A POEM DESCRIBES NOTHING

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A poem describes nothing. My words

Fool you. A poem is my reaction to the thing,

Not the thing. There are no birds

Who fly from branch to branch and sing.

If you want to be fooled, I certainly cannot say

You are wrong, but everything you believe here will die—

A poem is false, and a false display,

Shadows impossible to verify,

Even if what the poet is feeling is true;

A poet describes a feeling for a feeling you cannot see—

Not only is the thing invisible, the feeling can’t be seen by you

And that makes you, the reader, blind.

Why is this truth of poetry almost never told?

Since poetry isn’t history it can only be abstractly mean, or kind,

And those who are truly mean, or kind, don’t care. A poem is cold.

A poem describes nothing. And to try

Is only an insane attempt to pull off an elaborate lie,

A lie which lies about a lie which is lying,

And a bit of empathy is felt because the poetry is trying,

And that’s the best empathy can do.

People need to stop saying a poem is true.

Once, sure, you happily read

My poem. When you loved me. Well that’s what you said.

 

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TO SEE HER SUFFER

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To see my love suffer

Is more pleasurable than when I loved her.

There is no greater pleasure

In love, than to see one who made you suffer, suffer,

For lovers always doubt, and love can be feigned,

As easily as lovers in books are named.

She loved me and then she changed her mind,

And intentional or not, I felt it as unkind,

And now when I see her, miserable and sad,

Love, that doubted, now makes me glad,

Because pleasure in love is what we share,

And the more the pleasure, the more the love was rare.

And we, that now, in suffering, remain,

Are proof we did not love in vain.

It proves there existed mutual feeling;

The love which gave love is the same love stealing

Love, the same love, the same care,

Whether she loved truly, or was aware

Of love, when she was with me here now that she is there.

 

NOT FOR YOU

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Not for you, her, or the scented belief
Which carries a memory to you on a burning leaf,
Not for you, this faint chaos of smoke escaping gravity,
Not for you, the meaning attempting to escape the poetry,
Not for you, the gloom. Or this perfume.
Not for you, the vanishing memory of her room.
A memory never insinuated an odor so well.
Not for you, the love, or the look which admits it cannot tell.

Not for you, the scent, even as the scent invades
You as it did when she loved you. If memory after memory fades
Into oblivion, until a scent brings the best one back,
Not for you, this one, which now you know, but which you lack.

Not for you, the one you want,
Although this memory will haunt
Your soul inside your mind inside your heart,
Repeating the inevitable end, the inevitable start.
The crashing of the waves, and the sea, ended
When she found a love in all love blended,
Expressed suddenly and briefly, to you, in a cry
Which ran through the air and died in the ear, as all sounds die.

 

 

I LOVED YOU SO I DIDN’T NEED TO LOVE ANYBODY ELSE

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So here I am, the great lover, confessing to be a fraud.

Not that I didn’t love you. I did. But why?

I loved you so I didn’t need to love anybody else.

I was tired of smiling at the people next door.

Every time I do a favor, I end up doing more.

I’m a nice person. I am nice and I always help.

I loved you so I didn’t need to love anybody else.

To focus on love—not just admire a bunch of things—

Is what genius is, the selfish diva who we hate—until she sings.

The more in love, the more selfish I seemed?

That was real. It wasn’t just something you dreamed.

I was writing my novel, my poetry collection;

Loving you focused me, and gave me direction.

I needed focus. That’s it. I didn’t need any help.

The true romantic puzzles us—how can they be so hot?

Selfishness—the focused laser burning continually on the self-same spot.

The world reduced to—you. Putting a great deal of things together.

I loved you so I didn’t need to love anybody else.

There’s millions of moments in a day.

Pleasure is found at the end of a stick,

Not scattered throughout the universe.

One is best. It’s sad to see millions of moments just floating away.

 

HELLO TO ASHBERY, THEN

John Ashbery. His fame began with Japan.

Twentieth Century Modernism rebelled against the quaint 19th century anthology—poems on Friendship, Nature, Love, etc.

This rebellion was largely a failure.

A poem on love, for instance, at least forces the poet to be somewhat coherent and philosophical. Dante, Shakespeare, Donne, Marvell, Shelley, Pushkin, Goethe, Whitman, had philosophy.

The Modernists had no philosophy; they were simply against the quaint, fireside anthology (the public) and sank into incoherence.

Williams and Pound’s Imagism was a blatant ripoff of haiku.

“Make It New” was just something they said.

“No ideas but in things” is, unfortunately, something they did.

Show me a “thing” in poetry—the Moderns anti-philosophical position was explicit—and tiresome.

Shakespeare, Dante, and Milton were a far cry from haiku.

Haiku is a philosophical approach, and Criticsm takes philosophical poetry as its starting point, and makes its poetry philosophy. The philosophical turned into poetry—wisdom sweetened, as it were.

Keats has both: wisdom, as well as sweetness, which appeals to the public.

Modernism has no philosophy, and the Program Era, which the Modernists created, makes ‘new writing’ the holy grail.

But ‘new writing’ has no philosophy except ‘don’t sound like Keats.’

What the shallow, theoretical, sensation-cultivating Modernsists did not get: poetry is not an abstraction.

Poetry of the Keats-Shadow is more real than ‘poetry’ of the ‘new writing’ of no philosophy.

The love poem in the old anthology has more.

Modernism went bankrupt in its ‘new writing.’

The Keats professor was replaced by the Creative Writing professor.

The former is disinterested. The latter is not.

It is no accident then, that creative writing professor John Ashbery, (1927–2017) master of the anti-anthology poem, with its educated-sounding, sly, incoherence, is the most critically celebrated poet of the Creative Writing Era.

There isn’t one anthology piece of Ashbery’s poetry you can point out, and that’s the point. You can dip into Ashbery anywhere; Ashbery has no beginning and no end. He is without philosophy, and this is the philosophy. (This makes him critic-proof, which is also sort of the point.) It is pure impressionism. One person gets to do this, and one person, alone. He will be put into anthologies; critics will find him to be philosophical, after all. This is the very definition of the Literary Lion—he didn’t write to fit, but you, his disciples, will make him fit. He didn’t write for a house, but you will give him a house. Just watch: He will be included in all the categories of every quaint anthology (for they do still exist) that comes down the pike: Ashbery on Love, Ashbery on Friendship, Ashbery on Nature. Guaranteed.

I’m not here to impugn Ashbery, or predict his demise. He has escaped oblivion, by reflecting his times.

Entering Harvard in the early 1950s, the gay Ashbery got known by the known. Submitting his manuscript to the Yale Younger Prize contest, the screening committee, who didn’t know who he was, rejected his poems. But W.H. Auden’s lover, Chester Kallman, interceded on Ashbery’s behalf, and judge Auden kick started Ashbery’s career.

More importantly, Ashbery kept on doing, for his whole career, what he knew he had to do—write “So much depends on a red wheel barrow” over and over again—until most of us understand.

The New Criticsm is the critical philosophy which made Ashbery. The New Criticsm says poetry cannot be paraphrased; a poem cannot be about Love or Friendship or Nature.

Shakespeare never wrote about himself—which is why there is controversy on who “Shakespeare” is.

The rather private Auden, in an essay on Shakespeare, envied Shakespeare’s anonymity.

Ashbery never wrote a confessional poem.

We don’t know a thing about Ashbery from his poetry, and this fact gives Ashbery a certain “classical” weight.

Ashbery, for his entire 70-year long career, stuck to New Critical logic—a good poem cannot be paraphrased, so you can’t (even if you wanted to) say explicit things about who you actually are in a poem. So why bother?

Modernism didn’t just happen—it was specifically formulated by a handful of men in the early 20th century.

It was the East defeating the West.

Literally.

World War One was important, but it did not usher in Modernism. Another war did. Japan shocked the world when it defeated Russia in the 1905 War, and haiku (impressionist by principle) became a rage in the West that very year; Pound and Willimas climbed on the trend; the insanity of the Great War finished off the validity of the West in intellectuals’ minds forever, and the seeds of chaotic Modernism were sown.

It took the New Critic John Crowe Ransom to make it all sound rational in the 1930s. In “Poets Without Laurels” (Ransom knew modern poets were intentionally writing to not win laurels) Ransom described Modernism as a division-of-labor practice across the disciplines: Modern aesthetics, Ransom said, ditched the old-fashioned, popular, unity of beauty and morals—and focused its revolution on beauty alone. His example was Stevens’ “Sea Surface Full of Clouds,”—a poem of pure impressionism.

In Ransom’s words, no more lemonade—consisting of lemon (morals) in a rather obvious and appealing mixture with sugar (beauty).

The new analogy in poetry for Ransom: salt; again, a mixture (sodium and chlorine), but one in which the ingredients are lost, or hidden, in the mix.

No more morals, no more beauty, no more obvious (didactic) hybrids.

No more poems about love.

Just—poems.

Ashbery is the natural outcome.

Ashbery is the fulfillment of Modernsim, the persistent manifestation of: Impressionist and Abstract Painting of France (late 19th century), Haiku (1905), Pound’s Imagism (1913), Williams’ Wheel Barrow (1922), Eliot’s Wasteland (1922), Joyce’s Ulysses (1922) Ransom’s essay (1937), Auden anointing Ashbery with the Yale Younger (1956)—a prize awarded earlier to Iowa Creative Writing maven Paul Engle—by a New Critic clique judge.

Ashbery is gone, but he will be coming in a quaint anthology soon, to a bookstore near you.

Look at the table of contents; you’ll find him, and in more than one of those sections titled, Friendship, Nature, Love.

Lemonade, anyone?

 

 

I CAN’T SPEAK OF THIS

I can’t speak of this

Here, or anywhere.

It will ruin my poem, as it ruined my poems published before;

It is for my understanding alone.

To concede you are wrong when you are wrong is sometimes wrong,

And you can make it right only in a conversation with yourself.

Wrong is wrong—poems, the public

Meausure wrong by you. Stay out of its eye.

To be seen is to die.

A lover is in the world, and I would have to write about the world, too.

Our love was love when no one knew.

 

 

 

THE MUSE NEEDS TO HATE YOU

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The Muse who hates you is the best inspiration.

Poems are work, they want to explain

How love is best, love that vacation

From real work—that work unsung, done to attain

Poetic worth, laboring for the demanding Muse.

The Muse who loves you is the one you cannot use.

This is why great poetry comes from the past

When monster Muses refused to let the poets rest.

The pagan Muse fought for every advantage,

The glittering eyes of cruelty

Denoting desperate, beautiful beauty,

Beauty of strenuousness and rage,

Any preoccupation with children, infernal,

The mother Muse mocking men who sought the Muse maternal.

When the Christian era came,

The chaste Muse brought the poets fame.

But in today’s irreligious age, chastity might as well be hate.

I love the Muse who loves me, who doesn’t make me wait.

You permit me to write as you sit right there,

My writing fingers entangled in the tangles of your very hair.

Then my poetry dies in the depth of your kisses and your care.

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEVER TELL YOUR LOVER

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Never tell your lover you love love.

She will think her eyes

Must compete with a whole forest of sighs,

Each sigh betokening music.

She will think her one face

Must be compared to a human race

Of faces—when you tell your lover you love love.

She will think her mind

Must exist in differences gently, or be unkind,

And she will have to stand blindly

As the world sighs upon you kindly,

And each sigh of the forest, perpetual,

Will bring, each morning, a new nuptial.

She will know the spring, with its silver floods,

Will laugh beside her dark moods,

If you tell her you love love.

She will think the flood of sighs that pours

Over you, compares with how she adores.

She will think her own sighs

Will be compared to all—and comparisons never die.

For her, sighs will turn to roars.

Her face, she thinks, must lie

Beside a world of faces: even yours.

 

 

WHY IS EVERYONE SAD

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Why is everyone sad? I know

Everyone is sad. They are sad wherever I go.

The girls are sad, who soon have breasts,

Lovely childhood gone, bringing grownup jests

And cruelty, and if she isn’t rude,

With a sad passivity she suffers the crude

Scenes creating scenes of shrinking space

For the crude, idiot, laughing, face,

The infantile, consumer, lout grinning,

In football jersey, because this side is winning.

And women of middle age more sad,

From this, if not completely mad.

Dignity defeats misery if it can,

But woman can’t, if it doesn’t live in a man.

Everyone is sad if the woman is sad.

She seeks good taste in loveliness,

Beauty brave in nails, face, and dress,

Which the male ignores. Woman

Cultivates woman and ends less human.

There’s her poems, describing suicide,

Rape, unpleasant men, to make poetry hide.

And if a man is smooth,

The woman fears to move.

Why is everyone sad? Death?

No, death’s a pleasant slumber—it does not explain every sad heart beat and breath.

Those in power, sad, knowing it will soon be gone,

And to have no power is misery.

You? You feel irritation at every little thing.

Your plant by the water has stopped drinking.

I wish I knew what made you sad, but my

Sad meditation itself is why

You don’t talk to me anymore.

But who knows there won’t be more sadness in store?

Oh silent one! Every dream I had

Was happy. But somehow I am sad.

Oh misery! I have too much to say.

The sad are dancing, dancing far away.

 

 

 

 

 

NOT FROM HERE

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Not from here, this train,

Nor the darkness we hurtle through,

The sun going down, I don’t have to explain;

We all know the sun is miles away,

And the conductor, is he from Spain?

These passengers, or you, or you,

Not from here, these commuters,

Already from another day

Spent, huddled with their phones and computers,

Not from here, expertise or parts,

The communication, the view,

Not from here, but here is coming due,

Not from here, but here, sentimental hearts,

I am here, here, moving into ear shot

Of the one I love,

The night, a blot,

Even as she, there, continues to move.

TOURIST PICTURES

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I am in tourists’ pictures,

Since I walk around my tourist town,

Pictures I will never see,

Taken by tourists with me in them, accidentally.

They come to see the seven gables; the Seven Gables is famous in a book.

One thing tourists know how to do is look.

Because elephants live in books

And elephants are few,

And elephants need to eat leaves,

They may come to your town, too.

My town is by the water, which watered the tourists’ dreams:

Old World cliffs. New World streams.

I see them peering at maps, and guessing which way they should go,

Following the sea’s edge to the lighthouse;

The moss stinks, and the tide is low.

They spy a heron in the shallow harbor,

Bending its legs in the green water,

Or is that me? Tomorrow a picture will know.

 

 

JEALOUSY IS LOVE

This may be a truth difficult to face—but there’s usually more problems the more something is valid, and the less we admit to it. Here is a truth so overwhelming, and felt inside by so many, but never spoken, so let’s do a service to the human race right now, and speak it.

Jealousy is not a negative byproduct of love.

Jealousy is love.

Love is jealousy.

They are the same.

Anything else is lust.

Love happens the moment you realize with horror how much someone can hurt you, because you have allowed yourself to emotionally invest acutely in the notion that you want this person for yourself. All other forms of love are a variation of this.

The simplest example will suffice to illustrate the true nature of love.

A man simply lusts after a woman.  That guy would be happy, amused, pleased, excited, maybe even overjoyed, to watch this woman having sex.

A man is in love with a woman.  That same guy would feel the very opposite—he would be horrified at the thought of watching the woman he loves having sex.

And this, in a nutshell, is the crucial difference between lust and love.

This example will not be a revelation.  None should be surprised by it.

Why, then, does it strike most people as strange to state the truth that love is jealousy—which this example proves?

The objections are feeble. Let’s take them one by one:

“Free love is not jealous.”

Adding “free” to “love” is done for the very reason that jealousy is love—since “free” is precisely that which eliminates all feelings of jealousy—having to call it “free love” proves it is not love.  Free love is either an arrangement of lust, or merely one of friendship.  It is not love.

“Your example presents sexual jealousy, not jealousy.”

It is true our example conclusively divides love from lust—but what of love for a family member or friend? Filial or friendly love is not sexual—we don’t need an example to distinguish this kind of love from lust. Exactly. Which is precisely why we can set filial and friendly love aside without comment. It is already established that filial love is not amour—which is what we seek to define. And we define amour as jealousy—nothing more, nothing less. Common feelings of jealousy and affection will of course find their way, in some manner, into every human interaction on earth. It just so happens that sexual jealousy, not plain jealousy, is the cat that catches the mouse. We don’t care about terms or their universal applications, per se. We just want to catch our mouse. We want to see how things really are.

And what is left? A love of—automobiles? Perhaps we would not want our prize automobile to be in a porn film. If we really value and respect our car. Perhaps we wouldn’t care, or we would feel a little creepy driving our car around afterwards. But since it is a car, a thing, our sexual jealousy example does not pertain here, either. Sexual jealousy among human beings is the highest form of jealousy—for the important reason that lust, which most resembles love, is not love. And our example of sexual jealousy most strongly proves that lust is not love, even though there can (should!) be lust for the beloved.

Of course the man in our example would not want his car damaged, or scratched, if it were used in any film.  And this brings us to the third objection.

“You use the word ‘jealousy,’ but isn’t real love more about protection, which is not the same thing as jealousy? We seek to protect our child, for instance. Love would allow a woman we love to win a beauty contest, if no harm or abuse came to her. If one were too jealous, one would not want any acclaim at all for the beloved. If one were too jealous, one would cover the woman in a veil and make her a second class citizen.”

The key term is “too jealous.” Yes, jealousy and protection are not the same. But an excess of jealousy is not jealousy, but something else, just as an excess of anything becomes something else than what it is.  This is possessiveness, which is not the same as jealousy.  Jealousy is still the operative word. A reasonable amount of jealousy is what defines love. A reasonable amount of jealousy denoted by: my wife can win a poetry prize, or earn more than me, but she cannot be the sexual prize of others.

Another objection: “Your example does not factor in morality, or other types of love. A moral person would not be ‘overjoyed’ by watching porn, but instead would be disgusted by watching anyone in a porn film. And, as mentioned above, no one would want family members in a porn film; it would be wrong; by equating love with jealousy, you are defining love in the negative sense.”

But our sexual jealousy example does use morality to define love. Without allowing morality to overwhelm the definition. Morality applies to a whole host of things. To shine morality into every crevice would brighten and dilute definition. True, a moral person would not want to watch porn at all. But our example is not about morals. We are not defining morality, but love. Even if one were to point out that porn is not immoral, our example is still valid, for it describes common feelings which are true; whether porn is immoral or not is beside the point—the example used at the beginning of our essay proves love is jealousy; it is not making a moral argument on porn.

The overwhelming point here is that a man would have no objection to watching a woman he only lusts after, in a porn film; but would object greatly to his true love doing the same. This is not about the protective impulse; this is not about morality. It is about one thing: sexual jealousy—which it seems to us, defines love.

We might observe at this point that jealousy seems to occupy a perfect middle ground in the moral spectrum; or, and perhaps this is the same thing, jealousy does not pertain to morals at all. Like love, jealousy is a behavior—which is not moral, or immoral, per se. We say it exists in the middle of the moral spectrum because on one hand it powerfully creates love and adoration for an individual, but on the other hand, it falls into cruelty and mania.

And here is one more objection to our theme that love is, in reality, jealousy itself:

“Don’t you need to define lust, since your sexual jealousy example attempts to distinguish lust from love? You owe it to your readers to do this, since one could argue that you have not proven love is jealousy, because most would still argue that love is simply a better-behaved lust—and this is all your porn-type example proves. And somewhere above, you said a lover will lust after his beloved. So it seems you must still come to terms with what lust is, before we accept that love is jealousy alone.”

Lust was used to catch the mouse; it worked in our example, and this is all that really matters. Love is jealousy, and that is all it is, and knowing what it is, will help love and lovers in the long run, who ruin love by judging jealousy too negatively. There may be those who simply cannot stomach any jealousy at all. Say goodbye to love, then. Closer to the truth, of course, is that those who say they hate jealousy object to jealousy in vain: jealousy, like love, is involuntary; it will occur, whether they want it to, or not. This essay is not attempting to proscribe love’s feelings—only make sense of them.

Define lust? It is hardly anything. A bit of chemical action in the blood. A sly sort of aesthetics. But we must be careful, for so often love is defined as, to quote ourselves, “a chemical action in the blood…a sly sort of aesthetics.” We must not let our philosophical ears listen to this siren song. For chemistry and aesthetics belong to the purely sensual—to lust. It is not love. Love is jealousy. To repeat our definition of love above: “Love happens the moment you realize with horror how much someone can hurt you, because you have allowed yourself to emotionally invest acutely in the notion that you want this person for yourself.”

When we say that love is a “better-behaved lust,” we do come very close to the truth (our mouse); because jealousy asks, in its love-stricken desperation, for lust to be better behaved. It is a jealous plea. True love is a plea of jealousy. If love isn’t jealous, it is not love.

Because true love is rare, and because feelings of lust are so common, and because love and lust are often mistaken for each other, despair that true love does not exist, afflicts many.

It may seem a strange way to cheer us up—denoting true love as jealousy. But it is jealousy, and this is why it hides and evades—as true love—so many. The good news is, we have caught the mouse, and now true love can flourish—because we know what it is.

Knowing what something is, is valuable for three reasons. One. We recognize what it is. Two. We recognize what it is not. Three. We recognize partial formations of it, which otherwise punish us, as the acute misunderstanding adds to the general confusion of our not quite recognizing it.

To call love a “better-behaved lust” is a cunning falsehood which will destroy all ability to know what love is—jealousy.

The crucial thing we have done in this essay is to divorce love from lust. And to do this, we have called love jealousy—I don’t want to see my true love in a porn film.

Here’s the tricky thing: Jealousy operates in a realm which has everything to do with lust, but which is saved, as love, at the final moment, from the jaws of lust. This is the greatest heroism there is—even though it is a quiet, private, psychological one.

Thanks to the recent Ted Cruz Twitter porn controversy, millions who don’t watch porn caught a glimpse of the Sadean strategy used by porn in the depictions of lust as an endless chain—jealously viewing sex and lustily having sex become united in the viewer’s mind. The danger here is that Sadean porn steals love’s jealousy-identity, to effectively present the lie that ‘better-behaved lust’ is love.

As a guy, I hate porn; the only thing I could stomach is a little bit of lesbian porn, which makes me foul enough. This essay is mostly a guy’s perspective; I confess I am befuddled by women’s sexuality, which I suppose is how it is meant to be.

Psychologists warn that porn can kill love, can kill a healthy, normal desire for love. Whether there is any truth to this at all, or not, it may be wise to observe the following as a final flourish to our essay.

The scene in the Cruz Twitter linked video is a (hidden) woman masterbating in the foreground, furtively glimpsing a sex act between a man and woman in the background. The added “view” of the woman in the foreground is what makes it more than just a depiction of sex. The woman in the foreground participates in the lust of the video, but in a removed, “jealous” manner (our example of love!) which drags the (masterbating?) viewer of the porn video itself into the viewing chain of lust (a potentially infinite chain!) and this simple but powerful perspective features jealousy as the chief emotion. Jealousy is introduced into the dramatic scene simply by having a person removed from the action, but witnessing the action.

Here is the Scene of Love.

Experts cannot be in the “chain.”

This essay cannot be used as advice.

No one can teach romance, or love.

This essay will help no one.

We have presented here (almost like the scene of a Renaissance painting) the simplest and most powerful truth of romantic love—for the lonely and the heartbroken—for whom romantic love may be a dearest wish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TRUE POETS DON’T NEED TO WRITE POEMS

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True poets don’t need to write poems.

Not being a true poet, I give you this.

Poems need their poets, and so the rumor started

Crazy rumor! That poems mark the poet,

And next to a sad poem you find a poet, broken-hearted.

But the true poet weaves

True poetry in the leaves,

True poetry in the way your eye

Looks, before beauty makes you cry.

The true poet creates the sea

And the stormy look of the sea,

And says things I’ve already forgotten,

Which she once said to me.

True poetry brings her right here,

Where to write a poem would just seem queer.

 

YOU OWNED A BEAUTY

 

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You owned a beauty—

And while you owned it, I fed

On your glories, but now you live,

Without me, and your beauty has fallen dead.

You hated memories and pictures,

For the picture was you;

But now your beauty is a memory,

Which means you are no longer true.

I have no pictures,

For you gave none to me.

I have a poem, or two.

Would you like to see?

 

WHY YOU LEFT ME

If the insulting is true

I must be careful how I speak of you

Because I love you, and you are a shit,

So with great care my poem must speak of it.

A poet should not be afraid to tell

What put the poet—and his lover—into hell.

Talk about it, poet, for the good of all.

Love is not sacred, except that we fall,

Like I fell in love with you.

Commandments or advice, which tell us the right thing to do,

Do not interest me.

Insult is true, and hides best in beautiful poetry.

The truly insulting hurts as much

As pleasure gives pleasure with pleasure’s touch.

Only the physical is true.

It may or may not talk. It either soothes, or wounds, you.

Two things happen: either silently we are wronged

Or lies are spoken, as if we belonged.

The truth will never be spoken to you

But truth exists, in everything people do.

The cinema is lying, and will lead to more lies.

Falsity is all and all the truth defies.

I loved you. You wished you were a little taller.

I loved you. You wished you were a little smaller.

Two inches. Twenty pounds. The flaws

Are nothing to the poet. But they who cannot love will follow those laws.

 

LOVE IS AN ACT: IN PRAISE OF ROMANTICISM

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It is time to be honest about love.

We are going to argue that love—truly romantic love—rejected as cheap and backwards these days, will save the world.

First, we admit that love is rare, and it dies rather quickly. Everyone experiences this. We like something if it benefits us, and all sorts of human relationships are based on practical arrangements. Love, and here we will skip a definition, since it refers to what most of us have experienced at some point: it is mad, complete, mystical, and full of desire. It is not friendship. It can strike us before puberty, but after puberty, the charisma involved largely partakes of sexuality.

It is a truism to say love requires focus. Love must be intense, have intensity—if it is what we know as love, it must be intense—and this brings us to love’s desire for beauty. It wouldn’t make sense for love to involve many things, for this would be to dilute and diminish by spreading too thin, all that love is, and we agree love must have intensity.

Love must have a physical dimension, and to have the force and importance love requires, love should be rare, but not so rare as to be beyond human possibility, and a certain social comprehension. Individual human beauty fits this criterion—human beauty is rare, invokes intensity and focus, and though rare, is accessible.

In the same manner that durable, attractive, and rare metals such as silver and gold will always signify value in terms of wealth in society, human beauty, whether we like it or not, is the coin of love.

We begin with individual human beauty.

But now we have two more elements.

These elements are based on the idea that love is an act.

Do we mean in the sense that “acting” is fake? “To be able to act” is simply what a successful person is able to do. One can say that beauty is “fake,” in the context of love; but this is to assume that the attractive, which is desired, is insincere, but how so? Acting, like beauty, might be construed as fake in “matters of the heart,” but this view, in the name of a fake “depth,” is the superficial one. If something is truly desired, and if any action, including “acting,” belongs to the category of achieving what is desired, how can it then be deemed superficial? We are forced to use acting, action, and act, and all these three words imply—since we are not talking of friendship or the spiritual, but the concentrated madness of love.

When we say “acting,” we do not include lying, or being dishonest in any way which hurts the beloved. We mean “acting” with the goal of loving one person. The “act” is for love, not for “playing around.”

After beauty, there are two layers of “acting” involved:

One: micro-acting, which refers to the natural charm of the person, an unconscious extension of physical attractiveness, and

Two: macro-acting, which involves the actual “behavior of love;” making vows and uttering words of promise, committment, passion, excitement, praise and, naturally, love.

Micro-acting is crucial. One can be physically attractive, but have very little actual charm. Physical beauty is necessary, but even necessary is micro-acting, the way a person smiles, their personality, how they “act.” We have all seen the attractive face which loses all its beauty the moment we experience that dull something in the person behind it. Beauty exists cleverly and minutely.

Macro-acting takes work.

Micro-acting is just the way the person is.

All three, personal beauty, micro-acting, and macro-acting, mutually enhance each other, and all three are present in love.

Acting, even as we are describing it here, in a heightened, non-pejorative way, is typically seen as wretched, superficial, dishonest, and unseemly.

But what we are saying here is that acting is at the heart of romantic love, and romantic love could not exist without it.

Romantic love is not necessary to marriage and children; there are many societies where marriage is arranged, or where women are second class citizens, or worse, and therefore breeding does not require love at all.

Here we notice two things. Romantic love, which may lead to marriage and children, is not necessary to these two things.

But when it is, it requires women to be free and equal to men.

If this is true, is the western tradition of romantic love directly involved in equality for women?

And if romantic love does require “acting,” is this why romantic love is easy for other societies to disparage, and why romantic love is increasingly viewed as insincere, useless, and crazy—especially with increasing contact between the west—and societies (Islam, for instance) which put more of a premium on breeding, and submissive women, than romantic love?

Recall that the major trope of romantic love as “madness” comes from Plato, who opined human breeding farms as a national ideal. (Plato redeems himself in other places, defending love, and the equality of women, but his pragmatic side had moments in his famous society blueprint, “The Republic.”)

What if romantic love is the true path to free and equal women, to a free and equal society, and love itself?

What if romantic love faces grave danger before the more practical forces of not only societies which enslave women, but groups who view romantic love as a backwards and superficial act?

Much has been made recently of the unlikely alliance between feminists and Muslims—how could these two groups possibly be allied?

Both oppose romantic love.

Islam prioritizes modesty—marriage in which the woman is subordinate.

Romantic love does not fit into this scheme.

Feminists (and many sexual progressives) dislike romantic love—since it prioritizes attractive and flirtatious females. Indicted here is the great western tradition of dead white male literature of the roaming, independent, pining male poets, and their beautiful female muses.

But the great tradition of romantic love does not feature enslaved, uneducated, subordinate women. Nor does it feature empty-headed, sexual bimbos, either.  And women can be beautiful in millions of different ways.

The Romantic poets, Keats and Shelley, loved educated women.

Equals. Women who could appreciate their poetry. Women (think of Mary Shelley) who were writers, as well.

Poe’s “Ligeia” is an entrancing, mentally and spiritually powerful, woman. Poe rejected as a literary ideal the merely sexual or physically attractive female. Flirtatious women meant nothing to Poe. But the woman poet was a source of great admiration for the American.

The great tradition of Romantic love features strong women. Otherwise it is perverted Romanticism.

Two wars. One should never fight two wars.

Women do not put on uniforms and go to war against other women. Men do that.

In nations where men fight other men and keep their women veiled and subordinate, men fight two wars, one against men, and another against their women.

These societies which fight two wars tend to lose out to the countries in the west—whose women are free and educated—the result of the western romantic literary tradition.

Here’s to Romanticism—often portrayed as reactionary, but it is quite the opposite.

Our readers have noticed we have championed the poet, Ben Mazer, who is just now bringing out his Selected Poems to a great deal of acclaim.

Ben Mazer and Scarriet are leading the revival of Romantic poetry.

We must admit that romance is an act—in the superficial meaning of that word.

We must admit to love’s superficiality.

Even as we defend it.

It is through poetry that micro-acting and macro-acting become one; and the poet achieves the charm of the lover—which all desire to possess.

Romantic love may just be the answer to world peace.

If the world heeds this essay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE ONLY ANTIDOTE TO LOVE

The only antidote to love is a cigarette.

What extends the feeling of love after sex can kill it.

Love will be the end of love, and the awareness of this

Is the philosophy which laughs at the kiss.

I will tell you what love is, as I smoke a cigarette.

Love is the satellite which becomes the planet.

Love is the gull flying across the waters of the inlet

Which cools you as you sit in the sun.

Love is the cigarette which sends

Warmth inside you which never ends.

Love is the contrast of your face with hers.

Love is your cat who fills your bed and purrs.

Love knows the heart is near the filling and emptying lungs.

You breathe the nothing of the empty air.

Better for love when sweet smoke eases into the lungs’ lair.

Love is the unhappy story which sings,

Or vanishes, left only with the embarrassment singing brings.

The poet cannot love, for the poet loves all,

And praises even the smoke on the other side of the wall.

Love defies the cold grave

Waiting for suicidal Cleopatra, who wasn’t brave.

Love vows, but love cannot save

The warrior Ulysses from the elaborate grave.

Men and women make each other sad.

In love, their differences drive each other mad

And so love becomes a storm that grows alone

Until you talk to yourself, and your perfections groan

And all the best of you cries, and you find yourself crying alone.

So take another drag of your cigarette,

And you’ll forsake love yet.

Heart-broken agony cries from a million tongues.

Butts litter graves. The heart is next to the lungs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

SERIOUS QUESTION

Is the world large or various?

People, too numerous to tabulate,

People looking the same, people who you kind of hate;

Why do people look the same?

Because the world is large, and to fill it,

Faces and songs need to repeat.

The world really is dull in its repetition.

There’s that song again,

Which you’ve heard a thousand times before.

Time makes faces look the same, as the beautiful, in the mist, come ashore.

Is the world various or large?

I’m sorry to say, it’s only large.

The distances of the stars,

The infinite impressions which come your way

Are more similar than you know, as you go through your repetitive day.

There aren’t enough words

To make this interesting.

The eye will never be frenzied,

But will always look and stare

Across the miles to see what is there.

People think and look the same.

Things must repeat, and the infinite time and size of the universe is to blame.

Do you know why I cried for you, and why my spectacular love for you made me crazy and weak?

World copied world, but you were unique.

 

WE ALL LOOK BETTER FROM FAR AWAY

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We all look better from far away.

I kiss you in the shadows,

But you don’t look as good in the day.

This morning you made a face, like something wasn’t right,

And immediately the charm fled which we achieved last night.

I hardly know you, and that’s the point.

I’m crazy about you because knowing hasn’t made a dent.

Please don’t tell me too much. Let your face

Retain secrets. The mystery can be spent

In two ways. In safety or crazy.

Crazy is not mysterious at all,

Though a little crazy goes a long way

To lend the mystery of the night to the day.

Taking a risk signals one doesn’t know

And not knowing is good. Darling, let’s go.

Did you forget your hand bag?

Did you bring an extra pair of shoes?

Is your makeup alright?

If you care too much about these, you lose.

There will be a mountain of things

And reasons to keep love

Mysterious when in the dark we move.

THE WOMAN OF TWO MINDS

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The woman of two minds

Doubts that you love her

And doubts she loves you.

She knows she is

Pretty, but doesn’t think she is.

That is, she is pretty enough to despise

You for loving her physically,

But might love you for that, too.

With strength and insecurity,

She loves gays when she feels ugly,

But sometimes wants to feast on you.

You are not sure what she believes,

Or whether her knowledge or doubt

Will find you out,

But what she finds out will not be you,

And she is horrified you might be of two minds, too,

With that intelligence we can never trust,

As it drags vows and poems through the dust.

Taste changes, but it always seems unkind

When what is changeable is the mind.

But you want the cunning of two minds.

You like her; you like what her mind finds.

Other women seem dull, the ones who are kind,

And who love you unconditionally with one mind.

Why don’t you love her who loves you?

Why do you long for this one, of two minds?

Who broke your heart in two?

 

THIS IS NOT MY BEST POEM

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This is not my best poem.

My best poem is gone.

It was almost written. But when I stopped

The poem kept going on.

Life will eclipse life.

What was it like? I cannot remember.

A total failure? A beautiful thing dropped?

The feeling attending the loss

Of the poem, which almost stayed,

Is all the poem is.

Was there wisdom, visions?  Time

Is poetry’s soul, and time on time is laid

Until hearts we saw and thought were there,

Move in a mist, forgotten;

Loss is all that’s speaking. And the poem doesn’t care.

 

 

 

 

BE ONLY FOR YOURSELF

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Pain cannot be selfish. Pain is the only proof

Of suffering—how can suffering be selfish?

Only suffering puts a person into hell.

Then why do you hate the selfish? Guess your theory doesn’t work so well.

I want pleasure, and pleasure is all we know

Of happiness, and not a lot of pleasure awaits us when we go,

So I might just stay here

With the mundane sparrow—the same fear

Felt by the weak in nature is mine.

I’m selfish, thinking of myself—in the highest circles of heaven.

You don’t know what I am in this line.

You don’t know what anyone is, in their writing, or in their speech.

My advice? Go for pleasure. Never yours. But always in your reach.

THE POINT OF THE POINT

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Poe, the first to clearly articulate the theory of the origin of the universe in the Big Bang (see his 1848 scientific essay, Eureka,) said a long poem does not exist.

Da Vinci—and we believe this is similar—said the point is the essence of geometry and painting.

Matter—and pain and sorrow—require relation. Put everything in a point, and you have pure spirituality without matter, and in the suffering and estrangement and separateness of the suddenly emerging explosion outward of matter (and the universe as we know it) we lose the point. Brevity is the entire concept in a nutshell—speed and speed-in-space mutually self-defining each other. Brevity is where Truth and Beauty live together. In the very word, brev-i-ty, 3 syllables sound with a velocity in precise ratio to the physical properties of the universe of that word. Brevity is the universe seen in a grain of sand, the soul of wit, and everything. Brevity is the flower genius crawls on. People who cannot stop talking are not geniuses; they make geniuses wince. Genius is the end of superfluous talk.

What if we applied Poe’s idea of brevity to life?

And not just brevity, but a decreasing dream we chase in our dreams?

Movies, for instance. We tend to remember films as a few brief scenes.

And more precisely: a favorite film tends to contain one arresting, favorite scene, and that scene contains one splendid moment we cannot forget: the scene within the scene: like the ever-fleeting moment of pleasure we, in the longer duration of our days, vainly seek—the point (invisible) within the point (slightly less invisible).

The point, as da Vinci felt compelled to tell us, has no substance—like the zero in mathematics which makes numbers exponentially increase; the point is more than infinitely small; it is smaller than small. It is nothing.

They say a great part of smoking’s addiction, or pleasure, is the fleeting, unsatisfying, nature of it, as you pull smoke into your lungs, feeling that faint jolt of warmth, the ever decreasing movement of the nicotine high, the whole strange act of the fire between your fingers, the fussiness of the habit which you own and owns you, alongside the stinky, unhealthy drawbacks—what is this pursuit but the search for the point—which exists, but does not exist—of the point, which is no point? A long smoke does not exist—though a habit of years, and all its fixings, is long.

The life of pleasure is like a pyramid.

The base of the pyramid is the sum of all our sensations.

As we travel up to the point at the top of the pyramid, with its decreasing volume, pleasure increases, and finally maximum pleasure is achieved at the top—and here at the apex of the pyramid is the vanishing point; the highest pleasure belongs to its end.

The pyramid, or triangle, belongs, as it happens, to perspective in painting; our sight, as da Vinci knew, lives in different triangles which expand outwards in mathematical precision from the eye. The point we seek is the nirvana of pleasure—but the point is also its end.

The triangulation of sight creates perspective—the soul of painting, geometry, and astronomy.

Perspective makes sudden sense of the chaos of sensation.

Ultimate pleasure is something we seek, but never find, and this motivates all movement and desire; the aesthetic translates the sweep and hurry of desire into the proportionate brevity of beauty—rather than allowing desperate desire to find the end, and its destruction.

Here is the summation of morality, art, religion, and civilization.

Limits on pleasure are necessary, but they can be either nicely, or crudely constructed.

Limits can be oppressive, and grow into a hatred of pleasure itself.

But if necessary limits on reckless and suicidal desire are hated, this can also result in loss of morals, taste, wisdom, aesthetics and vision.

Enemies of love exist on both sides.

Both sides aim for our doom—pleasure on one hand, and our protection against it, on the other.

Limits will always seem oppressive, even though they are necessary, and this is why Poe’s formula is the secret to wisdom and happiness—the idea of the brief poem enables us to love limits, and this is our salvation.

The greatest vanity of fake religion is that which puts the limitless universe within us. This is not a sign of God, but chaos. Understanding ourselves as small and limited and precise is what is truly godlike.

The brief poem is more beautiful and gives more pleasure than the long poem, for, as Poe wisely points out, we are physically unable to be greatly inspired for a long period of time.

As human beings, we are always calculating: how much expenditure of effort should I make for this amount of happiness? Is this the best bargain, the most pleasure, for my money, I can get?

And so Poe’s idea is a matter of the greatest practicality.

Now, when it comes to pleasure—the question always arises: will my pursuit of pleasure lead to all sorts of trouble? Unwise eating habits? A nightmarish, heartbreaking, violent, debilitating love affair?

But if we see that pleasure—which we blindly run after—exists in brevity, in very small pieces, or moments, we can more easily manage our reaction to its seductions.

The typical strategy is pretending seductions do not exist, or blocking them out completely. This may work for some, but not for the poet, not for the person who wants to experience pleasure.

How do we experience pleasure, yet mitigate the dangers and the follies?

By understanding the brief and elusive nature of pleasure. By understanding the seduction of pleasure (the point) is actually more real than pleasure itself (the point within the point). By managing our perception of pleasure, we can enjoy pleasure, and defy its punishments.

The first thing we need to do is to break up perception—and the experience of sensation—into brief moments of experience. The second thing is to realize this scattered existence is the real one, and all attempts to bridge moments into coherency is delusional and impossible. Coherency is based on a triangle. But this fact has nothing to do with happiness, so we should cease pretending, in these fake-profound religious sorts of ways, that the ultimate workings of life have anything to do with our happiness. Math is the answer. This is good news—math is comprehensible—and bad news—our long religious dreams are in vain.

As social creatures, who write long books, go for long walks, have long, flirtatious conversations, lie awake for entire sleepless nights, earn Ph.Ds, get married forever, make long term plans, and live in a long universe, we naturally unite moments in our minds, leaving out the less pleasurable, and more mundane, moments of the optimistic arc of our fantasies and dreams.

No matter how seduced we are, we can still reflect on how actually silly our desire is—the sweet rush of a bite of cake, which will eventually give us a stomach ache, or the grasping of that attractive body, which will eventually descend to bodily limit and boredom. But this is not to say we have to block or depress attraction—for suppression can make things worse; the strategy involves indulging in the beauty of the moment—so that beauty is experienced as it is best experienced—in its truly momentary state, where it can be appreciated without leading you into the dangers of trying to possess it—which we all know (unless we are a psychotic rapist, or some kind of debilitated addict), is impossible.

If we obey the law of brevity, we can feed our hungry minds—-and know this is all the luckiest get to have, anyway; we don’t succumb—and this is crucial—to jealousy of others, for this—jealousy of others, which is always a delusion—makes us act irrationally, more than anything else.

Gaze on that forbidden body part for a few seconds. That’s the best you will have, anyway.

Enjoy those eyes. You can never talk to them, or possess them. No one can. They belong to no one—but look at them, briefly, with pleasure.

The sun is not yours. Therefore enjoy it. It is too large to enjoy. But you can, because the sun, for you, is actually small.

Enjoy the placid and calm joy of not indulging, because actually, in stolen moments, you are indulging yourself with the greatest satisfaction. The point inside the point belongs to you. The point is not the point, but the point inside the point is yours, despite what everyone might say, those blabbing nonstop, who annoy you, those who may, or may not, be your dear friends.

Life is how you love your movie. Without being able to hold life (how it rushes by you!), you can enjoy those brief scenes, those brief moments of it—which is exactly how you enjoy your favorite films. You do get to eat your cake and have it—if you stop worshiping long movies and larger-than-life movie stars—and you make yourself in your own life by far the greatest film—which it is.

The long poem does not exist.

Only one life, with brief ones.

 

 

 

TEACH ME ALL YOUR LANGUAGES

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Teach me all your languages:

The different silences, when for different reasons we

Shall be silent—between performances of sad poetry—

And melancholy rendering of mournful, aching music—

When what is said is said with smiles, or resting the head

Upon the ground, deep inside green hills, or on the shore,

The cessation of sweet sounds making us love silence all the more.

Teach me the language of your sorrowful past

So painful, the only understanding possible

Is right now proves not even knowledge and its attendant sorrows can last,

Because if I know that language well,

I will be fluent in avoiding the worst references to your bygone hell.

Teach me the language to use when sorrow

Closes in, because we will not see each other until tomorrow;

The language of goodbye is a must,

Since we need to trust that we can trust,

And when I do not see you, words

Will fly and talk, perch and plume

With sorrow, since you’ll have thoughts in a different room,

And I’ll be blind, and speech will be the speech of blind birds

Who will call out across the old, weary distance

Of old ignorance with sad insistence.

Explain the language that doesn’t refer to “we,”

But separately, with separate wants, to you and me.

Tell me the language that will explain language—

And inside that highest insight, explain you,

Who talks to talk—so is the law of talk–

Even as forever you do what you do.

Teach me how you cried when you ran and fell

As a child. Will I learn the language, or pain?

How much of your cry must I know before I can tell

If my childhood in a different land was the same?

Tell me the language you consider profound

Even if its wisdom is proven false by another, just lying around.

Teach me the language your ancient fathers and mothers knew,

The triumphant and the tragic tongue,

When vines were sweet and strong and young,

And solemn temple, and threatening throne,

Taught, in every valley and corridor, tradition and disappointment,

Filling with awe each apprenticed heart, alone,

Who hurried through each studious hour spent

Towards a knowledge of the future,

To be more than he was,

Abusing the language, which gave

Hyperbole to kings and to the apprentice a grave—

Where you first taught me to say

What your language indicated yesterday.

Teach me your language of desire,

So when we travel deeper into the fire,

And I’m tired, and want to drop

Down, without doing more, you won’t have to stop.

Share the language of every dish you prepare,

That when we are eating, we are almost not there.

Teach me your language of poetry that will charm

My brain and make the hair stand up on my arm.

Your languages are numerous, I know.

No language can help, if my learning is slow.

I saw, once, a look in your eye,

And all my languages began to cry.

Teach me all your languages so I can know

Who you love and where you go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

HOW WILL MY MEMORY REMEMBER ME?

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How will my memory remember me?

Will it travel back to the desperate years

When I cried for you those hesitant tears,

Since, as a man, a few tears were enough,

When I loved, but didn’t quite love enough

Your face which penetrated my eyes

With youth and blonde hair the best disguise,

And that disguise even now enough

To make me fall madly in love?

My memory would have the new

Fill it up, but would rely heavily on you.

It would exchange blue eyes for black

As long as love, felt then, comes back,

When I glimpsed your blue eyes

In youthful, dim surmise.

Memory tells me your image is dead,

Like a sound sounding only in my head,

But still you are beautiful as you look down

Into life, stretched out in a long frown.

I pursued, with recklessness, romance,

Too eager, too untutored, to dance.

I drowned my fiery desire in wine

Which led to nothing, when I was done.

Any love I got was by pure chance.

I found nothing, though I ranged

In and out of haunts, to seek one

To make me happy. You changed

Into many, and my memory of many

Is almost enough to make this claim:

I loved enough, though not in your name.

I loved as my memory told me to love;

From the very beginning, you were enough,

Though we did not love, and with a sigh,

Memory plays sadly and vainly in my eye.

I still look, and still see

The merest mist surrounding me.

 

 

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