So I ended up hanging out with Highers at his farmhouse last week. Good times.
So I saw Jeremy Highers today for the first time in years. So many years. He looked mostly the same, though I didn’t recognize him immediately. Guess he gained a little weight, hair going grey, but it’s still Highers there. We haven’t spoken in ages. I was completely and utterly and devastatingly stunned. I met him at Publix, in Gallatin (more on that later), in the deli, wearing the same suit I was just weeks ago … I was there for roast beef. To go with the baguette I’d already picked up. I was thinking sandwiches, something healthy but heavy; beef and bread. When I first walked up to the deli counter I recognized a manager (I guess) who had subbed over at my store in Lebanon. I thought about just walking away before realizing how stupid as hell that would have been. So I went ahead and walked up to the counter and before I could even say anything she and Highers asked me if I needed anything - at the same time - and I didn’t know it was him. Then I looked again … then I saw … hell. Point is he’s been there two years. Doing what I couldn’t muster the nerve to do more than a month. We talked a bit, just a bit, about this and that. He gave me his number though he never responded to the text I sent him a few hours later … I’ve walked away from so many people in this short life that I have no quarter to blame another living soul for doing so just like - but Highers broke it off with me … back when friendships mattered like kids who weren’t 40. Back when I sort of held a place in my heart for others … he was the first friend (male, friend, I guess, if we need to get specific) who ever did that to me - the first one that mattered … I never blamed him though …
I never did.
So now maybe he will call me back, or answer the phone one of these days, and maybe the past will be brought back … aw hell, surely we aint as stupid as all that … I could tell it hurt him - I could see the pain as he sliced my London Broil - and though I can’t explain it, something tells me that will be the last time I ever see Jeremy Highers …
And yes. While ‘happy’ is out of the life-equation for this guy, sad isn’t … and it made me very sad … so very sad seeing him one last time …
(This is that ‘more on that later’ part: you see, when I first applied for a job at Publix, it was at Jeremy’s store - the one directly across from Vol State. Now, at that time, I only got as far as the employment kiosk in the front - never made it to the deli or even suspected that was an option; until it was. What I’m getting at is, pretty simply, that there was a small chance in hell we might have re-met over a month ago … back when all of that would have mattered … back when something else might have been done about it … AMOR FATI keeps ringing through my head, and even now, here most of all, I curse this world and all its charms …)
C. R. Stapor
I’m putting you on notice. Either give me another ticket into American Modernity or I’m going wild, solo, lone … and I’m never looking back.
You have until my 36th birthday to do so (next Friday) and if you haven’t, I’m leaving everything behind and hitting the road like all good nomads always have done …
Peace be with you and all you despise …
C. R. Stapor
The problem is symbolism. Empty ciphers meant to convey meaning. All human culture has been built on this supposition; that we can create meaning from the void: from nothing. We can’t. Obviously. It’s a shell game, and one we seem to be not terribly good at. So. We continue doing it without shame (kings, god, money) and keep finding tragedy. Now. One day the day will come when another intelligence apprehends the Earth (SAI, ETI, EDI, etc.) and brings with them/it a paradigm shifting conception of meaning free of symbols; when that happens humanity is done. Over. Now. Before this happens, if, indeed, it ever does, isn’t it possible we might devise a system that doesn’t place hollow semblances of meaning at the forefront, the start, the womb, of meaning? Are we truly so constrained in our thought? Are we a species born to die .?.
Hey America. Yeah, you … You utter cunts … You douchebags … You cocks and cocksuckers … You addicts of exchange … I fucking hate ALL OF YOU … Go ahead, be proud today that you ain’t working if you aren’t; go ahead, be a chump, a sucker, if you are … Labor … Work … Your life transmogrified into a percentage someone else cashes in … Jesus fucking Christ this country is retarded … Fucking hell why can’t it just DIE ALREADY … money, as understood today, is the greatest crime humanity has ever perpetuated (bigger than Jesus! I know!) and yet you all sit down and sloppily sup it up like mana fallen from heaven … You disgust me … Zeros and ones … The quintessence of the void … It’s in your wallet … It’s on your face … Bank accounts … Banks … Where’s a Jackson when you need one? (Right here, bitches) … Where can a MAN find succor in this endless void of ever increasing expediency and profit margins? Fuck you … If you feel that’s true … The human race was not meant to be meat puppets for a system that continually oppresses the masses for the benefit of the few (the one percent, the politicians, the oligarchs, etc.) … And you either get that and are a warrior like me or you don’t and are a patsy in their conniving continuations of control … Fuck America … Fuck Capitalism … Fuck Money … Fuck the Dollar … The Dollar is more important than ‘God’ now, and like ‘God’ it should die a horrible, long, painful death … Viva Zarathustra! Viva the ‘NEXT’ …
WOOD ELF WAR PORN: a meditation on character and lifespeed inspired by The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
So litseen published one of my essays! Here it is.
I’m not going to lie to you and you need to believe that. This isn’t about truth, not at all. This is about poetry. About the cadences in a dragonfly’s cumdance, how we anthologize heroes only after the mytho-poeticization has been interred. How we remember certain months and Springs. Certain weeks or hours where we, and we alone and lonely, were the first to summit peaks where celestial wisdom lived. Back when life was something that can’t be reinvented, only forgotten. Like a fatal orgasm or the first time you read a book that changed you because it wasn’t just a book (it never is) like back when you saw a coronal mass ejection with stunned, lidless eyes meant to incinerate the chakras or hope, that first defeat, and life was left remainder; back when life mattered …
I’m here to talk to you about poetry. The last rubicon. The only dream. What sticks after, like crumbs. Or the hurt in a lung too full now, much too full of the decades of exuberance baked in a tar whose only point is destruction. Self-annihilation. What does a poet know better? What else can we say of those years and feelings that will never - will never - return? How doth a man reclaim soul when soul is spent in search of scratch and I ain’t talking cat-style-pussy-licking - I mean dinero, bread, cheddar, that most horrifying of all sundry poltergeists (and sure I’m digressing, this essay isn’t about money, symbols, the exchange revolution; this is about what you said about all those things Bob - and more! - so long ago, before folks understood the extent of Slick Willie’s betrayal, or ever thought Uncle Tom could save them from it …) … What I mean is, what I’m getting at, is there is a window. A one-shot. No extra lives. No do-overs. No second chances. We are only young once and they all say that’s the only reason it matters. I wonder though, about that … I mean, who’s ever tested the hypothesis? Who’s ever said, yes, sure, of course, I hear you, we all age and become frail, fragile, worthless and ugly, but perhaps we don’t have to? Let’s see what that’s like .?. Absurd of course, until you remember poetry. Yes friends, poets have the grace of the Eldar flowing through their heartblood. Their poetic guava matrices. They have the presence of utter zen, rest, what Miller called ‘just shutting the hell up and letting it happen’. And it is your poetry I want to address, Mr. Novick. Because I feel as if I just read the story of the 90’s in sixty-nine, and without this gift, this treasure, I don’t know if I could ever honestly say I knew what that meant.
Let’s start with some facts. Bob Novick is a white-hetero-male who spent a substantial number of his formative years in Middle Tennessee. He is, among other things I’m sure, a poet. He has been writing poetry at least since 1988. He is a father. He is an intelligent member of the human race, yet one deeply flawed; without these two factors though, you never get to art. Novick got to art. He made it. Sixty-nine is one of the finest pieces of poetry I’ve ever read (sorry Fasick, Novick owns face). Certainly authored by a contemporary soul. One of mine at least and I know Evan Karp and __________. Let’s say it shocked me, after my wayward and fantastical travels through this world, to come home again and find a voice so drinkable. So pure, clear, ready for consumption bacteria be damned. What Novick has achieved with sixty-nine is nothing less than a complete catharsis of the act of growing up. No, no, no; no children here. We are talking the growing up that only young adults must endure. The cleft of indifference and facing it, full swagger. The bravado of early 20-something’s has oft brought societies to their knees, or, more clearly stated, has opened up the subcutaneous aquifers of spirit to those whose well has run dry. Modern society, our capitalistic one, is fundamentally based on a pornographic yearning for the spirit of those days, whether we share them or not. Indeed, according to current demographic statistics the young are not the majority; not here, not in the USA. Perhaps this is the reason we idolize them? I guess. But I am not a hagiographer. Have no intention to place pedestals before you; let alone fill them. I want to talk about the legitimate response to this cruel time in all our lives. This blasted wonderland of desolation and fecundity. I want to talk about sixty-nine, because this poem talks about it so well.
Full disclosure: I never knew Bob Novick during the ostensible time-period this poetic codex transpired. I knew of him, I guess, through acquaintances near or far, but never personally; to wit: this isn’t a political or economic discourse. I am hear speaking only through my recent reading of the text (again; sixty-nine). I did not give a shit about poetry when Bob was writing these lines (Final Fantasy what!?!). Hell, it is altogether probable that while he was crafting these stanzas I’d yet devoured Plato. Much less Whitman or Rimbaud. The point here is simply that I did not approach my reading of this poem sequence with the sort of dewy-eyed fanaticism of contemporaneous brothers-in-blood that so often litters our literature on criticism (not being the place I shall refrain from marking examples, however, if you think about it, I suspect you can conjure one or two). I read the work one artist to another; soul to soul, so to speak. And speak to me it did. Whiskeybenders, lovetwisters, soulfarts and all …
When you’re young you don’t really think about time. A kid doesn’t I mean, children. I guess eventually you personalize death but that’s a much more pathological enterprise, not really entwined with considerations on the fundaments cosmic. As you age immortality creeps in, because you’ve got a little time behind you and know what that’s like, but also because you can not fathom it ending; any of it. The joy in a dawn transposed across an eternity of adventures you infallibly know await. You put time aside, so to speak, forget it’s importance or reality, and live the life of fiction, stories, legends for a few years. Well, those of us with dithyrambs in our blood and chaos in our cock do. The characters, emotions, perceptions, realizations, defeats, triumphs, small moments devoid of purpose that Novick handles in sixty-nine are based, it seems to this reader, on a somber meditation of just this season in our currently mortal human remains. A season of knowing oneself, as if through a kaleidoscope drunkly; or how you shamefully come to understand your father is just a man, like any other.
But then we’re all ‘other men’ to anyone else. True enough, though, in a way, a way we seem to never really get back, these early 20’s of ours are messy with otherness brought close to home. It’s not as clear as it could be (nor need it) but sixty-nine is as much about a feeling of placeness as it is an homage to those bright souls you share it with: haiku, pitchfork diablo, checkerboard, tardy bardo, flapjack tabasco, tocah perididdle. I know none of them personally, past the alter-egos or even historically, unless I’m mistaken: but I have such a sense of them, such an immediate bibliography fully consumed via Novick’s words that I guess you’d have to call it satori. Even if it appears capricious, fickle, hastily lured off on a dragonfly’s wing. But then there are now those who pine for the simplicity of 90’s living just because it has been taken from us on the wind, or, criminally, as they’d have it. Reading Novick one recalls (if one is of age, yes, and I am) that the 90’s contained errors and omissions as well: that they were not as simple as nostalgia might profess, were filled with the immense mysteries common to any age (mysteries which, sadly, are now being subsumed by our modern technophilia, but I’m a digressing curmudgeon who hasn’t ‘liked’ anything in years) and I have to say full-start - those are the exact mysteries Mr. Novick is moshing with here. Wearing sandalwood ballerina shoes and a bright orange cape.
An essay is a lousy way to talk about poetry though, right - I admit it! How about a story to close this out?
… Ganesha visits the pink house one day and leaves a smattering of forever stained in the carpet and a young man with wisdom in his magic jots down a note then magnetizes it to the fridge until other notes start appearing, covering it, pasting it over with other, lesser trite, and then one day, heading to the kitchen for OJ cuz the dose was kicking in the young man finds the note (perhaps totally by accident, of course) and remembers most of what it was that compelled him to jot it down and so begins a journey that leads to many places before there is closure of a sort, the sort of closure only artists feel (which is to say badly) and so the feeling remains and eventually we are left with an artifact detailing just how it was it came to be but by that time Ganesha has left (there are other houses after all) and the dose is done and there are no longer mornings just the dull glare of three o’clock in the afternoon on a cloudy November in a country without trees so you don’t even get the pleasure of watching the leaves flip about the ground like all the notes you never did write and even though there was one that got away, graduated, grew up with honors you can’t find it anymore in the rush of all the others and you sigh, you or the young man, because he is just a fiction now as well, another tale, one you’re sure was based on a true story until you remember you’re smart enough to know that how it matters, in whatever way it does, all stories are make-believe and no one really believes that true means anything anyway and if they do, if you ever meet someone who does, you resolve to strangle them with your own two hands until they’ve no longer breath to speak of such silly things or, provided you have an appointment to keep, simply ask to bum a cigarette then politely walk away …
Reading Robert M. Novick’s sixty-nine in 2014?
Four out of five stars.
C. R. Stapor
The cowboy is shot. Struck through chest by errant bullet or one sinisterly meant to murder. The ground underfoot gives way, collapses, falls to nothingness. As does this rider of the range. Is his ghost watching this transpire? Or the killer, admiring his labor? It’s hard to say. What isn’t hard to say or admit is that such an analysis is short-sighted: can not help us here. Is the cowpoke shot at all? Hand on chest, arm out-stretched in abandon, he appears devoting himself to a life-long love. To be in the very act of casting off his indiscretions and frailties (which manifest in blue, to his right) in some romantic bliss-fest of all-in commitment. The ground gives way? Bah, it is no ground beneath him but the clouds of fantasy he collected under open sky, in younger, more indiscriminate days. He’s discovered a new language as well, one wrought of shady blues and blocks of white. He sings to speak, in this cordial tongue of perfect value … it is always incongruent, is it not, attempting to assay the oils on the canvas? The colors in the story … paintings … such a thing, and still such a thing. We are not beyond them yet, this culture we inhabit isn’t - though close indeed are we to that day! You see, a painting asks you to participate. It does not dull your senses like some opiate administered to forget the best of you. It requires attention, alertness, a responsiveness built on some sense of self. It is a hard art (and here I do not speak of craft), one that requires more of you than music or film. This visual exercise, this act of preserving concepts eternally in the material sphere, possesses a timelessness as well; an eternity, we might say, lacking in all other fine arts. The dross of yesteryears captured in the frame remind us, no matter how we struggle, that there are consequences to our actions: that something is always left behind. Words are infinite and so literature is the most powerful and impotent of them all; sounds can be recorded on the wind, and leave as easily as they arrive; images strung together have become the new watchword for banality, for the obviousness of existence; but a painting? An artifact (which, by my own reckoning, a book, score, or movie can never become) of such uniqueness? A single, solitary act of a single, solitary person? A footprint in our mass-historical-species-consciousness. But such a thing, such an enterprise, requires maintenance like all the rest; and here we see a weakening of the spirit - a will to forget. For when was the last time you went to a museum? Spent an hour admiring a picture hanging on a wall? Perhaps I am wrong, and the art of painting and enjoying them isn’t as endangered (outside of the mega-urban hubs, naturally, where all manner of deviance may yet find purchase) as I fear. Perhaps this culture of ours, this hyper-modern world of information exchange, still has time to stop and smell the acrylic. The chances aren’t great, but if we don’t actively create a space and need for experiences that can’t be linked or liked we will wake up one day and find the West was won. That there are no more open ranges to explore; that the deer and the antelope no longer play. We’ll realize that the cowboy is dead, whether we like it or not. And that the murderer was us all along.