Tools of Rage and Poetry, With Cat
A new era...is how it feels, continually adjusting to life events. I'm struggling in my own quotidian rhythms to embrace and accommodate to and balance among my particularities -- the personal wrestling of my individual circumstances -- and a concept of "greater good" -- the ways in which the community -- my community or communities -- and in fact the natural world go on with or without me. What is my role in this? How do I keep my individual body going, my mysterious individual consciousness, the consciousness that inhabits me and in which I am trapped for the duration -- as are we all, of course, humans moving around in these limited containers held together by our sturdy skins.
Saturday night's reading (see below) was a fine moment -- four readers, as it turned out, an audience of 50, double-digits of wine bottles, red and white, flowing along with the concertos of voice and word. Connections with my history; I was present at the opening of Buckham close to 30 years ago; I was present when Alan Ginsberg performed there; I have reviewed many art shows staged there; I have read there myself a number of times over the decades.
Waiting for people to show up the other night, I stood in the open window at the back wall and looked down at the Torch parking lot, the brick law offices, the southbound traffic on Beach Street; it was a mild lovely evening and downtown Flint smelled like a city, delicious, evocative -- a mix of asphalt and exhaust with a bit of stubborn spring green mixed in. Framed in the window, that swatch of Flint on a spring Saturday night seemed romantic and melancholy, my own history and desires and sadnesses inescapably in the air. I went to the gallery's bathroom where I've retreated for solitary earthy functions uncountable times during uncountable art openings. There's a full-length mirror in there, and I inevitably looked at myself, my whole self, before going back out into the world of the life I've made. Hmm: yes, that's me, I had to say. Still me. I recognized myself, still there. In that one specific moment. As Sheldon Kopp says in Item One of his Eschatological Laundry List: This Is It.
Before the reading I was in a foul and volatile mood. Trying to load paper into the empty printer, I couldn't get the packaging on the ream open and in a sudden fury, slammed the whole pack down onto the floor. Ripped off my glasses and threw them on the floor too, violently swearing. The symbolism isn't lost on me. Language, my beloved, trusted soul tool, so often resists. The world so often resists our words, or doesn't care. And what I see, sometimes clearly, the evidence of my senses, often leads to pain and disappointment.
So I abandoned the upstairs and, in the spirit of Gaston Bachelard, stomped down to the basement. To clean the cat litter. In the pungent cool darkness. Still in a fury. The place smelled so strongly of ammonia my eyes watered. Back from Pedro, we had somehow forgotten to check: forgotten our duty. Three litter boxes overflowing, the cats had peed on the concrete floor and pooped in cool corners. I took over the basement with dangerous energy. Ted came with me. That fact. The man who loves me: In the basement, holding the bag for cat shit, holding the dustpan for piles of scattered litter. I filled a bucket with bleach and water and got down on my knees, slopping the mix onto concrete; me in a teeshirt, old socks, raggedy shorts and rubber gloves, daring Ted to laugh at my flaggellating getup. He refrained. He simply held the bag. I scrubbed down the stink and my rage with an old scrub brush. I like that word "scrub brush." My scrub brush helped.
The basement smells clean now. The floor is soothing and cool and free of crud.
The eight poems I read Saturday night were, as my new literary pal Matt Falk said, a "set" encompassing a range of emotion. On the whole, indeed, I felt them as a sequence, a cri de coeur from my whole Flint life -- one poem I first drafted in the 80s, several others I wrote within the past few months. It felt good to cry them out, to declaim. I am at cusp these days and the act of witness, of saying my life, of working the sounds of my life -- all of it was gratifying. I slept well that night.
See, I am taking this as a serious occasion in my life, even though my current poetry manuscript has been rejected at least ten times since September. I am taking this as an act of scrubbing into my life, doing what I can do. On my knees in the cool basement, taking it in, taking it in, making my life whatever it will be.
The soft or shrill voice within us
7 years ago