Silence and other works by Lewis Schmidt
Lewis Schmidt is a special education teacher and poet residing in New Orleans. he is a leased spirit with ties to outlaw Mardi Gras krewes and Peace Corps Jamaica. Jack Kerouac floats his drunken canoe and god is his pooh bear. lieux can be found prowling the outlands, sipping micro brewed suds, and herding the current tribe of cats he tends on plum street. the possum can go take a hike.
I passed an old hotel the other night. Its neon sign
threw a strange red glow over the windows. Looking
up, I saw a woman parting the curtains. I imagined
her to have a strange foreign name. I imagined her
to be you, with your green Mephistophelean eyes.
Oh, and heaven is within you. Not only heaven but
the whole cosmogony, God and angels. I hear their
repercussions on the moon. But I, I must live some
beautiful, melancholy lie. While I walk the streets
at night past rows of sad hotels.
[In an ancient Yogic text it is written, "As in innumerable cups of water, many reflections of the sun are seen, but the substance is the same. Similarly, individuals are innumerable, but the vivifying spirit, like the Sun, is one."]
I still remember the churches in the Coptic quarter of Cairo. The wailing, " even if all the trees in the world were made into pens and all the oceans in the world turned into ink, still the words of god would not come to an end." For me, how you speak to god is pertinent, because I can not speak to god properly - I learned to speak to him by rote, a drone in the music often accompanying chanting and meditation. You only think there is nothing there. I think that is why I became attracted to the quiet... [silence].
Talking to god is essentially talking to someone who is not going to answer. Prayer, it is a one way conversation. You talk to god. God is silent. You interpret the silence. The trauma of prayer is not that we are forced into the desperate situation of having to pray, but in the ultimate lack of an answer. Is not absolute silence the thing that will not answer? To me god is not about absolutes or adherence to interpretation, but I am not to be trusted. When I learned to talk to silence, or god, the lack of response was the key.
I lost a manuscript of poetry. My book was about changing the direction of prayer. It was ephemeral, part written on paper in ink, the rest so intangible it could not be talked about. But god told me, "You have to write the lost poems." As if it was possible for silence to write back. It kept me transcribing dreams in the middle of the day. I began writing to the loss, wanting the silence to be beautiful, and found myself back in Cairo. Whether or not anything holy happened is beside the point. What could I pray for? Is prayer panic? Is it an actual denial of the trust in faith? But we are always whispering to god. No one is supposed to hear that holiest place, talking to god. Even then, the silence comes out.
Crying in the Kitchen
(a sonnet from The Sonnets, to dave)
Your hair moves slightly and
I strain to gather my absurdities.
Could the mind turn everything to jade? Everything,
Rather than to matters of growth?
Go home, get your gun, plug your dad
Into the corner. The book of his muses has straightened.
Number one - two - 3 - four
Never bring dawn the taste of such delicate thoughts.
The funnies, the muses, their gentle pleasant strains
Caress cloud bellies I cannot fake.
I strain to gather my subtleties while
Hope returns on the blue winds of dust farmers.
Tenseness, strength the taste of
those delicate thoughts he tattooed on his gun.
Like Nijinsky, each tree stands in stillness.
Keats was a baiter of masters.