Archive for the ‘haiku’ Category

enlightenment

it happens daily —
the world turns, the sun rises
— my own blindness kills

This poem was born out of a feeling of regret. I dreamed I turned up to play French horn in an orchestra, but then realised I had no French horn. Awake, I fell to thinking of my teenage years and how lazy I was in regard to French horn practice. I now practice yoga on a daily basis, and because my body is old, I notice the stiffness immediately if I miss a day’s practice. I fell this morning into wishing I had realised the importance of practice. Who knows I might now be a professional musician. And this feeling of regret forced me to consider the totality of what we owe to this life or to ourselves by being alive. I suppose you could say I fell to regretting not having achieved enlightenment in this life. The subject of enlightenment was already fairly close the surface of my preoccupations since Friday night when a Buddhist friend used the term in a Buddhist sense and I found myself rebelling inwardly — I doubt whether it’s either helpful or meaningful, to accept enlightenment as something the Buddha achieved and the rest of us can only strive after in a futile sort of way. My poem wanted to bring back ‘enlightenment’ to the literal meaning of the literal light which fills our physical world. But of course I end up, in the poem, with a metaphorical blindness nevertheless.

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plural

who and what am I?
— we each have a thousand ways
of not knowing this

And that in itself, of course, is a kind of answer. I thought of calling the poem ‘sideways knowledge’. There seems to be nil link between the poem and my last night’s dreams. I woke at 3am and decided to get up, pleased that I had a few dream images still in my brain, and plenty of time to spend before work this morning, trying to shape a poem. I’ve been busy lately with the business of moving house, with a date set for the end of this month, and that is partly why I’ve not kept up with this blog. Also, I’m going to be moving in with my partner Liz, and it isn’t clear at all whether our life together (or whether she) will allow me the luxury of an hour or more at the beginning of the day, spent thinking about my dreams and trying to blog poetry. In view of that uncertainty, it’s natural to ease off the rigid habit, and see if I can do without it — before circumstances force me to do without it. I dreamed last night I was playing through Mahler’s 2nd Symphony in my head, wondering at the marvel of it. Actually I woke with the music of the 3rd going round and round, but in the dream I thought it was the 2nd. I guess there is — very broadly — some connection between ‘who and what am I?’ and Mahler. His music does ask this.

trust

such gentle restraint — 
the tiger’s velveted paw
enfolding my hand

My maternal grandmother used to figure importantly in my madness in the eighties, as someone I felt I could trust completely. For some reason lost to me now, I used to equate her in my imagination with a tiger. Now my mother is nearly ninety, and I’m often struck how much she resembles her own mother. So I’m guessing this dream refers to the increasing physicality of my relationship with my mother — I was never remotely demonstrative in a physical way with her, throughout my adult life, but the last couple of years I have tended to make sure I kiss her goodbye and embrace her warmly, every time we part, thinking it could easily be the last time I see her.

church

the goodness of God
is non-negotiable —
this is a problem

Church Christianity tends to have a moral rigidity about it — born from the same place, probably, (whatever place that may be) which gives birth to the strange phenomenon of tabloid journalism. Something to do with herd instinct. The self-righteousness of the crowd. And yet, when the idea of a church trip to Rome crops up in my dreams, as it did last night, it presents as an immensely attractive symbol. Something within me yearns to belong to the Church. It’s as unaccountable and mysterious as the yearning in my loins which leads to viewing pornography. The pornographic had a place in last night’s dream. I was wearing a dressing gown, open at the front, and nothing underneath — wondering vaguely what the Catholic priest thought of my display of genitals. In the final analysis, I am very alone indeed with the Gnosticism I’ve picked up from Jung. Plenty of intellectual-types — but few others — know or care about gnostic dualism and the part it plays in Jung. It was a very serious problem for Jung, how to integrate evil into the godhead, and also — at a less abstract level — how to integrate the evil in oneself, into one’s wholeness. I can hardly think of any other issue which grips me in such a passionate way, except maybe climate change. Both issues seem absurdly ‘niche’ and negligible, in mainstream society. We flourish collectively on an inane optimism. I do not understand this. I feel very alone.

anticipation

my death — closer now
with Bowie gone — the abyss yawns
— the moment explodes

Not much to say about this. I dreamed I was about to die. Maybe not immediately, but there was some kind of powerful fate at work which had decided my life was forfeit. It was futile to resist, but I tried to put off the moment as best I could. All the time I was aware of a very powerful Chinese deity, or collection of deities, hunting me down — they would take me in the end — that much was completely certain. They were something like a cohort of Kung Fu fighters. Bowie’s death has affected me deeply. During the eighties I used to think of Bowie, Elton John and Freddie Mercury as a kind of trio who summed up my positive feelings around my own homosexuality. Bowie was the least talented musically, I always felt. But psychologically the strongest and most interesting.

yang

an erect penis —
so much more than an item
of biology

Against the odds, I’ve managed a half-decent attempt to capture in words the flavour of last night’s dream. I found contemplation of the dream quite disturbing and depressing, and I began to despair of finding any kind of acceptable representation for the issues it raises. As a teenager, I had French horn lessons, because my father had been a French horn player. The French horn I learned on was his, the French horn teacher was someone he knew professionally. Then when I was 16 I moved to London and had a new teacher — a younger man with much more awareness of the latest ideas on horn technique. I had severe emotional problems and although obviously he could see that was the case, he rarely displayed anything other than suppressed impatience with the pathetic mass of insecurities which was me. But he was a good teacher who improved my playing, and we somehow found a way of working together. In my dream last night he seemed to be concentrating deliberately on sustaining an erection while he was teaching me. The penis was hanging visible. I thought I had to imitate him. At the literal level, I should make it clear this dream refers to nothing that ever took place in real life. At the symbolic level, I guess manhood (or assertiveness) was somehow the issue between us. I was a closet gay at that time. In the dream I was fascinated in a horrified way by the penis. In reality he was quite an assertive character. I used to hate his assertiveness, because he seemed so deliberately unsympathetic. But I had nothing better to offer.

clouds

weird formations
seducing the mind into
unreality

I dreamed of a very weird cloud formation. When we were tiny and young, each of us had the most intimate conceivable encounter, all the time, with the Great Unknown — because that’s what life itself was to us — and what we ourselves were to us. We were new to it all. Everything was hugely unknown. I honestly don’t understand how it can have come about that my adult consciousness has carved this niche for itself — like a cave — where it sulks, surrounded by the comforting Known. My forays into pornography have a lot to do with being an itch to experience the totally irrational, the totally unknown. I can do that at Catholic Mass. But the intensity of my own sexual desire challenges my rational side much more dramatically. My aspiration would be, to maintain some kind of constant vigilance against too much rationality. Or, on a positive note — to look constantly for the miraculous element of Being, in my daily life, in the workings of my own consciousness. Monotheism has quite a lot going for it, in the sense that it does encourage an awareness of one’s own essential helplessness in the face of some immense force larger than itself. Again, that is similar to what I experience in viewing pornography. Pornography is essentially dark, and monotheism light. What’s needed, doubtless, is a uniting principle of wholeness. I believe Jung called that The Transcendent Function. It’s a long time since I read the relevant texts. But I googled it just now and came up with the following typically abstruse quote from Jung’s Psychological Types:

From the activity of the unconscious there now emerges a new content, constellated by thesis and antithesis in equal measure and standing in a compensatory relation to both. It thus forms the middle ground on which the opposites can be united. If, for instance, we conceive the opposition to be sensuality versus spirituality, then the mediatory content born out of the unconscious provides a welcome means of expression for the spiritual thesis, because of its rich spiritual associations, and also for the sensual antithesis, because of its sensuous imagery. The ego, however, torn between thesis and antithesis, finds in the middle ground its own counterpart, its sole and unique means of expression, and it eagerly seizes on this in order to be delivered from its division. [Psychological Types, CW 6, par. 825.]