Creation Myth & Walking

This morning, I started getting ready to clean up my room, pack a bag and head up to St Dot’s later in the week. Lewis Headrick, an old friend from the days when Issan lived at Hartford St, shot me a message on Facebook which turned my attention around. He said he read "Ad patrem sinensis" aloud at breakfast with his spouse, and I began looking for more of Phil Whalen’s poetry.

After Phil died in 2002, Poltroon Press put the out of print, Prolegomena to a Study of the Universe up online as a kind of tribute.
It was and is a generous and lovely act in this world of words. I take the liberty of quoting here from this short, wonderful book.
(I apologize that the type-face is small. I had to reduce it in order to keep Phil’s arrangement of the lines on the page. Put on your reading glasses – it’s worth it!)
From Kevin Power’s Introduction:
Buddha in an early sutra sets out one of Whalen’s essential poetic principles: "In what is seen there must be just the seen; in what is heard there must be just the heard; in what is sensed (as smell, taste or touch) there must be just what is sensed; in what is thought there must be just the thought."
…He [Whalen] tells us “poetry is a picture or a graph of a mind moving, which is a world body being here & now which is history…& you”. Or as he put it in Sourdough Mt. Lookout:

What we see of the world is the mind’s
invention & the mind
● ● ●
can shift instantly

Now onto Phil!

Creation Myth
Falling through speeding emptiness dark & cold I enter a magnetic field
and begin radiating light in various colors and radio waves in the 21 cm
band. That I can be Heraclitus or (with no effort) the city of Venice
(put it closer to home and say Chichen Itza): disentangle it: a spiral
track, incomplete spark-circle, a helix of darkness through a brilliant
galaxy, whichever color you prefer, but I remember gassed out of my
head on ether, Mid-Columbia Hospital 1929 I was Golden Light Child,
smiling bright silence & now a new memory of myself leaving town, walking
the highway (hot sun) as slowly as it takes to breathe, sleep the night
in roadside ditch and walk some more, beyond the farm towns and the ski-lifts
high but under the timberline the neighborhood of a lake and off the trail
for keeps to stop under tree, cliff, rock and be still, so quiet maybe a
porcupine chews off some of my bark, a mountain lion eats an arm, a foot,
then somebody new and different starting much later down the mountain,
nobody’s face I know.


It is possible – I found out near the top of Sauk Mountain – to walk.
As you lift one foot the earth turns the mountain under you, your foot
comes down in a different place. (This law applies only beyond timber-
line early summer in the North Cascades. In the Sierras, each
step must turn the whole earth towards you – the mountain must be
trodden downwards – and it is only with the greatest effort that one
foot follows the other across the water-bars set into the trail.
But the idea of walking – let out on Highway 101 somewhere south
of Gilroy 2:30 A.M. I must get to Santa Monica 350 miles down the road
nothing moving but fog and it stops in the hairs of my wool jacket – high
banks on either side of the highway, no sleeping-bag – a one-way fog
leading to Salinas (don’t think, at the time, of returning to San
Francisco where E_______ had offered me a place in the basement). Nothing
to do, no cars stopping for hitch-hikers, I became FEET and after a time
SALINAS. Wet or dry no difference, neither light nor dark, FEET moving
producing discontinuous geography (and presently) a town.

I know the world & I love it too much & it
is not the one I’d find outside this door

Thanks Phil, thanks Lewis

from Memoirs of an Interglacial Age, 1960. The Auerhahn Press, San Francisco


BrightHeart said…
Ken, I am the Queen Registrar for the Radical Faerie gathering in Breintenbush OR presidents Day Weekend in Feb. here's link and registration
We're using as theme James Broughton's "This Is It"

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