Wednesday, April 17, 2024

A fool once asked what he could do to best serve God?

  

    I’m not sure which way to begin today. Perhaps with something beautiful and raw from Erik Rittenberry's Poetic Outlaws and my an another reader’s discussion of it:  

Stanley Kunitz: A Poem has Secrets that the Poet Knows Nothing Of

APR 17, 2024

“The deepest thing I know is that I am living and dying at once, and my conviction is to report that dialogue.” 

— Kunitz


Stanley Kunitz is certainly one of the greatest American poets of the 20th century. 

He received numerous awards for his poetry, including the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry twice (in 1959 and 2005). His works often explored the vital kinship between nature and the human experience. He had a profound awareness of the natural world and often used it as a metaphor for human emotions and the passage of time. 

Kunitz’s poetry is steeped with images of loss and regeneration, aging and mortality, and a sense of grappling with the ultimate questions of spirituality and transcendence. 

Before we get into Kunitz's most notable poem, “King of the River,” I wanted to share with you what inspired him to write this profound piece. This poem explores the cyclical nature of life, the passage of time, the spiritual dimensions of an “upstream” struggle, and “the inexorable process” of his own fate. 

Below is a brief exchange Kunitz had with an interviewer who asked him how this brilliant poem came into being.

Hope you enjoy it. 


Interviewer: My favorite poem of yours is “King of the River,” and I believe my reason is that the salmon, ostensibly the subject of the poem, is half-fish, half-Kunitz. Could we talk a little about how the poem came into being?


Kunitz: What triggered “King of the River,” I recall, was a brief report in Time of some new research on the aging process of the Pacific salmon. I wrote the poem in Provincetown one fall—my favorite writing season. The very first lines came to me with their conditional syntax and suspended clauses, a winding and falling movement. 

The rest seemed to flow, maybe because I'm never very far from the creature world. Some of my deepest feelings have to do with plants and animals. In my bad times they've sustained me. It may be pertinent that I experienced a curious elation while confronting the unpleasant reality of being mortal, the inexorable process of my own decay. Perhaps I had managed to “distance” my fate—the salmon was doing my dying for me.

A poem has secrets that the poet knows nothing of. It takes on a life and a will of its own. It might have proceeded differently—towards catastrophe, resignation, terror, despair—and I still would have to claim it. 

Valéry said that poetry is a language within a language. It is also a language beyond language, a meta-medium—that is, metabolic, metaphoric, metamorphic. A poet's collected work is his book of changes. The great meditations on death have a curious exaltation. I suppose it comes from the realization, even on the threshold, that one isn't done with one's changes.


The King of the River


If the water were clear enough,

if the water were still,

but the water is not clear,

the water is not still,

you would see yourself,

slipped out of your skin,

nosing upstream,

slapping, thrashing,

tumbling

over the rocks

till you paint them

with your belly's blood:

Finned Ego,

yard of muscle that coils,

uncoils.


If the knowledge were given you,

but it is not given,

for the membrane is clouded

with self-deceptions

and the iridescent image swims

through a mirror that flows,

you would surprise yourself

in that other flesh

heavy with milt,

bruised, battering toward the dam

that lips the orgiastic pool.


Come. Bathe in these waters.

Increase and die.


If the power were granted you

to break out of your cells,

but the imagination fails

and the doors of the senses close

on the child within,

you would dare to be changed,

as you are changing now,

into the shape you dread

beyond the merely human.

A dry fire eats you.

Fat drips from your bones.

The flutes of your gills discolor.

You have become a ship for parasites.

The great clock of your life

is slowing down,

and the small clocks run wild.

For this you were born.

You have cried to the wind

and heard the wind's reply:

"I did not choose the way,

the way chose me."


You have tasted the fire on your tongue

till it is swollen black

with a prophetic joy:

"Burn with me!

The only music is time,

the only dance is love."


If the heart were pure enough,

but it is not pure,

you would admit

that nothing compels you

any more, nothing

at all abides,

but nostalgia and desire,

the two-way ladder

between heaven and hell.

On the threshold

of the last mystery,

at the brute absolute hour,

you have looked into the eyes

of your creature self,

which are glazed with madness,

and you say

he is not broken but endures,

limber and firm

in the state of his shining,

forever inheriting his salt kingdom,

from which he is banished

forever.


Sloan Bashinsky

That poor salmon,

what did it do 

to deserve

reminding the poet of his

own self? :-)  


Ethan

Try it the other way, what did the poet do to feel that his self resembled a salmon? 😉 


Sloan Bashinsky

Or, what the poet didn’t do, which caused him to feel he was no different from a salmon that did what it had to do? :-)  

 

Ethan Summers

Truth is Sloan, that you asked a very good question. I didn’t manage to understand the poem until I started to think how to answer to you. So, imagine that you’d be slowly, gradually, morphing into a salmon trying to swim against the stream towards your birthplace, and then try to read the poem with the eyes of a fish. Ultimately read the title and you might just feel poet’s admiration for those who against all hardships, battered, with the blood dripping from their belly, fight to their last breath against the current, only to meet their fate, unwavering, almost defiant in their steadiness  


Sloan Bashinsky

Erik’s title is what caused me to post my question: 

"A Poem has Secrets that the Poet Knows Nothing Of”.

Kinda reminds me of the heart has its own reasons that reason cannot know.

It Kunitiz didn’t uncover the poem’s secrets, how can we?

The Sockeye, or any saltwater-freshwater salmon, makes that arduous return because its genes demand it, it has no choice in the matter, and it reaches its spawning ground, or dies trying, naturally, or killed by a fisherman, bear or eagle. 

There’s a religious theme in this poem, heaven and hell, and swimming against a current without assistance of greater knowledge, perception, awareness, understanding, by rote, a computer program, like a salmon. Or a lemming, as each salmon has the same genes as its own kind driving it.

Salmon are herd creatures, they do not deviate, until they are killed, or they die of exhaustion, although some kinds of salmon do not die spawning, such as the Atlantic salmon and the Siberia salmon, I think.  

 

Ethan

True, I wonder though, are we more free than the salmon is, or just as constrained by our genetic structure as it is? Is our freedom a real or just an illusion?

Sloan Bashinsky
The salmon and human genetic codes are one thing,  human social, religious, political, educational programming, egos and karma are something else altogether.😎

    In early 2004, I started attending a very different kind of church service in an office building. No collection plate was passed. Each Sunday someone different spoke for a little while, and the meeting ended. 

    One day though, someone else came forward at the end and said, “Close your  eyes and ask what you can do to best serve God?”

    I closed my eyes and saw a beautiful white quill writing pen, tears came to my eyes, and got up out of my chair and walked out of there and drove home.

    That night, sitting in the easy chair in my and my wife’s bedroom, staring out the window at large, bare-limbed black willow tree in moonlight, I opened my writing journal and put my pen on the pater and one word came, and another word came, and I started balling my eyes out, as more words came, each a poem, but not cast into verse, and that went on for several weeks, and then it slowed down, and then it stopped.

    Here are two of the poems, which I remember verbatim.

He is the paper, the ink his blood, the pen his soul, and the poet is God.

    Although he sometimes tries to write fiction, every character is a character in himself, ever plot a plot a plot in himself- there are no surprises, only his to discover parts of himself he has lost, forgotten, thrown away, or ever even knew were there. Perhaps in that way he and God are somewhat alike- they both create to discover just who and what they really are. 

    Then, this fell out of me:

Only fools rush in

Where angels fear to tread,

But if there were no fools, 

Who’d lead the angels?

    That evening, I felt something huge and wonderful-feeling trying to wiggle its way into me. It was a really tight fit. There were lots of tears. that went on for about two weeks. 

    Every morning I took the same walk of about 4 miles.

    This particular morning, when I reached the turn around point and headed home, I felt angels' presence, and then I heard in my thoughts, “This thing coming into you is your angel twin. All people have an angel twin, and yours will live out this life with you.”

    I thought, “That’s neat!”

    Then, I heard, “By the way, this is your son.”

    I nearly collapsed to the ground.

    My 7-week-old son had died of sudden infant death syndrome just before I entered my last semester at the University of Alabama School of Law in Tuscaloosa. His death had so unhinged me that I was not able to fit myself into the plans and molds my father and this father and my mother had made for me, nor into any plans and molds I had made for me.

    In 1988, I had gone to his unmarked grave several times carrying a yellow peace rose like the one on his simple oak coffin. I cried oceans of tears and snot at his unmarked grave. When no more tears and snot came, I had the cemetery put a marker on his grave, on which was engraved: “Infant Son: He opened out hearts and set us on our journey.”

    I put all of those poems into a floppy disc document and took it to a copy center and they made it into a saddle stitch pamphlet, which I named A Crazy Person’s Bible. I was anonymous. I gave away hundreds of copies by leaving them in cardboard boxes at a city mall.

    Many years later, after my goodmorningkeywest.com, goodoodmorningfloridakeys.com and goodmorningbirmingham.com went to a cyber cemetery, I created afoorldworkneverneds.blogspot.com and started writing their most days.

    I wrote there after I moved from Key West back to Alabama in late 2018, and I continued writing there through the Covid-19 shutdown.

    By then, I had reverted the first half of the blog posts to draft. 

    Then, I started new blogspots, which became books at archive.org.

    Yesterday, I felt it might be time to return to writing at afoolsworkneverends.blogspotlcom, because its title fits me better than anything else. 

    To be dead-honest, I’m burned out from observing, participating in and writing about politics.

    Writing about that human sewer sometimes is okay, perhaps necessary. 

    Same for observing, participating and writing about Christianity.

    Having said that, I wonder what’s next?

    What can I do to best serve God?

Meanwhile, from Christian Science Monitor today: 

 
She’s worth $1 billion, but can Taylor Swift write poetry? We ask experts.

Do poems and lyrics serve the same function in art? Or are they entirely different mediums? We asked poets (and Swift fans) for their analysis of Taylor Swift’s wordsmithing.

Taylor Swift’s new album, “The Tortured Poets Department,” comes out April 19.
By Stephen Humphries Staff writer
@steve_humphries

Taylor Swift occupies a position in popular culture that makes Beatlemania seem like a passing fad. Her every move is scrutinized.

The April 19 release of her new album has been shrouded in a blackout. No advance singles. Zero interviews. But Ms. Swift’s 11th LP does appear to follow a poetic theme. The album’s tagline is “All’s fair in love and poetry.” It’s being released during National Poetry Month.

Consequently, “The Tortured Poets Department” is heating up a debate that’s been simmering since before Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2016: Can lyrics qualify as poetry?

Historically, poems were often performed aloud with musical accompaniment. The etymology of “lyric poetry” is the Greek word lyrikos, which means “singing to the lyre.”

“There are people out there who would argue that a pop star can’t be a poet,” says Elly McCausland, who teaches the “Literature (Taylor’s Version)” course at Ghent University in Belgium. “She’s deliberately pushing back against that and also asking us to examine our own attitudes. What is poetry? What can poetry be?”

    Any damn thing it wants to be, Elly. Any damn thing it wants to be. 

    For who, yes please tell me just who invented the rule that poetry must rhyme, have pentameter, be cast into verse? Surely it wasn’t the maker of the first stone- otherwise there’d be no stones to break all those slaving rules!!!

sloanbashinsky@yahoo.com

Saturday, December 30, 2023

When are we ever not in church, Eve?

 

    After reading the Apocalypse: the destruction of humanity’s South Pole, Eve post, a dear, old, devoted-to-her-church friend emailed me:

Linda

Did you happen  to listen to Lessons and Carols from King's on Christmas Eve morning?  The first lesson is read by a chorister, as you probably know, and the young boy readers are delightful to hear.  Last year and now this year, especially, the readers have pronounced the words in perfect poetic diction, telling the story of the temptation of Eve and God's discovery of his humans skulking around in the Gah-den.  The perfect spitting out of "The Woman . . ..  ) seemed to me to be a powerful encapsulation of what's still wrong with the world:  It's Eve's fault.   

 

Things become clearer, don't  they? 

 

Later, L. 

 

Sloan

Sorry, Linda, all of that is Greek to me, it’s been decades since I attended church, perhaps never on Christmas Day. I feel no affinity with the church paradigm, but do wonder when I’m ever not in church? What’s wrong with the world, indeed, if you don’t consider the demons, is the feminine is hardly even breathing, and, in the main, that’s in women, as well as in men. 

 

Linda

Don'a apologize, I know you don't attend church services, but the King's College service is loved around the world so I thought you might have encountered it on public radio.  What struck me particularly this time was the energetic diction of "The woman gave [the apple] to me, and I did eat."  He practically spat it out--  "woman" I mean.   

 

I'm not sure I followed your meaning after "if you don't consider the demons . . ."   

 

And yes, the world is the church, or could be, and I must say that I see a lot of theological and mystical writing about that these days.  In the main line, to be sure.  But that has to overcome the paper-thin understanding of God that dominates so many people's lives.  Am I a stuck-up snob? 

 

Sloan

My ignorance exposed, or my memory, I don’t recall ever hearing of the King’s College service. 

 

Very few care to consider demons influence people, which is where you and I disagreed about your minister initially, and you disagreed recently. 

 

I had a Jewish friend once, deep into the New Age and Eastern spirituality. Non-practicing, Jew, therefore, but extremely reactive against anything he perceived as anti-semitic, and I had to be very careful with what I said to him about Jews and Judaism. After I came out of the black night of the soul in 1998, I was told in my sleep to pay him a visit. He lived in California, and I called him and told him about the dream, and he said to come on, he would pick me up at the Los Angeles airport and I could ride with him up to Stinson Beach, where a woman he was dating lived. I said, Stinson Beach was where I thought I might be headed eventually, because I had spent a night there during a long road trip I had taken when I lived in Boulder, Colorado. 

 

After reaching Stinson Beach, which is up the Old US 1 from San Francisco,, we visited some friends of his girlfriend in their home. As he walked across the living room before me, I saw in his right side profile, I saw the countenance of Evil, jagged, black, sinister feeling, and it freaked me out and I said nothing. After he returned to Los Angeles, I stayed in the same motel I had stayed in before. We were talking every evening on the phone. I was using a pay phone near the motel, and an ATT phone credit card. He started hearing direct communications from what he was told were angels, which he shared with me verbatim. That went on about a week.  

 

Finally, I understood I was supposed to tell him what I had seen, but I didn’t know how to. go about it. A discussion of Evil and Lucifer came up, and he adamantly said there was no such thing! I told him about the Jesuit Priest’s Malachi Martin’s book, Hostage to the Devil, which, along with an experience I’d had with my wife in Boulder, convinced me that Evil and Lucifer indeed exist. In the introduction, Father Martin wrote that Lucifer had penetrated the Vatican at a very high level.  

 

My friend reacted. I let it go. 

 

The next night when we talked, he told me that he had gone to a bookstore in L.A. and bought the book, and he was really angry. I said I had not told him to do that, but had only told him about the book. He cooled down. The next night when we talked, he said he’d had a dream the night before, in which his favorite Jewish grandmother came walking toward him smiling, holding Hostage to the Devil out to him, for him to take it. He was seriously subdued on the phone with me.  

 

He started reading the book, and a couple of nights later when we talked, he asked me, “I have a problem, don’t I?” I said, yes. He asked how did I know? I told him what I had seen in his profile. He asked why I didn’t say something then? I said I didn’t think he would hear it, and didn’t know how to go about it. I asked if he realized his problem when he read the chapter about the well-intentioned fellow who had gotten involved in all sorts of esoteric spirituality? He said, yes. Then, he said he was seeing something very dark and sinister, a cape, coming toward him, and he was terrified, and for me to please stay on the phone with him, which I did. He had that experience quite a few more times when I was on the phone with him, when I was at Stinson Beach, and after I returned to Birmingham.  

 

That’s when the angels, through him, invited us to enter “Paradise Mating,” in which we would be given Eve candidates and we Adams would be given a chance to walk hand in hand with our Eves back into Eden, and it would be rough and if we turned away, we would experience the original fall from Paradise, which is unfathomable. My friend said the angels told him a modified version of Paradise mating is available for people who are not heterosexual. 

 

That’s when the angels started healing me of many things, including being molested many times by my mother in my crib. Healing sessions were terrifying, and my friend was on the phone with me every session, sharing with me what the angels were telling him about what they were doing and for what. I then was with my Eve candidate, about whom I wrote some in previous blog posts, who eventually was told in her sleep, “You are not the one,” for Sloan. 

 

During that time, the angels told my friend many things, including, the Jewish diaspora was karma for the Jews rejecting the Christ. He was blown away after he heard that. 

 

His first wife and mother of their girl child died horribly of cancer, and he was put to minister to all of her and his freaked out New Age friends, as well as take care of and minister their daughter, as well as help me. He was put through living hell, and he was doing remarkably well until he had a dream in which he was in the ocean all a horde of black, nasty, large, moray eel like creatures with evil eyes and rows of big sharp white teeth were coming right at him. He was not ready to accept they were parts of himself, and we had to take a break. 

 

I now was with my 2nd Eve candidate, who had been put through the same healing I was put through. Her major wound was being molested for a long time by her father. She was the model for Willas Sue Jenkins in my novel HEAVY WAIT: A Strange Tale, about which I wrote a little in my MRSA Key West blog post today, which I shared with you and other people. She was the muse for the novel. But I get ahead of myself. 

 

We were sent out of America and had some really interesting and remarkable experiences in Costa Rica, South Africa, Mauritius and India, before arriving on Maui, broke, and then homeless, until an evangelical Christian family took us in and bought us a tent and we did chores around their home, which also was a small inn. We did pretty well until I was told to ask her at what point in time did she become old enough to be complicit with her father, and she came unhinged, and she wanted to separate, and the people who had taken us in told me I had to leave. 

 

The return to Eden is much more difficult for Eve, because of the deep prejudice against her, and women generally, on this planet. That’s why my 1st Eve candidate was told, after it had not worked out, that Adam must anchor into God for both Adam and Eve, and let God discipline Eve.

 

Waking one morning, I was told by Michael, “Go to Big Pine Key.” Later that morning, I got an email from my friend in Los Angeles, who paid for my airfare to Los Angeles, and I stayed in his home and we had a number of really deep discussions, and I got to know his daughter and his Eve candidate, whom the angels had provided. She and I took a long walk and I told her some things, which I felt she needed to know, because she really had no clue what lay in store for her, which I had learned from the angels when came out of the black night in 1998, and was put with the woman I above, who attended St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Mountain Book and believed she would die and burn in hell, if she did not attend church every Sunday. 

 

Anyway, it came time for me to leave Los Angeles, and my friend gave me $75 dollars, all he could afford, and he put me on a Greyhound bus with a ticket to Key West. After reaching Key West, where I slep at nights on sidewalks and beaches, I found the local county library, which had free internet computers and a pay phone outside. My friend was putting money on my ATT credit card, so we could keep talking on the phone. 

 

He was having a lot of. trouble with his Eve candidate. I asked him if he wanted me to try to get what it was about? Like, a shaman, or someone like a shaman might do. He said, yes. I ended the call, and before I got back into the library, I was told she had been Adolph Hitler in a prior life. I didn’t feel up to telling him that on the phone, so I told him in an email, and he sent an email back ripping me to shreds, and I was stranded in Key West, all alone. 

 

That’s when the three women before the woman I left on Maui came to me in a dream and told me they had been checking around and they thought the best Eve for me was the one on Maui. Later that day, I received an email from her, saying God had told her that she did not need to file for divorce, which I had told her she needed to do, because we were common law married, which is legal in Alabama. Her email pissed me off, and I wrote back something unpleasant, and blew off the dream I had, to prepare me for her email, telling me, even if she did not realize it, that she and I were still in a paradise mating relationship. Stupid man, me. 

 

After I wrote HEAVY WAIT in north Georgia later that same year, I dreamed that my 2nd Eve candidate and I were in a theater in NY City watching the premier of the movie based on the novel. Sitting right being us was my friend from Los Angels, who wanted to read the manuscript. I emailed him about that, and suggested he contact a fellow he knew in L.A.,who made movies, who shared my friend’s a my fondness for the novel, The Kin of Ata Are Waiting for You. My friend emailed back that his ‘guidance’ told him not to read the manuscript. He gave me his movie producer friend’s email address and I mailed him a floppy disc containing the manuscript. He read it and said he didn’t care for it. I told my friend to read the manuscript anyway, but he declined. We never communicated again. 

 

A few years later, my 3rd Eve candidate, whom I met in Helen, of whom I told you a little many years ago, said she was told in her sleep that my friend in Los Angeles had died. I had told him when i was with him and his daughter and his Eve candidate, before I came to Key West, that I thought he needed to put his daughter in a private boarding school, because she was really angry with him about her mother dying, and I thought she would kill him if they stayed together. There was a large trust set up for her by one of his set of grandparents. He could afford it, but he said he didn’t think it was the right thing to do. I did not mean she would stab him with a knife, but in a spirit way she would kill him physically, and whether or not that is why he died, I cannot say. 

 

As for man-made churches, I had a pretty good friend close to Helen, where I hung out a good bit during the warm months, starting 2001. He was a successful building contractor until he had a rough heart attack and retired and became the minister of a Protestant church near Helen. I attended his church a couple of summers. 

 

He was 100-percent convinced the Devil would get anyone who did not attend church, while several times I saw in his church, the Devil operating In plain view. He could not wrap his mind around when are we ever not in church? So, I asked him one day, how many churches made of mortar, stone and wood did Jesus build? And, where was Jesus’ church? And, when was Jesus ever not in church? And, the minister didn’t get any of it. So, I asked him where did he think the Devil might hide, where no one would ever think to look? He said he didn’t know. I said, a church. He didn’t seem to get it. 

 

Later, I was shown in a dream that he was at risk to another bad, probably fatal heart attack if he kept being the minister of that church. I figured there was no way he would believe my dream, so I wrote his wife a letter and told her about the dream. Not long after that, he asked me in a dream if something a little different would be okay, and I said, yes. I later heard he left that church and took a job with the his denomiation’s equivalent of an Episcopal diocese, and was traveling around visiting and counseling its churches.  

 

It was around that time my friend in Los Angeles and his first wife, who had died horribly of cancer, while I was being healed by angels after coming out of the black night, came to me in a dream. They were happy and smiling, and they said, “We love you, Sloan, and what we most like about you is the way you live!” That was shortly before l learned father had died I headed to Birmingham to live there a while, before returning to Key West for a long while. 

 

So, my dear old friend, perhaps what I have written to you today, and what I put on my blog recently, which I shared with you and with other people, explains why I don’t know when I am ever not in church, and why I simply feel no connection to man-made churches. 

 

Linda 
I do understand that Church is everywhere, and hope that I got that across in my last note.  This last from you is a remarkable story.  I only wish I had a tiny bit of your memory power.

I have another friend who can see and has seen evil.  She can walk into a room and feel it.  I don't think she's had an experience like that for a while, but I could only believe her when she'd describe some incidents.  She and her family are fierce believers in God--  it occurs to me that the Devil really is after Jenni because she's so good and has such spiritual gifts.

I won't belabor this because it makes you ill--  but you're obliging me to think about the possibilities of real trouble with our minister.  Many of us in the congregation think he's struggling with something that he can't shake.  Time will tell. 

Sloan 
It came to be that nearly every time I attended a church service, I felt the palpable presence of Evil.

Yes, people like your friend become very interesting to Lucifer/demons, and they need to be very careful, is how I was trained. Catholic exorcist priests are taught about that risk when they are in the rites of exorcism training, and perhaps even before that.

Perhaps your friend will attend a church service with you and observe your minister and tell you what she is picking up?

Two years ago, when you and I discussed your minister and I told you to make a ruckus about it in the church, I was attacked by a demon, which made me ill. As did absobing into me the trouble in your church and in you regarding the church.

That happens every time I engage something grubby humans are doing :-).  
 
Ciaosky, dearestsky  
 
P.S. I told about the 4th Eve candidate in this podcast.


Ciaosky, dearestsky 
 

sloanbashinsky@yahoo.com