The Writhing Under the Skin

once a friend came to my house
lets lick the razor today, he said
you can be in this world but not of it
it does not matter if one poet goes missing
when we were kids he and I used to play marbles
the aggies and steelies and blue eyes
jingling in your pocket like little bubbles of money
my friend drowned one day while fishing
he drank too much and fell out of the boat
once I saw him on his bicycle in the sky
he was paper thin and had tiny window blinds
hanging around his head and ears
his teeth were cracked by lightning
there is a train in a ravine where no one goes, he said
if you go there you can hear the train’s thoughts
intertwined with mine
my friend used to say the math
that describes our days has its own symbols
that vibrate like candied light waves
but they never tell you if you should lick the razor today or not

2 responses to “The Writhing Under the Skin

  1. This is a very good poem. I thought at first ‘licking the razor’ was engaging the suffering in our world, but now I think it is about disengagement from convention and community.

    ‘it doesn’t matter if one poet goes missing’

    It isn’t an ecstatic disengagement but a painful one, one that cuts you, one in which you hurt yourself. Your childhood friend’s drinking may have may have made his death a semi-suicide, and your image of him after death as wasted and blinkered suggest his razor-linking didn’t free him but further restricted him. He would have been better off to engage the suffering of the world, his own as well as other’s. This too is a disengagement from convention as determined by ego. And it is truly liberating.

    The train in a deep dark place where no one goes that shares his thoughts, the ones that find and use a math of symbols the vibrate like candied light waves but are indifferent to razor-licking suggest a limited contact with suchness. We can’t cut off suffering. It is inalienable. But so is Buddha-nature, Christ-nature. If we engage suffering with these in heart and mind we find that suffering is not isolated pieces of the world but expressions of the whole, as every experience is.

    Also, the uplift line by line of beautiful images is remarkable. Beauty is always a surprise even when it has become familiar, as in Vermeer and Transtromer.


  2. Thanks! I find your analysis very moving. Ed Skoog says, “a poet is one who says more than he knows.” I’m glad it infected you in the way it infected me, though I couldn’t have explained it as clearly as you have.


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