Paw Paw

Oh, sweet custard-apple, cherimoya, sweetsop,
ylang-ylang and soursop. (Flower o’ the banango
Love for us all, and her own death for each!)
That wild banana of the prairie bottomlands, lush
L
ady dipped in mud, her red-purple burnished swirls,
delicious and succulent, in Spring her stout, hairy,
axillary peduncles – clusters of color sway, breezy;
she hides her beauty in those yellow tits she heaves,
a fruit so sensual her lips touch my pulpy life;
around her those elderly gentlemen of the forest,
slow oaks and hickories,
embellish her thick skirts;
while
she waits in her clearing bunched in and willing,
and,
 they stand there forlorn, hoping and tempted
by her new dress all shaped to Autumn’s maroon;

yet, in that burst of flowering heat she scents us
all with that rotten meat of a grungy odoriferous
persuasion, that from her own wit calls down
those blow flies and carrion beetles by the thousands;
and, of course those others woo her too: raccoons,
gray foxes, opossums, squirrels, and black bears:
all pay her tribute; while others, rabbits, deer, goats,
and, even roaming insects find her disagreeable-smelling
leaves,
twigs, and bark just a tad too primal an appreciation;
and, yet she does in that time of spawning have one suitor,
the Zebra Swallowtail, most honored guest who wafts
among her smelly leaves like a masked man in disguise,
cocooning and growing wise among her green life
till that black and white zebra tide emerges in her care.

But now till mid-September I’ll taste her spoonable flesh,
that pale yellow custard, a little wild-wood tang and sweet
from my cloying mistress whose puckered lips kiss me long and luscious.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Interview, Silver City News: William H. Bonney

billythekid2

 

Don’t call me that. I go by Billy, some add Kid.
They tell me I’m a killer. What about you?
Well, I suppose it depends what you mean;
for killing, to me, is such a harsh word,
and, I don’t rightly think it serves me well.
Don’t you agree? Oh, I see, you’d rather not say?
All the same to me. True. I’m not tall as you.
5’8″. Does that make you feel brave? Ok,
so you’re not so brave after all. I see. Yes, yes,
I dress clean, my eyes are blue, my hair
a might musty, dirty blonde – they say;
some say I’m from New York City, by crickety,
I’ve got no clue as to that, just saying.

They say my mom had me in the basket
after the potato famine, on that boat over;
crossing and tossing those cold seas, Irish
as gray is she burst on those shores with me,
and here I am a free man living like an Irishman;
my old man bartended, gambled, did the numbers,
while mom stayed home did laundry, baked pies,
and died of that dread tuberculosis in my arms.
D
o you think that made me what I am today?

I never stole a thing. They told me cheese. Locked
me up.
Someone put those clothes and guns
in my locker:
didn’t matter, they put me in that dark
hole, I climbed out
again, up that brick chimney
and been running ever since. Till I met Pat. Jailed I am!

Oh sure, I might have stolen some horses, learned
that quick
from those dime novels; yet, when
that old man threw me down
I knew right then
he’d kill me with his bare hands;
so I shot him dead.
Is that a crime? Self-defense, you call it?

Of course they lied, I told you that, you think
they’d defend me;
hah, they’d just as soon kill me
now, so I left again for here. Here, this place: jail.

Sure, I ran those gangs, John Evans and others,
rustled horses,
drank plenty, and lost my horse;
and near died, but nursed me
back from that brink
of the pit – fine people there, Mr. & Mrs. Jones.
Yep, I
moved to Lincoln County, worked that Cheese Factory,

met those boys from that ranch; worked there, too.
Tunstell
hired us to guard some cattle, got us all
fouled up in that war;
well, them townsman wanted
more than they owned, gold
the likes they should
have kept to themselves, you hear? Now I’m here.

Then those idiots came and killed my boss, and
stuffed his bay
upon his pillow; what a travesty
of justice that was; pissed
we was, I’ll say. We
found our way to town, became deputized,

“Regulators”, they called us; but then things
went south, killed
those boys and a traitor
in our midst; justified, sure it was.
What can I
say, things went from bad to worse, that
buffalo man,
nasty business there, our leader,
dead and all; sorry lot of shots.
Hell that boy
in the bar, the click: I heard that empty chamber;
he’d of shot me in the back, what choice did I have?

That posse killed Greathouse, not I, we struggled
free, got out,
wrote that governor the truth, but
like all else, no one wants truth.
My nemesis came
to Stinking Springs, killed my horse clean through.

Now I’m talking to you, so what; they’ll hang me now.

I kept tabs of him, Billy the Kid, after that. Hear tell
he killed two guards, stole another horse, and sang
ballads on his way out of town, in Lincoln City.
Pat Garrett sat in that dark room waiting when Billy
came in unannounced. “¿Quién es? ¿Quién es?”
he said, backing out. Garret recognized that voice,
gunned him down, and that is the final tale or legend
of that boy known as Kid Antrim; else as others say:
Billy the Kid, a gentle soul who learned the art of death
and killing. As I write these words down is there a lesson
learned? A fool’s judgment for the blind? A woman’s smile?
Or, is this just necessity working out her ways and means?

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

 

Poetic Thought for the Day (8/31/2014): A Poetics of Sense & Concepts

 

This is the genius of empiricism, which is so poorly understood: the creation of concepts in the wild, speaking in the name of a coherence which is not their own, nor that of God, not that of the Self, but a coherence always on the way, always in disequilibrium with itself.
– Giles Deleuze, Desert Islands and Other Texts

In this interview Deleuze reminds us that sense is an “effect,” an effect produced, whose laws of production must be uncovered (137).1  For Deleuze sense as an effect was produced by a specific machinery of thought. And, for him the new philosopher must become a machinist, or operator of those new concepts. I would only add the poet(ess) as the primal engineer of tropes-as-concepts or figures of thought and imagination for whom poems are small engines in which the healing of the world becomes possible.

Continue reading

Wild Things of the World

Become fluid, swim
free of those eyes that would capture you;
the tidal wave has power to measure
this momentary action
of your life beyond the prison bars;
and, now the senses collide incoherently,
else squander truth with error in this complexity;
and, if they ask, do not say, sing
where God or Self fall short,
yet life begins coherently in disequilibrium;
cast doubt upon the wind,
lift up your head and see what there is to see:
channel it through your mind and heart,
break it apart for all to share,
bring it home in an open box
and let that mind that is not belief rise and find the glory seed;
a look and knowledge of our earth,
our birth,
our sweet life’s dawning;
and, when you release this fear to the ocean’s depths, walk
do not run along that shore to find him
for whom your care is tending,
challenge him to further explore and take him by the hand
till you and he begin to turn,
to shape and make a destiny, eclipsed of doubt and ruin,
where time is this moment’s secret movement, rhythm
of a love that begins and ends in this simplicity;
for the world is sick and dying,
in need of a great physician, and you have seen the dark machines
those darker souls grind round this globe, and now
you can sink those hands into this diseased soil and heal its wounds
by light and song, jubilation
of such fruit as you have known;
let time, the healer
know the wisdom of this thought,
this wild concept:
love among the wild things of this world come home in a thought of light,
………………………………………………………………………………else darkness.

 – Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

 

 

Masterwort (Angelica)

Thick and fleshy, stout
the quick light upward spouts,
into such hands that Michael
(his angelic eyes so fierce,
yet gentle for such as you),
touched by your finesse, plucked
this fluted stem so full of green
and yellow flowers, the powers
of healing in its roots & seeds;
the laughter in the sun, enchanting
us beyond this mirth of days,
the crush of pestle in the mortar,
sprinkled herb of glory, an elixir;
else a cure of drunken fools,
who smoke too much, and rabid
dogs who bite into the night;
sought in April or May, boiled
down into the sugar cane,
for those candied sweetmeats
you love so much, the salads
refreshed by those large leaves
dipped in hot butter, ready: raw,
the slip of taste upon the tongue;
or the liqueurs old Monks charmed,
else “Eau de Carnes”, the fragrant
waters for the sweet abode of Friars;
a cure of plague and witches, chewed
by villagers on Michaelmas, or carried
in bands as protection for the darkness
;

and, even baby laughter is heard, oiled
in the merciful “Fiery Wall of Protection”.
Wear a garland round your head tonight,
inspiration will find that poem you seek;
remove those curses and hexes always,
throw those stalks into your bathwaters;
cook down rhubarb and gooseberries,
and that acid taste will be quenched;
enjoy those garlic cloves, crisped and fried,
and sprinkle the fruited waters over you;
a musty room cleansed by those burned seeds;
and a sprig against those witches’ spells.
One more thing: take that bruised root,
boil it down, add honey, stir; now drink your tea.
Enjoy your day: you’ve had your lesson, now!

 – Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Notes: Doing a new series to go with my Tree Poems. An Herbal with all the old time legends, wivestales, etc. added in…

 

 

A Woman & Her Son

He was only a boy. Maybe sixteen.
Tracks followed him across that map,
fleshwise islands, splotches of filth,
pustules burst – no nice word
for such things; a world of death
hung on his dry lips, her boy –
like a mother’s dream of riches, or
some forbidden destiny in Cameroon;
blue-black and bone of bone he was,
a specimen of some act of lust;
yet, here he was now her charge, and
by God she was going to turn him, else
the broken world would die with her.
He tried to smile. Lips parched by use.
She
 applied that damp rag and ice, said:
“Boy, when you going to think right?”
His eyes shifted frightfully in his head.
Agony like a bad dream followed him
till he and she slept in the deep night.

 – Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

 

Under the Street Lamp it’s Raining

She’d be there all night unless John came by.
Her kids at home unfed, waiting for her.
Rain felt like a cleansing bath, she’d remember
that old preacher man swing her down gently
into that river as a child. All gone now, that.
Now the truth set in and she had bills, a life;
else call it death on an installment plan, for life.
The cops condoned her if she dared presume.
The Johns were sometimes mean and hurt her.
She knew how to put up, but it still wasn’t right.
What could a girl like her do? No good being real.
Yet, she dreamed sometimes of Chester Lee.
Love like a moon once held her on a summer night.
She felt clean then, right. She felt real, once and alive.
A man stopped asked if she were crying? Tears or rain,
no matter they the same in this world of pain. “Hop in.”

 – Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

 

 

Could I trouble you, Mister?

Could I trouble you for a dime, Mister?
I’ll sing you a song or two if you like,
else write down a poem of love or death,
if that would satisfy your curiosity; or,
could this old saxophone in my hands
dip down close to the world, walk streets
like these where people die by day or night;
let this brass horn rise and fall for you
and move you to that rhythm of the blues,
the darker world that situates your soul;
tell me, Mister, could you spare a dime?

My song, my poem, my sax are ready now.

 – Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

 

Desert Rose

Forty nights he played the fool.
Wandered after her seeking solace.
A basilisk and cockatrice his guides,
the broken shadow of a black goat,
a reminder of his sacrifice; the lonely
silence of the desert night, the stars,
wondrous, alive, far-flung above;
the owl and eagle in their crossings,
weavings between day and night,
the gaze of a hungry dragon’s eyes
below the dense and telling caves
of day’s plight;
he stumbled
after her, willing all, catching

only ever a distant glimpse
of her who is
the fallen star of love;
his love,
a desperate plea keeps him
moving now in this wasteland
of sun and desolation, his gaunt
bone-eyes encrusted by endless winds;
dust in or out of season wipes
the trail behind him as he wanders
under the white god of fire above;
and, in the distance a winged thing
falls below the horizon’s crescent
(either demon or angel, he cannot tell);
and, in the moment he steps above her
he recognizes all that he believed:
the seeker and his prey are one
among the bones of this desert rose.

The fool wakes up in his lover’s arms,
at home in his own bed, her smile a rose
………………above him,
her eyes sweet light calling him from the stars
.

 – Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

 

I Came to the Sea

i.

I came to the sea to pray.
The sea rejected me.
The salt spray left me desolate
upon the beach, cast up,
alone, afraid; and, now,
she is gone who tempted me;
the river-gleam green mother:
her lips are carnal red,
her eyes a blue fire,
her
 sun-black hair grown wild;
all gone, gone beyond the dark
propensity for good or ill,
the broken dreamer and his tower,
undone, unmade; the chafe of years
scattered to the winds,
a
 last pebble rolling in the surf.

ii.

I who have come so far, how
could I have fallen so, below
the folding and redundant waves;
sad the
 crush of her sea-tears:
the evening lands receding now,
and I, even I, return below
green waters,
to gaze on her
forefending eyes, banning all
I am or was to time’s moaning;
and, now, the castaway amid
his sad sea-tales
(leavings
of an altered course), travails

of time, the keeper’s memories
all gone;
tracings on a Rhodian shore,
gone;
where all that is resolved
into light, gone; all
upon the stone
lichen rocks, spawn of fragrant spume
and blooms above the incessant bells
resounding gongs, where she roams
this night, alone and free of me, her lover.

iii.

I stand here in the cold sea waters waiting, waiting…
for her voice among the waves, sounding;
the soft life of that hidden world within her smile,
waking once again to lift me into her dream
beyond this stone garden by the green, green sea.

 – Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

 

Columbus Meets the Arawak On Judgment Day

Naked, tawny, eyes full of openness;
Came to the beaches, greeted warriors
Who in armor, bearing swords, smiled
And talked oddly; beards of red,
Glass beads and hawk’s bells, gave
Forth in exchange of bright green and red
Parrot life and baubles of cotton-balls,
And spears gleaming on the sands;
Corn, yams, and cassava for these bearded
Gods of the sea they spread in plenty;
Yet, these men unclean and unkempt,
Took from openness prisoners to task
As slaves to work their galleys, exposed
The gold-flecked bangles on their ears.
Dark days brought these people down,
Broke them on the wheel of progress;
Stripped them of their lives and wealth,
Freedom and the dream of peace and plenty.
Instead the Spaniard’s began a killing trend,
Slaughter of innocents and enslavement;
Cruelty and imposition of a world of hate,
Where millions would die or be enslaved.
What is this history but the end of man,
The slow death of earth and a final day?
Is this the Promised Land or Judgment Day?

 – Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

 

Poetic Thought for the Day (8/30/2014): Figuration & Allegory: On the Symbolic

Sometimes I have a sneaking suspicion that many contemporary readers of poetry expect, or at least only relate to what my be termed a literal and discursive level of statement within poetry; as if two thousand years of what in poetic terms is known as the symbolic mode of poetic statement and its reading as allegory had not only bypassed them, but had never come into play to begin with; never been taught within current educational institutions as either a worthwhile pursuit or study. Else due to modern and postmodern systems of thought, allegorical modes could now be dispensed with as both irrelevant and obsolete; even medieval forms of thought and behavior long dead to us skeptical and reasoning moderns.

The symbolic modes of allegory never died, and live among us in the most hidden aspects of our lives in plain site: fashion, advertising, politics, cultural critique, etc. are all immersed in allegorical and figurative appraisals of life and thought. One could say that every common reader assumes certain allegorical readings of life, art, and politics, even if they’ve never heard of the term nor its subtle connections to poetry, philosophy, and the beginnings of history.

Allegory and figuration begin in this: When do you suspect that a poet means something more than what he says, or that his use of language might mean more than what his words convey in their literal meaning? If you suspect that a poet means more than what a literal reading of his poem might tell you, then you’ve moved beyond the literal and into that world of the symbolic mode of thinking and feeling.

Since this is but a thought for the day I cannot take in every aspect of this long history of the Symbolic Mode, all I can do is offer what is probably the prime example of a figurative or allegorical rendition of thought in the ancient world, Plato’s The Allegory of the Cave. The Allegory of the Cave can be found in Book VII of Plato’s best-known work, The Republic, a lengthy dialogue on the nature of justice. Often regarded as a utopian blueprint, The Republic is dedicated toward a discussion of the education required of a Philosopher-King. You can read Benjamin Jowett translation (Vintage, 1991), pp. 253-261 on The History Guide. I’ll not explain the allegory which can be looked up in a number of nice commentaries across the web (i.e., here, here, here, etc.). 

Yet, in my previous post I introduced Aristotle’s Poetics which never even discusses the symbolic mode of poetic statement, and it is mainly from him that most rhetoricians would formulate their notions of poetics as perfect clarity of reason and message, of meaning and intellect. But there is another sort of critic that lived during these times that because the philosophers of the era felt both an apathy and a fierce and competitive need to oust from their world, were left out of the philosophical arguments of rhetoric’s and poetics for the most part. These were the allegorists for whom poetry was an obscure and hidden symbolic mode of thought that conveyed deep meanings unavailable to most literal minded readings of poetry. They felt there was not only a literal reading on the surface, the base reading or natural statements of the poetry itself, but that there were also higher or symbolic readings beyond the literal meaning of the words that opened up language to the unsaid or unspoken cosmic meanings of which language as a prosaic or discursive mode did not have access.

The poet’s that the allegorists of the symbolic mode defined poetry as divination and magic, as the power of words to evoke meanings that did not exist in natural modes of comprehension, but brought the through indirect access the hidden realms that our everyday consciousness did not have direct access to alive within an excess of linguistic power that would later be marked down as the Sublime.

Longinus would become the first of a long line of critics who would write On the Sublime: “the Sublime leads the listeners not to persuasion, but to ecstasy: for what is wonderful always goes together with a sense of dismay, and prevails over what is only convincing or delightful, since persuasion, as a rule, is within everyone’s grasp: whereas, the Sublime, giving to speech an invincible power and [an invincible] strength, rises above every listener”. (wiki)

I would also add the obverse coin in that the world of the Grotesque and Macabre, the downward spiral into earth and the meanings of things below the surface rather than as in the sublime to lift up, is the power that pulls down and sinks us into those realms of being that tie us to the erotic and thanatos, love and death in things, events, and life. This, too, is a counter-sublime that works in many poets who also tend toward the symbolic mode. Poet’s such as Robert Frost, Robert Penn Warren, Sylvia Plath, and others have tended toward this mode; and, in the long line of Lucretian poets of which the greatest is the Italian, Giacomo Leopardi, whose Canti and Zibaldone both have given me my darker songs. As well as that great Spaniard, Federico Garcia Lorca whose notions of duende have so influenced my own poetics. And, not least, is François Villon, whose Le testament, 1461 is one of my primal texts for the earthy and street poetics in some of my poetry.

With the beginnings of the Enlightenment project, and Immanuel Kant in particular the modernist mode of poetic statement was been locked into the prosaic and discursive, literal mode of saying and doing for the last two hundred years to the point that it has become the dominant mode of thinking and being, so naturalized that many no longer know that it was not always the main mode. William Blake the poet would once call this literal enclosure of meaning in its naturalist mode as “Single vision & Newton’s sleep”:

Now I a fourfold vision see And a fourfold vision is given to me Tis fourfold in my supreme delight And three fold in soft Beulahs night And twofold Always. May God us keep From Single vision & Newtons sleep.
—Blake, Letter to Thomas Butt, 22 November 1802. Quoted in Geoffrey Keynes (ed.), The Letters of William Blake(1956)

The romantic poets Coleridge, Shelley and Keats would revive the allegorical mode after their readings in both John Milton and Edmund Spenser. Blake is objecting to the literalism of the Newtonian mindset. He would have us see multiple significances in everything. It’s this notion that words cannot be locked down to just the base or literal meaning, the dictionary rendering of language, that works within these poets and critics of the symbolic or allegorical mode. For them poetry is always in excess of its literal meaning, that it is symbolic of the deep structure of reality that we as humans only have indirect access too.

Our conscious minds are bound to a very small iteration of the brain’s capacity to know the Cosmos surrounding us, it filters and orders the world presented to us in consciousness long before we understand what it means; in fact, we do not, and never have had direct access to the brain’s sea of seething computational or neuronal complexity, even those delicate emotions that we believe are ours: anger, love, desire, fear, dread, etc., all the words we attach to emotions and what we presume as intentional entities that compose and recompose our lives, that are the compulsions that drive us toward or about objects are in fact not our at all, but the power of that mystery of the brain that even the vast learning of modern sciences has of yet only an inkling.

Yet, the ancient poets knew it by other means, by indirect access to the mysteries of being through their powerful symbolic and allegorical modes of thought and comprehension, which we moderns have all but abandoned and forgotten in the dustbin of history.

That is my thought for the day!


 

For those interested pursuing this study of Allegory, Figuration, & the Symbolic Mode:

  • Birth of the Symbol: Ancient Readers at the Limits of Their Texts by Peter T. Struck
  • Allegory: The Theory of a Symbolic Mode by Angus Fletcher
  • The Origin of German Tragic Drama by Walter Benjamin
  • The Cambridge Companion to Allegory by Rita Coleman
  • Allegory by Jeremy Tambling

 

 

 

 

Love’s Tower

 

Moss-laden grief the stone begets,
And my Lady like a white dove sits
Upon the scarlet seat, weaving me
Among her thoughts of destiny’s

Tapestried labyrinth; a shade follows
My former self, guided by her light;
Her shape to shadows spawning now
Amid a processional awakening finds

Her and I among these lakes and hills
Progressing, our flesh and bone insisting
On this stone life; her enchantments
Grafting us quick as darkness sparks,

Of love strengthening our bonds, pain
Persuading us to sit still under thoughts
Of a green-moon’s labor of time’s quest:
Her call to a higher nourishment below

Resolves us to a measured token broken
Only by desire for crystal solitude, indebted
To the Lady for whom our lives reprieve
Is a blessing and a keeper’s pledge of days,

Where we’ve become both grass and stone;
Our leavings, a web of leaves and dreams,
Winded by the breath that spirits cleave
By the blue crown of her mystery; and, we

The lovers on the vine, the sunken stones
Below the earth that lessen the harsh bonds
To all that we’ve been and are becoming now;
As ensconced dreamers of an azure promise,

Embarking into this maze upon a final journey
To the green climes above this black world,
Where Love’s Tower rises from living waters
Beyond all power and reckoning of Time’s estate.

 – Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Dante Alighieri: The Catastrophe of Love

To the dim light and the large circle of shade
I have clomb, and to the whitening of the hills,
There where we see no colour in the grass.
Natheless my longing loses not its green,
It has so taken root in the hard stone
Which talks and hears as though it were a lady.

Utterly frozen is this youthful lady,
Even as the snow that lies within the shade;
For she is no more moved than is the stone
By the sweet season which makes warm the hills
And alters diem afresh from white to green,
Covering their sides again with flowers and grass.

When on her hair she sets a crown of grass
The thought has no more room for other lady,
Because she weaves the yellow with the green
So well that Love sits down there in the shade,—
Love who has shut me in among low hills
Faster than between walls of granite-stone.

She is more bright than is a precious stone;
The wound she gives may not be healed with grass:
I therefore have fled far o’er plains and hills
For refuge from so dangerous a lady;
But from her sunshine nothing can give shade,—
Not any hill, nor wall, nor summer-green.

A while ago, I saw her dressed in green,—
So fair, she might have wakened in a stone
This love which I do feel even for her shade;
And therefore, as one woos a graceful lady,
I wooed her in a field that was all grass
Girdled about with very lofty hills.

Yet shall the streams turn back and climb the hills
Before Love’s flame in this damp wood and green
Burn, as it burns within a youthful lady,
For my sake, who would sleep away in stone
My life, or feed like beasts upon the grass,
Only to see her garments cast a shade.

How dark soe’er the hills throw out their shade,
Under her summer-green the beautiful lady
Covers it, like a stone covered in grass.

– Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s translation of Dante Alighieri

The Lady Pietra degli Scrovigni, whom Dante immortalizes in this poem, sublimely hard-hearted, takes her place with Shakespeare’s Dark Lady of the Sonnets as a muse stimulating one of the two greatest Western poets since Homer and the Bible to unprecedented depths of imaginative degradation. Dante, already quester if not yet pilgrim, climbs the high hills, presumably at twilight, or on a winter day, in search of fulfillment, only to find that he is in love with a Medusa. Petrarch’s Laura, in one of her aspects, is also a Medusa who transforms her poet into a stone man. Petrarch who followed the master in the sorrows of love is properly ambivalent about being the object of such a transformation. The ironies of Dante doubtless transcend those of his epigone Petrarch, but all the ironies of Dante’s sestina seem directed against the poet himself, and not against the superbly cruel Pietra, who reduces her lover to the condition of Nebuchadnezzar, feeding like beasts upon the grass. Troubadour love, culminating in the poetry of Arnaut Daniel, emphasized the oxymoronic destructiveness of the obsessive image of the beloved that the poet carried in his head. This is the disaster of a particular moment, the precise time when the poet falls in love, akin to falling in battle. A purely secularized moment so intense is bound to become a confrontation with the Medusa.

Dante and Petrarch obviously hold a special place in my poetry, and probably are the two streams that find their way between much of what people see in my various plumage; else Chaucer and Shakespeare follow down into that strange world of wit and laughter, the comedies of English measure me to that spout of life.

Note: This should be the last thing tonight… I’ll be back tomorrow… this is my thought for the day in some ways!

Pastel Days & a Muse’s Laughter

a_pastel

Pastel days waves us in splendid whites and mauves,
pace of thoughts outrunning love among old haunts;
a hush of presumption gives way to soft hues of clarity,
and once again I’m sitting here in a chair watching you.

I can imagine Heathcliff stomping off into the marshes,
his bloody eyes so full of hate and despair, his love
dead these many years, her ghostly hues all full of cinders;
and, yet the forlorn scape is deadly black to his dark gaze.

Else Emma for whom she thought “no one else but myself
much will like”, that meddler in affairs of love, heady, spoiled,
and self-satisfied; a waif of irresponsibility, untroubled
by the society that will hold her irony to its dark declivities.

Hedda Gabler by that scorpion king of drama, Henrik Ibsen,
daughter of aristocracy, a force for evil in the world and men;
for whom suicide was a game in love’s eternal war, a pride
of unseemly hue that took her to the court of doom, self-inflicted.

I tire of threading her mind from reading and beg her now to smile.
She looks up surprised I’m here amid her colors of love; she frowns;
yet, in the glimpse of words across that book I saw a simple message:
“A Poet to her Love in Ten Easy Lessons: Meditations on a Muse’s Laughter.”

 – Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Note:

Something for the lover and the ironist… I should be drunk by now, and full of BBQ 🙂

 

 

The Crayon Tao

If I go colorless among the dead, would you care?
    If the world were dust and bone, the sad tones
    of blackness ringing in your ears, would you believe?
If time the buzzard ate your liver like a dead god,
and the scurvy rats scurried over your rancid corpse,
                  would you care or believe?

So why tell me the truth when lies will find you out?
     So why begin this charade when blame is all you are?
     Speak for the people now, or hold your silence well,
cross that dark line and know what it means to die or live;
else care or do not care, and be only what it is in asking:
                   do you dare to care or believe?

Would you walk abreast with a colorless man, else care
      that he was made of crayon's like a Tao way of caring?
      Would you keep your mouth shut before atrocity, else believe?
Then why hide your grief now when life is so hard, pain
so unbearable that humans walk all over you like dirt and grime;
                    hold your life in a bone chime, 
                    cursing the day you were born;
       and now you who know, will you care and believe;
                     else doubt all you are and be?

 – Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

 Note:

This should go out in the evening…. at least I think I set it right. And, we should be eating BBQ 🙂 Have fun!

Lazy Afternoons & Mint Juleps

 

Lazy afternoons bring me back to you, love:
sleeping there under the canopy, the sun
gleaming softly through that thin veil of saffron;
your slow burning eyes closed against the sun.

I lift the yellow veil, and you open amber eyes
letting
 me lean deep into your soul, kissing

and stealing that hidden life that glows so fiery;
tumbling the triggering thought of love’s larceny.

You gently raise your head into my mind’s eye,
and I the robber baron of your heart and soul
assess the damage of these kisses and pledges;
as the
 sweet scent of your lips judge me guilty.

I admit the night crimes of my dark laughter, the sly
unwarranted invasive actions in the bed of dreams,
those implosions of the masked carnival of desire
that kept us up dancing till dawn and love wed in light.

August haze offends us now with its spiked liqueurs,
and we like sleepers on a train slide smooth into love;
along this track of lazy love our mint juleps crest above
iced slush, and we both smooch to green lime this heaven.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Note:

If the scheduler works this should come out today in the afternoon 🙂

We’re enjoying Mint Juleps somewhere in the hills … you too! Should be back sometime… if I take a notion… otherwise we’ll be enjoy these Juleps without the ice 🙂

Happy Birthday!

Cleaning out the fridge today I found
two olive pits staring up at me;

their red eyes looking up as if to say:
“What a sorry sight you are, my friend.”
Well maybe I am, but then again
maybe I’m not, who are you to say?
The lettuce head rolled over burped,
and said, “By the way the mayonnaise
could use some lime juice and vinegar.”
Then the pear and apples chimed in
bopping up against the concord grapes,
the avocados and the artichokes as well.
I have general insurrection going in my fridge.
My wife looked round the corner, laughed
oddly, said the sportscaster was talking
to a cantaloupe and coconut about the game.
I smiled. Figured it was enough for her today,
I’d keep the fridge an unmentionable hard case;
a crime scene for some love detective later on.

Closed that door on the fridge to the noise,
went over to check the football snacks
and found a hostile tank made of cheese;
and an assorted panoply of onion dip,
and sweet mushrooms holding a conference
on the fifty yard line of my birthday cake.

It was time to abandon this menagerie,
and go find me a festival of dreams;
I’d had enough of vegetables and fruits
telling me to lose weight or else …

“Or, else what?” I said. “I’m out of here,
I’ll just take my birthday tub of ice-cream,
a little peanut-brittle, and some candles
and wander off in the hills far away from you.”
They all stopped in their tracks, saying:
“Happy Birthday, Fool!” Then my wife and kids
all came out of those costumes and laughed
till I was out that door, in my truck, and gone.
Now here I am 62 sitting in the serene and quiet
desert drinking beer and eating ice-cream,
celebrating that blasted day I got my SSN.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Note: I turn 62 tomorrow, finally get social security, hopefully… put in but haven’t heard back from the administration. Either way going to take my Lady and myself out for the day so want be here for thoughts or poems or what not… have a good one 🙂

OH, almost forgot… big hugs to all and enjoy the labor day with your family or loved ones’ too.

 

 

Southern Hospitality

 

You know who we are by our big friendly smile.
Where else you got a warm handshake like a laugh?
What about that sweet honey drawl and “Welcome, ya’ll!”
Dipping them green tomatoes in the slip of batter now,
tasty dumplings in the pot and Big Mama’s hominy
and grits stirring in the pan, her biscuits steaming out
of that cookery with sausage gravy and thick slabs of butter;
now, tell me, where you think you is, now, huh?
Sit down and take a load off your feet, hon, sip some
of Mama’s sweet tea, take a dip in them blackberry preserves;
turn on that TV, Beauregard, those college football boys
ought be playing soon, don’t you think? “Yes, Mamon,
they should!” Well then get your plates and dive in,
last one in cleans the bins, you hear now? “Sure, do!”
I’ll tell you plain: it’s southern hospitality, plain and simple.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

 

 

 

 

Sweet River Waters

 

I read the bible of her eyes in wild colors,
the wheels within wheels gyrating whole;
the turning record of her days, her dreams
and nights, the slow revolving blur of time

in the sky of her smile, the lurid tempest 
stirring round her bristly hair, the crossing
beyond the sculptured rise of her ebony neck;
it’s turning round toward me in its pleasure.

She had that soft touch of fields in Spring,
the caress of wheat in its yielding;
her legs begetting warmth and light, a feeling
brought to us beyond the thoughts of Summer;

her years float in my Mind as lost bottled messages:
bobbing up and down upon her Sargasso motions;
and, I, the fruited lover of her bowl, plunge down
into those sweet river waters of her thighs tonight.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

 

The Darkening

 

Fading, fading from my mind like water in a sieve,
a veil across her visage frightens me as I see her
wandering away from me into the dark beyond dark;
her eyes are closed now to the light, as is her mind.

She tried so hard to reach me in that troubled realm,
between the stark reality of light and the harsher one;
but now the shadows thicken in that gloom and die,
one by one till night and twilight merge upon the sea.

The wind carries her voice to me from that far place,
where time like some forgotten myth sill wanders
alone with her, and she in that blackness sees nothing;
her distress is more than I can bare within this dream.

Her hair is ravens flying high above me now,
her eyes two white stones, the sun and moon;
her thoughts have stars as angels wandering
across that immeasurable chasm of this darkening.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

There is a humming…

 

There is a humming in the universe
a dance of light and sound
a slow eclipse of madness now 
      unlike before or since
the dawn of emptiness 
that resounds
for the lonely ones spreading thin 
       within the sea of greater blackness

I think it’s those ancient whales between the galaxies
      lost, forlorn, alone
             and calling to the sea mother
                     in the depths 
                           of her 
                  abyss
                        
                     Her voice is soft and mellow 
                  folding
with the tonal qualities of time and space
        a music only she 
and her children hear in that vastness
        the terrible wisdom 
of it is clear and bright 
             darkening
        toward some harmony 
of beauty and necessity that is
         or is not always about to appear
      else disappear
before the lights that break
      and fall 
   beyond the rim
      or horizons lip where no light peers
                or shines
                         below this sphere
       when nightfall falls 
           before 
       the silences of those troubled waters
where time the river flows
           beyond
the depths of all we've known and been
        and the proof of day we fear
               enfolds us in its tears
        we who are Time's children
absolved all our crimes
                shall find
                   on the darkening vine
                          that eternal fruit
         from the white tree
                where we
            share that common dream



 

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Note: I was reading an essay from Tony V. Lahos’s things + flesh today that triggered this one. Thanks, Tony!

P.S. – Finally figured out that you can add the color attribute to a pre tag in WordPress code… typically the HTML5 doesn’t show this at W3C.org… but it’s the same tag as the div that replaces table: pre style=”background-color: #fef5e6;”, which worked like a charm; that is, if anyone has been trying to figure that out like me. lol

** Appended updates…

Poetic Thought for the Day (8/28/2014): Aristotle’s Poetics & Plot

I propose to treat of Poetry in itself and of its various kinds, noting the essential quality of each, to inquire into the structure of the plot as requisite to a good poem; into the number and nature of the parts of which a poem is composed; and similarly into whatever else falls within the same inquiry. Following, then, the order of nature, let us begin with the principles which come first.
– Aristotle, Poetics

Aristotle was one of the first to actually begin documenting the structure and types of poetry into what would become in standard parlance: Poetics. He examines its “first principles” telling us there are two causes for the origin of poetry. The first is imitation because we learn imitation and helps with learning; and, secondly, to have an easier time of seeing truths, he then identifies its genres and basic elements. His analysis of tragedy constitutes the core of the discussion. Of course ever since he wrote down his Poetics poets, philosophers, essayists, and just about everyone who has ever chimed in on it has diverged from this classic in one way or another.

I take that one line where he tells us “the structure of the plot as requisite to a good poem” as my thought for the day. Almost all great poems seem to have a plot with a beginning, middle, and end or denouement. Yet, in this they can diverge drastically in language, rhythm, and melody. The plot is basically built out of a “structure of incidents” (actions). Key elements of the plot are reversals, recognition, and suffering. The best plot should be “complex” (i.e. involve a change of fortune). It should imitate actions arousing fear and pity (Aristotle). Thus it should proceed from good fortune to bad and involve a high degree of suffering for the protagonist, usually involving physical harm or death. For Aristotle actions should be logical and follow naturally from actions that precede them. They will be more satisfying to the audience if they come about by surprise or seeming coincidence and are only afterward seen as plausible, even necessary. Aristotle would also tell us that when a character is unfortunate by reversal(s) of fortune (perepipetia  known today in pop culture as a plot twist), at first he suffers (pathos) and then he can realize (anagnorisis) the cause of his misery or a way to be released from the misery.

After Aristotle set this out the world of poets, philosophers, and anyone else who thought they had an idea about plot has argued with this one major philosopher. Yet, they all start with him and his Poetics.

That’s my thought of the day!

Read it online right here: http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/poetics.1.1.html

 

The Salmon God

spawn

 

I wonder if Salmon dream of a god,
a Salmon God among the stars;
do they congregate upon the shoals
of deep rivers, sing to him in choirs
of red plumed ecstasy and desire;

or, do they worship at the head
of deep waters, depleted of their agon
with the river, spurred on by the power
of a goddess more powerful than a god?
Tell me do Salmon dream of God?
Else they babble in the dark like atheists,
and tell themselves there is only darkness,
death, and nothingness below the green
moves of logs and slime turning in a pond;
fly beyond the cascades set free in sun,
mourn the passing of the moon’s dark smile:
what of the broken spume of fins crashing
over dams, the motion of the turbines suffrage;
what of the fury of the bear, the slap and dash
of rocks and funneled plunges in the cascades:
do Salmon believe this furry plunderer is God?
Tell me do Salmon dream of life beyond all gods?

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

A Curse Against Pain

 

Let go, let go
of that pain,
it’s been burrowing down too long,
seeding you
with tales of death and other crimes;
walk away
from that toad
parked on your soul;
let go of that pain
and flow, flow
down that good river;
ride them eddies till silence falls,
whirlpools foam and rainbows run;
take your cares away,
let that sun play on your life,
call it your happy light
and hold up your head
till that frog spins down below
those dark waters:
rise up I say
and free yourself of pain.
Dig a hole to China
and bury it in a paper moon,

till it cannot find you in this empty room.
Be gone, pain; be gone.
Pain, be gone!

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

 

White Lightning & Oaks

oak1

 

She watched them come and go, the humans.
In spring she’d wear her soft skirt of silver
with its wisps of pink to yellow bangles, falling
down among the growth of rooted life that she,
the lady of this forest held to know her kind;
in autumn she’d trade her finery for purple rags,
the slow dance against the coming of winter’s livery;
yet, in May you can see her wear her flowery cape,
the yellow spangles of her bright leaves aglow;
she always did have to beware of those moonshiners,
who chased her down in her white gown taking her
to that hidden place within those mountains far between.
Even now as I taste this white lightning crowning,
I touch the Lady’s woody life in my hand, and stir it.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Note: Quercus alba, or the White Oak is still used for whiskey barrels and as part of the old moonshiners barrels, although many have turned to copper and other containers, the white oak is still used widely in both the wine and whiskey industry as part of the aging process. Some White Oak’s live upward of 450 years or so. I’ve been doing a series of tree poems over the past weeks in my interest to see how the old Celtic cultures may have at one time envisioned trees as part of their Tree Alphabet system as argued in Robert Graves The White Goddess. 

Death is not a Word

a_dark_goth

 

Death is not a word. To form this word
is corruption’s self, the splitting of its life;
the corrosive force of acid slipping over flesh,
the slow scraping sound of crystal over lips.

Do not kiss that corpse. Graze her cheeks instead.
Her eyes are open now. She sees what you do not.
The tumbling world unfolds below the black moon,
and the white sun breaks fire across the deadly pool:

cross the dead space that lives in its pale light,
the breath of hot air that cries among the locust;
the sky turns black as birds ignite in night,
and the dust within your hand melts your eyes.

Walk into the sea or desert now, hold the emptiness
as it thickens in the cage of doubt that tightens now;
take the knot and twist it to the frail heart of time,
and pull it down again upon your ensanguine mind.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Flowers for Lobelia: Chapter Three – Scene 5

st-calais

Booker T. Toutant seemed to hibernate in that cave of his down on Sixth & Vine. I wondered sometimes if he had a home to go too. The boys that worked for him never came in or out of this shop at all, except the legit ones – the actual mechanics who worked nothing but the finest rods in town. No. He was smart enough to have others do all that kind of work outside the “keeper’s eyes” – as he like to call the Feds that seemed to have him perpetually staked out. If any of those boys ever did get caught he’d shine them on with some green to take care of them in the pen. But only through other intermediaries, unconnected to him back here in St.-Calais.

When I came up the back stairwell and through the door he’d already seen me coming on a set of tubes he’d had installed just for such an occasion. “Why, hello, Detective,” he said with that shit eating grin on his face. “What brings you to my modest abode?”

“Cut the crap, Toot, I’m not here for my health.”

“Well, well, if the big man ain’t horsey today, huh, Henry-Lee.” He looked at a young black male about twenty-five who was standing off to the side with a wrench dangling out of his back pocket. The boy nodded, but did not say a word. “Yes, sireee, we got a live one here, Henry-Lee, a real bonifide detective of the St.-Calais police right here in our midst.” He leaned over spit a slur of chew into a waste bin beside his desk, then choked down a cup of something in a small white cup. More than likely whiskey of some type.

“Except, as I hear,” he tried to finish.

“Cut it, Toot, I don’t give a dam what you hear? You hear it wrong.”

“My, oh, my aren’t we just a little put out today? What’s got you all sore now? I mean your the one shoveling your crap on my lady friend down town, huh? What’s with that? You think you’re tough shit?”

“What I think shouldn’t concern you, Toot. It’s what I can do that you should worry about. Words are words, but actions; now, that’s another matter altogether.”

I looked around and the boy had already gotten up and was trying leave. “Don’t you go just yet, Henry-Lee, we ain’t finished, you hear?”

“Yes, sir, Mr. Toutant. I’s sure do.”

“Ok, then just sit down there and I’ll be with you in a sec, huh?”

“Ok, ok, sure, Mr. Toutant.”

I looked at Toot again. “Family reunion? So tell me Toot your boys back east been out lately?”

“I don’t see why that should concern you, none.”

I’d already eased up on the edge of his desk and was sitting there like a fly. I pounced. Grabbed him by the cuff, strapped his necktie down through his chair and twisted it so quick he busted his cup. “What the hell you doing mother fuck?”

“I asked you a question, Toot. If I don’t get the correct answer that cup isn’t the only thing getting busted around here, you hear?”

The boy was squirming in his seat now. I gave him a look that said, “Get the fuck out of here, now!” And, he did.

I eased up on Toot’s necktie, let him sit back a bit in his chair, made sure he wasn’t carrying. He wasn’t. He sat back grinning again. “Like I says, none of you business about those east boys.” I pulled the glock and was about to back hand him, when he added. “But seeing how you are most persuasive tell me what you really want and maybe I’ll find some answers.”

I knew he could do that if anyone could. He had a pipe to the local State Pen. Knew the in and out’s of most of the low-life’s in Dubois parish. I threw the pictures down of the crime scene, showed him the darkness that was living in these parts. His eyes grew bigger and took it all in, and then he just shook his head.

“I understand, mon ami.”

I told him what I needed. He agreed. That was all that needed to be said. Even such men as Booker T. had a particular code when it comes to women. This was no exception.

* * *

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Notes: word count so far 9400 – almost 1/4 done on this run… of course this is such a rough draft, so much work remains. I’ll not post my second draft because it will add in details of character (minor and major), setting, and the many psychological and descriptive effects that I’m leaving out in this dry run draft.

Read more: Flowers for Lobelia – Noir Novel in Progress

 

 

 

 

Flowers for Lobelia: Chapter Three – Scene 4

Deep down Louisiana close to New Orleans,
Way back up in the woods among the evergreens…
There stood a log cabin made of earth and wood,
Where lived a country boy name of Johnny B. Goode…
– Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry

He loved that song. He’d play it over and over in his head, day and night, year after year. It was him. Except that next refrain: “He never ever learned to read or write so well, But he could play the guitar like ringing a bell.” For him it was just the opposite. He could read and write perfectly, but hell if he could carry a tune or play a guitar. Not that he hadn’t tried when he was growing up, but something in him just wasn’t quite right for that sort of thing. He couldn’t put his hand on it, either. Most of it started with his sister.

He remembered the first time he’d had sex. It wasn’t quite what he’d expected of course. He’d always dreamed about those cheerleaders at the high school. Those short skirts they wore, and that little crease of flesh he could see when they threw them up so high. No. It didn’t happen that way at all. Cheerleaders thought he was a freak. Even the ugly girls stayed away from him. He’d learned to bide his time, stay to himself mostly. Then one day something happened to change all that.

Instead his older sister had stumbled in one night when Paps was out setting traps. She was drunk and higher than a kite. She rummaged around in the kitchen for a while, munching down on whatever she could find. Satisfied she started playing with herself there on the couch. When she got tired of that she got this funny smile on her face. The young man laying over in his corner of the cabin reading or pretending to read, watched on as she ambled over and undressed right there in front of him. He thought to himself, whether he should run or just sit there. He had no clue what she was up too. So he sat there and wondered at it. He had no feelings one way or the other.

She crawled up there in bed with him and said, “What you reading there, little Johnny?” Then she took that book out of his hands and said, “Why don’t you read me, little boy blue.” It wasn’t a question, more like an invite. She felt down where his manhood sat like a stone, unmoved. She twitched at it till suddenly something happened he’d never felt before nor since. It came alive at her touch.

* * *

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Comments are welcome and needed. This is my getting wet in noir, a first stab at this genre, and all the insight I can gather (likes, dislikes, whether its too sentimental, gritty, etc.) will help out. Obviously as I’ve said before this is a fast storyline mode for the first run through. Just getting the ideas and story down day by day. I’ll come back on the 2nd draft and start filling in details of character and setting, but for now the story itself is driving things. So if you’d be so kind drop me a comment, tell me honestly what you think.

Read more: Flowers for Lobelia – Noir Novel in Progress

 

Flowers for Lobelia: Chapter Three – Scene 3

origami

One thing led to another and the boys finally got around to telling us what we were here for. Joel said they’d found something strange up on one of the dry beds out there.

“What the fuck you own about, Joel.” I wanted to sound pissed even if I wasn’t.

“Well, I was getting to it, if you’d let me finish,” he looked at me quizzically. “Oh, hell, let’s just show these boys. Don’t matter much now, they done spoiled the fun and all.”

So we proceeded to follow these pecker-heads into the flat boats. They did it the old way, too. No fancy trolling motors on these rigs. No. Just long poles to push and push and push. Sometimes when one is floating through the swamps things begin to pop up around you, things in the murk. Old things that seemed to have been there from the beginning, as if God had said on that last day before he rested: “I seem to be forgetting something. Ah, yes, evil crawly swamp things, mud creatures and slime monsters. I’ll just set them all down here. That’s good. Now multiply and grow and keep reminding these little mortal gods of their sinful nature.” Now of course such fables are full of holes, but I’ll tell you that ever since my Paps told me that story when I was a kid I keep looking round just in case. Only thing is I don’t mind such things as one finds in these muddy waters, it’s the things that crawl around in the cesspool of civilization that worry me. The one’s that walk on two feet are truly evil incarnate.

We must’ve pushed in and out of old cypress stumps and gully inlets for two hours or more when Joel said: “It’s up here boys.” Course, what the hell it was would soon be known.

We got out of the flats and slurped in some soft mud pulling them up with us. I knew I should have brought my sloshing boots with me. I looked at Caleb. He shrugged. Be dammed.

We followed Joel through the brush. He had a machete and beat back some of the overgrowth, clearing things as he moved ahead. Finally we came to a makeshift clearing in some scrub pines, thin as my legs. The we saw it.

Hanging from the trees was this cocoon like thing, all wrapped up in string and tape with wood dangling out of it, and ribbons flowing down all black and red. Strangest concoction I’d ever seen. Couldn’t make heads or tales of it till I noticed it had eyes, or should I say, “missing eyes”. Then it dawned on me, my dream. Was that a premonition of this? Dam. What was going on inside me, anyway? Maybe I’m finally going mad. I doubted that, but one could never be sure in these weird times.

I looked at Joel, saying, “Did you boys tell the local parish sheriff or wildlife about this yet?”

“Nah, knowing Caleb like we do, we figured there might be some kind of reward for such things. So we figured best to let him in on it and figure all that out for us.”

“Good thinking, Joel.” I wanted to smack Caleb up side the head now, but refrained. He’d been dealing with these swamper’s, Redbones, Cajuns, and all for years, feeding them a little money and stipend now and then just to keep them on a chain.

What was odd as I walked around this thing, this dead thing that had been a human at one time was not the way it had been wrapped or even the wrapping but the pose; it was somehow all too familiar, as if it had been set there in that pose specifically for me to see, as if it were trying to tell me something, a message. It was posed like that little piece of origami I had stuffed in my pocket now. I took it out and lifted it up examining it more closely, walking slowly around this human death in front of me. The stench was almost too much even for me, and I’d always prided myself how much of it I could take in like the odor of death was a poetry only an old detective could savor. But the truth was death is not an aesthetic substance to be savored, its a horror to be forgotten.

“Well this wasn’t some poaching affair, that’s for certain.” Caleb was always obvious.

I looked at him, shook my head. “I think this one’s too big for us, Caleb, best let the Baton Rouge boys have a run at this one. I suspect serial, and that means it’ll go State and Federal most likely.” He nodded.

All I hoped for now was to pick up the crumbs they’d leave behind till it lead me to that Big X I had in my mind’s map.

Caleb talked to the boys while I looked around the perimeter. Nothing here. Didn’t expect as much. Whoever this was worked alone, methodical, and was intelligent; and, most of all, had been raised in these parts somewhere close by. Made me begin to think. Who did I piss off? Then I began running all those old cases through my mind’s computer.

 * * *

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Comments are welcome and needed. This is my getting wet in noir, a first stab at this genre, and all the insight I can gather (likes, dislikes, whether its too sentimental, gritty, etc.) will help out. Obviously as I’ve said before this is a fast storyline mode for the first run through. Just getting the ideas and story down day by day. I’ll come back on the 2nd draft and start filling in details of character and setting, but for now the story itself is driving things. So if you’d be so kind drop me a comment, tell me honestly what you think.

Read more: Flowers for Lobelia – Noir Novel in Progress

The Puppet on a Poem: Tales of Influence Anxiety

Influence anxiety, as he likes to say, exists not between the artists but between their poems endlessly bumping into each other in readers’ memories…
– Christopher Lyndon on Harold Bloom

 

Get out of here, will you? Dam you poems, leave me alone.
Poems, poems, poems. You’d think the world was a poem.
Everywhere I turn inside a poem pops up telling me I must.
Must what I say? Must say the poem, that’s what? Why should I?
Here I am just a poet in his solitude minding my own business,
and these poems begin to intervene and influence my existence;
now why the hell should such a thing be to me is just plain vicious,
and whoever thought up such a creed should be found insidious.
They say a falling star is just a poet’s mind going out, out, out;
and a
starburst is a poem that’s met its final end beyond all thought.
Maybe it’s this mechanical brain I got last Christmas? You suppose?
I know my mind’s been clinking loudly lately, and the screws are loose.
That’s the trouble with the market, even mechanical brains don’t last.
Nothing’s made to last. Well, that I can understand. Nothing is not.
When you think about it I’m no thing at all, I’m just a mechanical brain
talking about influencing the poems that keep chunking and scrunching
around in my head like so many marbles spinning and rotating in unison.
Alas I finally rid myself of poetry today. No more influence or rotary
of swirling little poems wandering the cosmos of my mechanical world.
But now I wonder what it is I was thinking. Really I can’t seem to think,
and my memory has gone south, and I just don’t seem to know
or even say or do or what is this I’m about just now with you…

…………………………..Oh, now I remember, I’m a Virus in your brain,
a poem that is eating you alive in influence and soon you, too, will join
the lovely little world of fools I’ve invented out of such things as poems.

– Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Poetic Thought for the Day (8/26/2014): Poetry as Labyrinth & Glass Bead Game

As I began thinking of today’s topic I was reminded of Herman Hesse’s classic satire of Majister Ludi or The Glass-Bead Game which became back in the sixties an instant classic about the power of imagination divorced from mundane society and religious worlds as well. A sort of secular utopia for people devoted solely to aesthetics, history, science, art, and poetry as a pure form of contemplative practice. Much like zen but in a secular mode in which there would be yearly competitions among various participants who would play with knowledge as if it were a vast cosmos to be played like a grand symphony of symbols and meaning unconnected to the real world of commerce and everyday life. Instead of a utopia, this is in some ways the perfect dystopia of the Platonic realm of Ideas and the German Transcendental world of Idealism. For unless we connect our words back to life of what use are they. This was the point of the end of Hesse’s novel as well, which I will not relate just in case someone has not read it. Do that! Read it. Well worth the time and effort.

My second image was of Jorge Luis Borges’s image of the labyrinth, a vast cosmic library of knowledge and wisdom that houses everything that has happened, could happen, or will happen in the universe in a great labyrinth in which there is no entry point, nor exit but only an endless series of infinite digressions and assays into a world that repeats itself right down to the letter on each and every page. Except that the pages and letters on them change every moment of every second of every day forever.

Christopher Lyndon in an interview with Harold Bloom would remind Bloom of his original title of An Anatomy of Influence, which is his latest offering or study of poetry through history. Lyndon would say that Bloom himself is the living labyrinth, “because it so elegantly represented not literature so much as the surging search-engine of Bloom’s overstocked head. Influence anxiety, as he likes to say, exists not between the artists but between their poems endlessly bumping into each other in readers’ memories, none vaster than his own. “Let’s face it, Harold,” I had said to him most of two years ago, “the living labyrinth is you!” He answered with a long laugh, and then: “A nice trope, my boy.” (see here)

The notion that each reader becomes a attached, hooked into, or plugged into a vast living labyrinth of poetry and poems that are continuously jostling, touching each other, battling in now this person’s mind, then another, each poem like a little catalyst sparking ever more poems in this ongoing game brings both Hesse’s and Borges’ worlds together. One could say that each of us is connected to that vast labyrinth of information, the world of words is for us the universe of meaning that connects us to both ourselves and to the actual forces in the real world around us. At every moment that we invent or create new meaning we transform the possibilities of our world for good or ill. We have magical powers to create or destroy with our words. We may think words have lost their power and become degraded by our modern capitalist societies and democracies, but in truth these open societies have actually broken down the monopolies and allowed the free reign of information to all. The battle of knowledge to shape and invent possibilities of knowledge and participation are endless in this new world. Yet, it’s not to be taken lightly, for one could discover that language is sick and desolating again, falling into isolated enclaves of power, bound by false engines of control and manipulation just as easily.

Ultimately the challenge is to make sense of this vast labyrinth of information, and that is the responsibility of poetry to build, to make an order that is at once instructive and delightful in which to house human meaning. Otherwise we can be like the modernists and postmodernists and accept that nothing is nothing, and meaning no longer has a place in time. But to except that is to accept that we, too, are mere nothings. This to me is Beckett’s End Game. Nihilism.

But for me this is over, the age of nihilism has taken us as far as it can into that subjective sphere of nullity of world and self; now we begin anew, we once again take up the task of reinventing our humanity and our meanings, but accepting that we are not the center of creation, but only one of the inheritors of a vast labyrinth in which we all play a Glass-Bead Game with time and our future. But this time it’s not some contemplative escape into pure or ideal worlds of play, but a very real engenderment of our participation and creation of a future worth living in. Poetry being the House of Being and human meaning is also the labyrinth in which we all wander and work with each other in continuous struggle or a process that is ever changing and growing and becoming future and us in us and earth.

   That’s my thought for the day!