The Unconscious

November 17, 2016

I’m not willing or equipped to live in the world of politics and “news” right now, so I’m living in music (Bach, Dylan, Miles Davis, Johnny Cash, Leonard Cohen–talk about earworms– Janis, Etta James, etc.) and poems I think of as great escapes.  But the mind knows what it knows, including what it would rather not, and as I read through some of them I was also struck by their timeliness.

from Charles Simic’s Pulitzer-Prize collection of prose poems, The World Doesn’t End:

We were so poor I had to take the place of the bait in the mousetrap. All alone in the cellar, I could hear them pacing upstairs, tossing and turning in their beds. “These are dark and evil days,” the mouse told me as he nibbled my ear. Years passed. My mother wore a cat-fur collar which she stroked until its sparks lit up the cellar.

And:

My mother was a braid of black smoke.
She bore me swaddled over the burning cities.
The sky was a vast and windy place for a child to play.
We met many others who were just like us. They were trying to put on their overcoats with arms made of smoke.
The high heavens were full of little shrunken deaf ears instead of stars.

*

 

MUSHROOMS

Sylvia Plath

Overnight, very
Whitely, discreetly,
Very quietly

Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.

Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make room.

Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,

Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams,
Earless and eyeless,

Perfectly voiceless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes. We

Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Bland-mannered, asking

Little or nothing.
So many of us!
So many of us!

We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,

Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:

We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot’s in the door.

*

I KNOW A MAN

Robert Creeley

As I sd to my

friend, because I am

always talking,—John, I

 

sd, which was not his

name, the darkness sur-

rounds us, what

 

can we do against

it, or else, shall we &

why not, buy a goddamn big car,

 

drive, he sd, for

christ’s sake, look

out where yr going.

*

And one not so unconscious, one of the first that came to mind last week, by Emily Dickinson:

After great pain a formal feeling comes–
The nerves sit ceremonious like tombs;
The stiff Heart questions–was it He that bore?
And yesterday–or centuries before?

The feet, mechanical, go round
A wooden way
Of ground, or air, or ought,
Regardless grown,
A quartz contentment, like a stone.

This is the hour of lead
Remembered if outlived,
As freezing persons recollect the snow–
First chill, then stupor, then the letting go.

 

 

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