“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”
One of my old T-shirt designs…
It has been quite a week. Working on The Invisible College Magazine, and other related projects. Still not 100% healthwise, but trying to get there. Weirdness hanging on into the 3rd week. Ack. Anyway, here is a second entry on the passing of Dale Pendell. As it happens, things come into focus a bit better as time goes along.
On The Menu:
On Meeting Dale
Dale Pendell: How I got involved with psychedelics
Dale Pendell Books
Interview: The Poet of Plants
Poetry: Dale & Laura
On Meeting Dale:
The Breitenbush Salvia Conference
We met as I have mentioned before at The Salvia Conference at Breitenbush Hot Springs. I was quite excited to attend the conference as a participant and as a vendor. I got a hold of Rob Montgomery, and applied for a vendor spot to sell my T-Shirts, specifically my Salvia Divinorum designs. Strangely, I didn’t hear back. I thought little on it, purchasing my ticket, finishing up my printing and arranging to drive friends up to Breitenbush with me, Will Penna, and one other. I had talked to John Winslow of Om-Chi Herbs, and others… I was finally going to meet all of these wonderful people who I had been talking to on line for the last few years. So excited! Will came into town, and one other guy who sadly I cannot remember his name, we hung for a bit at Caer Llwydd, and then drove down I-5 to Salem, and then east towards Detroit Lake. Before Detroit Lake, we turned off to Breitenbush. It was December if I recall, and quite beautiful.
Well, we arrived, it was like a winter wonderland, little cabins, a main lodge, snow, trees, the usual Oregon winter. There were people from across the country, out of the country, and the presenters were Ralph Metzner, Jonathan Ott, Rob Montgomery, Daniel Siebert, Kat Harrison, Dale Pendell, Bret Blosser. It promised to be a great gathering (and it turned out to be!)
Anyway, I made my way to the vendors section. My friend John Winslow was setting up, and I looked for my table. It was not to be found, John offered me some space on his, and I pulled out my shirts. Along comes Rob, and tells me I can’t vend… which was disappointing to say the least. I packed my stuff up, even as I had all kinds of people wanting to buy my various shirts. I soon found out why… on receiving my request, Rob had told his sons’ about T-Shirts, and he decided they would sell theirs rather than allowing me to sell. Hilarity ensued. As the conference went on, more and more people came to my cabin to buy shirts. Soon almost every other person at the event had my shirts on, much to the consternation of Rob. It worked out in the end, and I got a long email apology from him. He was a good guy, and this is not a put down on him, it was just really odd the way it worked out…
But, I am here to talk about meeting Dale. The conference went on, there were great talks given by all of the presenters. I finally introduced myself to Dale, who I had an ongoing conversation with via email over the previous couple of years. We stood there talking with the crowd swirling around us. The discussion was very nice, and along the way Dale started to stutter. You can read about it, he mentions it many times in various missives. Well, he started to stutter, and as I answered him so did I. He started to get pissed at me thinking that I was mocking him. A little known fact though emerges from this: I have had a lifelong stutter, which only occurs in a couple of situations; high stress, and when I am talking to someone else who stutters. When I told him that I stuttered he reached out, and hugged me. This is the short tale of how we became friends. A shared condition, and shared interest.
We never stopped corresponding after that. When The Sacred Elixirs’ Conference came to be 5 years later Laura & Dale, Mary & yers truly finally got to spend 3-4 days together. Things just fell into place then…
There will be a memorial for Dale on April 14th up on the San Juan Ridge… North Columbia Schoolhouse Cultural Center on Tyler Foote Road in North San Juan, CA.
We are planning to be there. Hope to meet you all there as well.
Here are some of Dales’ Books along with short reviews, and sourcing them if you like. I suggest all of them, great writing, wonderful speculations, information and style. Yeah Style. Amazing.
Dale Pendell Books:
The Big Three:
The Pharmaco Series should be on every Entheothusiast bookshelf. Beautiful, could be likened to Homer’s Odyssey in that these volumes of poetry chart seas both mysterious and revealing.
Pharmako/Poeia: Plant Powers, Poisons, and Herbcraft includes a new introduction by the author and as in previous editions focuses on familiar psychoactive plant-derived substances and related synthetics, ranging from the licit (tobacco, alcohol) to the illicit (cannabis, opium) and the exotic (absinthe, salvia divinorum, nitrous oxide). Each substance is explored in detail, not only with information on its history, pharmacology, preparation, and cultural and esoteric correspondences, but also the subtleties of each plant’s effect on consciousness in a way that only poets can do. The whole concoction is sprinkled with abundant quotations from famous writers, creating a literary brew as intoxicating as its subject.
Pharmako/Dynamis: Stimulating Plants, Potions, and Herbcraft includes a new introduction by the author and as in previous editions focuses on stimulants (including coffee, tea, chocolate, and coca and its derivatives) and empathogens (notably Ecstasy). Each substance is explored in detail, not only with information on its history, pharmacology, preparation, and cultural and esoteric correspondences, but also the subtleties of each plant’s effect on consciousness in a way that only poets can do. The whole concoction is sprinkled with abundant quotations from famous writers, creating a literary brew as intoxicating as its subject.
Pharmako/Gnosis: Plant Teachers and the Poison Path includes a new introduction by the author and as in previous editions focuses on plant-based and derivative psychedelic “teachers” (including ayahuasca, peyote, LSD, and DMT) and on the “poison path” of substances such as belladonna, ketamine, and ibogaine. Each substance is explored in detail, not only with information on its history, pharmacology, preparation, and cultural and esoteric correspondences, but also the subtleties of each plant’s effect on consciousness in a way that only poets can do.The whole concoction is sprinkled with abundant quotations from famous writers, creating a literary brew as intoxicating as its subject.
The Great Bay:
I have read this 3 times. It gives more on each reading. 16 thousand years of speculation is wrapped up in this volume.
***WINNER, Best Science Fiction, 2010 Green Book Festival
Based in scientific reality, Dale Pendell presents a powerful fictional vision of a fast-approaching future in which sea levels rise and a decimated population must find new ways to live. The Great Bay begins in 2021 with a worldwide pandemic followed by the gradual rising of the seas. Pendell’s vision is all encompassing—he describes the rising seas’ impact on countries and continents around the world. But his imaginative storytelling focuses on California. A “great bay” forms in California’s Central Valley and expands during a 16,000-year period. As the years pass, and technology seems to regress, even memory of a “precollapse” world blends into myth. Grizzly bears and other large predators return to the California hills, and civilization reverts to a richly imagined medieval society marked by guilds and pilgrimages, followed even later by hunting and gathering societies. Pendell’s focus is on the lives of people struggling with love, wars, and physical survival thousands of years in California’s future. He deftly mixes poetic imagery, news-reporting-style writing, interviews with survivors, and maps documenting the geographic changes. In the end, powerful human values that have been with us for 40,000 years begin to reemerge and remind us that they are desperately needed—in the present.
Walking With Nobby
Cultural Writing. Essays. Biography and Memoir. Dale Pendell and retired professor Norman Brown, during walks taken along the coast of California, discuss many concepts and characters, including paganism and world religions, Dionysus, Marx, and Freud, presented here as footnoted conversations. Norman O. Brown (1913-2002) was an American scholar born in El Oro, Mexico. He studied at Oxford University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison and taught at Wesleyan University and the University of California, Santa Cruz. “Dr. Brown was a master of philosophical speculation, mixing Marx, Freud, Jesus and much else to raise and answer immense questions” (Douglas Martin). Writer Dale Pendell was a student and friend of Brown.
Inspired Madness: The Gifts of Burning Man:
This book has a real dreamlike quality to it. Why it wasn’t an official part of the Burning Man package is beyond me…
In part a nonfiction discussion of the Burning Man festival, in part a poetic romp through Nevada’s Black Rock desert, Inspired Madness is both an irreverent introduction for those curious about the notorious event and an exhilarating reminiscence for veteran “burners.” Loosely structured around a week at Burning Man, the book combines a history of the festival with personal stories and social commentary, juxtaposing images and stories to capture a sense of the wild and unpredictable nature of life on the Playa. Throughout the week, readers are taken on a memorable ride, exploring the festival itself and meeting Owl, an eccentric beatnik and one of the organizers of the Delphic Delirium Camp: Lolo, Jah, Scarlett, and other larger-than-life figures. Interweaving dialogue, anecdotes, and stream-of-consciousness narrative with historical, sociological, and political observation, Inspired Madness evokes the half-waking, half-dreaming quality of the Burning Man experience.
Salting The Boundaries:
A favourite of mine, hey I even get a mention in it! 😛 Anyway, a superb poetry book. Worth the admission cost.
Poetry. As a kind of stewardship and seasonal ritual, Dale Pendell takes us through the four seasons at his home in the Sierra foothills of northern California as he “salts the boundaries” of his property and his life, “keeping them clean,” as he puts it. No stranger to ancient culture(s) or rituals, the author writes a modern poetry that is, at once, contemporary and Celtic in its detail and focus on cultural and environmental sustainability (or the lack thereof). Drawing a circle around the seasons, Pendell finishes this poem-cycle with poems of winter. In his preface to the winter section he writes, “In California and other ‘Mediterranean’ climates, winter is when it rains. Fires are in the stove. It’s a good time for writing, and books.”
“I’m glad I cleared the desktop and spread out and read all of SALTING THE BOUNDARIES this evening. These are all new poems to me, and new in tone, style, vocabulary. The breadth of knowledge and concern, mythopoetic, geologic, historic, et al is splendid. & your wild salmon poem: I’m so glad you did that. I had been idly dreaming of something like that for years but never got to it. This is an impressive gathering, and a welcome surprise for me.”—Gary Snyder
Equations Of Power:
This is a distinctly quirky little poetry book. Excellent price IMO. It sits on my shelf, and is always happy to be taken down and read…
Contains eleven of Dale Pendell’s poems on physics and other scientific subjects. There can’t have been VERY many poems written honoring differential equations!
The Language of Birds Some Notes on Chance and Divination:
I adore this book. It hardly ever gets put back on the bookshelf, as it is on my table next to my bed for reading. This is a very magickal volume.
Eros, the Muse & Other Poisons: Explorations in Relationship and the Greek Lyric
Seeking Faust: Find it here Seeking Faust
Seeding The New Year
From The L.A. Times, back in 2003.
This article came out just after Dale was scheduled to come up to Portland for a Mini-Conference that I had set up… just after his move to the land… he developed pneumonia, and couldn’t come up, sending Mike Crowley up in his stead. We missed having Dale, but Mike gave a heck of a good talk. – G
Dale Pendell Has Written Two Books on Botanical Pharmacopeia That Resonate With a Lusty Wit. He May Be America’s Answer to Blake, Coleridge and Wordsworth, Right Down to the Opium.
– Emily Green
The first conversation with Dale Pendell is like an overseas telephone call with a lag on the line. I speak. He listens. He thinks. Then he responds in such perfectly formed sentences that I can almost hear the commas.
The stilted speech is surprising. As a writer, Pendell is so fluent that he can make a list of drug side-effects sound interesting, a feat he routinely performed in his two books. Delve deeper into his work and you find poetry, beautiful poetry.
Pendell, 56, has been writing since the 1960s, but his work is little known. I discovered it last spring while serving as a judge for the 2003 Pen Awards overseeing the “Creative Nonfiction” category. As a case containing 57 books arrived at the office for consideration, two things worried me. The amount of reading and the “creative” part. Nonfiction is hard enough to get right when it’s written the old-fashioned way, straight up–who, where, why, when.
As it turned out, the books were at least 50% hard-luck stories, most of them trenchant. There was a war correspondent who got shot, an equestrienne whose leg was crushed by her horse, a profoundly moving brace of Korean stories of search for identity after diaspora. Daniel Ellsberg was there, recounting the events that led to the leaking of the Pentagon papers. There were a couple of biographies, wisecracking sociology from a newspaper columnist and ruminations on the essence of the West.
Then there was Pendell. In his 2002 book “Pharmako/Dynamis,” he merrily rolls out the pharmacology, history and botany behind a host of mind-altering drugs, including Psilocybe mushrooms, peyote, coffee, tea, heroin, Ecstasy, wine, tobacco and absinthe. They are classed by the nature of the high: “phantastica,” “exitantia,” “inebriantia” and others–or, in plain English, tripping, speeding, drunk and so on. Almost every drug is taken back to a plant source, and that plant’s trading history.
At the outset of judging, I wondered if Pendell was in the right category. Three months later, as the judging committee argued over finalists, I became convinced that his was the only book that actually met the brief of creative nonfiction. Yet, on the face of it, it was a dictionary, mainly of controlled substances. “A reference,” read one judge’s comments.
You can certainly look things up in it, including safety measures for taking Ecstasy, or how to score an opium poppy and apply the harvest in interesting places. But it wasn’t like any reference I’d ever seen. Pendell borrowed just as freely from pharmaceutical industry texts as medieval herbals. He used poetry, classical plant taxonomy, chemical equations, prose, anecdotes, jokes, slogans–whatever worked. The prose was indecently interesting, angry and eloquent, like that of a young Christopher Hitchens. The poetry was enigmatic one moment, lusty the next, witty, passionate–whatever it felt like.
Structurally, however, it was odd. It was, arguably, half a book, a continuation of Pendell’s companion volume, “Pharmako/Poeia.” When this appeared in 1995, the good and the great of the Bay Area Beat movement came out in support of it. Allen Ginsberg wrote a review for the jacket, calling it, among a long string of things, “an epic poem on plant humors.” Pulitzer prize-winning poet Gary Snyder supplied the introduction. The synthesizer of Ecstasy, Berkeley scientist Alexander Shulgin, gave his imprimatur to the chemistry. Yet there were no reviews in the major press. It has sold 12,000 copies in eight years, which would be a handsome figure for a Junior League cookbook.
The publication of “Pharmako/Dynamis” last year received slightly more recognition. Richard Gehr of the Village Voice called Pendell “the best writer on drugs to come along since the late Terence McKenna charted the beautiful and terrifying ‘invisible landscapes’ revealed by DMT and psilocybin mushrooms.”
Drug writer. Hard to argue. But what does that make his book? It reads so smoothly, its structure almost escapes notice. Under autopsy, however, there it is. The element that keeps the various information flowing is poetry. There is a narrator, like a Greek chorus, or in this case, a heckler, who prompts the greater text to sing in different voices. How many books manage witty asides that can jump into chemical signatures, then take off into a hallucinatory odyssey about crack cocaine, seamlessly?
We meet on a july afternoon on the porch of his new cabin in the Sierra. He’s just moved to the mountains from Oakland. Most of his belongings are still in packing boxes. It’s midday, 100 degrees, the valley opposite shimmers with heat and a licorice-like scent hangs in the air from the baked scrub.
Pendell is taller than the jacket pictures suggest, lean, a born climber who hops easily from boulder to boulder on a stone outcropping near his house. I expect a wild woodsman, but instead he’s more textbook Berkeley, with twin earrings and slightly bushy eyebrows, the sort usually found on Englishmen in Victorian cartoons. When he listens, he tilts his head graciously toward his guest, like an interested minister.
He is, it turns out, the son of a minister. He has just returned from Orange County from a memorial service for his father, Thomas Roy Pendell, a life-long Methodist pastor who served at seven Southern California parishes. He seems relieved to be home, but apologizes for what he says is a cold he caught on the plane.
He suggests that we set ground rules for when the interview turns to illegal drugs, but then he doesn’t ask for any. Eventually, he has two specific requests. Could we not name the town where he lives and could we point out that though he spent time in jail for smuggling marijuana, he asked for and received a full presidential pardon? It was from Ronald Reagan and signed by a Justice Department official named Rudolph Giuliani.
We have been speaking for an hour before the first stutter erupts. It happens when the subject turns to the city where he spent puberty. “The Methodists move their pastors around,” he says, “so we moved to various places, including SSSSSSan Diego.”
Later, when I ask him about it, he says that he stuttered strongly as a child. “I never committed suicide, but I thought about it,” he says. “I wouldn’t use the telephone. I never wanted to introduce myself to anybody. I was morbidly shy.”
His father’s household was run according to scripture. Drink was off limits, as in: “It Is Good Neither To Eat Flesh Nor To Drink Wine, Nor Any Thing Whereby Thy Brother Stumbleth, Or Is Offended, Or Is Made Weak.” Romans, 14:21.
However, Pendell couldn’t help but wonder what Paul meant in Romans 14:13: “I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself” and Verse 20, in which he reiterates, “all things are indeed pure.” In 1964, age 17, still legally a minor, Dale Pendell left home and plunged headlong into all that purity out there.
Enrollment as a physics major at UC Santa Barbara lasted only a semester. He was rapt at the sheer elegance of physical equations, but already slipping toward poetry, raunchily. “I was at the southern end of the filthy speech movement,” he says. “It wasn’t filthy speech, though. It was just good erotica that I would post in my dormitory window. People would come by and read and think, ‘Oh, this is today’s offering,’ ” he says. “Anyway, I ended up in the dean’s office.” The stutter disappeared in front of the dean, he says. “Something about deans and police brings out my eloquence.”
He left Santa Barbara thumb-first. First stop, Berkeley. Then he crossed the country to New York with the writer Larry Beinhart (Beinhart, he explains, wrote the book “Wag the Dog,” adding appreciatively, “Good mystery writer.”)
By 18, Pendell was a heroin addict and had begun smuggling marijuana from Mexico to the U.S. He was so high while trafficking 200 pounds of Gold Brick, or enough pot to make a donkey groan, alarm bells didn’t sound when a window blind opened in a motel room next to his and he got a glimpse of a wall-mounted tape-recorder. Two separate arrests led to a four-month jail term in a Mexican prison, and a year-long one in Texas.
The addict’s whisper opens “Pharmako/Poeia.”
I hear you.
(any cops around?)
These are just words.
(yeah right …
I don’t want to hear this
(then why did you call me?)
Back in Berkeley by 1967, Pendell says, “I finally realized that heroin was affecting my luck.” He retreated to the mountains. “I hiked up as far as I could. I wanted to be as far away as I could from people. I stayed there as long as I could. I took as much LSD as I could. All of the hatred kind of fell into the earth.”
This, he says, is when it struck him that he didn’t know anything about the plants that covered the hillsides: their names, their properties, if you could smoke them, what happened then. “I wanted to know what the most common plants were,” he says, “the ones that didn’t have showy flowers, or any flowers at all, and weren’t in any of the those wildflower books.”
He began charting the anatomy of the hillside, collecting, pressing and drying plants, beginning what would become over the next 10 years a large herbarium. In the process, he got the idea for a book. He wanted to look at power plants, plants whose fruits are so dominant in our society we don’t even see them, or think of ourselves as taking drugs, like when we jolt ourselves awake with coffee.
In 1974, Pendell moved south, to the central ranges and Nevada County. Here a group of back-to-the-landers, led by poet Gary Snyder, the inspiration for Jack Kerouac’s “Dharma Bums,” were forming a poetry community. The following year, Snyder would win a Pulitzer Prize for for his poetry anthology “Turtle Island.”
Pendell used his plant know-how to start making and bottling an organic spruce root beer. The proceeds went to start a poetry magazine, Kyoi-Kuksu: Journal of Backcountry Writing.
Pendell studied Buddhism with Snyder, a discipline that to Western Romantics was what Unitarianism had been centuries earlier to Coleridge. Still, the most touching moments in the Pharmako series capture Pendell and Snyder not meditating, but partying. This is buried in the reference section of “Pharmako/Dynamis”: “Illustrating how any song written in ballad meter could be sung to any ballad tune, Gary Snyder once sang for me Blake’s ‘Mock on, Mock on, Voltaire Rousseau’ to the tune of ‘Mary Hamilton,’ ‘Barbara Allen’ and the ‘House of the Rising Sun.’
“Actually,” Pendell adds gleefully, “Blake violates the fourteener in the second line and it works better if you drop the second spondee.”
It was Snyder who helped a then-28-year-old Pendell finally subdue the stutter. “We were going to do a reading as a benefit for the magazine in Nevada City at the American Victorian Museum,” Pendell remembers. “Gary agreed to read at it, and a number of other fine poets. I was terrified. What was I going to do? Gary said, ‘Don’t worry, just read from the gut.’ ” Words came. Since then, says Pendell, fluency has been a “a continuous practice. If I start, I have to keep a channel open to where it all comes from, or I can’t talk at all.”
Hence, the long-distance effect, those perfect sentences.
In 1974, Pendell married Snyder’s assistant, Merle Goodkind, and became a father to her 2 1/2 year-old old son, Isaac. Asked what she did for a living, Pendell responds, “Her specialty was grace.” Later they had a daughter, Marici.
Pendell wrote this for Goodkind in 1975, a year after they met. It is called “Spring Song” and reads like a wedding vow.
open with the first sun;
crack the drudgery,
quick as they can.
know water won’t last,
no time to waste
in the hasty spring.
songs rise with the morning.
Come let’s kiss the greening-
tomorrow’s feet are lost to labor-
Brush our backs against the sun;
lie together, let these mountains
Rush, beneath us, back to sea.
Poetry is like modern art. A lot of people can’t tell whether it’s good or not. Allen Ginsberg thought that Pendell’s was good, and admired the pluck behind the root beer journal enough to contribute his own work. “We were first publication of some of Allen’s poems,” says Pendell. “Then he would send certain people my direction.”
Pendell kept the journal going six years. He built a cabin on rented land. His family got by–just. By 1981, he says, his “allotted time in heaven” had expired. Merle had lupus and needed better health care. They had two young children. He shut the magazine, sold the root beer company and moved to Santa Cruz to pursue a double major in creative writing and computer science at the UC campus there.
It led him to his second great mentor, philosopher Norman O’Brown. Pendell was in awe of O’Brown’s 1966 book “Love’s Body.” After a chance meeting, the philosopher pursued a friendship with Pendell because he was interested in plants. “We walked together a great deal,” says Pendell. “I used to show off by quoting poems by heart. He would answer back in Greek.”
This time as a student, Pendell finished both university degrees, with honors. When he graduated, a linguistics professor suggested, “Why don’t you support your poetry habit with programming?” For the next four years, Pendell wrote paper jam recovery programs instead of poetry. He scolded his now teenage son Isaac for smoking pot. It took Isaac to point out that he was becoming conventional, he says.
“I’d say, ‘Well, pot’s much stronger now.’ ”
In 1989, a three-week trip to the Amazon reminded Pendell of the old Trinity Alps idea for the book on power plants. It would be a pharmacopeia, a Greek term meaning “book of drugs, with directions how to make them.” Conventional pharmacopeias deal with what would have been in Pendell’s father’s medicine box. Pendell’s would embrace his, and beyond. He had only one line playing in his head like a mantra. “Tobacco, marijuana, then you’re in the jungle.”
He programmed by day and wrote by night. “The idea was that through immersion in each plant, something would come across in my style that would create a signature for the plant,” he says. “For example, the stimulant chapter turned out to be the longest.”
In January 1993, the book was almost halfway written when Isaac, then 22, died in a snowboarding accident. There is a gut-wrenching passage in “Pharmako/Poeia,” when Pendell, terrified and tripping, finally faces his son’s death. His marriage to Goodkind was never the same after Isaac died, he says.
When Pendell finished the first half of the book, Gary Snyder’s editor, Jack Shoemaker, sent sample chapters to Mercury House, a nonprofit San Francisco press. Pendell thought it was a prank when its publisher, Tom Christiansen, phoned to accept the book. “I said, ‘Come on, who is this?’ ”
The commission enabled Pendell to take a sabbatical from the software job to finish writing. Six months later, as rough drafts circulated among Pendell’s friends, there was confusion and shock. There was even a chapter on huffing solvents. Norman O’Brown asked him to take it out. “He said, ‘Everyone will know it’s a drug book,’ ” says Pendell.
Pendell left it in. “I thought of the information that I came across–that not all solvents are alike, some are much more dangerous than others–as harm reduction. I may reach somebody. The message: use toluene not gasoline, or better yet, nitrous oxide. Use ether, not chloroform.”
The text unnerved Mercury House sufficiently to affix this cautionary note: “A manuscript draft of Pharmako/Poeia caused us some concern. The author of this remarkable work was clearly exploring perilous terrain along his ‘Poison Path.’ This is a route we strongly advise others not to follow (except through this book, and through other approaches that lead in the direction of wisdom without dangerous self-experimentation).”
Pendell had his own definitions of danger, which come across plainly in the chapters that follow. “Huffers,” he speculated, “probably have an interesting terminology to describe the subtle differences of effects [between solvents], and it would be worth recording, if you could find an informant who is still articulate.” The chapter is the only one in his books where readers will find the words, “get off and get help.”
But with other drugs, he experimented freely on himself. Salvia divinorum, or “diviner’s sage,” only really kicked in, he reported, when he accidentally doubled the dose. The entry for wormwood begins, “The first effect was loosening of the sinuses . . . . Much stronger than the Japanese wasabi horseradish . . . . After some minutes I noticed that I wasn’t writing anything. I was just staring off into space. And the space was beautiful. The light was brighter. Mottled sunlight filtering down through the walnut tree. . . . The light was different, softer and more intense at the same time. I felt great, actually. I gazed around my studio and spent a lot of time looking at my painting . . . . A little tightness in the head and around the eyes.”
There is a recipe to make absinthe from scratch, and a time-saving alternative where you only have to doctor the Pernod.
The potential for ridicule is not lost on him. “Timothy Leary had a joke about LSD research,” he says. “You couldn’t write about LSD with any authority if you hadn’t tried it. On the other hand, if you had tried it, then how could anyone trust what you said?”
But for Pendell, the more ridiculous thing would be reporting on LSD without having taken it. “The approach is phenomenological,” he says. “We’re trying to work with what’s happening in real time and somehow convey that.” The science behind play is tricky territory. Pendell is not above trotting out ten-dollar words for instant authority.
As the book was revised and finally published, it was dedicated to Isaac. Along with Ginsberg and Ecstasy chemist Shulgin, actor Peter Coyote supplied a jacket blurb. Their task: somehow prime the public for the book.
I suggest to Pendell that he’s still trying to shock the dean. He nods and laughs in agreement. “I stated at my father’s memorial service that maybe I’ll emerge from adolescence in the next decade.”
Then I ask if he’s not also trying to shock us. Why he doesn’t do drugs the understood way? Secretly? Is he not simply a reflexive contrarian? Again, an acknowledging laugh. “Norman O’Brown gave me a lot of trouble that way,” he says. “He said, ‘At least I’m not working out my Oedipus complex with drugs.’ ”
But as the door opens for a defense of drugs, Pendell has one ready and it’s serious. The stumbling brother debate may have started with his father, he says, but now it’s with the world. It’s at the heart of his work. It’s over what gets banned, what doesn’t, and the War on Drugs. “It’s not that if you make a place for Dionysian energy, this kind of wild and unpredictable God, that everything will go OK,” he says. “That’s not true at all. But the cost of trying to suppress it is even worse. Then you sacrifice your own children.
“In the United States today we now have more people in prison than any other country on a per capita basis. The majority of these are for drug crimes. It’s a war against ourselves. It’s a war against our children. It was problematical for the Greeks but at least they came to recognize you have to admit a certain amount of chaos. You can’t try to live risk free. If you try to live completely risk free you’re going to destroy what you had. What’s a really secure environment? San Quentin is pretty secure.”
Society, he says, is police enough. “The solution is to let it be worked out by the culture. Peer pressure. Societal norms. Everyone knows that if you take a drink first thing in the morning, it’s not a good thing.”
But aren’t his books encouraging people to do drugs? “Encouragement is the big full-page ads in High Times,” he says. He has plenty of readers who don’t do drugs at all, he says. Bye the bye, he adds shortly afterward, he’s not exactly stoned all the time, either.
The irony, says Pendell, is that writing books about drugs largely requires staying off them. Plus, we grow out of them, he thinks. Heroin affected his luck. He’s at an age where he’s got to think of his liver when it comes to alcohol. LSD was a “great blessing” in his life, he says, but one of its teachings is to stop doing it. Marijuana can be useful on very rare occasions. He has one tobacco cigarette a day. But he won’t say no to an afternoon glass of home-brewed absinthe.
He offers one to illustrate the benignity of the drink, and I think to see if I’ll accept it. I do, curiously. After an hour, though it is getting later, everything seems just a little brighter. “There’s something about mottled light,” he says. “The change to the absinthe drinkers, you suddenly have light breaking out of everywhere.” Pendell reckons you can explain all of expressionist painting with absinthe. In a future project, he says, he wants to do a “pharmacological study of philosophy. Not enough attention has been paid to what philosophers have been drinking or imbibing.”
As he began writing the sequel, “Pharmako/Dynamis,” in 1996, his 22-year marriage ended. He moved to Santa Rosa and wrote–furiously. The theme of the new book: speed. It began with a mischievous look at the teetotaler’s stimulant of choice, coffee. By the middle of the text, he is describing the metallic taste of freebase cocaine.
to get back
to where things were clear
Then there is a spirited defense of Ephedra, and a paean to Ecstasy, part-and-parcel of an ebullient horniness that permeates the second book. There is attention to sexual side-effects of drugs, which ones “give good lead,” which take it away. The Ecstasy chapter merrily contrasts a middle-aged generation of users who first used the drug in marriage counseling, whom Pendell fondly describes as “mush pile” sensualists, to the stomping ravers of the early 1990s. One anecdote has three friends admitting their feelings for each other while on the drug, a week later becoming lovers, dubbing themselves a “truple” and looking for things that came in threes.
His mood throughout was euphoric. While writing the second book, Pendell was in love. In 1998, living in Sonoma, he met Laura McCarthy, a visiting poet and book-binder from New York, who moved west and married him. McCarthy has an easy warmth and a ready, musical laugh as she describes her old East Coast longing for a place where leaving the house means emerging outdoors instead of into an apartment building hallway.
An excerpt from Pendell’s poem “The Dream Walker,” from the 1999 anthology “Living With Barbarians,” captures his wife as a refugee from Manhattan.
Looked for songs in the dry moss trees;
Picked them up where flames swirled.
Her thirst frightened the flowers;
Only the cacti survived.
She made her home in a land dry and barren as the moon.
Of course she grew lonely.
Someone who loves poems should take her home.
Her curling breath so dry would crack the tongue.
Pendell took her home. When she appears halfway through our interview, he hugs her and demands, “Aren’t I lucky?”
Over the next several days, in phone calls between Los Angeles and the Sierra, Pendell reports that what he thought was a cold turned out to be pneumonia. A friend tells him lungs equal grief. There has been a lot of death in the last five years. Ginsberg died in 1997, O’Brown last year, and Merle Goodkind succumbed to lupus in the spring. Then, in June, his father died.
But as antibiotics kick in, and he and McCarthy unpack their moving boxes, he’s feeling better. Twenty two years ago, he left the mountains reluctantly, for his wife and children. Now he’s back. Each day, he feels ambushed by joy.
He’s debating which to finish first, a book about his hero, Norman O’Brown, or the third drug book, “Pharmako/Gnosis.” He is toying with a “free the drug plants” campaign, complete with a green ribbon. “This is a DIY operation,” he says. “The first step in trying to clean up the mess of the drug war is free the plants.”
He also wants to circulate “Boycott Companies That Drug Test” bumper stickers. America’s office workers are drug free on a wink, he argues. They are routinely given two weeks’ notice before marijuana tests, so the drug can clear their systems. Once they take up jobs, inside every office is “a shrine to a coffee pot,” and outside, a bar.
But where another opponent of the war on drugs would be stumping for Ralph Nader, America’s poet of the second pharmacy is converting a country barn to a library to accommodate what he estimates are 10,000 pounds of reference books and botanical specimens. Part of him wants to be heard, not just by his father, but by every Methodist in America, by scientists, the DEA, his jailers. The other half wants to disappear into the wilderness.
Dale Pendell’s life adds up only if you give it enough columns. He’s a study in contradictions. He devoted his most lucid moments to recording his most stoned ones. He’s a mountain man-cum-computer programmer, an exaltant stutterer, Hamlet on absinthe. He insists on defending substances that even liberals abhor. He signed up with a publisher ideologically opposed to making money. He wrote highly technical reference books as epic poems. He wants to change the world without joining it.
When pressed about why he sought a presidential pardon, he bristled that all the Los Angeles Times wanted to know about were his teenaged crimes, then dismissed the long fight for the pardon as a theatrical act of no merit. He wants credibility, and to be incredible.
The single underlying theme always returns to the Bible, to Romans, to Paul and the stumbling brother. Pendell questions if the world can reasonably be asked to slow down to the pace of the slowest walker. Witness the stutterer who found his voice. Today, for the pastor’s prodigal son to speak at all, he has to believe what he’s saying. When that happens, the poet can’t help but find a pulpit.
Poetry: Dale & Laura
December 8. Rohatsu
Buddha shrines in every burrow.
In all this space:
a star here or there –
in all this space
“Emptiness is only in form.”
Nothing needs doing.
Try not to add to the pain.
Orange rust yellow a flare of blue
this year no big fires in the meadow
orange rust yellow a flare of blue
it was the year of small fires
in the hearth & in the heart
where the heat builds & recede
& rebuilds energies dancing
sparks vibrating heartwood splinters
slivers combust jumping no fireworks
no bonfires just what we could control
inside the house and what we could not
it was the year of small fires the roaring
of pine manzanita & oak
what has fallen what we have cut
what we stacked once and then
stacked again closer by the door
lose some oak gain the heat
orange rust yellow a flare
of smoke, & ash & heat
Following Fixed Form
Following fixed forms
is to deanimate the angeles;
(thus we follow fixed forms)
(thus we bow to the image)
the news says “it’s all a hologram”
is that why I see animals in rocks
the rocks shaping themselves
into something soft and furry
an then upon closer inspection
returning to their stony forms
while the snow looks
like someone dosed it
The Sigh that Created the World
Sigh of blessing.
or release, or relief,
Compassion for the many beings –
created the world –
so God, in his loneliness,
could be viewed by his creations.
Was it an in-breath,
or an out-breath,
“Sometimes,” he said, “looking at the world,
I think it was a mistake.”
Or like a sneeze:
some good, some bad.
Emptiness is the Fundamental Nature of All Phenomena
“The sanctuary represents
a mind of great mercy and compassion;
the robe represents
a heart of gentleness and patience;
the throne represents
the awareness of emptiness in all phenomena.
These are the three principles to apply
when the Lotus Sutra is expounded. (Lotus Sutra 10: 2.19)
A blessing on all of you who have read so far.
How does one come to grips with a friends passing? I sat here a few hours after getting the news that Dale, a friend for nearly 20 years passed early this Saturday morning. Even expecting it, it still came as a blow. Dazed, but thinking. Lots.
At first I just sat absorbing it in. This, is not unusual. Still, the day was surreal. We had been expecting it for the last few weeks. He was supposedly given to the 1st, but he went nearly 2 weeks longer than expected. He had a rough go over the last few months. He harrowed physical hell. The cancer that the liver transplant had meant to stop had jumped pre op, blooming over a year later in his spinal column. You can read about it more on his web page. I am not going to dwell on it here, it was hard enough to read and hear about from where we are. I will say this, he and Laura stayed the course together. That, is love. I cannot imagine what it was like.
What gifts does a person bring? Dale had a generous heart. He brought the gift of observation, and immersion. He brought foremost, conscious poetry to the table. We had conversations over the years about Poetry, Sympathetic Magick (see Salting The Boundaries) and many other things. We were working on having an article of his poetry and an interview for The Invisible College Magazine. He informed me a few months ago that he could no longer type. He was looking for voice to computer software before things got bad. Now, it will be poetry and my thoughts. We had talked about this for about a year, and I hesitated tied up with other matters. This is the type of thing that drives me mad… putting off what one needs to deal with.
We met years ago at the Salvia Conference at Breitenbush that Rob Montgomery put on (bless his departed soul as well!). I fell in love with Dale & Laura, and their beautiful energy together. In the years following, it only deepened. Their love was a joy to step into, to observe. You could see it crackle across the room when they were giving their presentations. If you want to know what magick was, look to their relationship.
I have his books that he sent, plus the beautiful galley copies from the Pharmako series that he gifted me at Sacred Elixirs. He was encouraging me even then to write, having seen Turfing evolve on almost a daily basis. He laid out clues for me to follow to improve my writing. I have taken them to heart, but haven’t his discipline it seems. Still, one must try.
He kept working I believe for as long as he could. There is another book coming out. I know he wanted to see it, but.
We all come to this shore. There is no escaping it. Dale left the world a better place for his passing, with his poetry, ideas, but especially his deep and abiding love.
We shall miss you Dale.
Gwyllm, Mary & Rowan
If you start anywhere with Dale, start perhaps with his poetry. Here are 3 pieces that I love. I hope you will as well.
Some Of Dale’s Poetry:
Having a nightmare, I
must’ve been moaning
or whimpering, my cat
woke me up by
licking my arm, realized
that I did the same
for her, just, not
using my tongue.
Do lizards dream? I
think I heard that but
it’s hard to tell
A blue-bellied fence swift
closes its eyes
on a rock
in the sun.
(From Equations of Power)
The shadow of your eyelash extinguished my plans-
a vowel curled from your lip and stole my speech.
A dark wood grew from my shoulders:
vines and branches, caught on my feet,
pulled cities behind them-
hungry ruins, enchanted cemeteries,
gold, somewhere, buried I suppose.
If there were a crossroads between the path to hell
and the road to paradise,
neither of them knew it.
I held your arm, you balanced, bent, cut.
I did the same.
More like two fish turned to the same stream,
or two hungry buzzards, acting sated, both attracted
to the same gnarled branch.
(From Salting The Boundaries)
Chance favours numerous habits:
hap and portent,
Favors, chance favors, fortune favors
the bold, the prepared.
“Alas, m’lord, by chance…”
Perchance on a stochastic fulcrum,
a shuffle dance crane-wrought
in ominous glyphs-
A pachinko telos
cascading from a hand
with 2,718 fingers,
or a ghostly rebellion
against the stacked deck of privilege.
Prayers incline her way,
betting on a knucklebone revelation.
(it depends on us):
a lucky fall.
Chance is the accidental liberator of heaven,
an apocalyptic alternative cast by lot,
the occult avatar of nihilistic fair play.
immortal threat to eternal order.
Ground of existence.
Hope for newness.
Smile of mantis.
The last excuse and the final request.
Necessity is her twin.
(Prelude from “The Language of Birds” Some Notes on Chance and Divination)
One of his narratives. We walked their land together. An absolutely beautiful place up in the foothills of the Sierra. Dale and Laura were very attentive to it, living with, and not on so to speak. They both understood that community did not stop at two leggeds, or even four, but that community was the biome that we tread through. There could be delightful conversations arise out of this of course, and did. A lovely piece:
Holes in the Ground
A catalogue of creatures
living in the soil
I live off a dirt road, so the road to my house is also
dirt. The only paving on the property is the concrete
slab under the house and a couple of the outbuildings.
Otherwise, it’s all dirt: the paths and trails, and the ground
along them, whether covered by meadow, brush, or forest.
Everywhere I go, the dirt has holes in it. And for years now
I’ve been trying to find out who is responsible.
Easing into recovery from a recent surgery, I’ve been
going for daily walks. Or, let’s say, I’ve been sauntering, or
ambling. And the slower I go, the more holes I see—even
in these summer months when the meadow is all dry straw
and the ground is brick hard.
These Sierra foothill soils have to be some of the worst
in the world, with every nutrient but iron leached out. A
pick won’t dig a hole when the dirt is as dry as now, yet
new holes still appear. There are pencil-sized holes, dimesized
holes, quarter-sized holes. The more I look the more
I find. This isn’t even counting the larger and more ob-
vious holes—mole and gopher holes, or ground squirrel
holes or owl burrows—I know who makes those. But who
is making all these small holes?
A List in Progress:
First off, the Mammalia, our own dear class of milk drinkers,
are responsible for the largest holes, that’s clear. We dig
holes ourselves: postholes, outhouse holes, and trenches for
pipes—but they are usually filled in. Soldiers, of course,
dig holes, or used to, and call them foxholes. And foxes do
dig holes, though our foxes seem to prefer an abandoned
Rabbits dig warrens, which are holes in the ground,
though they must dig them in the densest and most inac-
cessible brush thickets, because I never find them. Many
rabbit warrens, it is said, are connected underground. We
have skunks, and skunks have long claws and dig dens.
I think I found one of those once. Opossums will nest in
holes if they can find one, but I’ve read that they don’t dig
their own. Sometimes they live in trees.
And the coyotes dig holes and live in them. I found one
once, with pups in it, dug into the side of an embankment.
Actually, my little dog found the hole before I did. He
was just a little scamp Peekapoo with long curly hair and
big eyes that said “I love you, just stroke behind my ears,”
but when he heard a coyote howl, he put his chin way up
in the air and made this sound like a coyote and trotted off
like The Fool headed for the cliff. After about five minutes
I heard a terrible yelp of pain way off in the manzanita and
figured I’d better go find him. I did and there he was, kind
of bloodied up and needing a stitch or two, and there was
Mama, standing in front of her den looking at me, and
behind her coyote pups looking out and thinking this was
all the coolest thing that had ever happened.
Ground squirrels dig holes, of course, and they are easy
to spot, as are gopher holes and mole holes, with the dirt
piled around the entrances.
Moles tend to have their entrances in the center of
the excavated dirt, so it looks like a volcano, while gopher
holes are eccentric.
Moles and gophers make a lot of holes around here.
I’ve lost a dozen fruit trees to gophers—but there may be
even more moles. The cat catches gophers but she doesn’t
go after the moles. At least not anymore, not since one she
had cornered attacked and grabbed on to her paw with his
teeth and wouldn’t let go. For a nearly blind animal that
spends its whole life underground eating bugs, moles are
Besides moles and gophers, there are shrews, mice,
and voles. I’m not sure why voles are called “voles,” which
sounds like “moles,” because it’s shrews that are like moles.
Voles are like gophers. Voles are often called “meadow
mice,” and I realize now that many of the small “gophers”
caught by the cat were actually voles and that voles are
probably responsible for a large number of the excavated
holes that are slightly smaller than mole holes but have
dirt around the entrances. Like gophers, voles are mostly
vegetarian and seem to be better tasting to cats than the
insectivorous moles and shrews.
Whoever is digging exactly which hole, there is a lot of
bioturbation going on, and it is not all done by mammals,
not by a long shot.
Maybe some lizards dig holes. Skinks do, for sure. Alligator
lizards dig to bury their eggs, but mostly I find them
just under boards and under stuff lying on the ground.
Fence lizards, whiptails—I don’t know but they’ve got to
Some spiders dig holes: deep, clean holes. Trap-door
spiders. And around here big wolf spiders dig a hole like
a trap-door spider, just without the door. Close to quarter
sized. The cat never sniffs at these holes. I had to go out
at night with a flashlight to see the spider, and I did. It was
there about half an inch down the hole with its legs on the
rim. So I took a piece of straw and rustled some dry grass
a couple of inches outside the hole. And, like, I knew what
was going to happen, but when the spider rushed out I still
jumped a foot into the air.
Most spiders, of course, live in webs.
Then there are the insects. And some in-between critters
like centipedes. Centipedes dig holes. Mostly, I think,
they dig holes and live in them. Except for the ones who
come into the house and hide under a sofa until you are
walking by at three in the morning headed for the kitchen,
when they lunge at your toes. I hate that. Why do they do
that? It makes me do that-forbidden-by-the-Buddha.
But insects, yes. Now we are getting to the pencil-sized
holes, or mostly.
Among the Hexapoda the most obvious and numerous
hole diggers are the ants. Lots of them, and they seem able
to dig into the very hardest of the hard-packed dirt right on
the driveway. So we see them a lot.
In fact, I’m watching them right now. These are fairly
sizeable ants, but fifty yards back there is an active nest
of very tiny ants, and both colonies may move the same
amount of dirt. They like to work in the cooler hours during
the summer, late afternoon, and early evening. In the winter
when it rains, I suppose these ant nests will become potholes.
I’d tired out early, as I’m still recovering from a chemo, so
sitting next to an ant hill seemed like a good place to rest.
Then, as a result of my treatments, I had half of a mental
whiteout: it was like a dust storm had come through and
half of my brain was left resembling the Playa at Burning
Man. Laura was with me.
“You know,” I said, “there was an early tribe of humans
who, being particularly observant of nature, decided that
underground was the proper place to live. They saw other
animals digging holes so they decided to do the same thing.
They were called troglodytes and they ate lizards and other
reptiles and small mammals and were known to be the fastest
runners in the world, which is strange, if you think
about it, because most of their lives they lived underground
in Ethiopia and were so poor of eyesight that they took to
herding large groups of moles from underground room to
underground room with short sticks. Caesar wrote about
them, but the book is lost.”
“Caesar, huh,” Laura asked, “like the salad?”
“Well, yes. And then Xerxes tried to hire them to dig
tunnels under the walls of a city he was besieging in Lydia,
but the troglodytes refused, explaining that such use of
their chthonic skills would be sacrilegious and offensive
to the gods of darkness, an explanation Xerxes accepted.”
“Xerxes, huh, are you sure you don’t mean Cyrus?”
“Yes, Cyrus, that’s who I meant. … The problems all
started when a Lydian king fell in love with his own wife—
that ended up being how the Persians found out about
the Greeks and went to war against them and why we run
marathons. The Greeks all wished that the troglodytes had
been more helpful to Cyrus and had finished the whole
thing before the Spartans arrived, so they passed laws protecting
people who lived underground in holes, exempting
them from certain taxes and service on triremes. Cyrus
and Croesus talked about it with Solon after they figured
out who was the happiest person alive.”
The fog was slowly lifting from my brain.
“See,” I said, “the barbarian women considered it an
affront to be seen naked … kind of like goddesses.”
“What’s this have to do with troglodytes?” Laura asked.
“Oh, because the troglodytes moved to Italy and became
Christians, and then they moved to Cappadocia.
One of their underground cities had eighteen-story buildings
and a population of twenty thousand. Nobody believes
that anymore, but you could look it up.”
Laura said she knew about Cappadocia.
I returned my attention to the ants. Some couldn’t
seem to find their way back to the nest. One, holding a
huge seed in its mandibles, missed the nest twice, and
was now more than a foot away and walking in the wrong
direction. Other ants touched antennae with it, but it still
hadn’t got the message.
“See,” I said, “the continued existence of underground
civilizations is a tightly held secret of the government: the
very existence of these cells is such a threat to national security
that they release occasional pictures of ufos instead.”
At that Laura concluded that I needed to walk some
more, so she helped me up and we started off again, but
now my eyes were tuned in to holes and we had to keep
stopping. I saw one very clean quarter-sized hole, or nearly
so, that I was sure was a new wolf spider hole. It even had
some paper-like web around the wall of the tunnel. I didn’t
stick my finger in.
Once we watched scores of flying ants hatching out of
several holes right in the driveway. They were orange and
black with blue wings and they just kept crawling out of the
holes and taking off into the air. I think the ants opened
new holes just for the hatching and then abandoned the
nest. At least the holes always seemed to be abandoned, until
I happened to walk by them one night when the moon
was out. Then I saw that the holes were indeed occupied, by
largish red and black ants that only come out long after dark.
Diptera: Flies, Midges, Gnats.
Not many insects live underground as adults, but many
live underground as larvae or pupae. I’ve see crane flies
dipping their ovipositors into the ground laying eggs. And
after the larvae pupate and the adults emerge, they leave
little holes behind them. Most of the little holes that are
left open are probably emergence holes—kind of like an
inter-dimensional passageway. Holes in regular use get
stuffed with gravel or straw.
Most Diptera prefer soil rich in decaying matter. Here,
that’s under the oak trees.
Hemiptera: True Bugs.
This is such a large order there must be some of them that
dig holes. Cicadas, for sure, in the suborder Homoptera,
produce large numbers of emergence holes.
California has the western subterranean termite. As their
name implies, these termites nest in the ground, preferably
in a buried log. Their nests can get quite large, many galleries
connected by tunnels, the whole thing sometimes
hundreds of feet in diameter.
Mole crickets live in the ground. The one we see the most
is the Jerusalem cricket, also called niña de la tierra. Is
there any bug more definitive of bugginess? I mean, they
are bugs. They’re huge, and they have those bald heads
that look like the bugs in the game “Cootie.” They are
harmless, but they will hiss and spit at you if you “bug”
them too much.
Laura and I were still walking but I could feel the
white noise returning and closing down the left side of
“You see,” I said, “the verb to bug, as in ‘don’t bug
me, man,’ actually does come from bugs. Well, more from
beetles. From that annoying characteristic of beetles, in
particular, to come right back at you after you brush them
away. It’s like, you try to be nice and just knock them ten
feet away from your sleeping bag instead of crushing them
and what do they do? They turn right around and come
back. And they’ll keep doing that. And that’s how the verb
to bug came about, from backpacking beatniks, Jack Kerouac
and Japhy Ryder, I think, who finally said ‘Hey, that
bug is bugging us.’”
Laura: “Uh huh.”
“Well, yes. Or maybe it started before then, maybe in
Harlem, in some seedy jazz club, with cockroaches.”
Laura, who had lived in New York City for years,
thought that the latter etymology was more likely.
There are also some ground crickets in this order that
dig holes. And the California camel cricket, Ceuthophilus
californianus, lives in underground burrows.
The subject of grasshoppers brings us to blister beetles
and thus to the Coleoptera. Blister beetles get their name
from the ability of some species to secrete cantharidin,
which blisters human skin. Cantharides is also known as
“Spanish fly.” It should never be used as an aphrodisiac, but
preparations are sold as a topical treatment to remove warts.
There are more than a hundred species of blister beetles in
California, but few if any of them cause blistering.
Female blister beetles lay hundreds of eggs in meadows
or other grassy areas where grasshopper larvae are
in the ground. The blister beetle eggs hatch into a larva
that looks like a cross between a silverfish and an earwig.
These crawl around when it is warm, checking out every crack
and hole in the ground they can find, looking for a
Entomological writing gets more colorful the further
back one goes in time. This may be because the earlier
generations of entomologists spent a lot of time lying
on the ground on their stomachs. Here’s Robert Evans
Snodgrass (1875–1962), on the triungulin of the striped
“Though the young scapegrace of a beetle is a
housebreaker and a thief, his story, like that
of too many criminals, unfortunately, makes
—Insects: Their Ways and Means of Living (1930)
Finding a nest, the triungulin devour the grasshopper eggs
and then molt into a completely different-looking grub.
Eventually, after a number of successive moltings, a pupa
hatches into a new adult, which crawls out of a hole in
Besides blister beetles, the most obvious diggers in this
order are the burying beetles, Nicrophorus. Beautifully
described in Bernd Heinrich’s Life Everlasting: The Animal
Way of Death (2012), Nicrophorus beetles can dispose of a
mouse carcass in hours. If the ground beneath the carcass
is soft enough, a pair of beetles, after a brief marriage ceremony,
together dig the ground out from underneath the
carcass, meanwhile chasing away wasps, flies, and other
beetles. When the carcass is buried, the female lays her
eggs on it. I haven’t seen these colorful beetles yet, though
I keep hoping to attract them by putting out half-eaten
mouse carcasses left by the cat.
I’ve read that if the ground is too hard, the burying
beetles will crawl under the carcass, turn over on their
backs, and walk the carcass off of them with their legs. This
I want to see! I mean, how do they coordinate that? “No,
darling, I think we should go this way.” “No, you always say
that, but what happened last time, huh, bug guy?”
Most of the other subterranean beetles live in the
ground during the larval stage, such as the stink beetle
and the tiger beetle. Entomologists calculated that in southern Wisconsin,
depending on the type of soil, an acre of ground contained between fifty thousand and two
hundred thousand grubs.
Eleodes larvae live in the ground until they emerge as
adult beetles. The Eleodes beetle is a large and all-black
darkling beetle that will stand on its head if disturbed and
spray a foul-smelling amber liquid, hence “stink beetle”
or “stink bug.” My mother called them “pinacate beetles,”
a name more usual in the Southwest, derived from the
Nahuatl word for “black beetle.”
The best study of holes in the ground that I know of
was by a Kansas entomologist, H. R. Bryson, in the 1920s
and 1930s. He described the types of holes made by a wide
variety of insects (mostly Coleoptera and Hymenoptera),
along with the soil type, the depth of the hole, the characteristic
branching, incline, diameter, length, and even
weight of the excavated soil—as close to an identification
key as one is going to find.
Hymenoptera: Wasps, Bees, Ants.
While beetles inhabit the ground almost exclusively in the
larval stage, the Hymenoptera typically live in the ground
as adults. Bumblebees and mining bees dig burrows, as do
many solitary wasps. Yellow jackets also live in the ground,
in large nests (as anyone who has ever disturbed one knows),
but evidently they don’t dig the burrows themselves, instead
relying on finding abandoned mouse or vole holes.
Solitary wasps that live in the ground include the
cicada killer, eumenid wasps, digger wasps, sand wasps,
and spider wasps. Many of these wasps have to deal with
parasitic wasps that will steal into their burrows and leave
their own eggs to hatch and devour the original eggs or
pupae, so many digging wasps disguise the entrances to
their burrows, making them hard to find. For one, they
disperse the excavated soil, so that predators or parasites
won’t be able to spot it as easily, and then they also plug
the hole when they go out and often cover it with debris.
That leaves the worms.
I guess they’re out there—it’s just hard to remember that
in the summertime. Charles Darwin calculated 53,767
earthworms per acre. That was England, of course, where
it rains a lot. Darwin’s last published book was on earthworms,
called The Formation of Vegetable Mould through
the Action of Worms. The book was surprisingly popular,
selling more copies than the initial edition of Origin
Once he had an estimate of the number of worms per
acre, Darwin went on to measure how much soil passed
through each worm and how much soil there was in England,
proving that all the topsoil in England had passed
through the intestinal canal on an earthworm many times.
He also calculated the rate at which earthworms bury ancient
ruins, doing his fieldwork at Stonehenge. Darwin also
performed extensive experiments with earthworms, establishing
that though they could not hear they could detect
vibrations and that they were intelligent and could learn.
This last assertion is an embarrassment to those who still
cling to the tenet that intelligence is a distinctly human
characteristic and that whatever animals do, especially invertebrates,
is something called “instinct.” Myself, I think
intelligence is still a good idea worth trying.
I could feel another whiteout coming on. Darwin had
filled the dining room with jars of worms and it was creating
a domestic crisis, Mrs. Darwin saying, at last, “You have
to choose: it’s me or the worms,” and Charles inventing
and calling in a “worm-mediation specialist” who brokered
a compromise, the worms getting Mondays, Wednesdays,
and Fridays and Mrs. Darwin getting Tuesdays, Thursdays,
Laura was talking to me. “What?” I said.
“It’s getting cold.”
You have to dig to find earthworms here. Or wait for a
rain. Laura grabbed an arm and we ambled on.
To know Dale one felt his deep connection with Buddhist tenets, and the practice. I leave you with this: He walked his walk. An authentic being. It was a deep privilege knowing him.
You cannot dissuade someone using logic who is guided by centuries of training if they have never questioned the set of their lives. They are asleep, and willing to continue to do so. To question all the societal memes that they live and abide by would be devastating. One would have to look deep within to ferret out what is an authentic thought, and what is an accepted trope. People mouth homilies all of the time, the truth seems that they would rather live them, and accept them rather than discovering their authentic selves, and living a life of examination and discovery.
These were my thoughts on watching the election process in Alabama. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Moore will not be in the Senate, but what I find sad is the clinging to old forms of thought that are so destructive to the human spirit, and that stand in the way of a better future for those who come after… Still, change occurs though at times it appears to be so glacial.
I know that society needs both the pessimist, and the optimist. I also know that change must be tempered with caution as well. Yet, it is hard to watch the turmoil around us at this time. Never forget, that those that hold different opinions carry a load in their lives as well. Fears, sadness, love, the uncertainty. The best action IMO is to treat everyone with as much love and attention that you can muster. Opinions, politics are the thinnest skin on the onion of self, and being. At the core we all share the divine.
So, there is a sizeable issue this time, links, music, thoughts on plant consciousness, Al-Khidr the Green Man, the poetry of Farid ud-Din Attar taken from his “The Conference Of The Birds”… I find the last musical entry incredibly entrancing, and evocative. It is difficult to watch for a bit, but in all it is a fascinating creation.
Talking about creations, check out my calendars for 2018:
Great for gifts, and to keep up with what art I am producing as of late.
I hope your days and nights are sweet.
On The Menu:
Al-Khiḍr, the Green and Artistic Spiritual Guide
The Poetry Of Attar
Where Caesar First Tred
I Prefer Ghost…
Is It An Asteroid?
One To The Chest
“God sleeps in the rock, dreams in the plant, stirs in the animal, and awakens in man.” – Ibn Arabi
Perhaps more than dreams. If, by ingesting a plant, say, Salvia Divinorum (quid method) the plant shows me its view point of being a plant…(yes I have experienced this as perhaps some of you) or ayahuasca, along with certain fungi’s can do something quite similar, you are indeed walking with beings who are aware all around you.
They don’t wag their tails, lick your hands, purr or dance in the sea, but their signatures show on deeper levels.
The Cognitive Abilities Of Plants…
And if that wasn’t enough… This: Something Really Fascinating Happens When You Give Plants Anaesthetic
Plants having similar reactions to anaesthetics… Who knew?
I had the privilege of studying under Samuel Lewis for a couple of years before his passing. It was a period of transition for me, from 4th Way School of thought, to Sufism, and Magick. He made the difference in my life with his light, and guidance.
Al-Khiḍr, the Green and Artistic Spiritual Guide (excerpt)
by H. Talat Halman
The prophets Elias and Khadir at the fountain of life, late 15th century. Folio from a khamsa(quintet) by Nizami (d. 1209); Timurid period. Opaque watercolor and silver on paper. Herat, Afghanistan, now at The Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution
In 1925, on the third night of his first retreat, 29-year old Samuel Lewis suddenly felt a presence. Before him came the Sufi sage Khwaja Khiḍr, the Green Master. Khiḍr offered Murshid Sam the choice between the gifts of poetry and music. Murshid chose poetry. Decades later, through the Dances of Universal Peace, he also received the gift of music.
After three consecutive nights of Khiḍr’s visits, Murshid “began writing incessantly” (Lewis 1986: 29-30). And Murshid Sam, whose vigor and vitality in later years challenged his much-younger disciples, wrote that the “proof of the validity” of a visit from Khiḍr “comes first in the physical and mental vigour of the person blessed by Khwaja Khiḍr, exactly in accordance with the traditions” (Lewis 1975: 12).
The great 14th-century Persian poet Hafiz also received the gift of poetry from Khiḍr after a forty-night vigil. In Muslim tradition, Khiḍr is widely known as the guide of Moses and Alexander the Great, a wali (saint), a prophet, and one of four immortals along with Enoch (Idris), Jesus, and Elijah. Murshid Sam described Khiḍr and Elijah as “the two ‘guardian spirits’ of this world and the next” (Lewis 1986: 298). Like the Qur’an’s description of Khiḍr’s gift of mercy (rahman) and direct inner knowing (‘ilm al-ladunni), Elijah heard God’s intimate “still small voice” (I Kg. 19:12).
Murshid also wrote that, according to Qabbalah, Khiḍr is Jethro — the biblical father-in-law of Moses who taught Moses the Name of God in the form “I am that I am” (Lewis 1975: 207). Hazrat Inayat Khan called Khiḍr “the guiding angel of all seeking souls” (Inayat Khan: 1927, 105). Meher Baba reported that on the night St. Francis received his stigmata at Alvernia, Khiḍr visited him and gave him the “touch of grace” that made him a perfect master (Kalchuri: 14, 5011).
Khiḍr’s story stands at the center of the Qur’an. The Prophet Muhammad expanded on the story, further detailing Moses’ journey with Khiḍr. In the Persian Alexander Romances (Iskandar Nama), Khiḍr appears as Alexander’s deputy and cook who gained immortality by drinking the water of eternal life. His name, however spelled and pronounced — al-Khadir, al-Khiḍr, al-Khizr (Arabic), al-Khezr (Farsi), H1z1r (Turkish), or Khidlir and Khizir (Indonesian) — means literally, “the Green”.
Asked by his companions about Khiḍr, the Prophet Muhammad explained that after al-Khiḍr sat on barren land, the ground turned green with vegetation. Khiḍr’s transmission is “green,” and alive. John Matthews describes the archetype of the Green Man as “the spirit of nature … an ancient symbol of nature and fertility,” expressed in the Norse World Tree Yggdrasil, Attis and Adonis, Odin, Osiris, the King of the Wood, and the May King and Harvest King.
Khiḍr brings a gift that Sufis realize as the treasure of gnosis within the heart. Some Sufis teach that we will all meet Khiḍr at least once in our lifetime, that you will recognize him when you shake hands with a white bearded man with no bone in his thumb. In the lore of Sufi saints, Khiḍr sometimes bestows a mantle (khirqa), a primary symbol of Sufi initiation. Nizamuddin ‘Awliya received from Khiḍr a special litany. Rumi’s son Sultan Veled compared Rumi’s transforming relationship with Shams-i Tabrizi to that between Moses and al-Khiḍr.
Khiḍr rescues and protects people in times of danger and distress. He saves the pure in heart from theft, drowning, snakes, and scorpions. In Indian miniatures, Khiḍr travels on top of a large fish, intimating the image of Vishnu’s first avatar, Matsya: the fish that saved the first man, Manu. In a Turkish story, an old white-bearded man hailed a tourist bus and asked the driver to wait while he went to bring his sick grandchild. Minutes passed and the old man did not return. When a passenger came forward, he discovered the driver had died. Everyone realized that the old man was Khiḍr and had saved their lives.
Al-Khiḍr, the Universal Green Man
How does Khiḍr exemplify the universal archetype of the Green Man? Numerous are the stone images of the Green Man that grace household gardens, homes, and churches. Medieval cathedrals feature Green Man faces framed with foliage. Mayday celebrations include Jack-in-the-Green and the green May King and May Queen. (Anderson) St. George and St. Michael’s color is green. The Hindu avatar Rama is green. The Tibetan yogi Milarepa turned green by eating mostly nettles.
Sir Gawain was initiated by the Green Knight. As described by Brian Stone, the character and actions of the Green Knight remind us of Khiḍr:
This on his first appearance he is described successively as a terrifying giant (ll. 137-40), a handsome and well-built knight (ll. 141-6), a weirdly green — and hence, implicitly supernatural — person (ll. 147-50). And on his last appearance, besides all these, he appears as a warm and sympathetic human being (ll. 2333-6), an omniscient confessor who judges with accuracy and compassion, and above all with authority (ll. 2338-99), and finally as a human, subtly diminished by the termination of his supernatural function
Like the Green Knight, Khiḍr is vitriolic in the alchemical sense of being a transforming agent. For example, the green sage Yoda trains Luke Skywalker. Just as Khiḍr challenged Moses, Yoda initially challenged Luke’s aptitude and preparedness for Jedi training (Star Wars V). In a martial arts film co-written by Bruce Lee, The Silent Flute (Circle of Iron), the story of Moses’ journey with al-Khiḍr appears in a martial arts setting. The Moses figure, Cord the Seeker, seeks training from a blind kung-fu master (played by David Carradine). Their journey exactly parallels Khiḍr’s story in the Qur’an.
William Anderson compares an assortment of “Green Men,” including Osiris, Attis, Adonis, Dionysis, and Robin Hood. Like Osiris and Utnapishtim, Gilgamesh’s guide Khiḍr stands where waters grant eternal life. Utnapishtim who dwelt “at the two rivers” instructed Gilgamesh to dive for the plant of immortality, “Never-grows-old” at the bottom of the sea. Like Khiḍr, Utnapishtim’s name means “He who saw life.”
After the Flood, the god Enlil blessed him and his wife and placed them “in the distance at the mouth of two rivers.
Al-Khiḍr, Alchemy, and Psychology
In the Alexander Romance, Khiḍr found the elixir of life in the land of darkness. This land is the alchemical nigredo. Green is also the color of Hermes Trismegistus, who imparted the secret of immortality in both the Emerald Tablet and the Grail Cup (Krater) in the Corpus Hermeticum.
Jung in his main essay on al-Khiḍr writes:
Anyone who gets into that cave [the cave of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, a story also related in the Qur’an’s 18th chapter], that is to say into that cave which everyone has within himself, or into the darkness that lies behind consciousness, will find himself involved in an — at first — unconscious process of transformation. By penetrating into the unconscious he makes a connection with his unconscious contents. This may result in a momentous change in personality in the positive or negative sense. The transformation is often interpreted as a prolongation of the natural span of life or as an earnest of immortality. The former is the case with many alchemists, notably Paracelcus (in his treatise De vita longa), and the latter is exemplified in the Eleusinian mysteries.
Thus the story teaches us to find the elixir of life and the gems of wisdom in our shadow. The places that we initially cannot see in our inner journey, can impart creative, volatile, and valuable energy that we can transmute and thereby bear spiritual fruit.
Jung explains that Moses is the ego and Khiḍr is the unconscious, a vast ocean into which the “fish” (Moses’ consciousness) disappeared and reappeared again at that rock — the lapis. In that transformation, Moses had new access to what Semnani called the “al-Khiḍr of your being.”
Because Khiḍr’s knowledge is symbolized by “water,” we learn that this flowing reality cannot be set in stone. Immortality and eternal youth cannot be rigid like rocks. What Khiḍr transmitted gave immortality to Moses and Alexander. Through Khiḍr we receive a gift of immortality — not physically perhaps — but truly collectively, culturally, and spiritually. The Sufi master Sherif Baba described Moses’ journey with Khiḍr as our own journey. Our unconscious, symbolized by the cooked fish, awakens through the revivifying waters of divine love and is transformed into a higher consciousness. Khiḍr is the God-friend who recreates people by intensive relationship and connection and so brings out of us the child of our being, a verdant soul.
Khiḍr and Nature
As trees exhale oxygen, Khiḍr exudes an inspiration of inner knowledge that bears new fruits of wisdom and discernment. As plants turn sunlight into food, so we receive from Khiḍr the light of the eternal garden. Khiḍr’s knowledge is imparted in the way flowers favor the air with their fragrance: a bestowal unseen, but felt and known. Khiḍr represents this renewal of spirit and respect for the earth and creatures. Rabbi Kook wrote of the vegetable world, “Every part of the vegetable world is singing a song and breaking forth a secret of the divine mystery” (Besserman: 1994, 2). That reality is Khiḍr.
Khiḍr’s authority is natural: like nature, he is green and ever-rejuvenating. He is fresh, abundant, stunning, and unpredictable. Khiḍr does not depend on linear hierarchies; he branches out in multiple directions. And like nature, Khiḍr’s lessons include the natural disasters we do not understand: the storms, volcanoes, and earthquakes we cannot or do not want to explain. According to the Prophet Muhammad, it was when Moses thought he was the wisest man on earth that God sent him to learn from Khiḍr.
Khiḍr and Transformation
Al-Khiḍr’s authority is natural, not institutional or hierarchical. What Khiḍr imparts is renewal and rejuvenation. The discovery of Khiḍr’s secret points not to something already there in nature, but to a discovery of what can be created, of what we can do next, of an ultimately alchemical transformation. For example, in 2004 when the Tsunami struck Indonesia, India, and Southeast Asia, the question for most people in its midst was not, “Why did this happen?” but rather, “What can we do now? How can we make life better? What’s possible?”
That’s why in the story of Khiḍr in the Qur’an, his relationship with nature differs from that of other Green Men such as Adonis or Attis or Osiris. Khiḍr represents much more than the mystery — as profound and beautiful as it is — of the dying and resurrecting god. Khiḍr represents a further horizon: nature’s transformational possibility. Khiḍr’s actions do more than justify themselves: they open up new roads, new destinies, new possibilities. Khiḍr imparts lessons in transformation and mediates the experience of death and the possibility of attaining immortality. Further, the story of Khiḍr and Moses models the master-disciple relationship. And the story of Khiḍr and Moses whispers some of the mysteries of predestination and theodicy if we listen.
Nature is not merely a sentimentally beautiful experience; it offers not only soft sweet beauty but also overwhelming majesty. Khiḍr reminds us of this in the way he embodies nature and initiates us into its presence. Pir Vilayat has vividly described al-Khiḍr’s natural initiations:
And the Al-Khiḍr of your soul puts you through terrible tests, puts you through a quagmire of iniquities so you may come out unscathed, puts you through the test of drowning, through the test of fire, through the test of air, and finally through the test of truth.
Here is the initiation of “acts of God,” the overwhelming tsunamis, the raging forest fires, the winds of hurricanes, and all of the stark reality such traumas transition us into.
In the story in the Qur’an, al-Khiḍr practices nature’s qualities of breaking down, killing, and rebuilding to give birth to transformations leading to new fates and new fortunes. Hazrat Inayat Khan quotes a Persian couplet that expresses this: “It is the gardener who knows which plant to rear and which to cut down.”
Like nature, Khiḍr is active, dynamic, and alchemical. Khiḍr is also, as the Alexander Romance hints, like a fire. Khiḍr has passed through the alchemical stages of nigredo, albedo, and rubedo. He has manifested and integrated the elements and energies of earth, water, air, and fire. Khiḍr shows us we must care for nature because — among so many reasons — what Hazrat Inayat Khan calls the “sacred manuscript of nature” is the intimate scripture that inspires fresh, new, “green,” experience for our spirit, soul, and body.
Fariduddin Attar narrates that when the early Sufi master Ibrahim ibn Adham, the former prince of Balkh, learned from “one of the great men of Faith” the Greatest Name of God,” he invoked that name “and immediately he beheld Khiḍr, upon whom be peace.” Thus Murshid Sam wrote of Khiḍr in The Jerusalem Trilogy, quoting from the Messenger Shiva who identifies himself:
Ishvara, Osiris, Asar, Asher,
Variations of the One Holy Name,
Taught to Moses by Khiḍr in the form:
‘Ehyeh asher ehyeh’ – I am Ishvara who was, is, will be,
That One who is the Only-Only-Only,
Forevermore, and on and on, … (Lewis: 1975, 207)
Talat Halman is Assistant Professor of Religion at Central Michigan University where he teaches courses in Islamic Studies and World Religions. This article on the Green Man is derived from a body of work on al-Khiḍr to be published by Fons Vitae as Where Two Seas Meet: The Story of al-Khiḍr and Spiritual Guidance. He holds initiations in the Ruhaniat, the Sufi Order, and Sherif Baba’s Rifa’i-Marufi lineages.
“Al-Khiḍr, the Green and Artistic Spiritual Guide (excerpt)” courtesy: The Sound Journal Feb 2010 issue
The Poetry Of: Farid ud-Din Attar
Extractions from “The Conference Of The Birds”
The moths and the flame
Moths gathered in a fluttering throng one night
To learn the truth about the candle light,
And they decided one of them should go
To gather news of the elusive glow.
One flew till in the distance he discerned
A palace window where a candle burned —
And went no nearer: back again he flew
To tell the others what he thought he knew.
The mentor of the moths dismissed his claim,
Remarking: “He knows nothing of the flame.”
A moth more eager than the one before
Set out and passed beyond the palace door.
He hovered in the aura of the fire,
A trembling blur of timorous desire,
Then headed back to say how far he’d been,
And how much he had undergone and seen.
The mentor said: “You do not bear the signs
Of one who’s fathomed how the candle shines.”
Another moth flew out — his dizzy flight
Turned to an ardent wooing of the light;
He dipped and soared, and in his frenzied trance
Both self and fire were mingled by his dance —
The flame engulfed his wing-tips, body, head,
His being glowed a fierce translucent red;
And when the mentor saw that sudden blaze,
The moth’s form lost within the glowing rays,
He said: “He knows, he knows the truth we seek,
That hidden truth of which we cannot speak.”
To go beyond all knowledge is to find
That comprehension which eludes the mind,
And you can never gain the longed-for goal
Until you first outsoar both flesh and soul;
But should one part remain, a single hair
Will drag you back and plunge you in despair —
No creature’s self can be admitted here,
Where all identity must disappear.
‘A lover’, said the hoopoe, now their guide,
‘Is one in whom all thoughts of self have died;
Those who renounce the self deserve that name;
Righteous or sinful, they are all the same!
Your heart is thwarted by the self’s control;
Destroy its hold on you and reach your goal.
Give up this hindrance, give up mortal sight,
For only then can you approach the light.
If you are told: “Renounce our Faith,” obey!
The self and Faith must both be tossed away;
Blasphemers call such action blasphemy —
Tell them that love exceeds mere piety.
Love has no time for blasphemy or faith,
Nor lovers for the self, that feeble wraith.
The nightingale raises his head, drugged with passion,
Pouring the oil of earthly love in such a fashion
That the other birds shaded with his song, grow mute.
The leaping mysteries of his melodies are acute.
‘I know the secrets of Love, I am their piper,’
He sings, ‘I seek a David with broken heart to decipher
Their plaintive barbs, I inspire the yearning flute,
The daemon of the plucked conversation of the lute.
The roses are dissolved into fragrance by my song,
Hearts are torn with its sobbing tone, broken along
The fault lines of longing filled with desire’s wrong.
My music is like the sky’s black ocean, I steal
The listener’s reason, the world becomes the seal
Of dreams for chosen lovers, where only the rose
Is certain. I cannot go further, I am lame, and expose
My anchored soul to the divine Way.
My love for the rose is sufficient, I shall stay
In the vicinity of its petalled image, I need
No more, it blooms for me the rose, my seed.
The hoopoe replies: ‘You love the rose without thought.
Nightingale, your foolish song is caught
By the rose’s thorns, it is a passing thing.
Velvet petal, perfume’s repose bring
You pleasure, yes, but sorrow too
For the rose’s beauty is shallow: few
Escape winter’s frost. To seek the Way
Release yourself from this love that lasts a day.
The bud nurtures its own demise as day nurtures night.
Groom yourself, pluck the deadly rose from your sight.
Coffee Part II:
In this entry I will not regale you with tales of my life, but perhaps the roots of modern coffee culture, and the links it has to economics/capitalism in the modern world. It is not a direct path, but one of those side journeys that I quite enjoy. I made a couple of pilgrimages whilst living in London to the locations of some of the earlier coffee dens, a couple were still functioning back in the mid 80’s when I was there last. Coffee shops didn’t only generate economic changes of course, but social ones, which is what I am primarily interested in. So, enjoy this article, it is quite a gem.
We are now swinging into the holidaze… Here is to holding ones equilibrium in the upheaval at the end of the calendar year. Looking forward to the next year, this one has been a real challenge for so many people.
On The Menu:
Music: Sarabeth Tucek
The Lost World of the London Coffeehouse
Music: Hush Arbors
Nothing Says Special like:
One of my favourite pieces. Get it inscribed with a personal message for the collector in your life!
Tim Scully Turns On The World!
Egyptian Neolithic Ritual Art
Early Images of Domesticated Dogs Found in Arabia
A Chip For The Old Brain? What Could Go Wrong?
Nice take on this song. The video component not so much…
The Lost World of the London Coffeehouse
In contrast to today’s rather mundane spawn of coffeehouse chains, the London of the 17th and 18th century was home to an eclectic and thriving coffee drinking scene. Dr Matthew Green explores the halcyon days of the London coffeehouse, a haven for caffeine-fueled debate and innovation which helped to shape the modern world.
From the tar-caked wharves of Wapping to the gorgeous lamp-lit squares of St James’s and Mayfair, visitors to eighteenth-century London were amazed by an efflorescence of coffeehouses. “In London, there are a great number of coffeehouses”, wrote the Swiss noble César de Saussure in 1726, “…workmen habitually begin the day by going to coffee-rooms to read the latest news.” Nothing was funnier, he smirked, than seeing shoeblacks and other riffraff poring over papers and discussing the latest political affairs. Scottish spy turned travel writer John Macky was similarly captivated in 1714. Sauntering into some of London’s most prestigious establishments in St James’s, Covent Garden and Cornhill, he marvelled at how strangers, whatever their social background or political allegiances, were always welcomed into lively convivial company. They were right to be amazed: early eighteenth-century London boasted more coffeehouses than any other city in the western world, save Constantinople.
London’s coffee craze began in 1652 when Pasqua Rosée, the Greek servant of a coffee-loving British Levant merchant, opened London’s first coffeehouse (or rather, coffee shack) against the stone wall of St Michael’s churchyard in a labyrinth of alleys off Cornhill. Coffee was a smash hit; within a couple of years, Pasqua was selling over 600 dishes of coffee a day to the horror of the local tavern keepers. For anyone who’s ever tried seventeenth-century style coffee, this can come as something of a shock — unless, that is, you like your brew “black as hell, strong as death, sweet as love”, as an old Turkish proverb recommends, and shot through with grit.
It’s not just that our tastebuds have grown more discerning accustomed as we are to silky-smooth Flat Whites; contemporaries found it disgusting too. One early sampler likened it to a “syrup of soot and the essence of old shoes” while others were reminded of oil, ink, soot, mud, damp and shit. Nonetheless, people loved how the “bitter Mohammedan gruel”, as The London Spy described it in 1701, kindled conversations, fired debates, sparked ideas and, as Pasqua himself pointed out in his handbill The Virtue of the Coffee Drink (1652), made one “fit for business” — his stall was a stone’s throw from that great entrepôt of international commerce, the Royal Exchange.
Remember — until the mid-seventeenth century, most people in England were either slightly — or very — drunk all of the time. Drink London’s fetid river water at your own peril; most people wisely favoured watered-down ale or beer (“small beer”). The arrival of coffee, then, triggered a dawn of sobriety that laid the foundations for truly spectacular economic growth in the decades that followed as people thought clearly for the first time. The stock exchange, insurance industry, and auctioneering: all burst into life in 17th-century coffeehouses — in Jonathan’s, Lloyd’s, and Garraway’s — spawning the credit, security, and markets that facilitated the dramatic expansion of Britain’s network of global trade in Asia, Africa and America.
The meteoric success of Pasqua’s shack triggered a coffeehouse boom. By 1656, there was a second coffeehouse at the sign of the rainbow on Fleet Street; by 1663, 82 had sprung up within the crumbling Roman walls, and a cluster further west like Will’s in Covent Garden, a fashionable literary resort where Samuel Pepys found his old college chum John Dryden presiding over “very pleasant and witty discourse” in 1664 and wished he could stay longer — but he had to pick up his wife, who most certainly would not have been welcome.
No respectable women would have been seen dead in a coffeehouse. It wasn’t long before wives became frustrated at the amount of time their husbands were idling away “deposing princes, settling the bounds of kingdoms, and balancing the power of Europe with great justice and impartiality”, as Richard Steele put it in the Tatler, all from the comfort of a fireside bench. In 1674, years of simmering resentment erupted into the volcano of fury that was the Women’s Petition Against Coffee. The fair sex lambasted the “Excessive use of that Newfangled, Abominable, Heathenish Liquor called COFFEE” which, as they saw it, had reduced their virile industrious men into effeminate, babbling, French layabouts. Retaliation was swift and acerbic in the form of the vulgar Men’s Answer to the Women’s Petition Against Coffee, which claimed it was “base adulterate wine” and “muddy ale” that made men impotent. Coffee, in fact, was the Viagra of the day, making “the erection more vigorous, the ejaculation more full, add[ing] a spiritual ascendency to the sperm”.
There were no more Women’s Petitions after that but the coffeehouses found themselves in more dangerous waters when Charles II, a longtime critic, tried to torpedo them by royal proclamation in 1675. Traditionally, informed political debate had been the preserve of the social elite. But in the coffeehouse it was anyone’s business — that is, anyone who could afford the measly one-penny entrance fee. For the poor and those living on subsistence wages, they were out of reach. But they were affordable for anyone with surplus wealth — the 35 to 40 per cent of London’s 287,500-strong male population who qualified as ‘middle class’ in 1700 — and sometimes reckless or extravagant spenders further down the social pyramid. Charles suspected the coffeehouses were hotbeds of sedition and scandal but in the face of widespread opposition — articulated most forcefully in the coffeehouses themselves — the King was forced to cave in and recognise that as much as he disliked them, coffeehouses were now an intrinsic feature of urban life.
By the dawn of the eighteenth century, contemporaries were counting between 1,000 and 8,000 coffeehouses in the capital even if a street survey conducted in 1734 (which excluded unlicensed premises) counted only 551. Even so, Europe had never seen anything like it. Protestant Amsterdam, a rival hub of international trade, could only muster 32 coffeehouses by 1700 and the cluster of coffeehouses in St Mark’s Square in Venice were forbidden from seating more than five customers (presumably to stifle the coalescence of public opinion) whereas North’s, in Cheapside, could happily seat 90 people.
The character of a coffeehouse was influenced by its location within the hotchpotch of villages, cities, squares, and suburbs that comprised eighteenth-century London, which in turn determined the type of person you’d meet inside. “Some coffee-houses are a resort for learned scholars and for wits,” wrote César de Saussure, “others are the resort of dandies or of politicians, or again of professional newsmongers; and many others are temples of Venus.” Flick through any of the old coffeehouse histories in the public domain and you’ll soon get a flavour of the kaleidoscopic diversity of London’s early coffeehouses.
The walls of Don Saltero’s Chelsea coffeehouse were festooned with taxidermy monsters including crocodiles, turtles and rattlesnakes, which local gentlemen scientists like Sir Isaac Newton and Sir Hans Sloane liked to discuss over coffee; at White’s on St James’s Street, famously depicted by Hogarth, rakes would gamble away entire estates and place bets on how long customers had to live, a practice that would eventually grow into the life insurance industry; at Lunt’s in Clerkenwell Green, patrons could sip coffee, have a haircut and enjoy a fiery lecture on the abolition of slavery given by its barber-proprietor John Gale Jones; at John Hogarth’s Latin Coffeehouse, also in Clerkenwell, patrons were encouraged to converse in the Latin tongue at all times (it didn’t last long); at Moll King’s brothel-coffeehouse, depicted by Hogarth, libertines could sober up and peruse a directory of harlots, before being led to the requisite brothel nearby. There was even a floating coffeehouse, the Folly of the Thames, moored outside Somerset House where fops and rakes danced the night away on her rain-spattered deck.
Despite this colourful diversity, early coffeehouses all followed the same blueprint, maximising the interaction between customers and forging a creative, convivial environment. They emerged as smoky candlelit forums for commercial transactions, spirited debate, and the exchange of information, ideas, and lies. This small body-colour drawing shows an anonymous (and so, it’s safe to assume, fairly typical) coffeehouse from around 1700.
Looking at the cartoonish image, decorated in the same innocent style as contemporary decorated fans, it’s hard to reconcile it with Voltaire’s rebuke of a City coffeehouse in the 1720s as “dirty, ill-furnished, ill-served, and ill-lighted” nor particularly London Spy author Ned Ward’s (admittedly scurrilous) evocation of a soot-coated den of iniquity with jagged floorboards and papered-over windows populated by “a parcel of muddling muck-worms…some going, some coming, some scribbling, some talking, some drinking, others jangling, and the whole room stinking of tobacco.” But, the establishments in the West End and Exchange Alley excepted, coffeehouses were generally spartan, wooden and no-nonsense.
As the image shows, customers sat around long communal tables strewn with every type of media imaginable listening in to each other’s conversations, interjecting whenever they pleased, and reflecting upon the newspapers. Talking to strangers, an alien concept in most coffee shops today, was actively encouraged. Dudley Ryder, a young law student from Hackney and shameless social climber, kept a diary in 1715-16, in which he routinely recalled marching into a coffeehouse, sitting down next to a stranger, and discussing the latest news. Private boxes and booths did begin to appear from the late 1740s but before that it was nigh-on impossible to hold a genuinely private conversation in a coffeehouse (and still pretty tricky afterwards, as attested to by the later coffeehouse print below). To the left, we see a little Cupid-like boy in a flowing periwig pouring a dish of coffee à la mode — that is, from a great height — which would fuel some coffeehouse discussion or other.
Much of the conversation centred upon news:
There’s nothing done in all the world
From Monarch to the Mouse,
But every day or night ‘tis hurled
Into the Coffee-House
chirped a pamphlet from 1672. As each new customer went in, they’d be assailed by cries of “What news have you?” or more formally, “Your servant, sir, what news from Tripoli?” or, if you were in the Latin Coffeehouse, “Quid Novi!” That coffeehouses functioned as post-boxes for many customers reinforced this news-gathering function. Unexpectedly wide-ranging discussions could be twined from a single conversational thread as when, at John’s coffeehouse in 1715, news about the execution of a rebel Jacobite Lord (as recorded by Dudley Ryder) transmogrified into a discourse on “the ease of death by beheading” with one participant telling of an experiment he’d conducted slicing a viper in two and watching in amazement as both ends slithered off in different directions. Was this, as some of the company conjectured, proof of the existence of two consciousnesses?
If the vast corpus of 17th-century pamphlet literature is anything to go by then early coffeehouses were socially inclusive spaces where lords sat cheek-by-jowl with fishmongers and where butchers trumped baronets in philosophical debates. “Pre-eminence of place none here should mind,” proclaimed the Rules and Orders of the Coffee-House (1674), “but take the next fit seat he can find” — which would seem to chime with John Macky’s description of noblemen and “private gentlemen” mingling together in the Covent Garden coffeehouses “and talking with the same Freedom, as if they had left their Quality and Degrees of Distance at Home.”
Perhaps. But propagandist apologias and wondrous claims of travel-writers aside, more compelling evidence suggests that far from co-existing in perfect harmony on the fireside bench, people in coffeehouses sat in relentless judgement of one another. At the Bedford Coffeehouse in Covent Garden hung a “theatrical thermometer” with temperatures ranging from “excellent” to “execrable”, registering the company’s verdicts on the latest plays and performances, tormenting playwrights and actors on a weekly basis; at Waghorn’s and the Parliament Coffee House in Westminster, politicians were shamed for making tedious or ineffectual speeches and at the Grecian, scientists were judged for the experiments they performed (including, on one occasion, dissecting a dolphin). If some of these verdicts were grounded in rational judgement, others were forged in naked class prejudice. Visiting Young Slaughter’s coffeehouse in 1767, rake William Hickey was horrified by the presence of “half a dozen respectable old men”, pronouncing them “a set of stupid, formal, ancient prigs, horrid periwig bores, every way unfit to herd with such bloods as us”.
But the coffeehouse’s formula of maximised sociability, critical judgement, and relative sobriety proved a catalyst for creativity and innovation. Coffeehouses encouraged political debate, which paved the way for the expansion of the electorate in the 19th century. The City coffeehouses spawned capitalist innovations that shaped the modern world. Other coffeehouses sparked journalistic innovation. Nowhere was this more apparent than at Button’s coffeehouse, a stone’s throw from Covent Garden piazza on Russell Street.
It was opened in 1712 by the essayist and playwright Joseph Addison, partly as a refuge from his quarrelsome marriage, but it soon grew into a forum for literary debate where the stars of literary London — Addison, Steele, Pope, Swift, Arbuthnot and others — would assemble each evening, casting their superb literary judgements on new plays, poems, novels, and manuscripts, making and breaking literary reputations in the process. Planted on the western side of the coffeehouse was a marble lion’s head with a gaping mouth, razor-sharp jaws, and “whiskers admired by all that see them”. Probably the world’s most surreal medium of literary communication, he was a playful British slant on a chilling Venetian tradition.
As Addison explained in the Guardian, several marble lions “with mouths gaping in a most enormous manner” defended the doge’s palace in Venice. But whereas those lions swallowed accusations of treason that “cut off heads, hang, draw, and quarter, or end in the ruin of the person who becomes his prey”, Mr Addison’s was as harmless as a pussycat and a servant of the public. The public was invited to feed him with letters, limericks, and stories. The very best of the lion’s digest was published in a special weekly edition of the original Guardian, then a single-sheet journal costing one-and-a-half pence, edited inside the coffeehouse by Addison. When the lion “roared so loud as to be heard all over the British nation” via the Guardian, writing by unknown authors was beamed far beyond the confines of Button’s making the public — rather than a narrow clique of wits — the ultimate arbiters of literary merit. Public responses were sometimes posted back to the lion in a loop of feedback and amplification, mimicking the function of blogs and newspaper websites today (but much more civil).
If you’re thinking of visiting Button’s today, brace yourself: it’s a Starbucks, one of over 300 clones across the city. The lion has been replaced by the “Starbucks community notice board” and there is no trace of the literary, convivial atmosphere of Button’s. Addison would be appalled.
Dr Matthew Green graduated from Oxford University in 2011 with a PhD in the impact of the mass media in 18th-century London. He works as a writer, broadcaster, freelance journalist, and lecturer. He is the co-founder of Unreal City Audio, which produces immersive, critically-acclaimed tours of London as live events and audio downloads. His limited edition hand-sewn pamphlet, The Lost World of the London Coffeehouse, published by Idler Books, is on sale now:
My daily activities are not unusual,
I’m just naturally in harmony with them.
Grasping nothing, discarding nothing…
Supernatural power and marvelous activity –
Drawing water and carrying firewood.
– Layman Pang-yun (740-808)
The mind of the past is ungraspable;
the mind of the future is ungraspable;
the mind of the present is ungraspable.
– Diamond Sutra
Unfettered at last, a traveling monk,
I pass the old Zen barrier.
Mine is a traceless stream-and-cloud life,
Of these mountains, which shall be my home?
– Manan (1591-1654)
My legacy –
What will it be?
Flowers in spring,
The cuckoo in summer,
And the crimson maples
Of autumn …
It is too clear and so it is hard to see.
A dunce once searched for a fire with a
Had he known what fire was,
He could have cooked his rice much sooner.
– Joshu Washes the Bowl, The Gateless Gate #7
This is what should be done
By one who is skilled in goodness,
And who knows the path of peace:
Let them be able and upright,
Straightforward and gentle in speech.
Humble and not conceited,
Contented and easily satisfied.
Unburdened with duties and frugal in their ways.
Peaceful and calm, and wise and skillful,
Not proud and demanding in nature.
Let them not do the slightest thing
That the wise would later reprove.
– The Buddha’s Words on Kindness (Metta Sutta)
Ah… Coffee. More on this after a few other items…
It has been a good week here at Caer Llwydd in that Rowan has settled in with Suzanne from their European adventure, and that Mary is working with me on publishing projects. The 9th edition of The Invisible College Magazine is getting there, and there will be two new books soon to be released on Invisible College Publications. Heady times.
I have been watching what moves, and what doesn’t on this site. It’s interesting that the visual blog gets more hits than say, The Hare’s Tale, or the archives. I guess this has to do with immediacy, or as I post the dopamine rush with the visual. Just to say, you’ll find gems here, and in the archives, as rough as they are. Check them out if you get a chance.
More art, music and poetry coming soon.
On The Menu:
Brendan Perry: Cresent
Coffee, Part 1
Poetry: Gerard de Nerval
Brendan Perry: Song To The Siren
The Video Game Example
Political Gridlock Over The Gravy
Paul Stamets on Joe Rogan (Long!)
Stars From The Dreamtime
The Trojan Boat?
Playing Both Sides…
So… as I update my Gwyllm-Art.com site, I will just put these here for now
Weird set up for a site, but you can find 12 of my art pieces now available as canvas prints, wall hangings, pillows, coffee cups and much more! I have held off doing this, but these are fun, and functional items that can enliven ones home with. Check it out!
They’re Back! The Gwyllm Art Desk CalendarS!
Now for 2018!
I so enjoy getting them out there to people who enjoy my art. The desk size and the wall size share the same images this year, so you can’t go wrong! If you enjoy them, please spread the word!
Desk Calendar Link!
Wall Calendar Link!
Brendan Perry – Crescent
This wee article on coffee was spurred a couple of weeks ago by our retrieving from storage a small krupps espresso machine that we bought when we moved to the US from the UK in 1986-87. Although with yers truly being very rusty with the technique I managed to turn out a very decent cappuccino on the first run. This experience and the experiences with making espresso or cappuccinos in the morning for everyone at Caer Llwydd sent me down a pathway of memories intimately tied up with the magick bean…
My experiences with coffee occured when I was, perhaps 4, or 4.5 years old. It is indeed the gateway drug of my life. Not sugar (that would come later), not alcohol (I would have to wait until I was 13) or any of the other myriad plants and compounds I have explored over the years. It is a tale that is tied to family history, and to perhaps what has shaped me into the person I am.
I was introduced to coffee by my mother. Yes, she was my dealer. At that tender young age, she started to make me toast, with a soft boiled egg laid on top, and then coffee with milk poured over it. Yes, I know, strange. I have tried to figure this concoction out over the years.
Who thought this up? Was it someone in the railroad that my grandfather worked for, and he brought it home? Was this strange recipe something that had came down from the family in Northern Ireland?
Was it perhaps served with tea at one time and then coffee was substituted along the way? Was it by accident, somewhere in the hoary past a family member spilled their coffee over their egg and toast and decided “Hey, this rocks. Let’s give it to the kids!?!” Haven’t a clue. Such a mystery. It is lost now in the dust that is time’s remnants. I remember still though sitting in the kitchen in NewFoundland, on a bright sunny morning and being transported by the flavour and the caffeine to this day.
I enjoyed this concoction for years. I graduated to drinking coffee a few years later, but to get someone really hooked, ya gotta make sure they have a foundation of use. There I was, around 7 or 8 having half a cup of coffee before I sped down the street to school, and usually crashing just after lunch. A pattern really developed with those early forays in consciousness expansion. Super focused in the morning, a complete loss for the rest of the day until I got home and had a coca cola, which where sugar started to come into this caffeine mix.
As it occurs, life carried on through my youth. Graduated to a cup a day, then two a day on the weekend. A pattern emerged in my life with stimulants. You might catch my drift here. I was becoming acclimated to being altered chemically.
Life had grown progressively weird in that mid 60’s way, when my parents generation found out that they could get divorced finally without moving to Nevada or going to Mexico. My parents were not the happiest of souls together after moving to the States. Their divorce had the effect of confusing and grieving me as well as opening the doors of doubt and introspection that turned into the beginnings of self awareness and self observation. Still gettings one’s footing as a young person then was challenging. (This of course is through my eyes and thoughts. More than likely it is no different for anyone, born anytime.)
My youth was strange enough without those added little bits, and as I was already on a path of my own having bounced around from the different parents homes… I decided finally that I could probably do better on my own. So, slowly I would be gone for a weekend, and then a week, until I left home, and started living on the streets, sleeping in the budding communes emerging, and started to migrate back and forth to the West Coast for the first time via Freight Trains. (I have written about this elsewhere.)
My first job of any import as a young adult was as a barista in an old beat coffee house turned folk club “The Green Spider” on 17th and Pearl 2 or 3 doors down from The Folk Lore Center in Denver back in the summer of 1966. It was a very exciting time for me… such freedom!
Anyway, the Green Spider. I hung out enough and drank enough espresso that somehow I got hired on to work in what passed for a kitchen. I started out with cleanup, and prep. This included coming in an hour or two before the Spider opened and turning on the old italian machine so that the steam would build up enough. Those early hours before customers came in were pure magic.
I first learned to make fruit and cheese plates (exotic!) and slowly learned how to make espresso on that grand old Italian machine. There were some 12 different coffee drinks, I mastered a few, cappuccinos, espresso obviously, and some of the layered drinks.
As The Green Spider had transitioned to a degree into a folk club, there was an eclectic mix. College kids of course, some older teenagers but a lot of the regulars were old Beats who still came in out of habit. When I mean old, I mean people in their late 20’s to early 40’s. To me the were the venerable old wise ones. You could come in and nurse a cup of coffee all night if you liked, and pay no more than a quarter if I recall. People came and went all night, but the regulars would hang out to all hours as the music played.
When the music stopped, i.e. whoever had gotten up on stage and did their numbers (numerous Bob Dylan & Joan Baez, Judy Collins clones, with some real talented people as well) I had to leave the kitchen, coffee maker and go up on stage and perform. I can be fairly spontaneous, but who really wanted a 14/15 year old kid with a harmonica or jew’s harp warbling away? I would be quickly replaced by someone who had a bit more talent and the night would carry on. Being in close proximity to the FolkLore Center gave the old place a bit of local cache for talent. Sometimes Harry Tufts would come down from the FLC and play. I understand he is still playing shows after all of these years. He must be in his mid 80’s now. What a talented and kind person.
I didn’t work for money. I worked for room and board, meaning all of the coffee I could consume, and the fruit and cheese plates with backed bread. For room, I slept on the stage after we closed at night, sometimes midnight, or as late as 4-5 in the morning. It was an interesting place.
When I didn’t sleep on stage, I would sleep in a broken down 1951 Hudson Hornet out back. I shared it with my friend Roberto Apodaca, a Mayan who had gone to school I believe up in Boulder or DU. He had a beautiful German girlfriend that he quarreled a bit with, hence his sleeping rough in the Hornet. He spoke several languages fluently, and was an incredibly charismatic and handsome person, kind and sharing.
Coffee House life suited me. I met all types of people. One that sticks out was a biker who had just gotten out of prison and who was hanging around. He would come in and talk, always looking over his shoulder, tense. One evening he came in, jumpier than ever. I was whacking away at a loaf of bread with a knife when he asked very quietly, “Please put down the knife”. I looked at him and explained, I had to prep the bread boards. He had a pen out waving it in my general direction.. “Please put the knife down, you are making me nervous” he said even more strained than before. I looked at the pen and realized it wasn’t a pen as there was rifling going down inside the rather open end that he was pointing at me. This was my first introduction to the dark side of gun culture… I froze, the supervisor froze, and the Biker put the pen gun away. He started to converse again as if nothing had occurred. I walked away slowly to the toilet, and composed myself. When I came back, our nervous friend had gone and the supervisor turned to me and said “Damn speed freaks”, and we continued into the night working away. Our Biker came back frequently as if nothing had gone down. He did get more and more paranoid until one night he just disappeared into the streets not to be seen at the coffee house again. I expect he hit high weirdness and had to follow it to its conclusion.
The Green Spider served as a base for me whenever I was in and out of Colorado over the next couple of years. I always had a place to stay, an espresso to drink and friends to meet. My first real intellectual conversations took place there. I was by far the youngest person around, but I was treated with respect, and looking back now with they all provided me a certain type of love and protection.
The Life I first found in Coffee Houses were as revolutionary to me as they were in England in the 1700’s. Then they were a bustling scene with poets, singers, songsters and revolutionaries. I found my intellectual footing there, a certain aesthetic that would lend itself to my endeavours over the years. I don’t hang out at coffee houses now days. The one thing you notice now days is everyone is ensconced with a laptop, or a smart phone. Conversation is at a minimum. The spark seems to have fled (at least locally, but there is hope yet!). No more a hot bed of discourse and music, with over stuffed chairs in the corner with magazines and newspapers from around the world. No more cats wandering around. An icon of dissent, discourse, and social change defanged, at least for the present time. Coffee Houses have waxed and waned over the years, and there is still a chance for them to revive I think.
Next installment will cover coffee in my life later on…
Berkeley/North Beach/Venice/Amsterdam/London & Back Again
I hope you have enjoyed this part.
Gerard de Nerval Poems:
It is of you, divine enchantress, I am thinking, Myrto,
Burning with a thousand fires at haughty Posilipo,
Of your forehead flowing with an Oriental glare,
Of the black grapes mixed with the gold of your hair.
From your cup also I drank to intoxication,
And from the furtive lightning of your smiling eyes,
While I was seen praying at the feet of Iacchus,
For the Muse has made me one of Greece’s sons.
Over there the volcano has re-opened, and I know
It is because yesterday you touched it with your nimble toe,
And suddenly the horizon was covered with ashes.
Since a Norman Duke shattered your gods of clay,
Evermore beneath the branches of Virgil’s laurel,
The pale hydrangea mingles with the green myrtle!
(Myrtho a shining mask of Venus Murcia to whom myrtle was sacred, is the counterpart to the dark prince of El Desdichado. Alchemically she is De Nerval’s feminine principle to be fused with the masculine. Iacchus was an epithet of the god Dionysus (Bacchus) and the name of the torch-bearer at the Eleusinian mysteries, herald of the child born of the underworld.)
An Old Tune
There is an air for which I would disown
Mozart’s, Rossini’s, Weber’s melodies, –
A sweet sad air that languishes and sighs,
And keeps its secret charm for me alone.
Whene’er I hear that music vague and old,
Two hundred years are mist that rolls away;
The thirteenth Louis reigns, and I behold
A green land golden in the dying day.
An old red castle, strong with stony towers,
The windows gay with many coloured glass;
Wide plains, and rivers flowing among flowers,
That bathe the castle basement as they pass.
In antique weed, with dark eyes and gold hair,
A lady looks forth from her window high;
It may be that I knew and found her fair,
In some forgotten life, long time gone by.
Well, then! All is sentient!
Free-thinker, Man, do you think you alone
Think, while life explodes everywhere?
Your freedom employs the powers you own,
But world is absent from all your affairs.
Respect an active spirit in the creature:
Each flower is a soul open to Nature;
In metal a mystery of love is sleeping;
‘All is sentient!’ Has power over your being.
Fear the gaze in the blind wall that watches:
There is a verb attached to matter itself…
Do not let it serve some impious purpose!
Often a hidden god inhabits obscure being;
And like an eye, born, covered by its eyelids,
Pure spirit grows beneath the surface of stones!
Trembling Kneph, the god, shook the starry ways:
Isis, the mother, then raised herself from her bed,
Made, to her savage spouse, a sign of hatred,
In her green eyes shone the passion of elder days.
‘Do you see him, she cried, the old lecher dies;
Through his mouth the frosts of earth take flight;
Bind his lame feet, destroy his squinting sight,
He’s the god of craters, king of the winter’s ice!
The new spirit summons, the eagle is done,
Cybele’s robe for him do I now put on…
The beloved son of Hermes and Osiris!’
The goddess fled away on her golden shell,
Her adored image returning to us on the swell,
And the sky shone beneath the scarf of Iris.
Note: This poem is a consequence of the two previous poems. Kneph, is Amon-Ra the great god of Egypt. Isis was the Egyptian mother goddess (Cybele was her equivalent in Asia Minor): consort of Osiris she bore the child Horus-Harpocrates, the new sun (De Nerval’s image here for the Christ-Child). This is the alchemical fusion of male and female principles which produces gold, a process sacred to Hermes Trismegistus. Iris’ scarf is the rainbow, she being sky-messenger for Hera (the Greek great-goddess). Isis returns as Venus from the waves but fused with Mary, the Stella Maris.
Brendan Perry Cover of Tim Buckley
So, I am pretty much devoting this entry of The Hares’ Tale to my friends Dale & Laura Pendell, who live not far from Nevada City up in the Sierra foothills. We go back a ways, about 18 years. I first met them at the Salvia Divinorum Conference at Breitenbush out in the Cascades. They were always laughing, riffing off of each other. It has been a great joy in Mary & my life to share time with them.
They have visited us a couple of times over the years, and we visited with them a few years back at their place. We had a running monologue on poetry, magick, incantation. Some of this can be picked up in “Salting The Boundaries” one of Dale’s books. It is on my table by the side of the bed, I read from it often, before I drift off. I believe that poetry is a necessity of life, oh, I do.
I will provide a link at the end for said book.
There is nothing so fine as friendship.
Psychedelics, Deep Ecology, and Wild Mind
In 1969, in an essay in Earth House Hold, Gary Snyder wrote that “Peyote and acid have a curious way of tuning some people in to the local soil.” While exceptions abound, some of the more salient characteristics of the psychedelic revolution that blossomed in the 1960s and continue to this day are an embracing of things “natural,” including natural foods, natural childbirth (and breast-feeding), an easy acceptance of nudity and the human body, and, for many, a return to earth-centered living. Many favored the outdoors as a place to open their minds in the new way, and interest in vision quest and traditional nature-based lifestyles followed.
In traditional cultures less shielded from the natural seasons and the cycles of birth and death, the powers of the wild are everyday occurrences. People lay offerings at springs, or perform dances to acknowledge these powers and to maintain an exchange. For the industrial culture of the twentieth century, it took the tremendous power of visionary plants and chemicals to open many minds to what had been obvious to most human cultures for millennia.
Hard-headed rationalists and cynical materialists often found themselves humbled by a looming mountain, a stream flowing on bedrock, or by a wild animal that stepped out of its camouflage to say hello. Many hold these liberating experiences as the most important in their lives and have never returned to the old paradigm. In seeking to understand such soul-moving events, people have rediscovered what human societies for thousands of years have acknowledged: that we are a part of a great living fabric, and that certain wild plants, animals, or places are endowed with something that we might call presence, or energy, or resonance. This feeling of special resonance or presence is usually glossed as “the sacred” by Western intellectuals, though no one is certain what that actually means. Such recognition has led many beyond the resource management ethos of conservation to what has been called “deep ecology.”
Being tuned in to the local soil means being at home—the root of “eco.” As trivial an example as orange peels highlights the difference between the tourist and someone who can feel that he is standing on the bones of his mother. Anyone who has spent much time in the back country has seen orange peels thoughtlessly tossed along the trail or at the base of a rock. People who would otherwise be careful about packing out their trash leave orange peels because they are not “trash” (though they wouldn’t do the same in their own living rooms). But “presence” has to do with what was there before we came—call it power, or beauty, or suchness—it has nothing to do with our ideas of what is trash and what is not-trash.
Encounters with the wild always have an awe-inspiring quality—that is their nature–but most of us are conditioned from birth to block out these experiences. One of the great gifts of visionary plants and substances is that these cultural filters are temporarily suspended, so that the wild has free access to mind. The downside, of course, is that everyday mind, with filters back in place, may dismiss the experiences as hallucinatory, forgetting that the filtered interpretation is also hallucinatory. That is, the very special and extraordinary quality of the visionary experience itself tends to allow us to relegate the profound insights of that experience to the visionary realm only, as if it were separate and not a part of “reality.”
In his book A Zen Wave, Robert Aitken presents two haiku of the Zen poet Basho. The first goes:
Wake up! Wake up!
Be my friend
Basho is not on psychedelics, but he is intimate with the butterfly. There is a joy and playfulness that form a shared reality—the oneness is the reality. The other poem goes:
The morning glory!
This too cannot be
Aitken’s point is that Basho also recognized the absolute independence and separateness of the other being. That’s deep ecology! The many beings, the many rocks and crevices and waterfalls and streams, all exist in and of themselves, entirely without reference to the human world and human uses. At the same time, all of it is linked together in an indissoluble web.
The true mythologies of a culture are the stories that everyone accepts as true, without question. While the cosmological systems of other cultures are easily dismissed as myth, one’s own never are. For us, that myth includes the belief that there is an “objective” physical world that exists wholly independently from the self—from mind or consciousness. It’s even called “the Reality Principle,” as theistic an appellation as one could come up with. To free the mind, to recover that wildness that is equally jaguar and peony, leaf rustle and dew on a spider web, requires both insight and training.
On psychedelics, even “ordinary” experiences can be hair-raising. That is a clue for us to the true nature of the wild—that the wild doesn’t end or begin at a fence, and that wild mind is something that we know about from our own experience. If psychedelics can help with that realization, they are truly, in the best and most ancient sense of the word, sacred. Mind is wild by nature. Presenting wild mind, sharing wild mind, is benevolence.
Laura Pendell Poetry:
Cry of the Coyote
have I died?
first you pierce the water
the shock of the cold
the shock of the wet
making you gasp
and then there’s
that next moment
when you turn
toward the sunlight
when you turn
toward the surface
toward the air
when time stops
for an eternity
or what feels
like an eternity
it’s just a second
in that eternity
that’s really a second
time stops just long enough
and you wonder
will the surface never come
will I always be suspended
will it always be this cold
here in this body
you break through
back out & up & into
the cry of the coyote
coming from you
(Gwyllm – sadly will not reproduce on wordpress as she wrote it, visually )
she set the house on fire the night she left,
a hunter by nature, not used to being denied
both mad and maddened
good thing the woman who remained behind
was watery, deep, able to hold
both the birthing and the dying,
transforming the fires the first one left—
healing and bringing back the earth,
dampening the fires that threatened all they held dear
and what of the man
who had awakened the light in both women,
enthusiastic, spontaneous, original,
blinded by what he could not control
now torn apart, pulled, paralyzed
by circumstances beyond anyone’s control
in that time, each of them went beyond
the boundaries of everyday existence
those planetary forces so strong,
with the five planets aligned,
willing them to risk
for this vision of something larger
they had hoped only for joy and healing
not this agony, this arena of tears
everywhere they trod
each of them crying out
and still holding
that vision of love—how close once?
now lost to the fire’s lashing tongue
tendrils of dying embers
crisscrossing the meadow
Dale Pendell Poems:
The Divine Spark: Hard AI and the Poet.
Laura and I had stopped at a café connected to a small casino in Nevada. We were headed east—maybe it was Elko.
I’d been thinking about hard AI—about Ray Kurzweil:
little machines loosely called “life-forms,”
“consciousness” having little to do with anything.
Little semantic sleight-of-hands:
computability equals intelligence,
brain equals mind,
logic equals thinking,
brain equals computer.
The whole scene is thick with earth denial: we don’t need food, we don’t need bodies.
Mountebank, slipping highly abstract nouns between the shells:
intelligence, consciousness, brain, mind, “smarter,” “more powerful,” —
once you buy the basic con, that it is all measureable by teraflops, no, who would need a body?
Cyborgs: dream on. Or do they?
One of the other booths was filled with a Mexican family: Papa and Mama, four or five kids from eight or ten to fifteen or sixteen. Some one had said something really funny, because they were all laughing as hard as they could—eyes wet, minute after minute:
It began with the laughter of children.
And went on, minute after minute, faces red, the whole family, a good ten minutes:
delicious, out-of-control, unstoppable laughter.
In a Circle Staring at the Fire
The wind turned cold and the river froze,
so we built a hut,
in the center
to hold the coals
we burned mammoth dung-
there wasn’t much wood–
to invent language:
suddenly flamed and we all said “ah!”
at the same time, then laughed.
One Woman blew
through a hollowed crane bone
to rekindle the embers
then blew across the top.
For Dale & Laura
How quickly it goes
It seems but a moment ago,
you were at our house
just a bit of heaven
good conversation, Absinthe,
and what seemed
like a moment
in infinite time.
I awoke at 4:00 this morning, hearing noises. Being curious, I got up and looked out to the street. A strange car was parked across the road from our home. I turned on the outside light to let them know I was aware of them, and headed back to bed. To no avail, I was awake. Looked at my phone, read some news, and picked up the archaeology magazine and finished up articles. The hours passed…
More noises, 3 police cars surrounding the car across the street. This circus continued until 7:30, when the owner of the (now obvious) stolen car was driven up by the police. He takes it away, and the young man who had been passed out in the stolen vehicle was frisked, drugs found, and hauled away.
I had surrendered to my wakefulness at around 6:00, and got up. Got an orange juice, and started to work on a piece of art I had put away a decade ago. Progress! Lots moving, and to start the day with art.
The sun rolls up, Mary awakes, and I make cappuccinos for the pair of us.
I think my sleep cycle is changing. 🙂
Anyway, an early day it seems. … The doves are in the backyard, at the feeder, and the world awakes.
A Woman’s Honour
Love bade me hope, and I obeyed;
Phyllis continued still unkind:
Then you may e’en despair, he said,
In vain I strive to change her mind.
Honour’s got in, and keeps her heart,
Durst he but venture once abroad,
In my own right I’d take your part,
And show myself the mightier God.
This huffing Honour domineers
In breasts alone where he has place:
But if true generous Love apppears,
The hector dares not show his face.
Let me still languish and complain,
Be most unhumanly denied:
I have some pleasure in my pain,
She can have none with all her pride.
I fall a sacrifice to Love,
She lives a wretch for Honour’s sake;
Whose tyrant does most cruel prove,
The difference is not hard to make.
Consider real Honour then,
You’ll find hers cannot be the same;
‘Tis noble confidence in men,
In women, mean, mistrustful shame.
– Lord John Wilmot
The world but seems to be
The world but seems to be
yet is nothing more
than a line drawn
between light and shadow.
Decipher the message
of this dream-script
and learn to distinguish time
– by Fakhruddin Iraqi
I became water
and saw myself
became an ocean
saw myself a speck
saw that all is but
and found myself
– by Binavi Badakhshani
Companion Books & Other Affairs:
So, here we are again, with another edition of “The Hare’s Tale. We are plunging down the rabbit hole following what is best described as the path of Khezr (more on this later). I am taking books off of my bedside and chairside tables and featuring them here. Most of them are poetry books, and we will see the likes of Dale Pendell, Gary Snyder, Sufi Poets of Persia and elsewhere, Seamus Heaney, William Butler Yeats, etc.
Poetry lies central to the work that I do in my life. I am not a great poet, but I can turn a phrase on occasion. Yet, I swim in the world of poetry, and all that it implies. I find it a solace, an inspiration, a spiritual quest.
So I will be sharing books that I love, and providing links on where to find them. I hope that you will find the poetry as moving as I do.
The Poetry found on this entry is from “The Drunken Universe”, An anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry Translation and Commentary by Peter Lamborn Wilson and Narollah Pourjavady. This book has lifted my spirits time and again, and has revealed beauty that I hadn’t a clue about. It is well worth having.
As you may or may not know there are actually 2 Blogs on Gwyllm.com. This one, “The Hares’ Tale, and “Eye Candy!” which is a visual blog. On it you will find art, gifs, photographs that take my fancy. Some of it may not be suitable for work (NSFW), but I believe all of it is beautiful. You’ll find images from the Occult, Persian & Mughal Miniatures, Mandalas, Oil Paintings, Film Stills, Nature Photographs, Erotica, a wide gamut of beauty. Here is the link: Eye Candy! … Please check it out! I try to update frequently.
A title to a book that has entranced me… I have a long involvement with Sufism, going back to the mid-60’s. Granted, I have pursued it mainly through poetry, and commentary and the reading of the Quran. I have included an excerpt of it in the body of this entry, ” Al-Khiḍr: The Green Man of Sufism” I spent most of the last 2 weeks up all hours of the night pouring over this book. It opens vistas, wide amazing vistas of travel, and heresy. It is highly recommended, and I shall be doing a review of it in the weeks to come. A Note: I don’t always review books that would be deemed, “New”. Heaven knows I try, and I will, there are a couple of volumes sitting next to me that are new this year, and another only 5 years old, so I am catching up.
New Show on, with DJ Kykeon’s “The Eleusinian Invocations Mix“. Give it a listen. We are about to launch a fund raiser to upgrade the site, and to bring more services via Radio EarthRites. Your support is very important to that!
So, that is it for now. Working on art and publishing the early part of this week. I hope this finds you well, and in happiness.
On The Menu:
DJ Kykeons’ Eleusinian Invocations Mix!
Companion Books: The Drunken Universe
Armand Amar:Baba Aziz
Al-Khiḍr: The Green Man of Sufism
Armand Amar: Poem Of The Atoms
The Cost Of Nuclear Weapons & Testing
Turn Up The Heat!
Aftermath of a great Collision
Companion Books: The Drunken Universe
is a kaleidoscope:
now hopelessness, now hope
now spring, now fall.
Forget its ups and downs:
do not vex yourself:
The remedy for pain
is the pain.
is my Rule
in getting lost
– Ayn al-Qozat Hamadani
The Lamp of Your Face
lovers for world’s delights
or the moth
for refined pleasures,
“viewing the garden”?
parched for water of Union
with the Beloved:
what need to chase
the “fountain of Khezr”?
He who falls
in your quarter, what need
for the caravans
of paradise except
to seek your love?
Surrendering his body
to the couch of your disease
what need has he
for the “healing breath”
If the Friend
did not sit with him
in his retreat, what need
for the cloister
Today he gives up
his soul to separation:
why should he wait
for the promise
What need anymore
for glass after glass
of red wine, intoxicated,
unconscious with your
I am that moth
at the lamp of your face:
San’at, what do I need
with the candle
– Mohammad ‘Aref San’at
flowed like blood
beneath skin, through veins
emptied me of my self
with the Beloved
till every limb
every organ was seized
my name remains.
the rest is It.
– by Abu-Said Abil-Kheir
Within the eye of the eye
Within the eye of the eye
I placed an eye
polished and adorned
with her beauty
but suddenly fell
into the Quarter of Perfection
and now am freed from sight,
from even the eye of contemplation.
– Ayn al-Qozat Hamadani
As Heard On Radio EarthRites:
Armand Amar:Baba Aziz
Al-Khiḍr: The Green Man of Sufism
The prophets Elias and Khadir at the fountain of life, late 15th century. Folio from a khamsa(quintet) by Nizami (d. 1209); Timurid period. Opaque watercolor and silver on paper. Herat, Afghanistan, now at The Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution
Al-Khiḍr is Khezr, the Hidden Prophet, the Green Man, King of Hyperborea, wily servant of Moses, trickster-cook of Alexander, Khezr who drank from the fountain of life in the Land of Darkness. Flowers and herbs spring up in his footsteps, and he strolls across the water, walking toward Ibn Arabi’s ship, coming closer; his green robe trailing on green waves — or perhaps woven of waves. Or Khezr appears in the desert with water and initiation for the masterless ones, the mad and blameworthy, the unique ones. “And three things are worthy of the glance: water, green things, and a beautiful face…”
When you say the name of Khezr (or Khadir) in company you should always add the greeting “Salaam Aleikum!” since he may be there — immortal and anonymous, engaged on some mysterious karmic errand. Perhaps he’ll hint of his identity by wearing green, or by revealing knowledge of the occult and hidden. But he’s something of a spy, and if you have no need to know he’s unlikely to tell you. Still, one of his functions is to convince skeptics of the marvelous, to rescue those who are lost in deserts of doubt and dryness. So he’s needed now more than ever, and surely still moves among us playing his great game.
From the point of view of “History of Religions” clearly Islam inherited Khezr from earlier myths and faiths, a fact recognized by the Islamic tradition which associates him with Moses and Alexander. By the Middle Ages, however, he had been thoroughly assimilated into the world of Islam and taken on a special role, symbolized by his two titles, “the Green Man” and “the Hidden Prophet”. In particular, he comes to stand for a certain kind of esoteric knowledge, which can only manifest in our banal everyday life as shock, either of outrage or of laughter, or both at once.
Khezr is one of the afrad, the Unique Ones who recieve illumination directly from God without human mediation; they can initiate seekers who belong to no Order or have no human guide; they rescue lost wanderers and desperate lovers in the hour of need. Uways al-Qarani is their historical prototype, Khezr their ahistorical prototype.
Some have indentified Khezr with St. George — but he might more accurately be seen as both St. George and the dragon in one figure. Nature, for esoteric Islam, does not need to be pinned down like some biology specimen or household pest — there exists no deep struggle between Nature and Order in the Islamic worldview.
The “spirits” of Nature, such as Khezr and the djinn — who are in a sense the principles of natural power — recognize in the Muhammadan Light that green portion of the spectrum upon which they themselves are also situated. If Christian moralism “fixes” Nature by “killing it”, Islam proceeds by conversion — or rather, by transmutation. Nature maintains its measure of independence from the merely human and moral sphere, while both realms are bathed in the integrative and salvific light of Muhammadan knowledge.
…As an immortal mortal, Khezr behaves like a figure in a dream; in fact, he behaves as we do in our happiest dreams of flying, or of the quintessence of life, “a green thought in a green shade”. He resembles those late medieval paintings of vegetable people, faces made out of fruit and leaves and sunlight: slightly sinister, at once funny and beautiful…
Nowadays Khezr might well be induced to reappear as the patron of modern militant eco-environmentalism, since he represents the fulcrum or nexus between wild (er) ness and the human / humane. Rather than attempt to moralize Nature (which never works because Nature is amoral), Khadirian Environmentalism would rejoice simultaneously both in its utter wildness and its “meaningfulness” — Nature as tajalli (the “shining through” of the divine into creation; the manifestation of each thing as divine light), Nature as an aesthetic realization.
From ~ Sacred Drift: Esasys on the Margins of Islam, pgs. 57, 138-139, 140, 143
By ~ Peter Lamborn Wilson
Al Khiḍr’s Feast Day is April 23.
Peter Lamborn Wilson proposes a set of heresies, a culture of resistance, that dispels the false image of Islam as monolithic, puritan, and two-dimensional. Here is the story of the African-American noble Drew Ali, the founder of “Black Islam” in this country, and of the violent end of his struggle for “love, truth, peace, freedom, and justice.” Another essay deals with Satan and “Satanism” in Esoteric Islam; and another offers a scathing critique of “Authority” and sexual misery in modern Puritanist Islam. “The Anti-caliph” evokes a hot mix of Ibn Arabi’s tantric mysticism and the revolutionary teachings of the “Assassins.” The title essay, “Sacred Drift,” roves through the history and poetics of Sufi travel, from Ibn Khaldun to Rimbaud in Abyssinia to the Situationists. A “Romantic” view of Islam is taken to radical extremes; the exotic may not be “True,” but it’s certainly a relief from academic propaganda and the obscene banality of simulation.
“This is my brand of Islam: insurrectionary, elegant, dangerous, suffused with light – a search for poetic facts, a donation from and to the tradition of spiritual anarchy.” —Hakim Bey
“Peter Lamborn Wilson, in his book Sacred Drift: Essays on the Margins of Islam, offers an interesting window into the early evolution of Islamic ideas among African Americans.” —Abbas Milani, New Republic
As Heard On Radio EarthRites:
Armand Amar: Poem Of The Atoms
Beg for Love
Beg for Love.
Consider this burning, and those who
burn, as gifts from the Friend.
Nothing to learn.
Too much has already been said.
When you read a single page from
the silent book of your heart,
you will laugh at all this chattering,
all this pretentious learning.
– by Abu-Said Abil-Kheir
“There is an angel inside me whom I am constantly shocking.” – Jean Cocteau
Bill Laswell – Kingdom Come Ambient Site
Ira Cohen Poetry
The Arm of the Dorje
but I new not how to call it,
a roomful of strangers,
how familiar the feeling,
how cold it must be – barefoot
at the fountain when the sun goes down,
how the brown people love the blond baby
The white horse which looks out
from the wall suggests a journey
I once might have taken,
a covered memory reeking of sulphur
Words, they can go anywhere,
can they tell me where I come from,
the name of my planet,
the empty space which was my home?
The condemned murderer longs for
a firing squad, knows
where to put the shadows
you keep inside –
Between hands there are worlds
of ashes & thunder,
silent collisions of meaning,
the utter sugar of nights
taken for granted
They say the sun rises every day,
that sleep is incidental
I say myself
& so I look for your face at dawn
rising over my grief, over
the twice told terrain, violet w/ciphers,
Suffused w/ yr eternal smile
I would offer my flesh to your tiger,
turn your stone wheels w/ my water
Longing for the peaks the stars say
it will be clear
Let us meet in the sky then
till we come closer down here.
thinking that night had fallen at dawn
Then arising we glued red eyes
into the dry sockets of a dead bird
its belly full of dirty cotton
Then across the paddies & out of
where familiar figures of Kleist &
rise from the road in eddies of dust
The voice of the Changeling names the day,
the day of the Basilisk, usurped
from the tyrant’s quest to know
how not to maim the Gilded Hind of
Licchavi sirens shortchanged of a renaissance
spread out cracked wooden arms,
split skulls of haunting beauty, smiling
Mud murtis made by nature distract
Goethean comments fearful of what is hidden
while the delicate head of Mahadev
whittled by the wind
still seals the lingam in the ancient temple
We look with Mudusa’s eyes
at the first born fruits,
the full breasts of the river
where there is no infidelity -The golden larva w/ the royal face of Narayan,
hold it by its tail & call it by its name
it will dance for you & shake its head,
it lives only on air -we do not know if
it is alive or if it is dead, so gilded
The face of Vishnu etches a dream of
ancient seas tinted w/ fallen light
Your face is everywhere
Your glory rings out over the peaks
capped w/ flame
Your shadow is enclosed within your shadow
You watch yourself falling
While falling you watch yourself looking down
You want to pick up the Tamang corpse
no one will touch
You call the children of darkness,
refute the wasted years of salt
poured into furrows
You see the thread needled to the hem of Night
betrayed by the shinbone of Day
where the fear is burned away
You look w/ basilisk eyes
turning the day to stone,
touched & transfigured
by the human, by the changing,
by the eternal, the always repeating
Imagine Jean Cocteau
holding a torch
Imagine a trained dog act,
a Rock and Roll Band
Imagine I am Curly of the Three Stooges
disguised as Wm Shakespeare
Imagine that I’m the cousin of the Mayor
of New York or the King of Nepal
(I didn’t say Napoleon!)
Imagine what it is like to be in the glare
of hot lights when you are longing for dark
Imagine the Ghost Patrol, the Tribal
Imagine an elephant playing a harmonica
or someone weighing out bones on the edge
of the desert in Afghanistan
Imagine that these poems are recorded moments
of temporary sanity
Imagine that the clock was just turned back –
or forwards – a hundred years instead of an hour
Let us pretend that we have no place to go,
that we are here in the Cosmic Hotel,
that our bags are packed & that we have one hour
to checkout time
Imagine whatever you will but know that it is not
imagination but experience which makes poetry,
and that behind every image,
behind every word there is something
I am trying to tell you,
something that really happened.
w/ the TV on
Van Heflin & Barbara Stanwyck
enter my disturbed sleep
Sometimes the only way out
is to die, but happily
someone else escapes,
takes to the road, goes on
I’m up at seven, go to the post office.,
send two Cuban alligators
the read Gabriel’s column in NEWSDAY
about the real meaning of the closet,
feel nauseous, order a hardboiled egg
which come w/out a shell
mashed in a cup
Is my heart, too, yearning
for its dying hour?
Please bring me one order
of cool snow!
If I could remember just a fraction
of what I said on the telephone
If he could take his clothes off
and sit on the banks of the Ganga
If she could see the profile of Caliban
in the smoke over the oilfieds
If we could just take off & go to Madagascar
If they would stop killing each other
and wake up tomorrow morning
w/ a new vision
I would stick my head in a printing press
and you could read tomorrow’s paper today:EXTRA! EXTRA!
Read all about it
Poets’ brains prove to be useful!
P.S. Sometimes when I pick up my pen
it leaks gold all over the tablecloth.
Radio EarthRites Presents:
“The Witching Hours Mix”
12:00 Noon Pacific Coast Time
10+ Hours of Non Stop Music
From Chill To Sephardic, And Points Inbetween…
The Show will evolve over the next few days as well!