Being Alive at Ninety-One Rue de Sabrosa

A bit of ‘wild mind’* writing for a friend

There are squirrels in the fall-fashion colour called ‘mauve iridescent’
and a jackdaw as witness or he would be were he not sleeping.
The frail-seeming Goddess turns over and aeons collide
as she sleeps in the forest in a bag of impervious silk.

The prices one pays for being alive at Ninety-One
Rue de Sabrosa! ‘What’s a Sabrosa?’ asks a Jung gull,
collective memory awry at Avian Heights.
‘It’s a street name,’ answers uselessly a management consultant
who is also an owl who also may moonlight as mouser.

My world is a far better place with you in it.

The silk bag hovers nefariously (‘Precariously?’
asks the Jung gull) in spite of supporting the goddess
and serving as the perch of the great horned owl.
‘Horn-rimmed,’ suggests the Jung gull. ‘Stop that. Owl!’

We wished for rain and got some, built an ark,
ensured it All-Risk. When it washed away
we were in clover until the sky went dark,
the stars going out. We miss the milky way
that horizons used to glimmer. The sky’s gone sour
and bobs your uncle along with green crab apples.

‘More drink?’ the dormouse offers. It won’t help.

Wild mind – what else? Tame kidneys? Placid lungs?
Mythology is a giggle when compared
to this Jacob’s ladder with its missing rungs
sawed off – I’ll bet – by the goddess who repaired –
she says – the galaxy that we turned into plastic.

A multiple-choice quiz defeats the purpose
if there was one of a proper education.

She is not hungry so she eats a second breakfast
to kickstart resurrection but that fails.

‘Wild mind, why not? I’ll tell you,’ says the editor.
‘Writing on is a plague like overpopulation
and,’ he adds theatrically, ‘pervasive plastic.’

The lame life story lies down with short lines
that consume it but by gods not soon enough.
Vinegar recesses – wine, grapes, vines –
to primeval algae, dustbowl. Quantum stuff.

We watch creation wind up, stop, rewind.
A thousand thoughts escape and wave goodbye.
Good riddance too. We think they are unkind
and they say we are dull. Okay, goodbye.

The plethora of totality are one.

  • A footnote about where ‘wild mind’ came from. As I scribbled along I remembered ‘wild mind’ from a book I read in August 1999, Wild Mind, Living the Writer’s Life, Natalie Goldberg, 1990. Quoting her in part: ‘… I want you to look up at the sky. Do you see it? It is a big sky … So our job as writers is not to diddle around our whole lives in the dot but to take one big step out of it and sink into the big sky and write from there. Let everything run through us and grab as much as we can of it with a pen and paper. Let yourself live in something that is already rightfully yours … your own wild mind…’

Game of Words

I play with words the way rulers play with lives.
I elevate some of them, and I set others
against each other, slashing as if knives
were what they were. If I find a word that smothers
the others in my word menagerie
I snuff it out the way rulers do with lives.

Unlike with shamans, presidents, and tzars,
my powers do my subjects little harm.
When I am dead and done for, words will be
in dictionaries alphabetically,
and locked in novels, and free in open minds,
and floating between planets while they wait
for future speakers to provide them breath.

When shamans shame a person to go fight,
when presidents preside and send in troops,
and when tzars drive cars across their peasants’ heads
the people they run down stay grievously dead.

I can’t know if I am more moral than all world leaders,
but fortunately I am weaker, and I use words
as my objects for tormenting. Words can’t die.

The powerful trick or force the weak to work
on things that make the powerful more strong.
The strong earn billions (‘earn’ is here misused)
off the backs and dreams of people with less power.

I play a game with words, but those I exploit
remain as well off as do those I don’t.
To rulers causing torment, words are a quoit
they throw to ring in dissidents who won’t
kow-tow to them. Let them throw rings of iron
as often as they like till they expire,
these rulers, who like us must grievously die,
but our words and word games will survive their worst.

The Poets’ Dilemma

A cri de coeur can’t be a work of art.
Its zealousness drives sense away, sends rhyme
to moon at June and here (forgive me) ‘heart.’
From paucity, some poets may try on ‘clime.’
Aboard the wagons of the criers’ band,
the preacher’s prattle petrifies the mind
that tries to get away with sleight of hand.
We throw away the melon, serve the rind
whenever we press thoughts down for the counts.
We, Honest Poets, are prone to masquerade,
expose our raison d’être in petty flounce,
and lose an audience we quickly jade.
We could express ourselves in prose that’s terse,
but then we’d be believed, and that is worse.

The Poet’s Dilemma read by Peter Crofton Sleigh:

Grammar Rules OK

It is almost midnight. She reads rules of Spanish grammar
in Dutch. This lets her fall almost asleep
until she wonders, what rhymes with ‘soporific’
and her mind’s off to the races. Ballads clash
with terse short-footed lines
in epics she remembers or might write
a dozen times again, each time forgetting
that she needs the sleep that’s purchased with the boredom
she can only find in studying grammar rules.

Pauline Prose-Proust, Prussian Princess and Putative Protagonist of Unfinished Autobiography

I like to write in o.m.g. italics
with a font not seen since seventeen-sixteen.
It makes reviewers of my prose suppose
I’m original, or tetched, or must have been
in my merry minutes writing, running hose,
and shaping paragraphs to form a calyx
whose sense if any is sensory not flat
and factual. I am not ‘into’ that,
preferring quote-mark irony to ironing
and to too-perfect rhyme. I end up whining.