I have probably written too much connected to my new-found knowledge/experience of ocular migraines, but I remain fascinated, so you get to suffer, although not so visually as yesterdayʼs irritating image. In particular, I keep pondering, when I give myself time and opportunity to ponder anything except the November novel (on which I achieved 40,000 words as of yesterday, just before I started working on this post) and the chores/activities Janet wants or needs to have me complete (by far the most difficult is to dispose of my old computers, which as she correctly indicates, have been taking up too much space too messily downstairs for a year and a half; the other is the last raking of the yard, which I intended for last weekend but the wind and the rain prevented, even yesterday). However, I was especially considering what earlier events in my consciousness might have presaged or been earlier manifestations of the migraine aura.
Of course, I was also thinking about Judah, and how I can make use of this phenomenon in developing his character (exactly as I said yesterday). And that set of thoughts reminded me of some poems I had written back in the early Eighties when I was most deeply engaged in my Judaical studies, as I thought of them, that so alarmed my mother that I might be contemplating conversion to Judaism (which I wasnʼt, at least not seriously). From some early readings in and about Kabbalah, my then-poetic self had immediately invented some pseudo-mystical poems, particularly after reading A Big Jewish Book edited by Jerome Rothenberg. The unoriginality and derivative nature of my poems goes without mention, but I guess their very existence proves that even such hardhearted skeptics as I have had (sometimes still do) moments of spiritual quest.
The one I am going to include today is meant to suggest an eruption of the supernatural, the unknowable unsayable impossible deity (or something — which is a lot like Judah) into daily life. And that corresponds well enough with the supernatural sensation I had about the ocular migraines until they were dragged down to earth and given a local habitation and name (or in other terms, alluding to another poet, pinned and labeled like a bug in an exhibit).
Bright presence beating viscous air with burnished wings
terrifies tepid binocular sight, twisting the tarnished photons
of a nowunsubstantial electric lamp Leaps all luminescent
and thunderous THERE. These jelly eyes throb,
bloodshot; a booming resounds behind baffled retinae.
Rainbows wreck reaping spectral echoing radiation
along dissolving daemonized neurons. Disgust drapes
immarrowed breaking bones bakes and bruises flesh
Claps, cracks, quakes. Crushed
tendons, traitorous, tear like taffy frozen
on a glarehard glaze, greencoward grate —
ultraMinnesota subarctic snow shining sleek and sterile
and dumb in deathwhite endDecembersʼs solid day.
Bright presence breaks, battering out breath.
with thanks to Jerome Rothenberg, Jewish Poets of Medieval Spain, Chaim Potok somehow, and Gershom Scholem
20 August 1980
You can quickly see that I was at the same time influenced by and experimenting with Anglo-Saxon meter adapted into modern English, thanks to my Advanced English classʼs annual study of Beowulf, thus the alliteration and the visible gap for the caesura. Over the top and incorrect as well, but it kind of fits with the artificiality of the poem and the concept. Likewise, my reading in physics (recent and continuing at that time — and now, as I have really enjoyed the two issues of Scientific American that have arrived this month) makes its presence known.
The bright visitor seems pretty clearly angelic rather than a Being higher up the supernatural pecking order (but the seeds are laid for my rendition of Ayn-Sof), and the speaker is struck dumb by the invasion of the ethereal into his mundane existence. The vision is overwhelming, perhaps destructive (temporarily, it certainly is), which today suggests an interesting unconscious set of links leading to my invention of Judah this past winter. All the images intend to echo and suggest extreme and even terrifying brightness.
The poem reminds me that in high school, after a unit on Black Lit (I think in Advanced Placement English, I think student-taught), when we were asked to write an imitative poem expressing what we had read in the unit, I channeled Richard Wright (I think perhaps him in particular) and poured forth such a stream of righteous wrath I may have scared the college senior. If only I had taken the cue then of the importance of Method acting in writing…
But I donʼt really think “Bereshith” is a good poem, perhaps an interesting experiment, definitely a stage in my thoughts and feelings (and imagination). On the other hand, just the day before, inspired by a drive home from (I believe) Mt. Pleasant and Iowa City, I wrote what I consider a better poem, almost a twin, which lacks a title.
the day before
Silver shatters in the trees
hidden on the backsides
of the unassuming
shining with the windy
on sultry afternoons:
bright silver in the greens,
like a promise for the chosen,
a beginning which both baffles
The human eye redeems.
Quaking silver remarks of needs
uncertain, abruptly melting:
break traces through the heart
like meteorites on heaven.
Unminted silver graces trees
in quivers and surceasing —
the breathing of the earth
and a soulʼs screams.
20 August 1980
The ending is weakly adolescent, but the poem is almost exactly on the same subject, just focused onto a simple natural phenomenon, the silvery undersides of leaves showing brightly in the wind on a sunny summer day. Noticing now that I hid my allusions (particularly to Potok) unquietly, I donʼt recall today if there was a conscious connection to Robert Graves and The White Goddess with all the symbolic trees therein, or not. But I do wonder if the visit from which I was returning wasnʼt the time my mother expressed her doubts about my religious reading in those days. I hope I reassured her instead of playing coy (which clearly, reading from the series of overtly Judaized poems — each addressed to the “God of Israel” — that I wrote later in the same week, was how I felt). She would die, at Labor Day, just two years later.
And I rather forgot where I started today. I think the “fragile” vision that I mentioned yesterday and maybe a refraction of the aura shine out in both of these.