Reading in Fall Rain
The fields are black once more.
The old restlessness is going.
I reach out with open arms
to pull in the black fields.
All morning rain has fallen
steadily on the roof.
I feel like a butterfly
joyful in its powerful cocoon.
I break off reading:
one of my bodies is gone!
It’s outdoors, walking
swiftly away in the rain!
I get up and look out.
Sure enough, I see
the rooster lifting his legs
high in the wet grass.
Let’s dare to say reading—whether blind reading, autistic, deaf, fully sighted, up river, in the hold of a ship—let’s say the act is synchronous as the poet Robert Bly suggests; and let’s say that synchronicity has to do with the leveraging of words, the Archimedean words, for each noun is an object in the mind and chances are excellent that the reader was not thinking of a pearl handled walking stick before he encounters it in a sentence; and so this is a violence like all the violences of the psyche; we are betrayed in mind; changed; affirmed; perhaps allowed a revery; maybe sickened; occasionally tickled—but we are not in our usual frames when, as Bly suggests, we “break off” reading for now our mind is not what we supposed and moreover our bodies are transformed, and in the case above, the poet sees that one of his bodies is gone. Think of this: we have several bodies. Poets know this. Painters. Dancers. Jazz trumpeters. Why don’t the behaviorists who preach about autism understand this? I’ll suggest they read the wrong stuff.
One of my bodies is gone! Then Bly sees a rooster lifting his legs. The private day is now a public one. Nature is the book and the body. No sensible poet presumes to speak for nature.
One of my bodies is gone! The poet has written these words: “ecstatic blue stone” and the body I began the day “in” (some stoical, foolishly small and practical Lutheran grandmother’s body which I’ve inherited) that body is now holding the blue stone my father brought home from Beirut some sixty years ago—the evil eye—which I carried in my pocket for years to ward off schoolyard bullies who made fun of my blindness. The blue of that stone way joyful and it had no reaction to its putative name. We read things not for what we imagine them to be, but really reading, reading deeply, reading with our antennae out, we know the forgotten treasure colors in things and yes, one of our bodies has walked away to become springy in the grass.
If you’re alert enough all reading is asynchronous, multi-phasic, transmogrifying and inviting as it brings us into the unassuming world.
One of my bodies is gone! Once, walking alone in Venice with my guide dog, I played a game, reading the rough doors of strange houses as if they were Braille books, reading the happenstance aleatoric script of rain and wind. One or two strangers thought I was lost and offered to help. I told them I was reading books. They ran away. In their world I was a blind, crazy foreigner. Inside, where “the meanings are” as Emily Dickinson would say, I was hopping in the garden of particulate bodies, ones we can no longer see, but which have never left.
This is not, as you might suppose, just a fanciful way of being. I cannot see your face. I’m freed from the causal and casual inherent in every social encounter. I assure you I’m not in the least sentimental. I’m no Tiresias imbued with prophecy; no Finnish wizard who talks easily to the dead. I just read. And then, you guessed it, one of my bodies is gone!
Wallace Stevens said famously “reality is a cliche from which we escape by metaphor.” I’d say this is true but Stevens is too proleptic—he imagines we can plan what the metaphor will do for us, or at least I take him that way. Escape is the wrong word. One of my bodies is gone! It left because I was reading and an agate perhaps a hundred years old found in a market in Lebanon took the morning time body away just as Bly says this happens.
One of my bodies is gone and there’s no normal reading. To believe so is to imagine reader reception is dis-embodied; cemented; too Latinate for the outdoors.
One of my bodies is gone! Which ones are left? Too many to count.
Here are the things I’m not saying. I do not believe in normative reading, hence, I don’t believe that yoga is a kind of schizophrenia—when one of my bodies is gone because I read about chasing tigers in red weather, then so be it, one of my bodies is gone and I’m the better for it. It will come home again though changed. All the multiple multi-form bodies are oceanic as is language itself.
I’m not saying as the great hermeneutical scholar of metaphor would say that you can find a rule or ruling class about the matter. You see, there’s a chicken walking away while hold your book in my hands.
One of my bodies is gone.
It rings like a bell in a far village.