New poem: The god of dancing stars.

1 May

(Simone is 8. Pearl is 6. I am 41. The days and weeks and months are passing. Another birthday is here and with it another poem. I’ve neglected the blog for months, working on three different book projects, all of which are looking good.)

The god of dancing stars.

1.

The Greeks believed

Hermes carried

dead souls to the afterlife.

His winged feet allowed him to split

into a thousand selves

almost everywhere at once.

He carried jokes, pranks, tricks, gags.

He’s a vicious laugh.

A sneering terror.

 

The Greeks saw Dionysus

as the god of wine and revelry,

but also of ritual, madness and fertility.

His followers stripped off their clothes

and tore people limb from limb.

He’s a laugh, too.

Only the laughter hides tears,

and tormenting ecstasy.

 

Hermes is cruel.

Dionysus is deranged.

Which god do you pray to?

The god of drunken madness or the god of laughing tears?

 

Please don’t answer with Zeus.

Patriarchal rapist who cracks the earth with lightning.

Or Hera.

Displeasure and vengeance in equal portions.

Not Apollo.

Arrogance and rapaciousness

cloaked in sunshine.

Not Athena.

Wisdom skulking in the gloomy shadows.

There are no new gods.

Is this the source of human misery?

 

2.

When I dance, I dance.

Montaigne said that.

Hard to do.

I find

in getting older

that I know so little about myself.

I don’t sleep well.

(The bad never do.)

I watch too many movies.

I find myself consumed with worry.

Unexpected tears.

My daughter said to me just yesterday,

“Daddy, I’ve never seen you cry.”

I’ve hidden too much from the world.

 

When I eat, I read.

When I drink, I talk.

When I walk, I wonder.

The world is so exquisite.

But I don’t want to see it.

Life is a gift I often reject.

 

3.

As a child, I was motivated by joy.

As a teen, by loneliness.

As a young man, by fear.

Of death

Of obscurity

Of missing out on the exotic thrills of the world.

And now? By sadness.

 

I romanticized bad behavior.

I wanted to be a Bukowski, or a Miller.

A rake with no conscience.

No consideration of others.

It never fit.

I never tried.

I have a shroud of goodness

cloaking my tarry insides.

It’s a burden. Many have it.

I want to help, be useful.

But the wolves of resentment

bite those helpful heels.

I often feel good but not kind.

Is there a god of kindness?

There’s a major deity of charity somewhere.

Some goddesses of peace.

But most ancient people

did not consider peace or love

the highest ideals.

This seems important.

We live in conflict with ourselves.
I used to value kindness.

Now I’m not so sure.

What does it mean

And what does it matter?

A few seconds of empathy

in the torrents of time?

I remember,

as a teen

I stopped a prank on a friend.

Others put pepper in his coke.

He didn’t thank me.

Instead, he spit in my drink.

I tried to be kind

and he didn’t care.

I was horrified, wounded.

Yet somehow,

as I get older

he seems to be right.

What does kindness get you?

 

4.

The ancients dominate my imagination.

Duty and cruelty a jumble.

River gods morphing into nymphs

nymphs birthing heroes and godlings

heroes slaying monsters

and the gods appearing once again.

A circular celestial dance.

 

When a king died,

His servants were often buried with him.

That’s all they thought about individual suffering.

Individual people just didn’t matter.

The concept wasn’t codified.

There were gods

and there were men

all subject to the same solar vicissitudes.

 

Prometheus had a brother

Epimetheus, husband to Pandora.

A titan who loved humans.

Prometheus was good and kind,

yet he ended up tormented in Hades,

his liver a regenerating feast

for giant birds.

Epimetheus is forgotten.

His name means afterthought.

 

Hercules was a grand destroyer.

A hunter-god from prehistory.

Reconfigured into Zeus’s son.

Killer of the world’s monsters,

Every child knows him.

I suppose he’s a hero.

 

The point:

Hercules is remembered.

Epimetheus isn’t.

What does that say about the value

of meekness and decency?

 

5.

So.

To the ancient thoughts.

The Epicureans:

Live simply,

seek pleasure,

die well.

 

The Stoics:

Accept your fate,

choose tragedy,

die well.

 

The Skeptics:

Nothing from nothing.

And the non-engagement.

Who knows? (not me.)

 

There’s never been a cult

or philosophy

dedicated to kindness.

And why would there be?

Who cares for caring people?

Really—who gives a fuck?

 

Jesus was close.

A loving spirit.

But even he

railed on of the gnashing teeth

the fiery pit

and the sword in his mouth.

 

Meanwhile,

Pascal died at 39

—a younger man than I am now—

of a brain hemorrhage.

What does his wager say about that?

 

6.

Dance is magic.

An ancient ritual.

Dionysus arriving.

I wake up most mornings

ringed by mental illness.

A castaway treading water

in a cratered sea of volcanoes.

The sludge and suffering of others.

I don’t visit Dionysus very often.

And he rarely arrives.

 

Hermes saturates my world

While Ares buttfucks Kronos with our president’s dick.

Athena has retreated to the dark side of the moon.

Apollo tweets while Pan is disembodied in the world.

 

Smiling is an act of courage.

Survival an act of defiance.

But what does anything matter,

in our black iron world?

 

What’s that line in Lear?

Break, heart!

Or in Magnolia?

The goddamned regret!

 

7.

Life is often waiting

in doctor’s offices

or for the bus

Magazines are a poor window

to view the world.

I sometimes see another life

inside my own.

Writing ad copy and asinine features

approving photo spreads

and fretting over site visits.

There’s more money in it,

more prestige.

But when did I ever worry about finances?

Always. And never.

For we all sit at the oily feet of Mammon.

We all live in Mammon’s world.

 

8.

Mammon.

The god of money.

Ancient deity of greed and ambition.

A fish-footed god with death in its eyes.

America’s god.

A middle east transplant

shrouded in Christ’s raiment.

I cannot pray to Mammon.

But he is ever-present.

The fallen demiurge

Incarnate whenever money changes hands.

 

We live in the era of Mammon.

Hermes and Dionysus

have been hounded

by torches and stones

harried into tidepools and caves

by Mammon’s followers.

The goddesses are all drowned.

 

This world is a vale of tears.

Saint Jerome said that.

(The patron saint of librarians.)

With the passing years it’s hard to deny.

Sadness is a futile emotion.

No one cares.

The goddess melancholia gives no devotion.

Who prays to the god of tears?

 

9.

I can’t think of any sad gods.

Jesus wept, but once.

Buddha is always smiling.

Odin and Thor and Freya

maim and murder.

The reptile gods of Egypt fuck and dismember.

Where is the god of tears?

 

Sadness is a force, too.

Like water.

Boring through stone

through erosive drip drip

of millennia.

Sadness is useless,

but it matters. It shapes.

It pulls. It devours.

 

10.

One cold winter day,

I sit alone in a theater,

yet surrounded by children.

Sobbing as a make-believe family

euthanizes their dog on screen.

The ice, the iron

have frayed.

My heart is too close to the skin.

Tears flow freely.

The drip drip drip of sadness.

Goddamn the movies.

Goddamn myself.

 

11.

I would sacrifice to Dionysus freely

give up something of myself

to redirect the world’s attentions

from the tarry talons of Mammon

over to the panicked delight

of the god of song and wine.

But I can’t see a way past

Ba’al and the thorny gates.

 

12.

Frank Bidart says it best:

It can drink till it’s sick,

But it cannot drink till it’s satisfied.

Preach, brother Bidart.

That’s life, mine and yours.

Some days,

I wonder:

Do America and I suffer from the exact same illness?

A malady of lost belief?

Drinking for sickness

and not satisfaction?

 

What we don’t eat dies anyway.

Tis a hard fact,

And only one among many.

Born to die.

Born to suffer.

Imperfect machines.

Conscious of our consciousness.

A circular maze with no exit.

Thoughts breeding thoughts breeding thoughts.

While the arm moves before the brain wills it.

Humanity is Mammon.

Greedy reactions to the outer stimuli.

 

13.

On bad days,

I conceive of a new god.

A lonely, sad creature.

Slouchy and melancholic,

Capable of minor miracles

Often smiling in its gaseous cosmos

But incapacitated by despair.

My new god has a single

redeeming feature.

It cries empty tears.

 

On other days, I say:

Fuck that noise.

Anyone can weep.

Anyone can be sad.

Living with laughter is the brave calling.

The rejection of Mammon requires joy.

 

Maybe I worship Hermes after all.

Mercury, god of the in-between.

Hermes—even if you are only an idea—

I beseech thee.

My god of dancing stars,

Laugh for us, your miserable worshippers.

And then,

with Dionysus by our side,

let’s all dance the night away.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: