Grey

I’m still in this place. Sometimes it seems I never leave.
*

Gallery, 2014

Imagine, if you will
a gallery piece
installed,
a row of plants at progressing
stages of growth, lined up in
pots and flash-frozen in time, breathing cold puffs,
crystalline
almost synthetic.

Imagine also
the moment the exhibit
starts
to disintegrate, freeing
gouged and frozen cells one by
one by one by
one in
unwilling surrender to Death
nutrient-free, famished, value
less.

Imagine, if you will
our lives, taken
out of sine, cosine, curve:

motion
less.

 

~ KG

*

Idiolalia Poetry Collection Now Available!

Hello all 🙂 Thank you all so much for your support.Click here to buy from Lulu --->

Idiolalia is available straight from the printer now at 3 GBP or 5 USD each (or a cheaper PDF ebook copy).

If you order from Lulu through the link provided here it should be sent straight to your house, super-easy.

The price may change in the future, but for now it’s a steal 😉 so if you’ve appreciated any of the poetry on my blog and might like to have an accessible 25-30 of them for yourself, please support my work.

Please let me know if you have any questions or special requests!

Always,
MKG

PS. I’m currently working on a new collection titled Faith & Forces

Click here to Purchase some Poetry… 

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Memo #3 ~

found photo, titled 'Moving' - will link up to source when i can find it.Memo # 3 ~
Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran

“What we love in other human beings is the hoped-for satisfaction of our desire. We do no love their desire. If what we loved in them was their desire, then we should love them as ourself.” ~ Simone Weil

The night is still around me. Stars turn in the void. Water sounds in the gorge, and the grass sways to the rhythm of a dance lady Wind has yet to teach me. There will be enough time this semester, I think, for academic novellas on the state of mankind. This is confession. I am staring in the mirror within me and seeing snow-capped mountains — a fairy-tale escape, fictional beauty — but there is no reflection of my self. I do not see my neighbor, either, in this scene. For I have fictionalized us both. When anyone comes into my soul, meets me, do I see them? Do I see me?… Most importantly, do I see us?

When honestly put to trial, I find I have committed the callous crime of carelessness over and over and over — more times than I could count if I spent years at the task. Sometimes I pity the angel who transcribes my life ~ poor creature! That is a job I do not envy, even over living my life, and I’ll tell you why. But first let me explain how I have fictionalized myself.

I have become invisible by my silence, and I meet my irrelevance face-to-face. It comes to me that my tyranny, the power of my Executioner, is in direct proportion to the extent to which I refuse to acknowledge or witness some part of me I do not wish to be one with. Most often it is my pain and the domino results of its presence in my life to which I find I cannot reconcile myself. This makes a vacuum space into which the dark Death-dealer yawningly steps, operating a guillotine of the heart on which my imagination must utter the words ‘by myself’, like a mantra, in echo of Cincinnatus C. To preserve my capability to dream, to save my love — I will walk away with my heart in my hands, unharmed, into another world. Transported… and then I realize once again, always with this feeling like hitting a brick wall at a dead run, that I cannot. The wisdom of hopelessness is folly, and all who choose death alone choose Death indeed.

The transportation and transfiguration of the guillotine is nothing when compared with the resurrection and transfiguration of Living, Breathing, Life on this earth itself (and beyond). Christ returned to this earth in the flesh, appeared to his loved ones. I believe we can do no less with our lives, when gifted with the transformation of our beings in Him through the power of His Spirit.

Overcoming my blindness means overcoming whatever it is that avoids a straight-on look at anyone in my life — including parts of me. Empathy for myself is something I will have to learn if I intend to see myself in the mirror of my interactions, and not just my favorite escape, my handy fiction that allows me to manhandle myself and others into a dream-reality that is-Not. Empathy banishes the Executioner and leaves an option for a re-creative act of weaving those two unmatched worlds — the harsh reality and the escape — into one unbroken cloth, dedicated to embracing God.

*~*~*

She who reconciles the ill-matched threads

of her life, and weaves them gratefully

into a single cloth–

it’s she who drives the loudmouths from the hall

and clears it for a different celebration

where the one guest is you.

In the softness of evening

it’s you she receives.

You are the partner of her loneliness,

the unspeaking center of her monologues.

With each disclosure you encompass more

and she stretches beyond what limits her,

to hold you.`

~ R.M. Rilke

                                   *~*~*

I do not envy the angel writing my life, though he escapes all my trials and pains, because I am in the unique position to dance and sing and weave thanksgivings to my God. Perhaps, like for the prophet of old, praise will bring down the walls. But I find myself asking, who will play the trumpets?

Upon some thought, I’ve realized that fiction is my trumpet. What?, you say — Yes, I say. Fiction and poetry are my song, my witness of other lives and of God’s creation for what it is to me; creative writing is the tool by which I leave my testament to the power of every aspect of His character I am blessed enough to see. These creative acts are my particular praise and expression of love to God, made possible through what He’s given me to see, feel, know, observe, hear, understand, and love on earth, in this body wracked with Pain and full of anguish.

No matter how much pain I am in, or how incompetent of a human being I end up looking to be like because of its persistent role in my life, I find God is still taking massive amounts of time to tutor me in Love and Joy, in healthy confidence and a sense of the relevance of my whole being; He is teaching me to be Whole. To be Holy. And He is teaching me to fill my life with Living things, one by one calling the dead things by name, the blind things, the careless things, and banishing them from His presence. He is teaching me the devastating physics of a vacuum in a human life, and telling me to look my neighbor in the eye. To see them for who they are, to know who they wish to be seen as, to listen to them with my whole heart, the heart of flesh He gave me, and to acknowledge the beguilingly unique mystery He shaped in each one of them as something only they can ever offer anyone. He is stretching me, making room inside me to hold His beloved children. I still don’t know any specifics, but it’s not a business meeting; I’m stretching out my arms to gather in as many of the little children looking out from behind the curtains of adult bodies as this single broken body can manage to hold.

*~*~*

i walk, breathe,

live & move

enshrouded by mystery;

the glorious unknown

sparkles

in every being i see

motes of stardust

shaped my unseen hands

glittering:

Light in my soul.

*~*~*

all text c. Mary Kathryn Gough (maiden, huffman), 9/28/05

Marx & Foucault Meditation


I was going to write a piece I could be proud of this week. Something perhaps with a twinge of the intellectual child hiding out in my supremely poetic(transliteration: sappy)soul… I was going to write something that intersected with the reality found in thinking, rational minds, something that touched on the points of the incredible writers and theorists we’ve read this week. But then something happened to me… and I am as lost to that world as an autumn leaf, separated from its tree. I wasn’t intending to cough up another lung this week (After all, how many more do I have to give?). It looks as though life has conspired against me yet again, however, because all that will come out of me right now is what keeps running through my head like a Stock ticker, driving me mad with Shame and Anger and Frustration — what is wrong with me? — what is wrong with me? — what is wrong with me? — what is wrong with me? — what is wrong with me? — what is wrong with me? —

Tonight I went to the emergency room. I spent all afternoon and evening trying to contact my doctors and my parents — actually all week trying to contact my doctors, who are on vacation ’til Monday, I just found out. Finally I got through to my mother and she got through to one of my doctors who wanted me to go get some tests run immediately and…

Let me begin at the beginning.

Among other health concerns, which I have been dealing with all my life and am quite used to, I came to the O.E. with a new one this semester. I have a hole in my heart, and my doctors are concerned that blood clots could be travelling through my bloodstream, from one side of my heart, through the hole, into the other, and out into my major organs. IF a clot enters my brain in this way I could have a stroke. If any number of other organs or muscles are blocked or affected by a clot somehow then other kinds of damage could occur — perhaps permanent damage. To avoid clotting, they put me on blood thinners before I came to school this semester. I’ve been bruising myself pretty badly since I got here though, and it’s really pretty humiliating. I’ve bruised my hands by putting them in my pockets. On top of all my other problems, it felt like adding insult to injury. But then when I mentioned it to my family they were worried that there might be internal bleeding going on as well as the obviously visible hematomas. I went through a lot of drama trying to reach doctors and getting more and more tired and frustrated. _____ took me to Ashland tonight, and my visit in the emergency room went splendidly by all accounts one could call rational. But I am not rational. I look real good on paper; they found no evidence of internal bleeding and have told me to stop taking one of the blood thinners but stay on the other one. But I want something to be wrong; I want something I can put my finger on, for once. I’m tired of being so sick and having people tell me I’m blowing things out of proportion. So tired I could scream, but there’s not much use in that.

The other news I got tonight was not so happy. In fact, it made me raving mad and miserable, about ready to throw things or punch things, even though my hands would have been black for weeks as a result. I am supposed to go home. My doctor wants me to come home and get worked on at Stanford Medical Center for a while, about ten days of testing and examination.

Examination. What an ugly word. Especially after reading Foucault. After all the examinations I’ve been through and all the categories I’ve been placed into and all the names and titles I’ve refused to bear, wishing to remain who I know myself to be deep inside my soul, why is it that I am so thoroughly, intractably, despairingly needful of a Name for my Faithless Body? Why must I dehumanize my body simply because it almost never works to my advantage? Why do I find myself, on nights like tonight, ready to strangle the slender thread of Hope that has borne me through more of hell and high water than I will ever know how to describe?Why must I bear such frightening red-eyed anger for this body in my heart of hearts because it won’t allow me to live like anyone else I’ve ever known?

This clumsy, weighty, pain-stricken body is ugly to me on nights like these, freighted with an illness I don’t understand and will probably never overcome. Would a Name truly comfort me? OR would it be only an excuse to sigh and look back on my many years of struggle with a knowing shake of the head? An excuse. To look back and say, “What a waste.”

How does one escape the emotions of toil and anger and frustration, when any expression of it seems to make it worse? I need to stop focusing on myself for now. I’ll close here.

c. Mary Kathryn Gough, Fall 2005

my ink_

i.

my ink Grows
greenly
in the deep blue Sea of
(V a s t, this)night,

sending roots
down deep, tendrils
up and out
— a r OUnD

in anticipation of the break
(ing of soil,) of dawn and
s w e e t a i r —|

but for now, Rest.

Satisfied in soily blackness; Rest,

swept by weeping curtains of —    —     —Rain
this night in the reservoir.

~*~**~*~

ii.

you see,

you must understand: a river
runs, maze-like
within my flesh– R – u – S – h
– e – S in, between, t Hhr OU
gH, over and around my
Veins(sTrAinInG

(–but not to bReAk–
capillaries coping, coping,
coping) with aged, Sorrowing Salt:
insidious. Deathly.

…vein-deep blue
is my color yet. and BlaCk…
like the night of a sightless embryo
adrift in a windless sea.

——-

iii.

my ink Grows
with an Invisible
hue; its living color
fades into nightly
black-and-blue
Pain.

…feels like all the
growth is in
Vain.

c. Mary Kathryn Gough
3/2/05 1.52 pm
edit: 5.13.06 10.36 am london
edit: 5.13.06 5.39 pm london
edit: 4.23.12 7.13 pm wales

Literature’s Unifying Force

Mary Kathryn Gough
11/11/05 Project #2

The Unifying Force of Kafka’s Literature:

Drawing a Dual-Hearted World Together in Unity of Spirit

“Could not then art and literature in a very real way

offer succor to the modern world?”

~Aleksandr.Solzhenitzyn

Of all malicious lies, the most sprawling and successful is the one which whispers softly, compellingly, under everything that happens to us: “You are helpless, powerless in the face of it all. You can change nothing, and nothing you do will ever change.” This lie is detrimental to our created beings. It blows fate full of hot air, making it huge and menacing, and weaving other people and circumstances into a gigantic web meant to isolate us, undermine and invalidate us, and finally bring us down, hobbled by our own belief. It blinds us to the Truth: that our tools are organically part of us, and that our effect, or force in the world — each of us — is immense.

One witness to this truth, according to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, is world literature, which has the effect of unifying us in sympathy of spirit across borders of nationality, distance, and disinterest. Franz Kafka’s work makes a good study in the significance of literature in Solzhenitsyn’s sense. At the same time, his life allows a look at the question of whether the value of a writer’s work is affected by the way they live out their personal lives. In Prague, Kafka’s writing has been seen as defining the city, the country, and the times – despite the fact that he wasn’t an overtly political writer, writing exclusively of familial ties and psychological trauma. The identity crises he depicts serve as an arena in which anyone can identify with the experience of Kafka’s country as it was abused by the father-figure of an oppressive regime. And yet in failing to write his way out from under the immense burden of his life, Franz Kafka appears to have delivered himself into the hands of a craftily looming lie – but how, if at all, might that fact affect the force of his contribution to world literature?

A world with two hearts…

The Largest Lie’s best tactic in convincing us of our impotence is to confuse knowledge with causal power. If we do not know what the overarching logical structure looks like, its ominous whisperings say, and if we are really so small as we (truly) are, then we cannot logically engage in the structure and therefore possess no leverage. Thus, our effect in the world is all for naught; our existential force is negated. This lie takes hold of every situation, driving home to us the simple fact that we are not in control. And if we cannot create our own greater logical structure within which to posit our own significance, then our every action must be lost to us and to everyone else. Meaningless. The complex and tragic truth, however, is that neither the deceived nor the more clear-sighted can escape making their immutable mark on the world. We do make difference. And yet the greatest potence of our being lies in sympathetic unity.

Upon his 1970 receipt of the Nobel prize, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn spoke of the many visions of the world being so painfully diverse that, in order “to prevent discomfort, we dismiss all alien [ones] out of hand… confidently judg[ing] the whole world according to our own homegrown scale” (ASCEaDM, 563). He explains that it is because of this tendency to build our life’s vision solely from the basis of our own experience that our world, though “physically compressed,” is “restrained from merging spiritually [as] molecules of knowledge and sympathy are prevented from leaping from one half to the other” (ASCEaDM, 570,emph. add).

Solzhenitsyn saw a “torpid inability to understand someone else’s grief” afflicting the entire world, and stated that when “given six, four or even two scales of values there cannot be a unified world, a united humanity. We shall be torn apart by this difference in rhythm, the divergence in frequency of oscillation. We could not manage to survive on one Earth, just as a man with two hearts is not long for this world” (ASCEaDM, 565).

A man with two hearts. Is this our problem? Not a multiplicity of logics and systems but a multiplicity of hearts, of deceived and isolated world-ego realms? The question and the solution then become ones Solzhenitsyn himself expresses clearly for us, asking who it is with the capability of

…impress[ing] upon a sluggish and obstinate human being someone else’s far-off sorrows or joys, who could give him an insight into magnitudes of events and into delusions which he has never himself experienced? Propaganda, coercion, and scientific proof are all equally powerless here. But fortunately there does exist a means to this end in the world! It is art. It is literature (ASCEaDM, 565, emph add).

If this is true, then when we look at the writer of literature (in this case Franz Kafka) we ought to be able to trace the unifying force of his work.

Kafka’s Inner Impetus

Beyond literature’s societal impact, what can we make of the personal reasons that drive an artist to express and re-member the meaning in past events? Vaclav Havel defines art as “a distinctive way of seeking truth — … that is, chiefly the truth of the artist’s inner experience,” and based on that definition there is “only one art, whose sole criterion is the power, the authenticity, the revelatory insight, the courage and suggestiveness with which it seeks its truth, or perhaps the urgency and profundity of this truth” (LIT, 131). It would seem that authors anywhere in the world who allow those qualities to permeate their works, are either nourished and transformed by their task, or are crushed by the burden it becomes. Take Franz Kafka, native of Havel’s Prague.

Kafka’s life (1883-1924) was largely defined by the Largest Lie– that he was helpless and without impact in the world. He spent his entire life writing about vanquished sonship in a vain and unrecognized fight with his father. All his works “depict the impossibility of becoming an adult,” which was by far the most overarching feature of his life, never changing to the very end (TS, xiii). According to Mark Anderson, Kafka’s literary identity rested on his identity as a son, an identity he never surpassed. When he finally tore himself away from home to live with the woman he wanted to marry, he was forbidden to do so, and within one year had died of tuberculosis (TS, xx). Even in death Kafka is buried as a son: beneath the family tombstone, his name carved directly above his father’s (TS, xx). A single glance at his life raises innumerable questions: is it fair to see Kafka as a vanquished son? Was he too self-absorbed in his writing? Did his trapped, fatalistic lack of vision keep his writing from achieving for Czechoslovakia what, say Dostoevsky’s writing achieved for oppressed Russia? Does the fact that he never broke out of his caged child’s life make a difference to the value of his contribution to world literature?

Kafka’s writing was, perhaps, his one source of self-esteem — in his letters to his first fiance, Felice, he describe his stories as his children, his progeny (TS, xv). He also admits to her that he never would have asked for her hand in marriage if he had not had The Sons published, as if he “needed the social legitimation that only a published work could confer” (TS, xv). It is easy to see that his position as ‘father’ of these ‘lads’ (his stories) gives him a basis for a powerful identity he doesn’t have elsewhere in life. In the opinion of Mark Anderson, it is “in writing down their stories of suicide, grotesque metamorphosis, and banishment to America, [that] Kafka rises above their fate, can control it with the sovereign hand of the author, can dispose of their lives like an almighty father” (TS, xiv). Solzhenitsyn describes this type of authorship as that of an artist who “imagines himself the creator of an autonomous spiritual world,” taking “total responsibility for it. But [who] collapses under the load, for no mortal genius can bear up under it, just as…, the man who declares himself the center of existence is unable to create a balanced spiritual system” (ASCEaDM, 558). Kafka’s method of (bitterly small) triumph led to his being remade in the image of the Patriarch he so despised, and thus his writing couldn’t serve its intended function of giving him free identity.

After “The Judgement,” writing became for Kafka “increasingly… a means of doing battle with his father, and patriarchal authority in general” (TS, xvi). One commentator notes something Kafka wrote “in reference to ‘The Judgement,’ [which] reads: ‘Thoughts about Freud, naturally'” (TS, viii). In fact, he combatively dedicated one work to Hermann Kafka — though his father never cracked the book open to see why, only ordering that it be placed on his bedside table. The luminous clash in the bedroom scene of “The Judgement” is not something one simply imagines, no matter how great a writer one is. It is a symbolic set up, staged precisely in order to express Kafka’s inner experience of his father’s involvement in — and destruction of — his life. The similarly codependent nature of Franz’s tie to his family and Georg’s to his are striking. Franz’s father wanted him to become a man, but would also turn on his every success and opportunity and cut him down to size. In just the same way, Georg’s aging father leaned on him and could barely make it to the bed, so tired and unable to care for himself did he seem. And then, suddenly, turning on his son in a luminous and clear-headed outburst, the father rises from the bed, belittling Georg, castigating him for remaining a child, and betraying his son by revealing that he’s been surreptitiously ruining the boy’s reputation. Rather than bestowing the traditional paternal blessing to go out into the world and wield the influence given him as wisely as he knows how, Georg’s father cuts his son’s legs out from under him, leaving him cowering in a corner of the bedroom in shell-shocked awe: a child again. Finally, Georg’s father ends his tirade by saying, “So now you know there is more in the world than just you. Till now you’ve known only about yourself! An innocent child, yes, that you were, truly, but still more you have been a devilish human being! — And therefore take note: I sentence you now to death by drowning!” (TS, 15). Georg immediately flees from his father, his ears ringing, and jumps off a bridge, proclaiming his undying love for his family.

Just when the almost-man could have crossed over into adulthood, recognizing the world beyond himself — his father plays at cruel, Judgemental God-hood instead of granting a blessing to his autonomy. Oddly, this seems to be Kafka’s own tactic with his ‘sons’– to play celestial ‘house’ in his works with an Almighty overbearing Judgement that leaves the boys mute, optionless, and submissive unto death… Is Kafka cornered into this tactic only because he knows nothing else? And were his eyes never opened to the presence of another option? The potential, perhaps, for empowering his readers with the blessing of forward-facing vision?

Kafka: Joining Two Hearts

Franz Kafka may have defined his times by giving expression to the life-long repression and imprisonment imposed upon him by both his illness and his family, but even more than the writing itself, his own relationship with his writing seems to ring with the tyrannical tones of those times, reflecting society and unable to look beyond it. Was he able to seek truth in the way Havel describes, despite the unfortunate circumstances which limit his search to an inner experience of lonely self-exile? Is there courage in Kafka’s writing? Power? Is he transformed and nourished? Did he overcome, or succumb to the whisperings of the Largest of all Lies?

Maybe we cannot know whether he was nourished or transformed by the act of writing. But I think it’s safe to say that there is courage shown in the truths and insights painted by Kafka’s candid explorations of his own psychological experience of life. And there is no denying the urgency – or the profound, universal relevance – of his art, political or no. Kafka’s ability to portray psychic crises in a way that exactly parallels political ones without being an overtly political writer is notable (TAoL, 163). His writing was felt by many as a cry against the oppressive systems that ruled both public and private life so strictly in his country. The ‘sons’ he portrays — stripped of their options and their freedom to live as they choose, blocked and manipulated at every turn, suffering in submission and suffering also in their small liberties — are inexplicably symbolic of an oppressed people unable to mature and step into adulthood, freedom, and self knowledge. Kafka’s work is seen by later writers as being definitive of the capital city itself, and it has been said that “if ever a writer almost unintentionally imprinted a fiction onto a geography and a history, it was Kafka in Prague” (TAoL, 164). In 1924 however, when he was dying, Kafka asked a friend to destroy his writing, perhaps because in the interim between the world wars, his country seemed to have achieved an independent democratic identity, and he was impressed with the truth that all is not as hopeless as it seems and battles can be won (TAoL, 164).

The Lie. It whispers to us softly, compellingly, weaving its tall-tale through every one of life’s occurrences: “You are helpless, powerless in the face of it all. You can change nothing, and nothing you do will ever change.” Even if Kafka did submit to this untruth, can we honestly say that this devalues the force, or effect, of his work? Solzhenitsyn, I think, has an answer for this as well. He says that we “confidently deem ourselves [art’s] masters” and often “adapt it toward transient political or limited social needs”— and yet, he says, art always “remains undefiled by our endeavors…: each time and in every usage it bestows upon us a portion of its mysterious inner light” (ASCEaDM, 558). Our inability to fully see the overarching structure doesn’t in any way indicate our entrance into it going unnoticed.

The fact that Kafka himself tried to destroy his work is very interesting. Perhaps when his own country proved an exception to his intense fatalism he realized his mistake. Perhaps then he saw his lack of vision uncovered: rather than breathing spirit into people, like a Czech Dostoevsky might have done, Kafka’s stories wrapped anguished life in a shroud of death. Like obituaries, his stories document the internal landscape of abused people with no hope. But then, perhaps the act of documentation itself was his brave testament to the truth he saw: it is deeply honest to his inner experience, and it is also undeniably one of only a few doors we have by which to enter the hearts of Kafka’s people.

Kafka may have succumbed and been vanquished by the lie; a brief study of his life is rather discouraging in this respect. However the consequent value of his contribution to world literature does not change in the slightest; art remains undefiled, and its mysterious inner light works upon us, no less potent for Kafka’s personal failings. His portraits of the anguished oppressed can still make us cry, binding us to a people we otherwise would not know how to feel for, opening up blocked information pathways and setting them racing with sympathy, unifying our hearts as the human race: together.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Havel, Vaclav.“Letter to Dr. Gustav Husak.” Jan Vladislav, ed. Living in Truth. England. Clays Ltd, St Ives plc. 1990. (LtDGH)

Havel, Vaclav.“Six Asides About Culture.” Jan Vladislav, ed. Living in Truth. England. Clays Ltd, St Ives plc. 1990. (LIT)

Havel, Vaclav., Paul Wilson, trans. Summer Meditations. New York. Alfred A. Knopf. 1992. (SM)

Bradbury, Malcom, ed. The Atlas of Literature. New York. Stewart, Tabori & Chang. 1998. (TAoL)

Kafka, Franz. The Sons. New York. Schocken Books Inc. 1989. (TS)

Dunlop, John B., et. al. ed. Aleksandr Solzhenitzyn: Critical Essays and Documentary Materials. New York. Collier Books, Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc. 1975. (ASCEaDM)