To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Monday, May 31, 2010

Dave Brinks: Here Lies a Great Leviathaness

“Had there been nothing more than a sandbar in that bend of the river, Bienville would have urged his settlers to camp on it” – Garvey and Widmar, on Jean Baptiste LeMoyne, Sieur de Bienville’s arrival by ship via the Mississippi to the old Indian portage where New Orleans stands today

Cartographers tell us the Crescent City is located at 30° latitude and 90° longitude. However, the hodgepodge mix of this creatured ergosphere is less a geographical certainty than it is a grand mystère. In fact, the ancestral heritage of this forbidden paradis owes as much to the countless cypress tree knees erupting through busted sidewalks and streets as it does to the pure sensate of Mythos itself. What hungers, what treacles here is a multispectrum of sleepless moons whose menses puddle like fresh blood on the hands of the dreamer. Here lies a Great Leviathaness swathed in an archaea of sludge and slime so rooted in chaos, misrule, and anti-aesthetics, she is at once the mother of her own birth. On the other hand, as a personification of culture, our lady is more like an orphaned kid tossed aside by an unworldly world. She is more attuned to feeling than she is to thinking, which is likely one of her greatest attributes. She looks banefully upon the empire of mores oft celebrated by her American counterparts. Her countenance is stalwart in its disapproval of unheresiarchal ruses. Her aliveness is never to be confused with pusillanimous forgiveness. As a shaman, she descries the rise of verisimilitudes unfathomable to messianic humans. The ocean is her cloister. She quaffs only the most prescient pearls. Her parfum is a putrid smelling yoke. To chart the origin of her ABC’s is to track down the abecedarium of sublunary goo cooing from the roots of her upside down tree. One can only wish to grasp, as the Chapitoulas-Choctaw Indians once did, the infinite variance of her reptilian aviary while treading ankle deep with the stars. Consider for a moment the alchemy necessary here. Try recounting the story of your lover’s face for a thousand and one nights as though your very soul depended upon it. This bioregion aches with big life. There is no egg-shaped equivalent to its existence. Actually in the big bang of things, if our galaxy were an inch across, I’d be tempted to say Baby Nola formed the warp and weft of its womb. Furthermore, I seriously doubt her deepest secrets, which the history books might fail to record, will remain out of reach of her poets’ hearts. What is embodied in the people of the city of New Orleans is a richness of natural being so unparalleled and mystifying that it has become a living opus of wonderment. Of course her ever-changing narrative always ends and begins alongside a river that serves as a symbol of her enduring presence—the Mississippi, or more properly the Mesechabe, as it was called by the Choctaw (meaning “Father of the Waters”). Not surprisingly I recently encountered a word with almost the same phonetic signature thousands of miles away on the western coast of Africa—Masechaba, which comes from the Sotho, a narrow Bantu language belonging to the Niger-Congo family (meaning “Mother of the People”). Mere coincidence? I’ll let you handle that one! What is certain is that the relationships between words and water serve as natural a bridge as any between all people, estranged or not; and throughout the ages, this is precisely why the motley assemblage of New Orleans’ citizenry is so profoundly singular in their joie de vivre.

[Born in '67 and raised in New Orleans, poet Dave Brinks' blood is Acadian French and Choctaw. Brinks is editor-in-chief of YAWP: A Journal of Poetry & Art, publisher of Trembling Pillow Press, director of 17 Poets! Literary & Performance Series, founder of The New Orleans School for the Imagination, and literary editor of ArtVoices magazine. His poetry and essays have appeared in dozens of magazines, newspapers, journals and anthologies in the United States, Canada, and overseas. His works have aired on NPR’s Hearing Voices and PBS’ News Hour with Jim Lehrer, and also have been featured in National Geographic Traveler and Louisiana Cultural Vistas. He is the author of six books including the acclaimed The Caveat Onus (Black Widow Press 2009, 240 pgs, ISBN 978-0-9818088-4-0), a section of which appeared earlier on Poems and Poetics..

No comments: