Robert Creeley, “I Know a Man” from Selected Poems of Robert Creeley. Copyright © 1991
Watch the structure of this poem – how the words veer and weave. The poem itself feels like a car on the edge of control. Speeding between desperation and the need for some kind of personal efficacy against the unknown (or whatever you interpret as the “darkness”).
Clemente paints Creeley with one eye open, a wink and a nod perhaps to both his clear insight as a major modern poet and his characteristic humor in confronting life’s big hairy questions.
Enjoy both friends!
Which came first -the elephant or the egg?
I like obstacles. They tell on me. Study your obstacles – what tale do they tell about your thinking? Elephantine obstacles require a great force of self to move, but many are completely mind made up.
In this totem, the elephant balances on a lavender egg. The elephant, remover of obstacles – is at once young and old – timeless leathered skin defined by burls in the underlying wood.
In motion. Maybe she was laid off – again. Maybe he holds divorce papers – again. Maybe she heads a faltering company or he’s losing a major client. These two-ton obstacles to happiness force us into motion. This elephant puts one uneasy foot in front of the other and though vulnerable, balances between hope and despair. She will make this egg take her where she wants to go. Perhaps finding (while plodding) a new direction. We don’t know how, but she will.
The bird, however, is stuck. Staring down a small black egg entirely avian made. Some dark ritualized judgement grounds her from flying free. A perceived tragic flaw, “I’m unlovable,” or “I’ll never reach my goals.” “I’ll always be _________. “I’m the worst ________.” Her wings pinned back. Cawing complaint.
But I see potential in this obstacle egg. Potential to find the thinking flaw. Black egg thoughts have a shady “all-or-nothing” ultimatum-ish type character – a dead give away. Hold on! I’m not the *worst* parent in the world. I messed up this time, but next time I’ll handle it differently. (deep breath)
Now we flex our wings. Now a dark egg cracks. Opens up to new and brightly life.
Free as a bird.
Yet a wing is subject to wind.
I like the color palette of this painting. I like vibrant but restrained – to watch what happens when choice is self-restricted. Maybe all workable freedom slipstreams on limitation.
Much maligned Boundary often brings with itself a double dose of the Creative. Because you can focus on the intricacies a particular problem (or medium) rather than the massive weight of what to choose. That limitation frees up lots of bandwidth. It’s an interesting conundrum of life, standing at the intersection of spontaneity and restriction.
Someone asked me the other day, “What would you do if money were no object.” And really I couldn’t even answer. I have no idea what I would do. Be immobilized by the vast space of potential. Wait for the wind to lift me, sightless and hurl me forward. Then maybe some necessary brilliance would unfurl. Because it seems my creativity only works against a foe -some absurd rule that deserves a good right-brained spanking.
Oh, there’s a chandelier underneath those washed and dripping strokes. A little structure under all that freedom, to hold it up – to give it a roosting place.
Allow me a moment to comment on this confounding binarism I find sandwiched between my toes.
It’s often called “black and white” thinking – the penchant of some people (me) to frame solutions in “either/or” scenarios. Do you want the pink one or the blue? This is either good or it’s bad. It’s the best thing that ever happened, or the worst. Whitman or Dickinson? Male or Female?
I have a major problem with binarism – it’s FALSE. The word “or” should be the warning light – the wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee someone is boxing up the choices. I don’t want cream or sugar – I want both, or stevia, maybe tea. A nice cup of lapsang souchong, perhaps? If we can generate multiple choice in our drinks, what about for other life challenges.
OR limits creativity to generate multiple solutions. I regularly pick up an everyday object (a mug) and think, “what could this be other than mug?” (vase, penny jar, pencil stand, plant pot, light fixture, toad house, soup or cereal bowl, jewelry holder, baling bucket, soil scoop, bug catcher, metaphysical mood meter (is glass half empty/half full?), inspiration piece, homing beacon)
I can see dividing imagined best case/worst case scenarios into a tidy binarism. To envision yourself toward a goal (sometimes frustrating) or to prepare yourself for the worst. Possibly helpful.
What about in-betweens? Hello! options not mentioned. Consider your job, done in a different way, in a different place. What’s the yellow solution, the blue idea, the green daydream? What if your choosing were colors, we wouldn’t settle for just black or white.
Yes there’s something called option anxiety – so we distill choices down to two. To short cut an otherwise too lengthy decision making process. Point taken. But.
Do you want limits or unlimited ? I’m kicking OR to the curb.
Where are you underneath
the holiday – yellow dogpile lines?
lemon lips. Green bean, durkee onion kiss.
I smell the turkey.
Is it done?
cavort you sweet potatoes
Stuff, Stuffed, Stuffing
and thanks for
(Series of hand paintings Louise did about the daily arrival of her long time assistant Jerry)
10 am is when you come to me.
when the clockbeast, its too slow
hands finally pass on
when my toes press to open sand
when this aged crust
strips away to white horizon
the air breathes my name
your hands bring me yet
sacred red hours
I should say that it was the margins made in printing a lithographic stone that magnetized the challenge for me from the very beginning. No matter what one does, no matter how completely one works the stone (and I have always worked the stone, as soon as it is printed) makes an imprint that is surrounded by inevitable white margins. I would create a totality only to find it change after it was printed-into another totality…There is always the intrusion of the paper frame. To crop the extruding paper or to cover it with a mat or to eliminate all of the margins by “bleeding” is an evasion of this fact. It is like cropping to make a painting. It is success by mutilation…The struggle to overcome this intrusion-to give the imprint its necessary scale so that it could have its fullest expression, so that it would not be crushed by the paper margin and still have a margin- that was the challenge for me. That is why each canto has its own personal margins…These eighteen cantos are then single, individual expressions, each with its unique difference.
-Barnett Newman, “Preface to 18 Cantos,” 1964
“I’m not paying ‘homage to the square’. It’s only the dish I serve my craziness about color in.”
Josef Albers (1888-1976)
(third in a series of ghost stories)
He always locks it when he leaves on business. I know it’s off limits. But I can’t help wondering what hides there. I searched the key many times, curious worm darkmawing my chest. But always empty handed.
I’m glad when he leaves town for business, a hurricane here, a revolt there. Massacres too. He assures me there’s always a demand for his skills and one day I’ll take over the family business.
When he comes home he’s so tired, his hands feel of stone. I glance up into his eyes, lost. Can’t seem to find him in shadows. His cheeks move higher on his face.
“This job is killing me,” he sighs. He brings home a dark air, some long wind foreboding and I shiver. He dusts my hair with a withered hand and I gasp. A sinking deep. A feeling to run. To scream, but my body too still. too still.
He opens a beer. Sits mute on the table. Unharmed. Tie flung aside and sunk into the recliner. His bones, a heap. Fingers dripping over arm rests. And I can’t see who I am looking at. I have forgotten.
I notice behind him the door to his room sliced open.
That dark wind swirls me. To the closet door standing – cracked. No heart in my chest. I see into space Dusk outlined souls and glint of sicklesteel and fire. Fear and trembling and teeth scattered round. My teeth falling. Then vast nothing
of no end
“I hoped you wouldn’t see this, yet”
I jump- skin out of pocket, arms tight held around me. The darkness horrible and bright. Faint smells of matches extinguished and scentless nothing.
“This is the family business?”
And his eyes stone sink back into a fleshless skull. my father, now the mask of Death.
“soon this will all be yours”
(Second in a series of ghost stories)
Her half-child back and half-full sack turns, (the sagging sun too tired of the day) and sees a gloaming shade at the field’s far edge. Trudges over to lay down under winded branches, a sleeping bed of white frogfruit. To forget she’s alone. To forget her fingers purple cracked.
An owl hoots at the secret mouse and she wakes in a pool of moon. Shivers. The field spreads a dark stain. A truck forgot, she and the half picked bag. Forgotten. Someone should come for her, of course they should. Of course they would.
Panic chews at her mouth. Closed night all around. Darkness in her eyes and shivers heat to scream.
Only blind woods hears. Hearing
a melodic strain, low and thin. Silver keys thread the dark. Is it a waltz? She turns shadow eyes to a glow. Follows the music through undergrowth. Scrape and claw. She stumbles and pitched to ground, looks up in the foil moon.
Filigree door swinging open and seated on the velvet – a crystal slipper. Diamond bright. Leather tuft interior glows pearl. Melody grows with her breath
so close in.
Steps into the coach, how lovely the shoe.
Wedges foot in. Wrought toes pained. But, her hands soft, now French manicured. Her lips pout, red and full. Money rustle of silk and wrapped fur. The smell of rich and clapping for the belle of the ball.
Click door shut.
Glass shoe cold. And colder. Colding and happy and pain. Coursing up and down and into her blood, turns her breath hard. Crystal prisms. Symphonic volt and tympani drums.
Two mornings from now they find her body – chill. Toes broken back. Officer suspects foul play. An old glass slipper inside an overlarge pumpkin rolls away. A belly full of blood.