Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Fluid Signature of Joy

I read for the Blakean moment, the seizing of the instress (per Hopkins), what I call the exploding note or the fluid signature of joy. Joy at the craft(iness) of words, joy for their tumble-through beauty, joy for the dark flames of language, even when the language is melancholic or bitter, even when it conveys fear, pain, recriminations. A joy, then, bathed in sorrow and memory of loss, because maybe true joy only visits with its wounding kin. The light that sears the mind: what St. Teresa saw, and Rabi'a al-Basri felt in the desert, and Mirabai while she sang her bhajans. The "verse in me," as Martin Buber put it.

Here is a passage that overwhelmed me the first time I read it. It still does, every time, speeding joy on barbed feet. It's from "Eye on the Scarecrow (-'mu' twentieth part-)" in Splay Anthem by Nathaniel Mackey. I cannot do justice to its typographical lay-out, which flows, then stutters, down the page.

"The way we lay
We mimed a body
of water. It was
this or that way
the dead and we
were them.


It was a journey we
were on, drawn-out
scrawl we made a road
of, long huthered hajj
were on. Raw strip
of cloth we now rode,
wishful, letterless
the ride we thumbed...
Harp-headed ghost whose
head we plucked incessantly.
Bartered star. Tethered

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