Saturday, January 11, 2014

Lion, Lamb; Farmer, Cowhand; Me, Gnostic Overlords

I haven't wanted to write much of anything for more than a year now, ever since I went to this editorial speed dating event sponsored by a literary magazine and one of the editors, a young woman, told me rhetorical questions in poetry are passive-aggressive and another editor, an older woman, told me how wonderful it is that I have "an outlet."

I get discouraged terribly easily. I was conceived unwanted, and things have improved only slightly since.

So I pretty much stopped everything. I've been thinking of telling various people and crying and such over the loss of writing but I just stop and think, you know, nobody gives a shit whether I'm writing or not. This is just something I'll have to try to accept with grace.

This morning I was lying in bed playing with my phone and I visited the Bibliomancy Oracle, an oracle device that uses lines from poetry, and this came up: "Do you relate more to the dove or the snake?" from the poem Form by Louise Mathias.

I thought: "Oh lord, neither," and then the rest of this poem happened. I've been obsessed for years with wondering whether the universe wants me to do any one thing or another, and it is pretty obvious that the universe does not want me to write poems, because as I was writing my daughter's shower caddy fell off the wall and my husband came in looking annoyed that I was still lying around in bed, and someone I'd been having an email dispute with buzzed me. I am also kind of an awful person (but not for any of the reasons my resentful stalkers think). But this still happened. Passive aggressive rhetorical questions, BAM!

The Dove or the Snake?
Oh lord, neither. They say they were once
The same thing, anyway. Every last animal
Presents an imperative: I will be here.
And I have no such thing, no such
Thing. I must excuse myself
For every fraction of an inch
My ribs rise with every breath.
The birds take everything:
I tell the pigeons in the parking garage,
Shitting on my grocery bags,
You do not belong here,
These are not your caves,

And the swallow flittering, scattering his lice
Above the salad bar at the Whole Foods:
Will no one put him out?
Must everything poison me?
As for the snake, agonizing over his skin,
Oh snake, nobody cares what you wear,
Nobody cares what you look like or
Whether you even show up.
Maybe a boy will poke at that
Yellowed translucence you shed,
Because children aren't afraid
Of garbage, what gets left behind.
We don't see that they've stopped
To examine it, and that shames us,
Both their license at picking at it
And the way that we walked on,
Talking, and almost lost them, again.

Here's the full Matthias poem.
Image: I stole this from an evangelical site. I don't understand why all the references to a verse about "sheep among wolves" are illustrated by pictures of a wolfj among sheep.


Slothrop said...

The last word (“again”) nails the feeling perfectly, & the internal rhymes deepen it somehow – just wish I were better at this. Also, love the way you subvert the assertion in the first line: you get into the snake’s skin in a way you don’t even attempt w/ the dove.

Feel like you’re in my head too, Maria. Last week I was watching the sun rise from a rooftop in Fes, Morocco & the cedars all around were filled w/ huge flocks of white doves. Why so many doves, I wondered – duh, the tanners use their droppings to produce their (uniquely soft) leather. I thought about the most striking animals in Marrakech – enormous, black, hissing cobras - & how I had to drag my daughter away from their fangs every time we crossed the Jemaa el-Fnaa. Both animals exploited by local industries, though I’d prefer a career where I just crapped to one where I capered about for tourists. Lord.

This is probably no surprise or help coming from me, but I can’t fathom why you would doubt your powers. In all honesty, your work has helped me more than I could ever describe. I’ve followed published poets, heard them read whenever possible, & you move & intrigue me more than many of them. I am so grateful for your blog, so glad of your generosity with words. I’m not “the world,” but my life would’ve been so much poorer if you had never written. That’s the truth.

I know all about getting slammed. When I was very young my self-styled “mentor” (whom I kind of hero-worshipped) ambushed me w/ the most blistering takedown possible. Professional & personal. Especially a shock b/c I was the most self-effacing kid. Looking back w/ decades of life experience, & in light of all the passive-aggressiveness, tension & lies, something unhealthy was going on. Maybe my real crime was trying to have my own life, but I had no smarts then & she crippled me as any kind of an “artist.” I still carry a toxic load of anger, & that may explain some stuff I’m not too proud of – the way I try too hard at this poem-interpretation game, my pushiness. Sorry about that. I want you to live the life you want to live, & feel no pressure. I could get used to not having your poems to look forward to. But it really would hurt.

David said...

Sheep and wolves
Dove and snakes
An old 78 of love & glory
"Outlets" are often a gory Presentation of what's been
The myth of sin

It's cold as shit down here in the southern Appalachians. I Like very much "The Dove or the Snake?". Keep writing, Maria.

mark said...

Please do not stop writing. How the hell would you or anyone know if "da universe" knows or cares what you write and if it knows or cares about it? Don't read into coincidence.... I have found and had it affirmed many times that we usually get whatever we expect to get. Your writing informs this universe and the few it reaches here on Al Gore's wonderful invention need your poetry to bring some sort of sense to our lives even as you write it because it helps to bring sense to yours. I'm sorry I am reading this so late, I am sorry I don't come her more often, but I've learned you don't post all that often. That's a pity, because Maria, you NEED to write. A universe that would seek to stop an artist from expressing her art is a pretty damned cold and distant universe. Someone once said that art is whatever makes us proud to be human.

You make me proud.

Anonymous said...

It's always good to see your work. The Universe needs more courageous voices. Whatever little sprite is whispering in your ear telling you otherwise, don't listen.