Saturday, January 7, 2012

Dead Man's Curve

Dead Man's Curve

Live as if you were already dead”
~unsourced “Zen” saying, as quoted by poet Marvin Bell.


“You don’t come back/from Dead Man’s Curve…”
~20th Century American Pop Song by Jan & Dean





The Dead Man as Poseur

The Dead Man is living as if he’d been alive, because he has it all backwards.
The Dead Man is primarily a pretentious but not harmless twit, prowling the internet, squinting at some tasty wisdom he thinks he can consume like a burrito.
He likes the way the monks' robes swish as they rake the rocks
in the sand gardens of sleeping neurons deep within an electric foreign tranquility, and thinks he must just totally must, 
have that app.
He’s staring at his navel, and sighing over the Bodhi tree; a plastic green predecorated scotch pine in the window of the home warehouse store.
Of course, there’s no reason he couldn’t sit beneath the tree, but he worries about store security, and really, he just doesn’t have the time, even though he’s supposed to be Dead 
for quite awhile.
His watch hasn’t stopped, on it tocks, so he’s still late. (If you’re pressed for time as a corpse, certainly you have no time to lose.)
But he can’t tell time very well anymore, what with the being so Dead and all.
If his eyelids hadn’t rotted, 
if his eyeballs weren’t a crow’s canapé, 
he still would look at everything and see nothing.



More about the Dead Man as Poseur


There is no more, except a Dead Man’s ego that stalks cyberfinity
and hides in the picture of a prettier girl smiling in her prom dress.
There is no more, except the Dead Man’s maw of ever gaping hunger
that dips ink brushed parchment into chocolate, and deep fries a butterfly on a stick under a maraschino cherry tree.
There is no more, except the Dead Man’s fear that the bottomless void
will suck the Dead brains right out of him and spit them into a peanut shell.
There is no more, because someone 
buried the Dead Man alive.



December 2010

Posted for   Poetics   at dVerse Poets Pub
Sheila Moore is hosting this week, and her prompt is to write a poem using the poetic device of onomatopoeia.

Process Notes: Hi, all. I am enduring some kind of nasty crud that leaves me unfit for poetic composition, or sitting up for long, so I went looking for an existing poem for the prompt. Apparently I don't use onomatopoeia much in my writing, but I found a little bit of it here, in a poem originally written in response to a prompt at the now defunct Big Tent Poetry, to write a “Dead Man’s poem” a la Marvin Bell, who's made quite a thing of this form. There are four of his Dead Man Poems at the preceding poets.org link if you want to see what they're supposed to be like--I'm afraid I found the whole thing pretentious and went off the reservation in this satire of the genre.



~*~

Disclaimer: I cannot find any source in Zen Buddhist literature for the saying Mr. Bell has used to create his genre of Dead Man's Poetry. Internet searches on these keywords will return only Mr Bell as a source. While this does not detract in any way from the independent merit of his work, I would take the assumption that it has any real citable source in Zen tradition with a grain of salt. It seems more likely to me that this is a corruption of the famous quote attributed to Gandhi: "Live as if you will die tomorrow." But that's just me. 

22 comments:

  1. lol...intriguing about the whole source of this in your process notes...ah you dont need sound anyway your poetry sings...i do hope you are feeling better soon...lots of soup and oj and go back to bed...smiles...

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  2. Dearest Hedgewitch: A meme!!!WoW I must be having a flash-back dinner of crow canapes...but then I always do when the mention of the "Dead Man" comes cropping up out of murky depths which may have been less than deep, maybe even "plastic" the means of which may mean hedgy's onto something..what hedge, what? REALLY??? He's not really dead, right? Semi-Mildly, no, HOT/COLD creepy for A DEAD MAN walks in our misty midsts!!! "what's it all about..."

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  3. Ah yes, I remember the 'dead man poetry' from Big Tent. This was one of the sites where I first started sharing poetry. Miss it really. I do see the onomatopoeia in your work above. "Monk's robes swish" for one. Hope you feel better soon.

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  4. Hope you feel better super quick, hedgewitch. Rest, rest, and more rest! :)

    "...if his eyeballs weren’t a crow’s canapé,
    he still would look at everything and see nothing" - both icky (imagery) and fabulous (writing) at the same time :) Hmmm...I've known a few like this man - lol!

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  5. This is as chilling an indictment of modern man as I've ever read:

    If his eyelids hadn’t rotted,
    if his eyeballs weren’t a crow’s canapé,
    he still would look at everything and see nothing.

    Brilliant.

    Get better soon :)

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  6. Sorry you're enduring the flu-boogerloo -- surely there's a poultice in The Kitchen for a sneezing mind ... Funny, this Zen saying is the spiritual spine of Denis Johnson's 1990 "California gothic" novel Already Dead,; he writes, "In order to live on in this underworld, you've got to practice bushido, the warrior's way, the samurai's inner art, the art of already being dead." Note the word "underworld"; the errant characters in Johnson's novel live on though something essential in them died long ago, perhaps during the 60s. Addicts are living dead, too. Your Dead Man is to me a similar revenant, someone whose culture has lived on past its real death, soul fled for wetter places, leaving just things bumping into things. What do we get when children are reared in a dead culture? We get folks like the subject of your poem, grazing on razed fields, seeking nurture in the ghost of it. And there's nothing more dead than an anonymous dude stalking around cyberspace, emboldened by the veil of invisibility, infinitely hungry and forever unslaked, standing outside our writing huts, raking fingernails down our windows? Mr. Roboto welcoming g us to our future. Yikes. Aren't you glad you've got a real bug? Horrible thought too, but aren't you also glad we won't be around to see the worse and worst of it ?... Brendan

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  7. ..he still would look at everything and see nothing...this is true for many of us, still alive...just saying... hope you're already feeling better hedge..

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  8. Thanks all--am getting better. Now just a bit woozy.

    @B: Yeah, there's a lesson in those living dead, and I may have over-reacted a bit initially to the concept--to me life is not enhanced much when you imagine living it dead, and make a gimmick out of it, though I've read some good poems in this genre, too. But in the end, it reminds me exactly too much of those addicts you mention that I've had to watch mock living by becoming automatons. It interests me in a way that this Undead theme is so elevated in our culture atm--zombie this and vampire that--not as just the monsters under the bed, but as their own drama, protagonists, humor, the abnormal as normal and what have you, in all kinds of pop culture venues. I spend a lot of gaming time killing zombies these days, kind of the definition of 'overkill.' Harmless on one level, but it's as if the game designers know that these hordes washing over us capture the imagination in some primal way; mutants, undead, and we're in some numerically inferior struggle with them for ...our brainz..... "things bumping into things" gave me goosebumps--that's so what we've become, or are surrounded by.

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  9. Wow, I didn't realize there's so many challenges to being dead... I enjoyed this tale of the un-living--especially the eyeball canapes!

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  10. truly enjoyed this, process notes and comments included. A great onomatopoeic line - He likes the way the monks' robes swish as they rake the rocks. And that last line is killer (no pun intended)

    hope you're feeling better, hedge.

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  11. i like how he's pretentious but not harmless, could he possible be pretentious AND harmless

    bumble bee

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  12. I've got the same crud, I think.

    "and thinks he must just totally must,
    have that app"

    That is incredibly cool.

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  13. Can't quite stomach this at the moment. But I can tell it's vivid. K

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  14. Joy-- I did write a very innouous comment but maybe didn't get on there. Your work is always interesting.k

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  15. Thanks all--sorry not to be by too many places--my brain just isn't working right--I'll try to make up for it when better.

    @karin: Well, I'm not sure about the first one, but the second's an innocuous comment if I ever heard one. No need to leave a comment if the mood doesn't strike you, you know. I'm not grading anyone on attendance. ;_) I've been on the pc about fifteen minutes for the last three days, so glass houses..

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  16. @MZ--Thanks--hope you get to feeling better quick. This is really irritating.

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  17. I hope you are feeling better Hedge. This post gave the chills but your process notes made me appreciate it. Thanks for sharing it ~

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  18. I started at Big Tent when I ventured out from Poetic Asides. I remember this prompt and never took the challenge. I might be willing to, now that I've seen your post... or maybe it will show up on one of our prompt sites. Hope you feel better soon.

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  19. Ha ha, love them both! That the Dead Man absolutely "must have that app," his "eyes a crow's canape" and in the second, sucking the Dead brains out of him to "spit them into a peanut shell."

    I hope you are feeling better.

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  20. Speaking at cross purposes--what I meant was my father died this week so can't take in. Of course you wouldn't know this, especially being so sick. Hope you feel better soon. K.

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  21. So sorry, karin. I have just been out of it and didn't know. My deep sympathy and lots of hugs. More at your place.

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  22. feel better soon, Joy!

    your writing is FABulous! ♥

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'Poetry is an echo asking a shadow to dance' ~Carl Sandburg