Friday, October 28, 2011

Cymbal #38:: Lesser Muses

Tonight, out on the lash, I was given to recall a boy I knew once, who considered himself a poet. I should be less harsh. He was not the world’s best poet, but there are worse born everyday.

When he was younger and more impressionable, the poet wrote a long poem for a girl he hardly knew. It gave him great freedom, for it emptied him of the girl, and all that he thought he could be to that girl. 
Leaving his poem as a placeholder, he carried on, his heart light, because what human love could have matched the crystalline beauty he had left in tribute? Why would he leave lesser organic smears where he had once poured himself into something which shone like the small stars, a token which, it seemed to him, would do him credit by outlasting him?

I consider the question then of what illusions muses wreck on those who are the best among us, the highest, the artists who burn to give every grey and fleshy dream of ours a tongue.

Van Morrison - Beside You - 1968

Angry, I want to argue - Go to sleep, poet; your muse is not worth your while. She comes greasy and impure, mordant and full of bile. Every swipe of her tongue betrays her. Every turn of her head shows her eyes cold and calculating. Beauty is strewn by the gods across the earth like seed for pigeons. It is picked up by those who deserve it least, and treasured the most by those who have the least of it.

But, maybe that is the miracle of art- that it can immortalize spoilt teenage brats, squalling infants, falling tyrants; that it can distill them all into something eternal and empyrean. Then, it is essential that you not sleep. Stay drunk, poet, so that you can lie about every halfwit girl you meet, so that you can spin a yarn about every two-bit crook on the street, every deceiver, every stumbling laughing child. Stay enchanted, stay gullible. The truth is too poor and the lie too necessary.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Cymbal #37:: The Strange Dream of Sir David Attenborough

[Since I cannot speak honestly about Siamese Dream, or the creation myth of Soma, I thought I’d ask a friend to share his thoughts]

Now that I am an old man, I don’t go to all the places I used to. I work from my house and from the studio and travel when I must. It would be unfair for me to feel any bitterness about this fact; I’ve seen more in my life than most, and more than I had ever dreamed of as a child. I would be churlish to complain.

But no man is truly the master of his own dreams, and sometimes I have a vision and when I awake in the morning, it does not disappear. When I marmalade my toast in the morning, it rises before me blue and green, and suddenly I can taste salt and I put my knife down carefully, because I am not confident of my ability to hold it steady.

The terrestrial face of the earth rises from the seabed in layers. From your green valleys down to your golden beaches, this is merely the thinnest layer of linoleum incised with a craft knife.

Come with me to where our world is thinnest, where the sunbathers lie about under sun umbrellas, smears of protoplasm on the sand. Let us walk into the water; there is something I want to show you.
For hundreds of feet, the water goes gently from waist deep to neck deep and there are small waves. The water closes over my head. I pull my mask on and blow out my snorkel. I gesture for the video crew to follow, and swim forward. The water gets deeper and darker, and coral beds color the ocean floor, washed in the fractured sunlight. Millions of tiny mouths open and close, and inhale millions of morsels of food, each of which were looking for even smaller food. These are the secret gardens of the forever hungry- there is never enough food to go around. From a cave in the coral, the face of an eel appears, its sneer sinister, its eyes small and darting.  Schools of angular blue and yellow fish graze, vacant and meaningless like pretty girls. They too will fall to predators like vacant pretty girls. A nurse shark noses across the brain coral like a nightmare.

Like a drunk man in a maze, I swim through the enchanted garden and then, I swim past the edge of the continental shelf and fall off the edge of the world.

The Smashing Pumpkins - Soma - 1993

For an endless moment I am paralyzed with fear. The tectonic plate of the continent falls away to the true floor, thousands of feet below. In the darkness lies the entire unknown ocean, where monsters hide, huge scaly beasts which are all mouth and tail. Here I do not belong, I am not safe or protected. I am only food, silhouetted against the sunlight on the surface like a scrawl of black ink.

This is the music of the depths, the songs of unknown monsters from the depths, the choirpit of the ocean. It rises spiraling from the dark below, its cold tentacles brushing against my thighs, its breath mineral on my lips. It is more real than I am. In this embrace, I can no longer tell who is the monster and what is the prey.