Jnana's Red Barn

A Space for Work and Reflection

Tag: Writing

ALONG WITH HIGH STYLE

Rouge on lips or toenails, the glimmer of gold jewelry or a gemstone, the glossy photograph or the slick magazine, the light in a drop of costly perfume, the shimmer in a particular weave or pattern of spectacular cloth, or the haute (hoity-toity) air of a trendy boutique: each reflects eternal desires and feminine intrigue. The interplay of status-seeking, gamesmanship, the swift-changing hunt, and the theater of fashion spreads out far from its urban epicenters – and crosses nations, languages, continents, and ages. How quickly a little girl insists on her own definitive style! The poet and poetry are not immune, either, infused with their own tastes and passions. Where a dictionary observes  gloss as “the luster or sheen of a polished surface,” there is also the danger of “a deceptive or superficial appearance” as well as “an effort to hide or attempt to hide (errors, defects, etc.).” Still, a gloss may also attempt to interpret or translate. The curve or the motion, the smile or the gaze, skin itself, or hair in sunlight or moonlight, each concealing while hinting of revelations. So often, awaiting next month’s editions.

These are the poems that conclude my newest collection, Foreign Exchange.

~*~

Foreign Exchange

Foreign Exchange

For these poems and more, visit Thistle/Flinch editions.

WADE IN THE WATERS

Why wait for the dust to settle? Here are 10 bullets from my end.

~*~

  1. Tide-pooling requires climbing around on slippery boulders in the intertidal zone that exists between daily high and low water marks along the coastline and its tributaries. It means parting the various kinds of seaweed or lifting rocks to observe what’s underneath and then placing them all back very gently. My favorite time to go is at extreme low tide, when we can venture into reaches that would otherwise be too deep. How I love to overturn my first submerged rock and find both starfish (officially, a sea star) or urchin – and then a second, with two starfish. The first time I find three in one day, my wife proclaims me to be a member of the Order of Starfish. In another week or so, the water may be warm enough for brisk swimming, too.
  2. We seem to be on schedule with the garden, despite a late start. But there’s always something that will be left behind as we go.
  3. Professional (as in JOB) – a prop, identity, or purpose? Now that I’m retired, I’m still working.
  4. He admits, “I’m a skin man” for attraction, more than tits, ass, or legs. Well, if you have to get picky?
  5. Keep asking myself what my life would be lacking if I hadn’t moved to the hippie farm or gone to the ashram at all? My novels Hippie Drum, Hippie Love, Ashram, and likely Subway Hitchhikers would have never come forth, for starters. As I look back, the experiences look inevitable – and essential.
  6. As much as Dr. Bronner’s bottle-label diatribes arose from a splash of water, I suppose.
  7. You don’t know about hillbillies in a Yankee state? Oh, my. Then and now.
  8. Our neighbors’ block party is always a big occasion. Living one street over, we’re always included.
  9. What’s it mean to be a LANDLOCKED SAILOR?
  10. How much of my “real life” has been COUNTER-CURRENT – that is, occurring apart from the time and labor that paid the bills?

~*~

Spire in the city.

Spire in the city.

The historic Park Street Church sits at the edge of Boston Common and just a few blocks from the Massachusetts State House. In addition to the long list of influential speakers who appeared in its pulpit, the wonderful composer George Whitefield Chadwick was organist here. He beat Dvorak to the punch at a New World symphony.

 

LISTENING WITH HANDS AS WELL AS THE HEART

People typically listen with their heads, attentive to logic and thought, or with their hearts, to feeling and insinuation. But there’s also a frequently untapped ability to listen with one’s hands, as I recognized at a Susan Stark concert in Brunswick, Maine. There, two Quaker pastors from Kenya (themselves excellent, forceful singers) sat with arms flexed out before them, as if each held an invisible beach ball squeezed slowly. They were appraising the vibration of the room, the presence of Holy Spirit moving. This time, the current was plentiful and active. Try it, in public – at a governmental hearing, a poetry reading, a concert or play, a sporting event – and you, too, may observe how the sense of each occasion may differ. Watch a master carpenter or a first-rate baker, as well, to see how hands ponder a task, running ahead of mental comprehension. A musician often seems to hear music through the fingers, as if playing, even when no instrument is present. Perhaps a surgeon does the same with medicine.

The impression shapes the central section of Foreign Exchange, my newest collection of poems. Please feel them for yourself. These poems celebrate  movement perceived through a Third Ear, between the hands. The tactile response.

~*~

For these poems and more, visit Thistle/Flinch editions.

 

YES, IN THE BASKET WHILE PICKING

The mind dances here and there, rarely in a linear fashion. So what’s on my mind these days? How about counting on these fingers?

~*~

  1. And now, fresh strawberries. The bed we renovated last year is making amends. So how do you like yours the best?
  2. So delightful to have cut flowers indoors, too. A sprig of laurel (from the burial ground) is stunning against the deep purple velvet of a Siberian iris.
  3. French 75s. That’s the cocktail they like at Chris and Linda’s.
  4. I still aspire to writing a novel with only three or four characters. Two, however, feels just too tight. It would be something tightly focused and linear. But the current has often pulled me in the opposite direction. Big Inca, for instance, is essentially four – but look at all the others who keep wandering in and out!
  5. How little of the traditional canon I’ve pursued. There are vast gaps in my reading repertoire. That doesn’t mean I haven’t read – far from it.
  6. A perfect June morning: cool, touch of breeze, sunny and clear. After a full night’s sleep.
  7. Her eye is so close I see my own reflection.
  8. Maybe writing and revising have been my first love over all these years.
  9. Headed to the liquor store to make sure I’d have enough gin for a martini but arrived five minutes after it closed: take that as a sign.
  10. Being remembered as “an intense young man.”

~*~

The sign over a sidewalk on College Hill in Providence, Rhode Island, immediately had my attention. Alas, we were strolling a few hours before noon. The day was evolving in other directions.

The sign over a sidewalk on College Hill in Providence, Rhode Island, immediately had my attention. Alas, we were strolling a few hours before noon. The day was evolving in other directions.

 

TURNING FROM OIL TO LIGHT

Many of my years as a newspaper editor included handling the business section. The daily markets tables included not just stock prices but other items, some with exotic titles. “Bright Sweet Crude,” for instance, is a grade of petroleum in the futures trading. Well, why not transform it to the renewable energies of the Animal Kingdom, as I have in a collection of poems by that name?

Foreign Exchange is another, based on the floating rates of currency transactions. This time, as my newest collection of poems, “foreign” can be anything we encounter outside of ourselves, and the “exchange” can be the experience of discovery.

Just wait till you see what I do with Composites Update, Rough Rice, or Chicago Eggs a year down the pike.

For now, consider a brief flash. Something that sparkles or shimmers. A half-seen motion, perhaps recollected later. Illumination. A beacon. A guide. A break in the night. Sometimes, this is something even the blind perceive. A word of truth. Prophecy or healing. A vision of eternal mysteries. A star or hint of coming dawn. And then, as James Nayler instructed: “And as thou followest the light out of the world, thou wilt come to see the seed, which to the world’s wisdom and glory is crucified” (Journal, 349). Everything is transformed and made new. Mind the Light.

And then touch it, a Foreign Exchange, indeed.

~*~

Foreign Exchange

Foreign Exchange

For these poems and more, visit Thistle/Flinch editions.

I COULD BE LIGHTING THE GRILL

Being mindful of what’s right in front of us can always be a challenge. Here are 10 new items from my end.

~*~

  1. In my life, a renewed period of purging and cleansing. One personal goal: to wear out shirts and shoes I don’t particularly like before donning the others – exhaust them and then discard them with a sigh of relief – rather than leaving them untouched. That way the pile keeps getting smaller.
  2. How many talented people I’ve known. And how much blown opportunity.
  3. How rarely I seem to read for pleasure. Rather there’s often a sense of duty – obligation – as in I ought to read this or that. Especially when it’s a gift.
  4. Sometimes in revising a piece I touch on something (often I have no idea what) that sets off a deep grieving. It’s a psychological release, however painful.
  5. Both the Hebrew Bible and Greek Logos point to a heightened sense of the individual and individuality in contrast to wider society and social norms. We’re each responsible – accountable – for our own actions.
  6. We’re hoping to get to Lowell, Massachusetts, this month to take a boat tour on the canals that pass next to its historic mills. Sometimes, from the photos we’ve seen, the route’s like a narrow brick canyon.
  7. I turn to the singer next to me and tell him how much I envy his fine tenor, especially in pieces where the melody’s in the tenor line. (He’s able to belt it out, too.) The woman in front turns to us and says, “I’m sitting in front of you two again tomorrow.”
  8. Everything we’ve transplanted to the garden is looking happy.
  9. PERFECT WISDOM, a John Woolman term, as in Sophia. Or Christ.
  10. We can’t just sit on these things. Yada-yada-yada.

~*~

The Rhode Island Capitol, as seen from our hotel room. The tiny statue on top of the dome is not Roger Williams, as I'd assumed, but the Independent Man, originally named Hope.

The Rhode Island Capitol, as seen from our hotel room. The tiny statue on top of the dome is not Roger Williams, as I’d assumed, but the Independent Man, originally named Hope.

WITH SOME DOWNSIDES AS WELL

At least they’re not commandments. Holy Moses!

~*~

  1. Observing a hummingbird in the azalea just outside our bay window – these amazing creatures really do have a ruby band at their throat.
  2. All the vacation-bound traffic: boats, campers, trailers, RVs. Along with the state troopers, enforcing speed caps. There are somedown sides to living here.
  3. A pile of bricks came along with the house when we moved in. Surprising how useful they’ve been.
  4. How long ago, the realization and description: “She sounds like a parody of teenage upheaval.” It’s a rough rite of passage.
  5. A stage of revision as an Acid Bath – fine lace of reduction opening passages for air. (Revisions grounded in the present more than any past.)
  6. Look to that relationships stuff. Maybe the Proust questionnaires, too.
  7. The next step in nuclear fusion, so I’m told, is to use the technology in conjunction with our existing nuclear waste, depleting those nasty stockpiles – a process that should generate 10-times as much power in combination.
  8. Constitution, Consensus, and Consciousness. How far away they seem in today’s general scene.
  9. From inscription over pre-war German synagogues: KNOW BEFORE WHOM YOU STAND BEFORE YOU PRAY. To wit we might add: BEFORE YOU WRITE or BEFORE YOU WORK.
  10. Public life and business: “We’re sinking into the Abyss.”

~*~

A popular landmark in downtown Boston is the Customs House tower, with its useful clock. Not all of the views are this crowded.

A popular landmark in downtown Boston is the Customs House tower, with its useful clock. Not all of the views are this crowded.

 

AN INSIGHT WHILE PULLING WEEDS

I am not responsible for the state of the universe
or for others’ shortcomings or failures
or for things breaking, at least not most things.

I am responsible
for my own feelings
and acts of caring
at hand.

ROLLING IN CLOVER, AS IT WERE

Just a taste of what’s popping up. In case you were looking for a prompt.

~*~

  1. Time to start checking on the ocean temperatures in the Gulf of Maine, courtesy of the NOAA buoys reported on the website. I no longer bother to venture into real surf until the readings hit 60 Fahrenheit. Below that it’s blue-toe water.
  2. There’s an irony in performing sun-salutation postures but none, say, for the new moon or full moon. Om, my. Inhale and exhale, with incense.
  3. On our apron by the back door, a small snake, whip motion, ever so slowly.
  4. Here I’d been intending to write leaner, tighter, shorter, clearer – a lacework of Light. Wind up with dense blocks of prose-poems instead.
  5. It’s hard to imagine my native Buckeye State was created, in essence, by eleven Connecticut veterans of the American Revolution who met at the Bunch of Grapes Tavern in Boston on March 1, 1786, to form the Ohio Company. The tavern was a gathering place for wealthy merchants sympathetic to the patriot cause. At least it wasn’t Manhattan. Who knows what we would have wound up with.
  6. Sometimes you feel a new beginning – not just renewal but turning a corner.
  7. My own pathway unfolds as its own guide.
  8. Sometimes I read this place as CLOVER NH. Better, of course, than the unintentionally comic EFFINGHAM.
  9. I’ve resolved to spend more time in the mountains to our north this summer. In recent years, even getting to the beaches nearby has been elusive.
  10. So that’s it! Blah-blah-blah.

~*~

Preserving a touch of history in downtown Boston, while the rest of the building's been razed. Something similar just happened to the oldest residence in Maine.

Preserving a touch of history in downtown Boston, while the rest of the building’s been razed. Something similar just happened to the oldest residence in Maine.

 

 

GEMINI, BY JIMMINY

Why wait for the dust to settle? Here are 10 bullets from my end.

~*~

  1. This matter of scale – and balance – in a life that has an appearance of randomness. All these items collected throughout the house and barn. Somehow, order reasserts itself, if you look.
  2. Remembering the volcano 37 years ago. Just look at the skulls I collected in that country.
  3. Four years later, the move to Baltimore for the one I thought embodied that moment full of promise to take my life upward into a fairy-tale existence of class and repose, a much different direction from where I’ve landed. Alas, she’d already bolted. And mine has become much more organic.
  4. Common Meter, 8.6.8.6, as in “Amazing Grace,” is simply the syllable count. A great way to swap words and music.
  5. Am not having profound or imaginative dreams. But at least the flow’s beginning again, like looking at a secret movie or computer screen.
  6. When taking portraits outdoors, how often the eyeglasses turn into sunglasses in the bright light – and how often people in party mode turn wooden.
  7. Looking at a book of glass houses reminds me how deeply that Bauhaus aesthetic is embedded in my sensibility. Not that I’d aspire to live in one now. Who washes all those windows, anyway? And what about fingerprints or noses? These days I’ve chosen a different style, one based in Yankee houses that just keep growing, as needed. As for curtains, she and I will argue.
  8. To ease back into Hatha – Ha-ha!
  9. “The things that are not seen are eternal” – II Corinthians 4:18.
  10. Still feeling so tentative rather than forceful.

~*~

Why's he honored on the street?

Why’s he honored on the street?

I chanced upon this scultpture at 15 Beach Place while wandering from Chinatown to Faneuil Hall. It’s about a block from the old Boston Music Hall, where Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto got its world premiere. Maybe this site is where he stayed while visiting? Anyone got a clue?

The sculpture resides just left of the doorway.

The sculpture resides just left of the doorway.