is This a
dead End or
cul De sac?
[written in 1996 by Jesus Crisis]
On my last blog, Dead Souls, my friend Smith left a comment that really got me thinking (nothing new about that!). And perhaps it got me thinking in a direction that neither he nor I might have expected. But anyway….
I found his question both amusing (on the surface) and yet deeply profound. He wrote:
“flesh dies and leaves soul – what does soul leave when it dies?”
And so here are the thoughts that emerged from my brain in response. Feel free to add to them, subtract from them, affirm/disregard them wholesale, or even take off in your own interesting direction. My answer:
The campaign trail?
Good question…. And can soul die? And does soul even exist?
Seriously, I don’t know that there is such a thing as “soul” distinct from flesh. And what is flesh but an association of molecules? And the molecules don’t disappear when the body decomposes – they merely disassociate and probably form new associations. In this sense, there is no literal death, just a continual reassociation – though there is a metaphorical death of a metaphorical body. But I don’t even know if you can call the molecular association a distinct “body,” since it is in a state of continual flux and reaction with its environment and never from one minute to the next consists completely of the same exact set of molecules. I tend to think of “soul” as a metaphor for energy. And energy continues to exist in (and even make up the “substance” of) each and every individual molecule/atom whether they are associated or disassociated. Some might wonder how this explains consciousness. Though it is imperfect, I could use the analogy of baking soda and vinegar. Apart they are rather tame and “lifeless.” But combine them, and you’ll witness a lively (and one might say violent or even creative) chemical reaction. I think consciousness is a just another sort of reaction – a by-product of a certain association of molecules. Does it make us any more important than the rocks? Maybe not…. Maybe it just IS and we (however we define “we”) just ARE. And maybe there is no such thing as un-ISness (unbeing, or “death”). Maybe there is only Be-ing, though we are not quite accustomed to recognizing all of it as such.
What hath Smith wrought?… Thanks for inspiring a bit of brain churning this morning. You’re good at that.
Earlier this month, I posted a selection from my unpublished poetry collection In a Dada ga Vida (from 1996). I’m grateful for your feedback. (Here’s the link to that piece: Sin and Slumber.)
Since several folks have expressed interest in seeing other specimens from that volume, here is another, written in prison on 1 June 1996 and entitled “Dead Souls.”
anD Surely dOne
Unless Light iS
Me playing a shepherd boy in The Insignificants, Easter 1996
[photo by Chaplain Hugh Daley, Marion Correctional Institution]
* * *
The title “Dead Souls” was inspired by this Joy Division song:
And here’s a remake by Nine Inch Nails that appeared in The Crow:
My MySpace friend Don sent me these interview questions in April – and I’m just now getting around to answering them.
Better tardy than trash-canned, I suppose….
And I’m going to try my best to tame my tendency toward verbosity and keep it brief (heck – even that sentence was redundant… lol).
Don: What is the single most important thing that has happened in America in the past 25 years?
JC: George W. Bush winning the Presidency in 2000.
Don: Using only three words for each, describe the three presidential candidates.
JC: Clinton = Smart, strong, stubborn
Obama = Smart, surprising, swiftboatable
McCain = Bore, war, whore
Don: Who has been the most influential person in your life?
JC: Short answer: Mom, for a number of reasons. I know I wrote a blog about this on my old MySpace profile (that was deleted a year ago by Murdoch’s minions) long before I knew Don – wish I’d saved it in Word so I could cut and paste it here…. Here are a just a few reasons for my choice: I might not have gone to college, might not have survived prison, and might not have been as sensitive as I am without Mom. I think I might have discussed this more in one of my “Ask Jesus Anything” blogs (here are links: Part One, Part Two, Part Three).
Don: You are very passionate in your beliefs. How often does someone have a convincing enough argument to sway you?
Not often…. I tend to be very indecisive. I deliberate forever over even the most trivial things. I always try to look at all the evidence, put myself in the shoes of folks on all sides of an issue, and really be objective and thoughtful before drawing a conclusion. So once I’ve made up my mind, I usually find that the arguments people use to try to sway me are ones I’ve already seriously weighed before I made the decision. Sometimes new information will surface, however – or I simply mature/grow/evolve – and I will change my mind. After all, I voted for George Bush in 1988, before I knew better. It does happen – so I try to keep an open mind. Like anyone perhaps, I hate to have to admit I was wrong. So I try to be thorough in my thinking before I decide – and thereby keep my mea culpas to a minimum.
Don: Should we boycott the Olympics? Would that help Tibet in any measurable way?
I am boycotting the Olympics. I feel I need to do something to show solidarity with the Tibetan people, and I’m not sure what else I can do. I wrote a blog about the subject, and then elaborated on my views in response to comments on it (here’s the link: Chin Check China’s Olympics). Since then, I’ve read about the Dalai Lama not supporting a boycott, et cetera, and I’m not so sure about my stance. Will it help the Tibetan people? I think the publicity helps them – and maybe the Olympics have been a boon in that they have brought publicity, though they also seem to have brought increased oppresssion in the short term. I don’t know. Maybe this is one of those cases where I’ve been swayed. I’ve at least been swayed from my certainty (though I wasn’t totally certain in the first place). Let’s be honest, though. It’s easy for me to boycott the Olympics. I doubt I’d watch them if they were held in Ohio. I do wish I could do something. Maybe getting people dialoguing about it is something. But is it enough? The decision I made to boycott was largely an emotional one, made quickly and before I’d completed my usual deliberations. Perhaps it’s still the right decision – I just don’t know. Still deliberating….
Let the games continue. These are the “rules” I’ve inherited from Don, who inherited them from the soul who first interviewed him.
1. Leave me a comment saying “interview me,” if you wish.
2. I will respond by e-mailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog (so you have to have a blog) with a post containing your answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.
You don’t have to do anything – just if you want to….
I just found, in a sealed envelope in a plastic tub in my attic, several legal pads that were part of the journal I kept during my incarceration. I had mailed them home to Mom in 1994. And since she knew what they were and respected my privacy, she did not even open the envelope, though I’d fully expected her to do so (and even included a short note to her).
I’m going through these to refresh my memory (though some memories seem to need no refreshing) as I write my book of memoirs. While I’m at it, I’m thinking about entering the entire handwritten text into Microsoft Word for future convenience (and in case, god forbid, something unexpected would happen like the house burning down). That’s a herculean task I’m not certain I’ll be able to complete if I want to get anything else done this year. But as long as I am doing it, I figure I may as well post excerpts on my blog, both to sate my friends’ curiosity and to (perhaps) generate interest in my book.
Here’s a little context for the entry I’m about to post.
Summer 1992 – The crime for which I was incarcerated allegedly occurred.
October 1993 – After over a year free on bond, I was convicted and sentenced to 7-to-25 years in prison.
October 1993 to February 1994 – In the Lorain County jail, I awaited transfer to a state prison.
February 1994 to May 1994 – I resided in a state prison in Grafton, Ohio (Lorain Correctional Institution, a reception center where all new state inmates from northern Ohio are housed while they are classified and assessed before being assigned to a “parent institution”).
May 1994 to June 2004 – I served the rest of my sentence at the Marion Correctional Institution.
The following are my first journal entries upon arriving at the state’s Lorain Correctional Institution in Grafton (not to be confused with the Lorain County jail) in February of 1994. Every word is true, although I tended to downplay my fear somewhat because I didn’t want family at home (who, for all I knew, might have read these words) to worry too much. If I need to add anything for clarification’s sake, I will do so in brackets [like these].
Though these are my first journal entries in “prison,” I had written 309 journal pages during the previous four months while I waited at the county jail. So this selection covers handwritten pages 310 through 312 of what I call my “Incarceration Chronicles.”
Saturday 19 February 1994
Last Thursday, I went back to sleep after breakfast. At 9:30, I was awakened and told to pack my belongings. It was penitentiary time.
I regret that I had to leave Anna Karenina unfinished. I barely got to say goodbye to Mike. I wish I would have gotten embossed envelopes before I was shipped. Now I must wait for them and a writing utensil until I get out of orientation and go to commissary. Finally I got to write a free letter and make a phone call today. I called Dad and wrote to Pam. The guard will collect our letters tomorrow. Mom is at Salt Fork with Ben.
I nearly passed out while waiting for my physical examination yesterday. They had me lie on the floor and put my knees up until I recovered. I can get fillings and whatever else my teeth need at my permanent institution. All they will do here is extract, if necessary. I’ll wait.
I fear a week’s worth of mail will be lost between the county jail and here. Nobody has my new address; and I won’t be able to notify anyone [else] about my move for another week and a half. Hopefully, Pam or Mom will file a change of address for me at the post office.
I’ve been reading in my Bhagavad-gita As It Is (with translations and commentaries by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada). I’m very happy to have something to read. I’ve also been practicing yoga a little. I really don’t endorse such escapes. But, at least for the present, it helps prevent the onslaught of depression and self-pity.
My new address is:
John [B.] #284-742
Lorain Correctional Institution
2075 South Avon Belden Road
Grafton, Ohio 44044
I gave a guy ten sheets of paper to be able to use this pencil. So I won’t be able to write, probably, until I can go to commissary in over a week. I have to give it back to him sometime today.
* * *
Mon. 21 Feb. 1994
Fortunately I was able to borrow this pencil from a guy who borrowed three sheets of paper earlier.
We did nothing today, due to the Presidents Day holiday. Last night, the nurse read our arms – I am negative for tuberculosis. I’ve had a cough for the past several days; I know not whether it’s from exposure to the cold, smoke or both.
Last night, I finally got to shower and call Mom. Yesterday, too, I finished reading Bhagavad-gita As It Is and began it anew. I continued in it today.
My stomach has been cramped lately – probably from having to eat so fast.
The breakfasts here are better than at the county jail. The lunches and suppers are usually worse, though the spaghetti is better.
I washed out my dirty underclothes in the sink yesterday.
The beds are more comfortable here, though I miss the pillow I had in the county jail.
Hopefully, by the end of this week we’ll be moved out of this reception housing. Now I am in unit 3A, cell 223, top bunk. I miss my bottom bunk.
This place isn’t so bad. If I only had my personal hygeine items, a writing utencil, stamped envelopes and some more books, I would be fairly satisfied. When we are moved, I should be able to find a few books in the new pod; and we’ll be able to get commissary.
From what I understand, my visiting days here are the first and third Wednesdays of each month. I’m not sure of the times. I hope the late session is late enough so Pam or whoever won’t have to miss work.
At least here we can see out of our cell windows. Though they are barred, we can even open them to get fresh air.
Chris [last name expurgated], who Pam and I knew (and I couldn’t stand) from the downtown Elyria bars, was the officer who went through my belongings and strip searched me on Thursday. How humiliating! I am better than him, but he got to look down upon me. At least he pretended not to know me and was polite.
In the chow hall, I saw another officer we know, Debbie the dyke, from 1504. She is a really nice woman. Anyway, I was so embarrassed to be here that I avoided and pretended not to see her. I think she saw me, though.
[Pronounced “my coo,” from my Sin and Slumber journal]
Fri. 14 June 1996
A mountainous sun
Bleeds through the clouds
Peaking on my face.
Ten years later atop Cadillac Mountain on Mount Desert Island
in Acadia National Park, Maine, 25 August 2006
[photo by Geri]
[a poem from 1998-1999, year six celled]
i quit crawlingasfastasicould
when i realized i was getting
And i learned
for days now
But I no longer
or believe I care
Hey now, groovy peoples!…
I don’t have a lot of time to write today, since I’ll be listening to the Wordplay poetry program on Cleveland’s WJCU radio at 12:30 p.m. (John Carroll University 88.7 FM – you can also listen at the station’s website: http://www.wjcu.org/listen), and then four of our grandchildren will be hanging out here for the rest of the day. But I haven’t blogged in a couple of days and I do have a couple of things to share. So here goes….
Last night I read at the Nia Coffeehouse poetry open mic (affiliated with the Cleveland Museum of Art, but since the Museum’s undergoing a massive renovation and expansion, the Coffeehouse is currently being held at the Coventry Village Library). Went pretty well…. MC Vince Robinson and the jazzy band were groovin’. Had I been expecting music, I might have taken different poems (next time I’ll be better prepared) – and since an eight-year-old artist was in the audience I didn’t feel comfortable reading something “naughty” like Allen Ginsberg Wants You! or my new poem “Fucking Cruel.” But my John Cage Engaged and Uncaged seemed to lend itself well to the music, and received a enthusiastic response.
One highlight: a deaf/mute fellow (whose name escapes me – I deeply apologize) read original poetry, using sign language and gestures, while an interpreter translated his work into English for us. A very cool experience that shows poetry can be a whole heck of a lot more than words on a page. As Emily Dickinson wrote, “To see a Summer sky / Is Poetry, though never in a book it lie.”
But the “best part of the trip,” to borrow Jim Morrison’s words, was meeting Nia Coffeehouse founder Cavana Faithwalker. While looking for cool local poet people, I’d discovered him on MySpace – hadn’t checked my regular e-mail yesterday, though – so it came as quite a surprise to learn that he’d been up til 2 a.m. the night before reading “everything” (he emphasized that word) on my site. Nice to know it didn’t put him to sleep… lol. And in response he was inspired to write a poem to me, entitled “Cosmic Kindred Cousin From Around the Way” – which he performed for the Coffeehouse. He rocked the stage and blew all of us away….
Thank you, brother!
* * *
Another very cool artist, Anita Herczog, who knocked us out with her poetic piano/vocal performance at the Barking Spider this past weekend (and who will be performing with INTENSE at the Blossom Festival in Chagrin Falls this weekend) creates some intense and intriguing photographic art as well. She captured my reading at the Barking Spider with these two fiery images and has graciously given me permission to post them on my blog.
Thank you, sister!
Metal Attack on Jesus [by Anita, 17 May 2008 at the Barking Spider]
Oh… and in case you’re wondering, the new installment in my Favorite Poets from A to Z series will be coming soon on this blog. In case you missed them, you can click these links to check out the first two: A is for Apollinaire (volume 1) and B is for Baudelaire (volume 2). Be advised: I never said I’d do all 26 installments in alphabetical order… lol. You might also notice that I’ve begun reposting this series on my MySpace blog.
JC’s first public poetry reading [captured by Anita, 17 May 2008 at the Barking Spider]
As some of you know, I did my first ever live poetry reading Saturday at the Barking Spider Tavern’s open mic, hosted by Cleveland’s own Kerouacian prince of poetry Ray McNiece and his very talented and versatile band tongue-in-groove (their music, even without words, is poetry). Lots of other poets/performers hit the stage, too – local literary luminaries like Barry Zucker, Anita Herczog, Claire McMahon, Dianne Borsenik, Terry Provost… and I wish I could remember all the groovy people’s names. Lots of great work… and enough to give Jesus Crisis performance anxiety. Thank Gawd for Holy Moses Pale Ale and Geri holding my hand… lol.
Eventually, I did get up… Ray (who knew me only from MySpace) gave a rousing introduction (“Jesus in the house!”), I made a few cursory remarks about it being my first time, and then I launched into my recently-blogged poems Allen Ginsberg Wants You! and John Cage Engaged and Uncaged, with the band improvising a fantastically appropriate and inspired accompaniment. After the first line or two, any remaining nervousness was gone and I felt like I was “in the zone.” Even though I missed a line in “Cage,” no one seemed to notice and I ended up getting a LOT of glowing feedback. Ray and Barry both used the word “awesome” – and even if they were just being polite to the newcomer, their kind words made me feel awesome. Overall, I think it went wonderfully – and it seems to be leading to other opportunities.
Anyway, I later heard that the afternoon had been recorded and that some of the performances will be broadcast Wednesday (21 May 2008) on Cleveland’s WJCU radio (88.7 FM) during the “Wordplay” program. Even if you’re not in the Cleveland area, you can listen online by going to the station’s website (http://www.wjcu.org/listen) at 12:30 (Eastern Standard Time) on Wednesday afternoon. Since I’m a relative unknown (and the work I read was R-rated) I don’t know whether they’ll include my performance or not (obviously I hope so). But even if they don’t, it’s worth tuning in to hear Ray McNiece and some of the others. I’ll record it, if I can.
P.S. I also plan to hit the open mic at the Nia Coffeehouse (1925 Coventry Rd.) tomorrow (Tuesday) between 6 and 8 p.m.
You may now return to your regularly scheduled programming….
In 1996, my third full year incarcerated, I kept a journal entitled Sin and Slumber. Among the gems and junk in it are about two dozen poems I intended to make into a collection entitled In a Dada ga Vida (not to be confused with Iron Butterfly’s “In A Gadda Da Vida”). The Dada poems are a bit more “modern” (for lack of a better word) than some I’ve posted recently. A composer friend who saw them called them avant garde.
I’m interested in seeing what kind of response they get in the 21st century. And so here’s an example, written on 30 September 1996 to go inside the back cover of Sin and Slumber. It’s what I like to call a “loop” poem. Like a record stuck in its groove, it’s meant to repeat.
Nubile And uNannounced
Under the Mirror
[After posting this, I decided that an explanation of sorts might be help folks get more out of this poem. Please check the comments below for a bit of elucidation.]