Some free associating around sensory images from growing up in the desert. I spent a lot of time outside when I wasn’t confined to my room, because being at home generally sucked, and I remember many long hours just wandering the streets of Tucson, walking into construction sites and washes and under bridges, taking pictures, finding cool rocks, listening to my Discman. Mostly alone, sometimes with my best friend or my dog.
It’s easy for me to lose myself in a sensory experience. You’ll catch me making faces at memories and taking pictures of brightly-colored trash, convergences of lines and shadows, stark contrasts. I can lose an hour on an interesting pile of stones. I’m really fond of this sculptor and photographer named Andy Goldsworthy, and I fall into similar kinds of activities, building little patterns or arranging debris just so.
Thus, the poem, I guess. Thus, I tend to make a mess. Thus, when things go badly, I pretend to be worried about real things – money, house, other people – but deep within the private spaces of myself, I’m only truly concerned with whether it was the most poetic and interesting catastrophe that could have occurred at this point in the story. It doesn’t bother me much when my life is full of failure and chaos – that’s life in the wasteland. It bothers me when the chaos is not interesting, when the struggle is banal rather than beautiful.
Ultimately that’s a matter of how you look at it, though. I choose to steer toward the rocks, so I can see them very well, and when I do that, I almost always discover something beautiful. A lot of times, that thing is my own blood, the taste of a new and novel form of failure. Sometimes… sometimes it’s a new island, the shore of a vast new world to explore, one that takes apart my life and stitches it back together full of love and wonder and data.
Thing is, if there’s an island, you can’t see it until after you hit the rocks. The only way you ever get to the island is if you find the rocks, or the crash, or your blood beautiful enough to keep steering that way.
There are distinctions between sand and dust
that you can feel, and some that you can taste –
never let a sensation go to waste! –
dust tastes like coffee, and sand tastes like rust.
My senses don’t lie, they’re just overwhelmed.
So much more happening than you can see,
it’s like the colors are shouting at me.
Without asking, the painter takes the helm.
The painter steers us straight toward burnished rocks.
The sailors, so fatalistic before,
throw their hats and cheer when they see the shore.
The ship cracks up and unfolds like a box.
The painter tastes his own blood. He’ll need more
to make a shade of red bright enough to talk.