Edward Williams


December 2008

84) Cloudburst

—–There is a categorical difference between the experience of the image, the cloudburst, and the discussion that ensues as to how to interpret it, what it meant. Where to put it, say in the poem. You lose it, even in considering it. Because the experience is already not the image, but a further mixture. And then to discuss that is taking a complete and fateful step away. And then to apply it, put it in cement–put it in the neighborhood of other images, that came from other experiences, oh God!–that is even further from the truth, and probably a downright falsification of the original. Can these pure inspirations, these flashes, even be applied to anything? Isn’t the image, the pure thought, essentially self-sufficient? Does it ask for use? Or should it just be returned, to the fountain, so to speak, from where it was issued?
—–It was like I was walking through a cloudburst, both of sunlight and rain, they were showering through the air. And then the nostalgia, the thoughtfulness, the mood, which is the beginning and fattening of a description, ensues. But with the sidearm threat, as if informing me that I could easily forgo any debt to the source. The original image just descended upon me, and I greedily began to express it. But the expression is obviously a different and complex transaction, being made with energies drawn from other places, and giddy, corrupt powers. One can fancy, sure, it is connected, even flipped on by the original pure experience of that absolutely new image. One can chew on that for a long time. But you know, the radiant cloudburst is gone, and it seems it was free given, sent from elsewhere, part of another reality!
—–And then, one sees, sadly, that the image cannot be remembered, dealt with, studied, without some conduit expression. Is that right? Can one live in a deepening of thought alone, without hauling it out and studying it, and celebrating and debasing it? One says now, a minute later, it was a glimpse. Ah, a glimpse! Of what? Once you land there, and describe it that way, as a difference, a glimpse, are you immediately guilty of demeaning the image? Are you holding onto it like a kite string? And are you newly humble? Falsely so. That means in effect you have switched your relationship to the image. And are therefore betraying it!
—–First its author, and now it’s admirer? Am I in effect saying I can go no further in developing it? But can only discuss it! Like a damnable mortal, who thinks life is made for his delectation? And thinks nothing of the death of the world. But hold on, I have to say . . . it was something! Don’t I have the right to enjoy what I have discovered? Though it was handed me from out of nowhere, in a cloudburst? How can this sequence, this operation, not be just what a person has to do, and equally part of life also? All of life, really. That anyone can see. For those inspirations, they came from elsewhere. Shot in here unannounced.
—–At least if you ever had . . . blood in your veins. Though that is no image. You see, I’ve lost it already, and yet I go on thinking. And what do we say about these people who feast on your incomplete account, and pitilessly feed off it? How do you feel about them? Your coterie? Oh well, I am not conflicted about that. I am too far away, it has happened too many times, I am punch drunk. Repeatedly too close to the issue! Of this categorical difference, I said this categorical difference, between pure experience and the description of it. And pure experience, there is precious little of it, if you mean the kind that produces that direct hinge with language, that produces poetry.
—–That is what I was trying to get to.


—–Finally I said, no–look, it isn’t that I don’t finish anything, it’s that I know when to quit. Switch gears, change my tone. You see, that way I stay in the game, and promote an air of mystery, and even allow the suggestion that I am too good for the game, while also allowing the sympathetic idea that the game itself is inclusive. Yes! Quitting always works. Way preferable to chance being seen as a failure, in the very activity that secretly I feel I own the rights to; and then risk even being told you are not allowed back. What if that happened? This, I say Mondrago, this just shows how in fact dependent I am upon all the others. The low critters, the scratching people, who are unresolved, and not even separated out from the group they are all in, like some mincemeat pie. Work on that. I am bending, and still trying to please–and yet I am sure of myself, and want to impress more than just please. I want to instruct, yes I want to instruct and set up a circus. I am an impresario. Yes, you see I am full-time in this game of life.
—–And for whom is this all-out, lambasting effort made? Not for some larger public, not to curry a name in the deathknell of history. These are swelling audiences, of whom I can only ask, are you a phantom? I don’t ever have other people fondly in mind at all, when I conjure up a set of dialogues. No one can find the world of thought where I operate. And it is not to please myself, certainly, I am no proud artist who can stand back, and say, “good work, chum.” I don’t bask, but I drive everything into doubt, to get closer to the task, the question. The droning, howling question! And the original exploration, it is insensibly merging, with the drumbeat . . . for what, and for whom, is this task accomplished? Not for the blunt, or skewered praise of others, or to torture the author, who is no one, who is unconscious, in the act of pure awareness.
—–How’s that?
—–Always it was and remains a mission to establish the truth about life. That is how serious I have been, like a reporter; and now it is mixed up with the idea that it is because I am a great talent, a wily fox, a writer, a language hound, that I do this. But I learned all these tricks! I protest my innocence. Did I approach the truth only after having the ability to do so? No, I charged right in. Only after time there is the slow succumbing, the world’s seduction, the spite of the devil. For actually the writing is the effect, pounded in, not a cause triggering discoveries.
—–And another thing. Emphatically, I do not represent others, their emotions and their lives, and I recoil when, as so often now, I am flattered that I have represented such, such life and emotion, for someone else. And horror of horrors, a multitude of readers, fattening themselves on my phrases. And always wondering, I am sure, where it is all headed . . .
—–For I want to immediately ask, then why have you not represented this yourself, you cur, relapsing in self-sufficiency, if it so lends itself to literary expression–that you clap as if something had been done just right. Just right for whom? What is it you recognise, knave? No, I would rather make you nervous, worry you that you have led an idle, pointless, terminal existence, than have you use me for balm and succour, and point to me as a spokesman for your follies. Whom you are flattering yourself that you understand. Cozy you are, and I ask, then why are you not like me, and such an author? You do not understand my motives; I do not understand them myself! I came to this with no talent, but only a motive. Now I seem trained, trained on it, yes. I keep asking, as if to start over, for whom is this effort made? The truth mission and the literary career have overlapped, and the literary career is sitting on the truth mission and squashing it.
—–The success of what is now an elite literary career, is deceiving me into thinking I am a martyr for truth; as if the achievement of style could demonstrate purity of purpose! I know for a fact I am not yet prepared, not yet noble in motive, nor action–consistently confused in my purposes, reckless in pursuit of them nevertheless. Long ago I decided to be experimental, and go out of bounds to get material, knowing inwardly that I could always revise and assess, as if I had a right to explore, conjecture, invent. But what are these intentions that I keep coming back to, and for what audience is this scattershot work being done? Clearly, the writing is an uneven performance, and one becomes a fool to wonder who is listening, listening for the plaintive sigh of the wistful reader, who is thumbing the pages.
—–Then, this reader, looking at his thumb. What you want to do is hold the thumb of your left hand down on the edge of the pie plate, steadying it, right near the crust, and then cut a nice-sized wedge of the mincemeat pie out, using the knife in your right hand, slowly, knowing everyone is looking, then get the knife under the piece of pie and balance it, you see, as you transfer your thumb to the side of it, glancing up at the waiting person. And try not to be hysterical over the holidays.

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