My review of The Bardic Depths is up at The Imaginative Conservative:
My review of The Bardic Depths is up at The Imaginative Conservative:
These words won’t wait for me to “mean”
They won’t sit idly by
As would-be meaner, I
Pretend I’ve intentional control
They rush like rapids on rocks
Not measured flow in locks
Their stubborn semantic pathway destined there
These words will meet an “eager” ear that
Wrings from them a sense
All full of danger dense
As I still ready reasons flaccid
You hear before I’ve said
Your ear a Procrustean bed
Cuts off the feet of “what I meant”
These words have spoken long before I speak
Returning to me void, my bloodied blade
Or so it can appear
If your expected ear
Conforms to my sad self-told tale of woe
“Knowing” you won’t really hark to me
I see them fly like birds
Walking again. Didn’t Nietzsche have something to say about thoughts being better if one is walking? I’m played by Sarah Michelle Geller (again). I’m not sure why I can’t shake that yet, or whether I should shake it. Walking beside me is Bruce. When I last saw him, in 2013, he was played by Christopher Walken, but now he is played by Anthony Head (in Rupert Giles persona. I don’t know how long we’ve been walking.
I sigh. “Did it really have to be the Giles vibe?”
“Would you have preferred Dr. Frank-N-Furter?”
“Hmm… I guess not.”
“This is not what we’re supposed to be talking about, you know.”
I glance over at him with a grimace. “There’s that ‘should.’ I knew that would come up soon. I didn’t think I missed it, but maybe I did at some level. Do you know what we should be talking about?”
Eyebrows. “I assumed that you knew.”
“Not exactly. I was yelled at a while back by a dimly remembered 6th grade teacher, and I’ve known since then I was supposed to (‘should’ again) stay on the blog thing. But the fragments are scattered, and my sense of continuity isn’t worth much at the moment.”
We walk in silence for a while. Eventually, I speak up again. “I guess I want to know about you, now. Do you still have your Bible?”
He pats his blazer to indicate an inner pocket. “Still here, though it’s gotten disconcertingly small.”
“And the shard?”
He absently indicates his chest with his thumb. “Still in here. The scar is not going to go away.”
“You don’t just represent the fundamentalist anymore, do you?”
“Well, yes…” He’s avoiding my eyes now. “…and no.”
I have to meditate for a while before pressing it any more. The scenery changes as we walk. It’s important that it changes, not how it does. I didn’t tell you about the scenery before, and I’m not sure if I remember it now.
He picks up again before I do. “The ‘yes’ part is not too mysterious. The shard is in my heart because that’s its home.”
“And the ‘no’ part?”
Now he glances over and meets my gaze. “That’s more mysterious, but it can be said, at least.” He falls silent.
After a couple of minutes, I can’t resist making that rolling motion with my hand. “And?”
He keeps looking ahead now. “The heart.” Pause.
“It’s not just mine.” Several steps, then softer. “And I’m not just me, of course.”
A five or six minute silence.
I look over at him again. “I don’t know where we’re going.”
“Neither do I.” He doesn’t seem bothered by this.
So we keep walking.
The flat, stale smell of death is on the curtains
In my room, and on my trousers too
As if I’d been there, standing near her arm
And gotten splattered when she fired the gun
It’s like the scent of brains and dark despair
Death in our time stays apart from us
Hiding, though the dead are known and near
But someone has to find it in fresh sleep
When coldness comes, invited by our hands
Or steals upon us sudden, as we walk
It was her husband found her, I was told
Husband, lover, one who shared her bed
One who knew her smile, her warmth, her care
But knew her darkness too, had felt her anger
Sometimes aimed at him, or aimed at her
I imagine finding love in blood and tears
Below the stars that witnessed its demise
A tightness grips my heart with that same cold
As if a part of me had passed there too
Or somehow felt the bullet blasting home
I imagine being him, enduring pain
That no known voice can give a proper shape
Wishing my blood ran into her veins
Or my heart beat within her chest for her
Or my head took that missile in her place
I feel all this from distance safe, and time
That runs along a different axis here
As though the shot were in another world
The blood upon another planet’s soil
But no such alien to us is death
The smell still clings, and haunts my home and work
I’m guessing it will fade across my years
But do I want it so to fade? Perhaps
Or maybe I would keep a hint of odor
To keep my blood from clotting in my limbs
Perhaps I’ll keep a hint of her with me
That I might always find my love in time
Before she puts her hand to steel and fire
Before she puts a dagger to her soul
That I might bleed before another dies
The last of the “20 Looks at The Lamb” has finally arrived, if you care:
Yup, I took the plunge and got my own domain. The URL is now http://pblum.xyz. The old address (petercblum.wordpress.com) will still redirect to the right place, though.
Every night I pull my tears
From pockets of my pants or jeans and
Toss them in the laundry hamper.
There they sit, for one to seven
Days (depending when we wash) in my
Room of rest (but not always sleep).
They never sit alone as they wait,
Soaked in the cotton/poly white that I
Carry for mucous, sweat… and this.
Mornings I take one, neatly folded and
“Clean,” the tears all rinsed away
(meaning merged with other liquid,
Diluted to indiscernibility).
But that they’re gone is no mere absence, their
Trace still haunts the washed white cloth
Invisible, unlike occasional blood.
Sometimes tears of others mix when
I’ve a cloth and they’re without. It’s
“Clean,” but still they mix therein. So
At night, when I tiredly pull my tears
For washing, it’s more than just today’s
And more than mine, aware or not.
That “clean” is never purely so can
Irk one. But with tears I’d guess
It fuels the soul to carry such traces.
“It was strange how some of childhood’s words and ways fell at the wayside and were left behind, while others clamped tight and rode for life, growing the heavier to carry as time passed.”
(Stephen King, The Gunslinger)
I participated in a panel on March 3, 2017 at Hillsdale College on “The Limits of Language.” Video can be found on Facebook.
Not a reduction of pain, and not sleep, but a suppression of memory, like anesthetics that keep you “cooperative.”
Re-blogging this from my old, formerly “secret” blog. It was originally posted on May 11, 2012.
(or I Should Be Glad Of Another Death)
At some sorry times a paralysis crawls
Out across the tarmac of my day
With no sufficient reason (pace Leibniz)
And no sense of the shrill urgent mundane
Clearly without why and
Frustrating as hell
Sure, one queries medicinal regimes
Or blames the food, the drink, the exercise
Neglected. Nothing can account for it.
“Nothing;” if ever there were a pregnant word
Haunting the door of a clinic of dark purpose
Agonizingly wanting its abortion
Rather than the wait, the weight, the wait.
Cut it loose! Flush it from my gut!
But this dark clinic, closed and quiet, darker
Than its normal merely moral darkness,
Gives no answer to my wimpy whinings.
Nothing dwells there. Nothing answers me.
And Nothing says that I must wait some more.
It’s hardly any Biblical cityscape
To which the slouching Nothing now draws near.
I must wait.
“Held out into it,”
As Heidegger would have it
How did I get here? I can’t stop asking, that’s how. It seems as though there should be a point when one is done asking, but I haven’t found it.
I’m in the elevator again, staring at the panel of buttons. The button for floor 2, the one I just left, is lit. The elevator waits patiently for me to press another button.
I found only a few things on the second floor, which makes sense given how difficult it seems to be for me to commit to a belief, to take something as true with no further questions.
But here is the disturbing thing: Floor two is where I found the fundamental gestures of my Christianity. The “sinner’s prayer” in high school. The several crisis points in life where I said “yes” again, when it came down to what seemed the bottom. It isn’t supposed to be that way. It’s supposed to be on floor one, isn’t it?
But I haven’t been to floor one yet. Taking a deep breath, I press the button.
The elevator descends, quietly and obediently. The doors open on floor one.
A paneled foyer. A terrazzo floor. A counter, only about four feet from the elevator. I step out. The counter is occupied by a single person, young and androgynous. I’ll go with ‘she.’ She looks up at me and smiles warmly. “May I help you?”
“I want to know what’s on this floor.”
Her smile fades only slightly, as befits a serious answer. “Sir, you should know that I can provide what will be answers of a sort, but you are at a level where language almost always fails.”
I’d heard something similar before, but I ask anyway: “Fails?”
“It misses. It fails to track whatever it is that language tracks, even more than at the levels above this one. And I think you are aware that it fails to some extent even above this. And this failure applies to the answer I am currently providing as well.” Her face becomes fully serious. “I’m very sorry for any inconvenience, sir.”
I pause to digest this a moment. She appears to be as patient as the elevator. I turn to glance back at the elevator, which remains open. There are both up and down arrows above it, and the down arrow is lit.
I turn back to the receptionist. “This is the bottom floor, isn’t it?”
“No sir, it is not. That answer actually does not fail too grievously.”
I’m now in one of those states where several tracks of questioning present themselves with equal urgency. I choose one. “What is on this level?”
“What is on this level cannot be counted or inventoried in any stable way. But I think there is an answer that would be most helpful to you right now, if you are willing to trust my admittedly fallible judgment.”
“What you usually call ‘belief in God.’ Insofar as that is something that can be somewhere, it is on this level.”
The pit of my stomach begins to complain. “Is it also found below this level?”
“The least misleading answer to that question would be ‘no.’” She looks slightly sad.
So many more questions, but my stomach takes over. I turn abruptly and go back into the elevator. As soon as I enter, the doors slide shut.
I look at the button panel. When last I was here, the button for floor one was the bottom numbered button, just above the buttons for opening and closing the doors. Now, underneath it, there is a button labeled “0.5” I am not surprised by this. I press it, and the elevator descends again.
When the doors open, I am surprised. I seem to be on floor one again. The receptionist looks up at me and smiles. I find that I am afraid to leave the elevator, so I speak to her from where I stand. “You again.”
A puzzled look. “Again, sir? I have not seen you here before.”
I swallow and moisten my lips with my tongue. “What is on this floor?”
She brightens a bit at being able to provide something akin to help. “I’m sure you’ve already been provided with the disclaimer about language on the floors above. On this level, it is best to say that it is not a matter of ‘what.’ It is only a matter of it still, in some sense, being ‘you.’”
I stare for several seconds into her patient eyes.
I’m eventually able to choose another question. “Is this the lowest level at which it is, in some sense, me?”
Though her expression does not change discernably, her face seems to darken. “Yes and no.”
“That doesn’t seem very helpful.”
“I know, sir. But it is as true as I can manage.”
Still standing in the elevator, I look over at the button panel. With dread but little surprise, I see that the bottom button is now labeled “0.25”.
I look at the receptionist again. “There is no limit on the decimal places, right?
She looks down at her hands, as if answering is painful for her. “That is correct, sir.”