written for the closing reception of In the Path of Totality at the Grandview in Ada, Oklahoma on 4 May 2018…
History repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second as farce.
It was farce the first time, Karl. Always is.
And if you’d lived to see Mikhail and
Samuel play you would have known human
drama always comes in tragicomic form,
one variation after another on
Shall we go?
Yes, let’s go.
They do not move.
Look at things as we almost always do,
a passing glance in the corner of the eye,
and they seem so simple they go
without saying. Still,
turn and look again. Look them straight in the eye,
and they are subtle, bursting with complexity.
You see, time is time, not money.
But that is what we make of it
as soon as anyone works for anyone,
for the sake of commerce, and
before you know it, we think money
before time and time before persons
and there is nothing that money can’t buy
and we spend most of our time moving money.
Standing on our heads, we
do not notice when
the world is upside down.
Harpo got it. It goes
He tuned his harp slack, you know,
like a Cha’an master’s guqin.
It is all music, and he said nothing
with such skill we laughed and did not forget
we were laughing at ourselves.
The day will come, August said, when
our silence will be more powerful than
the voices you are throttling today.
It had already come, as it does,
as it does, as it always does.
On the day of the martyrs of Chicago,
I remember those silenced witnesses,
buried like poets outside the city
walls, and I say the names of the nobodies
nobody knows caught time and time again in
crossfire. And I remember Lucy, who carried on –
how she carried on! – like Mother Jones,
praying for the dead, fighting like hell for the living.
It always makes me smile to know that she
and Albert came up from Texas to raise holy
hell in Chicago. Albert wasn’t born there, and he
had been a soldier in the Confederate army
before the world turned and he turned
to look it in the eye. Born again,
I guess you could say, in Waco.
Lucy always said she was born in Johnson County,
but the experts say Virginia now. Either way,
she claimed Texas, and I think Johnson County
was close enough to give me reason to believe
her spirit present in Decatur all those times
my Grandpa and I stopped for pie
and coffee at the Green Frog.
Søren said we are always in the wrong
vis-à-vis god, but he knew as well as Karl
that god died. They heard it in the same Church.
I take it as another way to say
we are always on the way.
It’s the going, not the gone.
And Søren learned from Meister Eckhart
that if god is born at all it is again
and again in the soul of
each and every one,
always in the present moment.
The self, he said, by relating itself to its own self
is grounded transparently in the power that posited it.
Transparently, feet on the ground,
not pie in the sky. Like Lucy. Like Albert.
I don’t believe the long struggle will end, Che,
and that’s ok. It is as long as life. And even
if the arc of the universe is toward nothing (as I
suspect it is), nothing, as Søren said, is
better than something. nothing
nothing nothing, he said. Wonderful!
Yes. Long as life.
Between you and me,
we have all the time
in the world
to be human,
to be here now.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.
4 May 2018