Saturday, January 31, 2009

Reversing the Flow

A dull knife is more dangerous to use than a sharp knife.
Occam's razor: If you have two solutions to a problem,
a simple one and a complicated one, then the answer
is usually the simple one. Is the simple answer a spare equivalent
of the less simple kind. No, it was cut from a sharper knife.
In its simplicity is its elegance. What if a simple answer
and a complicated answer are proposed for the diet
of a healthy planet? Vegetables and meat are diced for soup
with a sharp knife, if the cook is skillful, though the cleanness
of the cut does not add flavor to the broth. Assimilation of the meal
is proportional to the cleanliness of the ingredients and the ritual
manner in which the meal is enjoyed. Soup is the simplest of meals.
The cook who fixes many kinds of soup will not find his dining hall
hurting for nutrition.

Let us go back to the phrase "cut from a sharper knife."
It implies that we begin with an exceedingly sharp knife.
The resulting answers are derivatively dull. Assimilation
reverses the flow. A small piece of food is divided into
smaller pieces. Pieces keep getting smaller until a calorie
or several hundred of them are created and spent.
In the end, we arrive at a unit of work. So perhaps
there was no knife at all, only work that needed to be done.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Bonaparte, A Lost Town

My guide explains that we are still fighting the Revolution.
Men travel the Geneva Road prospecting new territory.
A scale model of the Glen Ellyn Hotel shows what it looked like
before the fire that started the volunteer fire department,
still of Glen Ellyn.
The era is closing in this room. Railroad cars display on the shelves.
Mrs. Stacy fetched her water once from outdoors,
now next to the kitchen.
They tossed broken dishes down the well when it was no longer
being used.

I view the portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Churchill
at Stacy's Tavern Museum. They were sixty years old
when they began their journey from New York.
They each sit with a book, a symbol of their ability to read.
A forest preserve is named after the Churchills. I wonder
what the archives might hold in store for me on the way next door
to the Glen Ellyn Historical Society.

Milo's grandfather owned a tavern in Fort Chicago.
Milo is listed in the census. Milo lived close to what is now
the west suburb of my residence.  He knew Lyman Butterfield,
an early settler who sold his land by the latter half
of the nineteenth century, but whose namesake lives on
through Butterfield Road, the busy street I ride my bicycle on
to get to points yonder.  I want to travel back in time
to when the road I live near was a dirt path not much wider
than the ample shoulder that serves as my bike lane. 

"You know how there's a hill and a valley in south Glen Ellyn,"
I say to the footman of my research. He points out the valley
as a possible location of early Butterfield land.
The lady who works at this detective agency has other facts.
I shift hypothetical Lyman to west of yonder.

"Are you looking for a relative," she asks.

Sitting here, I'm trying to pinpoint what my goal is.
The other lady in the office wears a yellow sweater. I speed read,
trying to gather facts for the next step. Next to me,
she reads as if the leaves that are falling all around us have been
promptly plated and imprinted in the press of the book.
I show her a picture of later school kids by the side
of the bus that goes to Bonaparte school. She shows me
the early schoolhouse, a house I would be proud to teach in.
We are in Bonaparte. It is a lost town named after the postman,
known to the settlers as a taskmaster and general of sorts.
The next closest schoolhouse identified on the map
is at Roosevelt Road where a replica lighthouse once existed
across the street. The footman now has an earlier map of the town
I live in, divided into rectangular subplots available for sale.
I address Lyman Butterfield, Milo, and the discovery of Bonaparte
through his gruff shout.

Bonaparte School is now the Village Theatre.
The one room schoolhouse has become an intimate little theatre
putting on five productions a year. I ride by it daily.
Right now I am immensely satisfied to have met the postman
whose route follows my neighborhood, an area of Glen Ellyn
that used to be called Bonaparte named after the postman
who made his deliveries two centuries ago upon the land
which I daily traverse. 

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Vance Kirkland

A wiry man crosses an intermediate measure of sand.
He carries an easel and watercolors.
He opens his sketchpad to charcoal gesture sketch
     a seagull on an outcropping.
He is Vance Kirkland, an artist of the timberline,
seeking a castle to deconstruct. He stands before the last painting
of his Surrealist Period, beginning 1940. In Prairie Monuments,
ghost lines dance somewhere among shadow and shape.
Kirkland's images weld the conceptual curl of metal to open sky.

The prairie began my previous exhibition yet could lead
somewhere else.
     Little men without names are jumping out of windows.
They are landing in cups of poor design.
Luminous little men are asking for saucers.
I am eroding into islands in order to escape.
I enter the labyrinth of my latest series. Paint under my eyes,
clouds overhead, I walk a tapestry of avenues.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Best Losers

If in a breath the light still to be drawn,
have the courage to be thankful. I was sorting
through my fits and starts of writing that have
accumulated in the new millennium. I found a sharp
retort to a job I took, tried, and failed at after three days.
I had a wealth of uneasy feelings to respond to
as a complete novice on a house framing crew.
I notice my documentary writing sparkles with life
compared to trying to echo a poet. My best friend told me
the same thing after an open mic where I nearly brought
a poet to life although I wasn't sure he was myself.
He brought me down to the ground telling me,
"You're hallucinating a lot of this stuff."
It woke me up.

I slashed files on New Year's Eve. Four years ago
I completed a book. It was painful to read the polish
of four years ago although I respect the effort of the entries.
I've spent a decade searching a frightened animal, but when
I found him he had curled up and died. I am left with the thin
payoff of a trace of who might have been talking to me.
The best losers are not bitter. The value of those transitory words
is priceless. I found voicing although I may not have secured voice.
I learned over Christmas that my rotten moods are followed up
and followed through with new beginnings.