“What does your poetry mean?” asks another well-meaning reader. I stumble for a response, consider how much to say, how any answer misleads.
Mine is a poetry of breath and pulse, of blood and bone in a spiral with presence. In return, I may ask, “What does your body mean? What does a symphony mean? When we peer into the night, what meaning is there in the countless stars?”
My answer will fall short because my poetry comes from and pays homage to an irreducible and timeless presence. Answers, by their nature, are reductive, akin to placing a frame around a scene that has no border. I see the picture in the frame but also glimpse the movement outside its rim.
Questions are like predators that chase after an answer. My appetite for writing is larger than a singular catch. My interest is in the clan, the brush, the ground, and how any of it fits into the larger scheme of the planet.
Much of elementary schooling eviscerates poetry by reinforcing the notion that a poem means one thing. Students are tested accordingly. A tragedy. Rarely are students encouraged to wander through a poem’s lush content and participate in its mystery.
We live by the clock, by diachronic ordering, by logic, by object-verb-subject relations, by successive sentences, successive ideas, and numeric systems. Useful, I admit. It’s what permits subways to run on a schedule, computers to function, and essays to reach a conclusion. I like and need such workaday order as much as the next person. However, if this is our only lens — and it often is — we miss the larger scene.
When I write poetry — and, similarly, when I dance, meditate, and assist others in healing, which is my newest activity — I participate in transcendent presence. Call it deep body time, compliance with circadian rhythms and universal laws. It’s as if my cells are sighing in relief from an over-reliance on mundane rules and are resting in a celestial ocean.
It’s hard enough to focus on sensate awareness and keep the mind attentive on both the inner scape and the immediate surroundings. Distractions, such as worry or regret, can pull us into a disembodied land. Too much attention on the body and you miss the wind sweeping through the trees and the lizard clutching the rock. Too much emphasis on the horizon and you may trip on a stone. My poetry aims to witness ground and sky. Continually I fiddle with the aperture to discover what opening allows me to see both simultaneously while maintaining balance. My lines are a locus where word and image, space and sound erupt and settle.
I do not know what my poems mean. They mean the world. They mean nothing. They mean breath. They mean a granule of dirt and the dust of an asteroid.