Daydream of Darkness
by Cedar Sigo
I put off writing a little longer, smoke, meditate in the upstairs guest room. Crank open the side windows for random nature sounds. Today it’s cars on the freeway sounding like the shoreline or tiny ascending airplanes. I do not want to walk right into the making, I want to wander around in the underworld if it has, in fact, been left open. I shower and shave my face (every other day) Today I enjoy flexing the blade against my voice-box momentarily.
Yesterday I listened to Alice Notley say the form of her poem A Baby is Born Out of a White Owl’s Forehead was an attempt to return to her 1972 body in Chicago dealing with postpartum depression. While it’s true, the words and images that litter an artist’s work do constitute an actual world, they also provoke our agency to deal in past and future time. “Of his birth and my painful un-birth, I choose both.”
I look over my arsenal of notes from the last few nights, “I don’t remember lines in paint but light fallen. Rainen’s choice of color alone is enough to outline the figure.”
There is something of the ancient and retold in this work, the Medusa turned against itself, a blind corner in the Palace of Knossos, a web of hypnotic voices (architecture) belonging to the sirens - - - - -
“Not as bad as you are/ And the next time that I see you/ I shall be old, a figure/ Crouched from under aqueducts”- John Wieners (from The Lights in Town)
I have always loved the opening pages of any edition of The Divine Comedy-the layout of the diagrams, the aerial view of demons and organized ghosts. The strict ceiling of the terza rima eventually bored me but I still loved the drama of a guardian granting passage or not. I’m thinking back on Canto XV in which we discover that the shade of Dante’s teacher, Brunetto Latini now resides on an endlessly burning plain with other queer scholars (doomed souls). I somehow misremembered that passage as Dante watching his teacher being wrapped in a whip, bundled and sweating with other men. Its darkness seemed more of a perfume than any ordinary chapel scene riddled in smoke.
I remember paintings by Jess Collins with a thick sponge-like canvas emerging from the frame. These were magical Northern California landscapes, a shining coterie within a mystery cult. Rainen’s paintings are not about billowing surface but its absolute opposite, feeling sunken and then allowing enough space to lure us inside. Allowing only the atmosphere to connect the epic. The only available light is moving through the grating above us. Are we in myth? Do her creatures inhabit or control our dream lives? I have known master poets to use little tricks to keep themselves taught and reactive, like setting your next poem in the landscape of your last dream or basing your writings on collected mishearing, keeping track of that, a warp of a door that promises one more day of practice. Rainen and I met underground fifteen or so years ago. We had two things in common, condensing of the impulse then fighting it off in color.
Would the urchin speak mockingly?
In monologue or verse? Grant passage?
Remove the yellow ship from its one
gleaming eye? Let the sound of the rock
squeak past one’s head, lure you to sleep
or the higher, anointed banks of verse.
Did the heroine emerge from the sides
of pink walls? bearing mist? Death is
allowed in to wrestle the line, to knife
the lazy twist in a clever brain, Paradise.
A separate story board we hurl at the wall
of the ship. It takes years of forthright
training to depict a hopeless ruin, to sweat
through your mattress, to be denied
care. The arc in the demon’s eye, Paradise.
I met her armored, underground, years ago.
CEDAR SIGO (born 1979, Suquamish Reservation, WA) is a writer and poet who was homeschooled from the eighth grade onward. In 1995 he was awarded a scholarship to study writing and poetics at the Naropa Institute, where he studied with poets Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman, Lisa Jarnot, Alice Notley, and Joanne Kyger, among others. He is the author of Selected Writings (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2003 and 2005), Death Race vsop (Red Ant Press, 2005), and Expensive Magic (House Press, 2008), Stranger In Town (City Lights, 2010), Language Arts (Wave Books, 2014), and Royals (Wave Books, 2017). He is also the editor of There You Are: Interviews, Journals, and Ephemera by Joanne Kyger (Wave Books, 2017).