Look at Beautiful Things

Answering the Unanswerable

As a poet, the first instinct would be to put a "To" in the title, "To Look at Beautiful Things," putting poetic distance between writer and reader, poet and human being. Semantics at their best bring the world closer, at their most subtle, separate us from the world, from our own experiences, from others. So to leave it as just, look at beautiful things places it in the present, allows it to be active instead of intellectual. This, in itself, is beautiful. The details in poems are rarely of perfection, instead of rattling, gorgeous, terrible imperfection. The loveliness of imperfection is a story worth telling.

The real work of poetry is to remain immediate. Of all these bright constructions - the brightest is the most rusted, the most broken open. There are so many answers to impossible questions, all of them falling short of the magnitude needed to give meaning to life. The bearing of emotion and experience and time is what opens and astounds. The bearing is beautiful.

It's raining today, and Sunday. I am listening to Hungarian Music for Cello and Piano. It is glorious and moving and hits deep within me. There is a tree right outside my office window and I watch it every day and every season. Today, it is lush green and not hanging or heavy at all, even with the rain. Its branches are dark and gleaming. I love this tree, am attached to it and observe it, sometimes for a long time, looking out my window.

I have had struggles with how I am a poet in my life. I have always wanted to be as close to "real life" as possible, working, washing dishes, loving, listening to music, proofreading, talking to friends and making great effort to live kindly and genuinely and to know myself. The words mean nothing, at the end, and their reckoning is empty without bone and salt. I have always felt connected to the rawness of experience, and this has been painful and ecstatic, prophetic and nostalgic. To stay rooted in right now is to be aware of how memory and hope affect you.

A kitchen of spices, gallon of salt, and a lamp turned on in the living room. The back of people's apartments white and blank opposite the kitchen windows. Words are so heavy. Their burden is to disappear off the page as quickly as you read them. My dreams were weird last night. I dreamt that I was in a city like Los Angeles, wide, traffic-clogged streets, soot hanging in the slightly reddish air, and I was looking for a crib. I was about to have a baby and I kept wandering around from one friend's house to another in a perpetual dusk, which was dark and polluted, like a scene out of a comic book. But the baby was very real.

There are things I will never tell. They will come out, hidden, in my poems and stories, never clearly. These secrets are the core of why I write. I will tell you what I find beautiful and I will tell you who I love and that is enough.

There is bearing in beauty. You have to bear it. It overwhelms and scares and brings up feelings of loss and fear. What is borne you don't hold, you let it become part of you, like steam and blood. The elements that bring you closer to that very gut of presence are paradoxical and have one foot in life and one foot in the grave. Awareness of the body is listening to breath and heartbeat and knowing, one day, they will stop. To stop now, in life, feels sometimes like beckoning death. Slowing down is frightening. Time stops when I'm in the presence of beauty, a suspended balancing act of faith and observation. There is a flow and movement to the suspension and that is the cradle I try to write from. That is where it all begins for me, and when I sit down to write, that is real life to me. Sitting in my office chair, looking out the window, then at the computer screen and typing, I have the deeply felt and borne experiences I am trying to clarify in the poems.

There has been an uncomfortable divide between life and poetry, not that I feel, but that I struggle with in the actuality of writing. Writing is in itself a world, a planet, a home, and it exists bigger than any universe. Imagination and, with it, the rational mind, are great gifts and hem life and writing so they are not separate. The stitches are invisible, but you can see their shadows. As the poem lives and breathes, it is as if a human being, an entity you can have conversations with and watch grow and change.

For that fluidity and for it to exist in the world as a real creature, experience must be raw and always descend to the heart, moving slowly down towards the gut, ascending simultaneously to the mind. Heidegger wrote that truth is to allow moments to change you. The sublime revolution of thought and emotion. Slow or dramatic change of rhythmic cycles.

Words are bursts of air and spark. Incantations, weather systems, pots and pans, and city planning. Communication is just the beginning. Words are life-bearing, life-giving, and give way to what is beneath them, in them, released from their little homey collections of letters and print.

In the end, I always come back to putting my hands and eyes on things, my TV, desk, sinks, calendars, coffee cups. Looking at people, meeting their eyes, listening to the beautiful, loved sounds of their voices, interacting with a true and open heart, giving birth. What comes to me in dreams or poems is truth and bears out in my life, day to day. The struggle with poetry and life and always, always connecting them, drawing the lines, threading the gaps, always taking care that one is of the other, has defined my life, as love has defined my life.

Love, especially romantic love, has always driven what I write, all of my poems are love poems so the striving and making are the same thing...paper airplanes floating from my office into my bedroom.

-Arielle Guy