Poem falling, Poem howl, Poem scaffold
At times poetry is a falling.
The stumbling of a thought into a chasm of a place that had been barred and condemned, the precipice of a visitation of a history we’d tried to turn from. Paint left scraped on the wall. The buttermilk my friend would pour, how she’d get her mom, twice her size, into the bath, to sober her up. How her father’s trance was our liberation: no supervision meant we did what we wanted.
At times poetry is a howl. My whole neighborhood of dogs colliding in a ritual wail, like the part of a family unmoored enough to say what no one else will say.
They gather up a whole neighborhood of seers around them, to unleash the border-crossing torrent of internal wailing.
At times poetry is all the outcasts, conferencing all the things banned, exiled, suppressed.
At times a poem is a structure; a shape to put one’s heart into,
A scaffolding around an unknown so deep it has no edges and no handholds.
At times poetry is love that falls, dreams that fall, anything that falls:
toast that falls butter side up on the floor;
a simply daily desolation.
Poetry contradicts itself: it can be a falling and a wailing and a scaffolding and a desolation at once.
It can be the stuff of a dream, where one can drop perilously, realizing the naked, utter groundlessness of mind. One is stricken cold with terror, because one is falling, even knowing that in dreams there is no ground.
At times poetry is a magnetic place, it pulls bones up into each other’s sockets, like people are drawn into the empty places in each other’s lives. At times it is a place of fissures, it creates precisely the siren song that breaks open stagnancies and explodes the false refuges we’ve clung to.
Canyoning open. A carving.
Cleaving rib cages breaking open to lay bare the unspoken thrum of the heart still beating under the screech owl of the waking mind.
At times it is a mind in protest against itself, in clamped circling.
At times it is this, at times it is that.
At times it is me, always I am it, there is risk, there are wings, there is falling, there is no ground, there are scaffolds, I am scared, we are here still.
Hold this hand a little longer, some things are at the bottom of the well, some things are left unsaid.
Octavio Paz (trans Kelly Blaser)
It is a long and silent street.
I walk in deep dark. I trip, I fall
And getting up I step, with blind feet,
Upon the mute stones and dry leaves
And someone behind me steps on them as well:
If I stop, they stop.
If I run, they run. I turn my face: no one.
Everything is hollow blackness without exit
and I turn around again and again. Each corner
leads me to the street
where no one waits for me and no one follows me
where I follow a man who trips
and gets up and says, when he sees me: no one. *
Time is an imaginary spouse
we say we must consult before making decisions
When I am up against the wall I stall
and say, I will be back to you tomorrow with a decision;
I must consult time.
I must look at the small boxes on the machine where so much of life lives now.
I must ask the boxes.
I must pretend to be told what to do.
What happens in a cage like that?
the clean space of a yes crams against the wall.
the clarity of the no loses its ground.
gratitude, child of the sun, chokes on its own throat.
When there is no I left, and no clinging to that illusory time-officer,
no one to consult;
no one but breath.
We are space again,
an opening in the center of the reed.
The feet stop shuffling along the ground.
Gratitude clears its abandoned throat
the yes floats, infant again,
a fathomless hovering
in the generous recursivity
in the verdant
in the dawn of void.
Listen to Octavio Paz read La Calle, and discuss the fugitive that is the "I".