I could see the full moon at 10:42 tonight through the tangle of maple branches heavy with leaves. It will be at least another hour before the moon clears the top of the tallest maple, by which time I hope to be asleep, though perhaps a little awake inside my sleep. That’s how I experienced the huge thunderstorm that passed through last night about 1:00 in the morning, & the robins’ dawn chorus as well.
Two Lucid Sleep Haiku
The robins began at four-thirty but did not
wake me up with their dawn singing.
How do I know the time?
They woke me inside of sleep.
Before the birds there was a violent
thunderstorm that woke me briefly—
it crashed & blasted inches from my face
on the other side of my window.
Was I flooded by the life force overnight so that I could wake feeling this blissful? Or am I just high on Percocet? I slept only in bits & pieces last night, actually. Haven’t had this sort of insomnia in quite a while, but when I woke just now after sleeping an hour (from 4:00 to 5:00) I felt filled with bliss. Did the pickup (probably) with a bad muffler wake me? Can’t remember, but I was aware of it coming over the bridge & turning left onto Three Falls Road by following the sound it made downshifting for the turn then accelerating slowly up the first hill across the reservoir. The sound of that broken muffler echoing around the woods & open water & off the banks of the river made me aware how far my sense of hearing reaches, orienting me in space–at least out here in the country–on a far greater scale than my sense of sight. Even when I’m watching the moon, I tend to bring the moon down to me rather than gaining some sense of the great distance between myself & it. I make it intimate. But with the sound of a truck laboring uphill on an otherwise silent summer morning, all of space becomes intimate–“I placed a jar in Tennessee . . .”
I wrote more lines of poetry today in two sittings that I have probably written in the last decade. A long set of “cantos” is just pouring out of me, assisted by some randomizing methods of composition. I had been tearing pages out of a first-draft notebook I use to jot down anything from grocery lists to lines of poems or to-do lists. The pages are perforated to make this easy & this notebook is not intended to be an archive–when something is no longer current or relevant, I rip it out, Some of these pages had diary-like passages that I wanted to preserve, but not where they lay in the notebook. (One of my great pleasures is starting a new notebook, which may be why I have six or seven half-finished notebooks lying around.) I tore them out & stuck them in an envelope, then I remembered those surrealist games in which poems are constructed by randomly collocating lines from different sources, which in turn reminded me of my teacher Donald Justice’s experiments with “chance procedures.” I pulled the pages out of the envelope, cut them up into more or less equal strips, then shook these up & put them in three enveloped marked A, B, C.
I next opened a blank document on my laptop & began pulling strips out of each envelope in turn, transcribing & improvising freely, wadding up the strip & throwing it in the trash when I had gotten what I wanted from it, which was mostly a jog sideways into another diction or realm of discourse. I wrote for a little over two hours pretty much non-stop. I have never written this way, though when I was younger I used to write & revise three or four poems over the course of an afternoon. When I ran out of steam I had four pages of irregular three-line stanzas with enough material yet to digest to fill another page or two. Is all this talk of quantity unseemly? Could be, but I make note of it here because my writing valves have been so restricted over the last decade–never shut off completely, but often slowed to a thin trickle. As for quality, I know when I have written well & today I wrote well.
I think what prompted this outpouring today was:
- Lots more time on my hands to read & write,
- a desperate situation.
- Last night I spent an hour making some notes on poems my friend A. had sent me for comment. A. is one of my oldest poetry friends–one of my oldest friends of any sort–and though she lives on the west coast, we had renewed our friendship a couple of years ago at a meeting in Seattle. Reading & responding to her poems put me back in our old undergraduate poetry workshop’s frame of mind: Write a lot & share fiercely. I have become much less fierce in subsequent decades, but what joy to just dig into a poem to see what you find.
- A new sense of optimism about my cancer–not a miracle cure, just some new insights on how to manage it, both mentally & physically. (More about this in a subsequent post.)
The pain medication I’m using tends to make me nod off in the afternoons. It’s not sleep, which I would prefer, but a kind of suspension of wakefulness. The radiation treatments I start next week are advertised to reduce pain very effectively–a good thing in itself–but what I really welcome is the secondary consequence of allowing me to reduce the opioid load I’m carrying.
One of the core doctrines of Buddhism is impermanence & it is also intellectually one of the most straightforward. Things change. Nobody really disputes that–except that when you look a little closer, most philosophical / spiritual systems try to reserve some tiny space for the permanent–that is, when permanence is not front & center, without disguise. But there is no nanoparticle of spirit or matter that is permanent. Nor are conditions permanent. This truth has been sneaking up on me in different ways since I became ill. [Image source: Cafepress]
It is with pain & the temporary relief of pain where this instability of existence has become most apparent to me. When one experiences pain that is not constant, that comes & goes & can be treated with rest, movement, heat, cold, drugs, electrical stimulation & so on, the variables can multiply in confusing & frustrating ways. And these variables play themselves out in the material reality of one’s body. To make this less Continue reading “Impermanence (Part I)”