Confessions of a Transplant: Sex and Death

A few years back, well more than a few, but who’s counting, I had  a week long workshop at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown with perfect summery weather on the Cape. And there were beautiful men, and beautiful trinkets in shops and each morning started with three hours or Yusef Komunyakaa guiding and teaching in his soft spoken, exquisite and exacting way.

In our one on one meeting he asked what I was writing about and I replied, “sex and death” (without knowing that Yeats had said that a hundred years earlier). The outcome of my conversation with Yusef is a tale for another time but that week fostered deep, creative friendships.

Last week a friend emailed me about my recent posts, these “fractal poems” and the subjectivity had him worried about my state of mind. A very kind email. . . I do battle depression/anxiety crap, but I assured him that I am ok

The newly posted poems are recent only to the public. They are revisions of older works, as I try to reclaim the messy office so I can find creative space again, I picked up a pile of papers, (well really a healthy stack) and found poetry fodder. Words to work with to create fractals.

In that healthy pile is a sequence poem, chapbook length called: “Descending Plateaus”.  The book opens with this definition:

“The dying process can be described in terms of duration and shape. Duration referres to the time involved between the onset of dying and the arrival of death. Shape designates the course of the dying process. . . . “The descending plateaus trajectory, indicated by long, slow periods of decline followed by re-stabilization. Patients in this trajectory must repeatedly adjust to different levels of functioning.      National Cancer Institute

Where a fractal is a geometrical concept there is something about duration and shape that to my mind connects these two universal entities: fractals and dying. . .or fractal and memory.  Fractals are exponential and not linear.  As if life is exponential in growth, the example. I’ll use is sound or audio frequency, the measurement being Hz. . . a low A on a musical scale has 55 hz, the octave about is doubled to 110 hz, and then hz doubled again as you go up the scale . These measurements do not change in our minds, our listening but they do change in scale.

Memories at the core do not change for the individual. (My opinion.) Like a Mandelbrot image, a fractal, the scale does not change and in memory, duration does not change. And the mystery of that movement between living and  not is where art begs to be made.  It is the sound of the universe found between station on AM radios.

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