Unspoken Word
June 07, 2021

Upon moving from Woodstock to Catskill, New York three days ago and getting quite a workout lifting, carrying, tossing, selling, and noticing 26 years of my possessions, I came across three boxes, in the garage, of old journals of mine -- some going back more than 40 years -- moon howling rants, late night ramblings, incantations, Rumi-infused ecstasies, madman utterances, lists, plans, notes, drawings, and other outtakes from own suburban Mahabharata.

I thought of throwing them out, not wanting to pray at the Golden Calf of Memory, but something stayed my hand and so I lugged them to my new abode. Usually, when I lug these journals around, as I have done for 40 years, I stash them in a closet or a basement. But since I have only one small closet and no basement here in the town that time forgot, I removed them from their boxes and placed them on the bookshelves in front of my desk -- my feral children, my orphan brothers, my mendicants, madmen, and monks. And every day I look at them, at least their spines, hesitating to pull one off the shelf, not wanting to disappoint what remains of myself with the half-baked jibberish of my soul's longing to express the ineffable.

There's something in me that prefers the honeymoon phase of life -- the realm in which the promise of love is so much more magnificent than the earth plane experience of it. Anyway, as I head towards 74 and, soon enough, the second wall, I totally get that there is no excuse for not opening these tomes and seeing what's in them, even if the perfectionist in me gets hugely disappointed. And so, this evening, that's exactly what I did. I opened the green one and paged through it until I found something I wrote that was close enough for prime time to share with you today. I cleaned it up a bit, removed some of the clutter, riffing, and self-indulgence that has stalked me most of my life. And so here it is for you, my friends. I'm not really sure what it is. It's not poetry. It's not a story. It's not a prayer. It's not a song. It's not going to make it to my next book, should I live that long. It's more of a sand mandala of words that came to me like a flock of birds, a murmeration of my soul. Here goes:

"What this existence is all about -- my own self-invented scripture no one will ever read -- needs no jabbering disciples to argue its fine points over what I meant by saying nothing, the next day congregating, as they have long been accustomed to doing, just a little too studiously, and debating whether or not we should start our own religion or speed dial the nearest sage sweeping up this morning's sand mandala just before the BIG interview with CNN.

Yes, indeed, it was that kind of moment I was having? So I grabbed what used to be a tree (where birds sang), but now was a notebook, and opened it, like a rose, to a random page and wrote, my sudden revelation taking form, a kind of kidnap letter to myself, though there was no me, no my, no mine, just the caretaker of a knowledge every jazz musician since the beginning of time knows in their bones. That's what I'm talking about, brothers and sisters -- why animals get extremely agitated just before a tsunami and I am left homeless with only my breath held high above the heads of anyone who has ever prayed without words or played, Jerry Lee Lewis-like, an upright piano, alone in a room, the bouncer at the door, a heavy-lidded man with a scar on his cheek, refusing to let anyone in, him not wanting anything I play to be misunderstood or any side conversations going on, my left hand not knowing what my right hand is doing, the night shift cleaning up, as the space between day and night opens wider, a kind of red sea parting in the underground kingdom of love.

I must say, with all due respect, I was a bit surprised at how little of what I knew to be true made it to the page, writing as I was with a kind of invisible ink, with still the faintest glimmer of wanting to say something meaningful enough to sign my name to and feel good enough to die. Space. Lots of space. There was lots of space. And lots of silences between the space, each one an orphan from a place now spinning in great circles around me.

What did I write that night in the underground kingdom of love, bouncer with the scarred cheek standing guard at the door, letting no one in? What holy hieroglyphic made its way to the page, my right hand twitching, my left hand hitchhiking elsewhere? Are you sitting down, my friend? Are you ready to receive the shortest scripture ever written? Four words. That's all I wrote that night, none of them longer than four letters. One of them only two, my entire revelation a kind of speechless tourist meeting Miles Davis, backstage, on opening night, with only enough time to say hello.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at June 7, 2021 07:44 PM

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“I have nothing to say, I am saying it, and that is poetry.”
— John Cage

Welcome to my new blog — brief ruminations on what it is that moves me (and maybe YOU, too). If any of my poems inspire you, please forward them to friends. Good muse travels fast. Or could, with your help.

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