The future stands still, dear Mr. Kappus, but we move in infinite space. - Ranier Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Letter 13

Dear Josephine,

I haven't written poetry in a long time. My first-year of college my Creative Writing professor pulled me aside, telling me that he had showed some of my poetry to his colleagues and that they were impressed by my writing, wondering how such a voice emanated from an eighteen-year-old's hand. I didn't understand the link between age and talent, but I was floored. My junior year I fell in love (again) with literary theory, and presented myself with an unnecessary decision: focus on criticism or creation. I chose the former. I haven't written a poem in nearly three years, when I wrote the upwards of twenty-some poems a year from fourth grade to my third year of college. Today, I attempted to write something. And although I am unsatisfied, it is a step in the right direction (as it's a movement away from my regular topics):

I value the planes between your shoulder and the floor

According to an online resource, “running
and dancing are kinetic activities.” So is fucking:
my hand at a cavity; I value kindness.
I enjoy the not feeling sensation of feeling.
Inertia is for those unable to implode.
See: this paradigm of loving.


Letter 12

Dear Josephine,

Well, when one is drunk, one finds herself a prophet. I do believe in all those things I listed in my last letter, although my endorsement of them are a bit more pronounced (and generic) upon glass numero tres of red wine.

Anyway, this weekend I went with my mother to The Library of Congress. The "great hall" is stunning in its architecture and painted walls, which are embossed with many quotes, among them: "The light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not." It struck me to silence.

Can't that quote be applied to the meaning of ignorance?:

ig·no·rance (ĭg'nər-əns) : n. The condition of being uneducated, unaware, or uninformed.

Isn't the darkness ignorance? And in this cloak of darkness there is an inability, or a lack of participation in the quest, to understand "truth"? Here, blindness, even in the brightest of places.

Later, dressed in boxer shorts and a t-shirt, I "googled" the phrase. I wasn't surprised to learn it's from the bible.

John 1:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

"Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

"There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world."

Lord! Look at that multifaceted narrative. It's really quite brilliant. Here "word" becomes "Word", which changes the meaning, or at least the intention of the word, entirely. And John is both an observer and a channel of knowledge and creation. That excerpt is a fold within itself.

Right now, I'm listening to Dire Straits "Romeo and Juliet". I'm fascinated by the impetus provided by literary texts. Inspiration, inspiration, you sneaky woman. We all steal stories, I suppose.

Lately I've been unable to give voice to my thoughts, and even now I find this letter to be inadequate. I've become quieter and more contemplative, and this is a good thing. Kenneth Bruffee once said (paraphrase here): "Writing is conversation internalized re-externalized onto paper." I believe that. Another bullet to the list.



Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Letter 10

Dear Josephine,

My senior year of college, whenever I was depressed, I listened to Jim Croce's album Photographs and Memories. The other day I was watching television and I saw a program about his life, which showed some segments of him singing his songs. I was reminded of my former obsession with his "lover's cross". Jim sings:

"'Cause now it seems that you wanted a martyr/Just a regular guy wouldn't do/But baby I can't hang upon no lover's cross for you"

The quotation led me to thinking about my relationships, some still going strong, others now quietly on hiatus, and still others that have ended. I think in all my failed relationships (I'm using this term loosely, as it's all encompassing) there was always this misunderstanding of the other's character. And I don't mean that I misjudged a person's character or vice-versa, but that I misjudged my own understanding of that person. A frame within a frame within a frame. Simply put: I think in all relationships we are prone to eventually expect a fellow comrade to act in a specific manner, or become more aware of his/her shortcomings, and change. But we fail to realize that our attempts at making this person a "better" person, have not only isolated him/her, they've skewed our own perceptions. This causes us to try to make this comrade come to terms with his/her failings, but we in turn use these failings to justify the "faulty" decisions he/she makes. Where is the happy medium? If we are using their faults to justify other faults, how can we give others the benefit of the doubt? But that's not really it - how can we see that they are changing, or that they are reflecting on what we are saying, when are perceptions of them have stayed the same? Have we become preachers who forget to listen to the voices of their congregations? Even there, in that simile, a hierarchy emerges.

And still Jim sings:

"'Cause tables are meant for turnin'/And people are bound to change/And bridges are meant for burnin'/When the people and memories they join aren't the same"

And finally --

I've been haunted by Before Sunset since I watched it months ago. In the movie the two main characters, Jesse and Celine, share this interaction:

Jesse: Oh, God, why didn't we exchange phone numbers and stuff? Why didn't we do that?

Celine: Because we were young and stupid.

Jesse: Do you think we still are?

Celine: I guess when you're young, you just believe there'll be many people with whom you'll connect with. Later in life, you realize it only happens a few times.

Jesse: And you can screw it up, you know, misconnect.

I wonder: I constantly see emails and read articles that draw a line between my body and a stranger's, connecting me to one family tree and to another, or one country to another, or one phone network to another, placing tiny bobbing heads across a map of the united states (and beyond). Connections are painted as being innumerable. Of course I am connected (even with this medium) to those living in locations across the globe. But Celine is right - that tenuous line is so rare, that when it reverberates, one shouldn't ignore its sound.



Sunday, April 6, 2008

Letter 9

Dear Josephine,

Reading On the Road is causing me to become an emotional train wreck. In addition, it's causing me to hoard all of my money and live off of yogurt, fruit, pizza, and honey/tea. Why? Because, I'm trying to save money to pay off my credit card bill. These are the ties that bind. I'm desperately seeking other terrains -- this summer I'm going on a road trip to quell this wanderlust/hunger that's driving me crazy.

Do not: mention sands, mountains, rivers, or valleys; sing to me, "do not hasten to bid me adieu"; draw maps and lines that intersect like highways and byways; radios and heat and higher altitudes. Do: whisper Washingtonian summers, dance parties, and metro rails. It's always on my mind.

I need to learn how to drive a manual. I am going to have to find someone to teach me. I need to learn patience. I also need a second job.

Damn finances.

This letter is cynical. I wish you days full of confetti, as I associate those strips of garbage with celebratory evenings and noteworthy success stories.

And yes, I do appreciate your constant support.