From the mysterious Excelsior neighborhood of SF…out of the archives… as I spend the day writing a paper on Walt Whitman and Austin Spare, and how self-love means relaxing with death and change.
A backyard mural party last night in dark and chilly Vegas, in a residential part of downtown that was new to me. First they showed the mural —two dudes on motorcycles in desert landscape — and then it was painted over, free for everyone to enjoy. Everything captured on video and set to music. It reminded me of the relaxed mayhem of a Santa Cruz house party, lots of artifacts and cheap beer and hilarious conversations and mild destructiveness in a rickety, wind-blown house-backyard. Artists, bikers, collectors agog about their jams and explaining them to you. Got into a talk about Fugazi performing all of Red Medicine at one of their shows. And then reminiscing about the San Diego music scene, bands like Creedle and Three Mile Pilot. I slipped copies of my zine in the cereal boxes. And left a few around their house. For a handful of seconds, I actually thought that my new friend had prosthetic green hands, a disconcerting moment that added intensity to the rest of the evening. When they started cooking the hands, I also felt a quiver of odd familiarity, but from what real or imagined past fiasco I couldn’t say.
Zion, Utah. Last Weekend. Family and reading and homework and short hikes. The yellow leaves against the water and the rocks obsessed me. So magnificent. End of semester rush. Papers. And papers. And propositions and excitements and books spilling off the tables. Whitman and spiritual work. The shock of gratitude. And community-on-the-fly. And poems to read and new friends and new enigmas to embrace. And Vegas, ever present, ever soughing in all its garbled traffic. I don’t like Vegas yet, nor love it, nor plan on either maybe; but I generously acknowledge it and am part of it. And life remains a blessing.
Photograph of Rrose Sélavy (Marcel Duchamp) by Man Ray, 1921
I still want this portrait of Duchamp as his drag alter-id, Rose Selavy to be my first tattoo.
The Unbending Day
The wind picks up where
the heart drops off,
where our body falls to tatters,
in the silver road weeds
dirt-threads of us, faintly glimmering,
we plummet at this wavering thing
where nothing is grasped, even as arms
flail at mirroring flame,
hand-thorns ambushed and
abandoned eggs begotten,
your eyes blew doubts at mine my barrier weakened,
crow-scared and road-blind attempts to answer age us,
as a basin’s long-buried jewel,
our earth is not some sinking cradle you once swam
this body built, dissolved upon radiance
of mountain that stood taller, the closer
we drove inward the sky. Your shells strewn, what you are now,
evasive harmonic future, this sprinkled shore
of my you and you me and our shelled we-body,
echoing but splitting internally,
we had occasional cradleship memorialized in bark
an endless roadship, invisible body motioning us
we never knew or said yes at.
Sad conveyance in gas-light, money words stall,
interplay of gears and mirrors and the
dazzle of leather tune the motor, he said
strangely sad under a sunken awning,
turn the words
in the echoing argument. Flies skid the luxury glass,
with prows bent,
but wind is the cleansing argument
stand breakable as stalks in the light-splitting air
summits rise, then stall another’s words snare,
as these cracked eggs send
shrill flecks past. You awake to a morning that feels final,
leaf-fingers part the blinds, the boards,
graze the kitchen’s unkempt reliquary, splits the corners,
figures skim the room, real strangers, and the buildings
whistle early and at midday,
for daylight is thrown pell-mell at
structure, and screeches open the valley, in relentless gusts,
furrowed perfectly like flutes hallowing the wind of us askance,
upwards, greenwards through unmooring the once us from
these green and brittle floors
which our body longed to clasp
"Cantara" — by Dead Can Dance.
Ecstatically dark music for October’s weirdness. Otherworldly transport in the emptiness of your own apartment.
Reminds me of this prefatory quote form Brion Gysin’s The Process:
"A philosophy that doesn’t culminate in a metaphysic of ecstasy is vain speculation…" — Henry Corbin
"To be fully human, one needs to be in relation to others who correspond to oneself."
Last night over my thirtieth birthday dinner, a friend said that she felt like your 30s are not about yourself but about others. Compared to your 20s, it is a time when the self becomes less important and relationships with others (partners, children, aging parents) become more important. The self built in the 20s proffers the strong pivot on which to turn toward others in the 30s.
The conversation made me think of Kaja Silverman’s masterful book Flesh of my Flesh. In it, she proposes similarity as opposed to difference as a paradigm for humanity. Such an arrangement positions relationality in advance of individuality and opens up the possibility of analogical thinking, which connects self to other, presence to absence, future to history, and countless oppositions within our own being.
She puts this theory to work by analyzing two series of photo-paintings made by Gerhard Richter: portraits of his daughter Betty and of members of the leftist terrorist group Baader-Meinhof (Red Army Faction) who were found dead in their prison cells. Richter painted his bracing series (entitled October 18, 1977) of iconic blurred canvases from press photographs of the dead. Silverman suggests that he posed and painted his daughter Betty (sometimes in comparable positions to Ulrike Meinhof) to register the emotion and importance of the events and to experience a loss. By setting up an analogy between these women, the two series proffered emotional proximity and historical connection.
I’ve always loved the above portrait of Betty. Her red jacket, pinned hair, and turn away. Silverman suggests that in addition to seeing this as a turn away, we consider it a turn toward something, in this case her father’s monochrome, which fills the background of the painting, and all that it represents. I think its a brillant reading and one that correlates with the theme of “turning toward” in the 30s. Let this new decade be one of analogy!
I can attest: Kaja Silverman and Flesh of My Flesh are extraordinary! And your 30’s ARE about relationality and healing analogy, at least I think so, and having just spent the semester studying Whitman and Dickinson’s poetry in terms of Whitehead, Bergson and other relational thinkers, I’m even more convinced. Of course to get to the source of sources, as my professor says, I must turn to the Vedas, especially during this period of dental pain and tooth surgery. Rock on.