Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Meditation 12


I am just a peg to hang his cursive meditations on. When I ask my students to offer up a quirk, one says he’s an English major who doesn’t read. He used to read half a book before he put it down, but now he doesn’t get even that far. Very few in our generation read much, says my daughter’s friend, the one who’s reading Thich Nat Hanh on dying. At night they turn on Baywatch for the bodies, not the plot. But bodies are the plot, machines to make prompts for our writing exercises, the ones our parents worry about because we can’t make money off them. She realized quickly that thinking might help her earn money, so she went to class. I argue for inherent value, but that’s as quaint as poetry itself. Do nothing for ten minutes a day, I put on my syllabi; if this seems too hard to fit in, remember it’s a course requirement. If I could give credit, I would, but the value inheres in practice and practice makes good enough. Somewhere in the middle of that question, statement took over, the rhetorical hammered into bronze, like a statue that walked out to sea at the end of a novel I’ve forgotten. If earning is like memory, accruing value over time, then forgetting takes us back to living within our meaning. A small bird sits outside my window on the brown rhapis palm frond, but when I look back from my writing, it’s gone. We await the dropping of the next shoe. It’s hard to fight corruption, because it’s spongy, and it gives and gives before folding into itself, feeding the next salted wave of paranoia. It’s formalism, really, but without irony; the more you work at the poem’s structure, the less you find between the ribs. I explain my dog’s name by citing the woman who didn’t require a man’s rib. Hard power defeats soft every time, with occasional exceptions for martyred saints. Her personality is extremely rare, as she puts connections over division, others above herself. Another student comes from a family of six kids and two parents, all of them vegan. Sitting beside her is the woman who likes the all-you-can-eat meat bar. It’s a diverse society, but you have to be taught to express yourself. He governed his tongue in class because the toxic TA policed everyone’s words. We want everyone to be better, so we demand specific sentences of them. A man on the radio said (this was the late 60s) he thought “brainwashing” was when you took someone's brain out of their body and gave it a bath. For our next class, consider why we write while Australia burns.

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