Nail Chiodo

Lucus Feroniae

Canto VII

"… The animal I would most liken myself to is the sponge,
for whatever else I may or may not have done
in my day, I did suck-up every last drop
of what appeared to be knowledge that floated my way.
Philosophy thus grabbed and drew me in its sway,
where portentous currents of old and new thought
boldly carried me to and fro about the library.
Except for proctology, which never quite did it for me,
I read-up on every curious subject that I came across
with an eye to filling-in the most serious lacunae
in my education, the blind-spots in my world view.
The more pieces I fit in, however, the more I was at a loss
to believe how frightfully ignorant one can easily be,
especially if one knows how, but not what, to actually read.

“I have always felt akin to the underdog, and poetry,
of all forms literary, is the most misapprehended:
to be acquainted with it, it seems one must have attended
a jesuitic academy or fallen-in with some coterie
of initiates, for the good words do not lend themselves
to being learnt by rote, between commanding bells;
to penetrate a great poem is to enter a domain
from which one emerges more true to oneself in the end.
Moreover, poetry keeps alive the proclaiming voice even when
it might seem there could be nothing left to proclaim.
Self-dubbed cognoscenti and alleged intellectuals—
who are fundamentally ignorant of it—are thus ineffectual
also when it comes to reading the Bible intelligently:
for they do no more, finally, than reject the same pseudo-literal
interpretations of figures of speech that lead crude literalists
straight off their rocker. What appears to follow inevitably
from this is that one needs to have read modern verse
in order to interpret ancient prophecy as it deserves,
or simply so as not to be somehow misled by it.

“To have had the fortune to read poems and understand
their deeper meanings, in any event, is a great advantage.
One may even have unsheathed the pen and written
a few in one’s youth, or occasionally tried one’s hand
at an imitation or two, without requiring an ambulance.
But to envisage writing them as an adult occupation
if one has had any choice in the matter at all—
is a dangerous sign of delusion, which should prompt one to call
for the straightjacket immediately, without procrastination.
The medieval minstrel’s complaint ‘carmine non dant panem’
‘song does not give bread’—is as true today as it was then,
and there is a secret reason why that is the case.

“I have yet to meet someone who did not already know it:
it is practically impossible to make a living as a poet—
a fact which bespeaks of the very particular place
the art occupies in both the culture and the society.
Professions which enjoy such a negative notoriety
are taboo amongst the general public. The bard’s
is infamous also for being incomparably hard
on the heart and mind of its practitioners,
whose rate of suicide and mean life expectancy
are rather higher and shorter, respectively,
than those of other intellectual laborers. A dictionary—
the ‘Poet’s Bible’ by definition—is, on this account,
the single most dangerous book floating around:
a record that might strike one as humorous
since the wordbook is among the most ubiquitous
of volumes, which aims to facilitate felicitous
verbal expression, with applications varied and numerous
and even children in grade school as habitual users.
But the work of the poet, if he or she is not merely a boozer,
is to struggle against the fascination that words exert upon one,
to rend the compact representational fabric
they incessantly weave, and to retrieve from the attic
clues to the primal Mystery over which it is spun.

“So now we come to my own scant experience
in the realm of the deeply mysterious
and near the strange, almost embarrassing,
parts of my story. Of visions extraordinary,
there have been several and of two categories.
In the first were what one might call ‘parallax
views’: projections of consciousness outside
of my body and, by transposition, into the mind
of persons who were in front of my eyes,
whose thoughts I could either read clearly
or, as circumstantial reasons led me to believe,
were of a nature that could be safely surmised.
I emphasize the empathic moment in the process
because it is the sole common datum in my possession
that describes the beginning, or catalysis, of what then
took place, which participated largely of the divine.

“Imagine feeling the steady progression of Time
through every individual atom and every event
without the immediate onset of chance distractions
to turn the sensation awry and reduce to fractions
what continues relentlessly to occur as a whole.
Imagine, in effect, becoming tangibly one
with the physical time-space continuum
and intimations of the immortality of the soul
surging to full dominion over all hesitation
or doubt, on the strength of the concatenation
of every phenomenon with every other.
After the soul’s ecstatic perambulation (or the spirit’s,
or the mind’s, as distinguos between them only get on one’s tits)
came to an end at the swinging of the rudder,
what one brought home with one was the indelible
impression that everything that happens is inevitable,
predetermined down to the minutest detail,
and that an equipollent measure of critical acumen
is necessarily the prerogative of but a very few men
and women: notions whose heuristic value is nil,
yet which, in themselves, formed a crowning achievement.

“But what about pain, grief, bereavement,
and the whole band of demons that foment
all that is most execrable amongst us?
The satoris described above subsumed the fuss
they create in our lives, while the real torment
they bring was grit for the teeth of the second
category of apparitions with which I have reckoned.
The latter are also the reason I have embarked
upon this description of my deontological motives
for writing in verse, which include a votive
and witness-bearing impulse as a central part….”

Canto VIII