I feel like I ought to be living in Texas again for everything, they say, is bigger in Texas, and you don’t argue with a Texan.
So much in my life is bigger now, a computer monitor that would pass for a moderate sized TV, with font so large a single page fills the screen, and the tablet the size of, but thank God not the weight of, a phone book, (if you are under 30, look it up), to read books and news since libraries don’t carry large print books (look that up too, probably) at least not books of poetry.
But thanks to modern materials science the lenses in my glasses don’t yet look like Mr. Magoo’s (yup, one more thing to look up,) at least not yet.
Grace settles into the chair, less an act of sitting than of floating down onto the seat. She has borrowed my grandmother’s smile, kind, gentle, inviting. She pulls a book from her bag, its pages or most of them dog eared, and I glimpse some annotations in the margins. We sit around her like children awaiting presents on a holiday, as acolytes seeking knowledge from a font of poetic and prosaic wisdom, or so we think. She reads in a voice that is at once soft and loud enough to reach the back of the room, opening the book to a random page and diving in, then after what seems like a minute and an hour, she stops and asks for questions. We sit dumbstruck for a moment then fire at her like machine gunners on the range. She answers each, claims she is a simple grandmother who writes but we know better, know we are in the presence of a true master.
Paper is at once both the cruelest invention a writer may have stumbled across and also her salvation.
The blank page invites, often demands the pen and is unjudging, yet the poet may change or delete but the paper retains the original and throws it back in his face.
The computer, many say, changed all of that, backspace or highlight and delete and that mistake, misuse, misadventure is gone forever, but with a wrong keystroke all you may have is a blank screen and your words so well shaped, thoughts perfectly expressed can be lost in the ether.
Walk slowly through this bramble of words. Do not allow yourself to become tangled in them though they will certainly try. Tear out this page burn it for faint warmth or steep it into tea, reduce it to simple fibers. Then it will be a poem of some small worth.
A reflection on Case 10 of the Shobogenzo Koans (Dogen’s True Dharma Eye)
As a child, I only wanted to stay up until midnight, actually a bit after that time, to see in the new year.
I didn’t need to be at my parents’ party, it was too loud and the adults behaved more like my kid brother and sister as the magic moment approached.
And it was supposed to be a magical moment, although no one could tell me why that was, or what made it special other than turning a page on the calendar.
I no longer try to stay awake until midnight on New Year’s Eve having long ago learned I don’t’ want to be around adults acting childish, and knowing January 1 is no different than December 31, save that I will miswrite the date on checks for at least a month.
It is there waiting, no doubt another trap, simple initially seeming pure but harboring a malevolence that will soon consume you, leave you broken, so considering the pen as a weapon, to lay waste to it, or for seppuku, both thoughts will no doubt come to mind.
It has always been like this, always will, different if you chose the digital path, but only a difference in implement, the struggle, the loss, the outcome very much the same, so consistent.
Still you take up pen, stare deeply at your adversary, swear it will not defeat you this time, battle on valiantly, but finally, and yet again, painfully concede to the omnipotent abyss that today as yesterday is the pure untouched page.
Many now say the age of great literature has died, the mortal woiund inflicted by the advent of the self-correcting IBM Selecric typewriter, when words bcame evanescent, as suddenly gone as when they spilled onto the page.
Others, I count myself among them, believe the wound was not fatal, deep certainly, but yet there remains a faint pulse, ressuscitation possible with the application of utmost care. For there forbears florid phrasing in the forethoughtful flow of the fountain pen, precious and pure prose and poetry in the precise point of the Pilot pen.
Perhaps, if you happen upon this small scrap of scrip, you will see the possibility in this proposition.
What are words of wisdom from the mouth of the ancient ones. I tell you these are such words. You may accept or reject them as you will. Better still, tear this page from its binding crumple it and cast it to the four winds. Let it be carried off in ten directions.