<Previous      Next>
Seventeenth-century religious poets like Herbert, Traherne, Vaughn, and Donne—with their clear-eyed rendering of psycho-spiritual realms as well as their naturalness of tone—are my poetic heroes, and I increasingly see my poems as devotional lyrics aspiring to embody those ideals. The earth, as a disappointing theater in which greed and decay perform, is utterly ordinary to them, at times dangerous, and they seek out a transcendent being to console them. A little like Vaughn’s Holy-Land despondency in “The Search,” I also

     To see the Temple, but was shown
     A little dust, and for the Town
     A heap of ashes, where some said
     A small bright sparkle was a bed…  (14-17)

God, for lack of a better word, can be awfully elusive; and the impermanence of conditioned things, whether numinous relics or lawn rubbish, is a universal law. Just as one glimpses love, it turns into indifference or anger, which I find inexorably seeks transformation back into love by a Beloved, by some bearded Master. I’m afraid the cycle of depravity and redemption never exhausts itself. I'm afraid I'm tired.

My own devotion, though, is not exclusively Judeo-Christian, and extends outward (inward?) toward a largely unknown Other, a force that is difficult for me to name, whose body is made of intense emotion and harsh music. He—“it” feels absolutely male to me—is a frightening deity or father or religious taskmaster, invisible in space-time but "visible" inside me. Intuition, what Gertrude Stein might have called "secret with a bestow a bestow reed, a reed to be a reed to be, in a reed to be." Hypomania, chakras synchronizing and faltering, the mind-body process fluttering at breakneck speed and producing its own sort of "heat" that feels figural, powerful, limitless. Both of us awkwardly attempt to establish loving contact with one another, but it is largely in vain, because our inchoate connection soon becomes frayed by intimations of aggression, sex, and humiliation. It is the sort of failed communion that generates poetry but not peace.