the ten thousand
a couple of days ago i was listening to a radio program while running a few errands after work. the story: how to build signs or symbols that can be understood by people living ten thousand years from now. to teams of eggheads were given such a task. the reason: nuclear waste has a half-life of like forever. it is deadly for several millenia. how do you make warning sign of the dangers of nuclear poison for people who will not know our languages, not know our cultures very well, when meanings change over time. how do you communicate with people who will develop into something we can't know.
which got me thinking about my own silly ego. my writing/reading. all the ten thousand things that try us, burden us, worry us to an early grave. seriously, even shakespeare won't last for ten thousand years. all our quibbling and bickering, our jockeying for a small space of light, will amount to nothing. i'm not saying why bother. i'm suggesting that the ego can get in the way. in the end if it doesn't matter in ten thousand years, why fret. do your work. get on with it. and don't practice assholeism.
ah shit, crudely said there. but you get the drift.
which put me in mind of my own beloved art and the people who practice it. i want to celebrate all of it, poets, poetry and poems. i want to read and write until i die. i want you to do the same. i try to give up my ego. i belong, to quote a poem by james dickey, to the world. i will do what i can.
which brings me to the canadian poet michael dennis. i've quoted him here and there on this blog before. i wrote to dennis a few weeks ago telling him how much i love, what i've read of it, his poetry. he responded by sending me three of his books. i'll write a review come november for eileen tabios' review zine galatea resurrects. in the meantime i want to talk a little about dennis' chapbook forgiveness, my new sideline [proper tales press; 2009].
the poems in this short chapbook are travel poems. the poet and his wife journey to croatia and russia. dennis writes a deceptively simple poetry. these are poems using common language. they are usually narrative. and they have an open humility that i find lovely. take for example this poem.
Hockey Night in Croatia
in the last month I've butchered six languages
and misunderstood six different currencies
today, in Croatia, on a small island, Cres
hidden on the Dalmatian coast
a store clerk, where I bought a notebook
and another bottle of cold gassy water
refused to believe I wasn't Russian
I practically had to sing my national anthem
and show him my hockey scars
not that Russians don't have hockey scars
but Canadian doctors sew a straighter line
a short, clear, concise piece of travel writing. what i find astonishing is how dennis breaks the line. each line sings its piece and leads toward the next line. the fluidity of the language is remarkable.
dennis is also a poet of our insane world too. domestic intervals and travelogues populate this book but so do the turbulence of terrorism.
Last Words to Allah
I press this button and all is glow
all noise begins and ends
I press this button and I am mist
I am vengeance
I press this button and serve my father
as I turn to deadly rain
I even the score that morbid more
I enter this eternal darkness
I remember strapping on my future
like a wedding shawl
putting the bomb on
and for the first time in my life
understanding I had a future
and what that future was
hear my last song
as it rings out of my memory
this poem is quite a feat. no accusations and no judgment, at least not located in the text. rather, we are given the mind of a man intent to destroy for god. we can argue that the act of writing this poem is a political act. but the content is even-handed and controlled. it is not sympathetic to the bomber. the poem exists in its own, to use the phrase coined by the late joseph brodsky, plane of regard.
still, michael dennis is a generous soul. a person who embodies poetry. not very many of us would title a book of ours with the declaration of forgiveness as a practice. he is a poet for the ten thousand things. who knows, michael dennis might be here still ten thousand years from now.