A couple of weeks ago I attended a wonderful workshop put together by Depth Psychology Seminars, a group of Jungian therapists and artists. The weekend included both lectures and creative workshops – opportunities to move from theory to practice, in the form of what Jung called “active imagination,” and my Marxist colleagues might call “praxis.” I painted, acted, and wrote poetry for the first time in decades. It was a blast.
For the poetry workshop with Laura Hope-Gill, we were encouraged to write a poem inspired by the seven-stage process of alchemical transformation described in many classical texts. Here’s what I came up with:
I pick up my book manuscript
my notes, my files,
my hard drives, my flash drives,
my Moleskine, my legal pads,
my audio files, my video files,
my DVDs, my CDs, my CD-ROMs,
my email, my snail mail,
my files in the cloud.
I pile them to the sky in my big backyard
and drench them.
I pour water, but they won’t dissolve
so I break out the alcohol.
Turpentine and witch hazel,
then vodka and scotch.
The pile saturates and wilts,
the papers grow translucent, like tissue, then melt.
The circuits short out,
zeroes becoming ones,
ones becoming zeroes,
or maybe some other numbers the motherboards don’t know about.
Book bindings melt.
Plastic labels peel off circular slices of metal.
And then I toss in the match.
The wood fibers burble.
The plastic curls.
The metal melts.
The smoke rises.
My eyes sting and tear.
I take a big shopvac and suck it all up:
the plastic shining like melted candy,
the metal glimmering like mercury,
the data pouring down from the cloud in a rain of bits.
The shopvac explodes.
My lawn in scorched.
My neighbors are alarmed.
My cats are nonplussed.
Then Noisy comes out to take a look.
The Dude follows.
I even let Pilot Squeaky out, though she hasn’t promised to be good.
They sniff around the edges.
They scratch at the rubble like kitty litter.
Steam rises from the cooling pile.
Particles congeal into a nubbly slab.
Soft like Silly Putty.
Slick like river rocks.
Mottled like fake vomit.
Then the Dude backs up
with a dreamy look in his eyes
and with a squirt
baptizes it all.