Zen and The Art of the (Im)perfect Story

How do I make my story just right? That’s a question I get often as often as I ask it myself. I hear that as much as I hear, “How will I know when I’m done?” This is a particularly irksome aspect of making art (or writing literature – or making sculpture – or painting a portrait, etc…).

My mother would paint barns when I was a child. No, she didn’t put a coating of Sherwin Williams on the sides of an outdoor building (but she also did do that). She painted pictures of dusty, old, dilapidated barns, places I’d often stare at and dream of hiding in while reading a good book to while away the summer hours. She loved to depict outdoor scenes, but there was one with a picture of the Hunt – horse riders in their black hard hats, high leather boots and fancy, red coats as they followed their hounds through the fields. It’s an energetic picture where the hounds are racing and all four of the horses are jumping a rather high wooden fence, but two of the horses at the center of the piece are missing their back legs. I often shudder at the result when the horses land. I ask my mother when she will finish the painting. She sighs and says, “Oh, some day when the feeling strikes.” It’s been thirty years now, perhaps I shall buy her some oil paints this Christmas and task her with a New Year’s Eve resolution. The trouble with this is that she had explained that when was working on the piece and she had gotten to this point in the painting process, she felt that she could go no further. Oddly, the rest of the painting is finished with all of its details just horses have no back legs.

She spoke to me on the subject of painting. She told me that when other people view your work, they see it as a whole piece and regard it either with wonder or disgust, but never see its components. But when you, the artist, view your work, all you can see is its little flaws. She told me that she never really knew when exactly she was done. “I could tinker with it all day, go on and on, adding details here and painting over them there.” At a certain point, she admitted that she could go on too far and spoil the painting – and doing so without knowing it. “After a while, you simply give up,” she told me. “You just stand back and say, ‘okay, that’s enough.'”

But where is that point? How can we know? There is a zen to knowing when to stop. Perhaps it’s akin to the process described in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink. You simply have to do it enough to know when to stop. Unfortunately, you have to do end the process at the right point every time in order to develop this instinct, but you have to know when to stop in order to know where that point is, an unfortunate Catch-22.

For this  I don’t have any satisfying answers. I suppose you could go off of the reactions of others provided you don’t have friends with bad taste or friends who lovingly only give you positive support. An example of this is Florence Foster Jenkins who was one of history’s most famous bad opera singers who was constantly told by friends how wonderful her singing was. She even made recordings and gave bad public performances. It must have been a shock when the reviewer from the New York Times gave her a mocking review.

But even the review of others, no matter their expertise, is still coming from a matter of opinion and taste which you might not share (it’s very rarely the case). And it could be that your work is, in fact, terrible or just that the person reviewing it simply doesn’t understand what you are presenting. So other’s opinions are only limited in their usefulness.

You could base it off of your own judgement in comparison to the work of those artists you love, but that would be unfair – they already have years more experience and their work is unique to their character as yours is to you.

So, surely, there must be some sort of ultimate litmus test. To this I only answer with a story. This is a story I often tell fellow writers. It’s a zen story and I never tell it the same way twice (how zen of me) and, to be honest, I’m not even certain that this is the original story (perhaps someone will write in and correct me – how very un-zen-like of them).

The story is of an aging zen monk, a zen master, who met a gardener. The gardener was an admirer of the monk, he wanted to learn the ways zen from the monk and become a master himself. He offered to help the master with his garden in exchange for lessons. The master obliged him, especially seeing as he was getting on in years and was having a hard time keeping up any ways. So, the gardener went to work and did his best work, getting the garden as neat and orderly as possible. When he finished, he felt he’d done more than any other job he’d worked on. He showed it to the monk who only stood and frowned. “What’s the matter?” asked the concerned gardener. But monk could not figure out what it was and could only respond, “It’s not quite right.” The down-hearted gardener sulked, until inspiration struck and he ran up to the cherry blossom tree and shook it until the blossoms spread messily down the side of the little hill. The monk stood back and smiled, “Yes, there, that’s perfect.”

To me, the moral of the story is obvious. A story should be as neat and orderly as possible, but in order to be perfect be a little messy. So perhaps my mother’s instincts were right and the horses should never have back legs added. Perhaps because a human being is not a perfect thing, but messy and with flaws no matter how neat and orderly that person tries to be, perhaps also because art should be a reflection of life, that a story should not fit all together neatly in a perfect framework (perhaps, shudder! some of the facts are wrong, not that!) and that is the best way to get the most perfect piece. So, stop when you feel you need to stop, stand back or put it in a drawer for a month and look it over and get a feel for what really affects you and what leaves you cold. Perhaps you’ll know that you’re done when you can stand back and say, “Yes, that’s enough.”

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July 3 Word Power: How word choice can not only be powerful, but political: Comments on the evolution of revolution from Black Panthers to Black Lives Matters and the true meaning of Urban

Word Choice. What does it mean? It’s a subject that, as far as fiction writing is concerned, could fill up an entire book. Certainly, in the larger sense Word Choice is, and I quote the College Handbook of Creative Writing: “[finding the right] sound of the words, the shades of meaning, and the images the words evoke.” The book goes on to say, “Some writers and critics have even gone so far to insist that finding the precise word (le mot juste) is what good writing is all about.” Certainly it’s what make a piece powerful when it can say exactly what it means.

The literal, or the dictionary definition, is also important. What does the word actually mean. Backing your words up with a dictionary gives them power and power gives the writer command of her commentary. “I can back up what I’m saying,” she tells us, “and here’s the authority to prove it.” Your word choice tells as much of a story as the words you string together – as much as your sentences, your paragraphs, pages and chapters tells us, as much as your book entire.

When Martin Luther King, Jr. says, “I have a dream.” That is very powerful. “I have” means that he owns it, it’s mine. “Dream” is this big vision that he will now illustrate for you; he will make the nebulous vision clear. So, what does it mean when Langston Hughes writes of a “Dream Deferred”? Could he be hooking into Dr. King’s epic speech? Could be giving a subtle critique of it? Or perhaps the society that says they like Dr. King’s speech, but aren’t really going to do anything about it?

What does it mean to take Word Choice one step further and not simply think about the sound of the word, the shade of meaning or the images evoked, but what power structure they imply? How does one politicize one’s word choice? The words chosen are done so to evoke not just an image, but an emotional response to get the audience engaged, perhaps even influenced. Sometimes the wrong way.

I remember watching Spike Lee’s movie Malcom X, the scene where Malcom reads the definition of the word “black” in the dictionary. All of the connotations where negative. Darkness, evil, impure. The character screamed in rage. He hated that society had made him into that dictionary definition, one he knew that he did not fit. I wondered if this was the reason that the Black Panthers, and the African American community of the 1960s and 70s, had adopted the slogan, “Black is beautiful.” Taking the dictionary definition and turning it on its head. Instead of white being fair and lovely, “she walks in beauty like the night.” I don’t know if it changed society’s mind about the African American community, but it did empower it. The slogan was a way to take back the word “black” and make it something more complex than just a cowboy hat that a movie villain wears. Black also can be beautiful, sacred, complex, and beloved. Black was not simple black was a complex of many things few of which the greater whole understood.

Many other words have been reclaimed. Women have reclaimed the word “bitch” to mean someone who is strong and independent who won’t be nice – won’t be your doormat. Gay men have worked to reclaim the word “queer” as a source of pride (as in it’s okay to be different, “we’re queer, we’re here”) instead a hated outsider and the black community the N word (no I won’t write it, I’m white) as a word of brotherhood and solidarity.

Even today words have political power. People tweeting “Black Lives Matter” turned into a political movement. And candidate Hilary Clinton got into a lot of trouble when she changed those words – a feeling among the activists in the community that a powerful white person was trying to change the movement with her verbal misstep. Some of her supporters claimed that she was just being an idiot, she was trying to show that she felt that all minority movements deserve a shout out, but absconding with the words of the movement was the wrong way to do it – she should have known better. The activists worked hard to give those words meaning, motion and power, they weren’t about to let anyone take that away.

I had published a poem on this blog called “The White Man Pressed the Locks” about a white couple parked in a car in a black neighborhood who pressed down their locks as the author of the poem wandered by. They’d done this without knowing who he was. They couldn’t trust what he really was: a well-to-do man, a professional man, a family man with a successful career. All they read on his face was black man – danger!

In his poem, he speaks of the body of the city. Of corpuscles and arms and varicose veins. Words that represent the body. We see a body and we read what we want to, not what that body contains – not the true spirit of the person. We lock out that person, we don’t reach out and try to get to know who that person actually is. We keep each other apart. I have the white part of the city, you have the black.

I complained in my post that the word “urban” meaning “city-like” was code for black, but that isn’t what the city really is. That urban conjures up the image of something dirty, unkempt, pitiful, unruly and crime ridden. I live in the city, I love it here and that connotation is not what it is. Those things are there, but that only scratches the surface of what the city really is. A city is a vibrant and colorful entity with every sort of person, every sort of experience, with all the bad and all the good squished up together in a joyful chaos of life. Perhaps it’s actually a more hopeful place to be, a place to express yourself more freely, more truthfully. Unlike the suburbs where it’s cold and polite, where nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors. Where emotions are reserved and you aren’t very free to be who you really are. Don’t stand out in the suburbs or the Home Owner’s Association will kick you out.

Perhaps “urban” should be code for multi-cultural, free to express yourself, free to be as large or small as you want to be, free to be complex and interesting. Let’s reclaim that word and let’s use words to empower ourselves and to build a kinder, more just world. We have them within our command, these powerful tools that are democratic and can be used for good.

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Jan 12 Anonymous: Kansas I

I’m continuing my voices of diversity this month. I did some digging in my American anthology of literature and ran across something called “corridos”. They are a type of fast-paced song created by the Mexican American peoples who herded cattle through the Southwest. They were the most important form of expression from 1865 to 1915.

They are songs and are used to illustrate what life on the range was like from a Mexican American perspective. According to the book, they claimed that cattle ranching was more of a Latino enterprise than an Anglo American one. They often speak of fights that went on between the two groups for supremacy in the cattle world and sometimes outside of it.

I like that this is not only a unique expression in content but in form. This their form, they created it and has become a part of the unique tapestry of American Life. Despite the fact that the conflicts often illustrate how the Mexican Americans feel separate from the country (an illustration is one corridos that talks about a man who shoots a sheriff in defense and runs for the border because he knows he’ll never get a fair trial in a Texan court), I hope that the sharing of the corridos brings together the two sub-cultures. Perhaps it can shed a light on what divides us in order to bring us together. This is the secret hope of the American experiment: to bring together diverse cultures and have the live together in peace and harmony – hopefully both can bring the other something useful to each other’s lives.

I’ve never heard a corridos sung; I certainly do hope to do so some day.

Kansas I

When we left for Kansas with a great herd of cattle,
ah, what a long trail it was! I was not sure I would survive.

The caporal would tell us, as if he was going to cry,
“Watch out for that bunch of steers; don’t let them get past you.”

Ah, what a good horse I had! He did nothing but gallop.
And, ah, what a violent cloudburst! I was not sure I would come back.

Some of us asked for cigarettes, other wanted something to eat;
and the caporal would tell us, “So be it, it can’t be helped.”

By the pond at Palomas a vicious steer left the herd.
and the caporal lassoed it on his honey-colored horse.

Go tell the caporal that a vaquero has been killed;
all he left was his leather jacket hanging on the rails of the corral.

We got to the Salado River, and we swam our horses across;
an American saying, “Those men are as good as drowned.”

I wonder what the man thought, that we came to learn, perhaps;
why we’re from the Rio Grande, where the good swimmers are from.

And then Kansas came in sight, an the caporal tells us,
“We have finally made it, we’ll soon have them in the corral.”

Back again in San Antonio, we all bought ourselves good hats,
and this is the end of the singing of the stanzas about the trail drivers.

*Here it is in Spanish – the way it was originally sung. [Please excuse the unaccented words, I don’t have the capacity to do so in this program – sorry!]

Kiasis I

Cuando salimos pa’Kiansis
con una grande partida
ah, que camino tan largo!
no contaba con mi vida.

Nos decia el caporal,
como queriendo llorar:
-Alla va la novillada,
no me la dejen pasar-

Ah, que caballo tan bueno!
todo se le iba en correr,
y, ah, que fuerte aguacerazo!
no contabe yo en volver.

Unos pedian cigarro,
otros pedian que comer,
y el caporal nos decia:
-Sea por Dios, que hemos de hacer.-

En el charco de Palomas
se corto un novillo bragado,
y el caporal lo lazo
en su caballo melado.

Avisenle al caporal
que un vaquero se mato,
en las trancas del corral
nomas la cuera dejo.

Llegamos al Rio Salado
y nos tiramos a nado,
decia un americano:
-Esos hombres ya se ahogaron.-

Pues que pensaria ese hombre
que venimos a esp’rimentar,
si somos del Rio Grande,
de los buenos pa’nadar.

Y le dimos vista a Kiansis,
y nos dice el caoral:
-Ora si somos de vida,
ya vamos a hacer corral.-

Y de vulta en San Antonio
compramos buenos sombreros,
y aqui se acaban cantando
versos de los aventurenos.

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Jan 10 Garrett Hongo: The Hongo Store 29 Miles Volcano Hilo, Hawaii

I was interested in exploring diverse voice during the month of January. Voices that don’t get heard as much as others. Garrett Hongo is Asian American and from the poem the reader can tell that he grew up in the United States as a second generation Asian American.

The world that he shows us might be unfamiliar to us. A beautiful garden in the back of his parents’ filling station and also the house where they lived. It sounds like things weren’t always easy for the Hongo’s. The poet conveys an unsteady world where things must be packed up quickly at a moment’s notice. Take your valuables and hike to the hills, she’s gonna blow!

I’m white. In my world moving takes planning and money and time. One must mark one’s calendar and make arrangements and fill out forms and inform the proper people of the proper things. But in this poem life is more unsteady, more unpredictable. There is a wild beauty to it “[running] through the orchids, ferns, and plumeria” and the “earth’s belly,/Thudding like the bell of the Buddhist Church” and a bit of a humor “the dark skinny man, shirtless and grinning…lifts a naked baby above his head”, but we the readers wonder if it might take its toll after a while. They are not well off, they drive an old rickety car, an Edsel, and they live in a store. There, for a few stanzas, is a feeling of desperation as people run from their homes and the father tells everyone to be quiet as he strives to get instructions on what to do. And what happens when she does blow? This conveys a feeling of a life of random frenzy and unsteadiness. The poem gives us a window into this world. We are forced to consider what our lives might be like if we were forced to live in a place that was precarious, where any minute everything we know might end.

Can you visualize this time? This place? This situation? Can you understand what it must be like? Perhaps the poet is sharing more than just a moment of his life. Imagine this is where you live. This is who you are.

The Hongo Store
29 Miles Volcano
Hilo, Hawaii

by Garrett Hongo

From a photograph

My parents felt those rumblings
Coming deep from the earth’s belly
Thudding like the bell of the Buddhist Church.
Tremors in the ground swayed the bathinette
Where I lay squalling in soapy water.

My mother carried me around the house,
Back through the orchids, ferns, and plumeria
Of that greenhouse world behind the store,
And jumped between gas pumps into the car.

My father gave it the gun
And said, “Be quiet,” as he searched
The frequencies, flipping for the right station
(The radio squealing more loudly than I could cry).

And then even the echoes stopped —
The only sound the Edsel’s grinding
And the bark and crackle of radio news
Saying stay home or go to church.

“Dees time she no blow!”
My father said, driving back
Over the red ash covering the road.
“I worried she went go for broke already!”

So in this print the size of a matchbook,
The dark skinny man, shirtless and grinning,
A toothpick in the corner of his smile,
Lifts a naked baby above his head —
Behind him the plate glass of the store only

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Jan 3 Gwendolyn Brooks: A Black Wedding Song

It’s a new year and with the new year comes a new blog post. I’ve become quite negligent of this post much to my dismay. With life comes challenges and sometimes the things we love the most must take a back seat to the more boring and mundane parts of life. The dishes still must be done, the clock must be punched, bills need to be paid, the bus waits for no man (not longer than thirty seconds I’m finding).

I’ve been wracking my brain to find a new way to rejuvenate this site, give it a different focus, give it a new life to both my and my audience’s imagination. That’s part of what art is, an inspiration to the imagination, perhaps even a bit of a vacation for the soul. That one spark of interest in the dull monotony of life. And even working artists can find their work a bit dull at times.

I like this poem as the beginning, or new beginning for a couple of reasons. The poet Brooks is celebrating the start of a new life. Certainly the couple getting together have been around for a long time, but a marriage is a different creature. Two lives coming together, starting something new: the start of a family which in essence is a new life. Your old separate life is over, now you have a new focus and you will be bringing new lives into the world, creating new memories, new moments of inspiration and TONS of new work and drudgery to muck through, but now muck through together. Is it a burden? Sometimes, but this is why the poet says, “stay strong.”

“Strong hand in strong hand, stride to/ the Assault that is promised you…”

But it is a joyful burden, one that gives meaning and purpose to one’s life.

New lives definitely require celebration. The moment we stop celebrating and feeling joy, that moment we’re no longer alive. And if we hide from our burdens, we hide from our lives and our purpose, we’re not really alive and living in the moment. Hiding from the “war [that] comes in from the World” is to lie back in a pine box and allow the dirt to fill in over you and that is the most tragic (and unacceptable) thing in the whole world.

So face the world and the pain, face the work and the drudgery and dullness, “Keep it strong./Keep it logic and magic and lightning and muscle…. Here’s to your Wedding Day./Here’s to your launch./Come to your Wedding Song.” Dance and laugh and work hard.

The other reason I chose this poem is it is written by an African American and in the US (if you’re reading from another country) January celebrates Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday. I believe that the civil rights struggle is important to remember for everyone regardless of color or creed; it’s important to remember that no person is unimportant or deserving of injustice, especially the kind that a society would institutionalize.

At this time, the US is remembering that struggle through the current day struggles and how there is still a very long road to travel before we can know Doctor King’s dream of the mountain top. I think that it is not only important to remember the “war that comes in from the World”, the political struggle of people of color (of people in any place in the world who are oppressed), but also that they are unique and beautiful, that they have a soul and a heart and a mind and that all are complex. Recognizing the beauty and the wisdom of the African American contribution to art an literature, highlights the humanity and complexity of the African American soul.

Brooks is giving her wisdom and her beauty to the world through her poetry and like a mother or grandmother to her children. She is working to give her wisdom and thus her strength to a nation of African Americans (and to many generations to come). She reminds us the struggle won’t be easy, forgiveness will be needed and strength – lots and LOTS of strength will be required.

A Black Wedding Song

by Gwendolyn Brooks

This love is a rich cry over
the deviltries and the death.
A weapon-song. Keep it strong.

Keep it strong.
Keep it logic and magic and lightning and muscle.

Strong hand in strong hand, stride to
the Assault that is promised you (knowing
no armor assaults a pudding or a mush.)

Here is your Wedding Day.
Here is your launch.

Come to your Wedding Song.

For you
I wish the kindness that romps or sorrows along.
Or kneels.

I wish you the daily forgiveness of each other.
For war comes in from the World
and puzzles a darling duet –
tangles tongues,
tears hearts, mashes minds;
there will be the need to forgive.

I wish you jewels of Black love.
Come to your Wedding Song.

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July 17 Walt Whitman: Cavalry Crossing a Ford

Sometimes life in the city feels a bit like a battle. Marching off to work every morning, elbowing your way through the crowd just for your own tiny little space. Then back out on the streets to trudge, trudge, trudge your way through the sweltering crowds who shout and bustle and bristle.

Coming home is equally exhausting. It’s almost a test of one’s meddle to see if you really want to get there (I wouldn’t begrudge the cowardly soul who stops to get a long drink instead).

This poem reminds me of the trek home especially the “negligent rest[ing] on the saddles”. I would too if I was riding my horse home.

This scene, to my mind, is a picture, a scene from a story frozen in time. Something else probably quite important and exciting happened before this and something very important will happen after (they are the Cavalry and they do have all of that rescuing to do after all), but we the reader won’t know exactly what. Instead we’ll have to read the details, “the arms that flash in the sun”, “the musical clank”, “brown-faced men”, the long guidon flag and all, the horses and the men, are exhausted.

I like when a poem can tell us a story even without meaning to tell us a story. It isn’t a “once upon a time.. and this is how it happened” type of a story. It’s the type where we infer the drama and all of the plot points.

I do know that Whitman is famous for commemorating important American events and achievements, so I can imagine that perhaps this is from a famous battle like something from the Spanish American War, or perhaps they’re being called upon to chase an outlaw or help a small frontier town. All are possibilities, but I wonder which as I often do with many of his poems.

In “Captain, My Captain” the battle is won, but we don’t know which one. We simply imagine the sails whipping in the wind, the gunsmoke exploding and clouding the air, the waves curling and crashing, the men shouting and rushing about. Yet he writes none of that in his poem. And it is a very exciting poem.

Sometimes a poem is more about what has not been written, than what has.

Cavalry Crossing a Ford

by Walt Whitman

A line in long array where they wind betwixt green islands,
They take a serpentine course, their arms flash in the sun – hark to the musical clank,
Behold the silvery river, in it the splashing horses loitering stop to drink,
Behold the brown-faced men, each group, each person a picture, the negligent rest on saddles,
Some emerge on the opposite bank, others are just entering the ford – while,
Scarlet and blue and snowy white,
The guidon flags flutter gayly in the wind.

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July 11 George Meredith: Lucifer in Starlight

What is it about evil that we find so fascinating? We read about it excessively (Murder Mysteries are always popular). Every movie season the theaters are filled with the Horror Dreadfuls or mysteries, or stories about serial killers, or good men fight evil ones (as are the television boxes stuffed to the brim with the stuff).

When I was a kid, they stuffed me in a stiff and itchy formal dress every Sunday morning at the crack of dawn to go listen to how to avoid evil, how the fascination is bad. And as did many parishioners. Yet we all fell from Grace. We all read murder mysteries and watched shows about evil men in a horrified fascination as if going to a museum to gawk at the glass and explore from afar the thing we feared was deep within.

Are we studying up? Taking notes on what to avoid? Are they morality tales showing us what not to be? Or does some secret place in us revel in the camaraderie?

My opinion is that we want very badly to understand it. It could be because we can’t possibly fathom why anyone would do such horrible acts and we want some feeling of control, that in the end their actions were motivated by something logical.

But I also think that we also do it to understand that side of ourselves. It has been said that the unexplored life is not worth living, but there are some places in our personalities that we simply can’t or don’t have the psychological mechanisms to face, so we look to a safe place, to fiction, to explore them. We look at characters who carry faces much like our own, but allow us the distance to let the wisdom percolate in our minds.

I think that we want to connect with all parts of our personality, but most desperately to the parts that we fear to connect with. If we can understand us, find that unity, we know (we hope) that we will find a lasting peace with with this life.

Why write about the devil? In church, we only talk about the devil to conjure up his image and spit on it, to stomp him back down where he belongs. But there are many non-practicing Christians, and Atheists and Christians of a very different ilk who would find this practice hypocritical at the very best.

Satan as a character is an archetype. Just as Death as a walking skeleton represents the anthropomorphism of an idea. Satan is the embodiment of all evil in the world, but lets face it, when we say the world, we really mean all of humanity. He is the darkest of our dark side.

But how do we know this character? He is difficult to describe. If we distance ourselves from him, spit on him, claim that we have no part in his doings, then we flatten him out to a stock character: a red imp with a sharp tail, horns and goat feet. But if we search to find his real face, he becomes somewhat ineffable. We have to describe him according to what he has done: his rebellion, his temper, his decision to make the fiery under world (the place of shadows) his home away from God. These descriptions often do a better job of conjuring a physical description in our minds than actual physical descriptions as they tell us more about who he is. He’s that type.

And if we embrace this deeper look at the face of evil, we recognize some of ourselves in it. “Oh, yeah, I have a fiery temper, sometimes I’m quick to tantrum.” “Oh, yeah, sometimes I choose to smile at someone’s misfortune.” “Sometimes I can be prideful and brag in front of my well-meaning friends who only wish me good fortune.” “Sometimes it hurts to remember some of the horrible things I’ve done.” Or as the poet puts it, “[He is]Soaring through wider zones that pricked his scars.”

Sometimes these are good reminders that it actually hurts to be unkind, that a choice to be rebellious leaves us lonely and pining. Sometimes being good isn’t about following the rules and going to church and saying a couple of prayers. Sometimes it’s more of a state of being, a choice, a thought about repercussions, a thought about what others will go through when that action is completed. Identifying with a character makes us think differently about who we are and what we would look like if the people we know are ourselves as were slightly askew.

In this poem, the devil takes a brief tour of what he can never be a part of, of what he threw away, because he only thought about what he wanted at the moment. If you’re young, you’ll never have that moment, you’ll read this poem and think, “it’s pretty,” but it’s emotion will never touch you. But live a few extra years, make a few irredeemable mistakes, lose out on a few golden opportunities and make the wrong person mad at you (because they just CAN’T be right!) and you’ll understand his regret. You suddenly won’t be able to spit at the devil, as he gazes longingly at the vast array of shining stars, his heart aching at their beauty, and feeling remorse as he stares upon the innocence of those islands on the earth gone from him forever, then you’ll sympathize with him, then you’ll know something different about yourself.

Lucifer in Starlight

by George Meredith

On a starred night Prince Lucifer uprose,
Tired of his dark dominion, swung the fiend
Above the rolling ball in cloud part screened,
Where sinners hugged their specter of repose.
Poor prey to his hot fit of pride were those.
And now upon his western wing he leaned,
Now his huge bulk o’er Afric sands careened,
Now the black planet shadowed Arctic snows.
Soaring through wider zones that pricked his scars
With memory of the old revolt from Awe,
He reached a middle height, and at the stars,
Which are the brain of heaven, he looked and sank.
Around the ancient track marched, rank on rank,
The army of unalterable law.

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