Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Too Much Manipulation

For years I have carried around in my mental file drawer two images that I want to connect, but every time I try to do that, they resist. One is the sight of a sliver of white quartz dangling from a spider thread in a tiny roadside cave near the Sorgue River in France. Seeing that little chip of stone dangling like bait, I have wondered how long it stayed there, how the spider who dropped that line felt when her projected web was complicated by this foreign object. Such a tiny thing to lodge in my head and never quite get free of. The other persistent and seemingly mundane image is that of a dark-clad figure walking an otherwise deserted city street late at night, so dressed as to hide even a hint of male or female or age (other than a healthy, if casual stride) through a drizzly rain, in no hurry. I was in a hurry to get home from second shift at the hospital where I worked. We were the only two people visible in that neighborhood, I hidden by my car, the other by clothing.

I can't say exactly how many times I've tried to weave these two small, ghostly memories together in order to say something about the threads that bind me to other people and the fear I often feel that we have just too many people in the world. Yet, each life matters, so I surely don't recommend that we willfully discard any individual. The images won't meld; I've overworked them and need to just let them sink to the bottom of that ocean of memories. But . . . but . . . they do surface again and again. Maybe the poem or the story is not about the concept of over-population, but about the persistence of memory, even seemingly unimportant memories that do not carry any obvious emotional baggage. I don't know. But the words that carry those images still show on the pages of my journal. They are safe there, ready to call up I ever figure out just what they mean and why they won't go away.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Business Speak

Have you ever read an essay written by and for a business person? Yeah, yeah, define business person. I mean someone who works for a corporation with more than a couple of employees, the people who think millions of dollars are pocket change in the big scheme of things. Well, I have read this sort of writing and I cannot say I'm hooked. There are writers in that world who understand how a reader gains understanding--by a shared language, shared experience, mutual respect. Fortunately, my contacts in the business world are of this sort. However, even the good writers among them run along the edge of the cliff and can easily fall into the abyss of the abstract. It's much easier to speak in generalities and unarguable vagaries than to dig up the sensory-specific language that would allow one to determine the truth of a statement.

Lately, in addition to corporate prose, I have been reading history and criticism, equally dangerous mountains to climb. And I wonder if anything I read is as urgent as the information I get by opening the front door to check on the weather. If I see storm clouds building, I'll need a coat and the dog will get wet. No hidden messages there. Nor in the noisy ducks celebrating the return of water to their recently dry pond. Noting vague about their chatter. This concern with getting my information first hand--or as some would say, experientially--comes from the poet/storyteller state of mind. Everything in life is mundane, until I look closely and think that no other person is exactly like me, no other dog is exactly like the shaggy terrier dancing on his hind legs at the prospect of a walk. We need business, we need critics who can explain the larger issues of literature, but we also need mallards nattering just down the hill, and the smell of rain about to make them happy.