This verse is an admission of the problems of materiality, of the inhibiting and apprehensible, and, yet, confessing to eschatological surety in uncertainty.
It is also part of a growing collection of raw, straight-from-the-shoulder poems tentatively entitled “His Life Dithyrambic,” a project conceived as I revisit my life up to this point, its pains, traumas, pleasures, and good fortunes.
The attending illustration is a self-portrait done specifically for this piece. It retains the fleshiness and color palette of the illustration selected from my existing work for the first in this series, Procrustes.
Embodied, they say, as if bound in an unholy cage.
Ensouled, they say, as if to lift and rarify their clay.
Whether cast from heaven into something darkly damned,
Or charging dirt with sparks sublime, both dueling dreams allay
The pain of that perceptual power that swallows whole
Its bifurcated being, splits itself from shroud of skin.
Confounded by the dislocation of the me from me:
Meat perceives itself in meat, deems meatiness its sin.
What tremulous ancient terror, to grow aware and know
That all this gore of nervous viscera and clever grease
Is all that is; without obliging atoms knit just so,
No immaterial soul to from this matter find release.
No electrochemical bin’ry, not just ‘on’ and ‘off’,
But ‘on’ suppressed; its inhibitionariness its thrall.
Far more important than what is and what, indeed, is not:
Is self-benighting fraud that hides itself beneath a pall,
Incinerates all sense and sensing of its active parts.
This vast and knotted, bloody organ cluttering up our skull
Spends its grossest force in obviation and oblivion,
So small an effort spent on aught, excepting to annul.
Imagine hearing in the caverns of the mind, the brook
Babbling in artery and vein; throbbing heart, heaving lung;
The gurgling fluids and the squelching gasses coursing down.
Yet no such madding clamor, instead a mental bung
And muffled silence through. Think, if every scent was ever new,
How overwhelmed by nose? Or glint of light, how fraught our sight?
Ceaseless din of engines, hum of pests would deafen?
Every fiber, grain, or mote each tactile nerve excite?
To silence is our nature’s first and stubbornest defense,
Against too mad and mattered, ply and pitiless a being.
And so from that primeval moment when we split the rind
And sunk our teeth into abstracted me from meat, thus freeing
Animating organ from unthought, innocent reflex;
Now moral, now deep-sighted, but ever self-concealing.
Is there some life hereafter, as we can apprehend it?
Annihilation? Dissolving globules recongealing?
I confess — no fingers crossing — that the dead are resurrected;
In a world to come is life, and a life that’s everlasting.
Is it me, my meat, my self-made self, this confected soul?
Well, I have my doubts imagined consciousness is lasting.
Still, I have vision broad enough to pray and to condole,
Whatever’s meant by life at last will undivide, make whole.