Excerpt from Voices Daughter of a Heart Yet To Be Bornby Anne Waldman
It was in the deep of summer the letter arrived addressed to the “Disembodied Poetics Locator” and asking the whereabouts of its director. I had appeared in the writer’s dream informing him of a teacher residing in Autun, France. What kind of teacher I wondered - spiritual? educational? Rosicrucian? in the fields of poetry or performance or as we now say “hybrid” creative work? His was a hybrid dream. I had published a book entitled Helping The Dreamer some years back. Self-fulfilling prophecy?
The madcap writer of the letter wanted further information on how to locate this apparitional teacher from me. In fact requested that the Disembodied Poetics Office send any information it might have that would further assist him in his quest. He also indicated we had had a cup of tea together once some years back in Sundance Square, a café in Fort Worth, Texas. I had little recollection of this, yet it seemed a grounding and personal detail and assured me that the writer actually had me in his dream, and not some other celebrated figure he wanted to loop into his mania and I found myself searching my own recent dreams, wondering perhaps if we had crossed wires or psychic paths. I recalled a recurring dream within which a spiritual teacher, now deceased, a reincarnated lama in the Buddhist tradition, generous man of great reputation, appeared to me often instructing me and others on how to live underground when the “dark ages, and they are coming, my friends, coming soon” would arrive and threaten our very existence, depriving us specifically of all the “teachings” we held dear- spiritual and literary practices from many wisdom traditions, gnostic, Sufi, indigenous, Taoist, Celtic, Shinto, Dine, Cargo, Uralic, Rasta, Druze etcetera, as well as tomes of poetry, literature, philosophy (“in many marvelous tongues”) and I remember here a question about music, and how we would all need silencer-microchips so we might, in our hidden dwellings below, stay quiet, not bring attention to our vibrational presence and in our role as guardians, protectors of “the realms” as our lama called us. We would not be able to move our bodies, sway or turn or stomp the ground in ecstasy, with the music, that was unheard in any case in public space. Rather we would evolve a coded internal dance pulse or rhythm known solely to us. We would be able to hook up together as the wizards of the upper Amazon did in their collective visions. We would live likes moles in subterranean caverns without ritual implements or instruments. No flutes! No drums! We were designated as illuminati, Templars, holders, elders, trance-adepts, seers, progenitors, and the like. As with the magic practices of the Lacandon Forest we would all imbibe the same vision. This was in my repeating dream, as I have said, but this thought-bubble more like a vision on the Yogas of Naropa let me call it that as the palpability of the tall looming figure giving transmission gave my life responsibility and purpose and a sense of urgency. I tried to hone skills adept in the practices of preservation. I often imagined persons-of-the-future being dismayed at how little remained of the civilizations in front of them. What knowledge and guides to the scintillating questions had been lost, just as space exploration devices went off course and crashed and exploded in remote places, all that data compromised or as memory waned how little curious one- those coming after- would reclaim knowledge. Know how to dance a polka even, a tarantella. What is a Plahn? What was a masque? How are you wired? Why did you every want to know anything? And the ensaladas of Sor Juana. What was a neuron? An expurgated black box to explain all loss. It would enter warp space of the Anthropocene, margin of many causes.
Ground zero, familiar trope. Razing of many cities. Gaza, Erbil, Tikrit. Aleppo, Homs, al-Bakamel, Der al Zour, shifting sands, Alexandria, still standing? Local tribal hold, contested: border posts, Kurd-held, maps of pain.
Once when in an induced coma under surgeon’s blade I encountered the specter of one of my dearest friends, an adept of biological spheres who could analyze glacial and animal majesties into their scientific components, setting coordinates of the multiverse to the rings of time in every redwood tree. As he departed this world as he passed as he “went to the great homecoming”, night of a full moon in April, he swerved toward me, and we brushed arms in the bardo. We touched consciousness (I felt –how to describe? his “tone”?) but as I came back “to”, urgent and still un-dead he turned away fleeting down another well-lit corridor. Awake in the relative world he had already departed the Chiricahua Apache charnel ground, close to the now no longer extinct jaguar corridor, leaving behind a multi-rayed native blanket in a bed of flowers.
Just a bit longer, I begged of no one in particular because my traditions and practices were non theistic. I was talking to myself. Extend this life…
My assistant was amused yet wanted to get on with the business at hand (evaluations and requests and obligatory recommendations for positions of poetry in workaday mode) and seized the note tossing it perfunctorily into the wastebasket where I promptly retrieved it, seeing it as possibly useful and revelatory. I needed a luminous detail. A trigger. A rune, a conundrum, a paradox, I needed to keep writing to live if nothing else a way into further dream work that was starting to investigate various yogas and preparation for life-after-death states. The Yogas of Naropa.
Wanting to put my assistant’s mind at rest that I was not drifting into a world of mindless occult meander, I resisted going on with some morbid patter about death-dream-yoga and the like, or why I might want to retain the message from this “kook” or what I was intrigued by in his note, and told her of the nut file I had kept for years. That was the cynic’s response to protect my poet’s excitement on the scent of a new adventure. I had trouble seated at my work-station.
There was a letter from the fellow with the same last name as mine who claimed we might already be related and why would I not consider a marriage offer from him now in a new century. He owned a drugstore in Los Angeles and “had all the drugs: in the world” at his reach and my disposal. Elixirs to counter any troublesome mood swing. To sweeten the proposal he also offered his luxurious home by the water in Malibu where I could rest weary limbs, with saunas and steam rooms, interior and outdoor pools and a limousine with chauffeur who could recite poetry to “carry me with the greatest poetic ease” on shopping trips or work engagements, up and down the coast. Marijuana was also becoming legalized, he assured me, I could smoke freely in the car which also had a full bar with “marvelous health drinks.” “Including booster shots, and “catch a fire” with beets and cayenne pepper and “Body Good” with Swiss chard and ginger, just to name a few.” This letter was in the file and I did reply in some offhand fashion with regrets and a signed edition of a recent book. I never heard from him again.
There was also a more recent letter from an individual who had proof that Jim Morrison of 20th century poet rock fame renown was still alive and “walking amongst us” and had taken up residency in our town and was enrolled in fact at the school where I worked. I had seen his gravesite at Pere Lachaise. He well underground with the worms by now. The letter writer appeared to be in a time warp as Morrison would already be close to eighty years old, hardly a candidate for undergraduate education, although nothing is inconceivable and we have had late-education students enroll from time to time. Jim was shy, the letter indicated, and would do nothing himself to expose his true identity and we were not requested to do anything either, just be aware that this mighty figure, this superstar, the Lizard King, the King of Orgasmic Rock, a hallowed art-saint poet maudit was still embodied. From the tone of the letter, the writer did not seem to be aware of any passage of time. Jim was still youthful, had faked his death, and was already embarked on an academic path of accreditation and degree conference. Why would he need a poetry school anyway. He was well versed in Rimbaud, Artaud, Celine, Jack Kerouac.
The file contained other sundry bits of adulation, complaint, plea and requests of myself to send “articles of intimacy”. Sorry to rave on about the “nut file” but a letter from one woman in particular touched me. The sender also spoke of being “unborn” or “not born yet” and certainly hadn't found her voice (“I need to find my own voice!”) and of how my example of activism in the realms of poetry would help her make a decision to enter the “strange” life. The double variegated choiceless path of poet. She also said she had encountered me in various ways and although her heart had been hardened against me out of envy and something positive I had said about William Carlos Williams once (she was a feminist), I was back in her good graces now, as she had learned to accept William Carlos Williams as an ally. She had always been wary of doctors. She apologized for any negative feeling (“I have been wrong about you and William Carlos Williams, please forgive me”). She had also had a “ medical poetry” dream a sure indicator of the fixation she now felt toward a female role model and groundlessness, of being confused and wanting an elixir as in “Poetry is my medicine, poetry is the cure”. Quite excessive. I sent her a grounded catalogue full of the particulars of a rooted poetics. But in her dream I was “in the matrix, a large stone”. She recounted we were in the state Capital. She could make out certain landmarks, “the needle, the Lincoln”. We were suddenly being strafed by mandible drones and escaped through a manhole to an underground tunnel like WWII London. Remember Hilda Doolittle, she said. I then handed her a woven clothe from Nepal, she said (how would this complete stranger know I had such a cloth? – still have it now after 40 years from trip to the Kali temple, much faded. A complex weave. She sensed I was also (and I am sure I was, but in some other direction) not yet fully active in all the things of this world. Crisscross dream more prevalent in these days in the things of this world, I reckon,
There were also missives recounting religious fixations. A boy who had escaped from a Xtian cult but was now in a “fiction” cult. Spelled “fixtian”. Inductees worked on re-writing their lives. True memoir, actual fact, was verboten. Then there was a boy on the front lines of the war in Iraq, angry that not enough of the “beatniks” had served in the military. He was writing from a foxhole in the middle of the desert. This was the first gulf war. God was not happy about this, he said. Sleep of reason producing monsters. You know someone said that. “Men who meant to be wild”, he said, “should first serve.” I thought this was a semi-profound statement, I mean about serving. On second thought it’s Puritan boytalk.
The punk daughter of Mormon faith who was enamored of “William Blake the Antinomian” as she referred to him, wrote to us initially, but actually visited our classrooms and had a band by similar name in a nearby local town, “Blake & The Antinomians”. She was at odds with her family for being a Blake-loving Mormon. “We need to stick together ”, as one of the Quorum of the Twelve said scolding her and with scorn, as she recounted to me and then what the Quorum guy said was “Blake had his own system; we have ours.” I was curious and a bit uneasy that the Quorum knew about of William Blake, mistrusted him, and might use this against this delicate child of punk. What else did they have their eye on? The Muggletonians were certainly not in their book of prophecy.
Mostafa, my companion of Egypt days and our romantic time in the desert, would often write to this address, my station, sending poems but also plaintive requests. “I am still undocumented. Maybe you can help me get to the west to our campfire conversation”. He was in the middle of a revolution. This was not archival material for the nut file, I genuinely cared for him but it sat alongside the appeal for help from the poet in Juarez, death threats at her door. This was the time of the horrible murders of young women from the maquiladoras. To make the case for citizenship, we would work on that, write memo to the lawyer, letters of support.
I thought about “serving”. Serving is rollercoaster in that it may never end. Who to serve, what do you value, believe in, are passionate about, who to please? What put your life to, tithe your time? Serving with alacrity’s vow to stay busy. Or let them walk over you. Is serving ever easy surrogate magic? Or taking over the host you serve. You could never serve enough because at every angle you are serving microbes and they are endless. We were serving in our edifice, our evanescing office, with the black mold growing “under our daily bread”. We were underpaid cultural workers. That was a lame joke about bread, my co-worker Andrea said.
Often communications of sympathy came in for the difficult weather we were enduring as we tried to maintain our academy, our alchemy. Floods had come and gone and may be back, one shaman from the Condomble tradition remarked. More blue water. You would serve weather if you understood it “in the name of Ezekiel” said another who-hears-the-voice and sees the “writing on the walls” and so on.In some traditions it is a female voice, this voice of God. Or God’s daughter rising through the Kabbalah. Presumably one is caught off-guard as you hear the dulcet voice of God through the female. You might mishear. Fires pandemic in these parts. The flood (move to higher ground) had washed away homes of close associates. Blue was an important meditation as I said. We had driven around seeing huge fissures in the earth. Gigantic rocks and been moved. Promethean tasks. Whole topographies shifting. You wonder about the call to being human. Were people rethinking their progeny? Born in this world, you’ve got to suffer… shift a load to the lord…and so on.
Endtime prophets were getting to be a bore for some of the community. With their endtime pamphlets (who hands out pamphlets anymore?) Although many noticed the hail was growing larger and more frequent and more important to itself. Egoistic agressive hail. Tornados were seen descending from the sky. This was the nut file in a nutshell. But there was more to come.
blurts out about the hail as if omen.
and then one went in a car to seek shelter.
people in vehicles in intermediate years.
constantly at risk.
wait for the new light rail bullet transport we’d voted for.
promises of politicians along with amendments on
a retro automobile hood is all we get.
behemoth, scourge of the environment.
& hit again, warning will we please listen.
endtime, twisters, bodies cryogenized.
the time I was offered a hand and
and a place to sit in a motel in Ann Arbor
next to the not-yet murdered rock star.
flowers for him, flowers for his tomb.
others live on in retirement.
I wanted to be a locator for all my thought, help me
sundries of the collectome.
bring all the dead rockstars back too.
one rock star walking among us.
we would check the attendance sheets.
do rockstars ever die? the child asked.
did not want to die, I explained.
kept singing in ragged voices.
til the cows come home.
influence on men.
like Calvinist idealism.
you are called by wrong name.
chattle, bound feet, slavegirl.
don’t take that lightly.
over which elite guardians preside.
walk like an Egyptian.
could be woman you seek.
ask mole who burrows under.
a French revolution.
helping the dreamer America.
old mole? old mole?
do poets ever die?
they never want to die.
except at end of the poem.
explained it like the
Mandean demon from the marshes
of southern Iraq
who sits by the waters
half man, half book
writing as he reads.
a life sentence.
hail the size of
spectacle for endtime.
size of fear, waiting a sentence.
and intervention on any sentence death knell.
about being enshrouded.
while they are stuck in aporia.
unaware how fear moves their elders.
lily an adult.
cloud explicitly male.
clod what color.
in clod realm masking
death, about existence.
but never arrive.
dream a way out of empire.
stacking the graves.
lily whose lotus self
is neo platonic shadow.
animal realm synesthesia.
realm of Paracelsus.
antonomian long enough
to come into light, lily.
come from alienation.
come to light, lily.
lily is a rhizome.
come from alimentation, come now.
lily on the charnel ground.
walk in garden.
come to light.
of Umayyad campaign
stops here for
what if these
symbols exist simultaneously
with our schema
become human, atavistic.
what if Albigensian prophecy
releases a soul from human coma?
what if consciousness, soul
these were questions for endtime
trays of divinatory offerings
in a school of
rhetoric eschewing mystery
please advise: or do not enter here…
the desert is a rhizome.
there was an incident involving
he held me
read ransom note in shaky hand:
THE PIT NOT RADICALIZED
ASTONISHMENT OF EROS IF YOU MAKE MESS
BE REVOLUTIONARY FERVOR
ASTRIDE JOKINESS, OLD MOLE
look into doom
future is divination
riddle getting closer
took another memo: “unborn” was the challenge. unborn dream, unborn text. aborted. another chance? jury on “afterlife” out a long time. I was the old mole
burrowing into the past and future of a telepathic poetics.. to meet a daughter in outer space
To the one who dreamt a teacher in Autun: message delivered. & working on it…
Another telepathy assignment
Andrea was amused and we went about our tasks- somewhat circumspectly for the day.
ANNE WALDMAN has been a prolific and active poet and performer many years, creating radical new hybrid forms for the long poem, both serial and narrative, as with Marriage: A Sentence, Structure of the World Compared to a Bubble, and Manatee/Humanity, and most recently Gossamurmur, all published by Penguin Poets. She is also the author of the magnum opus The Iovis Trilogy: Colors in the Mechanism of Concealment ( Coffee House Press 2011), a feminist "cultural intervention" taking on war and patriarchy which won the PEN Center 2012 Award for Poetry. Voice's Daughter of a Heart Yet To Be Born, a prose poem meditation on William Blake's Book of Thel, is being published by Coffee House Press, 2016.