Page found plastered to the Virginia Street sidewalk, Charleston, W.Va. | oct. 2012 | westvirginiaville.com photo
Fragments Before Bed (on a Day I Never Left the House)
I try to resume a book of Charles Wright poems, “Sestets,” blessedly sparse and of minimal lines, before bed. Because sometimes only spare poetry will do, when I’ve grown besotted by the punch-drunk spew of the Interwebs. Yet I keep getting stopped by phrases, on the page and in my head, like striking off-trail in the woods but grabbed by the grasping arms of an insistent thornbush. He writes:
The kingdom of minutiae,
that tight place where most of us live,
And these lines are so right, I stop reading, Can’t take in the rest of the poem. I want to write them down. Then I go check my phone, for I’m yet besotted, attention hog-tied to the Web most of today, a Saturday, if you must know. To see if the red flag of another comment, another useless but addictive ‘like‘ has gone up on Facebook, where minutes ago I’d posted a ‘status update’ found in an old quote book of mine:
One day, a student asked Taiga “What is the most difficult part of painting?” Taiga answered: “The part of the paper where nothing is painted is the most difficult.” ~ from “Painting Zen”
And the latest comment to this is one word, from the daughter I vaguely know of an old newspaper colleague of mine:
She says. And I’m somehow pleased at this California endorsement of some ancient mojo. Because it is just so true that what’s not there is the hardest part to do. And not to do. Before I can figure out if I’ve made any sense, another friend has messaged me. She says thanks, and ‘you were and continue to be a force in my life’. And I’m surprised, wondering why I am receiving this kiss out of the ether of the web.
Then realize, she must have seen the Taiga quote and recalled something. Yes, now I see. She goes on to call out my oldest, first attempt at publishing something Buddhist, first by hand and mimeograph, then by printer, then online. A lay Buddhist zine called ‘Hundred Mountain Journal,’ its name inspired by a quote I once found, by some guy named Richard Nelson:
There may be more to learn from climbing the same mountain
a hundred times
than by climbing a hundred different mountains.
Which remains, to this day, source of my e-mail address douglas @ hundredmountain. Dot.com (Address dispersed because I don’t want you spambots spamming me with your, it should be said, inglorious sometimes glorious poetry.) And the quote spoke to me. My life collapsed at one time too young of its dreams of glory, of toppling the tippy-tops of a hundred different countries, stuck in just this one. This one effing town.
Then, along comes this quote, this fragment of advice, to say: It’s OK! You may learn more by climbing up and down the mountain of the same damn day, in the same damn town. In the same damn country. Just as much, more even, than amid the hundred-fold mountains of the Byronic quest. Which you thought and dreamed would be your apotheosis. How wrong you were! But there are compensations, hometown wisdoms. You know?
Then, as happens with a mind like mine, full of fragments from a lifetime of fragmentary, dispersed reading, another piece of a poem bobs, then surfaces, amid the jostling flotsam. This one by Elliot, whose lines are all of a sudden there, at the end of a day I’ve not left the house, even though it was a quite lovely January, sun-streaked day.
Yet all I did today was hold the youngest cat, nose to its black, warm aromatic fur, on the porch as we both took in the bracing air, let the cold envelop us a few minutes. Hearing the birds around the corner, pecking at the oily black seeds they’re so happy to find after we fill the feeder and they come by the dozens per hour. Then, back inside, where, as darkness closed in and another day on Earth shuts down, I read:
These fragments I have shored against my ruins.
Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo’s mad againe.
Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.
Shantih shantih shantih …
I must Google to retrieve the source poem’s name, though I know it’s part of “The Wasteland.” It is from “What the Thunder Said.” A footnote says, because I know the lines but want more of their provenance: ‘Shantih’: Repeated as here, a formal ending to an Upanishad. ‘The Peace which passeth understanding’ is a feeble translation of the content of this word.
That seems a fine fragment upon which to shut down the Interwebs in which I’ve become entangled — wait, one more check, there is the number (2) atop my Facebook page. Yet one more ‘like,’ also one subscription to my feed. Now, really, truly, gorged on all these fragments, I am, at last, done with this Saturday. Will now push my boat into the waters of dream where who knows what will happen.
Tomorrow, for sure, I will leave the house.
~ douglas imbrogno | jan. 5. 2013 | westvirginiaville.com
~ Last Man in the Woods
~ Insomnia Album: Pictures for the Pre-Wee Hours
~ Poems Without a Book
~ Six Variations on a Curve in the Road
~ Some Days, Nothing Will Do
~ Still Life with Lines, Leaf and Water
~ Excruciating Pain Report
~ I Got Nuts, Beef, Candy
~ Blue Rooms