Lust Helps Us Along; On Psychoanalysis, the Artist and St. John


I am currently reading an array of books (my bedside is surrounded by piles of books I’m “currently reading,” which is somewhat a lie, but only somewhat…I pick at things here and there, scoop things up and place them down again, like little birds).

Today, I am reading The Psychoanalyst and the Artist, along with St. John of the Cross.

It’s interesting, because there’s this call for Union with the self, in both cases…(if, as though rocks cast from a mountain, we are a bit of God).

Uniting with the self, with the unconscious, with the mountain from where our bodies were hurled.

And the Artist? What of her? What of her long hours, standing on the shifting weight of feet, gargling mysteries around on her tongue, convinced that there’s nothing, absolutely NOTHING new to be spoken or sung or written…

Union with the self? How can that be possible when it feels the search is never over? One work after another, broken off as acorns from above which refuse to grow. MY GOD! They are imperfect shells.

That’s a poem-baby. And yet my unconscious has failed to wean it into the wide world.

Or our spirits hang above the window as doves do, calling for their mates.

God isn’t a ghost-man out looking for bits of string to tie to trees.

We do not have to look for days for the right word or line break.

Gargling.

As though the artist is gargling the same words around in the throat. (Or, should they be a painter, the same images, color schemes, and such) Someone said a poet essentially writes the same poem, over and over again.

And hello! The telephone keeps silent. The rocks are not falling as often as they should, as though, if you sat in your room long enough, some work would curl up in your lap, complete, lovable, worthy of prizes and Grants.

Vulnerable. I am sitting at work, listening to a sociology class discuss intimacy.

Floating through the classroom and onto my desk:

“I think lust helps us along, helps us let go. Exposing ourselves is a process.

Whatever those vulnerable parts are, they need to be exposed.

But most of us are on guard.”

Says the professor.

This my mind picks up on while I’m trying to write this piece about psychoanalysis, God and the Artist.

But I am at work, writing this piece on psychoanalysis, God and the Artist because the universe works on a string of things, branching out like your veins or the capillary system in a maple leaf. And if I were any other place, I wouldn’t have heard:

Intimacy explained in a professor’s words, drifting over to my desk, reminding me:

Lust helps us along.

Lust for the body—of flesh or body of work.

And so we want to be done with it.

Why isn’t this poem working?

Oh, I’ve torn many strands from my head over this thought.

I’ve prayed, please, give me a vivid dream.

As though a poem would appear and I’d be writing again like I did when I drank too much.

So, I read in my book:

“The total life work of an artist is a more or less continuous dream-work.”

Total life. Throughout. Like when you set off to count the skylights and bridges form. You don’t understand until the lines begin to cross.

God laughs when you get a smirk on your face, when you want to hurl a cup of hot tea at his face and say

Why didn’t you TELL me my ex-boyfriend was a drunk?

Oh, young one. You’ll be free to feel the softness of girls skirts now….

Now that the poems are not each their own bodies, but a flowing string of things from the longest tradition.

Lust helps us along.

Psychoanalysis and the Artist says:

“You, you are an artist if you can weave together radiances of symbols in such a way and with such an interpretive relationship to reality that you can create the illusion of something alive and something manifold so that each who comes to look at it, listen to or touch your work feels himself caught in your dream-becoming-art….”

So, St. John wrote of passing through mountains and strands. Calling out that nothing, no, nothing would permit him passage if he did not grieve for the loss of his Love. Set about muttering on like a Mad Man in search of his unconscious dream-becoming-art.

His dream: these little flowers set out on a hill, or hiding behind a rock, which he will always search for. What can one flower (work) accomplish alone that many gathered together (one’s life work) can accomplish? Surely, the artist must have faith that at the end of life, something will have grown, some garden will have flourished that, in the young days of creativity, the artist could have never guess it’s rich pattern.

Will the garden be colorful, seasonal, limited, renewing? Will the work give one or many pleasure?

If the artist (gardener / gatherer of flowers) continued to worry about the end-result, nothing would get accomplished. And still, if the artist stressed and gargled over and over gain, over the same plant, what else could grow? What other works would be done?

So, I say to a poem-lilly: “are you grown? Are you who you’re supposed to be?”

I walk from my car to the train, from the train to Grand Central, from Grand Central to Union Square, thinking

Is there a poem to be found here? Here? Here, in this stranger’s pocket on the six?

And, while worrying about the little flower-poem that may or may not exist,

I miss The Garden. The City that loves me, itss bad breath and gorgeous breasts.

God, why have you loved me enough to place me here?

Why is this the city that’s kissing me, and will I find more poems in the side-streets?

Something keeps telling me, it doesn’t matter.

I am the Six and the rock from Your Mountain.

Once, when I was writing in a black notebook on the Metro North, depressed that Larry Levis had died so young after reading a book of his poems,

It suddenly hit me:

It’s enough I am here to read him.

And I’ll die having thought about his California.

Matthew Dickman’s New York Produce.

Catharina Evan’s New Jersey.

Megan Williams’ Idaho.

And God, why have you loved me enough to place me here?

When I got the letter about being on the waitlist for Sarah Lawrence,

I cried for 20 minutes in my apartment hallway, called my mother in Puerto Rico and said “I didn’t get in.” She said she’d drink a Margarita for me anyway.

But the Universe is made of a continuous string, like your veins or the capillary system in a maple leaf.

And Oh, young one, you’ll learn a lot about the Greater Picture through this, about faith.

St. John of the Cross said:

Who can set forth in words that which He makes them feel? and, lastly, who can explain that for which they long?

Assuredly no one can do it; not even they themselves who experience it. That is the reason why they use figures of special comparisons and similitudes; they hide that which they feel and in the abundance of the Spirit utter secret mysteries rather than express themselves in clear words.

Lust helps us along.

If it wasn’t for lust, I wouldn’t have called Graduate Studies every day, wondering if I was worthy of getting off the “list.”

If it wasn’t for lust,

I wouldn’t be singing as I do, about wanting to know my unconscious, climbing a mountain from which I fall every day, writing in the muddiest words the greatest love song of my life, all my life.

And each poem is a chord of it. A strand in a tiny fibre that makes up a piece of a long string within the Universe’s String System.

The Nature of this:

Vulnerable. Like when I cried, again, walking toward a pine tree and holding a hand for the first time since letting go of the last chord. The last poem-lily, waiting to be part of my garden, after I die.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Lust Helps Us Along; On Psychoanalysis, the Artist and St. John

  1. ComePassion

    life is a tossed coin, no? You have to have faith that it will land on the side that shows sprouts.

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