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YEATS

Not a dream for once! Chris Wayan's journal 1990/1/1

Holes nailed thru a Yeats book, threaded with wire, to hold it together.


HOW IT HAPPENED

I'd read my silver paperback copy of Yeats so much I grew a shameful brogue, and his spine wore out, and he broke into pages. My hammer'd gone bust too, but I stuck the head back on, and nailed that book like Jesus--three painful holes. Then, with old phone wire, I bound the errant pages.

And then this poem gripped me. Channeling Yeats!

Here's my argument--follow if you dare:

Faith was a greenwood. Like Amazonians, we never saw the horizon, never learned perspective. So science, even as it grants our oldest wishes, makes us nervous as deer; we see too far. We look so small under the open sky. Faced with mass production, we produced mass people. So Fascism rose under many names--but it's just a transition-zone, like a beach of crashing surf. Dictators can't ride the waves of change, or bear the light of the Net and TV.

On the far side's the sea of possibility: technology indistinguishable from magic.

And our new dilemma, now that we have the power to attain what we want, is... What do we seek? What's the land of heart's desire?

YEATS

My silver Yeats was crumbling, so I bound him new:
I broken-hammered gray spikes through
His left side, and threaded through the wounds
Three rings of dead phone wire: garish veins
with a plastic feel, stiff, slick, ugly as twine
Nicking the odd edge of an overweight line...
Mocking the silk bands and jeweled boards
of "The Book of Kells" time.

"Crass symbol of your crass age," he'd say--
Steel visions hammered to mirrorwaves of wise
clean as a crescented Samurai blade,
bound in scraps of industrial trash!
Yet nails MUST rape his pages--
or white leaves scatter, mad swans
reeling from the gun's crash--
scatter like folkways, faith, the ritual song.
The old glue's dead; the spine is gone.

Yet as our century slouches on,
I'm not sure:
Is the brute Yeats saw
Truly fated to rule us? Or...
Just the rattle of the wave
on the receding shore?

Faith was never a sea!
From a green past we came
Through the limit woods.
And past the faces of
Our near dear hates and loves,
Always curled that leaf horizon:
The changeless God-given.

But we came to a shore:
The sea of dreams come true.
Muscles rippled blue,
Out where any course can run
Out to the sky--and on.

We crossed the beach, gaping at raw
Stone and space and brine
All dead, yet roaring, leaping, clashing.
We climbed across those rocks of fascism--
Loud force, and sand-grain repetition:
We thought for a while this was a lesson.

But now we're in the sea, all green again.
On the strand, still near, we hear
Clacking crab-armies clash by night.
But not by day. No longer. Out here,
Sunlight squeals on all.
"The whole world is watching!"
Rome, Cathay, Byzantium
were never so measured, so nude.
Visions pour and pool
In the sea's Leviathan eye;
The lens' gaze is pitiless as the Sphinx'
As thousand-eyed as Buddha seeing all--
Embracing all our wretched rise and fall.
Big Brother has Big Teeth, but his gums are getting sore
Stung and gnawed by nasty little gnats:
Cameras, copiers, tinny song cassettes.
Small insects make a bee-loud glade--
Termites eat the Colonel's wooden leg.

Now you have the tools to do
Whatever you imagine.
Beat your guns to pleasures:
Speak your secret vision.

Forget the Dirty War--
how Grampa gang-raped Matter.
The clash is back to Yeats:
Dreams debate our future.

We're falcons unhooded--
All thongs freed!
The old lords' falconers
We'll never heed.

Bitter, mute, sweet--
Wild, banal, obscure--
Our longings grope for wing,
And on the air they war!

As we all say, TV sucks.
Its tornado, a mosquito's
Whiny tubular tongue
Probes the bloody sludge
at the bottom of our cola glass
Below that bland ice.
Then (a six-year-old with a strawful of awful)
it spews all, across the global cafe.
A slobbery fountain of jokes, greed, lies,
The truth in the glaze of a statesman's crazy eyes
The lure of romance, toys, sex, snobbery (rich AND poor)
Soul-treasures torn from settings--lorn swans--
and trash enough to build a global Village on!

All daemons that are, are breaking free--
Free utterly--Airborne--
A terrible freedom is borne.

--San Francisco, January 1990. And since then, its Net truth has only grown.

NOTES

None. I won't annotate this one--Crucifixion, Samurai blade, the Book of Kells, wild swans, Byzantium, Sphinx, falcons, a bee-loud glade, a terrible beauty... these aren't private dream-symbols, after all! Read Yeats and learn. He's one of the few true visionaries of his hard-headed, hard-hearted century.

Mind you, this poem's no mere tribute--I'm arguing with him. He wanted to restore tradition; thought we need an elite to nurture arts and sciences that take long training, skill and subtlety--for the masses will never amount to much. I'm American--I think decent public schools, democracy, and a uncensored, noncorporate Net may give us the elbow room to build a livable world, traditional or not. History may not be dead... but it can be deadly! I'm a child of the sixties:

Don't like history? Go out
and make your own.


LISTS AND LINKS: Yeats - rants - poems - TV - the Net and the global village - censorship and free speech - life-scripts - freedom - visualization and visions - depth perception and perspective

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