When We Have Evicted the Gods

… what do we do with the house we had them build?

What is the source of the arrogance and intellectual laziness of those, who, thinking that in rejecting belief in the gods, that they’ve freed themselves altogether of the inheritance of religion–when all they’ve done is kick the spooks out of the haunted house and replaced them with the ‘human,’ whatever that is–forgetting that this house was built by the gods. That is–its building is what we invented the gods to do, and as its existence makes no sense without them, they are without further ado, replaced… with ‘us’… with the mostly unexamined illusions we think we see when we think we’re looking at ourselves in the mirror.

What I had in mind when I wrote these two poems: Taking Leave of the Animals, and Like Nothing in this World (Phila Stories: Winter 2008).

The animals, of course, are not the one’s telling the lies–but the irony is itself a multi-layered lie, establishing a falsely separate kingdom of Being for the human while covering over the consequence–by building the myth of the human apart from the other animals, from what we imagine as the House of Nature–and in that very act, establishing the necessity of duel Kingship–the double thrown of creator god and his perpetually infantilized servant-subject. The complacent atheist pulls the trap door on Nobadday, only to climb onto the vacant thrown and assume that imaginary rule for the hu-Man-god.

We cannot begin without taking leave
He said when he turned us away
Fire leapt from his tongue

Instead, we gathered the names, leaving the animals
Speechless in the forest brakes, the river’s course.
Only now do we understand the nature of our loss

We cannot begin without taking leave
They were more than we could bear, these words.
They grew fruitful and multiplied

We hung them on every bough.
There were not enough trees to hold them.
They fell to the earth like leaves

We cannot begin without taking leave
Our lips are dry with trying
Our fingers sign what we cannot say

How can we leave
What was never ours to begin with?
How can we ever return what we found
in their burning, silent eyes?

Like Nothing in the World

The world is filled with gods
They are like nothing else in the world
This is how you know they are gods

The gods did not make the world
The gods were made by the world
They are more helpless then they have ever been

I asked them if they were once
Like the gods of our storied past
But they did not answer

Their tongues were made of stone
And their teeth of wool
They neither sing nor speak

I found them one day searching
For change, but my pockets were empty
Everything now must remain as it was

Only the world changes
As stars withdraw to the beginning of time
As we found ourselves at the edge of the forest

Following the animals over the plains
Listening to their lies, their endless
Stories of gods who will not let them be

Ari Figue’s Cat

Ari Figue’s Cat


Reposting this pre-review of my novel from Goodreads.

We cannot know both the reality of the Snow Angel and the trajectory of our desire. The one will erase the other, opposite poles of attraction we cannot hold together. But somewhere, (who cannot believe it will be so!) we may hear a Voice that will lead us to some greater freedom, from the prisons of memory, to visions of the Peaceable Kingdom, lead us on a Winter’s Night, t, even to the Left Side of the World, and grant us the gift of a new name.
So it was for Jacob, who first saw the angel on the Frankford El, and where she fell in the snow–a photograph, a note, an address to the house of Nacht. What could he do, but follow the signs? Ah, but there will be fire to pass through if you are to meet the messenger, with riddles, like koans that have no end. Follow the cat. Run your finger over the alphabet–feel where his teeth have left their marks, close your eyes, draw pictures in the dark, let your fingers tell the story, like reading brail, that it may unfold, not in words, but out of the unfathomable silence of the body.

Paperback, 233 pages
Expected publication: May 25th 2015 by Deep Sett Press

Jacob Russell’s Ari Figue’s Cat does what few novels do: grabs you and won’t let go, without resorting to the cheap gimmicks New York agents rave about (explosions, long lost siblings, incest, and other soap opera tactics).

The Cat is the multiplicity of consciousness, a la Schrödinger, but Russell never lets the scale of his art’s inquiry overshadow the simple humanity of his characters; each is painted delicately and humanely– appropriate, as the author is also a painter.

This book provides no easy answers; if it had, I would not have read it. It is the kind of art we have always needed: questioning, beautiful, full of soul.
Robin Dunn