Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Lobster in August

As I ride up tree-lined 53rd, a single leaf falls from a tree. I glance up. Still green. Just trying it on.

I haven't dared to meditate for weeks. Not now, now while I'm negotiating a new contract with the world.

(Silly way of putting it. The world doesn't make contracts and doesn't honor them.)

Struggling to think my way through to a new way of being. Which is not very smart. You don't think your way to a new way of being. Act your way, maybe. Meditate your way. Suffer your way. But thinking doesn't do much. Still, it seems always to be a part of it. Maybe it's just a formality that needs to be gone through. A new way of being has to be presented to the cerebral cortex. Like being presented to a Hanoverian monarch: it's done with much pomp and ceremony, but it's the hasty whispered conversation with the prime minister that's going to actually get something done. So I have to think my way through, try to keep my sword from getting awkwardly stuck between my legs, remember not to turn my back on the king.

Nerval, leading his lobster on a blue ribbon through the Paris gardens. You want to be careful of lobsters, said Holmes's friend: they have spent too long under the sea. (Read Richard Holmes' Footsteps, if you ever get the chance. It's a book that propels you outwards, in an unguessable direction. Like one of those whirly things in the park, you make it spin faster and faster and faster and finally you can't hang on any more and go flying off -- in some direction: you can't tell in which, until you're tumbling on the grass.)

I wonder what the Chinese for "lobster" is. The French is "homard," which sounds to me as if it ought to mean "something that likes to try out being a man."

Bluegreen. The Chinese have a single word, qing, that covers the whole color field we divide so sharply into blue and green. Useful for going under the sea with the lobsters, where everything is some shade of blue or green.

Suppose you do crawl up out of the ocean, like the lobster on the tarot card: does that make you a hero or a monster? Out here in the thin cold air, the dizzying open space, where possibility seems so much wider, but where the currents only kiss you, never push you? "We have lingered in the chambers of the sea."

Eliot didn't write very much good poetry. Enough to fill a nice chapbook, maybe. Prufrock, some of The Waste Land, the Four Quartets. The rest, as Udge observed, is really not worth reading. Except maybe the cat poems.

But. "We have lingered in the chambers of the sea": he was thinking of Nerval, perhaps. "A pair of ragged claws, scuttling across the floors of silent seas." Lobsters again. They're everywhere, if you start to look.

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