What follows is introduction to my latest collection of poems. I hope to release it sometime in the next few weeks. This accurately sums up the state of my mind while writing the book. You may want to bring hand sanitizer.
This collection started as a nightmare. A black tower rose from the dirt of what felt like the surface of another planet. There was a sky blazing with white stars and sand beneath my feet. I marched in the company of at least twenty people on a flat desert surface. There was at least 100 miles between us as we closed in on the tower from all directions. We all desperately wanted to stop walking to the obelisk, but something drove us ever forward to some fate worse than death. When we arrived close to its foundation, great doors opened up on all of its sides and we all began to burn within a bright green light.
That dream haunted me for months. I am no Nebuchadnezzar, but something about this dream tore through my mind and filled me with relentless unease. It was also around this time that I dove into Buddhism again, re-reading the scriptures and dipping my toes into meditation. To my surprise, the serene images of past meditative sessions like quiet brooks and windy mountains didn’t materialize.
It was that God-damned tower.
I would see it. No matter what I did when I closed my eyes and cleared my head. I could see it gleaming against a field of black smattered with bright stars. I could feel the others walking slowly on, miles and miles through darkness to its eventual fury. I honestly thought I was losing my mind. Any of you that have read my memoir detailing my time in a psychiatric center will be well aware of how real that threat can be.
I realized that the only way to rid myself of this haunting was likely to throw myself into it, To stop fighting it and embrace whatever awful message my wayward brain was trying to tell me. I consulted my carefully cultivated playlist of meditative whitenoise channels on youtube and tried a variety of moods and Chakra tones (I don’t believe in any of that stuff really, I just think it’s calming). I must say a great thank you to the channel New Bliss on youtube for their aid in creating what seemed like a perfect mental tone to confront the horrid reality lurking in my ailing head.
The meditation helped me to sterilize the image. To lean into its vision and open myself to its truth. And that truth still eludes me, but I may at least have a guess. The inevitability of the tower, its sure and irresistible lure is probably something simple like the ever thundering steps of time and mortality. The others are precisely what one would think, the people who accompany me most of my life be it friends, family, or even total strangers at a gas station staring up at the rain as we both fill our gas tanks in the cold. It feels weirdly universal, like a dream of falling or waking up naked at your desk at highschool.
I am no wizard and I certainly am not visited by prophecies like Daniel in his lion’s den. I am just another idiot pretending to have a brain that is not wired for randomness, inexplicable bullshit.
So why the Poetry then? Why does the image of pure gibberish and meaningless thought noise merit a whole collection of poems trying to organize meaning from what only amounts to a Rorschach test of neural misfires?
Because that’s what humans do with the random gas in their brains. They try to force it into some kind of disjointed, spiritual nonsense. We are always Wallace Stevens’ man on the dump building and wrecking carven images of our own deformities, raising them up, and tearing them down again before the moon rises. That making and unmaking can be our greatest source of joy, but before we expunge ourselves of the need to cringe our idols as Heideigger points out, it can also be the source of our greatest fear.
Poetry is a unique kind of failure in this regard. Poetry’s primary function is to be read. It is to be understood. It must communicate and either transmit or INFLICT emotion upon the reader. Most poetry that I have read in my life works to obscure meaning or present its information in a way to make it less accessible to the reader. So many poets are content to make their cute little emotional units more akin to puzzle boxes that most readers will never solve. They are mistaken that this adds an air of mystery to their writing.
It doesn’t. It makes people not want to read it. And the ones that do want to read it aren’t people you would want to have a beer with. They are people who stare too long at you on a subway train or put ketchup on tuna. Something is fundamentally wrong with them.
Yet here I sit. Offering up a collection of poetry that does have an element of puzzle solving. Weird, dark rituals dance within and I am not sure I have left enough bread crumbs to make decoding them remotely possible. And it’s weird and it’s gross and it’s stupid and it won’t likely make much money for me in the long run, but you know what? That’s okay. This shit honestly isn’t for you. It’s for me.
This was my own inner flailing at dark straws. The puzzles may have no solutions at all, because when you get inside my head and poke around there are a lot of personal horrors that will never be fixed. I will hurt and hurt and hurt right straight into the grave and there is nothing you or anyone else can do to make it better. I just struggle to concentrate all that hurt into a wall and bash my head against it till my skull cracks apart and I pass out. It’s sleep, but the kind of sleep you get when your only goal is to live to see the next day. It offers no charge, no relief from the voices screaming inside you.
All it does is make you forget the worst of it. For a time at least.