Sipping Beer in the Shadow of God
Travel Notes and Prose Poems in the spirit of Basho
JOHN MUIR’S AUGUST HEAD
John Muir’s queer and sundry quotations and exclamations shine through pane after pane of Yosemite Valley’s buildings. Less a ghost and more of a sacred mascot, his bearded visage seems to hang down from every shaggy tree and to impose itself in the crinkled cliff-shadows on every side of this immense religious fosse into which tourists pour as amply as blood or wine. “How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountain!” “I never saw a discontented tree.” “The mountains are calling, and I must go.”
Greetings from Mt. Olympus
Collected poems of Gregg Glory [Gregg G. Brown]
Questioning Is Questing
Western civilization is in a cul-de-sac. At the end of that cul-de-sac is a guillotine. Beside that guillotine stands the hulking executioner in his greasy black hood. Through that hood peer two red, maddened eyes. Below those eyes, as through a lazy tear, shows a long, slavering wolf-thin grin. Lightning stitches knots in the dead, leaden skies. Thunder interrupts the prayers for the dead. Doom. DOOM. DOOM.
Even so, my life is filled with primroses and wishes. I sit here–or lie, rather, languid as an American Oblamov rolled in his snoozy comforter– building my empire of words.
I’ve spent long, sad years loving people I never could come to know. Strangers whose alien minds lived other lives, pattering after petty pursuits I never really could come to understand. Now I fear that my own kindness and lack of company has led me, in an easy dream of desperation, to see Helen in every barmaid’s face.
Cold are the coals I have gathered, betrayed by a generous impulse that led me to love first and question second. Over evil rapids I have roved, slouching to the salt dissolution of the sea, who should have been climbing heavenward with Manfred–my eye upon some solitary cloud-wracked peak where every subtle shifting shape suggests a new, unborn greatness (or an old noble greatness renewed) to the seeker’s keen and lonely imagination. Instead, I have sunk my mind among warm elbows at a crowded table, seeking fellowship in banal company and dissipating what genius drifts to me in shrunken rounds of tavern talk. Few have been the companions time has tested true. I recall my Mom, downed in her home hospital bed and not the bed of her marriage, pointing at my nose with a red, imperious finger, demanding first and foremost (loved son or no) that I “tell it true.”
To that improbable pipsqueak queen, crippled yet proud as the devil in her flowered hospital gown–and to her regal charge–I keep my pledge.
I do not condemn others for my misjudgments, but, looking at the litter of years, I begin to perceive that there was something of method in my mismeasure. Questioning is questing. Leaving a question open encourages all comers to the query to have the experience of exploration; each hypothesis is happy to go unconfirmed, as long as the hypotenuse is mutually traveled by writer and reader in the coracle of a quatrain. There is something of Emerson in this energy of questioning, but none of his faith in God’s final ground, the rock of reality.
May such dubious wisdom as my pain has gathered serve me well henceforward. May the narrowing of possibilities sharpen my focus, as when a saltine’s pinhole, brought close to the eye, removes the blur of distant things, clarifying every tiny difference and shutting out peripheral static.
It is only now, as this labor of years surrounds me on every desktop, that I am coming to feel that the best strength of my youth has been wasted elaborating a maze of quizzes instead of attempting to soar, however falteringly, into the omniscient sun. Was it a deficit of pride that had me prefer puzzles to plumage? Or some more insidious hidden desire to be touted and touched instead of respected and feared? Well, here I am again, ending each sentence with my shepherd’s crook (?) instead of the thunder god’s triumphant stab and pang! So much of our humanity is mist and mystery; so many of our hours slide by in incapable ignorance. But what makes our lives worth the sinning that created them is the moment the mirror comes clear, as if in a revelation, and every face confronts the tragedy of its character.
The Singing Well
“When the Moon Melts”
The dwarf’s hideous face retreated from the basement window, an array of grimy grey whiskers and a radish nose.
“When the moon melts
Chanted Mr. Plimsoul and the lady together. Wild shadows flickered around them, and they gestured toward the shut box, black and shiny as a beetle’s back. They seemed to be trying to compel the box to open or spontaneously erupt in flame…or something.
“Casket of Augersaal, I command you: open!” Mr. Plimsoul shouted, making a weird gesture at the box.
“By Neamiahas’ eye, by Qyudditch’s kin, I say: unfasten!” the lady hissed, her boa and her long arms gesturing in the flickering light of the braziers.
The casket hopped on the sawhorses once, as if a person inside were being tickled or kicked, and then was still. A thin jet of purple smoke sizzled from one end of the casket… and then stopped.
Novella inspired by the life of the French symbolist poet, Charles Baudelaire. From the book:
The title of my intensest work, Flowers of Evil, says everything. I am all declared in this paradox. It was gestated with the patience of an elephant’s child, which labors 14 months in the womb before its gigantic birth, the size of a black coup caught in a rain of elemental perfumes. I am positive it is worth all the lies I have told to see it to print; it is also, I may mention, almost worth all the truths I have had to suffer to bring it off in rage and patience. People… their faces go up in flame when they read it. And yet, they deny me everything, all the glory that they were so willing to load down Satan with, they leave me bereft of, although they declare me his disciple. Hypocrites! I am tired, even, of seeing through their terrible, tepid hearts; pale as the starved spit of a saint! Willess imbeciles. The virtue of my trepanned treatise lies exactly in its faults, and these may all be summed up in one singular, monstrous phrase: it is honest!
Gregg Glory [ Gregg G. Brown ] has devoted his life to poetry since happening across a haiku by Moritake, to wit:
float back up to the branch–
He runs the micro-publishing house BLAST PRESS, which has published over two dozen authors in the past 25 years. Named in honor of the wild Vorticist venture by Ezra Pound and Wyndham Lewis, BLAST PRESS is forward-looking and very opinionated.
He still composes poems on his departed father’s clipboard, which he’s had since High School.
Published in: BlueLINE, Exquisite Corpse, Blunderbuss, Monmouth Review, Asbury Park Press (60K circulation).
Co-Host of the long-running River Read reading series in Red Bank, which features NJ and national poets.
Associate Editor of the literary magazine This Broken Shore.
Founder and CEO of BLAST PRESS, a literary mirco-publisher that has published over a hundred poetry and literary titles over the last quarter century.
Two-time Asbury Park Poet Laureate awarded by the Asbury Music Awards.
BLAST PRESS is always looking for chapbook-length single-author poetry book submissions (30-70 pages).
My Amazon Author page: http://amazon.com/author/gregglory/
BLAST PRESS 324B Matawan Avenue Cliffwood, NJ 07721 (732) 970-8409 email@example.com