Saturday, August 1, 2015



Spring, the release of Minnesota ice and snow, revealing a battered lawn and battered steps in front of the house. Always loving the wrong woman. The mayor’s wife sleeping tousled by his side—she’s the wrong woman tonight in this dream? Innocent, distant, tucked in where she belongs. Unreachable. And then that last line about Jews being better than us. Surreal dream elements tucked against one another, arranged like random mementos in the poem’s lockbox. One could read the melting grip of winter as a metaphor for the speaker’s healing—revealing wreckage, sure, but unthawed and now repairable. Pining for uninterested, taboo women is a frozen, fruitless preoccupation. The point of feelings like this is that our control over them is limited. There is some, but it gets overwhelmed easily. Keep it to yourself and it passes. Control your behavior, that’s all, which isn’t entirely at our control either, but much more than our feelings. Feel what you need to and let the feelings come and go like breezes hot and chilly, dream it out, keep the mask of your persona orthodox and presentable and coherent on the outside. If you’re a confessional poet, you write it and publish it, private breezes sculpted into public forms, like a photograph snapped mid-sneeze. Someone asked to set up his apparatus and take a photo of Crazy Horse, the Sioux leader, the famed and feared warrior. “Would you imprison my shadow?” We had just one, now a precious, miraculous second, photo of Emily Dickinson. How much more valuable are those two pictures than the avalanche of film and digital imagery we produce now? My son is a good guy, and was a good kid. We have—literally—thousands and thousands of images of him, tucked in boxes in the closet, stored in our laptops, on tiny chip cards that click into our cameras, that wind up forgotten amidst the loose change, paper clips, fragments of paper, dust bunnies, and lint balls under the bookshelves, kicked under the bed with the slippers and that other sock we can’t find. We will never look at most of them again. We have just as many of ourselves, our parents, our cats. Each one a Dream Song, snapped and judged once, then flipped into boxes, under the bed, numbered and lined up in a folder of stored electronic files. Each image imprisoning momentary shadows, boxing up fragments of our spirits. Had we one image of Crazy Horse, framed and revered by every Lakota, and every Lakota enemy forced into admiration by the warrior’s wisdom and desperate ferocity, then he would be ours to arrange. We could hang him on the wall, or behind history’s bars, or tuck him in a box. Without that, he remains free. Crazy Horse made the right call. Every snapshot jails a bit of our time, but with multiplication, the bars become more and more fragile, more diaphanous and thin, so rather than weighing us down they follow in the breeze of our passing like feathers sucked forward and held in the slipstream of a truck. Our lives are no longer integral and solid, because we need the flurry of images to define them. Our lives are like clouds of weightless, imprisoned shadows, taking form like dust in a tornado, each microscopic particle a separate dream-moment. We’re part of this planet and will never leave it, but we’re abandoning our old-fashioned solid selves, boulders in a field of boulders, obsessed now with crushing ourselves into finer and finer particles—sand, then dust, then mist, then a gas—and we mix into the broad, light atmosphere, focused and weighty as cirrus clouds.

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