Introduction to the Mysteries

(or “¦ How to Read a Poem)
by P. G. Karamesines

First, kiddo, disperse that obvious shadow:
To read is not to know.  To read
Is to listen from your quiet place
To the teasing laughter of some new voice.
Listening requires aptitude for not knowing.

If you read a poem, yourself, alone,
Watch for those sudden synchronizations of,
You know, pulses, which, happening, don’t prove
Knowing, only meeting: two languaged souls
Adrift on unfolding sea, converging at crosscurrent
Symbols, flowing together then pulling past.
Isn’t that romantic, toots?

When you read a poem, imagine words
Anticipating arrival, turned voice-
Toward you already.  Step up to what song’s
Piping hot to be heard.  But don’t try to know.
Meaninglessness is that blue butterfly
On the diamond-stud pin.  Such a waste!
Something in person-reading-poem-
Reading-person ever escapes, like light,
Into the wink of the abyss.  If in reading
A poem you don’t turn at the crack
Of a wall yielding, that creaking noise
As the universe — all them stars — buckles,
You ain’t listening, dearie, only knowing.

Even when, after chasing flights of laughter,
You find in the boonies some poem in its skin,
Remember: to see is not to know,
But rather to come upon as if in a forest
Meaning playing naked in a stream. 
That’s where it lives, love.
Get grabby, you break its green embrace
With the current’s deepening hold.

To read a poem is to stand with it
And to move, to change
In ardor of exchange, to wind with words
Into a nerve bundle of world’s desire.
It isn’t to know, sweetie, it’s never to know,
But only ever to follow what calls.

23 thoughts on “Introduction to the Mysteries”

  1. I have a feeling this might backfire, Patricia, We may just need something like this out of you for other areas/genres as well.

  2. D.H. Lawrence was very in to the deadening effects of knowledge. That to try to know is the easiest way to transgress against another and then make the whole thing crumble.

    So the point about not getting grabby is well-taken. And that’s really the beauty of good poetry — it has a cultivated wildness that hints and allures and sometimes bursts with energy. The key is to find that balance (and it is a place that may differ for various readers although there are some sure ways to mess everything up) between the mystery and simply the diverticulation of meaning that shoots off in directions only your brain can (or wants to) go.

    A call rather than a murmuring to oneself.

    I especially like this idea of “standing with” — when you stand with you feel the presence and form some sort of understanding but your facing something else.

  3. Wm,

    I vaguely recall joking somewhere how knowledge is know-ledge, the ledge of what you think you know as well as the edge of the knowl, that crest beyond which you can’t see. What a great word, fun to play with

    I guess everybody knows by now I was totally into David Herbert. Still am. That’s one I’ll never get over.

    The key is to find that balance (and it is a place that may differ for various readers although there are some sure ways to mess everything up) between the mystery and simply the diverticulation of meaning that shoots off in directions only your brain can (or wants to) go.

    Another key might be to learn to enjoy being off-balance, at least at times. Some really creative moves can come out of that.

    Please tell me you made up that word “diverticulation”!

  4. Darlene,

    Then I better confess that I doubt the poem’s finished. It seems to take me a while anymore to tighten up a poem, and this one’s only a few days old, loose-jointed and a bit wobbly.

    But I’ll keep in mind that you stole a copy and might like to steal a better version when it’s ready.

  5. For instance, I just changed the word “hearing” in the last line of the third stanza to “listening.”

    For now.

  6. Patricia!

    This is awesome. I’d say you didn’t fulfill the letter of the assignment, you blew it out the water. I’m such a fan. If I ever meet you in person I’m totally asking for your autograph. Like almost all your posts, I’m stealing a copy of this too 🙂

    College turned me into a knower of things–I’ve been working to un-know stuff for a while now. This poem was good strong medicine.

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  7. For me, it means I copied it into word and save it so I can look at it and ponder it a lot. It’s stealing because I would absolutely pay Patricia for this kind of stuff if there was a way! I so want a publisher somewhere to publish a collection of her poems and essays. . .

  8. Hm, “link love.” I think I like it.

    And … people would pay for this stuff?

  9. Actaeon paid the price of trying to capture it for his own.

    What if instead of peering from behind the bushes, he’d dived in?

    * * *

    “…turned voice-
    toward you already”

    word patterns

    * * *

    “…sudden synchronizations of,
    You know, pulses, which, happening, don’t prove
    Knowing, only meeting: two languaged souls
    Adrift on unfolding sea, converging at crosscurrent
    Symbols, flowing together then pulling past.
    Isn’t that romantic, toots?”

    Romance — possession by a love-sickening god — isn’t really what this reaches in me.

    Do you know Octavio Paz’s “Dos cuerpos”?

  10. Oops. Intended to say more in the second part of that.

    Consider, instead, this:

    Mystifying me is how a static pattern of words can twine with a dynamic awareness, turning it toward the turn toward it.

  11. What if instead of peering from behind the bushes, he’d dived in?

    You read my mind. 😉

    Romance — possession by a love-sickening god — isn’t really what this reaches in me.

    There’s been a lot of talk around here (AMV) about writing to win love. That line throws an elbow into the ribs of that concern.

    Do you know Octavio Paz’s “Dos cuerpos”?

    Do now, and thanks for pointing it out. Devastatingly lovely work.

    Mystifying me is how a static pattern of words can twine with a dynamic awareness, turning it toward the turn toward it.

    Tempting to read “Mystifying me” as another of your monikers, greenfrog. The problem then becomes how to address you in return. What would be proper? “Dear Mystifying Me” or “Dear Mystifying You”?

    Maybe both: “Dear Mystifying Me/You.” ;P

    is how a static pattern of words can twine with a dynamic awareness, turning it toward the turn toward it.

    I think those words show how. Though I confess I’m no longer able to think of written language as “a static pattern of words.” These days, to me, all language seems action taken and given, affecting not only that which stands in proximity but producing ripple effects which might run a long way out.

  12. Here’s a question that popped up while I was eating dinner: If one should avoid knowing, then does that mean “meaning” can only be questions? I know it’s silly, but I sometimes like to come to conclusions about things, ya know?

  13. Laura,

    Next to the rhetorical trope “metaphor,” the form and nature of the question is one of the greatest gifts of our language. Don’t you think a good question is like a well-fitted vehicle for exotic travel and high adventure? 😉

    As for knowing, I guess I think we need to make the best of what we think we know at any given time, looking forward to the next best thing and making better of it.

    Bah, don’t ask me. I don’t know.

  14. If a moniker, then “dear” should become adverbial; “dearly,” I think.

    Well, that solves the problem then. If one affixes “dearly” to the address, one can use whichever pronoun it tickles the context to use.

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