The Day that Changed the World

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Today, something a little bit different. I wanted to share with you a stream-of-consciousness poem I wrote while waiting for the US election results to come in last November. As emotions surged that I didn’t know what to do with, I turned to the page (to the computer, to be honest!) and poured everything inside of me onto the page (screen). This has not been polished or edited in any way, and it is not pretty and it was not made with an audience in mind. It was a piece of me in that moment, unfettered. That day brought a lot of fear to me; it was not by any means my first time experiencing fear, and it will not be the last, but it was a big day, and this is me, and it is my hope that sharing this messy poem can bring us together in all our our glorious ups-and-downs …

ELECTION DAY
In a grey world, we can only
See colour through a fog.
We don’t know about saturation
So much as remember it,
Hear the vague impressions
That were once shouts: Red! Blue!
Home and ground sunk below
Where gravity never took hold
So we fly down. But we can always
Go the way of flight.
It only takes a single moment,
As an object of fear concretizes
And a lifetime of peace
Sinks into apparent illusion,
As memories have always
Made of our lives.
The world is not ours to claim,
But our hearts are. Our domain.
What better time to remember now,
Or to try to understand?
What will I do next?
I’ll prepare a soup lunch
In a changed world that
Remains as abstract to me
As the former one always was.
I’d rather come together in joy,
As many times as I’ve forgotten how,
But I’ll be happy to come together
In our sadness and shock,
And create a new, blessed warmth
To fuel the world.
Madness reigns only so long
As we feed it and let it in,
As long as we see the actual
For the true.
Still, the heart pounds,
Face flushes swooshes
Through the head causing
Pain and the kind of terror
I had once when I lost
My father’s grip in the ocean
And the universe started
Sucking me in, away from
The only world I’d known.
This never felt like an invitation,
No, it was a violation of my child me.
I want to scream STOP now as then,
Knowing it cannot and that
I am not at the center of this
Chaotic revolution.
People have been screaming stop
My whole existence and
Back to the very beginning and
It never filtered in, not like this.
Here, the selfish can be transformed
Into compassion. This is
Our necessity, the new
Life’s work.
It doesn’t matter what my head knows,
It never did.
The body soldiers on, fingers shaking
Head afire, heart quivering.
The mind is back there, in the grey fog,
With the sinking homes and
Vanishing holdings-on.
We need to grow the heart
From the ground up
Through the muck and the
Night terrors to come,
And go to where it’s green
And where delusions shatter
Into the laughing sky
And our emergent laughing souls.
Where is Jack Kerouac’s America,
That invited him in through the cracks
So that he may keep all our dreams whole,
Where did I go, who fell into his
Journeys of the road, spoke to his hobos
And saluted the sacred in our ruptures?
Where will I go, as I scramble to
Piece together a version of myself
That was for so short of time?
Who will I be as I try to do more
Than just wander through new climes?
It is a sad, mad, frantic time,
Our neighbours are not our friends
We have all become the enemy
Of peace and sensibility.
This has all happened before,
Our woes leap across time
So we can turn them into a circle,
And hold hands around it,
And weep,
And carry on.
And then WHAT?
Because even though the body is not lying
The mind is not believing.
It can’t be happening (to us).
It would never happen.
History teaches us (the right) lessons.
Even more selfish:
I and we must be the exceptions,
Immune from political and natural
Cycles and diseases.
No, it’s time to stop and dive in.
Let’s look at what we’ve made
And where we find ourselves.
Let’s get dirty with the mess of it all
And wash each other clean
Until we are shining with
Brand new memories,
If that is what we continue
To look for.
And still the blue sky is blue
And the red blood is ours
And the trees and children everywhere
And the mothers and fathers
Sisters and brothers
wait for our attention.
And still the wind only sometimes
Changes where it goes.
Love never turned its back on us.
Love cannot do that
Any more than it would.
It is ours to claim.
Yes, it is ours to claim.

  • TS
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Dear Jack Kerouac, on the 45 Anniversary of your Death

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

 

Jack Kerouac is my James Dean, my George Harrison, my Tom Cruise (honesty is everything), and every boy I used to stare at on the cover of Tiger Beat all rolled into one.

With a dash of mandatory literary genius and lone soul-seeking wanderer on the side.

He was the fantasy of my bookish-angst-addled youth and is still my co-conspirator in nostalgia, myth-making and spiritual searching as I reread some his books as an adult.

Allen Ginsberg also kept me up many a night, wondering how it was humanly possible to write a poem about one’s mother that poured forth sacred secrets with such insane grace and searing candidness.

And the others:  William Burroughs, Gary Snyder, Neal Cassady, Gregory Corso and Lawrence Ferlinghetti … I would have given anything to sit with them in smoky bars, trying not to get so drunk that I could no longer read my words out loud or hear others belt out a stream of word-songs while scanning lustily around the room.

They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery, and lord knows I’ve tried to imitate them—especially Ginsberg. I spent the better part of a semester on this attempt way back when I was a young, fatalistic student temporarily dabbling in poetry. The results were mixed but I was happy.

Suddenly, Kerouac et al have popped back into my head with a vengeance. What to do? Reading them has always made we want to write even more than I already do. And they make me feel like my attempts at being concise and succinct are overrated (though I know this isn’t true—a girl can dream).

This time I wanted to try something slightly different than imitation, and ‘write’ using their own words. Yup, a remix!

The beauty of the Beats is that to do a remix of their words requires no effort do a long search for the ‘best’ or ‘most poetic’ work. In a way, the Beats as a whole are already one enmeshed entanglement of thoughts, feelings and word orgies. Their words to each other in letters, about their craft and personal lives, and in their published works can, in a sense, be read as one long homage to a lovely, bizarre, entirely mesmerizing Truth.

I borrow here from all the authors I listed above. My method was more or less this: choose quotes at will, relatively quickly. Remove reference to specific authors, cut and paste to my heart’s content, use no words of my own, and see what I end up with. No cheating, no over-thinking, no last-minute grasping at new quotes to fill in the blanks.

Oh, and I changed all the hims to hers, and left the few ‘hers’ I found untouched.

It was amazing to see how quickly a story emerged that I didn’t plan or construct in advance, and how emotionally involved I became with what I realized was a story from my heart.

Maybe this is the point: sometimes we get tired of our own words and the thoughts that inspired them. Using a gift pack of words that came before us can be a really refreshing tool to help us out of a rut, to see ourselves better – and engage in delicious flights of fancy at the same time.

I hope you enjoy!

 

Here Lies Life

Standing on a street corner one fine day I am awaiting. I want to be a saint. I’m running out of everything now. I want to create wilderness out of empire.

I experienced and loved and lost, and she would smile and look away, sigh and rise to recreate the syntax and measure of poor human anatomy, starving hysterical naked –

Oh, smell the people! yelled The Mover, compulsive, dedicated.

Her passing thoughts were extra brilliant intelligent kindness of the soul and

I am beginning to think she is a great saint, a girl who was going the opposite direction, sniffling, the first person on earth moving from one place to another to sacrifice all these strange ghosts rooted to the silly little adventure of earth.

I feel there is an angel in me, she told me once, lying back languidly.

Who are with me? she’d say and stretch. There is no such thing as writing for yourself.

I went with her for no reason. Out of veins, out of money.

At that instant there was a kind of celestial cold fire that crept over us and blazed up and illuminated her sorrows and desires and made it an eternal place.

If you believe you’re a poet, she’d say, then you’re saved.

This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.

Ah, God!

We think differently at night, humbly and sincerely, for there is so much work to do.

So here lies life, love,

Two piercing eyes glancing into two piercing eyes in an instant and

I miss you so much your absence causes me, at times, acute pain.

I like too many things and get all confused, her face out the window, family, friends, little short stories for children.

I touch your book and dream of our odyssey and feel absurd. Holy!

I am going to marry you.

Even my too-big world, trapped between 2 visual images, third coming, perpetually and forever, a renaissance of wonder.

Don’t you remember how you made me stop trembling in shame and drew me to you as the sharer?

It was a face which darkness could kill by laughter or light. And dash of consciousness, together.

Here lies love in lyrical delight, between incomprehensible and incoherent, and with one grand, beautiful dawn.

I don’t know if I can do it again.

We look into each other’s eyes, one grand boulevard with trees, the only people, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.

Death hovers over me, a face as easily hurt, whom I am constantly shocking.

A pain stabs my heart. For me the mad ones are who love you, floating across the tops of cities,

who dreamt and made incarnate gaps in Time & Space

and hung-up running from one falling star to another.

I stand before you speechless and intelligent and shaking with shame.

I am not mad. I am young, sorrowful, not necessarily man or woman, and have my generation dragging themselves till joined, elemental, jumping with sensation.

The best minds, she’d say, stand by the madhouse for one very beautiful, shining Revelation.

* original article published on elephant journal.