Friday, January 6, 2012

How Do You Like Your Blue-Eyed Girl, Mister Death?

So, one of the things that characterizes me, for which this project is probably going to end up being a big outlet, is my sometimes insane ability to make connections. Everyday objects, concepts, ideas, passages of writing, and things people say to me... these can all be logged away in my brain as something quite a bit different than the intent, or the actual meaning. I am full of personal associations and patterns and motifs, and I can ascribe them to almost anything. It's like if you think you're being stalked by a certain number, you start seeing it everywhere. I'm aware of how false this is... how much it is a product of my obsessively pattern-seeking mind. This is very similar to the way I read tarot cards, as it happens: the cards start to take on whole new meanings as I associate them with newer and different things, until "Death" no longer means anything but my growth as an individual and as an artist, particularly within this project, and "Knight of Swords" no longer means anything but "me."*

(*The Knight of Swords is depicted as a woman in the deck I use, and the meaning given is a little bit of a departure from the traditional one... it's sort of about calculation and strategy, and I've turned that into a message about my intellectual side. But that's another story for a later time.)

When I get enough of these symbols and keywords going, I start to construct whole messages for myself until my weeks become thematic, all converging on these ideas, which I may or may not have shoehorned into place. Lots of times people can't follow me when I go on these tangents. Sometimes saying things like "it reminds me of ___" makes people sort of tilt their heads at me and squint a little, trying to follow my particular brand of logic. I remember distinctly that one of the essay-writing critiques I got most often from all my professors in college was related to how they couldn't follow the jumps I'd made, that I had to explain myself further. I guess I don't really have the patience for it. I play it fast and loose, gliding over this myriad of unrelated references with this beautiful big picture in mind, unable to really clarify it for anyone else. When I ascribe personal significance to something, or a series of things, it really just becomes my own language of symbols and meanings. It's hard to explain, but I'll try to give an example.

Let me start with a relatively simple word: Yes. Yes, or one of its variants, gets used multiple times on a daily basis. Generally, conversationally, it's meaningless. But there are occasions, when it occurs in poetry, where it becomes really important to me.

The first time I noted the significance of Yes came, perhaps predictably, from James Joyce's Ulysses. This is a monstrosity of a classic work of literature that I'm slightly ashamed to admit I still haven't read, though it's definitely on the docket for 2012. My familiarity with it comes from a play I saw at college, more of a performance really, called Drunkards Walk. It wasn't strictly written by anyone so much as it was created by the director and the ensemble, which included a number of my friends. It was a highly postmodern piece, drawing from sources that included Ulysses, Spanish telenovellas, and the 2004 Democratic National Convention. It's sort of impossible to explain, and I won't try. The point is, they quoted a great deal from Mr. Joyce's large book, and pulled from the very famous final passage, one of eight massive run-on sentences, that famously closes with "yes I said yes I will Yes."

I don't know about you, but holy god that's beautiful. Ever since encountering it I've tried to mimic or replicate it in my writing countless times. And I've started to sense it elsewhere.

There's a poem by James Broughton called Wondrous the Merge, which is one of the most extremely homoerotic things I've ever read, and there's a verse that goes:

until I cried out 
until I cried      
    I am   Yes
           I am   your Yes
                      I am   I am   your
                    Yes   Yes   Yes

And this sort of stream-of-consciousness feel, both Joyce and Broughton trying to capture the sense of an orgasm, has started to crop up elsewhere, in situations completely unrelated. The final sentence of Dave Eggers' memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is an entirely different situation, sentiment and intent, and there is no "yes" to be seen. But it doesn't matter; it also captures this rhythm, and it makes me feel the same way. I mimic that writing in the same way, trying endlessly to capture the style of a rambling, frantic mind, whatever the circumstances, whether it's sex or anger or madness.

When I think of one of these works, I think of the other. It's as simple as that. They have little in common, but I have created connections. And that is how I live life. It's sort of complicated.

Today, I've managed to tie all of them to my Death-adventures that I've been exploring in this blog. In my first vlog post, I quoted some from Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet, explaining that the line "And be glad and confident" was a terribly important line, and that I sort of adopted it as a message and a mantra. I told my dad about this, and he remembered, and bought me a wonderful book this past Christmas: A Year With Rilke, a sort of daily meditation book, where each day has a passage from Rilke's poetry or letters. I've been reading my daily excerpts alongside my daily tarot readings, and sometimes the combination of messages produces interesting results. Today's was about death, and it was also about Yes.

Death (I implore you to believe) is the true Yea-sayer.
It stands before eternity and says only: Yes.

Today's card was Death, yet again.

And this, finally, makes me think of another poem, by another poet.

Buffalo Bill's
       who used to
       ride a watersmooth-silver
and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat
he was a handsome man
                     and what i want to know is
how do you like your blueeyed boy
Mister Death

I like to think about the last line, there. I don't really think about what the poem means... my relation to poetry is very selfish, inwardly focused. I don't have a lot of experience with analyzing it. I just know how it makes me feel, and what it reminds me of. And that becomes important, even when it takes on a significance that is utterly unrelated to the poem itself.
These days, whenever I draw Death, I think about this poem, like a song getting stuck in my head. I have blue eyes myself. It's easy to get there.
e e cummings has a lot of things to say about death. He is also responsible for that beautiful phrase "for life's not a paragraph / And death i think is no parenthesis".
This could lead me down another proverbial rabbit hole of cummings and Dickinson and Donne, which would get further and further estranged from my points contained herein, but I think it's best to let that stay in my head, where I can try to make sense of it on my own, and try to capture it when I write about these things. Or anything.
Sorry this is so jumbled. There's sort of no other way to go about it, I guess.


  1. This was a really fascinating post! It's amazing, the power of the human mind to make connections and extrapolate meaning from different, unrelated things, and I think it's a great credit to you that you're able to derive such meaning and..I want to say pleasure but this is more about contemplation..depth? peace? Truth! out of this DeathYes pattern that keeps unfolding for you.

    Also sometimes it is a bit hard to follow how you arrive at conclusions, and this post was a wonderful illustration of the journey you take. Thanks for sharing it. :)

    (Also I am reminded of Syrio Forel: Not Today)

  2. you linked to Wondrous The Merge! Oh my goodness. I don't know why that makes me so excited, but it does, because I'd tried to find it on the internet before to no avail. Basically, yes.
    This is a good post. Also, hello!
    (also, this does not seem to want me to publish this comment. So I apologise if it ends up appearing a million times by accident.)

    1. Yeah, I remember it being hard to find! I don't know how I found it this time. Maybe someone just finally put it up, hah. It's so good!

      Hello! Thanks for reading. :)