My travels with Huginn and Muninn

My travels with Huginn and Muninn

Odin on his horse Sleipnier. His ravens, Huginn and Muninn, at his side. Artist: Gerhard Munthe (1849-1929)Today I am officially announcing that the title of my book in progress, formerly titled digital gothic: a spellbook for the new sorcerer, has been claimed by its rightful muses and will now be titled “Huginn & Muninn: a digital gothic.”

I also want to tell you a strange little story about how this book has come into being over the past two years. I will let you decide what to make of it, but I believe, personally, that the exhausting adventure/struggle that is writing a book is not merely a personal act. I think it’s a collusion, and I don’t think you necessarily get to choose who hijacks you and insists you tell their story.

In the case of this book, my hijackers (or guides as I like to call them), are Huginn & Muninn. Never heard of them? Neither had I. In Norse mythology, they are a pair of ravens that accompany the god Odin. They fly out into the world(s) and bring back news of what they have seen.  Their names translate to “thought” (Huginn) and “mind” or “memory” (Muninn). Odin’s relationship with these ravens is described in Scandinavian poetry from before and up to the 13th century including the Prose Edda, Poetic Edda, the Heimskringla saga, and in the work of a group of Icelandic poets called the skalds. I have not read any of these works, nor did I know about Odin being associated with ravens before they came to me in a dream. Though I have to admit I can relate in a very strong way to this image of a skald, composing poetry in chains after being captured by King Óláfr Haraldsson.

Bersi Skáldtorfuson composing poetry while in chains after being captured by King Óláfr Haraldsson.Not to be melodramatic about it, but being chained by the neck is an apt depiction of the internal landscape of most poets. This is why we cannot handle our liquor and why people tend to avoid our taste in books and movies.

So yes, in case it slipped by you where I tried to hide it at the end of paragraph 3 above, I was approached by Huginn & Muninn in a dream. At the time, I knew nothing of who they were. You see, I have had a lifelong obsession with ravens. For my 12th birthday I had a raven tattooed across my left arm, shoulder, and back. (FYI: Every birthday has been my 12th birthday since I turned 12.) So ravens were not an unknown subject to me. I know the connotations Poe has given them, I know that they are scavengers, I know that their intelligence is on par with a dog’s (really a human’s but we don’t like to admit to these things), and that ravens live in family groups and can live for 70 years. In myth I was aware of raven as a trickster god, and in the Northwest native traditions is seen as a prometheus figure, having stolen the sun and brought it down to give warmth and light to human beings.

A Nunivak Cup'ig man with raven maskette. The raven (Cup'ig tulukarug) is Ellam Cua or Creator god in the Cup’ig mythologyThen something happened.  I was out walking at night. I was listening, for the very first time, to Virtual Boy’s Mass.  I began to see things in my head, to connect internally to a time when I slipped in and out of such “seeing” quite easily- my early teens and twenties. A time when the plasticity of reality was still very much accessible to me. We are all magicians when we are young, but we don’t know it because we don’t know that reality actually solidifies as you get older. We don’t even have a way of understanding what the hell that means until it’s already happening. Before you think I am waxing sentimental, let me clarify: youth is not some precious, innocent state. I’m not forgetting the self-centeredness, short-sightedness, vanity, or naivety that are all rampant during that time, but I was remembering the  effortless and absolute belief I had at a younger age that I could apparently influence the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces, which happens to be the first definition of magic. I think most teens and people in their early twenties think in that rational-magical way. It’s how new things happen.

The thought that came to me, and the memory that immediately followed, was that I had once known how to travel into other worlds. Not the ill-advised and oft-regretted world of vodka shots. Not the blank room full of cats-in-hats behind the TV or inside the endless hypertrails of the internetz, but that portal that opens when you close your eyes and listen to certain kinds of music.

** I would like to note here, that the thought came to me, and then the memory followed. Odin’s ravens, remember, are called Huginn (thought) and Munnin (memory). Hindsight is interesting, isn’t it? Huginn and Muninn sit on Odin's shoulders in an illustration from an 18th century Icelandic manuscript

I credit my mother for this revelation about music as a door to other worlds. When I was about nine or ten years old, she once told me to lie on the floor and close my eyes and listen to Wagner’s Ride of the Valkries, and wait for pictures to come into my mind. “What do you see?” she asked me.

At first I saw the blood vessels in my eyelids, and then the phosphenes that swirl and houndstooth in flexing patterns behind your eyes when you are still “looking” but can’t see. And then I saw a bird… a white bird being chased through a storm by a black bird. I saw a battlefield. A war. All of it unfolding, happening as I watched. Not a thought, not a memory… just happening. Closing my eyes and entering that music was like stepping off the edge of the outside world into an equally vast inside world. This inside world, the one accessible through music, was unlike the world of dreams, or the world of deliberate imagining… it took me with it where it was going, not where I directed it. I did not know then that this simple act- to let go of the self and travel in this way- is the heart of the creative process. Disappearing the self is what all creative acts require, and  ironically, it becomes more and more difficult to do this the more your “self” accumulates of the daily world.

We spend so much time arriving in and occupying our bodies. It’s all we think about. No wonder we get trapped. And the trick of the writer, unlike the dreamer, is to walk the slippery, crazy edge between this world and all the others– because the whole point, dear reader, is to bring things back….. for you.Odin enthroned with weapons, wolves and ravens.

So that night, walking through Golden Gate Park and listing to music in the dark, I began to see a vision in my head of a record spinning. And the record– this tight spiral line on a hard piece of stamped vinyl– was a code. If you have the right needle, that line becomes a song. Without it… you might go your whole life not knowing what that round piece of unremarkable plastic held– an entrance to another world. That night I went home and wrote: a magical circle, the first poem of the book. And then that night I had a dream that I was inside a giant Victorian house that suddenly ripped it’s foundations out of the ground, spread its eaves and took off into the sky. I was standing in the window, holding on for dear life and watching all the other houses in the city straining to get loose and take off. We entered a fogbank, and I couldn’t see anything but vague lights, and then I heard a very distinct sound next to me… feathers being blown in the wind. That’s when I saw the two ravens– one was surrounded by a cloud of black fire, and the other had wings entirely composed of hollow flutes that made chords and tones and music as it flew. They were both hanging in the air just outside the window, guiding the house out of the fog. When we emerged, we were over the Golden Gate Bridge, and heading for the open sea, only I wasn’t in the house anymore. I was a third raven. When I looked back, the house was still flying along, dodging in and out of the support cables of the bridge, along with some other houses. Through the windows, I could see people asleep in their beds, with no idea what was going on.

That dream gave me the seeds of the poems a candle, waking the dead, and gate crashing. It also made me want, more than anything, to get back in that dream. To be able to follow the ravens wherever it was they were going.

KutkhIf you think I sound nuts, consider this: do you dream? How often are you able to remember your dreams? How often do you remember the dream just as you were waking up, but then lost it because you had another thought/started worrying about something you had to do/remembered you forgot to buy milk… and “poof” can’t remember the dream. Only that it was something strange, or important, or disturbing, or wonderful. You might grope for a few moments, trying to get it back, but the harder you try, the further it slips away. Sometimes you remember them, but when you speak them aloud or write them down… it is impossible to get across the sensation of significance in them. Sure, some dreams are just the regular old processing of anxiety and worry… or bits reassembled in a new and hilarious way. I had a dream, for example, that I was promoted to a new position in my job, they threw a big party for me, then when I got the piece of paper with my new job title on it, I discovered that I had been “promoted” to the job I already have. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the underlying feelings that brought on that Dilbert-esque dream. I’m not talking about those sorts of dreams… I’m talking about the ones that come every once in awhile. The ones that are not like dreams at all, but travels.

I’m here to tell you something: they are travels. You can go or not go… you can dismiss them and they will fade. Or you can pay attention, and dig deeper, and maybe go into territory you didn’t know existed. It’s just like the thread of song on the vinyl record. You would never think a piece of plastic could contain a song, just like you’d never think a dream could contain another world.

We are taught, at least in the culture I was raised in, that conscious control of our thoughts, actions, lives… deliberate decision-making with a very specific, intellectual part of the brain, is the highest form of self-control. The problem with this is that “doing” and “thinking” aren’t the same at all. I would even argue that you can’t really successfully do them at the same time. Doing is flow, and when you think “about” flow, you lose it. Creativity is very similar: it is the conscious act of relinquishing your self-consciousness. It is somewhere between dream and awake. The hard part is trusting it, and going with it. You can’t always dream yourself back into the dream… but once the ravens have appeared, you don’t really need to dream them anymore. That’s when you can sit down and enter the music, enter the creative headspace, and wait for them to appear… Corvus_corax_arizona

I’m nothing if not curious, but I also rely heavily in my writing, on looking up things. If an idea appears in my work, I’m off to wikipedia, (Jung’s collective unconscious made manifest) to find out what people say about it. No subject is safe– physics, otters, politics, molecules– it’s all part of the continuum, and it’s all stuff to know and steal language from. So of course, I went looking into the ravens… and I found Huginn & Muninn, (or they found me).  Check out what the page has to say about theories of their origin:

Theories

A modern reconstruction of the Raven Banner

Scholars have linked Odin’s relation to Huginn and Muninn to shamanic practice. John Lindow relates Odin’s ability to send his “thought” (Huginn) and “mind” (Muninn) to the trance-state journey of shamans. Lindow says the Grímnismál stanza where Odin worries about the return of Huginn and Muninn “would be consistent with the danger that the shaman faces on the trance-state journey.”[20]

Rudolf Simek is critical of the approach, stating that “attempts have been made to interpret Odin’s ravens as a personification of the god’s intellectual powers, but this can only be assumed from the names Huginn and Muninn themselves which were unlikely to have been invented much before the 9th or 10th centuries” yet that the two ravens, as Odin’s companions, appear to derive from much earlier times.[11] Instead, Simek connects Huginn and Muninn with wider raven symbolism in the Germanic world, including the Raven Banner (described in English chronicles and Scandinavian sagas), a banner which was woven in a method that allowed it, when fluttering in the wind, to appear as if the raven depicted upon it was beating its wings.[11]

Anthony Winterbourne connects Huginn and Muninn to the Norse concepts of the fylgja—a concept with three characteristics; shape-shifting abilities, good fortune, and the guardian spirit—and the hamingja—the ghostly double of a person that may appear in the form of an animal. Winterbourne states that “The shaman’s journey through the different parts of the cosmos is symbolized by the hamingja concept of the shape-shifting soul, and gains another symbolic dimension for the Norse soul in the account of Oðin’s ravens, Huginn and Muninn.”[21] In response to Simek’s criticism of attempts to interpret the ravens “philosophically”, Winterbourne says that “such speculations […] simply strengthen the conceptual significance made plausible by other features of the mythology” and that the names Huginn and Muninn “demand more explanation than is usually provided.”[21]

So…. I thought… perhaps I am a little nuts. But I am clearly not the first poet to have been hijacked by the ravens of thought and memory… so who am I to break with tradition?

Huginn & Muninn by Guy HobbsThere is also something else: two years ago when I started writing this book, a google search of Huginn & Muninn revealed little more than a wikipedia page, and a few scattered pages on folklore. In the ensuing time, they have invaded the consciousness of artists all over the world. Try an image search of their names. Suddenly, I am not the only one dreaming about these ravens.

I can only hope I am up to the home stretch… of pushing through the daily grind to meet them, and to relay back this story that I’m stealing? borrowing? witnessing? in these other worlds. I know it will not let me go until I do… and frankly, I don’t want to let go of it either. It feels good to be able, finally, to fly in this way I always knew I could.

Huginn and Muninn: a digital gothic (part 9- remembering)

Huginn and Muninn: a digital gothic (part 9- remembering)

Part 9: remembering.  [Playlist: Tool, Lateralus]

 

as in all transitions from light to dark
at first there seems nothing but dark
this is the moment when most turn back

and so the dark remains
a threshold
beyond which
every fear fattens on shadows
                                                                                                                                                           

                                                            mind your step

he says, opening a hatch in the deck
taking my hand as we descend
down and left
down and down again and always left
until I am dizzy with twist
and my head folds into a dive
toward my left shoulder

nothing in any direction
but heavy air and each
solid step rising to meet
the foot reaching

faster               his voice distant            dim
down and left                rough fingers
drag an arm that must be mine

though it seems distinctly

down and
left

                                                            of me
this floating head
or headless knowing

sense not pulled down to an object but
everywhere at once             trying to condense

amid a rising scent of sun heating
blacktop after  heavy rain

down and
left

of strings of days plucked
before              and too soon left yet                 never reaching

chords             when stings of yellow    pink and pinker
deeping down               grow long and lax

and redshift left
of light through eyelids to
a dive                           down and left toward

a blinding line of bright
the strip of light beneath a door

whoa. steady. 

he steps into a sideways room
pressing my head gently to his chest

the walls continue to distort and twist
though easing with each of his heart’s pulses
the cyclic heeling
wallows slowly back to true

though my body
seems not yet to have returned to feeling

and the sunlight makes no sense
we should be deep below decks

look there
he says

his finger points into                                                      
the gently swaying surface
of a mirror

where a plucked and battered raven gazes
from the folds of a coat             and his hand reaches down
and left to extract me

 

read part 10

back to table of contents

Huginn and Muninn: a digital gothic (part 2- waking the dead)

Huginn and Muninn: a digital gothic (part 2- waking the dead)

Part 2: waking the dead.  [Playlist: Bassnectar, Timestretch (West Coast Lo Fi Remix)]

 

dear magician              take a lesson from the raven:
you bear the dead with you everywhere

you needn’t plant a stone
you needn’t carve up your arms

the scent of her lost cologne is trapped in your coils
his good sweat whuffs up from inside the jacket of form

the longer you travel                  the more backseat drivers                     the more
histories                                                take a lesson from the raven:

who wrests blood feathers from the meat of memory
and from dead weight               soars on hollow bones

transforming the dead into the neutral buoyancy of everywhen
and getting totally high off the overlapping particulars:

raven street view is a see-through                      into each and every room
in your haunted mansion:

here a girl who wore thigh-high docs
she nicknamed bum kickers came to
live in a railroad flat above a dim set
of stairs above the lucky horseshoe
coffee shop: her room was 5 X 12
but the 12 was vertical

one of many hidden pockets beneath
the skirts of the painted lady, a space
at once a fainting room, a walk-in closet
knicknack storage, the last hitching post
for a boy who rode his horse dead to rights
right through the ceiling, leaving his body
(which could not sneak between the lattice
of matter) rucked amongst the dirty sheets

a source of much distress to the landlord
who dead reckons his 400 crusts a month
from the holey pockets of dreamers who’ve
stumbled or washed up or clawed their way
back from the dead toward phoenix city out
of the head-scramble of the fog, to find

a non-euclidean punk-rock wardrobe to
a dimension where whole teams of mules
along with their carts, whole brigs and barques can disappear beneath the mud and still go on sailing beneath the feet of bankers the layers of concrete no tomb but super conductor of a vessel that flickers from
form to form between frames

now a seagoing vessel
now a cable car

now a wave organ built of

grave markers (because
this place has no room
[no room!] for what is
not able or willing to

be caught dead yet

keep up jump in hold on
the light rail doors are
closing the destroyer must
navigate precisely on

the right tide to eke

its massy bulk beneath
the bridge [a gate])

into and out of a narnia that smells to some
like an odorless cala lily and to others like
dead men’s shoes                      but to most
like a dry-erase marker, a neuromantic sting
at the back of the throat like mourning

smokes on a piss-splashed stoop
[our painted lady’s boots] where
a 24-year-old perfectly willing to
be caught dead will moniker himself
bucky or goon or emperor and languishes
[behind blackout curtains] [in the saloon]
while supplying snow/liquor/gold dust/
lattes/codexes to his kingdom of the dead

you can pay later but sit on his lap for awhile because
playing dead is a full-time occupation and brutal beauty
reigns forever in this garret: bread from dumpsters
peanut butter on plastic knives duct-taped shoes
stump-footed pigeons   sharpie hearts and daggers
inked in permanent marker on the thirsty skin

the inhabitants of the rooms forget
they are inside its rooms peering into
little rectangles of other buildings to
other rooms into           lcd boxes of
varying sizes all day which give the
illusion that they are not inside a room

which is the soul of mistaking dead time
for something dead                   for being
dead wrong about what’s always going to be
dead ahead

wait now          where’s the raven our conductress
it’s so easy to get lost

when one thing slides so neatly into the nest       when
years elapse while we’re in the air

just navigating the jamb from one
room to the next and meanwhile
the lucky horseshoe has burned and
all those walls where the dead were

letter     ringer    certain
doornail              dodo
neck up and waist down
in the water spit of and cut
broke and buried
easy drunk        gorgeous
rolling over

well it’s a dead giveaway:
they’ve knocked ‘em dead and
reopened as a wine bar

raven   where’s the chicken exit?
the lamp post in the snowy wood
get me out of these chambers or at least
meet me halfway with a psychic map

I’m dead serious

dear magician this is not a beanstalk
it’s a metallic breath                  bitter aspirin under the tongue    it’s a room so small
you can stand in the middle

and touch five of its six futures

it’s an open window the blind soul can’t find
hovering, transparent, on updrafts

as it bumps the ceiling                           and ricochets the walls
it’s your work ahead of you

which starts at what everybody takes to be the dead end
and is really

a nimble climb up a pilfered ladder

straight up and out of sight

 

read part 3
back to table of contents

Pushcart Prize Nomination

Pushcart Prize Nomination

Wow… I am ecstatic to announce that Wrecked, a piece from a digital gothic, my book in progress, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize by the folks at Quiet Lightning.

This is a huge honor, particularly coming from Evan Karp and the crew at Quiet Lightning, who have championed writing and public readings tirelessly, enthusiastically, and with punk-rock flair for the last three years. Please check out the announcement of the Pushcart Nominees, their current submission guidelines, and their recent and upcoming shows here.

Quiet-Lightning-@-The-Lab

 

lj moore performing “wrecked” at quiet lightning litquake show

lj moore performing “wrecked” at quiet lightning litquake show

San Francisco, California
October 19, 2012
236 days until Arctic Circle journey

photo by Sean Gabriel McClellandOn October 8, 2012 I was given the honor of performing “wrecked,” a piece from digital gothic, my book in progress, at the Quiet Lightning Litquake show inside the conservatory of flowers alongside an amazing group of readers. Please check out the video, and if you’d like to read along, here is the text.

If you don’t know about Quiet Lightning, now is my chance to tell you about a literary rennaissance that is taking place in San Francisco. Quiet Lightning is a monthly reading series with an uncommon format: submission is free, entries are always judged blind (meaning new writers and estabished writers all have equal opportunity to be accepted, because the judging is based on the merit of the work and not the name on it), and here’s the amazing part: all of the accepted work for each month’s show is published in a book, Sparkle & Blink, featuring cover art by a local artist. These books are available at the corresponding show, so the writers get published, and the audience can read along and take home a copy of the amazingness they have just experienced.

If that weren’t enough, the format of the reading is also unique: each reader gets 5 minutes. No banter and no introductions are allowed. It is a literary “mix tape” where the focus is not on the writers, but on the writing itself. Judging by the growing popularity and dedicated base of returning fans of this reading series, this format works.

Quiet Lightning is driven by volunteers, and brings new voices and new visions to the ears of new audiences. For new writers, getting your work seen and heard is nearly impossible (and expensive!). The norm in literary publishing today is contest and fee-based. Very few magazines can afford the staff to fairly evaluate submissions, so unless they are tied to a university, or are helmed by a trust-fund heir, many have resorted to only accepting submissions when they offer a contest, which usually costs $15 to $25 to enter. Most literary journals are also extremely specialized, so matching your work to their described aesthetic can feel like throwing spaghetti at the ceiling.

Getting your work heard can be equally intimidating and demoralizing: many reading series are based on a “featured” reader format with an open mic afterward. People come to see the headliner, and then either leave, or stay to chat while the open mic readers try to make themselves heard. It’s hard enough to get up there in front of everyone, but when it feels like no one gives a shit… well that’s just shitty.

Quiet Lightning’s answer to this has been a genius idea straight from the heart: offer a fair judging process, publish the writers, and give them a chance to be heard in person. And do this every month. The generosity of everyone involved is mind-blowing. And so is the work you are going to hear when you check it out for yourself.

And if you can’t come in person? Every show is recorded and shared FREE online. So if you live in Svalbard, or Oakland, or Detroit, or Amsterdam, or wherever you hail from, come hang out in San Francisco and hear what we’re writing about.

Huginn and Muninn: a digital gothic (part 7- the dangling yarn)

Huginn and Muninn: a digital gothic (part 7- the dangling yarn)

Part 7: the dangling yarn. Playlist: [Playlist: Glitch Mob, A Dream Within a Dream]

tell the day we’re nowhere bound
by way of what was lost between
cross-threaded time like some machine
that eats its end to grow its tale;

with one last day to chase that sound
to gaze behind the weary night
to feel my wings like phantom sight
to fly to die to flash to sail;

tell the night we’re winding down
on one last shore a wreck to find;
tell the wind we’re lost behind
the warp the woof  the weft the veil

and breathed it in          and screamed it out
and burst apart             and still you cling
and so you rise             and now you sky
and sea                         and light

and turn and flap
and flick and fly
and cry and bite

and gasp

and twist and thrash with claws and beak
what prize is this, what drowning gift
I’ve hooked upon our sounding line
and rescued from the nick of death

or has it baited  us      to call us back
to arid dreams             themselves a sea
this bird as birdlike as our sailless hulk
was once upon a breeze          a ship

a young-old man with blazing hair
cradles the snarl of rope and flesh
fixes     in his fog-smoke eye
the two dark answers blinking back

a nearly drowned and naked bird
with ragged holes where wings should be?
what sorry work was made of thee
what crude and grim interpretation
of subtler songs as shift and slip

just as gruff voice                      and grizzled beard
mismatch his freckled young man’s face
itself at odds with the scar that winds
a white territory-border that divides
a blinded eye from one that sees

and stares and glares
and squints      and swears
and hears the poet’s
murdering gears!         authoress!

he barks

t’was you who nearly killed the bird
that made the breeze to blow
who stripped our sails and stopped the wind
who chewed off  wings and swallowed word
and snuffed the growing of the world

his words carry, bell-like           bending
round the mast

and aether-dragging
downward through the knotholed decks

a cry dopplering to groan          and all that’s massy

with his dropping pitch
yields up its phase

gone see-through          while
the things of sound and air
exchange their ghostly lightness

for a standing wave

which slaps and rolls into the lungs and hearts
of all the dreamers within reach

and rattles guts and tuning forks their bones

and draws us up                       up                                                                    to answer

by scruff, or snout, or belly
whether live or dead
dreamt or dreamer

both and neither

including me

dragged full-bodied
from the cubbyhole of never never mind
to feel the hot-nosed press against my legs
hooves and toes            callus-padded claws
trampling my feet

awash in the crowded waft
of badger mean

and mousy meek and
mutty cringe and
mantis strange               and all of equal brute and wit

until the woodwork sags beneath
a brindled crew of dark and light

all staring up into my face

all half-starved for
naught but an age of
phantom cat’s paws batting at
our stays          while we drift unmoored
asleep

the deep end of dream
that’s where I am

she thinks

she thinks
wait     wait

yes       the point of view has changed
the lines no longer yours
to weave and splice                                           .

no no   I’ve seen the spiders
spinning meaning as they go
I just report
I just   

                                                                                   
read from left to right or up to down
cast  spells        borrow others’ works
steal the sun and claim to have invented light?

no  no
follow the dream
follow the birds that showed me the gate                   

                                                                                    birds. birds? there were two

yes
one was blind and made of song

                                                                                    a black flame

            the other
she followed the lure

no        girl       no
you

called thought and memory from their fog
then let them fly apart

we would not be speaking now
if you hadn’t stolen through the wall

told time a new dream
unanchored death from his wreck

stripped thought of flight
and put the flame of memory out


hang no albatross around my neck!
how can I kill immortal birds?

these are merely words            and
I tell waking time by

looking where she points her hands
like any other mortal who keeps watch

                                    but in dream

                                    we are merely open sails
that catch        and      ride                                                     
and so reveal
her movement

                        which neither starts nor ends
but is with storm         with cloud                  

                                                with force                               

                                                                                               

of salve or speed                                                                     in breeze or gale
in draft or squall                                                                     lingers or appears
punishes by tempest                or                                                         devastates

with endless calm                                 

or mutters dry leaves              in not-quite-words
then shrieks  in the eaves       

                                                                                                and you               eavesdrop
                                                                                                                          thief

stories insist
as does sleep               hell, I’m dreaming now!

your voice is just another tale  demanding
listen!              translate!

botched. garbled

only partly heard         through shifting walls!


those muffled gifts
in astral language
so crystalline in the grasp of dream
common into mud in the grip of word

and what makes it back into the wake
must still survive a silent roar
electric thoughts connected
fingertip to fingertip               mind to mind
voices pass

                        through tables             walls               my bones
a pseudonoise that circumscribes

a maelstrom of sameness
one shrieking pitch      that equalizes
decapitation         hunger             sex       lost babies
I cannot find my bearings
in a wind that blows all pitches at once
from all directions                 

            my sail is ink
where I invent nothing  and sail nowhere
when anyone can tap
a glowing word on a screen
and transport to another world
awake              without a dream

dream is nothing
symbols in a book          at worst
a simple cipher for the little darknesses we fear
a puppet stage on which we practice dying
or at best

fly        escape             forget               become unreal
so tell me

how can I steal anything of value
from a lie

girl, girl when will you learn
there is no practice        only life

and dream is not escape or lie

have you ever tried to stay awake?
until delirium removes the sense

and dream invades                                                                  it is true            death is real

you will die

the only thing immortal is the tale
and tale is wind

you are             the sail              the bird
and word is all       the wind is

cast the nets!

he shouts
stumbling aft toward the hatch
to the watching crew he says 

find her!

and presses flat against the helm
as nose and tooth        dive madly in a ball of fur
through scupperholes into the bilge

or labor sloth-by-sloth into the yards
while one dog, overwhelmed
goes dervishing around the deck

the ship goes quiet      as all the rest
answer and depart to crawl and trawl
and home                    and scent and sense  and search

all but a hawk that lights upon the starboard rail
and a soft gray toad emerging from the binnacle

will you also help?

he asks
but the hawk has already plunged
into the greening waves

and the toad climbs skyward into secret crevices
that vein the air in silver fire

cradling the weightless bird
he locks his damaged eye on mine

you, poet…
come below

read part 8

back to table of contents

Huginn and Muninn: a digital gothic (part 6- wrecked)

Huginn and Muninn: a digital gothic (part 6- wrecked)

Part 6: wrecked: [Playlist: Atha, Voices in the Stratosphere]

adrift

in deathsleep

      in skycavern

          a ship

unfolds from deepest black:

femur masts bear
ulna spars lashed crosswise by glistening coils
festooned in ragged dregs of cloth that
sleek and luff in silent draughts

she sails
illumined by a pale blue flame
that dyes the shrouds:

aurora borealis
a solar wind aglow in death collisions
of magnetic dust

or                     noctiluca scintillans
a host of tiny animals
whose lantern organs light a liquid night:

scouts, drawn to your
foundering  pings

in the crow’s nest the vampire squid
flash their photophores
ghost crabs go barber-poling deckwards
and all that was camouflaged as wreck                  inhales
a swim sac full of brine                                               a fleshy embrace

of cuttlefish and eels
disguised as slack tatters                                          fatten

into a living interlocked rigging
propelling this vessel on dissolved wind

         billows of squidink

boil to port and starboard                       swarms of ice-blue pinpoint animals
churn in a wake of unhinged stars:

a sorcerer stands behind the fiddlehead
on his shoulder
an anglerfish casts

her glowing yellow lure
into the blackness

hung to

reel you back from        wandering the
nowhere in your nothing

the sorcerer

         reaches with both hands to fold your wings against your chest
and gathers you into his coat
into a soft nest built amongst his empty ribs

 

            heed the yarn             he says
but mind the toothy maw
behind the watchlight                        

in answer

the mizzen topsail                      uncloaks:
a giant manta    kites in slow spirals downward through the forestays

to offer             a wide white ventral surface
onto which the anglerfish aims her lure:

5          4          3          2          1
projects                        and then

fade in through murk:
the sea floor      empty               featureless

a stirring in the foreground
clouds of sediment        rise into a bed of swollen pulp
mounding, shivering into                        deadfall backwarding

                    into half-digested hulk
right-angles drawn in pale, lifeless crusts

of brainworm and gooseneck                seafan skeletons
a graveyard of hard reminders adhering                         into ship shape

a scaffold on which now burgeons an undeathing:
decks unsplinter            cracked halves of hull
swing to like a closing clamshell             cohering into seamless ellipse

two horizontal lines appear in the debris
bulked degree by degree by aggregating matter

until masts abloom in algal furs
lever upward into perpendicular bonds

and spars condense from drifts of silt
javelining true                            to crosstrees and yards
decked out in a bunting of wilted jelly

that rallies into orange anemones, violet nudibranchs,
soft life hungered forth from bones

a palace of innocence
recomposed of her route reversing

filter-feeders vomiting gusts of gorge
great fish coughing chunks of fins and scales

which implode to live silvery streaks
and spasm off into the choke

of eel grasses full lush then battening down and reefing in
and       on        and on  and                                less and less

until a trapped whisper
a mayday cry

                  appears from above
a bubble descending toward the wreck
shrinking as it speeds

              to the empty throat of that
lost wax lodge of bones
the sorcerer emerging from his drowning

                               his barren hand casting
from the pocket of his seaworm-eaten coat
a sodden mess congealing into tightly creased papers
from which unknots a twine garland

that reeves itself through the cathead
and steeves the groaning timbers of the bowsprit

             and the wreck begins to lift
answering the pull of rumor

on an anchor line reeling upward

one trembling string
one spider silk
one sounding line
one thread of tale

the yarn that always dangles:

               (we are deep-shifted now
spun into the spiral of music

               gone gate crashing with ravens

                                          shuffled our coil
on a deathtrip
stripped to
a stray signal
picked up by ghost ship
rescued
by death itself

             who builds a nest
of an empty chest
and makes of us
a heart

 

together we mind the toothy maw
projected by the light of a lure
on a manta belly
the flick in which all present company
myself included
star
)

says death, our sorcerer

just as the last frame sticks and rips
and the projection on the manta’s belly  flips     flips      flips

with a sound like something being wound up:

a pocket watch                        a music box
a windlass                                 weighing-in the bower
a bird’s heart                            racing in a ribbed locker

with each click and beat a glossy black feather is plucked
from your body and sucked straight up his windpipe

erupting from his mouth             and promptly swallowed
by the waiting anglerfish                        who smiles smiles

it’s all above board                  death says
watching the thing                  yet trapped in the watch
until
you arrived                      my windfall

he unfolds one of those crisp papers clutched in his fist
holds it tight to his chest so you can read:

When lost or unsure of your position, ships shall release a caged crow.
The crow will fly straight towards the nearest land, thus giving the
vessel some sort of a navigational fix.
         

 

come, lend me your wings death says
and lets go his charts
casting himself                  overboard

the waveson treasures of his hold
spill up toward the light:

pearls worn down to grains of sand
gemstones roughing back to rocks

glass bottles burst to living dust
a great shudder wracks the strake                     treenails squeal free of the ship’s planks
and the hull distintegrates in spinning trunnels

among the dreck           his cap             his coat
his skull          and two femurs              form, briefly
a waving jolly roger

lost from view as the ribcage sinks                     with you inside
every last feather tornadoed loose

that damned anglerfish following behind
and gulping down everything

until with a harsh shake and a push
she grasps the cage itself
and cracks you loose
bites off each of your plucked wings
and glutted, sinks slowly:
a shrinking yellow glow in the undernight

            what’s left of the ship                             pitchpoles                           and breaks apart

leaving a wake

of fractured ribs

a wrecked raven

and a choice:

the dangling yarn


the sinking lure

back to table of contents