The Hermit Poet

April 17, 2009

The Art of Negligence

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Negligence (Lat. negligentia, from negligere, to neglect, literally “not to pick up”)

Like so many projects, or perhaps the poetry books I’ve accumulated from countless readings and events.  Almost innumerable the things I’ve not completed, simply by not picking up where I left off, or just not picking it up in the first.

Like this blog too, which I’ve woefully neglected while casting my attention to other shores, newer media.  Instead of here, I’ve spent my time writing notes to friends and strangers via Facebook, which now seems the most ardent and demanding of paramours.

I’m living a life of neglect, even now my students’ papers languish in my laptop bag, skimmed (if at all read), but not graded.  Soon the parade will continue, students arrive single file.  I will say something meant to defuse the tension and confusion of their final essay project, but know that for most, they too have already begun to practice neglect.  Their questions revolve around what might have been gleaned in contemplation or culled from in-class discussion, but instead we will put ourselves together for 20 minutes to return to what remains unsteady ground, that formation we call a thesis, and the terra incognita of the unwritten page.

This morning I woke at 5am, troubled by a dream in which my house is broken into, my papers and books scattered, furniture smashed, things taken.  In it, I am approaching an escalator and brush by stiff-legged thugs, a knife falls to ground, and suddenly I panic and move, run for fear of something (it is not mine after all, and who should be chasing me anyway?)  Another knife flies out of nowhere, lodges briefly in my shoulder, falls to the ground with a clatter (is this second knife or the first imagined again?), and I do not bleed, but perhaps I’m merely not aware.  Meanwhile the house is still in ruins.  I think I am Babbage.  I think that I am wearing a great coat and a fine white collared shirt.  There are many things in confusion.

I woke and I wrote three fragments that will likely become poems.  Went back to bed.  Woke later, showered, dressed, left early to meet up with a friend visiting from out of town.  We meet mid-way between Hollywood and Koreatown.  This too something of waking dream.  We eat breakfast, not having seen each other in 15 years, reminisce of speaking Mandarin, discuss the ways our lives have turned unexpectedly.  Surprised enough, I’m thinking, that we reconnected last year when he submitted work to Boxcar, not knowing that I was his old missionary companion, the name not registering, or perhaps forgetting it, since our English names were boxed and shelved away in favor of Chinese ones.

Some things, verging on being forgotten, display phenomenal tenacity.  Language being one of them.  He asks me to sign his copy of my book.  I happily do so, pick up the pen, close with my own name, English and in Chinese.

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