Tag Archives: poetry

The Surface Tension between the Esoteric and the Exoteric

The esoteric is opaque by definition; yet the depths rarely mind it when the surfaces discount them.

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I subscribe to the notion that there are various levels to spiritual knowledge. As the alchemists put it: “as above, so below”— meaning, in a sense, that obvious facts correspond to inner truths.

For example: the leaves of a tree will brown with age and fall out. The same happens to the teeth of a man. These are, at a glance, entirely mundane facts. But on consideration (and with a pinch of poetic license) one could say that this speaks of how a person develops from a state of hunger and purity, and then moves to a state of decay and barrenness (the leaves being thought of as hungry for the sun, as teeth are for food). And in later life, a person returns to needing softer morsels, and all her showiness is stripped away, revealing the skeletal branches of her life’s choices.

In religion, too, there are levels of interpretation: the lowest being a blanket acceptance of the inherited laws. At a certain stage, the question arises: why? And what-for? There is a resistance to this leap from those who are content with the answer “because X said.” And here lies much of the “surface tension” between non-believers and believers—because experience of a self demands personal proof. Gurus and mystics arise to satisfy this demand, and due to the ambiguity of spiritual knowledge, many of the so-called wise are either willful charlatans, imbued with attractive charisma, or people who have received something personal, who try to communicate this to others. Some knowledge can be communicated in such a way that it is useful for others, and some knowledge can only be understood by personal revelation.

Esoteric knowledge (eso = inner), I believe, exists, but the exoteric (exo = outer) obscures it, and often corrupts, misinterprets, or outright discounts it.


Pretension VS. Ambition

(excerpted from A Resistance of Letters):

I find her seated in the pre-ordained bar, and say this place is a little loud. She agrees. We start to walk, find ourselves at the WTF Cafe. Funnily, I had worked here, long ago. For all of two weeks. The troll owner is not around—but over by the register I sense the residue of the prophetic homeless man, and I smirk. Rene asks what’s up. I ask her:

‘What is pretension?’

“Rhetorically?”

‘I want to hear your opinion.’

She leans back. Her asiatic eyes narrowing into bladed orbs. A couple weeks ago I took her out with Karl for drinks and he told her: “I want to fuck your mind.” She had got offended, and ranted about that later on, but in the moment she was quiet. She does have a voluptuous intellect, barely contained by her 90 pound South Seas frame. When she gets considerate, like now, I usually feel a tingling in my palms. She says:

“There’s the derogatory connotation, which muddies the meaning some. Like, you can be sincere and heart-felt, but if you have a developed aesthetic taste, then you will automatically be inventive with your expression of those emotions, and people might respond to that by calling you pretentious. Because they see your refinement as dishonesty—as a removal from “being real,” or as affectation. And so, by that yardstick, a poet is the epitome of pretension—his works being refined expressions of feeling.

“But that’s not real pretension. True pretension is acting as if you are something you are not, usually something better or higher or more ideal than yourself. And not only that, but you believe in that ideal self so much that you are out of touch, or deny, the lower or more “mundane” self. That is pretension: when your skill is disharmonious with the actualities expressed.

“Why do you ask?”

‘A homeless man once told me I would accomplish something… important. And I’ve always thought to believe him would be pretentious, but to doubt him would be foolish.’

“Well, I think I’m qualified to say you’ll be thought a fool regardless.”

‘Heh. You are, and right.’


“When chaos reigns upon the earth, maybe then I’ll have nothing to lose…”

Well, I absconded from posting yesterday’s recording here, due to its exceedingly personal and some might say explicit content. But the enterprising listener, I’m sure, will be able to hunt it down, because it’s out there.

Today’s the Seventh, and our recording is about shyness and loneliness and introversion.

Cave Hands

Every day I promise myself that I’ll try
Not to be so alone inside
My head which is where I prefer to be
And if the angels way up high
In their wide white sky
Decide to look down on me, then I
Hope that with their light
They’d send some peace

And I admit I’m dressed for the wrong solstice
Seasonal Dyslexia I suffer from
But that don’t explain
The tremble in my hands

And as the predator awaits with twitching tail
And salivating maw
Before the burrow of his scented prey
I fear the moment that I step outside
My patchwork slipshod shell that I’ll
Be set upon by internecine grief

And I admit most days I think nothing of
The outside world
I’m content to paint pictures of buffalo
Beside outlines of my hands

And as the wetted stone reveals its colors true
And yet when it dries
Appears to be a drab, unlustrous thing
I too abscond from drama’s wheel, and anger’s hold
That they wont magnify
The two or three realnesses in me

And I pray each night anonymously
That the Lord of Hosts won’t identify
This supplicant
Who hides his light
Between two tight-clasped hands

And at the End of Days
When Saints descend, and Chaos reigns
Upon the earth
Maybe then I’ll have nothing to lose
And I’ll step out from my cave, with what I’ve found
Held up high within my hands
And there declare the triumph of the peace

And I’ll search for you through the forests charred
And the harbors dried
And if I find you beneath a pile of
Broken toys
I’ll save you with these hands


“Where we can dance for an hour like a couple rainbows.”

MayDayChallenge, day Five: I return to my childish roots.

Hot potato

would you like a hot potato
before we leave for Chicago
sour cream and salt and pepper
loads of butter and some cheddar

in the oven we will bake it
in some foiled tin we’ll take it
to the plane across the city
over land and lake so pretty

and when we land in Chicago
we will unwrap our potato
in a park all filled with people
we will eat it until we go…

la, la, la, la
la, la-la, la…

& later on we’ll be feeling fine
we will slip through the crowd and take the red line
all the way north past Sheridan
to where the line turns purple up in Evanston
and then I’ll take us to a place that I know
where we can dance for an hour like a couple rainbows
and after that we’ll have a cup of tea
and find ourselves a couch and fall to sleep, Zzz, Zzz


“As if you needed to correct some small accident…”

Day Three of The MayDayChallenge: a troublesome duet sung by two strangers in a double bed.

Napalm and Cake

Yesterday,
with a tumult in her eye
She tried kissin’ me, and I don’t know rightly why
But I’m about to be
Caught up in the storm, she brews next to me

Keeping my body warm
In this double bed
That perhaps from too much drink
I had let her in
And I can’t allow her to think
She’s got the upper hand

But I can’t recall her name, and she’s lyin’ on
My arm that’s half asleep,
And my knighted pawn
Moves to the words she speaks
In the morning light
Her skin a sheath of down, and her heavy sighs
The wind before the storm that she clarifies:

“Yesturday,
When I saw you standin’ there at the dim-lit bar
With your wild, unkempt hair
Your eyes seemin’ far
As though set on something wrong
In a distant land
And I could tell your will was strong
In your heart & hands
As though you needed to correct
Some small accident
And if I would interject
myself in your plans
You’d change my insides for the better,
Here…”

And she moved her hand astride
My listenin’ ear
And she moved her body high
On my body, and
We unmade the day with that gruesome act
Of napalm and cake
And her hurricane
It scooped the dirt from my guts,
The scum from my brain
And for a moment we were one
And all but the same


“Like teeth spilled from the sky’s broken jaw…”

I’m challenging myself to record one song each day this month, as a part of The MayDayChallenge. Here’s number one:

  • “Moldy Drywall”
  • Where the nail hung into / the moldy drywall
    I hung the icon / of the blessed virgin
    Her tears bled my breast / of its self pity
    No more will I succumb
    To the want of my impotent heart
  • I lay my back upon / the dusty hardwood
    My eyes found escape / through the curvéd skylight
    The lightning carved lines / betwixt the red clouds
    The earth drew the rain
    Like teeth from the sky’s broken jaw
  • Sleep crept toward me from / the furthest corner
    I turned my head to view / the encroaching shadow
    My throat offered up / an Ave Mary
    As the silt of forgetfulness
    Swallowed whole my dissolute self
  • In dreams madness swelled / with salty vengeance
    Rusted centipedes danced / on bleeding parchment
    I felt my lust and hate / gather hot beneath me
    My devils clamored
    While angels drained the pitch from my veins

The Great Lego Analogy

Having access to the Lego bucket of raw data, humans are compelled to make operating structures to interface the millions of bits into manageable chunks. Some choose to build houses to dwell in, others are lit with the wish to craft spaceships that will ferry them through the asteroid field of experience, where they might glean valuable minerals and alien organisms for further research. Others build to see how gravity works (philosophers), or purely under an experimental Geist (such as artists).

By this analogy, belief-systems are like meta-structures, or templates that people adopt and subsequently model their buildings upon. Each religion (or school), and each denomination (or discipline), possesses certain characteristics that appeal to distinct types of thinking, feeling, and action. And within each system there are those who wish to follow the template more or less exactly, and who distrust any deviation from those instructions (or interpretations thereof).

As well, those who exist outside such constructs sometimes see them as prisons, even as insulting to their intelligence, which finds fulfillment in the act of exploration and experiment. These persons see truth as always in flux, and frame the game as a contest of invention.

While this playmate is sitting crisscross applesauce in the rainbow pile, the others have taken their accepted models and started playing house or battlebots, until an accident or vigorous playmate breaks their construct, and back to the template they must go.

Returning to the pile for a missing piece, there they find the inventor/ investigator, who has already discovered a few novel combinations in the chaos of potentiality. Sadly, each of these are lying forgotten in a pile behind him, discarded by the hands already onto something else.