pain and pain alike, and that hate is forgiven. In every moment a reflection. In each a rattled nerve less sense, scant affection. Poor life! Without meaning nor worthy lament. Grant that we might blanche, not persist and persist; yet from birth defiling only innocence.
Mild mannered men
Few are the mild mannered men living lost among these seas. (the fruit of friction - being and observance) Wispy fellows, fearful of nights, and in ignorance expressing concern for their kind.
Restoration is coming
I was inspired while listening to Donald Trump insist upon the need to “restore” law and order. I hate to attribute too much inspiration to any one political blowhard, because the fact remains that the circumstances that created today’s demagogue existed yesterday and will, in all probability, exist tomorrow. So Donald, don’t let this go to your head.
The restoration in effect, of that ever-elusive state. Where restful nerves and leery eyes stick fast to hallowed ground. How the calamity came to be many manic minds never settled. It was, it is, may be unto forever, but no never mind. The restoration will spread like seeds along the distended bloat. And endure the sensation of prophecy fulfilled, mouth agape and hands stolen still.
We think about the poet and not the poem and we waste the beauty and the fit of the clothes, with the idea that the idea does not matter. I imagine such temperature controlled reading as the masses employ (to soothe themselves), as the reflection of time wasted and time relieving the great brain.
Style myself a bard? No. At least not of the inspirational tones. No soul, no super human form will ever fill my work with joyful praise. There are sights to see, no more, no less. Connecting -- only to make of this life a lucid whole.
Rest easy always.
Heed the comfy word friend and let it settle upon your ear. For calm and easy rests the mind, blessed with words of softest hear. Never mind you, life and struggle, nor burden full and great. For you have distractions mild and aplenty, to occupy your fate.
Uncle Charlie fell ill with a dyspeptic violence
In 1858, Charles Darwin corresponded with a budding young naturalist and adventurer named Alfred Russel Wallace. Although Darwin was famous for his journey aboard the HMS Beagle, he had yet to publish his ever lengthening treatise on evolution. Wallace, unaware of the extent of Darwin’s views, solicited Darwin’s assistance on his own evolutionary theory, which was remarkably similar in depth and detail. Concerned that Wallace might preempt him, Darwin’s closest confidants arranged for a joint presentation of their theories before the Linnaean Society.
The brief poem that follows reflects my interpretation of that moment.
Leading is a lonely life. Exudation and upheaval, before the type is set. But first--and fierce-- the prize of pride, do so many tumble for her. Then the meta-moment: owning up to self, but that pride is found alone in upheaval.
The songs, the songs.
Humans singing odes of joy, taking ownership of this life. Where are these persons? And, where, this life? The great minds hoping for the great feats. Not knowing, perhaps, that hoping is willing, willing but not ascertaining; bending into shape to conform with desire. The songs, the songs! The songs we sing to ourselves. The great echoes of desire. Cease these songs for but a spell, and hear the sounds of life lived.
the power of a park bench, pt 1
Question friends: have you ever seen a living wonder? Who? Where? When?
Among the many men of middling ability and even disposition, she found success relating to extremes. White world, black woman – A truth, and not. When twice the effort would yield an infinite bounty, twice the effort is all that will do. On and on such tales go, till the moment perched upon a park bench beyond where any but the self may roam. When in extremis slid past action and tallied with emotion. She quaked mightily at her person, slap-boxing stimuli rooted deep and long and feeling lonely like suffering set-adrift. Strange times these, with their demands. Strange and lovely woman this, so apt and adept hovering over the shadow of doubt.
Stand up and be counted
Take a look at the world around you and start to add up the absurdities. Before long you might find yourself like the Indian King, the victim of an inescapable exponential progression. Absurdities are not all. There are people and places and individual circumstances that combine to form a hefty dinner dressing. The feast of large numbers of which every person is a part in some manner or other. Dissect and diagram your life according to the irrevocable power of these numbers and see them as the harbinger of the only permanence you will ever know. You are a part of them now, the glowing figs of the existence tree, and part of them you shall remain. Beyond birth and life and the countless tears and breaths, mistakes, misunderstandings and triumphs, hearts captured and minds repelled. None that mean nothing, save for the permanence that comes with being among the counted; that results from being among the being. Somehow this being is the being of "why," so often puzzling and scorned. The being of how, where, when, who and what. As to why? Because counted you were. And how? In the manner of the moment. Where? With those counted alike. When? In your time. Who? You -- among the rest. What? Counted is all.