Yesterday a news update on the radio explained that hospitals are no longer going to report cases of Covid to the government. There’ll be no more daily statistics to follow. It’s as though they’ve decided that our participation in the pandemic is officially over – after two years and twelve days.

It’s difficult to know exactly what has changed these past two years. Two years older, some unavoidable milestones in any adult’s life, a major shift in biology, something of a creative crisis, something of a professional failure. Face-to-face with what were once “irrational fears” that actually came to pass. Well, not pass exactly, but taken up residence in the everyday. I am living with new shadows. Different kinds of secrets.

And understanding the value in that.

But sometimes while we are vigilant for what may be approaching from one direction, something else will creep up and bite us on the neck. In Europe, we are all living in the shadow of war, in the shadows of past wars. No secrets here. This bodyless, beating heart left on the stoop. Did you feel competent before? Adept? Useful?

Daily life goes on regardless. If not regardless, necessarily.

Life goes on after metaphorical deaths, after concrete endings. Sort of.

It has always taken so much effort for me to get out the front door. The pandemic ground me further into that introverted groove. And now even a planned phone call is difficult: a bit like levering a rock out of a trough and pushing it up a hill.

And we all know how that goes.

There has been a long list of reasons why I have not run in the mornings these past weeks. Why I’ve not kept a faithful yoga practice. And when the bones of your life begin crumbling, what happens shape of it? Of you? My sense of identity is becoming ever-more-misaligned with reality. It is painful.

Pulling myself together is an overwhelming task that I just can seem to begin. Starting over without the benefit of momentum. It feels unnatural. Forced.

Wrong somehow.

And I think I am afraid of what the resulting creature will look like. I am afraid of what it may need from me.

I forgot to hit publish yesterday.

And that’s the way the day played out. The minutes and hours slipped by unattended to. I try to tell myself a day lost is not really a problem. That there was some meaning in it – a justification of some sort. But no. I wallowed in a kind of neutral existence. Distractions. And though I know there’s no point in feeling guilty about it, and that regret is an absolute waste of time and energy. I regret. I lost something that never was.

A chat message from a student popped up in the afternoon. And I made the mistake of reading it. Sometimes giving in to what you don’t want to do is easier than breaking the inertia to do what you want to. To do what is actually, personally meaningful.

Instead, there is this thing forced upon you that allows you to be passive and still feel useful. But it’s just the illusion of something meaningful. A conscionable time-suck.

And what popped up was one of those messages that brings with it frustration and inconvenience, and the desire to shake someone by the shoulders. Metaphorically. And as always with teaching, it brings with it a mirror revealing one’s own bad habits, excuses, and cowardly aversions. And it takes conscious effort to sort out who and what I am honestly frustrated with. Who needs the metaphorical shaking.

Is it possible to stop overthinking time? Is it necessary? Is there a way to channel this aspect of who I am into something worthwhile? Because, at this point, I am done trying to change who I am. Or find excuses for why I am not perfect. Rationalizations, and diagnoses.

Besides. On a very basic level: if I change who I am to be happy, I won’t be the one being happy, now will I? A diagnosis doesn’t point out what is wrong with me. It points out what society doesn’t want to be bothered to deal with. At least without getting brownie points for going the extra mile.

Who is perfect? And why does anyone need to offer up explanations for their “imperfections”? Enough self-development. Enough growth mindset with Dweck’s schadenfreude for celebrities and the arbitrary, questionably “chosen” goals we are all supposed to aspire to.

I honestly believe that one of the most important differences between pain and trauma is that the latter is entirely the result of an ongoing social response to a past event. The culture’s clinging to expectations, and models and categories that demand a rationale for why you don’t fit into the damn box. Exceptions are allowed. Under prescribed circumstances, and according to prescribed forms of variation. Cultural tropes. The bureaucracy of it is like some kind of virus: the more we break out of a norm, the more codified variations of the norm will develop. And under our expert, discerning eyes: a blossoming of diagnoses like bacteria in a petri dish.

Control. Sovereignty. Govern(ance). Govern(ment). Command.

It is what it is. And I’ve no words that can accurately describe it on its own terms. It being why my dog won’t eat today. Why the kale is still alive in the garden after two years. Why I am frightened.

Beginners mind. That’s all we need. Look. Listen. Touch. Taste. Breathe. Move on.

(So: not a diary entry today)

I have been listening to interviews on the Penteract podcast, and reading essays about visual poetry and began thinking that perhaps I am not working toward visual poetry – as I’m hearing it “defined” in these places: as necessarily disassociating linguistic symbols from their semantic meanings. That isn’t my goal. I hope that I am still working with visual poetry as it is defined by a community of artists here/there/somewhere? The learning curve here is steep. It doesn’t matter in terms of what I am making, but it matters in terms of getting it out in the world. It matters in terms of community.

What I want to do is use visual elements, textural elements, and semantic elements in dialogue. In a kind of gesamtkunstverk that avoids both illustration and lyricism; the narrative and the line (including movement) are only elements in the whole. 

At the risk of sounding pompous, I want to create a Brechtian artwork that makes the viewer intensely aware of their role as observers –  in terms of a disruption of the audience’s habitual (emotional) response to a text or narrative. But I don’t have any desire to deconstruct the sense of either. 

For example: when the narrative text of a poem dissolves into asemic writing it can take on a lyric quality, I don’t want that quality to be an illustration of the text’s narrative, but it would bring with it its own emotive qualities and push the narrative through a transition that will ultimately, necessarily break down any human narrative. 

All of my work the past few years is integrated with a kind of field-guide observational relationship with nature. From wasps to telomeres. My approach to nature isn’t Romantic at all, I am trying to “ground” the narrative and the unavoidable lyric expression in a larger context with a disruption of perspective. 

I want to flip the metaphor relationship of the lyric poem: human experience is the vehicle, and what we consider the “natural world” is the tenor. It is an attempt to move away from an anthropocentric view. 

An anti-lyrical poetry.

What is horrific is natural. Nature is horrific. Yes, there is the deer in the grove. And there is the blacklegged tick on the neck of the deer in the grove. And in the gut of that tick, the Borrelia burgdorferi move through the tick’s body.

There is a reason designers look to the tiny elements of the natural world when creating their monsters. And it’s the same reason we already know them.