Monday, March 14, 2016

Last night I dreamed that a college friend was really a 1917-era Communist revolutionary. This morning, the shreds and tatters of that dream still haunt me--glimpses of the phantasmagoric city where he revealed his secret life . . . cobblestones, candlelight, the shadows of passersby . . . a world enveloped in a brown Dostoyevskian twilight. Do any of these images have relevance to the historical realities of 1917? They seem more like Victorian London in a coal-induced fog, but my brain enjoyed borrowing them for a different movie. In any case, none of them seems at all relevant to waking up in early-twenty-first-century rural Maine, this fabled place where trucks grumble in the forests and airplanes soar among the stars, where people build outhouses and wake to the cries of a barred owl. where they milk cows and shoot deer and overdose on heroin.

In such moods--which you might liken to the sensation of catching my fingers in a pretend-mousetrap--I'm liable to hear Hayden Carruth's voice in my head--not necessarily a specific poem, more like some version of his point of view, the way he clashes civilizations and chaos. Or maybe I find myself bumping against his sharp, sardonic, sad northernness.

In "They Accuse Me of Not Talking," he writes: "But take / notice please of what happens. Winter on the brain. / You're literate, so words are what you feel."

Yes, I think, trying not remember how the poem ends:
Then you're struck dumb. To which love can you speak
the words that mean dying and going insane
and the relentless futility of the real?

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