It looks like rain, it feels like rain, it is going to rain, I can tell. I am a sick man–no, not this. I am a hungry man–no, not this either.
To fall or not to fall for her, for anyone, for anything, we are always falling for things, for others, someone somewhere, it is good to be with someone sometime, how is it we are so alone the way we seem to be, isn’t loneliness a choice, how not to choose, how is it anyone can be alone, so very much alone when there are as many people in the world as there are.
Alone is a lone something unnameable because how can you not find someone to love, even if not to be in love in that almost fake cliche way we have of describing what it is like to be in love or to love someone again as we say someone and someone and someone, each one after the other in that creeping petty way we have of slugging through all the days of our lives like syllables in the words we speak or sing or chant or shout–I silently listen to these bells in my deepest darkest self among the others so many of them in the bigger Self of many selves I remember reading Milton hearing Milton in my father’s voice reading “Lysidas” to me, a poem I recited silently in my room at night in the dark after Eugene’s death from absurd slipping and falling backward after ice on the ground outside of old neighborhood bar we used to drink in long ago too many times of course he was an alcoholic I am I was sure will be now how many years since his dearth how death used to be more ominous not so after my father’s death in alien hospital somebody, yes, some body, hers, the lines of her form, her mass, the material corporeal body, not the body of soul, the soul of the body, in the body, what houses the soul, where is the soul’s home, I believe in a soul, a transmigratory soul, don’t you, of course you must in some way familiar to me. How do we delineate what we are, who we are, when we are where, with whom–this whom is what, I recall the bell tolling and tolling at Saint Therese’s, at Saint Fortunata’s, at what church was it in Pittsfield–Aunt Anna . . . but who else am I herein going to talk about, write about, say something about because I have seen something–all of us informers of one kind or another, this the only tale I will herein tell–this is not a tale, or is it a tale, I am the idiot of my life, Call me Benjy, Ishmael might have wanted to say. Essays do not have to be entirely true, do they? We do have the sense that the essay is a non-fiction form, don’t we? Why can’t the essay employ the methods of fiction–in one way, all things made are fictions. Memory is made, I used to say. Recollecting is a kind of making, is it not?
Those lines again the lines of her, form of her body, her mass–lines drawn, lines held, lines made, crafted–no! What am I saying about lines–the lines on my face have gotten deeper. Ice cubes displace water in a glass; planets displace space; gravity the effect of this displacement.
The lines that arc as the waves rise and curl and fall one after another after another after another at the shore here in Montauk. How they are there in silhouettes in the dark sometimes backlit as she is by the streetlight that comes blaring into the room lioke a herd of rhinos I think I said somewhere else about light into a room at night the dark interrupted by the blaring deafening sound of the light, the sounds of sights, the sights of sounds, how vision and the auditory are mutual and reciprocal. Her lines.
How to tell the tale of she and I when we were together how long ago now it seems as if–can you spell, I mean really spell, are you god at spelling, all that Kabbalah like stuff we only hear remotely about in fractured speech speaking about things we have no idea about and probably would take more seriously like when I hear that Madonna is not into Kabbalah I want to cringe and go hit her in the fucking the head. Who I am with is who I have been with, was with–past, present and future are one with us, with her with me together–what are we–who are we, who am I, who is she? Every pronoun in reference . . . what is it that I am saying? To say or not to say must be the question.
Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta, the first four letters in Greek. A, B, C, we know from our childhood, if you grew up with the Roman alphabet as we do in the United States. Here in New York we sang the Alphabet song in Kindergarten in English. The names of the letters in German or Dutch are different from those of the same letters in English, as they are different from English in Spanish, Italian or French. Every country that uses the Roman alphabet has its variation on that theme of letters, but certainly names that fit the langue, if you will.. What have we in letters–which alphabet to spell our words. Any alphabet a wizard’s techne.
To spell is to spell in all languages; every language has its unique spelling, if not a unique alphabet, at least a modification of the alphabet as it has been derived from the Phoenicians, first in the Greek, then in the Roman, then in the Cyrillic, or any modification of any of the three.
The Greek genius or contribution was to take the letters from Phoenician that they did not need and use them for their vowel sounds. Greek was the first language to represent vowels alphabetically. Yet, to spell is to spell, and this herein is not a tautology. Pigs are pigs; chairs are chairs–these are tautologies. They are not, though, the same as my saying here that spelling is spelling.
The latter here is in line with saying writing is spelling, only, which one do I mean when I say that writing is spelling. Ambiguity is intended herein; both meanings of spelling are inferred.
A witch spells out her spells; and this is another meaning of ‘spell,’, a third one. To spell, as in arranging letters according to a languages lexicography, once closer to its phonology, is one meaning. To spell as in what a witch does when she performs magic, is another. A third meaning comes to us from a middle-English form of speaking as in the Medieval spel or speech, a form thereof, a special or unique speaking as in a witch’s incantation, or as in the Gospels of Jesus Christ. I don’t wish to flirt with excommunication; however, magic and religion have a common origin, engage similar practices, analogous if you will, the ritual life of humans can be traced through both experiences.
Magic also has its precedent in the sciences; science with its formulas is another kind of magic. All formulas have an order, a propriety. There is a necessarily unique way of speaking words in spells; pronouncing them the way you are supposed to in order to get the desired effect is known by all witches.
Mathematics is the scientists magic book of spells. How to harness and understand nature. All spelling then is a form of wizardry; no one connotation of the word spell completely separate from any of the other two. Letters are certainly magical. So are numerals, each representing an ideal number, pardon my Platonism rooted in Pythagoras. The Pythagorean theorem another form of magic. Equations have a syntax; sentences have formulation, formulas, equations. Musical composition yet another magic, a way for mortals to speak to the muses and allow the muses to speak through them.
What then is poetry but magic? I know the measured line, rhythm, speech, spells; poetry is spelling . . . what do they really or magically represent, these letters . . . symbols for sounds, all spelling must also be pronounced properly. Yes, there is propriety in spelling; the proper order of things, arranged correctly. How then must we say correctly all that should be said properly? To say right, to say wrong; right action must include right speech, right speaking, correct incantation, song-speech another way to speak.
What she has said has been variegated; what she says and how she says what she says, when she says it, where, to whom, all of piece, one? She speaks to me as if what she says I should take as gospel; at other times she seems puzzled that what she has said has not had the desired magical effect–something must be amiss. But unlike real witches or confident witches, she blames me for her words not having the intended magical effect. Any other witch would understand that there was something wrong with her incantation or arrangement of the words, the spell was mis-spelled.
She put a spell on me I liked saying, I had Nina Simone’s version of the song, more than one by her on different CDs–I am going to buy her amber for Christmas–I bought her coral for her birthday . . . I have bought books for her too, poetry for her, and she would say things like–what does it matter what she said about poetry with me imagining as I do about poems and poem words and the ocean seawater in waves and the summers we would spend together at Land’s End.
It’s going to rain. I can tell.
Daylight fading shadows/ stretching infant fingers/ into their skins . . . how I liked writing in small pocket sized notebooks, how many I have accumulated over the years is compelling, I would say, I do say, I do not say–saying so much said otherwise. Depending on to whom would be said the words–some of these little pocket sized notebooks I used for keeping haiku in–I had found that my journal entries were a lot like haiku when I was traveling or just carrying them with my in my shirt pocket with pen or pencil, as I liked to do, developing the discipline I thought I needed, carrying wihat me everywhere I went a notebook and pen.
We met while I was writing on a bench in a park with her siting at the end, I think, or was it somewhere else–perhaps it was in a class, how long ago–we are so preoccupied with time–when did it happen? Where did it happen? The fact that it did happen more important than when or where–how is not even as interesting–as interesting as what?
Haiku is a poem. Haiku are not poems. Haiku is singular. Haiku is plural–no it is not plural, we say, Haikus, don’t we? Haiku is determined by form; Haiku is determined by content. The form of a Japanese Haiku cannot be pedantically adhered to in English? This is true; this is false; the truth remains somewhere in the between; there is no between for this. Poetic mannerisms must be absent in all good Haiku.
Mannerisms must be absent in all good poetry. What about invisible mannerisms? Can mannerisms be invisible? What does this mean? What could you say about Haiku that was not overly intellectual. The form is highly intellectual; the form is absent of all intellectualism. The five-seven-five syllable format must be adhered to; this format cannot be adhered to, not in any sanity. But then all sanity has something to do with sanitation or sanitizing–Haiku does not sanitize the world, it does not clean up or disinfect its observations. Haiku encapsulates; encapsulation is a cheapening of one’s understanding of Haiku.
Haiku is. Or is it that Haiku is Haiku when Haiku functions as Haiku functions? What then can we say? What then must we do? To do or not to do just might be another question–the other question? How many are there? What do we need to know about Haiku? What do we want to know? What did she want to know, did I want to know, was there a wee who wanted to know apart from either of us wanting to know, or both of us separately together that wanted to know, she and I as opposed to we, what we wanted to know, what did we want to know, what could we have wanted to know, what could we have wanted to know–to know or not to know. We no longer believe in knowing, we mistrust the man who knows something, we secretly despise him who is confident, who is certain, who does not equivocate.
What if it rained letters?
Look at us, at how petty we have become, we are, we continue to be, will be day in and day in again and again tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow . . . how do we write a Haiku? I wonder about/tomorrow and tomorrow/creeping paces set.
This seems as if it were an appropriate place to begin. But what is a Haiku? When is a haiku? The latter might be better than either of the former two. There is freedom in haiku. There is an incredible adherence to the dictates of form that is present in all haiku. Can we talk about successful Haiku? We can so about poetry. What then is this about haiku not being poetry? It is poetry, but it is not poetic.
Keats talks about the poet being the least poetic of all beings? Like leaves to a tree, poetry must come. How much like a haiku this is, Keats talking about poetry. When we swim, we luxuriate in water; it is not exactly to get to the other side. How unlike the chicken crossing the road we are. The chicken has no other reason to cross the road but to get to the other side. Even if I get to the other side, I swim, I luxuriate in the water. I am not talking about saving my life from drowning. That is not swimming, is it? No it is not, swimming and drowning and thinking and wondering and doubting and capturing, holding, caressing what we would do day in day out how many times we were next to one another and could not keep our hands off each other.
The sound of water . . . what could this possibly mean. Why the oblique allusions? Zen is the heart of Haiku; no, haiku is the heart of Zen. Haiku is the essence of yet; yet is at the heart of all haiku? is at the beginning of all haiku; is at the end? What then this idea of beginning and end; haiku is beginning and end? It is always between, somewhere always an entrance and an exit? The morning I saw her come to the screen door and open it standing there in her sleepiness.
Haiku comes out of Tanka, the extended string of call and response by Japanese poets; haiku, renga, haiku, renga, et cetera et cetera. the 5-7-5 of haiku makes an observation; the 7-7 response or addition or counterpoint or whatever might be a better word for what the renga is in the sequence; one answers the other, adds to the other, diverts the other, converges with the other, the previous, the before that comes and the after that flows from–what more or less can we say should we say? What are the should of haiku?
They are many; they are none–
We decided to go and get almond croissants, how many times can I write about this tell about this say something else about this, going to get almond croissants and coffee in town at Land’s End . . . Haiku resolves difference; no, haiku cant be haiku if it tries to resolve differences. Haiku reconciles differences but leaves them be. Let it be might be the motto of Haiku; how could haiku have a motto? Haiku is its own motto, over and over revised. Every haiku revises every other haiku; each one revises them all; all of haiku is present in every new haiku; every new haiku erases the entirety of all the haiku ever written or spoken. How does the frog plunge into the sound of water? Haiku are not to be explained. Satori is at the center and on the perimeter simultaneously with haiku. Satori translates, sudden illumination? To see or not to see, in the dark or in the gloaming as we were that morning waiting for the sun, in the gloaming, and the sea gulls coming in bunches by the edge of the low tide surf.
I have written many haiku. I can judge them. I have worked with the form a long time–maybe my hubris will undermine me. How long is long enough one could never say. Time in the mind and time on the clock and time in the unconscious are all time but neither one nor the other the same as any other. Time is the moving arrow; time is a tunnel I pass through. Passing through it, or it passing me by–zen time, time in haiku. Haiku is like baseball–timeless? I’m trying to be clever; haiku never tries to be clever. It is cleverness itself. Haiku are always clever, more than clever, other than, at least–witty.
Haiku are witty, ironic; these are observations made after the fact on the observations made in the moment. What about reflections in tranquility. Wordsworth was awfully Zen; very haiku like in much of his poetry. Burns was too–a lot like Issa, I have said. Others have as well . . . what have they as well I could try to discern more definitely for you, but then I am certain that this would be a big waste of time as if any waste of time could be little, are there extremes for wasting time, are they graded in terms of lesser or greater–I don’t think so.
I imagine a lot I cannot say, cannot put into words.
I do not know what else to say herein about haiku. I do not know what else to say about her, where we are going, where we have come from, what we have done together, apart, to each other and to others.
She is larger than life for me, she is not larger than life larger than she is as tall as she is as big as she is not big not tiny not what we imagine when we say someone is small inside–I imagine she is bigger than she thinks she is–her asshole of a father making sure she was as fractured as she could be–the witch she becomes sometimes because of this, especially when menstruating–and yes, she is a nasty recriminating–yes, b-i-t-c-h–when she bleeds from her vagina–do women bleed from the vagina, or not? Are some women nasty when they have their period, or not? So, then what are we saying here when we respond with disgust over someone saying what has been herein said by me, by this other-me I am when I write, sometimes becoming completetly other than who I am apart from writing, if that is all possible, to be other than who I am when I write when I do not write, am not writing–what is it about being a writer and not writing, when I write, wher I write–I write everywhere which means anywhere I go I am I be, to be or not is also to become and to be, is it not? What then must I say about who I am when I write ab out her–who is she that you could want to know something more than I am telling you about her, and her and her, she is as I am–what more do any of us need to know. Names–I have not even given you my name here, and you run the risk–it is a risk assuming that the teller here, the essayer here is me, just as you would run into peril by assuming that Quentin in Absalom Absalom is Faulkner.
Idiots, all of you–all of us–who do so.
I can repeat, it seems, that Haiku is Haiku, she is she, I am I, I am many as she is many, each of us a Self of many selves, what does this say.
Truth is in tautology–I’ve said this before. I’ll say it again.
Haiku is microscopic; haiku is macroscopic; haiku is both of these simultaneously. Haiku does reconcile opposites even if it does not resolve them. Good is good; bad is bad and both exist, the Zen monks would say.
Yes, tautology and a tolerance for it, or an observational recognition of how tautology does reveal truth, gives you a glimpse of the Truth. I don’t want to burden haiku with the weight of western philosophical conceptions. I couldn’t even if I tried.
Haiku is resilient. Haiku is this, haiku is that, haiku is here and it is there and it is here and there in simultaneity, as it is neither here nor there but always somewhere else and that too in simultaneity with it being here and there for yet another way to be.
Here is probably nothing more Zen in our tradition than Hamlet’s to be or not to be, for that is the question, if haiku is indeed posing a question. I think haiku sets responses to any question to every question especially the questions never asked, or ever imagined.
To imagine or not to imagine–rippling bay waters/ gently lapping/ tin-foil-wavelets/ in the sun/ shade here parasol/ by the shore.
A poem I have written in a style reminiscent of the haiku. I have used the aesthetics of haiku–if haiku can be said to have an aesthetics. I have written many poems similar to this one here, I have hundreds of pages of them in notebooks I have piled on my desk, a desk of the older more conventional style desk, a desk I no longer sit at but use to store piles of manuscripts and notebooks and scraps of paper or beer coasters or bar napkins with scrawl over them as if chickens were on parade through puddles of ink . . . perhaps this poem above is more like haiku than other poems of mine that might remind some reader of this poem. Perhaps she is like a haiku, she is like a haiku, she is nothing like a haiku, how could she be anything like a haiku.
Circumlocution is an indulgence of mine; always by way of indirection. Questions beget questions I have said before, how many times before is not a question, not truly. Am I remembering the waters of Jamaica Bay when I lived in Rockaway, the peninsula that separates southern Brooklyn and large parts of southerly Queens from the Atlantic Ocean. Rockaway is geopolitically Queens, but is serviced by Long Island Lighting and not Con Ed. What this means is not particularly important–when was this poem written? Could the bay waters be the waters of Gravesend Bay, itself a cul du sac of Lower New York Bay, the latter connected by the Narrows to Upper New York Bay, itself at the confluence of the Hudson and East Rivers at the butt of Manhattan we call the Battery. I’m trying to imagine if this could matter, should matter, even be entertained, certainly now has become entertaining. I like the way I write. I do recoil, though, from many of the shoulds that are tossed at me, have been over a protracted life of writing.
Should, would or could sometimes thrown at me like rocks–should and must have rock-like natures. Stone the bastard is what I hear every time someone says You should, she used to say that I should, You should, she would say.
What else would she say, what else could I say, could she say about what she said and did not say, I said nothing as I watched her standing with her back to the rising sun . . . was this poem a reminiscence of the Atlantic at the beach in Rockaway where I lived for many years, and even found myself at the shore with a copy of The Egyptian Book of the Dead, translated and edited by E. Wallis Budge. I was on the shore some mornings just before dawn reciting Hymns to Aman Ra. Yes, at sunrise on the beach as I would later wait for the sun to come up over the ocean on the beach in Montauk with a camcorder and not The Book of the Dead. Was the poem above a poem written there and later revised for the purposes of rhythm? Was it the waters from the beach in Montauk, the south fork of Long Island, one-hundred and eighty degrees of horizon, what I like most about the beach there? I do not know, nor do I believe it is important to recall.
Whichever one I choose, I must choose to keep faith with it, at least for as long as I tell it, and that’s the telling told in the moment, not a question of succession. I now think it was once in Jersey with friends in a car I forget where we were going maybe some convoluted way to IKEA, but passing the back of the Statue of Liberty–she does face Brooklyn, you know–yes, but you could almost reach out and touch her, the Lady on the island, Liberty Island, not part of Jersey, but New York. Yes, Liberty Island is geopolitically New York State. I am all for waging war on New Jersey if they should try to take Liberty Island to back the way South Carolina had bombarded Fort Sumner.
Love or not love, to love or not to love, this might be the question, one equal to being or not being, how to be, just be, without all this becoming this or that crap . . . now that’s part of the argument, how the island is really a part of Jersey because Jersey supplies it with electricity and water, but then, Long Island Lighting supplied Rockaway with its gas and electricity and yet remains geopolitically New York City, Queens. Putin is waging a rhetorical war and a skirmish war of real bullets over parts of Ukraine he must think belongs to Russia because it supplies Ukraine or parts thereof with gas and electric.
The Statue and and the Island and Ellis Island are New York and any claims by Jersey should be met with violence and force–we fought a war with Mexico over Texas and other lands, why shouldn’t New York State fight a war with New Jersey over Liberty Island. Russia is at odds with Ukraine over Crimea and eastern sections of its territory–I think Putin should be a warning for Governor Cuomo. Russia supplies Eastern Ukraine with gas just like Jersey supplies Liberty Island.
And what this has to do with her, who I have not even bothered to describe, except to say that she and I were together, inextricable? inseparable? How so? Why so? I know that you need some description to make you feel as if you were getting at something or someone real, as if what you see when you look at someone or try to listen to someone when they speak because hearing is mostly what most of us accomplish when we try to listen or deluyde ourselves into believing we were doing (I do, you do . . . we do . . . how do you do, do we do, do I do, I do the dishes, I do the laundry, we do each other . . .), listening instead of the hearing we were actually doing, I try to listen because I had written a paper on the differences between hearing and listening . . . we do confuse the two.
What do you need to know need to hear need me to say about her, how should I go on to tell you what I imagine you think you need to know.
Her eyes the world enough full of sorrow I think I have heard somewhere else, might have said sometime to someone somewhere else, some-when–why don’t we say somewhen when we say somewhere?
Nonetheless . . . Liberty Island or Fight should be the slogan, but then for whom. It could be said by those from Jersey as well as we from New York. I don’t like people from New Jersey; I don’t like their ways, their features or manners, their customs offend me. We must never give in to them, these baser Americans; sub-Amercans, all of them. But then we must beware, because it is New Jersey that seems most compatible with any analogies to Russia–and in the comparison to the United States and Mexico, which one is New York and which one is New Jersey. See the difficulty here. How we manage history is important to future injustice or justice.
I wonder if you thin I have done justice or not to her, to her description–I hate protracted descriptions, detailed envisioning of someone–not really, but sometimes I do–but back to the poem you imagine I should get–yet, you understand my usual response to should, would or could–here at this moment I am not following the course of the should I hear you asking. One thing always leads to another and another and another, and ideas creep along or bolt ahead at a lurching pace.
I write so much so often in one notebook or another, on line in blogs and weblog pages, and what I have in boxes, the thousands and thousands of pages . . . to try or not to try, that might be a question for this essay or another essay or every essay I write–essayistic fiction. We have the epistolary novel; why not the essayistic novel. I have imagined this for some time–I have several attempts in drafts in folders inside folders inside other folders, the number of pages in drafts I have stored in hard copy or on hard drive or flash drive is astounding. I am beginning to like this word.
I too thought I was going to write about writing poems in a style reminiscent of the haiku form. But then, I came to write this, first person accounts of anything having happened anywhere to anyone anyhow have a powerful sway over readers, don’t they? Do they? How could they? When could they? Do you? There is not much else to say about haiku or about her, she is a haiku, she is not a haiku, she is all haiku, she is no haiku, could never be any haiku or all haiku or a set number of them. I already have several collections of haiku to publish–ready for publication . . . I have twelve full length collections of poetry ready; I have fourteen book length collections of essays; I have two book length collections of short stories; I have what I call novellas, numbering four and two novels, not to mention over twelve thousand pages of hard copy journals in boxes and several thousand pages of drafts on my hard drive.
Why do we always imagine that not enough has been said? Always imagining that something more needs to be aid but that we do not and cannot and will not know what that is? We always invent ays to reinforce the one overriding overarching dogma of our lives, and that is knowledge is impossible, thus, we must always persistently everywhere doubt, doubt and doubt some more, yet again and again I wonder about what you wonder about wondering what you should wonder because philosophy does not begin in wonder but ends as it begins in one horrible doubt after another. I could say more–i always seem to think I should say more, something else not said, missed–what could have been missed–I have gotten away from the perpetual revisionary writer that I was . . . this essay is creeping up above five thousand five hundred words. It could easily approach six thousand words, words, words and more words like Mr. Gradgrind facts–facts, facts and more facts–the world is flat was once a fact.
And we do doubt so much, and our mantra is give me doubt, doubt and more doubt as once we could ask for nothing but facts, facts and more facts as if there were certainty behind fact gathering and that fanciful imagining things should be kept at bay . . . Gravesend Bay looked out on the southern tip of Staten Island across the further waters of Lower New York Bay, south of the Narrow’s Bridge. To doubt or not to doubt is no longer even a question. Doubt is dogma for everyone.
The world turns on an axis of mood imagination facts and doubt wondering how to make it across the abyss . The abyss of time–what is time, what is space, what is perpetuity, what is infinity–eternity is yet another thing, how to describe it to people whose diction has been so corrupted as to imagine that infinity and eternity are the same thing when never the twain shall meet, can meet, exclusive of each other for sure.
Who she is and who I am and who we were and what we did she did I did when we did, the things unsaid and the things said, one saying and not saying as the other says and does not say as well–both each way together in simultaneity simultaneously.
Who does not know that the alphabet is a technology?
I wait for the rain.