Mother Love


Some mothers are more difficult than others for the humans pulled out of their bodies. At best, if we’re honest, it’s a mutual wound that never heals.

There is an element of violence in love–that can only be deferred, or displaced, but never erased. Sentimentalizing mother love is a lie against … if not nature… truth.

That doesn’t make love less important. It makes it more so. Love is the overcoming…no, not just the overcoming, the transformation–of violence. Violence is not the opposite of love… it the mother of love.

Two months short of 30 years since my mother’s death.

The dialogs we never had, return in dreams. So often in anger–resistance. To become whole and free in the world, we need to stand up against our parents, to assert our independence. But most of that need arose when we were too young to understand it for what it was.
I know that anger in my dreams, is directed at myself… for not knowing… at 3, at 12, at 18. This is what we carry through our lives. Reliving… what we can’t relive. In dreams. In fantasies. In rituals of self destruction.

Goby’s Journal: Reading Emily Dickinson.

Began the day, inspecting the garden, reading Emily D… I’ve been systematically reading the whole of the collected poems, beginning to end. I skip around, read back and forth, but always keep to the sequential reading as well. Today, 564-603… 1862. A reference to Antietam… (Scarlet Maryland) in #562. She follows the news, and fuses intimate domestic scenes with distant events, the way she does with cosmic, biblical, religious references, deflating the latter, and casting a miraculous light on the everyday. Though there’s no deflation of what she has learns of the war, or human tragedy. #564 made my brain explode. I read with a dictionary at my side, and can only cover a half dozen or so a day. I write marginal notes in tiny letters with a mechanical pencil. The binding has gone the way of all impermanent things. Entropy everywhere. I should buy a new copy before I accidentally drop this on the floor, and all the pages scatter–hopeless to return them to order.

Thinking about how she follows the news… how, no matter how devoted one might be, one can only read to the last page. There’s an end to a newspaper or magazine. What would she have made of the internet? There is no end to the internet, or Facebook. One goes on clicking and clicking, until the clicks are what the ticking of a clock was for those who lived when there were still clocks that ticked… the sound of one one’s life being drained away.

My calling card… what’s in a name?

A sort of a prose poem.
Names… I had never gone by my birth name, but then I decided to sign my art with it. At first, it was to honor the grandfather I was named after–who I never knew (He died two weeks before I was born) And my uncle, also an artist, and a kind of mentor for me. But I’ve gotten acclimated to it. Accepted it for what I do. Which has become what names mean for me, and how I use them.
Jacob Russell (Russell, being my middle name), was how I sign my poetry and fiction, and has been my go-to name for most of the last four decades. More recently–there’s, Goby. A fish that can change it’s sex. I don’t change my sex, but accepted in my late years, that I am in no way limited in my desires to the opposite gender/sex–though this is something that works out mostly on the level of imagination. A Radical Faerie name–a fantasy name for fantasy sex. And, planting beans. Planting beans, today…climbing beans… wondering if I might, when they reach the clouds, climb to the top and visit the kindly giant who lives there (his bad reputation? what you would expect from English colonizers and would be capitalists!)… so… a gardener’s name. A Magic name… when “Jacob” sounds way too serious.

A name should never be a prison. But a seed. Germinating new names, new identities. Always becoming, always under repair… and never, ever…  fixed.

Oracular Vision

I’ve been reading John Berger’s Understanding a Photograph. He writes in the essay, Appearances: that …

In every act of looking there is an expectation of meaning. This expectation should be distinguished from a desire for an explanation. The one who looks may explain afterward: but, prior to any explanation, there is the expectation of what appearances themselves may be about to reveal.
Revelations do not come easily. Appearances are so complex that only the search which is inherent in the act of looking can draw a reading out of the underlying coherence If, for the sake of a temporary clarification, one artificially separates appearances from vision (and we have seen that in fact this is impossible), one might say that in appearances everything that can be read is already there but undifferentiated. It is the search, with its choices which differentiates. And the seen, the revealed, is the child of both appearances and the search.
Another way of making this relation clearer would be to say that appearances in themselves are oracular. Like oracles they go beyond, they insinuate further than the discrete phenomena they present, and yet their insinuations are rarely sufficient to make any more comprehensive reading indisputable. The precise meaning of an oracular statement depends upon the quest or need of the one who listens to it. Everyone listens to an oracle alone, even when in company.

“Everyone listens to an oracle alone, even when in company” When I read that, I asked myself, “isn’t this precisely how one sees… a painting?

My calling… my vocation, as a poet and artist, began at a moment like that—an oracular vision–11 or 12 years old. Forsythia blossoms after rain, when the sun came out from clouds and turned the drops of water on the petals into prisms. Everything I’ve done since, has in some way, been connected to the effort to understand that moment.

“The modality of the visible” … the expectation of meaning in what is seen – is this what I look for as I work on an abstract piece – the expectation of meaning, but one disconnected from any narrative or ideological sense–a meaning that hovers above explanation, and untouched by it?

My novel, Ari Figue’s Cat… the motive for writing it; this is its central theme.

What I look for as I work—as I arrange pieces of trash, draw lines on a page, brush color on a canvas. Why I prefer abstract work. Representative art, when it seizes me, is always like this. Rousseau’s Sleeping Gypsy. The Sleeping Gypsy, 1897 by Henri Rousseau
The enigma. The expectation of meaning—that defies explanation. Iconography, represented figures… are a distraction. Though a master can so charge the most meticulously rendered images with that oracular sense, that all our efforts to explain are exhausted… and we are left with what we see, and that alone. Jan Van Eyke’s Arnolfi wedding portrait. Image result

I work on a piece until I have that sense… in looking at it, in seeing it: the feeling that it means something. I have no idea what, or how to explain it. It’s enough, if I capture that feeling, an enigma. Beyond words.

We long for a vision … a way out of this fucking capitalist hell.

We don’t know what it is… but if, in seeing this, we can believe that it exists…beyond words, beyond explanation.. but there for us to find and create… I will have done my part.