The Japanese invented haiku certain that a painting of great beauty could be completed with only a few strokes of the brush.
The Japanese have no word for what we claim is higher order poetry, academic and pedantic are two other English words which easily apply. And the Japanese are hard put to comprehend so much of what we deem experimental, the result, a friend named Yoshi said, of what seems the odd scraps of a dictionary torn apart by an unexpected tornado.
In Tokyo every tree knows that at least four poems lie within it, each awaiting the appropriate season.
After years of going to live jazz I’ve honed my skills to a fine level. I still know next to nothing about the intricacies of the music, five years of classical piano and I barely understand Bach and Mozart.
But I know where to look, who bears watching in the combo, and it isn’t the trumpeter, he with his ballooning cheeks, some clownish bellows, or the bassist always striving hard to develop scoliosis, the sax player with the rubber spine swaying.
I watch the percussionists, piano and drums, careening from sadness to joy and hitting a glissando of emotions, the pianist staring at the keys, lecturing them on expectations for us well met, for her falling short, and the music slides into the background of life in the process of being lived.
She asks innocently, listening to the wind whispering through the bare branches of the oak, “How long have you lived in this poem,” pointing to the page of marked and remarked typescript. He looks at her as if discovering she’d grown another head, peeking out from between her well-polished teeth. “I have no idea what you mean,” he says, “I write the poems— it is up to you to furnish them.” She grimaces, “That’s so wrong,” a third head appeared, grinning, “if you build poems on spec they are sterile little boxes that you foist off on the unwary. Plant all the flowers you want around it, it will still have the antiseptic smell should we dare step into it. That’s just the difference between us,” she adds, “I can see the song of the wind played by the trees, but you, you see only the blankness of the unadorned walls.”
Tomorrow this poem will most assuredly no longer be here, though when during the night it will slip away, never again to be seen, I don’t know or perhaps it will return in a form I would not recognize, recrafted by the hand of an unseen editor.
It may take on a meaning unfamiliar, or translate itself into a tongue that I can neither speak nor read, or perhaps, most dreadedly, assume the shape of prose, accreting words until the embedded thought is bloated and wholly unrecognizable.
Even if I tried to stop it, watched carefully, it would no doubt remind me that poems have a life of their own once cast to paper or pixels, and I am at best only another editor or reader, and it takes kindly on most days to neither.
As a child, I could never understand why, when I knew that it ws time to go, my parents were never ready, always needed one or two more things; and why en route, we were never quite there even though I had waited the ten minutes more they said it would take.
But I had nothing on my beloved dog Mindy, who would stand by the back door, leash in moth and growl, wondering, no doubt why I always need more time, it wasn’t, she was certain, because shoes were necessary, or a rain jacket, she got by just fine without them, and why my last bathroom stop had to take precedence over hers would always be beyond comprehension.
As a child I know the winters must have been milder, as it was never too cold to have my parents take is to Sheridan Park where my father would drag the old wooden toboggan up the chute adjacent to the stairs as we ran ahead, and smile as we hurtled down seeing how far we could go across the snow packed runway.
After an hour, when our hands were blue, the mitten clips long since defeated, he would once again smile as we drove to Louie’s for a foot long and a couple of orders of curly fries.
I’m thinking the weather changed right about the time my parents packed off to Florida, as if God had given them some Noah-like warning that winters would soon get ugly, or maybe He was just trying to help Detroit, since my step- siblings had to have certain cars, while I struggled through winter in the north in my leaky, rusting Opel.
I spend considerable time thinking about what it is that I am, what is I, whether Descartes’ God or Spinoza’s could possibly exist, or must if I can have meaning beyond self-reflection, needing a godly mirror, and image reflected. Cogito, on what basis can I draw that conclusion what logical proof, carefully constructed will not fall under the weight of the axiom, cogito cogito but of what? Keys that spit words that fade under a misplaced finger, she caught in the web twisting, unable to pull free, staring at an approaching holiday of praying forgiveness Vidui, as though to posit God is to validate emotions, control impulses which leap synapses and flit and fade, I have sinned and transgressed I have violated laws and statutes and I beg forgiveness that I might live, this I, this cogito who has no external reference save God which makes all things real, all illusion. It is comforting knowing in death the soul is carried on, thought lingers, or does it cease such that I am not for I think not, yet why should I fear, for when it is done, I will not have been save as a reference point, a linchpin from which may hang ornaments of a life, a tidy sum.