A Recommendation (Unedited)
For me, it’s Massive Attack’s album Mezzanine (1998). It’s the basement throngs and fat water droplets, plosive of a bare thumb on a lower-B string. It’s an immaculate crystal goblet a cabernet enters tumbling like clothing from a body, a descent of stairs into clarifying darkness, a dirty bar stool and unexpected grace in the waist of a short man. The grit that paints the backs of teeth after a long day and too much coffee. A procession of dermal nerves hopscotching pale threads taut as harp strings in sunlight. Smoke unrolling its gray sail, wet from a mouth. Mud puddles, dense pillars, cool floor beneath the feet I pull slyly from a bed that doesn’t belong to me, and so much gravity.
It’s the album’s own associated imagery: Daddy G being chased by a horde of folks, some his own friends, through a once-empty blue parking structure (“Angel”); the slo-mo inferno of Mickey’s Ma’s caravan in Guy Ritchie’s Snatch, the orange and black night (“Angel”); the translucent human anatomy in House’s opening credits (“Teardrop”); the industrial-goth silk and metropolitan rain of The Matrix (“Dissolved Girl”). It’s the noise of orbital satellite solitude in “Exchange” and the claw-fanged regicidal lovemaking of “Black Milk.” It’s the endless subterranean rivers, candles I haven’t heard burning, cinderblock walls I haven’t tasted yet of this album that inspire in me the most generative awe and envy with which I cannot abide bored senses or creative stagnation.
while listening to Szjerdene's "Blue Lullaby"
I was watching the pond ripple out under the blush swarm of a flowering dogwood in a little wind, over which a sycamore seemed to minister with its gestural eaves. It became so blessedly easy to feel that the opposite bank on which I sat in a grassy bed that was green even to the touch was a boat, and all the people around me milling in minor awe and I—we were being carried somewhere and with a certainty not our own: into the unspeakable blue that every leaf appeared devoted to.
What can I call that blue but You Don't Love Hard Enough.
The flower's burden is that, whether or not it succeeds in its labor to invite and seduce pollinators, it will wither, surely and eventually. Beauty, if a poem's ambition, is not a cop-out, nor will it bring absolution. Its beauty will expire, at least in parts. The world will change and change it. The poem may change nothing in the world.
I think if I ever saw one I would say that the beauty of a bristlecone pine is its harshness, its lookin like what its been through. To quote francine, there's something goddamn about that tree. Or, from SZA, I've had enough of shitty news / I've had a thing for dirty shoes / since I was ten, love dirty men alike. A poem that reads like its been somewhere and through some shit and is beautiful—not because of or in spite of.
But I'm probably the least immortal thing on earth. For me to create and have beauty as at least one intent in this short time, my planetary second, is utter dedication to transcience and failure.
© 2018 Justin Phillip Reed