Last Saturday, Laura and I arrived in Seattle, at the Green Lake Library a few hours early before I was scheduled to do a Poetry reading at 4:00. We intentionally went early due to our very few trips to "France," which is what vwe call the mainland, and in particular our old homeland of Seattle, where we both lived for many years.
Going early reduces the possible stress of uncertainty about traffic, parking and other related questions. But the joke, as always was on us, and me in particular. Yes, we arrived safe and sound, with literally NO STRESSFUL experiences at all. Yet, we had forgotten what I call my "City Of Angels Syndrome," which I discovered I had a few years ago on a casual visit to the Freeland Library, here on the Island.
Let me explain. In the movie, "City Of Angels." wih Nicholas Cage and Meg Ryan, the Angels of the world live in the LIBRARIES, walking, sitting, and moving about in black trench coats with stoic faces, asking each other questions about life before then, before they became the guardians of the WORD, so to speak. I admit, I wasn't that impressed by the love story narrative, but I was radically intrigued by the presence of a creative force, LET"S CALL THEM ANGELS, its as close to a real idea of Heaven I can come to. So, anyway, back to the Freeland Library.
There I was like a hostage looking for paper and pencil, which I found with those little 3x6 scraps of paper and tiny wooden 3 inch pencils, frantically writing, scratching ou poems, as if possessed by some creative, alien force, I simply choose to call, Library Angels.
After that first encounter, I was very aware that by choosing to sit in the Library's silence, I surrenderd my ideas of poetic inspiration, to the presence of a place, not me. But, of course, once I did that new poems often came speaking about what I know best, which are the contents of my own life, but that too, becomes a more humbling mystery, as my poems leave me where they need me to be, not in some glorious high resort of me as a poet of place.
What made the experience at Green Lake different was the visceral electric buzz in the air, a quiet, yet powerful hum of something gathered in the minds and faces of so many. Laura and I turned often to each other, and quietly shared our perceptions with a mix of inappropriate humor, and theological intensity, while as also scratching out poems on the back of copies of my poems I'd be reading later.
So, considering the number of radically important elements that made this moment, such as being surrounded by other minds who like me were basically meditating on questions they hoped to find answers for in the thousands of books resting on the shelves, and then knowing for me, it was not that at all. Their faces and hair, eyes and smell, their fingers tapping out new morris code, their raw inability to be someone else, in this chilling, City Of Stare. Maybe it helps to remember, this was July 10th, in Seattle on a beautiful northwest summer day. It's clear I was freezing inside. That's really why I was there, to warm myself with my flammable need, by burning them into myself. Later, I finished a new first draft, called, City Of Stare.