I was visiting in a steamy room of rejected dreams and came across sitting there reading his constantly read poetry, Dr. Wor N. Thin, the famous prepositionalist, maybe it’s better to call him a "leader into modifications and logical affirmations"—hell, he’s a damn preacher, that's what he is—a preacher who is constantly reading poetry, not outloud, except outloudly reciting what he’s reading to his subconscious audience of poetry lovers within him where he keeps hundreds of verses caved there and cultured there like poesy and prosy mushrooms, both the dangerous and the harmless kind, to cultivate his ego's ferocious appetite for things to remember. He comes out of the steam and hands me the book he’s reading—The Poetry of Stephen Crane.
“Yes, Doc, I’ve read that book. Hoffman’s got an interesting drift on Crane’s poetic sailboating.”
“Imaginary sailboating, a trick Shelley attempted in the Bay of Spezia and turned it so real it drown him, though drowning is a very poetic way to go, especially for a Woolf.”
“Doc, you’re a jokester. I wolf down that sort of way with words.”
“Ways with words rule the world, my man.”
I look down at the poem Dr. Thin has been reading:
“Bottles and bottles and bottles
In a merry den
And the wane smiles of women
Untruthing license and joy.
Making oblique and confusing multiplication
And the light returns again to the faces.”
“That’s good stuff, Doc. I like that image of lights making 'oblique and confusing multiplication in mirrors,' what's not to like about that?”
“A cellar, and a pale death-child,
Ministering commonly, degradedly,
A murmur and a silence
Or silence and a murmur
And then a finished silence
The moon beats practically upon the cheap bed.
“An hour, with its million trinkets of joy or pain
Matters little in a cellar or merry den
Since all is death.”
“Jeez, Doc. That turns out to be an highly multiplied image of the Grim Reaper those lights show in that mirror. This had to be written when Crane was down in one of his dumps.”
“He was in Rum Alley; lost in the squalor of New York City, where pigs and horses and pigeons and rats and people used to rot in the streets. People used to have to use perfumed handkerchiefs in those days those streets, even Fifth Avenue and Broadway, smelled so obnoxiously of death and decay. They smelled of mortality, which has an awful stench to it unless you bathe it and swaddle it in myrhhed-and-frankenscented 100% Egyptian cotton cloth--the best cotton on earth was once thought to grow in the Nile Valley, whether it still is or not is not of my concern.”
“So, how the hell are you, Doc?”
“I reason that’s not a bad way to be.”
“I’m searching, constantly searching.”
“Did you read in this book you handed me where Hoffman says Crane didn’t know how to end this poem you've shown me? Hoffman thinks it’s odd that Crane ends a poem that has just had a line about ‘the light returns again to their faces’ with ‘Since all is death.’”
“Death ends all anyway whether in light or darkness. So what’s so wrong with using death to end a poem? Death ends you; death was ending Crane. Death is THE END. Perhaps as a lot of writers and composers and painters believed everything brilliant ends in brilliant death—or that everything in shadows also ends in shadowy death.”
“Is that why we have our eyes in the front of our heads?”
“We have eyes in the front of our heads to protect us while we’re sleeping since we sleep on our backs. Like when you’re a monkey sleeping on a limb high up in the jungle canopy, you want your eyes in the front so you can look downward—evolution is the master.”
“Evolution is God?”
“God is nothing, even in evolution.”
“There is no God in creation?”
“Nope, only a multiplication of lighted images in universal mirrors or the reflected cosmicological existence we all think is reality when all life if lived in reflections is anything but reality. The same multiplications that give glows to haloes and dazzlings to diadems. If you want power, stand with the sun fiery behind you. People observing you will see you only as an image coming out of the fire of the sunlight, the Sun, our only God, our only energy—like the Mazda—the capture of the Sun’s rays within a glass bubble we call the Milky Way, which in our vocabulary has come to mean a candy bar--and we do live in a candy bar.”
“It’s always a pleasure talking to you, Dr. Thin.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Now, let me read you something here and get your opinion.”
“Fine, I love being read to; sometimes I like being read to while I’m reading. I once thought of writing a drama featuring all the action being read from readers out of books—you know, the passages from the various books making up the drama’s story, its presentation—governing its direction and performance, the readers reading like opera singers singing the lyrics of operas.”
“Great, Doc. So, I tell ya what, settle down in that good chair there--and help yourself to one of those La Rosa cigars overthere in that cedar humidor…there’s a cutter there and a solid gold cigar lighter there, from Dunhill. Get yourself a drink while you're overthere, too. You’ll find a bottle of Armagnoc in that cabinet under the cigar humidor.”
“Thank you, sir. I have a great affection for excellently rolled cigars like these—Dominican Republic tobacco I see….”
“You’re absolutely correct, Doc. Good job.”
“Elementary, my good man.”
That was a joke I knew, a Dr. Thin joke, a totally naked reference to Sherlock Holmes, one of those fictional characters who luckily is given an actual life by his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle. You know, a fictional character that many who read those books believe was a real person.
“Here, Doc, let me read you this: ‘The therapy [Gestalt-Analysis], then, consists in analyzing the internal structure of the actual experience….'”
“'…with whatever degree of contact it has: not so much what is being experienced, remembered, done, said, etc., as how what is being remembered is remembered, or how what is said is said, with what facial expression, what tone of voice, what syntax, what posture, what affect, what omission, what regard or disregard of the other person, etc.'”
“One problem I have with psychologies?”
“What gives a psychologist or a psychologist who goes to medical school and becomes a psychiatrist the superiority to impose their suppositions on folks who though they appear crazy to the observers they may not be crazy to themselves? R.D. Laing, the British psychologist once interested me because he saw crazy folks as simply regular human beings lost in a forest of multiplications of confusing and oblique reflections of lights in the mirrors of the trees in that forest. You know, like staying in the womb; the forest representing a safe haven, a retreat back into the natural world, a place of savagery, yes, but a place of starting over evolutionarily—maybe a reconstructing of a Gestalt.”
“You don’t trust psychology or psychoanalysis?”
“I enjoy reading Freud, as you do, I think I’ve read you say you like reading Freud.”
“Yes, I think Freud writes like a novelist, but then that’s not original with me—I probably read it somewhere.”
“Reading it as it is is even better than seeing it, which sometimes may not be what it really is. Reading about it gives you the power to see it in your mind’s motion picture theater as dramatically and as filmic as you want to make whatever it is you’re reading. Language is either guiding and kindly leading you into a light or it’s so misleading it can trap you in darkness and get you killed, though one shouldn’t worry about getting killed no matter the language since it’s very existential to understand that all leads to death anyway, no matter how we argue with ourselves day-in and day-out about immortality and eternal life and fairy tales like that, the answer is always the same—in the now, if we are alive, we are living as though immortal--in the past and the future we are dead or are dying. We achieve our immortality through the power of our characterizations in life. Confusing?”
“No. Not at all, Dr. Thin.”
With that, Dr. Wor N. Thin made his disappearance and then I woke up from my afternoon relaxation.
Thin chance I’d run into Dr. Thin again anytime soon since I seldom dream.
The Stephen Crane poem is a previously unpublished poem from the Crane Collection at Columbia U. published in Daniel G. Hoffman’s The Poetry of Stephen Crane published by the Columbia University Press in 1957. Stephen Crane is fading back, way back, into our collective memory now. Only a handful of people now have probably read Red Badge of Courage, an amazing book actually, written by a young man who’d never been to war yet in whose instinctual imagination a Civil War battle was clear as a bell and he wrote about war as if he were actually in war; he wrote about war better than writers who were actually in war. I’ve already written a post about poets who died in WWI in action and the poems they wrote while in the trenches and in the midst of one of the worst and most vicious wars ever, the war to end all wars.
Ah writers. Ah poets; but then poets are writers. Ah composers; music writers. Songwriters. Even hip-hoppers write their rhymes down—I know, the purist types never write their rhymes down, but I’ll guarantee you the biggies write theirs down or have them written for them. They burn out fast in that hip-hop world don’t they? It’s amazing how many hip-hop stars are now successful actors in Hollywood. Will Smith, for instance. Wow, what a career; and who the hell knows if he’s a good actor since as a hip-hopper he wasn’t really who he really was or is now—so he’s a phony from the start so therefore in my estimation he’s an actor since he was born—though since we’re all actors, it all means nothing.
for The Daily Growler