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Savage Reflections–The Soulful Poems of Jack Savage

John “Jack” Spencer Savage 1989-2013 poetry copyright Jack Savage, 2013, photos copyright Jonathan Zap, 2013

John “Jack” Spencer Savage 1989-2013

This document last updated  March 4th of 2019—still have so much newly discovered Jack writings to add, just wrote a (see epilogue of March Forth!  A March Fourth Mutant Manifesto) a tribute to Jack who Marched Forth! from a dead-end job at a tax office elven years ago today.

 

Jack, in the Spring of 2008, on the Hill in Boulder, marching forth into a Spring and Summer of adventure.

Jack, standing before a mirror portal, gazing across time and dimension into the depths of the soul.

Here’s the epilogue to March Forth:

This manifesto was originally written and published on March 4th of 2006. On March 4th of 2008, a young man named Jack Spencer Savage, eighteen-years-old, about to turn nineteen, who knew nothing of my writings, had what he described as a nervous breakdown that would not allow him to report to his bleak and oppressive job at a tax office in a strip mall. Instead, heCast off the shackles of dead-end wage-slave bondage” and marched forth (unaware of the date pun at the time) to the Greyhound bus station and took the first out-bound bus to anywhere. A few days later he met me in Boulder, Colorado where within the first thirty minutes of an intense conversation that is still ongoing, he told me that since high school  he had been  haunted by the need to write a fantasy story about an elvish boy who lives in a forest and journeys (marches forth) into the city.  It was the precise parallel to my unfinished fantasy epic, Parallel Journeys, which has haunted me for decades.  

Jack, who marched forth to other worlds than these in the Spring of 2013, never got to finish his version of the story, but during an approximately two-year period of astonishing literary genius he created some of the most beautiful and haunting poems about the light and dark possibilities of the soul that you will ever encounter. 

See: Savage Reflections–the Poems of Jack Savage 

So, since this is a propitious day to embark on adventurous endeavors, as I would encourage you—I will state my parallel intention to seek to complete the story that both Jack and I have left unfinished. 

Best wishes on your parallel journey—March Forth!

 June 12 of 2018: I promised a few months ago to add excerpts from the second archive of Jack’s writings I discovered, and I do have a lot of it digitized but got diverted from posting it. I’m going to gradually add some of it so the page can keep growing. See Jack’s memorial page for some new additions.

Here’s a photo of  the first two pages of a printed anthology of Jack’s poems I found in the second archive:

 

On April 12th of 2017 I discovered a second (and last) giant cache of Jack’s writings as I did a final sort of a storage unit I had in Boulder for 21 years but just closed out, finally moving all contents worth saving to the house I now own in Boulder.

Some of these new writings have given me a key to a much deeper understanding of Jack’s poems.

I intend to post some of this newly discovered content, including a couple of finished visionary poems I never saw before, as soon as possible.

I would also like to write out this deeper understanding and add it to: Savage Reflections—the Poems of Jack Savage.

I wrote “would like to” instead of “intend to” because I also realized the unlikelihood that I would find the time and energy (needed for other long- term writing projects underway) to write out the sixty or so pages it would take to do even a decent job of turning this interpretation into text.

A moment after  I wrote that sentence I realized that I could do it, however, as a recorded talk and I intend to do that in the near future and post it as a youtube.

 Anyone who was close to Jack or is close to Jack, should feel free to contact me, especially if they are coming to Boulder for any reason. Jonathanzap@hotmail.com

Added this note in December of 2016:  A few days ago I discovered a gigantic cache of Jack’s writings in a neglected corner of my storage unit. I had completely forgotten that these existed. At some point Jack must have asked me to store these for him and I put them away without looking at them. He never asked for them back. When he returned to Boulder with his brother to pick up his stuff from the Boulder International Hostel in January of 2011 there was plenty of room in the family car for these, but he never asked for them and I had already forgotten. He also never asked for them back in the remaining 28 months of his life. I’ve been talking recently to a few of Jack’s closest friends to figure out what to do with these extremely intimate, revealing and often beautifully evocative documents because some people would be hurt by what’s in them and not in them. There are  poems not included in his poetry page, numerous alternate versions of some of them, and voluminous journal writings that reveal a great deal about what was troubling him and what he found inspiring. It took me several hours to read all of it so there must be 20,000 words or so. It’s also possible that I may find more. During the years I spent with Jack he was in a writing phase, sometimes working hours a day. I remember that he had a whole stack of folders organized by subject that he showed me often and some of the writings look like contents of a couple of those folders so I wonder if the rest of the stack might be somewhere else in storage. There are also some insightful and well-written passages on his approach to poetry and relating to the creative muse that I will add to his poetry page. I was also startled to find that there were many pages where my handwriting was interspersed with Jack’s —-Socratic dialogue between us in written form which I had no idea that Jack saved. There are also many pages of notes that Jack took of things I taught him and ideas from our talks, etc.  I had completely forgotten that Jack often took notes during our intense conversations.

 While talking to Eli yesterday it occurred to me that maybe the best way to handle this archive is to post this note about its existence on this page where others who knew Jack may return. Anyone close to Jack should feel free to contact me about the archive to help me figure out what to do with it. I know that some have writings of Jack from the last year or two of his life that I haven’t seen and I would like to trade access so that if there are late poems or other excerpts that would be appropriate to post here or on his poetry page that can be made to happen. I would be willing to come to Minneapolis to share the archive and see handwritten documents others have (since none of us are probably willing to trust such things to the mail and might prefer to handle originals rather than digital artifacts). Any interested party close to Jack should feel free to contact me: jonathanzap@hotmail.com As I go through the archive I will update this page and the poetry page with excerpts that seem appropriate to make public, so please check back.

I added a new page of thoughts about the Jack revealed by his poems: Some Thoughts on the Poems of Jack Savage

 

 

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Among other talents, Jack was a brilliant poet. After spending more time with the poems the last few days, I believe Jack was, and is, one of the greatest poetic voices of his generation. It’s not that I’ve read so many millennial generation poets, it’s a general feeling I have based on the power with which Jack’s poetic voice is the voice of the soul. Sometimes this poetic voice is celebratory, at other times it is struggling and even tormented. But it is always profound, authentic, accessible and deeply present with the reader. Jack’s voice has a presence, an emotional immediacy and intimacy with a sympathetic reader that is comparable to Walt Whitman, who was Jack’s greatest poetic inspiration. Jack’s poems, even the ones that he wrote when he was 19, do not seem like an awkward, adolescent attempt at being Whitmanesque. They are alike, because both poets are voices of the soul. To experience these poems is an opportunity to hear the voice of the soul, a voice that gets drowned out by the noisy bustle and haste of modern life. The voice of the soul is not always happy. It can experience glorious ecstasies and transcendence–Jack’s poems are filled with jeweled and glowing examples of this sort of divine exuberance. But the voice of the soul can also be the voice of the dark night of the soul, and Jack had his share of those to tell of too. As he puts it, “And I am divine in my worst hour as much as I am in my best.” When you read these poems, draw close to them, sit across from his voice with a glass of wine or tea, it will be a very deep and intimate conversation.

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For a while Jack had a section on this website called “Savage Reflections” which he allowed me to build for him with some of his best poems. Later Jack asked me to take it down, but I kept all the poems. I think the unexpected request to take down the Savage Reflections online collection was one of the first formal statements Jack made of withdrawing from life. I kept all the poems and am reposting them here, as well as many other poems Jack sent me attached to emails.

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For a while I acted as Jack’s editor and we worked on a number of poems together. After a certain phase, Jack became more confident in his own voice and there were few, if any, line edit suggestions from me. Jack became his own meticulous editor and was continuously revising. I fixed a few tiny things like a misplaced apostrophe, only in cases where I was 99.999% sure it was a simple error. Otherwise, rather than second guess Jack’s intentions, I am leaving all as is.

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There is a comments section below. Feel free to share any feelings you have about Jack’s poetry.

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In a college application I was helping Jack with he wrote about what writing poetry meant to him. Here’s the rough draft of what he wrote and sent in an email dated 12/3/09:

Writing Poetry has been a hallmark of my adult life. When I began reading Walt Whitman at the age of fifteen, I felt a profound connection and union with the words on those pages. Leaves of Grass introduced me to a world of much broader horizons and much greater depth. While discovering Leaves of Grass I simultaneously became aware of a great river within me; that urge to create. Ever since that time my studies of the great poetic and literary minds of the past has been continually expanding, and so too has the scope of my understanding, as well as the sense of nourishment I derive from writing. Yet often times I resent this urge to create. When I spend my time, many hours, devoted to the creation of art, working with a diligent work ethic, a question frequently arises “what good will come of this?” “who will experience this?” etc… Yet I have come to the conclusion that in order to live a fulfilling life, you cannot resist the currents within you.

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(first published June 14, 2011)

I

Amidst my Catastrophe

Amidst my catastrophe

(The one my hands crave)

Among the ruins of my loss

Inside the windowless chambers of my awful defeat

I will do this as long as I live

Until my living changes

 

The beautiful ones,

The mean spirited ones too

I’ll learn to live and love among them

Living sweetly,

Living true.

 

I’ll live alongside the unrelenting horror of this chaos

Knowing the fires of my pain

 

I’ll let myself be known to those who love me

As well as those who don’t

Earnestly, nobly

And I’ll struggle to love with a heart that’s true

And give them all my love mercifully

Mercifully as I’ve given the multitudes of it to you.

 

Inside this world

Its minor annoyances, fiendish desires and fortresses of hate

 

Amidst my catastrophe

(the one my hands crave)

Among the ruins of my loss

Inside the windowless chambers of my awful defeat

I will do this as long as I live

Until living changes

 

And I will let it be a part of me

Until my letting emancipates me.

Free from slavery,

Free from strength,

Free from the petty,

Free from rank,

 

Free as the gracious air

 

Graciously, reverently, humbly,

 

So graciously, all for you.

 

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Jack (and the one above with the glass bricks) at the Metropolitan Museum of Art cafeteria in NYC around Christmas time, 2008

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(first published June 16, 2011)

II

The Naive Urgency of Man

 

My old life was a sanctuary

Where every flower grew

And love, she was my mistress

In everything I’d do.

All roads were open then,

Sprawling across the land.

 

I destroyed that monastery

With the naive urgency of man

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Jack posing with plastic skull and video effects on a plasma screen in Paul’s basement

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In the last set of emailed poems, the largest number he ever put in one message (an email dated 8/7/11) Jack whimsically addressed me in a brief message in the body of the email:

Dr. Zhaviago,
Now that I know that the future of my life depends upon the portal on your website I have some requests to please fulfill at your leisure.

 

Partly the statement was a joke because there was a lovely young woman named Rada who worked at the Espresso Roma coffee shop in Boulder that Jack had a crush on and when she unexpectedly came back to the Roma coffee shop one day after relocating somewhere, I gave her a card to my website and told her about “Savage Reflections,” and that the poet was an admirer. But the words, though mostly meant in jest, may have a deeper meaning now. Many things Jack said, were like the voice of the soul, and true on more levels than even he realized at the time he spoke or wrote them.

This collection of poems is a portal for Jack’s future life on this plane. When any one person reads these poems, and really takes Jack’s words in, his presence lives on. So when you drink from his words, you are also breathing life into his continued presence in this realm and help him to fulfill his life mission.

Jack at the National Rainbow Gathering in Wyoming, 2008

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(first published June 14, 2011)

III

Written in Exile

In a country I’ve never been to

Under skies I’ve never seen

In air much sweeter than air I could ever breathe

There’s a woman that I love there,

and she’s so good to me.

I know I live in exile,

I’ve chosen a lonely road

For reasons I’m uncertain of

And in these robes will never know.

Propelled by my soul

Which generates these rooms

I’ll be walking with graceful humility

Beneath the glory of her moon.

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(Jack sent this one as an email dated November 12th, 2009)

IV

As a Vine Rambles through a Vineyard

Rambling down an old dirt road.

Strong, self-reliant, and satisfied

I tramp along, marching to bold, original rhythms.

(There are so many rhythms,

Each so filled with originality and vitality,

All of them woven into this great symphony.

Listen close, can you hear them?)

Blossoms now furnish the womb of my mind,

As this unceasing, undulating life force surges through the land and through me.

I laugh and inhale deeply, completely contented,

Joyous, exuberant, and brimming with bright vitality

Knowing I possess everything I need to own,

Knowing that I am amiable, and that when I am amiable, so too is the world.

No longer bound or held captive by trivial concerns or ordinary woes,

Enough time has been spent trying to win the approval of unworthy critics.

Yes, I still know my former ailments,

I believe they will remain with me until I learn to love them, to live with them,

And really hear what it is they are trying to say.

They still follow me wherever I go, but I no longer follow them.

I calmly acknowledge them, hear them, make note, and move along.

They, nor anything else shall possess me.

So now, needing nothing, demanding nothing, doubting nothing

With my sprightly, bright gait

I ramble down this road.

(I know I will doubt again, fear again, despair again,

I would be mad to think otherwise,

but I no longer revere these night-time echoes as the everlasting gospel,

just as surely as they have come, they shall go,

I would be mad to think otherwise

And I refuse to continue sapping my strength).

I possess mysterious undercurrents,

I can feel their sweet, ecstatic pull,

I am learning to listen to their currents

And to not resist those sweet, lively currents

(I am constantly learning).

I have spoken with scarred faces hidden in the mangled darkness,

Not only in the radiance of light,

I Have interacted with the multitudes of the mind

I Have interacted with the multitudes of the mind

I can see the fabric of my blood, that tapestry

Multicoloured, vibrant, and in its multiplicity beautiful

And complete.

A mosaic, like this road.

There are other roads too,

They are not mine for now, but I love them just as dearly,

Every road contains those who need it.

The solid air now is intoxicating

I drink of the afternoon’s wine.

Roving, swift as the wind

My movements in perfect harmony

A symphony of unique energy.

And when the orchestral harmony of evening is instilled upon the land

As the colors of the day meld into a magnificent weave in the sky

Shimmering in a brilliant lustre

I will stroll in perfect union with the road before me

Knowing all is well, knowing the road I walk is in perfect accord with me.

All my forests resound,

The leathery leaves shiver in the sensuous evening breeze

The damp roots relax in the fertile soil, in an elaborate maze,

Satisfied, knowing their vital role.

(There is such a strange precision to everything)

All my rivers, lakes and streams rejoice on their eternal odyssey to the sky and sea,

Constantly moving, constantly belonging.

And as the violet dusk droops down

Slowly dripping its poignant ballad

Over the untold and incalculable countryside

The enchanted twilight will emerge from the calm simmer of evening,

And I will rest in the miracle of this perfect disorder

Within this wild pulsating meadow.

And as the purple slowly seeps from the sky

With the wisdom possessed by stones

Those sacred guardians of the earth

I shall lay my body down to sleep

Entirely satisfied,

As a vine rambles through a vineyard.

Jack on The Hill in Boulder, getting ready for an adventure

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V

(This one has no title, Jack sent it in an email dated November 12, 2009)

I am working at giving myself up to the stream of life,

I am working at unclenching my feeble fist and feeling the light outline my hand,

I am striving to relax into a union with the world which always filters through me

I am learning to allow the melody to animate my body and shine like a city,

I am coming to forget my mental masterpiece grafted upon an impossible canvas,

It has armed me with much anguish,

I am learning to spontaneously incarnate the masterpiece, moment by moment, day by day.

I am working at giving myself up to the glory of existence.

I am learning to dance and dine and walk with unacknowledged heroes

To love them as I have loved the acknowledged heroes

I am learning to possess, really possess everything I own,

Learning to own my world, without forsaking any of it

I am coming to understand that I carry the world with me wherever I go,

And that therefore now is the time for action

Now is the time to fight fear and cowardice

For to worry is to waste time,

There is far too much to do,

And there will never be a better time for living well then now.

So go then,

Delay no more

Live as you have envisioned so many times before

Nourish, love, help, grow.

So I am learning to abandon my vain contrivances,

Shall I continue this long bitter argument with reality?

Those mad notions have sabotaged me for too long.

I am learning, now, to appreciate life as it stands, learning to love reality

Learning to engage totally with the present moment, to dissolve completely in this sweet, everlasting instant

For it is time I became a vessel of love.

I am learning to speak through the sensual lips of good fortune

And to kiss with those selfsame lips this world

I am learning to acknowledge the credibility of all paths trod, not only my own

I am learning to loose the barbed rigging which has cinched my heart and constrained her wild vitality

So I can understand my real energy, unbounded, and allow it to abound.

And it is my duty to disentangle this wild white horse, my heart

So that she may trample majestically through the vast powerful emanating landscape

Galloping swiftly, decisively through the canyons

Across the rivers and past the powerful red rock formations

Her build is strong and sculpted,

She thirsts for freedom and movement.

So, no longer cursing, stammering, shouting

No longer viewing as unfavorable those which were thought unfavorable,

All rivers flow towards the sea,

No longer clinched and narrow of mind,

No longer bent with troubled eyes fixed upon the ground below

No longer possessed by those menacing puppeteers

I consciously inhale, relax, and release

Now allowing the vast array of energies, the innumerable stripes of vitality, allowing the multitudes to pass through me

The dark and the bitter, the root and the leaf, the luminous and the divine, the tense and troubled, the relaxed and assured.

The bitter and the gun carrying, the tender and romantic, the childlike and be wondered, the aged and anguished, the muzzled and weak, the strong and courageous, the resilient

All of them are contained within me

I can feel them animate and enliven my body, I can feel them nourish my soul

It is exhilarating.

So now, pausing no more, hesitating no more, second guessing nothing,

(Does the air hesitate to mingle with the sky or the evening sun doubt whether or not to sink into its horizon? Why then should I doubt to sink into my own?)

Equipped with this knowledge and thirst, I embrace the totality of this

It is whole and complete.

And so now shall I be.

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VI

The Mad Dogs Are After Me Again

The mad dogs are after me again

With their poison fangs and their mongrel claws

With their hollowed out, fiendish ghost faces,

Ugly and slobbering.

And hell’s screams and agony’s shrieks,

Their barking cries.

They’re snarling through the alleyways

Breaking down my door,

Growling and snapping

Biting at my bones.

The mad dogs are after me again

I swear they never quit.

Those damned mad dogs are after me again.

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VII

I Don’t Hate The Men I Fight

I don’t hate the men I fight.

They are complex creatures,

Each with a unique constellation of infinite experience,

Each a scattered far flung universe,

With unique rhythm, and movement,

Each pursuing their own horizon,

Of which I know nothing,

Each building their own civilization,

Of which I cannot conceive,

Each tending their own flock, their children

Whose sweet tenderness I have not felt,

Each cultivating their own garden

Which can nourish only them,

Each a profound limitless effusion of energy,

A wellspring of originality, a fathomless awe inspiring universe

No, I don’t hate the men I fight.

So why do I demand their total enslavement?

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Jack at Columbus Circle, NYC, around Christmas time, 2008

 

Jack sent this in an email dated November 12th, 2009

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VIII

Courting Angels

 

As the pious knee of a wounded soldier courts an altar

So I court you, sweet angel.

All I have ever wanted is to be near you.

All my victories and all my failures are nothing in your shadow.

Your presence overwhelms all the arguments of earth and man.

I wish I knew better how to court you with this song

That you might sanctify my deeds

And grant my greedy eyes universal sight.

As I stand now I’m bleeding, searching blindly for your might.

Though I live in squalor

Though I live in Filth

(The muck has nearly drowned me,

The murk has made me ill,)

I will never stop my clumsy efforts to court you

And I am seeking you still.

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Jack, in a Boulder canyon (first published, August 11, 2011)

 

IX

Tossing and Turning

 

The musicality of the stars blesses the soft green earth as gentle traces of the dawn inch into the sky

Tossing and turning and

Tossing and turning in my unsleepable bed

The stars diamond, ephemeral brilliance cascades upon the earth from those bejewelled skies in these final twilight hours

All night long, apparitions have paraded before my restless eyes in their spectral procession

Locked inside the ghostly halls of hunger,

Disturbing my slumbers

Tossing me, turning me.

Now through the grace of some benevolence I’m forced to leave my bed

And rise with the rising morning.

I stumble out of bed and stagger out onto the broken pavements into the hallucinatory ethereal streets, to resume my sacred part in the profound instrumentality that is earth

The first beams of sunlight cascade through the heavens

The orchestral symphony in every cell of the universe stirs magnetically in the magnitude of this glory

Pore by pore sunrise animates the earth

The power of the day begins to stir.

 

I ramble along these deserted morning streets, empty but for an occasional clear eyed morning rambler

Or an early car gracing the grateful streets.

The birds claim this sanctuary

Extracting complex medleys from the air for their orchestrated hymns

Those melodies are embroidered upon the fabric of the day

They fortify the promise of a magnificently bountiful and plenteous day

What multidimensional depths of the soul that promise reaches?

 

I’ve taken these gems and joys and riches for granted for too long.

How wealthy I am, how rich life is.

I possess riches greater than all seas.

I am tired of being obsessed with myself

Fortify me with gratitude.

What is this unrelenting self-obsession?

Greed, sorrow, vengeance, hate

They have brought such an onslaught of trouble, anguish and worry

Hordes more than they have deflected or protected me from

(That is no fortified citadel, no matter what they say)

And I have absorbed those abject miseries.

So much grief and sorrow I could avoid if I only devoted myself to goodness and the spread of goodness on earth

To helping others,

To good health, and compassion, and celebration and praise

To finding the good and the beautiful.

I don’t know why I worry so long and so hard

As though I were the only man to have ever suffered

The first man to have ever lived

As though I am some magnificent sufferer living among mankind.

 

The religiosity of experience,

The eternal concert sanctifying the eyes, the ears and the body.

This incomprehensible masterpiece.

The cathedral of this morning

Soaked and dripping with vitality

The lush colourful tapestry of the dawn

Layered, moving and alive.

In bewildered reverence, piously I walk through this vital sea of sensuousness

Sleep clings to my mind like moss as I stroll in morning grace along these verdant summer pathways

At ease, leisurely, expansively.

Empowered by the strength of each moment

The continuous eruption of energy, exploding vividly from the burning fuse of every instant.

Absorbing those fountainous, electric sparks continuously

Transmuting them mysteriously into energy,

Strengthened thus to godlike proportions.

Allowing the song of myself to unfold and expound prolifically, magnificently

Accepting with great gregariousness and pleasure the music it evokes interweaving with the scintillating fabric of existence.

 

Everything that happens has been germinating for billions of years.

There is an intuitive balance to all of nature and the cosmos.

Nothing is superfluous.

Every transpiring event requires the collaboration and the ingenious, thousand handed engineering of the entire cosmos

Every blossomed moment requires complete validation from the magnitude of all time and space

Every speck of dirt belongs, every role played has been ordained

Nothing is lost, nothing is irrelevant

Always and forever onwards and upwards.

 

Jack, stop your ruminations on the night

Stop this endless worry over your sins

These are your sins

This is your soul

That is enough.

Cast aside those vain contrivances

Cease your demands and doubts and you will live in the most glorious kingdom today

Your soul will blossom more bountifully than any ever has

Know in the depth of your soul the excellence and greatness of all the universe

Allow that fertile, nourishing soil to sink and settle at the deepest, darkest waters of your oceans,

Allow it to fecundate your earth today

Entrust your body and mind to the smiling, grandfather hands of the eternal moment and be guided along the illuminated path of divinity.

 

(A thousand what ifs

A thousand complaints

But, Jack, can you imagine, can you truly imagine a life different from the one you have now?)

 

Evil is in my heart

Sin is in my soul

Base aspirations belong to me,

All the perverse hungers of the contemptible and hideously fiendish are mine

And I am divine in my worst hour as much as I am in my best.

And still, unwaveringly I pledge allegiance to my soul

In the beatitude of my days

In the darkness of my nights

I pledge allegiance to my soul

Filled with sorrows though I may be

Often teetering on the heartbroken precipice of tears I may be as waterfalls of sorrow roar within me,

Tumbling mightily from my rocky cliffs

Deepening the sweet clear pools of my soul.

But I am also beaming all the time with ineffable light, and I am filled with love and with hope too

And I am brimming with an authentic and strong desire to do good as well.

And I know now through all the dregs I have trudged

Through the toxic mire

Through my endless miseries

Through my days of bitter impotence

Through the cancer of my greed

Through my death wishes and poison swallowing

There was, all along, a sweet, innocent hatchling bird inside of me

And it was that little hatchling bird of love tittering gently within me that saved my life

Somehow still alive, somehow still singing

Whose gentle melodies nourished my ailing soul during those years of sickness and fog

(Gaining nourishment from those melodies as a tree drinks water from earthen roots in the ground)

Whose sweet song cleared the mire from my sickened, bloodshot eyes,

Now I shall nourish it

So that it may grow and live and thrive, and fly and call; a champion of the skies.

And the variety of my seeds,

Scattered through the fibre of my being

Those little seedlings who lived in my beaten earth

Shelled, hard, small, potent

Colourful with seed-like potential

I’ll nourish them, grow them, water them and tend to them

Sufficiently buried in my soil until they explode with the unstoppable power of rocks,

Until the righteous day those seeds grow into powerful trees,

Titans of love

Resounding proudly in the chorus of my magnanimous forests.

 

Continuing my stroll through this sapling earth

Appreciating the transience of this wild moment

Immersed in this ocean of sensuousness

The wet green morning air

The breathing earth

The magisterial oil lamp of existence

The mystic consciousness permeating time and space

The exuberance now bursting from my heart as those energies baptize me and I baptize them,

As this ethereal morning bathes me.

Marvelling upon the green, misty morning, how sweet its dew tastes permeating my skin.

I think now there is nothing more beautiful to look at than the knotted limbs of the trees graciously harbouring the soft, moist earth

Archetypal supreme justices

They stand like cosmic guardians of eternity

Telepathic communicators to the divine transmitting all the time through the expanses of space and heaven

Stencilled with intricate ancient mystic patterns

Titans of the earth

At work constantly renewing the planetary soul of this world.

Now these city streets; the endless stream of densely storied footsteps they have graciously received, supported and encouraged onwards, ever onwards

The extensive monarchies reigning beneath them

(How I love these streets, even when I say I don’t)

The mad ecstatic pulse of a metropolis

The wild pulsating energy vibrating along its streets

Energy, movement, stories, life.

The tranquility of a Minnesota cabin

The stillness of a lake at dawn

The fluidity and self-assuredness of a bird in flight right now before me, weaving its invisible thread through the tapestry of air,

How vast and intricate the system of its small body; the clasping of its wings, the beating of its heart, the rising of its lungs, the beams of its eyes, the elegant symphony of its movement

The history of a grain of sand

A morning jogger passing by

An attractive mother pushing a stroller

A professional driving to work

All these stories trembling in the everlasting symphony

How profound everything is

The experience of existence

The ecstatic universe.

 

Mired in doubt, guilt and hangovers

Mired in ignorance, filth and debauchery

Mired in drinking, rejection and betrayal

Mired in porn, greed and corruption

Mired in vengeance, blood lust and hate

Mired in addiction, malice and glamour

Mired in alcohol, revenge and competitiveness

Mired in power, business and bank accounts

Mired in shipwrecks, blood and sand

Mired in sickness, fear and anxiety

Mired in desolation, shame, and failure

Mired in vanity, fame and lies

Mired in insecurity, cruelty and regret

Mired in details, details, details

Mired in this holy human conundrum

 

And yet here I stand

And I’ll stand for triumph and for joy, proudly

In spite of the clogged body, my secret monstrosities

In spite of dirtiness, and all this craziness

In spite of this bloody fucking mess

I stand like a springtime garden

Exploding with vitality

Exploding with colour

Tomatoes, azaleas, roses, vines, dirt, insects, trees, birds, water

All bursting forth from me uninhibitedly

I think, I feel, I breathe, I move, I act, I fail, I fear, I love, I regret, I worry, I triumph

I am alive

I am human

I believe in life and I believe in my humanity

And I’m done resisting my destiny.

 

Acting as I myself, alone see fit,

Done modelling myself on that false template of other men

Done following fools into that ditch.

I’ll walk my own road with determination and with will

I’ll walk my road with compassion as best I know how

Though I will fear, fail and falter again I am done resisting my destiny

I must embrace the human experience.

 

Despite these rags it is because of my riches I walk the road I walk

An old and timeless soul

Wrinkled rucksack on my back

Trotting down these roads with interest, happy and bemused, over the brown green country hills at sunset, an exuberant smile splayed on my face.

(The roads will never be quite perfect

But they are quite suitable and good for my two feet to trod.)

My story, not so very interesting as I thought,

My failures, perhaps not as important as I supposed them to be

I am so fucking tired of taking myself so seriously

(Life is serious, but that doesn’t mean I have to take myself so grossly, so hideously, so fiendishly serious)

I am so sick of glamorizing my pain

The story of my fall no longer interests me; only the story of my return, and the splendorous redemption of my sunrise.

I must embrace the human experience.

Those people I see, I must be with them.

Ah, people, what complex mysteries?

Their stories are long, complex and strange too,

Riddled with adversity and cut by sorrow too,

They deserve compassion, sympathy and praise.

I must return to the people.

Aiding the good and aiding the wicked equally, none shall be exempt.

 

The surging power inherent in every moment

As coal and diamonds meditating in the raw earth.

It is time I claimed those sacred, endless, bountiful, illuminated reserves of power

(As discovering an entire kingdom full of plump wooden treasure chests filled with gold and rubies and pearls)

Alive within the throbbing, luminous coordinates of my position inside this infinite, vital, gridded network, extending beyond heavens eternity.

Electrified by that infinite system of connections

Enlarged there to towering and benevolent heights.

And the traffic will continuously baptize me

Inside the extensive inroads of this dense elaborate maze

And in that mad kinetic frenzy: chaos and confusion, anxiety;

The marrow of this living.

Let me speak the colourful language of the earth

Translating the colourful compassion of trees

Their empathic understanding, their quiet, vibrant smiles

Bemused and happy as Buddha’s face while mankind buzzes from task to frenzied task.

I’ll be my own priest and my own doctor,

My own King.

No one else shall be my King.

The King’s authority has been restored.

 

Give up the ghost Jack,

Give up that ghost.

Life is much more beautiful than I could have imagined

And I am much more beautiful than I could have ever known.

Life is infinitely, inexpressibly greater than all art, philosophy and religion.

Experience is more profound and beautiful than all paintings, poems, songs, and movies combined,

Language is grossly inadequate to express the beauty, marvel and wonder that I am and exist in

I am much more beautiful than I could have ever known.

 

And I believe in the sanctity of existence

Though I am constantly beleaguered.

I want to be indiscriminate with my nourishing love

Though I am constantly beleaguered.

Someday I will return to the kingdom, I know,

Even though I am constantly beleaguered.

 

All of my experiences are a part of me like some great patch work quilt.

My past still thrives within me feeding the wellspring of this instant

I express them through myself ceaselessly.

Absorbing the sights sounds scents and seasons of the earth

Filtering those through myself ceaselessly as well,

Renewed continuously by the crystalline, everlasting fountain of existence

 

I long to release the precious butterflies of my experience.

Some dark black and malevolent

Some with sadly damaged wings, perforated unevenly around the tragically damaged edges

Some with extravagant color, speckled with royal algorithms

Sprinkling magic and stars through the air

All fluttering from me in a colourful frenzied flock, exuberantly, magnificently, constantly.

I have tried overthrowing what I am

It is impossible

I cannot yield to anything but what I am.

Not to fear the old established critics,

Their eyes have grown yellow and discoloured from the breath of time.

I really don’t give a shit about the old masters

Their’s was fine,

Mine, incomparably glorious.

I’ll sing my unparalleled songs of glory loudly, triumphantly

Even if I extract only a single piece of fruit from the labours of an entire farm.

I’ll embrace my age irresistibly, and embrace my day and sing the zeitgeist that is my soul.

Fluid and congruent as molten, liquid metal

Coming fully into the stream of who I am

Not struggling to be like anyone but who I am

Done following fools into that ditch.

 

Now I walk back from the park towards the house I live in

The sun leaves its cradle

People rise, nourished with sleep

The city bristles with health and awakening

Telephones ring, papers are shuffled

Ideas are discussed

Rivers of traffic engulf the streets

(A thousand incomprehensible stories in each car)

The clank and clamour of living, the inching along of civilization.

Sitting now on the steps outside my loving home, admiring my mother’s garden so beautiful, artistic and vibrant.

The flowers open their tender lungs to the coming suns nourishing, viscousness

I’m instilled with dawn’s tranquility,

Caressed by the clean air, by the breeze.

Even though this is just a moment which too shall pass I can see that for now so I smile as I rise

To embark with singular devotion and not stop until I’m done.

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

(Jack sent this poem in an email dated 12/16/09)

X

On a Bus in the Morning

 

The lovely scent

Of a perfumed female

Makes me smile

In the morning.

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

Detail of one of Jack’s outfits

( Jack sent this untitled poem in an email dated 12/16/09)

XI

Composing outrageous dramas,

To cluster this dilapidated, decaying room

With counterfeit statues,

Impersonating true timeless beauty.

Hollow, fickle figures.

Ashtrays overflowing with spent abundance,

And vapid cacophonies.

Sound and fury signifying nothing.

In these false hearted skeletal battles we all die

What lies, what sorry lies,

These are no Athenas,

These are no Shakespearian calamities

These are no magnificent catastrophes.

The gods are not interested.

What is this furious scattering dust which assails me wherever I go

These assembly line theatrics

These fickle desperate farces

These disingenuous doldrums

These shallow minded melodramas.

A mockery made of life,

A desecration of the palace of truth and art and love

A fragmentation of the wholeness of this

A ravaging of the beauteous kingdom

A depletion of the richness of the world

A depreciation of the most priceless artefact of all

What painting did we choose to step out of

What masterpiece

What opulence of wealth

What gardens of Eden

What quiet coves of diamonds

What secret forests of plenty

What lush avenues of possibility

Have been forsaken for these

Impossible, outrageous dramas?

Have we forgone the genuine glory of honest living?

The eloquence of authentic existence,

The pursuit of true happiness and true understanding

The power of embracing the totality of this

Beyond these petty little hobgoblin trivialities

Glowing like furious embers with their little pitchforks

But how small they are, how utterly helpless,

How sad they seem, how lonesome they must be,

To demand such frantic attention.

I have been out on the front lines,

Composing this.

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

 

(a poem Jack wrote about his poems—sent in an email dated 9/9/09)

XII

I Endow All My Children With Wings

 

I endow all my children with wings,

So that they may transcend the leaden earth,

In seraphic harmony

And glide above the deformities of this city.

And with their endowment

They transport me to these empyrean heights

So I too, may reside aloft, among gods.

 

Build the house you want to build,

Your children will have wings too.

 

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

(Jack sent this poem in an email dated 9/9/09)

                                                                           Jack at the Fordham Branch New York Public Library in the Bronx, 2008

XIII

The King’s Authority Has Been Restored

 

Triumphant revival of energy, of pleasure, faith, and good will.

A surge of wind beneath the wings.

A new vision for which to see things.

Trumpets resound in the bronze afternoon

as the noble procession emerges from the night,

Advancing steadily towards the castle walls.

The king’s authority has been restored.

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

 

Jack looking at an illuminated ad poster in Times Square, NYC, 2008

(Poem Jack sent in an email dated 9/9/09 He was kind enough to title the poem after my essay on the creative muse:

The Path of the Numinous—Living and Working with the Creative Muse The poem is about his relationship to the muse.)

XIV

The Path of the Numinous

For the night gets mighty dark when a Man can’t see his star…

Though we toil

In infinitesimal fields of despair

What bulb burns in luminous hazy radiance

In the depth of abysmal night?

Sweet incandescent glow

Perched like a sage

Above the slumbering metropolis.

Whose precious moonbeams pierce the veil.

Collect those silver slivers

Read them like an archaic map

For this is your contract with divinity.

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

The next poem entitled “Winnipeg” was also one sent with an email batch on 9/9/09 When Jack went to the University of Manitoba at Winnipeg he often talked about how grim the city seemed.

XV

Winnipeg

Winnipeg

Winnipeg.

No matter what direction you walk in Winnipeg the winds always blowing in your face

Ten thousand miles an hour across the frozen, howling prairies.

The majority of the busses that prowl the city streets read “Not In Service”

As opposed to any deliberate destination

All the drivers look like warts,

Stupid satisfied looks on their faces,

Going nowhere.

The old archaic buildings,

Once the modern model of elegance,

Have grown antique and deserted from the constant clawing of time.

Unkempt and uncared for

Springtime here is long gone.

Now Winnipeg is perched like a vulture, bitter in an eternal autumn, under eternally overcast skies.

Orphaned, unknown, uncared for, disgraced and ashamed

Winnipeg stews in the desolate prairies alone and isolated, like some forgotten medieval city,

Bitter and cruel after a life of insult and torment.

Only time worn traces tell of the promise this place once held

Worn cobble stone roads…

 

Every mother in Winnipeg is ugly, unholy and so goddamn ugly

All the children born in Winnipeg are born dead,

Dead or evil.

All the pregnant women smoke cigarettes.

All the fathers are alcoholics with adolescent aspirations and elderly bitterness,

mean alcoholic eyes.

They beat their kids for having been born to soon,

Or not soon enough.

It’s a law: Everyone must litter in Winnipeg,

They say “it’s just like decorating.”

The only people who want to make friends with you in Winnipeg are cheap little dirty drug dealers.

All eyes here are violent and accusatory.

Winnipeg is a symphony of instruments never meant to be played together, a trash can symphony

Sunday’s grey and solitary desolation

All the cathedrals have been abandoned, boarded up

The barrooms are overflowing.

The vile air of criminality hangs grimacing about town

Like a rapist’s smile hung in the sky,

Constantly spotting hordes of prey.

Construction sites are erected in Winnipeg to present the facade of progress

They are quickly abandoned and left unfinished,

Defiling the landscape like an open wound gaping into the sky.

Anyone who wants to come to Winnipeg must be stabbed or beheaded first.

Winnipeg writhes in impaled agony, but will not die.

 

I have heard Winnipeg shouting inside of me

I have heard her lament

She stands immutable in forgotten alleyways of the mind

Winnipeg is located where the hand of glory dare not reach

You carry that city inside your heart, my friend

And even when you know you are traveling to Winnipeg, you don’t get off the train, why?

 

Winnipeg why do you exist?

Winnipeg what is it you are trying to show me?

Winnipeg, I can’t stop shitting out of my eyes.

Winnipeg why am I always hung over,

What is it you are trying to say?

Standing in shit, looking across the street at the flowers.

Winnipeg I want you present at my round table.

You can give me your strange jewels I’ll not chase you away in humiliation.

Winnipeg you are not your dreaded days, your lonely nights

Winnipeg you shall be cherished to me,

And you shall be included in the masterpiece.

Because Winnipeg, you made me an alchemist, a magician.

And the winds blow in windswept Winnipeg,

Winnipeg

Winnipeg.

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

Untitled poem Jack sent in an email dated 8/18/09

XVI

I was worried,

I hadn’t been writing,

I had not been fulfilling my duties,

As I saw proper.

I lost concentration,

There were several imaginary guns pointed at my head.

I thought they were real.

I could feel the energy of the day

Dissipating into chaos.

The morning sunlight was relaxing,

My angel-hearted orange cat

And my gallant, trustworthy canine

Looked at me curiously,

Contentedly.

Ah?

Oh yes, Ah ha.

 

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

 

(Jack sent this one in an email dated 8/19/09)

 

XVII

This One is a Joke

But Still Quite Serious Though

Waiting for paradise to invite me in once more

I’ve been waiting so long,

I got drunk, I’m hung over outside its door.

 

While masturbating the other day

I told myself

“Everything is going according to plan”

 

But paradise came and told me

I’d have to wait again.

 

Waiting got me mixed up in a bitter life of sin

I got fed up with waiting

I thought it was my birthright to be let in

 

I became acquainted with the devil

And he so graciously invited me in

 

Boys, by the time I realized where I was

Paradise showed up and told me

“You are ready to come in.”

 

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

 

(This poem also sent with the batch dated 8/19/09)

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

XVIII

To End A Long Debate

 

There is no point to this poem,

This poem does not point.

And the glass is certainly not half empty,

Nor is it half full,

It is just a glass filled up with a certain amount of a particular liquid.

That is what it is.

That is what it is.

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

XIX

My Butterfly

I am clasping a speckled butterfly

In the cup of my hands.

She rustles her crisp, detailed wings

so elegantly

To demonstrate the imperial craft of flight

Sending perfumed fragrances

Rambling through the air.

 

And with each sway of her sweet wings

The enchanted scent tumbles through the air

Fertilizing my mind,

Quieting the oceanic unrest.

 

And those wings may still the violence of any hurricane,

Instil dawn’s tranquility on the festering madness of city streets.

 

To tend to her tenderness,

It is my duty.

 

I carry this delicate butterfly

To deflect the rotting words of lepers.

Those embittered, embattled old eyes

Who offer handfuls of tainted flesh.

Their decaying hands paw at me from beneath

To infect me with their dark malaise,

To consume me,

To steal my thunder.

 

They are constantly besieging me.

 

But her murmuring radiances

Sends the contagious lepers

With their lethal fangs fleeing.

And through the potency of its magic

The air shimmers around her in beatific euphoria

Consolidating my body and mind with

supernatural fortification.

 

Now contained within the hard walls of this noble citadel,

Absorbing its dense, hallowed radiances.

 

My Butterfly

In my hands her enchantment

Streams through my veins.

 

I shall not be pulled by the rotting flesh of those leprous hands

Under dark heavy waves.

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

XX

In the Face of the Bully

In the face of the bully I became a bully.

After knowing the torturers I became their most diligent and masterful disciple.

Having been reviled by the sight of desperate frothing men, with untamed desire my frothing lips convulsed.

Disgusted and angered by the apishness of man, I beat my chest and yowled monstrously as I sought to ascend those apish ranks.

In the face of the bully,

I seek now to shatter the binds that bind the hearts of men to their greatest enemies and most cursed defeats,

In the face of the wretched bully.

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

XXI

Longing to Return

Like a rock in your river I sit.

Your magnificence surges past and through me constantly.

Resounding in triumphant song,

Breaking down my sediment,

Until the sweet day I’ll dissolve again into your unsurpassable glory

Oh universal how I long to return to you.

 

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

Jack sent a number of poems on 6/09/09. In the body of the email he made the following notes about this series of poems:

dear jonathan, as promised I am sending you certain bits of writing which I now consider complete, or am at least satisfied enough to send these ducklings into the wider world for a brief outing. The major piece I would like you to examine most closely is eight pages, there is no title yet but it will appear as a document called “while my heart pounds a rhythym.” The first part is describing being alive each line begins with the word “while” it is essentially saying “while I am alive”, the second part which begins with the phrase “I will” It describes nearly everything I have felt or expierenced, the experiences that a man like you or I may have in this world. the section following that begins with the phrase “What will they say,” and describes what kinds of people I have encountered etc.. I suppose you may call it a description of the babylon matrix. And it all concludes with a call to action and how I am to go on with the buisness of living. This has taken many many months to arrive at its current form, and I have put nearly everything in it, I remember the first day i began writing it in the boulder public library, on a very lovely springtime afternoon. You have seen an earlier version of this but i dont believe we examined it together in great detail. at any rate, this is it, and accompanying it are some smaller bits as well, some of which you may have already looked at.

 

 

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

XXII

While My Heart Pounds a Rhythm

While my heart pounds a rhythm, While blood still fattens my veins

While the brick of life has offered me an hour in the cloak of flesh

While I contain common sense, common confidence, and common worries

While I breathe this common air with my own two nostrils and can only wonder what it smells like to that passing stranger

While I can smell the sea though I may be a thousand miles away

While I am still unsure,

I will grasp my saw, with a firm, absolute grip

And cut into my cedar wood plank

Allowing the scent to rise, so eloquently, through the air into my nostrils

(The smell is sweet and lively)

And I will build me a sturdy chair for to sit

And I will behold the vastness of my emerald forests with awe

I will step into the dense darkness unable to move

I will immerse myself in infinite light

I will drown myself in fire and emerge in pieces in the grey light

I will lock myself inside the awful confines of the war torn skull, with the shades violently drawn, and pace back and forth for days before suddenly proclaiming AH HA!

Later on I will feel confused

I will watch the perpetual ping pong game rattling back and forth in my skull

I will ride each morning at seven into bleak suburban strip mall heaven, and mega mall tax offices will scratch their fingernails across the chalkboard of my mind

I will laugh naked, underground, forgotten, going nowhere

I will become dismissive with reality

I will sprawl myself out on the cold hard floors of destitution, kiss tragedy’s cold wet feet, worship and rest in the tomb of failure

I will live like a ghost

Invisible angels will sing to me

Demons and devils will feed me well

I will watch hatred rip out my eyes offering me searing blindness

I will grant malice, that malevolent magician reign over my stormy mind

I will desecrate ancient monuments to love and cower in fear before the murderous mongrel inside me

I will watch my sanity recede on the mud caked horizon line

I will learn to fault myself in astonishing ways

I will earn torture

I will grow as careless as a fiend

I will sit sick in terrible illness, paranoid and frantic muttering something to myself about peace and beauty then vomit into a plastic garbage

I will trickle through the clasp of terror, leaving my residue on its sticky lecherous fingers

I will laugh with raving blood thirsty idiots listening to bad music then go home solemn faced and listen to good music

I will masturbate prolifically and carry with shame the anvil of my waste

I will let my brain go unshaved so long foul noxious fumes will begin to seep from my eyes

I will gulp kerosene in defense of their eyes and exhale a graveyard, wondering how long I will live

I will suck from the black spires of death

I will dance and disappear into a carnival of poison and come back slowly, coughing and depressed, with all of my internal organs bruised

My movements will be distracted

I will become estranged from my body, exiled from reason

I will cut hope’s throat and bathe in her blood

I will retain false hopes of waking up from this appalling nightmare

I will pray- sadly- in the forlorn cathedral of misfortune

I will curse at beauty because I am an imbecile

And I will bitterly curse the pavements beneath my feet also because I am an imbecile

I will stand distraught in a house of mirrors tearing out all my hair

I will drag myself unwillingly, with a monster’s ferocity, to the acidic heart of the hideous beast

I will be exiled by the beloved

I will claw weakly at the unbreakable windows of the famed

I will understand what a goddamn fool I am and despise myself for this self-imposed damnation

I will allow my thoughts like seven infants to break down the walls of their pen and each pursue their own delight – tearing the fiber of my brain

I will let the strength of the condemned beat me bloody and bruised beyond recognition

I will plead with my troubled mind

I will look passionately for a justice which may never be found

I will reach out to love constantly even if she spits in my face

I will contemplate the ethereal silence of the cosmos

I will dream lovers perfect and complete though I have never known them to be

(this world is too strange without dreams)

I will hope for naked beauty again

I will search for the bliss I abandoned long ago

I will strive mellow harmony

And I will never stop wandering

I will stand profoundly alone aching

But what will they say?

What will they say whom haven’t felt the warmth of my blood

Or the pulse in my veins

What will they say after I have gone

What of my movements, what of my footsteps

What of my eye contact, or my confused words

What of the hour I wake, the hour I rest, the nourishment I chose

What will they say?

What will they say dropping the heavy gavel with their eyes

What will they say with their ears grated from years of this constant sadistic blare

What will they say with lead poisoning the pores of their makeup faces

What will they say with corrupt lawyers scheming abysmal eyes

What will they say with corrupt ministers blackmailing them inside their heads

What will they say with malnourished brains buried in the flesh of their pretty plastic faces

What will they say contracting festering venereal diseases with their eyes

What will they say vomitous tongues, whose acids will be drunk by many ears

What will they say deceitful sick monarchs, coughing in silk gowns

What will they say crowning one another with molding wreaths of vanity

What will they say out of those stupid ignorant smiles illuminating their too beautiful faces

What will they say masking disease with fickle beauty

What will they say worshipping false idols without realizing it

What will they say rabidly defending empty treasuries

What will they say from carefully crafted gold chariots without wheels

What will they say from the steel tentacles of concrete image

What will they say birthing fanatic nightmares

What will they say spawning repugnant lies in the stagnant tepid breeding grounds of their polluted puddle brains

What will the king of a corrupt kingdom say, so many sad faces

What will they say spewing venomous gossip at the gentle face of understanding

What will they say out of unthinking amplifiers

What will they say behind mutilated eyes

What will they say from the grave

What will they say at the attentive theater

What will they say under the unseen moon

What will they say hording handfuls of rotting sunlight

What will they say banishing true beauty from their constitutions

What will they say from sorrowfully fenced in inescapable backyards

What will they outcast say at the dawn of a new day

What will they say with remorseful tridents

What will they say unleashing apologetic attack dogs

What will they say with hands trembling as they finger billion dollar triggers

What will they say competing for friendship

What will they say like rabbits armed with automatic rifles

What will they say standing on stages of money

What will they say maliciously proving their tearful points

What will they say harnessed to lobotomizing rhythms

What will they say crowing one another in midget world

What will they say whose eyes are judgment

What will they say laying the brutal bricks of judgment

What will they say sleeping in parasitic beds,

What will they say feeding their subconscious with the fodder of plagued phrases

What will they say not realizing their power

What will they say waiting at eternal red lights in their minds

What will they say from inside silent classrooms throwing cigarette butts on the marble steps

What will they say weeping in sunny afternoon parks

What will they say gun shy soldiers

What will they say without a choice

What will they say with the neon madness buzzing all around them

What will they say whose identities are nothing more than the various garbage that collects in a can,

What will they say devising brilliant roads to elude the concrete fists of judgment

What will they say sordid grave robbers

What will they say with vile pedophile hands reaching out

What will they say dying while they still have a chance to live

What will they say setting fiendish snares in the endless mountains of war

What will they say under the flaming sky descending

What will they say from quaint attics of peculiarly angled houses

What will they say terrified of their brothers, crying under the stairwells

What will they say with contagious fangs leaping out at the nearest neck

What will they say deliriously proclaiming themselves professors

What will they say viciously ensnared by the barbed wire rigging of infinitely complex hierarchies – well disguised jail cells

What will they say meticulously plotting in this terrible, endless tragi-comedy

What will they say proclaiming a victorious understanding (how much is really left unknown?)

What will they say whose dry minds have hardened with time and grown as firm as a gravestone

What will they say laughing hideously inside warm walls with crowds of diseased friends, eating meat and profusely drinking red wine, choosing with sick minds not to look out the window at the sea of starving sorrowful faces outside

What will they say mentally depraved mothers, retarded, cockeyed, mouths gaping dumbly open as they push soft innocent strollers along the cracked pavements

What will they say in wrinkled black leather hunched over empty shopping carts with violent and accusing eyes pushing along the crooked city streets

What will they say inside empty limousines

What will they say in demented convulsions walking beside the angry traffic

What will they say amidst the shrieking demands of false alarm clocks

What will they say stretching the flesh of their fingers for that always so close Elysium – tomorrow who strangles today

What will they say devouring the poisonous green apples of worry

What will they say?

Well!

Let them say what they may!

Let me go on my own way

Alone

Tracking the scent of my footsteps through this dense confusion

Submerged in the ocean of this instant

Miniscule green roots stretching from the soles of my shoes into the fertile ground each step I take

Fortified with the indelible strength and depth of endurance

(Strong is the man whose spirit is unbroken)

With a fond taste for the bittersweet

And the great talent to fail

With the resolve of stone

And an eye to spot a thief

With an understanding for the unbound sea

And the knowledge of a true, absolute equality

Let me seek, endlessly, with complete eyes, the miracle of my own glory, no matter how far removed or obscure,

Let bear witness to my own greatness

Though I may be but a child splashing in a tub, those ripples are as delicate and precious to me as endless glass cities

Let me learn to not hate this world for what it isn’t but love it for what it is

Let nothing detain me, for life is education

Let my feet shiver with ecstasy by the presence of a ground which all feet touch

Let me find greatness in completely unexpected places

Give me the knowledge of a true, really true, equality

And Let me go on my way.

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

 

XXIII

My Mind Lulled Like a Sailboat

 

But to return once again

To my life of old,

My life of days past.

Sweet, cherished innocence.

That sanctuary, that courtyard

Free from the malevolent black butterflies,

Escaping from diseased mouths

Contaminated intent.

My mind lulled like a sailboat

Upon the glass of a breathless mountain lake.

I slept at ease, and the purity of all my emotions was unmatched.

But parasites do not discriminate.

And they tunnelled into my brain

As they would any orphaned sailor or deranged addict,

Crowding and festering its illuminated passageways,

They only know one taste

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

 

(Jack talked about wanting a typewriter and I found one for him at a thrift store. He makes reference to it in the following poem.)

 

XXIV

The Way of Life

 

Sometimes this old electric typewriter

Sits here purring,

Engine running

Purring

Asking me to go on and pet it

But I have to tell it

I can’t find my petting hand

Then I must turn it off

And do something else

There is only this instant

Soaking, deep in these mercurial waters

Steeping in this dense molten

Liquid wrapping me

(It will soon exhaust itself and cool)

Exhaling this cloud of hypnotic smoke

Silk gliding serene as ice

Off the tip of this cigarette

Dispersing like fireflies

Into the solid air

Of this still,

Illuminated apartment

Occasionally reading

A collection of writings

From a poet

Many years dead

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

XXV

Untitled Poem

This is what happens when you live alone in a foreign city and don’t go to church on Sundays and let the characters in your mind argue.

Why didn’t I spend time with beautiful women when I had the chance?

Maybe I didn’t impress them.

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

 

 

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

XXVI

Twilight Glimpse of a Long Sought Equanimity

 

Under the velvet sky

The stars cascading pearls settle the seas of my night-time mind.

The tenderness of night

Wraps itself around the silent marble that is earth.

I make love to this moment

Like a man who is uncertain if his lover’s father

Will allow them to wed.

Exhaling this gulf of my breath

Pondering now how all are to be inhaling those sweet molecules,

Sprung from this soil

Pondering how each and all before me and now have been sprung likewise,

With each fibre of my being composed of that sanctified universal substance

I slip into this aperture of air

An essential and irrevocable component of this vast bustling divine network

A reflection of this starry, artistic universe

Fitted fully, perfectly to trod these walkways

Borne of the universe,

A universe in and of myself.

Content now to think of this

Satisfied to step in and contribute my share,

Knowing I shall be received

As each and all these encounters are

Perfect receptacles for my being.

Exhaling this gulf of my breath

Pondering now how all are to be inhaling those sweet molecules,

Sprung from this soil

Pondering how each and all before me and now have been sprung likewise,

With each fibre of my being composed of that sanctified universal substance

I slip into this aperture of air

An essential and irrevocable component of this vast bustling divine network

A reflection of this starry, artistic universe

Fitted fully, perfectly to trod these walkways

Borne of the universe,

A universe in and of myself.

Content now to think of this

Satisfied to step in and contribute my share,

Knowing I shall be received

As each and all these encounters are

Perfect receptacles for my being.

 

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

A couple of poems Jack sent on 5/15/09 in an email with the subject heading “by the powers vested in me.” Indeed.

XXVII

The Fists of Night Have Me Drunk

Cold florescent street lights

Illuminate the frozen, heartless street

 

Rinsing the broken pavements

With hollow icicles of blue light

 

Pearls are suspended in the frozen sky.

I cannot hear their twilight ballad.

 

Droves of crows gather in the trees,

The delicate and desolate branches are crawling with them

 

Squalid plumage gleams in the empty light

As their pitiless gaze unfurls ravenous lust

 

Hundreds of marble eyes bruise my body with dark kisses

 

The wind has whispered its leering decision

Between the haunting maze of bramble branches separating soil and sky

 

Hissing torturous lies

Poisonous to my ears

The torrid whipping of winter’s wrath

Lashes me into subterranean chambers of frenzy, dizzying the virulent thoughts trapped in my skull

 

So the hunchback staggers down polluted alleyways

Throughout this abandoned city

 

I carry insects in ampoules

Waiting for a moment like this

 

Silent, alone, terrified, and outnumbered –

The Augustan columns of this monument

 

On the verge of total collapse—

Eager to swallow them

 

To feel their insect legs

Scuttle down my throat, intoxicate my veins

 

To anoint me in the oil of their dark, dazzling ceremony,

To bathe me in their song of despair.

 

Energy evaporates, internal warfare.

The songs of war set the skies aflame

Endless armies arise from my flesh

Nourished by my dark, anguished blood

 

Opposing armies maraud

Pillaging the temples of my strength

 

I wait in silent impoverished anguish,

For my silent bus to transport me into the depths of the unfolding night.

 

The fists of night have me drunk.

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

Insomnia Image copyright Alex Grey

XXVIII

Insomnia

The final tracks have been wrought

The steel wheels have converged with end of the line

The train emits a hideous screech,

Piercing the disturbing hanging silence,

And stammers to a halt.

Fueled by the coal

Of burning little hobgoblins

Seething in my skull

They were once innocent seeds

Buried in the soil of my earth

But as a fetus,

They have torn free from the flesh of earth rampaging.

Menacing little agents

Borne to defile the glorious architecture of my ivory kingdom

With fine tuned dentist’s instruments.

And you shall reap what you sow

So now I must descend this train

Like a convict with the bars slowly closing before him

Knowing his lot, knowing his sin.

The bell tower has struck Midnight,

All the citizens of this forsaken city

Have shuttled into their private vessels

Sailing towards the pure shores of slumber

 

That toll call beckons me awake,

My vessel has abandoned me,

And I watch the train pull away beyond the corpse-like crimson horizon

Steaming into the night.

Left alone, to wander these bent streets of night

Tumbling into depthless black chasms

Surrounded

Violent, scarred eyes steeping in the molten shadows

Tongues twisted in violent malcontent, contorted by the strength of their own bitter venom

Ears lopsided, malnourished

Eyes acquired after lifetimes immersed in this dark carnival

And the bleak drunken city murmurs in bloodless conspiracy

All my wine bottles are filled with ash

My blood is impure, breeding with a dark murky substance

All my nourishment is breathing with maggots

My lungs are stifled

Centipedes seep from my ceiling in a flood

The steel wind screeches like a starving wraith

As the insects enter my body

The night merges into me

With all my power I revolt

I scream, as though being buried alive

As though there is help

But there is no help,

No savior

After the dense endless night

When the first splinters of sunlight

Shatter the mutilated darkness

I will stumble like a wounded soldier

Into sleep

Splash in the ethereal waters of the subconscious

Only to emerge again beneath the vile, impermeable

Skin of night

This is my endless lot

My horrid insomnia.

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

XXIX

Do not expect me to look back from the distance

Do not expect I will look back from the distance longingly towards you little lover.

My feet might falter and my eyes may lie

But my heart will never stop saluting the eternal flag

And I will never stop walking these roads of glory.

Do not expect I will look back from the distance longingly towards you little lover.

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

XXX

Jack must have written this poem in 2009 while drinking wine in his apartment while he was going to the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada. He appears to reflect on conversations and camaraderie we had in 2008 when we both lived near the Rocky Mountains in Boulder. —But based on a document I found on April 12 of 2017, it now seems likely that he was referring to his friend Eli.

To You

Hello my old friend

Thinking of you tonight

The warm glow of wine

Solitude

And now memory harkens back

To days of old,

The mountains,

The past.

And when the narrow light of my mind

Shines upon

The vast, murmuring blackness of the past;

Corpses of mistakes,

Cockroaches of shame,

Little parasitic maggots of regret,

But I also see the most beautiful memories of all!

And now sitting,

Dreaming,

I reflect on what led me here

To this place

So disconnected and cold

Where the wind

Howls

With vicious intent,

Readily outside my window.

Where the streets are poverty stricken

And the people are sorrowful and violent.

Where the days are short

And the nights are long,

Where love is elusive.

But my mind glows in delight

When in this moment of remembrance I see the marble sky,

The elegance of snow

Gracefully

Drifting

Through in the pines of the Rocky Mountains.

You and I friend,

Walking along dirt roads,

Discussing with great camaraderie and earnestness

Philosophizing, Laughing

I grow warm

Despite the growling streets,

The winds assault,

This overwhelming coldness

Despite this I grow warm

And I think of you

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

This poem shares many lines with poem V.

XXXI

Song of My Rising

Shall I continue this long bitter argument with reality?

Those mad notions have sabotaged me for too long.

I am beginning only now to loose the barbed rigging which has cinched my heart and constrained her wild vitality,

That some sweet day I may understand my real energy, unbounded, and allow it to abound, boundlessly.

Not shirking or rejecting myself any longer now

Let me forget the masterpiece grafted upon that impossible canvass

(It has armed me with such great anguish)

So I might accept this masterpiece before me,

And declare each day a masterpiece, and every moment a masterpiece

And myself, an undefinable, unrecognizable, supremely glorious masterpiece as well

 

No longer cursing, stammering, shouting

No longer viewing as unfavorable those which were previously thought unfavorable,

(All rivers flow towards the sea,)

No longer clinched and narrow of mind,

No longer bent with troubled eyes fixed upon the ground below

No longer possessed by those menacing puppeteers

(How long they have mastered me)

I consciously inhale, relax, and release

Allowing the multitudes to pass through me.

All of them are contained within me.

I can feel them animate and enliven my body, I can feel them nourish my soul

It is exhilarating.

So now,

Pausing no more, hesitating no more, second guessing nothing,

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

In an email dated 12/22/09 Jack reflects on his ambivalence about his writings:

A new notion dawned on me earlier this afternoon and I thought you might have some good input and advice. I came to realize why I had such ambivalence about poems. It is because in this modern day and age the poet and all artists to some degree have reputations as effeminate nancies, as fakes, as dreamers with their head in the clouds, and as being weak. This of course has nothing to do inherently with any particular art form but rather with the practitioners of this art form, and when that is taken into account it is no wonder why the arts and why poetry has such a reputation. And this is the reason why I wanted to rid myself of my sincere interest in the arts and in writing. of course I cannot do that without greatly truncating myself. what I realized I want to be and need to be is a warrior poet. combining the strengths of both hemispheres, combining the best of both worlds, blending the qualities of the masculine and the qualities of the feminine. I would like to work with you on this aspiration. I have begun to read your document the way of the warrior. I have been thinking a great deal, perplexed, about what life I must craft, and how to best express and live by my essence.

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

The next set of poems are from a batch Jack emailed on 8/17/11. They are the last ones he sent to me.

And please, if anyone has writings of Jack from the last two years especially. A poem he might have sent you as an email, handwritten pages (which I will gratefully transcribe) please paste into the comments section of contact jonathanzap@hotmail.com to make arrangements.

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

XXXII

Ode

Because your breath animates all with indiscriminate vividness

Because your ecstatic skin has settled atop all of earth and space

Because your essence seeps through every scene

Because your spontaneity is a masterpiece

Because you are the soil from which this abundance rises

Your blessing colors the abundance with a depth of beauty

Because your voice glistens angelically throughout the air

Because your music dances everywhere

Because your colors sweep across the sky

Descending upon the thriving fertility of earth

Because your glimmering eye beams consecrate the land equally with divine showers

Because the nurturance of your guiding hand is always at work

The sentience of earth may exist at ease, may move leisurely

They may walk blossoming, in exultant, spirited expanse

Performing this royal ceremony.

Bursting Still

Bursting with grapes,

Bursting with thunderstorms,

Bursting with ancient Greek tragedies

And ensembles of finely sculpted characters,

Bursting with guitars and melodious birds

And clouds heavy with rain,

Bursting with lakes of sunlight

Bursting with avocados and fertile soil,

Bursting with roads and windows

Bursting with telephones

Bursting with paintings and poems

Bursting with hangovers too

Bursting with lovers and love letters to you

Bursting still

After all these days of victory

After all of downfall

After all these days of triumph

After all these days spent in rejoice

After all these days of song

And all these nights that have lasted so long

After all this hopeless brokenness

After all this broken heartedness

And my broken, aching body trudging along still

After all these days of horrible sickness

After all this terrible poison I have swallowed and succumbed to

After all this praying and all this pain

After all these celebrations

How can it be that I am bursting still?

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

XXXIII

Come To Me

I am weak,” you say

“I cannot stand on my two feet,” you tell me,

“There is something thrashing about violently inside of me, devouring my flesh and blood.”

Come to me.

 

Bind your loneliness to my own.

Offer to me your sorrows, and I will turn them into joys and riches.

Give to me your sins, I will take them.

Forget all that you have done wrong and we will dine together tonight.

There is a fine banquet hall, with a place at the table for you.

 

You in your solitude, you who are suffering

Don’t feel so bad.

I am here with you.

You are guided by my love.

I see you in the aimless crowds filled with sadness

I see you on those miserable anonymous streets

Scavenging for the remnants of the of glory you once knew,

Finding your way.

I tell you again

Come to me, I am with you already.

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

detail, Jack with Tudor Prince wrist watch

XXXIV

To The Unspeakable

Thank you

And

I’m sorry.

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

Jack at the 2008 Rainbow Gathering in Wyoming with his battered travel copy of Leaves of Grass)
Jack, pulling out some of his poems during a hike in Boulder
Jack with one of his favorite books of poetry
This last set of photos is particularly poignant for me. They were taken the morning Jack left Boulder for the last time, and were the last time I ever saw Jack. I believe this was January of 2011. This was the morning he departed and I bought him coffee at his favorite coffee shop on The Hill in Boulder. Appropriately enough the coffee shop is The Innisfree Poetry Bookstore and Cafe. The photos show some of the many, mercurial moods of Jack.
Still going through the email archive and I just found this which leaves me speechless. I added it as a comment to the memorial page too:

 

Tears, goosebumps going through Jack’s emails, they are so prophetic. We have to stop thinking of Jack’s life as tragic. He expressed his intention to awaken through death so clearly and so many times. In an email dated 3/25/09 which had the subject heading “this should be to your liking” (yes, Jack, now more than ever) Jack copies a poem and then writes one of his own:

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

Each Day a Life

by Robert William Service.

I count each day a little life,
With birth and death complete;
I cloister it from care and strife
And keep it sane and sweet.

With eager eyes I greet the morn,
Exultant as a boy,
Knowing that I am newly born
To wonder and to joy.

And when the sunset splendors wane
And ripe for rest am I,
Knowing that I will live again,
Exultantly I die.

O that all Life were but a Day
Sunny and sweet and sane!
And that at Even I might say:
“I sleep to wake again.”

Jack added: “and this is one of my own”

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

XXXV

The Man Who Dreamed He Died and Woke Up Dead

And so his careful thoughts,

Detailed with a cold baroque elegance,

Crafted an entwined complexity,

A sculpture of disgusting failure

And in it bore a promise

From which he could not escape

And the precious wineglasses

Of his dreams

Entrapped within the sinews of twisted, deformed limbs

Had been shattered

And so the sun laughs malevolently

From its condescending throne

And he can smell tomorrow’s grotesque hands

Hovering above the fever in his head

And the nightmare of today still lurks like

A lurid mist behind his eyes

The landscape becomes impure passing through him

So he laughs alone in the solemn twilight

A miserable laugh, a poisonous smile

And his acquaintances all hate him

No one shall greet him

In this desolate desert of days

He is buried alive

And suffocates inhaling the sand

And so he sleeps a sleep

Less generous than death

He commands the supreme alchemists of his sky

To pound their gavel upon his mind

Emitting ringing lies

Of overcast skies throughout all of time

And a church, with its holy cross, sank into the marshland nearby

When he awoke

He was dead

A memorial altar to Jack’s death and awakening I put up the day I learned the news. The Leaves of Grass was a birthday gift from Jack, the glowing green tortoise represents gradual progress on the spiritual path.

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

 

There is more about Jack, more photos and more of his written thoughts and reflections about him on his memorial page.

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

Note added May 12: Video of Jack: My niece Bernadette sent me a video of Jack. Jack showed Bernadette around Boulder when she visited, sometime in 2010. She’s the same age as Jack (both were born in 1989). She took this video clip with a camera I gave her when she arrived in Boulder. I play the straight man to Jack’s comedic self in a moment in which he is creating a spontaneous riff on what would happen if Leonard Cohen and Barak Obama had a baby. It ends with Jack saying he needs a Jungian analyst. Jack’s last line is: “I need a Goldberg” He’s referring to a friend of mine, Jonathan Goldberg, a Jungian analyst in his 70s whom Jack met in 2008. Strangely, I was just visiting with him ( Isee him an average of 3 times a year) yesterday. He also looks at the camera during the brief video and says “you stand guiltless in your predicament” which was a nice, if out of context, statement for Jack’s survivors.
Bernadette clarified some things later this afternoon. She was not operating the camera, I was, and she was not even present when the video was made. She found the video on the camera which I gave her as a gift when she came to Boulder. I hadn’t thought to delete the few photos and videos that I had put on the camera. For some odd reason, Bernadette decided to post the video to YouTube a couple of years ago for reasons even she is not sure of. She’s only posted 12 YouTubes in her life and she never even told me or Jack that the video existed. She only remembered about it last night when she was reading Jack’s memorial page. There have been a number of uncanny experiences related to Jack since his death, but for now I’m only going to share them with a few people who knew Jack and are open to such things and request hearing about them.
Bernadette
Hi I read that you are gathering videos of Jack for an extension to the memorium and I remembered I uploaded this once from the camera you gave me when I went to visit:

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

 

Thank you for leaving us so many haunting and beautiful poems Jack. When I read them, you are so present, so available. Here’s my attempt at a poem about you. Hey Jack, here’s my attempt at a poem about you. If it’s any good, it’s because for the last several days I’ve been learning from a master:

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

Emanations of Jack

The emanations and ripples of Jack are everywhere,

Surrounded by plates and bowls that Jack ate from,

And cups and glasses that he drank from,

Still thinking about Jack and remembering so many moments,

Nothing about Jack will ever not have been.

Jack, everything you said, thought and did—

Ripples forever through eternity.

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

The Lost Archive

(excerpts)

IMG_1146

Painting by Nathan Zap, 1951

December 1st, 2015  (I’m just starting to add excerpts so check back for more)

In journals from late 2008, which reflect many inner struggles, there are also (as in so many of Jack’s writings) passages of lyrical appreciation.  This one is seasonally appropriate and quite moving. I’ll start with an image of Jack’s handwritten page and then transcribe. I’m taking the liberty of correcting a few minor misspellings and punctuation issues. In one case here, and in any future instances where I have trouble deciphering his handwriting I will put a question mark after my best guess of what word he meant or a _____? if I’m not sure at all.

IMG_1147 (1)

∞♦∞♦∞♦∞♦♦♦∞♦∞♦∞♦∞

That two weeks in winter right before Christmas and stretching until after the new year has been ingrained in every child’s mind as perhaps the greatest two weeks of all. A long, long, absence from the prison term, them being unwilling prisoners of education. Days to sleep, and the sleep on those winter days is the most luscious and beautiful. Waking to crystal frost clinging diligently to the window with refractions of sunlight bursting through being refracted into magnificent colors splayed across the room subtly. Hearing the wind hiss, taunting you, believing you will be sulking outside into as usual? ah but then pulling that enormous quilt up to your chin and rubbing that smiling face into the pillow and being gently wrapped in slumber. It is quite simply wonderful. And atop this celebration, feasts, gifts. The reunion of family around large candle-lit banquets, the cheering and anticipation of the new year awaiting.

And this effect, this thought of these weeks as the all-time greatest most blissful weeks has a lasting quality for most of one’s life. In spite of the  eternally overcast skies and blistering air folks get together to smile and laugh. Friends and family of old. Everyone was a-coming home to celebrate together. And so in spite [of] worried beehive inside my mind, I consoled myself with these thoughts, the thoughts that really everything was going to be alright, that as long as I didn’t forget to love the ones I loved and sit with them contentedly in simple conversation things would turn out OK. Looking back now it wasn’t so bad.

So I thought about all the friends I had here, and wanted to see them, to have a great reunion…

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Many poignant journal entries, poems, and occasional class notes in a thick spiral notebook that Jack brought with him to the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg both times he went there—-when he was 18 and then after dropping out for a while when he was 19. No entries in this notebook or elsewhere are dated, and rather than filling the notebook page-by-page in a characteristic way he apparently picked blank pages at random. For me the lack of linearity and dating adds to the feeling of timelessness, and the sense that I’m reading letters from the soul, and not from a chronologically-bound ego. The consistent non order a precise reflection of Jack, someone who could not live comfortably bound to a schedule or long-term commitment but was relentlessly driven by the promptings of his restless soul.

The following poem comes from this spiral, spiraling notebook overflowing with messages from Jack’s restless soul. It was probably written in Winnipeg when he was eighteen or nineteen. It looks like it was tossed off in one take and yet, for me at least, it as a deceptively simple, soulful masterpiece.

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Sometimes I feel a tug

pulling me forwards

My feet stumbling over on another

blindly, dumbly

This tug, this transient, ambiguous

all-pervading tug

Unbiased and unconcerned

Pulls me

and you too

Many times I find myself confused, scared,

a squirrel with his precious acorns

Sitting frightened in his nest,

heart pumping, eyes jumping

When all the while this tiny

little see-through striving

is pulling me along

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A poetic journal entry on restless longing from the same spiral notebook:

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I can’t quite say why I left.

Nor can I say what I was looking for or have been looking for.

And surely I can not know if I have found it. I suppose I was just thirsting for drink from a new well. All my life I have felt moved and dictated, at least to some degree, by outside forces. Most all my life I have more or less walked ground pounded down by many feet and known well by many people. I have lived on a certain timeline which is the norm for most people but can so often be so unsatisfying. Tongues controlled by gossip, feet aimed at fruitless ends, shallow mindedness.

I wanted to live more completely and hear more stories and see other lives. I wanted to see the vast land which is my country as she is. I wanted to touch the world and feel it as it is not with a glove or protection. And I wanted freedom, obligations no more than what is necessary to sustain life, I wanted to breath this air that surrounds every body and object and let the wonder of this land sink into me, on some bustling Chicago street during a business day, or some warm and lazy Memphis afternoon or the crisp inhale of mountain air when only the immense collection of stars are your company. To sing with my voice regardless of the idle carelessness of them dining at that most expensive restaurant, I wanted absolute freedom, I wanted my brain to cease trembling.

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Reading an old collection

of poems

by a poet long gone

from a generation long past

I sit and wonder

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The references in this poem, tossed off in one take,  tell us that it was written when Jack was 19 and living in Winnipeg in an apartment.

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These are the words

I am writing on this empty night

in this empty apartment

which echoes

when I clap my hands

these are the words

I am writing

alone

in this lonely city

blustery and wind swept

ancient and forgotten

I cannot disappear into death

when knights of hazard

strike to avenge lost battles

and so I write

words like this

on nights like this

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Another page from the spiral, another one-take poem from a lonely night in Winnipeg. There was one word I couldn’t quite make out.

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I

The sunlight pours in

Soaring through the sky

Vast impassable (loving?)

Grandfather continues to use

his buttons while

meantime the curtains are closed

II

Whose hands are these

and when can I command

their strength

Whose blood pumps through

the arteries

What are these demands

and why

I am a captive

III

On a night like this

alone and sitting

in the absence of

my previous life

here old

forgotten city

where I walk

all night and all day

along its desolate

streets

what led me here

what led me astray

from my golden garden

of eden

No it doesn’t matter

and would be impossible to trace

anyway

my feet are aimed constantly

at the horizon

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Another tossed off Winnipeg poem that describes smoking a cigarette while taking a bath. There are three stranded lines Jack left in the upper right hand corner of the page, with no lines to indicate if he wanted them inserted into the poem anywhere:

Vaporous mist rising from this

Pavilion of

infinitely clear pure water

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There is

only this instant

soaking deep in these

mercurial steaming waters

steeping in this molten

liquid wrapping me

it will soon exhaust itself and cool

exhaling a cloud of hypnotic smoke

silk, gliding, as on ice, carelessly off the tip

of this cigarette

dispersing like fireflies into the

solid air

of this still,

illuminated apartment

occasionally reading

a collection of writings

from a poet

many years dead

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 A page of song lyrics, that appear to be a Jack variation of a song by Blind Boy Fuller http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=155865 Definitely the sort of thing he would have played on his guitar and sung.

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Keep on truckin’ baby

truckin’ my blues away

Keep on truckin’ baby

truck both night and day

Reckon what the elephant

Said to the cat

got a belly full of booze

I’m tight like that

Keep on truckin’ mama

truckin’ my blues way

I mean

truckin’ my blues away

Keep on truckin’ mama

truckin’ both night and day

Keep on truckin’ mama

truckin’ my blues away

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One notebook is filled with poetry, much of it drafts of what is already published on his poetry page. The contents appear to be written during 2008-2010.  He left some interesting comments here and there on his approach to poetry.

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 Poetry is precise dealing with raw content, employing metaphor and symbol and subconscious association to depict, illustrate and portray life. It is a manifestation of ones own personal world. My poetry comes from deep self-reflection, from journeying deeply inward and howling out what I find to examine it in clear light.

Poetry should have vitality, it should come alive and transfer, only by intuition, something powerful.

Poetry is like harnessing the wind.

Have the courage to let go, let things go release, relax.

Free from abstraction!

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There are a number of beautifully written travelogues in the archives that begin with Jack reflecting on his restlessness and why he had to leave situations that he found too confining. Here’s an example:

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I had left school for inarticulate reasons in search of vague dreams. The kind which were like butterflies on a cool spring afternoon, the kind which are dazzling and enchanting but impossible to pin down or capture, regardless of the persistence of the enchanter. All my  life, my carefree and romantic ideals of how life should be lived free and easy were cast off as were childishness and irresponsibility which would be cured with maturity and commitment. Growing up through these traits proved quite challenging to me…  (omitting a sentence here wouldn’t be appropriate to post–J.Z.)

A great deal of my life I felt a heavy guilt with my lack of bourgeois ambition or desire to fulfill the life style which a good well-rounded college education will provide. But time and time again the standards to which I was to live my life stifled all the life out of me and left me, lifeless. The plain and undeniable voice of practicality never was able to illuminate a clear and pleasant path to me despite all the reassurance of everything I was supposed to value in life. And because of this I was deemed a fool, mentally unfit, and even mentally ill. No, it’s not easy choosing to go your own way, to cast aside your upbringing but neither is living a life which would above all hold you captive in a castle of your own stagnation locked in by walls of inescapable and entirely too sensible security. And it took a great long while of conflict with my self to realize that in the face of an unforgiving and mechanical world I have no other choice than to follow my own feet. Regardless of what everyone else will deem it, it is the only law that I understand and the only law I can follow. Though this is easy to speak it is much more difficult to truly live out. Facing resistance at nearly every turn, in an infinite number of situations and finding wills? which seek to destroy it at every corner of the earth. It is a difficult in a world with infinite regulations, unwrit standards and precise formats for which each being is supposed to subscribe and retain as their fundamental grounding. To be your own man. The only true, pure, and meaningful life is the one which seeks its own roads and refines constantly its individual and unique doctrine. So against all resistance I had chosen to leave university… (omitting a few words—JZ) So rather than live in a sate of eternal purgatory with absolutely no lust or zest for life I chose to leave.

To find all the grandest adventures that had always lived in my mind. To search for far off exotic places to sink into my eyes, to dance on new grounds, to breathe new air, exhale new ideas and back in the warm wondrous story this world is always setting forth.

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But at some point in most of these travelogues, Jack seems to come to the realization that Emerson did in the 19th Century: “The problem with traveling is that you take yourself with you.” No matter how much you keep moving, you can’t outrun inner demons.  Jack and I talked about this at length, especially when I helped him with  a paper he wrote (while he was in school in Winnipeg)  about the American myth of going on the road as a secular pilgrimage and rite of initiation. Jack was clearly trying to write his own version of the on-the-road novel and the archives are filled with numerous promising attempts at that, with profound meditations on travel as well as brilliantly descriptive scenes with well-rendered, memorable characters and a poet and song writer’s acute ear for idiomatic dialogue.

Jack always framed his travel as a departure from a mundane, confining world. Sometimes that departure is depicted as an ecstatic call to adventure and other times as a self-imposed exile from what Jack saw as a shameful failure to adapt or thrive. When in that vein he would refer to himself (and you see this in a number of the poems) as  “defeated.”

Although it might be easy to see these departures and restless travels as “dysfunctional,” and in darker moods Jack sometimes saw them that way, I think it is also legitimate to see them as classic expressions of the visionary artist who cannot find peace or an ability to thrive in the mundane world. Many of Jack’s comments remind me of parallel sentiments expressed by William Blake, “I must create a system or be enslaved by another mans; I will not reason and compare: my business is to create.” Other prophets and visionaries say similar things:  If you give birth to the genius within you, it will free you. If you do not give birth to the genius within you, it will destroy you. — Jesus, The Gnostic Gospel of Thomas

Jung said something with eerie parallels to what Jack wrote above in a passage that I encountered through a stunning synchronicity twenty years ago when I made the decision to leave my teaching career and go on the road. I wrote about this in an essay on creativity, The Path of the Numinous—Living and Working with the Creative Muse. Although this might seem like I am indulging too much of my own thoughts and words I am trying to make a point that could help you to help the next struggling young visionary you might meet. I have been the mentor to young visionaries both before and after Jack and the most classic and difficult problem to navigate is the need to help them find a practical, viable adaptation to life and the simultaneous need not to clip their wings and to encourage them to pursue their visions no matter how unlikely that pursuit is to help them make a living. I have been on both sides of the equation myself—as the one giving advice and as the one needing it. Here’s the excerpt:

On June 17 of 1995 I went on the road, officially  taking an approved year’s leave of absence from teaching. The decision wasn’t irreversible at that point; I still had about ten months to decide if I was coming back. Despite all the messages from the muse, this was no easy decision, as I had a tenured teaching job in the highest-paying county for teachers in the United States, where I made close to 60K a year (quite a lot for a relatively young school teacher in 1995) and was provided with health insurance, an excellent pension plan, etc. My parents, and every voice of middle-class common sense and practicality, were urging me to return to the economic security of a profession I once loved.

I had been on the road ten months when the school district called, pressing me for a decision. I was traveling with some young friends with whom I had done volunteer work at a Navajo reservation near Big Mountain, Arizona. The little bit of money I had from cashing out my retirement fund had long since been exhausted, and I had been living close to the edge. We were camped out in a mesa near Sedona, Arizona, and the morning had arrived in which the decision had to be made. With my friend Jordie as a witness, I did an I Ching reading that seemed to strongly support leaving the teaching job. As I was finishing the reading, another member of the group I was traveling with, Seth, who knew nothing about the decision I was facing, came over to show me a Jung quote he had just encountered in a book on mountain climbing. The quote turned out to be stunningly relevant. This was the second time in my life when it felt like Jung had stepped forward as a spiritual grandfather to give me his blessing. Here is what Seth read to me:

The fact that many a man going his own way ends in ruin means nothing, he must obey his own law as if it were a daemon whispering to him of new and wonderful paths. There are not a few who are called awake by the summons of the voice where upon they are at once set apart from the others, feeling themselves confronted with a problem about which the others know nothing. In most cases it is impossible to explain to the others what has happened, any understanding is walled off by impenetrable prejudices. ‘You are no different from anybody else,’ they will chorus. There is no such thing, or if there is such a thing it is immediately branded as morbid. He is at once set apart, isolated as he has resolved to obey the law that commands him from within. ‘His own law,’ everybody will say, but he knows better, it is the law.

The only meaningful life is the life that strives for the individual realization, absolute and unconditional, of its own particular plan. To the extent that a man is untrue to the law of his being, he has failed to realize his life’s meaning. The undiscovered being within us is a living part of the psyche. Classical Chinese philosophy names the interior way Tao, and likened it to a flow of water that moves irresistibly towards its goal. To rest in Tao means fulfillment, wholeness, one’s destination reached, one’s mission done, the beginning, end in perfect realization, the meaning of existence unique in all things. —C.G. Jung

 (end of excerpt from Path of the Numinous..)

But in fairness to those, like my parents, who emphasized practical adaptation, and pursuit of vision in leisure, it was easier for Jung to go off the rails and stop seeing patients as he pursued visions because he was lucky enough to have married the second richest woman in Switzerland. And it’s easier for me to pursue my path because I have some inherited wealth too. So if you find yourself in the position of trying to help a struggling visionary, as I found myself when I met Jack, you will have to struggle, as they will, with these two hard to reconcile needs—practical adaptation and faithfulness to the creative muse. I realized that this was Jack’s struggle when I first met him in 2008 and in the first month wrote a Zap Oracle card, Adapting to Life in the Babylon Matrix, that was largely inspired by Jack’s struggle. He humored me by  posing for the card images and since the time I knew Jack and the time I wrote most of the 664 cards of the Zap Oracle coincided, there are quite a number of cards that have images of Jack or were inspired by our interaction. You can find some of them linked elsewhere on the memorial page. With so many people interacting with this oracle on a daily basis, these Jack cards, which include links to his pages, have been bringing new readers to Jack’s poems and interest in his story.

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Savage Appreciations

A theme that emerges from the archives, is one that also emerges from the poems and from interaction with Jack. As much as he is capable of probing darkness and giving voice to alienation and bitterness, Jack also far surpasses the ordinary in his capacity for divine appreciation.  It can seem hard to reconcile, but makes perfect sense when you realize that Jack felt everything more intensely than ordinary. That is part of what makes him a great poet.  And it is something that he was aware of and that he crystalized in one of his most memorable lines, “And I am divine in my worst hour as much as I am in my best.” Here are a few excerpts that capture this aspect of Jack, his immense capacity for divine appreciation:

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An appreciation of an elderly cat and the unconditional love of pets.

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pets

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Jack had great appreciation for both people close to him and sometimes strangers he passed on the street. Because of the extreme range of Jack’s feelings, if you were someone, like me, who could be the subject of Jack’s intense anger during one moment or life phase, you were also likely to be someone Jack intensely appreciated during other moments or phases.

appreciations--peopleJack’s intense ambivalence about reality applied to people and also, sometimes to places.  While he could eloquently probe the dark side of places, especially Winnipeg, he could at other times celebrate places and seasons.

midwestwinter

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Here’s an appreciation Jack wrote of his dictionary:

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dictionary

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A consistent theme in Jack’s writings and life is his commitment to self-awareness. An aspect of this that turns up often in the archives and the poems is Jack’s awareness of himself as a multiplicity of personalities (as we all are).

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multiplicity

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shadowcongrats

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10 comments

  1. My mom (Jonathan’s), Bernice Zap wanted to leave a note about Jack’s poems. She met Jack in 2008. She is a retired psychologist who will be 90 in November:
    “I am not yet skilled enough to get around with any skill in the Internet and I at first found only a small part of your In Memoriam for Jack. I have kept trying from time to time and suddenly, by chance, found many, many poems, but no place for comments. How astonishing to see his photographs, so vulnerable and YOUNG, and to realize that they are of the CHILD who did such wonderful writing. Talented or Gifted don’t say it. GENIUS ! Like a Mozart, the rarest of prodigies, a special creation. (I am using capitals only because I don’t know how to underline or italicize. )

    One of the things I learned in my reading of studies of the most intellectually gifted children by Leta Hollingworth, of Columbia University, was that although their rare gift was an asset to them in many respects they had a difficulty as children because they were not emotionally mature enough to handle the existential problems of finding a satisfying philosophy of life, coping with an awareness of mortality, suffering of the innocent, the UNFAIRNESS of life, the seeming triumph of evil, and the difficulty of finding anyone in their environment who can literally understand and SPEAK THEIR LANGUAGE.

    There would be comfort for me, but maybe not for you, in the Jewish funeral quotation, The dust returns to dust,and the spirit returns to God Who made it. Jack must be in a place in his JOURNEY that suits him better.

    (My mom was a child psychologist for 44 years and made a study of child prodigies (she was a legendary one herself). She is also an avid reader of poetry and often sends ones she’s written out by hand in the mail. On the phone she said someone like Jack was one in a million, “like a Mozart” she said several times which is the highest praise I’ve ever heard from her—she’s a classical pianist and Mozart is like a god to her. She also said, “It’s like he’s a Walt Whitman, but not plagiarizing Walt Whitman… It’s like he’s looking down on life from a great height. I can’t get over that such wise words came from someone who looked so young!” She added that the children that Leta Hollingworth studied and called “gifted” could also be called “old souls.”

  2. Thank you for posting these poems, they are truly beautiful (and painful) – beautifully painful. And I agree with your mother that he was gifted/an old soul. Poetry is our refuge. “How can it be that I am bursting still?”

  3. After spending more time with the poems the last few days, I believe Jack was, and is, one of the greatest poetic voices of his generation. It’s not that I’ve read so many millennial generation poets, it’s a general feeling I have based on the power with which Jack’s poetic voice is the voice of the soul. Sometimes this poetic voice is celebratory, at other times it is struggling and even tormented. But it is always profound, authentic, accessible and deeply present with the reader. Jack’s voice has a presence, and emotional immediacy and intimacy with a sympathetic reader that is comparable to Walt Whitman, who was Jack’s greatest poetic inspiration. Jack’s poems, even the ones that he wrote when he was 19, do not seem like an awkward, adolescent attempt at being Whitmanesque. They are alike, because both poets are voices of the soul. To experience these poems is an opportunity to hear the voice of the soul, a voice that gets drowned out by the noisy bustle and haste of modern life. The voice of the soul is not always happy. It can experience glorious ecstasies and transcendence–Jack’s poems are filled with jeweled and glowing examples of this sort of divine exuberance. But the voice of the soul can also be the voice of the dark night of the soul, and Jack had his share of those to tell of too.After spending more time with the poems the last few days, I believe Jack was, and is, one of the greatest poetic voices of his generation. It’s not that I’ve read so many millennial generation poets, it’s a general feeling I have based on the power with which Jack’s poetic voice is the voice of the soul. Sometimes this poetic voice is celebratory, at other times it is struggling and even tormented. But it is always profound, authentic, accessible and deeply present with the reader. Jack’s voice has a presence, and emotional immediacy and intimacy with a sympathetic reader that is comparable to Walt Whitman, who was Jack’s greatest poetic inspiration. Jack’s poems, even the ones that he wrote when he was 19, do not seem like an awkward, adolescent attempt at being Whitmanesque. They are alike, because both poets are voices of the soul. To experience these poems is an opportunity to hear the voice of the soul, a voice that gets drowned out by the noisy bustle and haste of modern life. The voice of the soul is not always happy. It can experience glorious ecstasies and transcendence–Jack’s poems are filled with jeweled and glowing examples of this sort of divine exuberance. But the voice of the soul can also be the voice of the dark night of the soul, and Jack had his share of those to tell of too. As he put it, “And I am divine in my worst hour as much as I am in my best.” When you read these poems, draw close to them, sit across from this voice with a glass of wine or tea, it will be a very deep and intimate conversation. When you read these poems, draw close to them, sit across from this voice with a glass of wine or tea, it will be a very deep and intimate conversation.

  4. I was fortunate to be able to have so many still pictures of Jack, but it never occurred to me to record his guitar playing, singing, or just Jack being Jack–and he had so many unique gestures and phrases. Does anybody have these who would like to see them put on this page?

  5. Thank you for posting Jack’s poetry. His poems incite such powerful resonance within me I felt the need to message you and thank you for perpetuating his energy in this way. My subconscious insists that we are like leaves of the same branch and this knowledge makes the connection to a man I never knew much more tangible, creating strange and powerful turbulence in my emotional and energetic bodies.

  6. If you read Savage Reflections before 3pm, April 29 go back and take another look. Many words added, new formatting and photos. Please if anyone got a poem or piece of writing by Jack in an email or scribbled on a piece of paper, if anyone had a recording of Jack singing and/or playing the guitar or any sort of video of him please contact jonathanzap@hotmail.com

  7. I never knew of Jack before coming across this site today. He is a lovely creature who wrote a lot of beautiful things. Thank you for sharing these pictures and poems!

  8. I created a new page called Some Thoughts about the Poems of Jack Savage https://zaporacle.com/some-thoughts-on-the-poems-of-john-jack-spencer-savage/ In the poems Jack creates a “contract with the divine” a certain trajectory that he defines in the verses. I also discuss how reading Jack’s poems affects the meaning of his life.

  9. On May 9 my friend John Major Jenkins who is best known as a non fiction author, but is also a very accomplished poet and reader of poetry emailed me the following comments about Jack’s poems:

    I think these are great poems. They are raw and honest, and express a beautiful and brilliant soul. I’ve gone to many poetry readings and became disappointed, since most young poets were just spewing swearwords and one-dimensional angst. They were, in a sense, being raw and honest, but as typical teenagers they didn’t have much that was interesting to hear. Or, they just didn’t express it well; it was enough for them to barf in front of the audience.

    Jack, on the other hand, is a deep thinker, feels deeply, and is lyrical. This does harken back to a Whitmanesque mode of poetry; it’s about as far from the current hip-hop stylings of staccato beats as you can get — where the lyrical side of the poetry is beaten out of the poem. Whitman was an early inspiration for me too.

    The poems are also visionary in many respects. I think of a more clear-headed, less drunk Jack Kerouac. I saw Marty Matz as a beat poet who got marginalized because he retained a visionary and Neoplatonic, upward ascending and bardic lyricism in his poems. In comparison, his friends — Kerouac, Ginsburg, Corso — were just doing nihilistic existentialism.

    It’s a great thing you’ve done to arrange Jack’s poems and share them with the world. They are very readable and pull you in to his inner world. Thank you,

    John

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    Note added May 12: Video of Jack: My niece Bernadette sent me a video of Jack. Jack showed Bernadette around Boulder when she visited, sometime in 2010. She’s the same age as Jack (both were born in 1989). She took this video clip with a camera I gave her when she arrived in Boulder. I play the straight man to Jack’s comedic self in a moment in which he is creating a spontaneous riff on what would happen if Leonard Cohen and Barak Obama had a baby. It ends with Jack saying he needs a Jungian analyst. Jack’s last line is: “I need a Goldberg” He’s referring to a friend of mine, Jonathan Goldberg, a Jungian analyst in his 70s whom Jack met in 2008. Strangely, I was just visiting with him ( Isee him an average of 3 times a year) yesterday. He also looks at the camera during the brief video and says “you stand guiltless in your predicament” which was a nice, if out of context, statement for Jack’s survivors.
    Bernadette clarified some things later this afternoon. She was not operating the camera, I was, and she was not even present when the video was made. She found the video on the camera which I gave her as a gift when she came to Boulder. I hadn’t thought to delete the few photos and videos that I had put on the camera. For some odd reason, Bernadette decided to post the video to YouTube a couple of years ago for reasons even she is not sure of. She’s only posted 12 YouTubes in her life and she never even told me or Jack that the video existed. She only remembered about it last night when she was reading Jack’s memorial page. There have been a number of uncanny experiences related to Jack since his death, but for now I’m only going to share them with a few people who knew Jack and are open to such things and request hearing about them.

    Bernadette
    Hi I read that you are gathering videos of Jack for an extension to the memorium and I remembered I uploaded this once from the camera you gave me when I went to visit:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17HXWXyZCO8&list=UUmyEYSvfRtY3Q3RUO-LMbcg&index=6
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