This is perhaps the most surrealistic music-impression poem I’ve ever written, yet one audience absolutely loved it. To write it, I used the music from an opera by Philip Glass, entitled, Satyagraha. Philip Glass is a brilliant composer of contemporary Western classical music. He’s probably most recently known for the filmscore he wrote for The Hours. I’ve never seen Satyagraha in its entirety–but I’ve listened to the music of the opera over and over again. The theme of Satygraha is Gandhi and the struggle for Indian independence from British occupation. Though the music was composed by Philip Glass, the vocal text was written by Constance DeJong, and was adapted from the Bhagavad-Gita. As a result, the words are written neither in English nor even in Hindi–but in Sanskrit. So I wasn’t distracted by the meaning of the words, in writing the poem. And as always, the poem has nothing to do with the opera–it’s simply a compilation of images that arose in my mind randomly, as I listened to it. By the way, if you want to listen to the CD set (which I highly recommend), it is available through Sony Music.
Philip Glass: Satyagraha
Spinsters sing of placid ponds where they gathered with their lovers in a future century, when the term, spinster, was archaic. One is Molly, whose young man was killed in some Near-Eastern war before he could marry her. Stone tablets hold laws from long before Molly’s time, which we now swallow with water. Prehistoric gatherers awaken to acres of blueberry bushes–planted by hunters to feed deer, in appreciation of their meat. You ask why I buy Sanskrit sands, rather than Latin ones. It is because Western words have Latin enough. Sleeping in sexual transcendence, I truly coddle Molly in a warm moment–then wake to the terror of loss. For I am her young man, though quite old in any era. Ants believe only in the collective collection of soil grains, if it could be called belief. Yet how much greater are we, the hairless apes, the hairy angels? We definitely believe, but have no control over our beliefs whatsoever. Spinning in smoking elephant-hay, a clown of contempt burns the circus for which he seems to smile–immolating himself, in the process, with a real smile. Wild wasps weave a nest in my wheelbarrow-windchime. When stung, I douse them all with Raid. It is the way of the primieval, yet suburbanized wilderness. Telephone operators of the early Twentieth Century switch frantically between Number please and Thank you, your call is connected–with the same precision as those wasps. And we forget what work they did. We men forget our forefathers shaved with straight razors–while women forget their foremothers washed clothes by hand.
The Irish violinist moves his bow as if it were an outgrowth of bone. And the Bard writes of Bouddica, though unaware of it. In 1910, in a nun’s nightmare, horses have been replaced by millions of strange-looking automobiles, and the streets are paved with toxic asphalt. Drivers talk on tiny telephones, and tap on tiny typewriters while driving–and are often killed, as a result. And those who mind their driving are still distracted by endless advertisements on huge boards. Even churches display signs for drivers’ attention–some of which scream secular profanities: If you don’t stop using my name in vain, I’m going to make the traffic slower! Islam is of the Devil! Where are you going, Heaven or Hell! Prepare to Meet God! Jesus is watching you! Know Jesus, know peace–no Jesus, no peace! Jesus didn’t die on the cross so you could hunt Easter eggs! Find Jesus, before He finds you! And seeing such signs from beyond, Jesus weeps–again. Chasing visions of hush puppies, a spotted, white dog wanders Walmart’s parking lot–its tail held down, as if to hide it. A kind, but lonely man stops his car, gets out, and squats down. Beckoning gently, he offers daily food, a large backyard, his house, and plenty of playtime. But someone beat this dog, and it walks away. The man sighs, and prays for it, as if for a person. Rhoda recites the daily rhetoric of Joe the Plumber before the Prince of Prana, in song. He strokes his black cat, thoughtfully. “And what of Mary the Carpenter?” he asks. “She is silent today, My Lord,” Rhoda replies. An azure azalea branch wraps around a rattlesnake before it can bite a bison’s leg–and squeezes it so tightly that it bleeds. Running beyond Raid’s reach, we follow flame-red flies once worshiped in Mesoamerica–while centuries follow us, reminding us of our future fall. And the flies gather in our mass grave, only to devour us once we reach them.
I descend the staircase to the elevator that takes me to the center of the mezzo-soprano’s mouth. From there, she sings me out into a world of wires, red, yellow, and blue. As I untangle them, they become vines which open onto a beach of blindingly-bright, white water. I walk to the sea of emerald sand, wade to shoulder-depth, and swim for a while. When I resurface, I find an inner-tube table covered with bowls of bubble gum ice cream and cups of Jones Pure Cane Cola. Before I can eat and drink all of it, I sink into the sand–then awaken here in my living room, in my recliner, writing matter into antimatter. Outside my window, sunlight breathes life through live-oak branches–much of the view obscured by stacks of DVDs on the left, my CD player on the right, and my television in the center. The lamp reflects into the black screen, just as I do. I am obese, in a white undershirt. My golden-brown hair is military-monk short, and my skin is fair on my face, arm, and knee. On the screen is also a bookcase behind me, an end table beside me, and a poster of a mountain lion in the snow. I’d cover myself with snow for relief from the September heat in the Pensacola sky. Let me be a wild mountain lion, or a voluptuous woman, or a much healthier version of myself. Isn’t this the dream of anyone? To be something enviable, or something desirable, or something simply better? Within my world is me–within yours is you. And worlds never converge, except in words.