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Jacobson, Rebecca Set.
h [electronic resource] /
by Rebecca Set Jacobson.
[Tampa, Fla] :
b University of South Florida,
"Abiding" is a collection of poems prefaced by a personal ars poetica, or treatise on poetics, titled "Poetic Dwelling: Making Manifest Being-in-the-World." This piece explores the essay, "The Question Concerning Technology," written by the German philosopher and phenomenologist Martin Heidegger. The essay, which was adapted from a 1953 lecture to the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts, explicates three ways in which Sein or Being, is made manifest in the world. One of these modes is via poiÂ¢sis. PoiÂ¢sis, broadly defined, is a thing made or done that is aimed at some end (telos). Aristotle, Heidegger tells us, also defined poiÂ¢sis simply as a poem. In his later works, like the above mentioned essay, Heidegger began to focus heavily on poetry and its relationship to Sein. He often did so through the lens of the work of Friedrich Hlderin (1770-1848), the German lyric poet known to have been friendly in his lifetime with the father of phenomenology, Friedrich Hegel. It is from a line of Hlderin's poetry, often quoted in Heidegger's work, that the title of the ars poetica is drawn: "Poetically man dwells upon this earth." In "Poetic Dwelling: Making Manifest Being-in-the-World," the author uses "The Question Concerning Technology" as her starting point for exploring the relationship between philosophy and poetry in her own work. Trained in both disciplines, the author demonstrates how the two fields are deeply interconnected, creating a kind of mirror which is constantly reflecting back on the other. This reflexive quality is carried through into the poems themselves which often undertake---both explicitly and implicitly---philosophical questions. Included in these are inquiries into epistemology or ways of knowing, the existential nature of experience, and ethics or value theory, as well as references to the work of individual philosophers including Friedrich Nietzsche and Hannah Arendt.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2006.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
System requirements: World Wide Web browser and PDF reader.
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Title from PDF of title page.
Document formatted into pages; contains 38 pages.
Adviser: Nicholas Samaras, Ph.D.
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
i Abiding by Rebecca Set Jacobson A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Department of English College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Nicholas Samaras, Ph.D. Peter Meinke, Ph.D. John Fleming, Ph.D. Date of Approval: April 14, 2006 Keywords: Poetry, Philosophy, Martin Heidegger, Hannah Arendt, Creative Writing Copyright 2006, Rebecca Set Jacobson
To D. Scott Ward, Peter Meinke, and Nicholas Samaras with gratitude for being my teachers, mentors, and friends. For Bryan, with my abiding love.
i Table of Contents Abstract ii Poetic Dwelling: Making Manifest Being-in-the-World 1 Maybe in Madison 13 Chattooga Flood, 1994 14 Life in the Prairie Dog Protection Program 15 The Work I Do 16 Absinthe in Israel 17 When Faced with Canonical Works 18 Vocational Considerations 19 Chimera Turning 20 After Taking My Grandmother from the Bath 21 Untitled 22 Conversation with Dr. Ellis, Professor Emeritus 23 Sophia Dreaming 24 Lola Following Noren 25 Margot in JonahÂ’s Bed 26 Anthony about Ella 27 Ian on AnastasiaÂ’s Rose 28 Nicholas Remembering Maura 29 When Anya Warms Aaron 30 Smaller in the Distance 31 Abiding 32 Romancing My Old Age 33 For The Poet Peter Meinke 34 Swing Low 35 Still Life 36 Before Becoming an Ancestor 37 List of References 38
ii Abiding Rebecca Set Jacobson ABSTRACT Â“AbidingÂ” is a collection of poems prefaced by a personal ars poetica or treatise on poetics, titled Â“Poetic Dwelling: Making Manifest Being-in-the-World.Â” This piece explores the essay, Â“The Question Concerning Technology,Â” written by the German philosopher and phenomenologist Martin Heidegger. The essay, which was adapted from a 1953 lecture to the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts, explicates three ways in which Sein or Being, is made manifest in the world. One of these modes is via poisis Poisis broadly defined, is a thing made or done that is aimed at some end ( telos ). Aristotle, Heidegger tells us, also defined poisis simply as a poem. In his later works, like the above mentioned essay, Heidegger began to focus heavily on poetry and its relationship to Sein He often did so through the lens of the work of Friedrich Hlder in (1770-1848), the German lyric poet known to have been friendly in his lifetime with the father of phenomenology, Friedrich Hegel. It is from a line of HlderinÂ’s poetry, often quoted in HeideggerÂ’s work, that the title of the ars poetica is drawn: Â“Poetically man dwells upon this earth.Â” In Â“Poetic Dwelling: Making Manifest Be ing-in-the-World,Â” the author uses
iii Â“The Question Concerning TechnologyÂ” as her starting point for exploring the relationship between philosophy and poetry in her own work. Trained in both disciplines, the author demonstrates how the two fields are deeply interconnected, creating a kind of mirror which is constantly reflecting back on the other. This reflexive quality is carried through into the poems themselves which often undertakeÂ—both explicitly and implicitlyÂ—philosophical questions. Included in these are inquiries into epi stemology or ways of knowing, the existential nature of experi ence, and ethics or value theory, as well as references to the work of individual philosophers including Friedrich Nietzsche and Hannah Arendt.
1 Poetic Dwelling: Making Ma nifest Being-in-the-World Poetry must have philosophical implications and must resist them. Â—Barry Stocker My first semester in college, I t ook two classes that conditioned my thought and, subsequently, the course of a ll of my academic studies since. These two courses were Introduction to Philosophy and a creative writing workshop focused on poetry. The workshop was taught by D. Scott Ward, whose rich accent attested to his study in South Carolina under James Dickey, as well as his last teaching position at Auburn. Scott challenged me to think about how I used personal images to approach universal themes, often pushing me to explicate in detail what he found in my poems. I would answer as best I could, and then go home to write and rewr ite, write and rewrite, again and again and again. Converse to ScottÂ’s slow and deliberate manner, my philosophy professor was fresh out of DuquesneÂ’s graduate school and aptly named James Quick. He never sat, never even leaned against a desk, as he would fire question after question about the assigned readings. And what he assigned was not the standard introductory anthology material; it was full length, primary pieces. Our
2 answers were never quite right but, as a class, we came to understand the exactness of philosophy and the nimbleness of mind that it required. It wasnÂ’t long before I declared philosophy as my primary course of study and creative writing as a minor. As I continued to study philosophy, I became ever more interested in existentialism and phenomenology, and especially the work of Martin Heidegger. HeideggerÂ’s writings appealed to me bec ause, like good poetry, they addressed the experience of the human subject as simultaneously both universal and particular. Specifically, HeideggerÂ’s philosophy demonstrated that a person has ontological standing as she is part of Sein Being, the a priori material of the universe. Concomitantly, she is al so present and embodied. Heidegger expressed this embodiment as the always already (t)here of Dasein being-inthe-world; the 'in' of in-the-world imp lies a relationship of attuned concern, as exemplified linguistically by saying y ou are Â“in loveÂ” with someone, versus a purely spatial representation such as Â“t he couch is in the living roomÂ” (Foltz, Inhabiting the Earth 125-6). Since HeideggerÂ’s Dasein is in-the-world in the same sense that she is in love, she meets her surroundings with the desire that they reveal themselves ( altheia ), show the truth of their Being, and be known to her.1 The purest form 1 Heidegger states, Â“The Greeks have the word aletheia for revealing. The Romans translate this with veritas We say Â‘truthÂ’ and understand it as correctness of representation.Â”
3 of revealing, Heidegger explained in his 1953 lecture to the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts titled Â“The Question Concerning Technology,Â” is that of phusis the Â“arising of something out of it selfÂ” (Heidegger 293). What Heidegger knows, but chooses not to say, is that revealing is in actuality only half of phusis Â’ nature. Bruce Foltz explicates: Phusis is that manner of being display ed by entities in general whereby they emerge and unfold of their own accord from out of themselvesÂ— coming forth uncompelled from concealment, and hence making themselves manifest, entering in to appearance in an enduring, abiding sovereigntyÂ—all the while remaining r ooted in the concealment from which this self-unfolding emergence t ook its origin, and thereby both simultaneously and ultimately receding back into themselves. ( Inhabiting the Earth 156-7) In other words, phusis is really the process through which a thing reveals itself, but then retreats back into conceal ment in order to keep the possibility fresh of emerging again. This process is made most obvious to us as a spontaneous and fleeting event such as the morning sun turning the night into a thousand golden pieces of light or a l eafless tree budding forth in a canopy of flowers and fruit. Equally part of this ac t is the inherent knowledge that the sleep state of both night and winter will eventually return. The unending cyclicalness of phusis its revealing and concealing, leads to one of Heidegger's other interpretations of the phenomenon, specifically of "'phusis in the narrower sense',
4 that is, from 'nature'" (Foltz, Inhabiting the Earth 127). Hannah Arendt, a political philos opher and student of HeideggerÂ’s explained in her book The Human Condition that the relationship between phusis which she translates as physis and nature is not just conceptual but also etymological. She states: Â“It is characte ristic of all natural processes that they come into being without the help of man, and that those things are natural which are not Â‘madeÂ’ but grow by themselves into whatever they become. (This is also the authentic meaning of our word Â“natureÂ” whether we derive it from its Latin root nasci to be born, or trace it back to its Greek origin, physis which comes from the word phyein to grow out of, to appear by itself.)Â” (Arendt 150). Obviously then, human beings, as nat ural entities, participate in phusis and observe it both in themselves and the world around them. However, phusis through tapping into the universal aspect of who we are, of Being, transcends our individual finitude. As such, we seek out other modes of revealing which contain the possibility of bridging the space bet ween the universal and the particular, discreet ways that each of us are beings-inthe-world. To do so, is the equivalent in religious terms of representing GodÂ—w ho, like Being, is also understood as infinite, unimaginable, holy and fleetÂ—in a way that is comprehensible to the human mind. Not to do so, is to exist in a relationship of intellectual incoherence with the world that we are supposed to be both attuned and concerned with. According to Heidegger, we make Bei ng manifest in an expressly human world marked by linear and limited time through utilizing two other modes of
5 revealing. These modes are poisis and techn Where phusis is the Â“arising of something out of itselfÂ….e.g., the bursting of a blossom into bloom,Â” poisis by contrast, Â“is brought forth by the artisan or artistÂ… [and] has the bursting open belonging to bringing forth, not in itself, but in another ( en alli ), in the craftsman or artistÂ” (Heidegger 293). To illustrate poisis Heidegger uses the example of a silver chalice and in doing so explains that the process of mo ving from a potentially existing chalice to an actually existing chalice is made possible by AristotleÂ’s four causes.2 Heidegger continues, stating that even t hough the Â“doctrine of the four causes goes back to AristotleÂ…everything that later ages seek in Greek thought under the rubric Â‘causalityÂ’, in the realm of Greek thought and for Greek thought per se has simply nothing at all to do with bringi ng about and effecting. What we call by the name Â‘causeÂ’ and the Romans called causa is called aition by the Greeks, that to which something is indebtedÂ” (Heidegger 290). Thus, the artisan does not create or cause the chalice, as much as t he chalice, as a part of Being that could not reveal itself in the manner of phusis (a chalice bush?), is indebted to the artisan for making it manifest. Logically then, according to Heidegger, the most important of AristotleÂ’s four causes is not, as it is patently assumed, the 2 In his text Physics Aristotle names the four causes as material, efficient, final, and formal. The material cause is that out of which a thing is made; the efficient cause is the motion that began the act of creation. The final cause is the purpose for which the thing was created, and the formal cause is the ultimate shape that the thing takes on in order to fulfill its purpose.
6 teleological or final cause, the chaliceÂ’s end. Instead, it is the efficient cause, the artisan who helps Being reveal itself wit hin the confines of the human world by combining the three other causes and bringi ng them Â“into play for production of the sacrificial vesselÂ” (Heidegger 292). The second method of revealing employed in order to help make Being manifest in an expressly human world is that of techn Excellence in poisis is gained through techn Heidegger explicates: We must observe two things with res pect to the meaning of this word. One is that techn is the name not only for the activities and skills of the craftsman, but also for the arts of the mind and the fine arts. Techn belongs to bringing-forth, to poisis ; it is something poetic. The other thing that we should observe with regard to techn is even more important. From the ear liest times until Plato techn is linked with the word epistm Both words are terms for knowing in the widest sense. They mean to be entirely at home in something, to understand and be expert in it. Such knowing provides an opening up. As an opening up it is a revealing. (Heidegger 294-5) This form of opening up is the one Heidegger is ultimately concerned with in the essay Â“The Question Concerning Technology.Â” The reason rests in the fact that phusis as self-directed unfolding exemplified by nature, and poisis a bringing forth, not in itself, but through the means of the artisan or craftsman, have remained relatively unchanged since the Greeks first coined the terms. On
7 the other hand, techn is no longer the knower who is so at home, integrated, and expert that his knowledge helps to reveal Being. Instead, techn is now best exemplified and understood in terms of its etymological contemporary, technology and more specific to HeideggerÂ’s concerns, post-industrializationÂ’s modern technology. Here, Heidegger asks and answers: What is modern technology? It too is a revealing. Only when we allow our attention to rest on this fundamental characteristic does that which is new in modern technology show itself to us. And yet, the revealing that holds sway through modern technology does not unfold into a bringingforth in the sense of poisis The revealing that rules modern technology is a challenging [ Herausfordern ], which puts to nature the unreasonable demand that supply energy that can be extracted and stored as such. (Heidegger 296) In other words, Â“It is not through attuned responsiveness that technology discloses entities, but throughÂ…challenging fo rth, provoking, or forcing out. What is brought forth by [this type] of technology is not evoked, shaped, or even forged, but rather Â‘extractedÂ’Â” (Foltz, On Heidegger 328). The purpose of this extraction is not to help Being reveal itself in the human worldÂ—as was techn Â’s original taskÂ—but instead to force it to be immediately present at hand as, what Heidegger terms, standing-reserve ( Bestand ) or stock, that which is always ready and available for future use. However, this misinterpretation/misuse of techn has unforeseen
8 consequences: As soon as what is unconcealed no longer concerns man even as object [i.e.Â—as that part of Being which is revealed in the human world as artifact], but exclusively as standing reserve, and man in the midst of objectlessness is nothing but the order er of standing-reserve, he comes to the brink of a precarious fall, t hat is, he comes to the point where he himself will have to be taken as standing-reserve Meanwhile, man, precisely as the one so threatened, exhal ts himself to the posture of lord of the earth. In this way, the illusi on comes to prevail that everything man encounters exists only insofar as it is his construct. (Heidegger 308, italics added) If everything is now forced to always be revealed via techn as standingreserve, then nothing is revealing and concealing, via phusis If we remember that phusis in the narrower sense is 'nature', then we have metaphysically dissolved the world we live in by allowing it to exist only as a purely human construct. Additionally, this has also l ed to us literally dissolving our world via the ecological homicide of deforesta tion, industrial agriculture, rapid extermination of entire species, ozone deplet ion and so on. The end result of this situation is, according to Heidegger, that humanity loses its essence. Although it is not until that point t hat human essence is mentioned, and although Heidegger goes no further in attemp ting to define it, I would argue that the essence to which he refers is that of our position as Dasein as being-in-the-
9 world. But, as I have already said, the world is no longer and we are lost. Needless to say, this is a gr ave and desperate situation that Dasein finds herself in and it caused me to wonder if it is one that that we could recover from. Heidegger seemed to think so, as he pos ited the assertion that Â“technology harbors in itself what we least expec t, the possible upsurgence of the saving powerÂ” (Heidegger 314). For many years, when I encountered these words, I found them a laughably incomplete and insuffici ent solution. How could this be, I would wonder, since modern technology itse lf is the cause of our alienation? How do I reverse the very trend that I am entrenched in and controlled by, made into standing-reserve myself, while at the sa me time my world is lost to me? In response to these questions, Heidegger is strangely silent, choosing instead to close the essay with words that always sound more to me like those of a false prophet than a philosophical genius; Â“The closer we come to the danger, the more brightly do the ways into the saving power begin to shine and the more questioning we become. For questioning is the piety of thoughtÂ” (Heidegger 317). Well, if there is anything a philosopher can do, itÂ’s to question. And so I took my inquiry to book after book a fter book, class, research project and discussion. I asked my way through a BachelorÂ’s degree and then a MasterÂ’s degree in philosophy. Nothing shined forth for me, let alone brightly. That is, of course, until I signed up for a poetry workshop at the University of South Florida taught by Peter Meinke. I decided to take the workshop with Peter out of a strange sense of
10 nostalgia; although he had become professor em eriti before my arrival, Peter had founded the very same creative writing program in which I had studied as an undergraduate at Eckerd College. During t he course of my semester studying with him at University of South Florida, I went to a poetry reading in which he was participating with several other authors. I heard Nick read a haunting piece titled Â“Daughter, Learning Fear.Â” I knew immediat ely that I wanted also to study with him. Through their guidance, mentorship, and gentle but astute critique, I was challenged to push my writing to the plac e where I understood it in a new way: as a methodology for doing philosophy. Poetry does, after all, encourage us to explicate all of the same universal questions as philosophy, while challenging us to do so from our own unique, individual per spectives. It was with this realization that I returned to Heidegger and read this worn paragraph with fresh eyes. There was a time when it was not technology alone that bore the name techn Once that revealing which brings forth truth into the splendor of radiant appearance was also called techn Once there was a time when the bringing-forth of the true into the beautiful was called techn The poisis of the fine arts was also called techn At the outset of the West, in Greece, the arts soared to the s upreme height of the revealing granted them. They illuminated the presenc e of the Gods and the dialogue of divine and human destinings. And art was simply called techn .Â…Why did art bear the modest name techn ? Because it was a revealing that
11 brought forth and made presentÂ….It was fi nally that revealing which holds complete sway in the fine arts, in poetry, and in everything poetical. (Heidegger 315-6) Poisis is broadly defined as a thing made or done that is aimed at some end ( telos ). Aristotle also defined it simply as a poem. Excellence in poisis is achieved by skill, by techn According to Heidegger, what we have left of techn in the modern world is in actuality a misinterpretation/misuse, which has come to have dire consequences. To rectif y this situation, we must remember and reenact the forgotten aspects of techn specifically as personified by a knower who is so at home, integrated and expert that his knowledge helps to reveal Being. Sounds great, but how to do it? Simple: Through the poetic. In the end, this should not have been a surprising answer, as Heidegger himself spent much of his later years writing on poetry, technology, language and thought, specifically in the works of J ohann Peter Hebel and Friedrich Hlderlin. His goal was multi-faceted but included was an Â“attempt to think through the philosophical meaning of what he term ed Â‘rootedness,Â’ Â‘autochthony,Â’ or Bodenstndgkeit [.] Heidegger did not merely mean oneÂ’s geographical roots, oneÂ’s national affiliation, or oneÂ’s regional sense of belonging. He also meant to convey a profoundly metaphysical relation to the earth as a place of dwelling, to the landscape as oneÂ’s indigenous home, and to language as the expression of oneÂ’s rootedness in bothÂ” (Bambach 268). By reclaiming techn we metaphysically rebuild the world and restor e our rootedness, our place as being-
12 in-the world. Thus, Heidegger draws from a line of HlderlinÂ’s poetry when he pronounces that Â“poetically man dwells upon this earthÂ” (Heidegger 316). This search for poetic dwelling, dr aws on the Â“Lutheran notion of Beruf as Â‘religious callingÂ’Â…understood as a Ruf des Seines or Â‘call of beingÂ’Â” (Bambach 278). It is something we, as poets, are compelled to do; it is an act of salvation. I know I feel the draw to create, to make manifest through poetry. It is a compulsion that led Hannah Arendt to explore the idea of humans as homo faber Â“the builder of the worldÂ” (Arendt 135). The world I am working on, the place I am seeking revealment, revelation, and salvation through attuneness with Being can be seen in the dominant themes of my work. Those themes are the search for community or tribal identity, the shifting nature of time, wherein what has already occurred and what has yet to be, profoundly influence the present moment, how love is made manifest in human relationships and, of course, what it means to be a philosopher and a poet livi ng in a time dominated by the ethos of Bestand
13 Maybe in Madison IÂ’m in a city I canÂ’t identify, though I know itÂ’s a memory, not a dream. ThereÂ’s a gathering, maybe even a festival. It reminds me of the parking lot scene at a Dead show: white boys with dreadlocksÂ— girls with gauze skirts pulled low on hip bones I want to run my hands over and over. Winds shift; a graying mist. Their colors wash out and pool at bare feet before running rainbows into grated gutters. They stay exactly where they are, unaware or looking skyward, twirling Gaia Gaia Gaia
14 Chattooga Flood, 1994 The summer I turned twenty-two, the Chattooga swelled; rain washed the road off the mountain, whole pines over the marker at Highway 79. When the river receded, a dairy cow was up in the oak. After her stench turned ripe and the body full with bloat, we cut the boughs and covered the ground with lye. We never buried the fawn found on the Georgia side. She was tucked under a low rock ledge. Only her neck, pulled at an angle, told you she was dead. When I hiked to the river all that season and the next, I watched the fawn decompose, her skin shrinking tight against bone, then falling away until a skeleton remained. No human, no wolf, no carrion bird bothered herÂ— all of us ashamed she had broken the code: Death hides itself.
15 Life in the Prairie Dog Protection Program She arrived with a bite that showed the bone in her little finger. While they stitched with dissolvable stringÂ—should such a thing be made just to melt into flesh?Â—she implicated Gatsby, the prairie dog who lived down the hall with the self-involved English major. The doctor explained, as he wrote the prescription for antibiotics and ten pills for pain, that she would have to produce the prairie dog; Â“Otherwise, y ouÂ’re looking at the anti-rabies immunoglobulin series, which is about th irty shots.Â” She drove home in shock, her little finger stiff in the air, and knocked on the door of the English major. Â“WhereÂ’s Gatsby?Â” she asked the man who read too much Fitzgerald and secretly wished he was a dandy. Â“S omewhere better than here,Â” he began, and told her how he drugged and dr owned the prairie dog, throwing its body off the pier. S he waited for him to end the joke so they could pack up Gatsby and go, but when he didnÂ’t budg e from his slump at the door, she turned and headed home. The next day she was at the hospital for shot one, unable to shake the feeling that Gatsby wasnÂ’t really gone. Instead, as she looked at the needle, she was struck wit h a sudden vision: the prairie dog on a hamster wheel, oversized and sullen.
16 The Work I Do People always ask why I do the work I do. Â“Because,Â” I want to answer, Â“I enjoy fucking with the minds of people like you.Â” But instead I sigh, and begin to rhapsodize on how fundamental philosophy is. Â“Do you know philosophy gave us geometry, ontology, rhetoric, aesthetics, scientific method and law?Â” Â“How marvelous!Â” they say, backing slowing away, or maybe Â“I took chemistry in college,Â” then running. Just in that moment I am left with the truth that both Kant and Liebniz knew as vocational doom: Maybe philosophy bakes no bread, but it sure can clear a room.
17 Absinthe in Israel The rabbinical students drank together their last night in the Old City, then rolled with ghosts who rose from uneven beliefs and roads worn by too many pilgrimages down to the Wailing Wall. Finding themselves there and unprepared, they dug in wallets and pockets for scraps of paper. On dry cleaning tickets, lunch receipts and bus stubs, earnest, intoxicated acolytes penned deep and secret prayers before pushing the paper far into the Wall. Some asked for mighty pulpits from which to be heard and others for words straight from Him to utter. On the corner of the coffee shop menu she too wrote what often she prayedÂ— Â“Let me never come to understand; the burden would be too great.Â”
18 When Faced with Canonical Works Once I joked that if the good die young, the mediocre go at middle age. Less amusing now, due to my own slow progression towards prime, combined with finding myself less inclined towards brilliance than once hoped. There seems nothing left to do but smoke a cigarette, think of fleshy girls and ignore the half-read books, impatient as postcards inside my mahogany desk. TheyÂ’ll still be there tomorrow, terrible and taunting. IÂ’ll retrieve Meditations on First Philosophy feel its stinging critique, then relinquish it to the small black dog who chews it insouciantly at my feet.
19 Vocational Considerations Maybe I will leave philosophy becoming a poet instead It requires much less research while you remain equally unread
20 Chimera Turning Cerebral people dancing in a metaphorical way, tracing the rumba as if itÂ’s meaning instead of movement while reading the steps across the floor: for her, a critical text in which sign and signifier donÂ’t matchÂ— no one leads Â—sheÂ’s unable to follow the rhythm from the page to her feet; for him, a bestiary, where allegoryÂ’s in animalÂ—both seal and gazelleÂ— a startling sea creat ure now lumbering the traverse of turns and twirls.
21 After Taking My Grandmother from the Bath I am big as an oak curled around you, stroking your face like a lover who was once a lover, thinking back to a man who touched you with such desire it caused fires to glow as far as Omaha. When faded, he touched with tenderness, caressing you every night until you passed into sleep. Caressing you every night until he passed away. Now it is you who desireÂ— tenderness, respite, rest, protection from a world stranger today than yesterday. In the hall, your daughter prays if you pass away, itÂ’s in your sleep. I stroke your face; you wake long enough to look up, say the only words that ever matter.
22 Untitled I want to be twenty. At a concert with my friends, tripping on acid, laughing at jokes only we find funny. I want to be up all night fee ling like, aaahhh, I understand. I want to eat a breakfast of potatoes and eggs and toast in a diner next to good people who just woke up. When they leave for work or to cut the grass, I want to get in bed with you. I want you to be solid in a way that lets me ground my ephemeral self back into this world. I want you to kiss me as we fall asleep and not to wake up until dark.
23 Conversation with Dr. Ellis, Professor Emeritus He comes to his former room, now mine, every Friday for Senior Seminar, and gripes of pain, imagined slights and how our young pupils misspend their nights with questionable bedfellows. This is where he and I disagree. I believe itÂ’s true our studentsÂ’ time is misused, but not because theyÂ’re learning to fuck, drink booze, smoke hash from borrowed bongs. ItÂ’s due to confused belief that their anger is new and inventive; instead it is failure to recognize all they donÂ’t yet know. Nuance is a bitch, unforgi ving, unforgetting, and soaked through with this truth: if the answers were elemental someone before you would have solved the equation. If I could make it all simple again, would I fix the failures of god and state? No. And so I know the ideological fervor of youth is not beate n out of you; it simply seeps away when youÂ’d keep stillness for yourself.
24 Sophia Dreaming I see her alone, dreaming, while in another room he romances Wittgenstein and wonders why she no longer loves him. If he were to ask she would say, It is the way you hold your texts so tenderly, kissing and caressing their words, their shape and formÂ— with me you analyze, categorize my words, shape me into form and matter. But there is no inquiry, so in the other room she dreams of men who romance the women they love while he makes stoic resolution to read the scriptures of our Father and exercise financial prudence when purchasing his texts.
25 Lola Following Noren How long did I follow you before looking back to see how far weÂ’d gone? How far gone were we when back was the only direction worth looking.
26 Margot in JonahÂ’s Bed Making love if love can be made like money or moonshine on a Sunday in May she wonders if tiger lilies taste like ginger on the tongue and thinks sheÂ’ll be gone come June
27 Anthony about Ella I married a mama with plush thighs and a slow temper. Together, these make her lush, not in earthy metaphors of meadows but expansive like cityscapes or fog on linen sheets.
28 Ian on AnastasiaÂ’s Rose A blossom never blooms so bright that it destroys the possibility of coming to light next Spring. So it is with you. Never so present as to cease to surprise; all those things which in you I delight, return to me again.
29 Nicholas Remembering Maura The strange nostalgia of photos is finding them ordered in a fortuitous wayÂ— a psychic who knows what happened the day before yesterday.
30 When Anya Warms Aaron He brings cold into bed like lake effect snow, like stories never told during daylight, and I push up against him with my Arizona heat which comes when rivers join or canyons meet the skyline. He absorbs me into his untold stories and suddenly theyÂ’re about multicolored mesas, shrill ravens, devastation by invaders with snowy hands, white words, ice hearts sent to smolder in hot places.
31 Smaller in the Distance Sometime after forgetting you knew this would end badly, tumbling bits of rock dislodged by staccato movements of bighorn rams wake you to the floor of the Grand Canyon and its rough, rambling excuse to shore the Colorado River as she runs to the lake. Now awake, you think about horizon lines and how a point in the distance gets smaller, until finally it slips over the sloping edge of the earth out of sight and reach. But here the world is girded by two stone walls, millions of years in the making and youÂ’ve waited all month for them to frame a moon so bold and opalescent the light couldnÂ’t possibly be reflecting another, but instead glows from an inner core of molten silver. There are no horizon lines. Nothing can slip away. It can only move downstream towards the lake which, if ever drained, would reveal the ske letal remains of small, western towns full of half-breeds and dubbed too unimportant to impede progress. You assess what lies within you, recognizing parts of your heart you would surely flood if given the opportunity, asking what becomes of memory if everything is worth forgetting.
32 Abiding You are always already there, waiting to greet me when I say goodbye And to remind me there are three of us in this relationship: You, Me and abiding Love. When I feel a break, a moving apart from you, I am still held sway in a way that means, even if my feet sink into the riverÂ’s silt, the current flows around and through me. If you are there, it flows th rough us both and I am brought back. There is no downstream; the river bends to meet itself, so that, at most, it holds open a space between what has been and will be. Our job is to consecrate that space. We are in the sanctuary, on the floor, on pillows, on our knees. We are inviting back the gods, asking them to re-story this place that has become so unholy each of us has moved from godchild to what? A skill set, an instrumental value, a verb? Arendt said that those things comprise what we are, and can be known to us. But who we are, the essential nature of our souls, is transparent. Others see it and occasionally they mirror a bit back; it hits our eyes like starlight, blurred and turned hard. I need to grow pheasant wings and beat against that starry sky; I need you to look at me. I need you to see me and know who I am. I need you to love me anyway.
33 Romancing My Old Age When I am twenty, I will sit in a New Orleans caf and sip wine with myself at seventy. We will tap our feet to Bourbon Street jazz as my older self remembers her youth in a South of sunflowers and herbal tea sweetened with clover honey. I will listen as she weaves rich stories of her days spent on a rock by the river or the wild Turkish writer with a balcony overlooking the market in Nepal. Her eyes will dim with thoughts of the man who raped her on that sticky Georgia night or the child who died beaten and bloody in her arms. "But still," she'll say, with a dismissive wave, "itÂ’s been a fine life." The band kicks in to a swingin' rendition of When the Saints Go Marching In as I lean forward to pour her another glass of Chardonnay. There my eyes meet those of myself at seventy and I will know what it is to romance my old age, as she romanticizes her youth, in a steamy cafe on Bourbon Street.
34 For The Poet Peter Meinke (to whom I apologize for not writing something better) Senior was added to your citizenship several years ago, but girls in college classes still titter when you stroll, handing out sly, impish smiles much as other grandfathers give out candy. What is this power you have, Peter, over these apple-taut angels? It is the grin, the gait of tarnished roguishness that tells how in youth you would have swallowed us with the sexiness of your words. Now that sexiness has settled into sensual reverberation, an oaken and aged woodwind cantata. Your words no longer devour us whole but leave wanton desire in their wake, wishes that we be found worthy of your poetic turn of phrase.
35 Swing Low August 28, 2005 We went for your thirtieth birthday which, as anyone knows, is its own kind of cataclysm. We went because New Orleans is a good city for transition, premonition, resurrectionÂ— maybe because the dead are so present in their stone homes, reminding us that even a funeral is a good place to dance. So we took the moment to eat crawfish touffe and too many beignets from Caf Du Monde before buying a Tarot reading in Jackson Square. Every query coaxed the same two cards from the deck: first, the Tower of total devastation, then the Chariot of protected travel. We knew this was the antecedent to forever, like London before the Great Fire or the last dance in Berlin. But the end is slow and stunned and too prayerful to be scared, so we wandered zombie-eyed along the streetcar line gathering remembrances weÂ’d stored from trips before, sheltering them like children from the rain. Long before a daybreak that never came, we took one of the last taxis packed with eight strangers to the airport. At the airport, we took one of the last planes outÂ— an eastbound jet set to lift some to safety while other clung to levies that would soon collapse. From their stone homes, the dead watched as their new brothers broke the waterÂ’s surface, before calling old, black men in faded fedoras to play Dixieland so floating bodies could find direction to their graves and souls to chariots swung low.
36 Still Life I have been trying to still life for quite some time, remaking it into a bowl of grapesÂ—metaphorically full of possibility, though lacking irony or resistance. But metaphor is never right except where irony resists, and so my life is more like the plain, gray sparrow who lights on a street meter running down. I make believe no one dies on sunny da ys; no oneÂ’s born in rain. That thereÂ’s hope for balancing exultation against the mundane business of a day bereft of possibility, wondering if futility leads to madness. What driv es us to create, if not objects in space, then meaning from time? M eaning is the only thing that stills the relentless movement of light over the rich texture of splintered, wooden benches, over bowls of grapes and cherries. It suffuses each wit h enough resistance that we can hold the moment and turn it into metaphor before it rinses away. When I die, I could easily be carried over on moving ribbons of water. Transitions are little deaths we do so many times in practice for the moment life is still.
37 Before Becoming an Ancestor I. I think of the in-between from bodily passing until the last memory segues into forgetting. ThatÂ’s when you jo in the indistinguishable bounty of the Ancestors. IÂ’m comfortable with the idea of being there; itÂ’s representation in memory that makes me uneasy. II. I dwell in an innerscape, stunned by how li ttle I can say. Every attempt at expression lends itself to clichs like si dewalk chalk in rain or kitchen drains with water spiraling down. And so I know IÂ’ll be remembered not as resplendent as lived experience, but only for the little I could show. III. I hope to have moved with enough decency and humanity of spirit, someone will talk of me as ethical and good. Maybe IÂ’ll have studied enough and shared enough of what I discovered, someone will call me teacher and scholar. IV. Hopefully, I was good as a daughter and a mother, although probably neither my mother nor child will say soÂ… V.
38 List of References Arendt, Hannah. The Human Condition Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958. Bambach, Charles. Â“Heidegger, Tec hnology, and the Homeland.Â” The Germanic Review 78.4 (2003): 267-82. Foltz, Bruce V. Â“On Heidegger and the In terpretation of the Environmental Crisis.Â” Environmental Ethics 6 (1984): 323-38. --. Inhabiting the Earth: Heidegger, Envi ronmental Ethics, and the Metaphysics of Nature (New Jersey: Humanities Press International, 1995. Heidegger, Martin. Â“The Question Concerning Technology.Â” Basic Writings Ed. David Farrell Krell. New York: Har perCollins Publishers, 1977. 287-317.