Monthly Archives: March 2009

One Flower Said to Another

I am trying to write something from my belly, but I’m not coming up with anything.

Yesterday, in Marie Howe’s class, we were talking about how writing is like singing, and something should be allowed to speak through us.

I started crying because I wanted more of this. I took off my glasses.

Shannon, tell us what you’re feeling, she said.

I was just thinking about having things speak through us. Maybe we have to empty out. Our ego.

I cried because I want more. Or maybe it was someone tipping their hat and saying, OK.

OK. Walk barefoot. Look silly.

OK. Let your body feel like a million stones lift you. If the sky wanted you, it would ask.

So, I told myself to feel loved.

I was standing in an archway, waiting for a meeting. The sun was on my face. Then it wasn’t.

The impulse to kneel and chew on the grass. I mean bite. Chomp.

When I was younger, I’d bath my horse with a hose then let her graze. When I’d place my face to her body, that was praying, too.

Now, I have the memory but nothing solid.

To fill in gaps, I study someone’s eyes, nose pushed close to theirs.

Thinking we’re two eyelashes, or flowers, side by side.

You’re God, too, I said.

You make me want to believe you, they said.

I thought I was too small to become the sky.

So I told myself to feel loved.

OK. Feel yourself in particles, one flower said to another. But it will hurt, loving God that way.


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My Ego is Shit

I don’t even know why I write notes. I guess if imaging in my head that there are some people out there that read and benefit from my ramblings helps me to write more–even if it’s nonsense words jumbled up in Ivory soap and canary feathers–then I will continue to write notes, blogs, etc.

Being sick aside, I have had a most interesting Spring Break. The universe is testing me, perhaps to be more humble, to count my blessings, or just to say “Hey Shannon, just when you thought you were on a roll, well, HA, guess what? You gotta work harder, sweat more, climb a couple more thousand feet, and THEN, maybe your brain will be able to perform again.”

I go through these cycles of writing things that seem to come out of nowhere, as though some brilliant ghost has descended and handed me a marginally good piece of work….and then, BAM. It all goes away. Just like that. And sometimes, this “absent ghost” period can last for MONTHS.

And I play the usual self-deprecating mental tape over and over again, knowing all the while in some corner in the back of my head that it will all come back…one day I will write something and not want to hide in shame and embarrassment.

Oh, but Shanon, don’t you remember why you started writing in the first place? Don’t worry about “audience” etc etc.

Easy. Easy said.

Yes. A long time ago, I used to write journals to guardian angels or to my horse or my dead grandmother.

And now? Perhaps I’ve lost my writing-spirit.

Tonight, I got tired of writing, spilling tears over my laptop, getting frustrated and saying for the twentieth time today “SCREW IT!” that I decided to take a break and read some Larry Levis.

I feel very close to Levis. The first time I opened up his collection, Elegy, which was the first book of his that I read, I cried. I read the first poem and burst into tears, right there in the library. I didn’t care. His words, his images, his feeling…I felt a kinship. Which isn’t surprising considering a professor of mine told me to read him.

And so, I read some essays, some interviews, hoping he’d have some sort of power to kick me out of my funk.

Well, it didn’t kick me out of my funk. When I have lost my muse, it takes a miracle from God to get me back to writing descent poetry, or even prose, again.

But I did read this, which gave me some comfort.

“I write first, for myself. I’m afraid if I stop I won’t do it anymore. And someone asked “Well, why. What are you afraid of?” And I said, “Well, writing keeps me feeling good about myself, keeps me feeling alive, keeps me….,” and then I said, “It’s the only thing that keeps me interested.” Suddenly, everything comes back and it’s at once crystal clear and also meaningless: that tree disguised in shadow of summer, sunlight on a doorstep that transforms it into a threshold of desire and then of loss, just the pure phenomenon…. And we’re stilled, bewildered by those people who are truly happy all the time, who have a cash box for a heart. Almost everyone else has en enlarging kernel of doubt.”

Kernel of doubt.

I have wheat fields.

There are times I feel myself wandering about in an alley of stalks.

And, yes, though I know the field ends, that somewhere the clearing will happen, I can’t help but fall on my knees every now and then, wondering, lost, uneasy.

I don’t even know why I wrote this.

Such a small Universe that I live in. I want to be a dirt devil that, though it spins for such a short amount of time, it knows its purpose and never lets up. It has shape. It has fury. Energy. And never once does it stop to wonder, am I destroying a crop field?

No, that sucker just rips a path straight through you.

You feel it. It speaks a truth even it doesn’t know. Dust and cracked lips.

So, yes. I work, a madman at times, tearing things up and crying out some pathetic prayers.

But don’t tell me to quiet. I rage.

Even when I’m filled with love, I rage.

One day, I won’t be able to cry or sing. The winds will stop altogether.

And when the words abandon me, I’ll find some other way to move my body. To bend this way or that.

I decided, that while I’m in this nonproductive, writer’s block stage, I’ll still write a poem. One long poem that babbles on and on about whatever the hell it wants to say. It’s the most horrible poem you could imagine. It hurts just to write it. Just to look at it. I walk away ashamed. Horrified. Like I’ve committed a dirty act. Sold my body for a buck. I don’t know. But I figure, what the hell. My ego is shit compared to how much I love Poetry.

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Insist on yourself

Someday, the words will come back to me—they always do. This is my profession, my life-love. My movement. It will not abandon me. I must keep the faith tucked away inside me, lean back a little more, breathe, know that my destiny is already written, that I have little control. The control I do have is to keep heart, to continue growing my passion and to stay true to my love—dedicate my body and its pulse to words, to faith in the muse, that my brain is always working.

And so I read. And what sort of selfishness must I have to demand my production be swift, shining, and many? I live my words, without speaking them. I step forward into them, gather words around me. I must not pressure myself to produce for audience, for the tiniest of recognitions. The words are their own bodies, despite never being spoken. They do not thrive on applause and neither should I.

If I could sit back and allow myself to sit in silence, in faith, then maybe my words will ring truer, as I will have allowed moments to pass through me.

If I can relax in the knowledge that what has come will return, then the confidence will begin to grow—not overbearing and insolent, but humble and nestled in its place.

To have faith in the wholly other—as my works are said to be, risen out of a dirt, a soil that is not my ground, not my making.

And why not communicate with others? Would I always keep my words from them? No. My works are just as much theirs.

Why can’t I trust this? Why so anxious?

“Insist on yourself. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous half possession. That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him. What is the master that could have taught Shakespeare? Franklin or Washington, or Bacon or Newton? Do that which is assigned to you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much. There is at this moment for you an utterance brave and grand as that of the colossal pen of Moses or Dante, but different….
Abide in the simple and noble regions of thy life, obey thy heart…
Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.” –Emerson

Also, why would I want to constantly dig my way through days, always demanding product? Why immerse myself in the stress of demanding each day a perfection?

So my soul longs to break out, so I desire to speak and commune, throw my words out like long strands of gold, but how I need a pause, a hold. To digest, to being into me newness, gestation.

If I daily wait and kiss works, I may overwhelm and not gain perspective.

Like new lovers who want to stay bound to each other’s side, but how much sweeter the memory from a distance. How time apart brings the gift of contemplation, of breathing ones own light around the body, of waking into the self again and then to sing as singular and true. Then, when the lover returns, how much stronger each touch, force, independent and stable—a sure-footed stance from which to leap that much higher in the atmosphere of Bliss!

So I, too, should accept the departing of my muse, the long breath of Silence, thank my incapable hand as I would thank a soft flow of assured words and perspective.

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From letters
From letters

From letters

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Emerson, My Pathetic Journal and a Couple Llamas

All things left unfinished. Even as I walk from the bath to my bedroom, things drip and evaporate. I mean my thoughts. And where is the trust? If I have no trust, nothing will learn to settle, nothing will uproot from the sky and settle into my allotted plot.

I cough and my sides ache. The shirt drapes over me in the wrong way. I lift up my shirt and assess that I have gained approximately 10 pounds since getting sick and not being able to do my daily running. I feel a heat gathering.

Then a rolling down in my gut. Not hunger, but anger. My breasts hang a bit heavier. My stomach does not sit comfortably around my jeans, but leans over them. Perhaps this is all in my head, but the anger is still present.

You’re so damn lazy, I say to myself.

Of course, what I really mean is that I haven’t been writing. And when I sit down to write, it’s as though I’m running against a chain-link fence, my face cornered against the wires, but I’m watching the neighbor’s llamas stare into the fields.

I wish I were a llama, I think.

What lies next to me at night? I don’t know. A weighted being. A tall guilt. I try and breathe into it. Out goes the heat in my body, and in I am filled with violets. No.

“Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place divine providence has found for you…We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents.”

Emerson. I feel tied to you, somehow. As though my only boat was your dead body.

I am so damn lazy.

I wrote in my journal. Last night, I wrote:

We should let something else move within us. It is always written, whether I write it or not. Don’t I understand? That my mind sometimes fails is inevitable, that my arms freeze in mid-air, mid-sentence, this happens.

So nothing. I don’t look at You. But why do I rush what I already own?

This journal. Writing in a journal, not good enough. Not good enough, my own pathetic word-garden. It’s not.

So I focus on my weight. As if gaining a few pounds leaves my brain incapable of writing.

Sometimes, I’ll sit and write emails in the dark, trying to find a way to a door I didn’t know I closed. Not a lover, god, nothing as pathetic as that. My own heart.
Emerson, why don’t you climb up here and give me a hand?

Here’s another journal bit. A bit I’d chew into a spitball and throw out at passing cars:

“How can I expect great and wonderful things to pass through me if I am not patient, guided, strong, disciplined?

Can I rediscover this moment, as though it is the most precious moment of my life and I have stumbled upon it, somehow?

Thought: this is my root: this, this self that’s questioning, but not in a worried sense, but in a stretching ones hand out, sense. This is my constant.”

No, not your constant. Silly garden. Words. Like I’ve lost all ability.

Everything unfinished. So I focus on the body. What forms are taking shape. New curves. Creation without my doing.

“No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature.”

Emerson. I like how you think. Just as this blubbering attempt is mine. So I move through it. OK. Yes. My face against a chain-link fence. The llamas.

But I want to throw myself into something diligent. Something with age and there it rolls, underneath me, rolls my frustration. A god that never delivers.

I knew a man like that once. He’d talk of my brilliance in abstractions. Praise the shade of my skin. Sometimes. But leave me edged, high in some hayloft between his brain and mine.

I can’t see any way down! I’d yell.

And he’d be in the trees. He’d send notes, every now and then. Something like:

“Try the ladder, under your feet”

And I’d insist, no, no it’s jammed! Tell me about your mother! Your father!

He’d ignore this. As I sent strings of coded intimacies into the wind. I’d send them, as though I was playing strip poker at a bar. As though I was his.

“Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.”

Emerson, again. Yes. And so I built stalls for things.

It is easy in the world to live for the world’s opinion.

But Emerson, what would you think of my babbling on like this? What would the currents say to the wire between us? I can’t undo the heat, the anger at myself.

I’ve spoken. Headed strait for the wire and chain-link fence. I knew I’d fail, but damn the llamas, their natural bodies, I’ve spoken.

All things left unfinished. I’ve gained 10 pounds. The water isn’t water once it drips. Evaporates. Between the bath and the bed. Between my journal and the phone call.

I wanted to say something about how I miss cutting myself. But the heat rises instead. And Emerson, not one word, my man. Not one word about society and my truth.

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Time to Breathe (Thought Out in my Head While Taking a Bath)

Suddenly, I cannot make all of the choices I once had the liberty to make. My body is telling me to slow down. And the writing desk bares its teeth. Glenn Gould is my only comfort of late. Though, it’s a song without a song. It’s a movement without the dance. I listen to him play, my mind spins, but I cannot write.

I should learn something through sickness.

I have never actually listened to Glenn Gould play before, only listened to how the notes move me, move in and out of my cochlea and hit strides upon my wired mind. But am I listening to the notes? Or simply waiting for them to lean against me? Please, against me, lean your visions.

No, not listening.

And I do not wish to wait. Do not wish to sit and feel my days pass by without accomplishment. The writing desk is baring its teeth. And I feel like crying. I feel like my only line to a landscape is gone. My body takes control and I do nothing but fight. But stand in the doorway, one foot in, the other impatiently out, waiting for the ringing bell, the gates to open.

Am I listening to ballads or forming them in my mouth? Are the notes independent of my ego?

How this moves me, when I listen. If I really listen, his notes take me to the widest forest, or under your ear lobe.

But I do not want this long language, the many minerals here under me. How can I make my words as minerals? As an array of sheets in the earth, cool, light, or heated and porous. Why make them anything than what they are?

Against the backdrop of these ballades, your hand.

Does something really need to be produced by me today? The calm will still be there, if I’d listen.

I took three baths today. One to fill the room with steam. And though my glasses fogged and the pages curled between my fingers, I was able to read about the anatomy of thought.

Then I read the letters of C. S. Lewis. “All the things you like to dwell upon are outsides. A planet like our own…Or a beautiful human body. All the colors and pleasant shapes are merely where it ends, where it ceases to be inside. Inside, what do you get? Darkness, worms, heat, pressure, salt.”

Yes, yes. Like the caves my sister mentioned at dinner. Not caves, caverns. And out near them, the salt flats. And the time I rode in the car, listening to my mother gesture one way or the other, writing in a notebook, seeming sad for no reason, watching the salt flats sprinkle ghosts at me. What’s that? I asked. Salt.

The days or moments remembered. Where in the anatomy of thought do they reside. And why do I need to write to prove this? That one moment I was 14, driving to Carlsbad and the next my future self sits listening to Glenn Gould—moments will rise up and fall away, no matter the writing.

And so I am back in steam, glasses fogged, reading. Thinking, somewhere, there’s a day I have yet to live. With you. You who do not know the anatomy of my thoughts.

I read this tonight, between coughing and wanting to reach for the pen. Between meditation and stirring up my insides.

I read, from Etty Hillesum’s diary:

“The will flows smoothly into the deed, the barriers I couldn’t cross before have at last broken down. And I no longer say, ‘Yes, but I have not yet found my “territory”.’ I no longer suffer because I have not yet discovered the right ‘instrument,’ the right ‘object.’ All that matters now is the ‘deep inner serenity for the sake of creation.’ Though whether I shall ever ‘create’ is something I can’t really tell. But I do believe that it is possible to create, even without ever writing a word, by simply molding one’s inner life. That too is a deed.”

That too is a deed.

And I took another sip of water. I took time to breathe. Caught in between the ballads and the desire to write.

Between this one long breath and the next, is a pause. And You settle things, or throw them about. A mess or a calm.

The days or moments remembered. The anatomy of another’s thoughts against mine. And thinking of yours, and C. S. Lewis, Glenn Gould, and the stranger on the side of the highway, passing the salt flats so many years ago…

between each one lives numerous other lives. Could this all be our words, then, together? And if I am silent, is it so I can hear You speak?

I was thinking about myself, about writing, about leaning one ballad against the next. I was refusing to listen.

And I took another sip of water. I took time to breathe.

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