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Confessions of an Eternal Progression Junkie

7.11.06

(for Mark)

by P. G. Karamesines

I-15 south of Payson
He says to her, “See, you really fell
For this eternal progression business.”

And she says, “Yes I did,”
Knowing there’s falling for
And there’s falling for;
Thinking how even as they speak
She’s taking that long walk
Off a short pier—
Blindfolded,
Afire,
Both arms tied behind
Dare-
Deviling.

All for what?

She can’t say what, not for certain.
All she knows is
It tastes like eternal youth,
It smells like rising from the dead,
It feels like leaving Jerusalem for the wilderness
And she can’t get enough.

She says, “Falling isn’t about perfection.
What do we know of perfection,
Worshipping gems
Of the first water,
Flawless, crown cut,
Just so many
Mathematically possible
Facets to throw fire?

“My desire is not
To be the gleaming diamond
On God’s right hand
Nor to be God bangle
Beaded with glory.”

“What is your desire?” he asks.
It’s a simple question, but

She doesn’t answer.
Why must a body know

When knowing ends it
And she never wants it to end.

“You know how they say,
‘A coward dies
A thousand deaths—
A brave soul falls but once’?
I believed it.”
“No!”
“Yes.”
“But not now?”
“Now I think it runs
The other way ‘round.
Now I say, ‘Thank you, Lord,
Thank you for killin’ me
Whenever I need the killin’.”

Editor’s note: Comments are open to reactions to plot, theme, pacing, voice, etc.

19 Responses to Confessions of an Eternal Progression Junkie

  1. FHL

    This is probably not all that helpful, but I found this to be very amusing. =)

    It’s definitely engaging.

    The only truly critical thing I can think to say is that the final lines of the poem are a bit jarring. It reads like a quote, what with the use of “killin’”, but I don’t know the reference. It’s certainly an odd thing to be thankful for. =)

  2. Editor

    GREAT voice, Patricia. I want to provide more substantive comments later but this really hit the nail on the head for me.

  3. Patricia Karamesines

    FHL,

    Thanks for the comments. I’m glad you found the poem amusing!

    You said, ” The only truly critical thing I can think to say is that the final lines of the poem are a bit jarring. It reads like a quote, what with the use of “killin’”, but I don’t know the reference. It’s certainly an odd thing to be thankful for.”

    There’s a common “joke” in westerns, etc. You know — the old, “He needed killin’.” There’s a variation in Flannery O’ Conner’s “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” After shooting the old woman, the crook says something like, “She might have been a good person if there had been someone there to shoot her every day of her life.” I’ve just taken that idea and tried to twist it into a different context. I would guess that feeling jarred by those lines is one of many possible appropriate responses.

  4. Patricia Karamesines

    Editor,

    I look forward to your additional comments.

  5. Steve Evans

    oops! that editor was me…. stupid me.

  6. Patricia Karamesines

    Oh! OK then, Steve Evans. I look forward to your comments.

  7. annegb

    What I love about your poem, Patricia, is how you are breaking traditions, disputing that old saw about a coward dies a thousand deaths. Whenever that happens, I am comforted. I’ve always thought “I’m the coward who dies a milllion deaths.”

    There is much I don’t understand about your poem. I am going to check in and read the interpretations and comments.

    Off topic: I was thinking today was Wednesday (I have to remind myself these days) and I thought “Oh, no! I missed Popcorn Popping!”

  8. Patricia Karamesines

    Annegb, thanks for reading and commenting on my poem. IMO many sayings that express conventional wisdom, like that old coward vs. hero business, invite closer inspection and are perhaps worthy of being turned on their heads in the process. However, that doesn’t mean the original, unturned saying doesn’t have some value. The saying’s old meaning can be taken as advice to stand your ground, which under the right circumstances may be good advice. But sometimes standing your ground isn’t appropriate, is it?

    BTW, isn’t today Wednesday? I hope so, or I’ve lost a day somewhere (not unusual but still alarming when it happens).

  9. Patricia Karamesines

    BTW, please, anyone who has questions feel free to ask them. I may not give definitive answers but I will do my best to contribute to the discussion in hopefully useful ways.

  10. FHL

    Okay, here’s a question: What’s a gem of the first water? I originally thought “pearl” but we don’t cut facets into pearls. (Is it even possible?)

    Also, I really like the phrase “God bangle.” I don’t know why. =)

    Oh, and I hope I’m not missing the point entirely, but are you equating “eternal progression” with Geoff’s (among others) MMP theory?

  11. Patricia Karamesines

    FHL, gemologists apply the phrase “first water” only to the highest quality gemstones. A “gem of the first water” is a gem, specifically a diamond or pearl, whose quality or purity is top of the line. You are correct that we don’t cut facets into pearls (they chip if you just handle them roughly) so in the poem’s context that leaves us with the diamond. By extension, then, the phrase “first water” is extended to describe anything or anybody displaying the highest degree of accomplishment or quality. See the “first water” in American Heritage Dictionary.

    In gemology, the phrase “crown cut” also has a specific meaning, but you may know that already. I found the gemological phrases useful metaphors for my intentions of meaning.

    Now, I’m unfamiliar with Geoff’s MMP theory. Could you fill me in?

  12. Patricia Karamesines

    Oops! That should be, see the phrase “first water” in the AHD.

  13. FHL

    (My apologies in advance if this is considered too controversial – I know that a discussion on this topic is not what THIS blog is for.)

    Well, you can go here:
    MMP

    The June 23, 2005 entry is probably the most general explanation.

    I asked because he uses the term Eternal Progression, too.

    Thanks for the explanation on the “first water” – I wasn’t sure if you were just being purely symbolic (maybe baptism?) or using a term I wasn’t familiar with.

  14. Patricia Karamesines

    Okay, FHL — MMP = multiple mortal probations. Got it! I had no familiarity with Geoff’s idea and had not imagined such a thing. So the answer to your question, “are you equating “eternal progression” with Geoff’s (among others) MMP theory?,” is no, not intentionally.

    However, I can see the poem doesn’t exclude such an idea from among its own possible meanings.

    As to the first water reference: I was being symbolic AND using a term you weren’t familiar with. As a human invention, I think metaphor is right up there with the hot fudge sundae. So many things coming together in delightful transcendence.

  15. Stephen M (Ethesis)

    This moves nicely. I’m looking forward to the next revision, but the voice is clear through most of it.

  16. Stephen Carter

    Love this part:

    She can’t say what, not for certain.
    All she knows is
    It tastes like eternal youth,
    It smells like rising from the dead,
    It feels like leaving Jerusalem for the wilderness
    And she can’t get enough.

    I spend so much time thinking about what a real spiritual quest isn’t like. This is one way to talk about what it is like. I want to start thinking about that more. Too much time cutting cords. Time to run.

    I’m lucky to to be blog buddies with Patricia Karamesines (even though I have to look up the spelling of her last name every time I try to write it).

  17. Patricia Karamesines

    Stephen M (Ethesis): Any suggestions for the next revision?

    Stephen C: I’m happy that stanza struck a chord with you! In writing it that way I found a satisfactory way to speak of that compelling drive to keep going towards — something — that many feel early in their lives but that some people feel all their lives. It’s a spiritual quest, yes, but at the risk of sounding as though I’m waxing secular IMO it may be described more accessibly as an archetypal quest. Not that the spiritual and the archetypal are mutually exclusive. They’re not. It’s just that sometimes spiritual language gets hijacked and becomes exclusive, whereas archetypal language is unassailably inclusive and holds the gate open for anybody brave enough to pass through. That is, the archtypal admits of the spiritual, but the spiritual, as some people perceive it, sometimes fails to recognize the archetypal.

  18. Stephen M (Ethesis)

    Sorry, I’m leaving the site and not coming back, but this was nicely done.

  19. Patricia Karamesines

    Stephen M (Ethesis) said,

    Sorry, I’m leaving the site and not coming back

    If you’re still out there, Stephen, it’s truly unfortunate that you won’t be back. I understand something about why. Thank you very much for commenting on my poem, I appreciate your taking the time.