When it snows, I’m jealous of the clouds. When it is hot and humid, I’m jealous of the sun. If it sleets or rains, I’m jealous of the lakes and rivers, or the oceans from where rain came. I want to know the name of the beginning of things. I want to see it’s face. Feel its breath on my back when we make love. Smell the loam of its sweat and sex. Like wooden ships moving through the sea -- When a plant or an animal dies, I don’t grieve. I can fix dead flowers, I can fix the broken wings of birds. I’ve got only myself and my ancestors to blame for what is wrong. A myopic mind. Who cares about what is right or wrong but me? When I was blind, I could sense everything. It was because of everyone else’s blindness that I couldn’t see. I began inventing friends. Ideal lovers that would achieve orgasm and then slowly melt. Like a star my heart wanted to implode. But I survived by learning that nakedness was the purest form of prayer. My prayers are always full of tsunamis and tears. And I’ve given away all my clothes. In this heaven of sadness, even God doesn’t care if I cry. His menage a trois is the end all to end all and he talks about us with a dialect that sounds like a stolen voice. This desert is an illusion, a piss-pot of creme brule Happiness never tasted this good: an enchanted nightshade with large rose lips. The NO TRESPASSING signs are everywhere to keep me away. This is the source of my jealousy. Strange karma and rotten luck. I’ve had it all along. Like a shadow that follows us around at night. Who was it I killed in a past life that dogs me in this life in which I have left no tracks? Enough! It’s time to get up for work. There are flowers to be fixed and broken wings to mend. That’s only half the world’s problems, the other half I’ll have to mend in my sleep! It’s winter, and already the monsoons are hijacking the jet stream into outer space. They’ve gotten so good at bank-jobs that they don’t even take time off. Now, nothing is safe from jealousy or a love of pain. Bring on the rain! A little water won’t burn these wounds or disengage my lust. Transfigure it to snow. We all know that nothing is really far from flesh. And Earth is a garden covered in holy vines. Let’s make great wines! Luminous hors d’oeuvres! And do nothing else but drink! How’s that for horseplay? How’s that for the broken exegesis of dreams? Today, I’m counting the nickles and dimes in my brain. Tomorrow my health may be deported to another universe, and I’ll be sick as hell. Farewell O beautiful bodies and my atrocious verse, I’m all dried up. Out of luck. Only a gargoyle of the would-be of my former self. The radio says that there is a hurricane headed this way, and an earthquake hot on its heels. I’m out of here. History. Gone for good. The roses on my grave will only blow away. Memorial services are the after-thought of trance. My last words are: to go out in the streets and steal. Everything in sight. What a pretty picture. Something painted by the blind. Forget it! Winter never ends this way. With gray heavens and brilliance falling from the sky. This is my last breath, the last letters from a lifetime of searching through words to prove that I can spell. What the hell. The night-birds have gone to roost and tourists are taking pictures of the noise. It’s all a shambles. Everything sings.
Somewhere in the Great Book it was written that man shall have dominion over all the land. We know that in this confidence there is a great lie. We have been out in fields and in the woods all these years. And have seen history in the nightmare of books. This history is like making love to a rock. The wise man knows eyes will close and even Death will die. When the scholar was a young boy, he would sit in a hard chair listening to someone pretending to be old. The pretender’s voice was faint and distant. He put his glasses on so he could hear her read. Now the young boy has grown older. He still sits in hard chairs with pieces of paper framed on all his walls. His wisdom has been measured by the pieces of paper. And some might even call him rich. He smiles all day in front of his students. Then goes home and cries all night. We watch this from out in the fields and from the woods. We can see the lie. Our women have bodies and are soft, not like the rough skin of rocks. We read the text of spider webs from the light of the moon. Our eyes are clear from staring at the sun. There is a story I heard when I was a young boy. And before I was marched off to what someone called a school -- It was about a man who talked to trees and could hear music in the wind. Children followed him around all day waiting for what this silent man would say. What they thought they heard was wisdom. The word they thought they heard was play.
Sometimes the darkness takes on a body and comes stalking in the form of a man. The big bad wolf with lungs full of howling air -- The fact that I’ve changed my name or that I’ve been in hiding for years seems only to have left a wider trail to my door. For walls to become windows. Clothes to become skin. And my heart a target for a well-trained gun. If I win the lottery, there is always some mistake. If my agent calls me to tell me he has sold my new book, the publisher goes out of business the next day. If my lover has hinted to me in the morning of making love, by sundown she has changed her mind. Or if I indulge in reverie or thoughtfulness while driving home after hearing a great speech, I get pulled over by police. It’s as if every bit of bliss, every little lick of luck was the product of some negative spin. A backseat driver driving the car. It’s like trying to talk the rain out of its thunder when you’re already wet. Trying to talk to a killer about the ethic of guns, or to someone afraid about truth. When the dark man is hungry he looks for a bone. For something more than just meat. He would rather die of hunger than sorrow. He wants to pour salt on something that’s sweet.
The work is great the letter said. Such collections are rare. The oeuvre is transparent and the result is a brilliant book. At this point in the first paragraph the inner dialogue said: “Yes, they are going to publish my book!” But the editor went on to say something about the market and money and my heart began to drop back down into my chest, where I could no longer hear its heavy beat. Your use of punctuation (especially question marks) draws attention away from the text. The result is that the reader feels invited and at the same time excluded from the poem. Again, like the eighth grade, I was back in English class, listening for bells. Watching the door. I tried my best to ignore your typographical errors, and I know that W.B. Yates was, also, a horrible speller, but these days with spell-check on computers there is no excuse. And isn’t it glasnost, not glastnost? Rapport, not rapore? Consequently, we are agreed, here, not to publish your book. And I think I even said out loud: “But I don’t use computers and I still carry water in buckets to the house from the old well. It was too late. The letter had already been signed. And my hollow plea for sanctuary away from a world run by machines vanished into the afternoon like white smoke rising from the chimney into the winter air. I thought maybe I had, this time, written something brilliant. Ephanies, indeed! was all she had replied. I threw the letter into a box I’d kept for thirty years, with all the other letters of mixed messages and double meanings that all ended in no, wishing me good luck. And wished that even one of the old friends that were girls might be here or somewhere close by to touch me and take away the sting. But writing is a solemn art. No place for women who are looking for fun. Here, there is only a window and the woods outside. Like a lingering postscript meant to twist the knife of rejection another turn. I am sending your manuscript back to you with the envelope you provided in tomorrow’s mail.
The mind is a car radio. The body is Cocteau’s Orpheus. The sexual attraction is toward the car. The car as delphic lover. The love is for the radio, which is the spirit of the lover. The love-act between radio and Poet is radiogenesis. God is universal mind. Space-time is thought. The radio is the mind. The mind of the Poet. The fertile egg. The Poet whose dials are tuned to the right frequencies that drink in cosmic milk. White knowledge. Coming from the mind of God as sperm. The union of sperm and fertile egg creates the star-burst chemistry of genesis. Radiogenesis. The process of translation of these electrical impulses is genetic. Electro-genetic. And the result is words. The writing of these words makes the Poem. Hours, at all hours, spent in the garage. In the passenger’s seat of the car. With the radio on. Searching the dial for a voice on the other side of static. For an inspired paradoxical juxtaposition of spoken sounds. For a metaphor for daily life as light. Radiogenesis. Or in attic rooms or dappleganged hotels listening to the silence between screams for a sign of sanity. Radiogenesis. This is the Work. This is the stuff of a stuff better than sex. The whore of Orpheus. The nightmare of Eurydice. The thing invisible that becomes seen. The King of the forgotten. The siren Queen.
“I am always hunting words. Tracking them down. I steal them from wherever I find them. Yes, I am a thief of words.” -Eduardo Galeano Somewhere there is an old man or woman who sits in a field or at a table and thinks original thoughts. The thoughts they think are heard by someone who is also in the field or at the other end of the table which is long and out of sight. The original thoughts go in the ear of the one listening and are taken home. Stolen, like the slight-of-hand of ears. The next day the thief tells what he has heard to this friend who is a sweeper of streets. The sweeper pretends not to notice or hear the words as they fall from the mouth of the friend talking, but takes them home with him where they enhance his sleep. In his dreams he passes the oracle on to a mermaid to whom he is making love, who the next day passes it on in the sound of wind and waves to Hemingway’s old man out alone in his boat. Hemingway’s old man thinks he is hearing voices of angels and writes down the liturgy the moment he gets home on an old paper sack, and he tells his wife who works for the parson scrubbing the rectory floors. The parson hears her singing what sound like sacred hymns that have been set to the music of her voice and he takes them from her lips and slips them into the sermon he has been trying to write all day. On Sunday, the original words are heard by every Lutheran in town and are taken home and repeated at dinner to a thousand children. One of the children hears this and takes one of the words she likes and begins writing a poem. It is a poem about the thing about speech that is almost as good as silence, and so said. It is a poem about the moon. It is a poem about love. She thinks she is thinking these things for the first time. And she is excited by the sound of her pen on the white page. The next day the young poet gives her poem to her boyfriend who reads it and later throws it away. His father, the sheriff, finds the poem on the piece of paper in the trash. He thinks it is subversive and written by an enemy of the State. The poet’s name is on the paper and the next day soldiers go to her house, arrest her, and take her to jail. In her trial, she is accused of stealing original thoughts from the old man or woman in the field or at the long table in town. The girl tells the judge the truth and pleads her case eloquently as only a poet could. But it does no good. The judge cannot believe that a young girl could have thought up these precious words by herself and finds her guilty of “stealing words.” She is sent back to jail where she is sentenced to life in prison, and to the dreary work of editing the truth from the Book of Laws. This is how the story ends: The girl will die an old woman writing love poems in the blank pages at the end of the books she is working on for the judge. A hundred years later someone somewhere will find the writing in the back of the books. Will collect all the poems scribbled on all those brown pages, and sell them to a publisher as an original book of poems. All the old books on law missing the truth will be burned and the published poet will travel around the country reading her poems to large cheering crowds. The critics will call her “a genius.” And rich young men will send her flowers. This story will be repeated over and over for a thousand years. A handful of poets made immortal in print, or as the singers of songs. Writing the same lines. All originals. Convicted felons. Poets. The thieves of words.
There was something about the way she shook her hair from one side to the other when she sat that became an indelible memory that I’ll never forget. A gesture. Something as simple as that. That defined for me, forever, what love was. What it wasn’t. Something simple. Something as complex as the absence of wind in the trees -- This wasn’t about sex. This was about the whirling of suns locked up in a closet of empty dreams. A dream with a deadly weapon escaped from a prison of angels and saints, bored to death with the concept of doing good. This was a fire in a cold universe of things that desired the ice in heat. Her hair. I remember a conversation I had that day with Rimbaud. He was talking about the meeting that would occur in 1968 between Meher Baba and Malcom X. It had something to do with the careers of rock musicians in a universe abandoned by God. He, too, had seen the girl who shook her hair as she sat in his dreams, and had written her into his will as the recipient of the royalties from his alphabet of light. “It was her hair,” he had said to me, that made him move to Africa and to run guns for the apocalypse of the homeless abandoned by absence of time and space. In his dream there were beautiful aliens talking about something they called “virtual sex.” Imagined orgasm. Tactile foreplay. Caressing the invisible. Like blood in the air. Her hair was the counterpoint to the act of liquid, craving the act of love. It had written itself into his memory, as it had, one hundred years later, into mine. “It was the movement,” he had said. “The way that movement of a million strands reminded me of everything missing in trees.” This was before his eventual fall from grace, and my inevitable move to France one hundred years hence. In spite of the time that separated us, we were united in space. In the memory of a girl with long brown hair. I think of him as I watch her. I think of her as I talk to him. Her hair is brown. She shakes it from side to side.
With deformed and disfigured body, limbs like whirligigs in a gale, the teenage boy rocked himself to the front of a room full of those who had made fun of him his whole life, and flinging a fist up as if into the face of God, yelled “Fire!” Nothing was ever, again, the same. Every mind in that and every room turned to glass. Every animal and bug started speaking in tongues. And the wind went mad. Cosmic truth rained down on the earth in perfectly round spheres of water. And everything got wet! Trying to teach in that school, now, is something I can’t do. My students, in a few short minutes, passed me by like greased lightning aimed at the world’s oldest tree. Everywhere I look, I see another Jesus with golden wings. The only place for me to go now is back into the cave of dreams. A place without language. Only light. Back to the burning center of an art with pencil lead stuck in its throat. I have returned here with nothing except the last match. No one knows this. I have stolen the boy’s fire. I am the pyromaniac of poems!
poem for voice & electric band
for Lawrence Ferlinghetti
I hear it coming. I hear the sound of the trains. Trains rolling into town. Into the station. Into the aurora borealis of the dark. I can hear it coming. Coming like thunder through a pouring rain. All Aboard!... Coming from the dining rooms of the rich, coming from the ghetto of the poorer than poor, coming from the Horn of Africa and the burning rain forests of Brazil, from the streets of Harlem and Calcutta, from the hills of Honduras and the city of Ho Chi Minh, from the ash of Eastern Europe and the fishboats of Vietnam, from the freeways of Los Angeles and sandstorms of Cairo, coming.... Coming at 300,000 a day, coming 100,000,000 a year, coming to 5,000,000,000 by 1986, coming to 7,600,000,000 by 2015, coming to 11,000,000,000 by 2100. All Aboard!... At 250,000,000 at the time of Christ. At 500,000,000 when Columbus reached the New World. At 1,000,000,000 by the Declaration of Independence. At 2,000,000,000 by the time of the bomb. At 5,000,000,000 with men on the moon. Coming to America. Coming to Russia. Coming to Japan. Coming to China. Coming to Brazil. Coming to Africa. Coming. Coming. Coming. Coming.... Overpopulation. Overpopulation. Overpopulation. Too many people. Not enough space. Too many people. Not enough space. Not enough space. Not enough space. Too much sex. Not enough sense. Too many people. Not enough space. Too many babies. Not enough food. Too many babies. Not enough space. 300,000 a day. 100,000,000 a year. Too many people. Not enough space. Population explosion. Population bomb. Overpopulation. (Women with only seven years of school have 3.9 children. Women with no schooling have 6.9 children. Less than 10% of married couples using condoms and pills.) Women have control of the world. Women have the world by the balls: No sex! No sex! No sex! Overpopulation. Too many people. Not enough space. Too many people. Not enough money. Too many people. Not enough jobs. Too many people. Not enough space. Too much sex. Not enough sense. Too many people. Not enough space-- Overpopulation. Overpopulation. Overpopulation. Population explosion. Population bomb. Too many people. Not enough space. Too many people. Not enough food. Too many people. Not enough time. I can hear them coming. Coming like trains. Coming like thunder through the rains... Overpopulation. Overpopulation. Overpopulation. Population bomb. Bomb. Bomb. Bomb. Bomb. Babies begging to be born. Cities and sex. Cities and sex. Cities and sex. Sex in the cities causing too many people. Too many people causing too many problems. Too many people: not enough space. Too many people: not enough food. Too many people: not enough money. People. Pollution. People-pollution. Air pollution. Water pollution. Mind pollution. Money pollution. Moral pollution. Heart attack. Heart attack. Heart attack. Nicotine. Nicotine. Nicotine. Caffeine. Caffeine. Caffeine. Cocaine. Cocaine. Cocaine. Crack. Crack. Crack. Alcohol. Alcohol. Alcohol. Divorce. Divorce. Divorce. Violence. Violence. Violence. Murder. Murder. Murder. Starvation. Starvation. Starvation. AIDS. AIDS. AIDS. Denial. Denial. Denial. Denial bomb. Population bomb. Big bomb. Bigger bomb. Bigger bomb. Bigger bomb. Biggest bomb. Boom bomb. Boom bomb. Boom bomb... Bomb of nation. Bomb of war. Bomb of rich. And bomb of poor. Bomb of smart. And bomb of dumb. Bomb of all. And bomb of some. Bomb of Sodom. Bomb of Baal. Bomb of Krishna. Bomb of Paul. Bomb of Christ. And bomb of hope. Bomb of Ishtar. Bomb of Pope. Bomb of Buddha. Bomb of Nod. Bomb of Satan. Bomb of God. Big population bomb. Big overpopulation bomb. Big bomb. Baby bomb. Boom bomb. Boom bomb. Boom bomb.... Abort! Abort! Abort!... Abort all the isms. Abort all the lies. Abort the mind-pirates who never ask "why?" Abort those who hoard money. And those that grow greed. Abort those among us that plant death and not seed. Abort all the racists. Abort all the wars. Abort the non-feelers. Abort the mind-whores. Abort what they tell us, is good for the group. Abort all the dogma that is nothing but poop. Overpopulation. Overpopulation. Overpopulation. Too many people. Not enough space. Too many people hung up on their race. Too many people. Not enough space. Too many people carrying mace. People living by sex as matter of course. Contemplating scrotum instead of the Source. Too many people with genital brains. By 2010 become history's stains. Too many people just saving face. Moving about at too fast a pace. Too many people with not enough rest. Too many people not at their best. Too many people climbing up walls. Too many people with too many balls. Too many people alone in the dark. Too many people who can't hear the lark. Too many people too far from the dove. Too many people hard up for love. Too many people who are ready to fight. Too many people who can't see the light. Too many people on a little round Earth. Too many people and too much damn birth. Too many people who see forest for trees. Too many people too busy like bees. Too many people who should look to the past. Too many people whose look may be last. Too many people, too fast and too soon. In the next millennium will live on the moon. Too many people that don't care about place. Too many people: the next human race. Too many people will wake up with the Dawn. Too many people with the human race, gone... And all that is left will be only remains. Of 10,000,000 nightmares and 10,000,000 pains. With nothing but wind as it blows through the trees. And nothing but God there down on his knees. Down on his knees there alone in the rain. Asking forgiveness and waiting for trains.
THOMAS RAIN CROWE Tuckaseegee, NC was born in 1949 and is an internationally published and recognized poet, translator, editor, publisher, recording artist and author of twelve books of original and translated works. During the 1970s he lived abroad in France, then returned to the U.S. to become editor of Beatitude magazine and press in San Francisco and one of the "Baby Beats" and where he was co-founder and Director of the San Francisco International Poetry Festival. In the 1980s, after returning to his boyhood home in North Carolina, he was a founding editor of Katuah Journal: A Bioregional Journal of the Southern Appalachians and founded New Native Press. In 1994 he founded Fern Hill Records (a recording label devoted exclusively to the collaboration of poetry and music). Almost immediately, he formed his spoken-word and music band Thomas Rain Crowe & The Boatrockers--who have performed widely and produced two CDs that have garnered acclaim by the likes of Pete Townshend of The Who and Joy Harjo. In 1998 his books The Laugharne Poems (which was written at the Dylan Thomas Boat House in Laugharne, Wales during the summers of 1993 and 1995 with the permission of the Welsh government) was published in Wales by Gwasg Carreg Gwalch.In the same year, his ground-breaking anthology of contemporary Celtic language poets Writing The Wind: A Celtic Resurgence (The New Celtic Poetry) that includes poetry in Welsh, Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Breton, Cornish and Manx was published in the U.S. and launched in Dublin, Ireland in 1997, and his first volume of translations of the poems of the 14th century Persian poet Hafiz, In Wineseller's Street, was released. As a translator he has translated the work of Yvan Goll (10,000 Dawns, White Pine Press, 2004), Guillevic, Hughes-Alain Dal (Why I Am A Monster, Tarabuste Editions, France, 2006), Marc Ichall and Hafiz. In 2002 a second volume of his translations of Hafiz (Drunk on the Wine of the Beloved: 100 Poems of Hafiz) was published by Shambhala. For six years he was Editor-at-Large for the Asheville Poetry Review. His memoir in the style of Thoreau's Walden based on four years of self-sufficient living in a wilderness environment in the woods of western North Carolina from 1979 to 1982 (Zoro's Field: My Life in the Appalachian Woods) was published by the University of Georgia Press in the spring of 2005, and is the winner of the 2005 Ragan Award as the best book of nonfiction in the state of North Carolina, the Philip Reed Award for environmental writing from the Southern Environmental Law Center, and was a finalist in the Independent Publishers Book Awards for Regional Non-fiction. He currently resides in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, where he writes features and columns on culture, community and the environment for the Smoky Mountain News. His literary archives have been purchased by and are collected at the Duke University Special Collections Library in Durham, North Carolina.
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