I wonder why I've never read him before, find myself glad that the friend I do not know sent me on the search for this work. But then, I don’t read much poetry; the ‘classical’ poets seem full of cliche, so overrun with old-world sentimentality that to read them is like wading through vats of stale and sticky syrup. I do read some; I enjoy Williams and Thomas, and feel a strange kinship with Plath…though I find Sexton menopausal and sexually restrained; a lonely masturbator in search of why. I think the carbon monoxide might have been ultimately orgasmic in that lull before the dark.
So I find Dorn and I read; and in that consumption I began to think that the critical eye is a marvelous thing, a holy thing that bares the bones of the low and the high; that nothing is without its skeletal core. I read that Dorn said “I puke on greatness”…and in this I agree; for isn’t greatness just an enlargement of some tiny core, a miniscule beginning common to all? Nothing is so great that it can’t be drug down, nothing so small that it can’t catch some bottom rung and climb. I have felt that urge to vomit, void hot chunks of disillusionment and despair squarely on the shoulders of those who flaunt their largesse for the masses to stroke….that’s really the rub of it; most want to stroke the robe, kiss the ring, lick the cliched boots…and for what? A crumb of recognition? A crust of lauded pie thick with bullshit and back pats?
So I found this, and as I read it I realized that I am not alone, not the only someone to feel the tightening of an unseen rope:
By Ed Dorn
From now on,
I’m under House Arrest–
I only get out for the job:
Then, Death–the ultimate
House Arrest, the ultimate duree–
But it was worth it.
From now on,
I’m under house arrest–
I only get out for the job;
Then Death–the ultimate
And there it is, that thing that I do…I only get out for the job. Were it not for a forced need of income, I would sit forever, not in the comfort, but the consolation of my house…arrested there, suspended in the web of ago like some ancient, arthritic spider feeding on the raveling cocoons of dead things; all the while spinning my own tightly-wound shroud with acidic strands of myself. I am left to wonder, is this all I am meant to do? Wait to die, become a dead thing in someone’s web, a face bobbing to the surface of anothers' memory pool? So I write this:
In the tick-down of days,
in barely an open and close of years,
I choose not to die, but to cheat death;
slow the wind of anatomy
that is no more than body,
take back from the gods what was never theirs.
To remain here forever,
a single voice in the silence of time,
a shadow above the soil of the dead.
I will not die denied,
next to an unknown madness,
but wait the birth of each mute hour,
and know the past was never better
than in small seconds.
I turn it over and over in my mind, all this that has come from the reading of a poet at the behast of a masked mind…spinning and spinning those bitter threads about the great and vomitous non-purpose; and finally comes a cocoon of reason, a small insect of comprehension that my stagnant, narc-calmed id wraps around as if the bug is a bit of manna cast down from pissed and dubious gods:
I think, perhaps memory is not purpose, but the remembering is…the log of ends to stories without the necessary voice, without the hand needed to record the what-could-have-beens attached to every bobbing face; each pulsed rhythm that ceased in gutters, in alleys, in back rooms…without a voice to mourn their end, without an eye to remember.
So with purpose, I write this:
This mind turns on its axis.
Continuous thought uninterrupted
by the vicious sleep of reason,
breeding Goya’s monsters in ground
fertile with preconceived knowledge.
The grease of time speeds the spin.
disoriented, weak against the chain.
links held true by solid welds fused from
assimilated concepts, layered like brick.
The wild whirl of intellect births ideas.
Intrinsic contemplations on a mental screen,
infallible doctrines flung into speculation
on suspicions whispered to living rock.
This mind trips on unearthed reality.
Forgotten voices speak for themselves,
startled hands bring pen to paper, validation
stains the page with creation’s mistakes.
And I hear the scream as I write the words.