Saturday, February 5, 2011

There Are Threats

I have been paranoid before, but not for a long time. I know no one much cares to know about me now. I know this even if it is not true. I choose to know this. It makes life easier and more effective. I haven't had clues that I was being watched or listened to or followed for a long time now.

When I was a dope dealer though, there were some dicey times and one in particular. This was in December, 1971. I had gone out of my comfort zone and shortly after some strange things happened. I wound up headed to arrange a pot buy and realized that the road was not right, and it felt exactly as if I was being followed. I pulled a check ploy, going off the freeway in an unlighted area, knowing I could go back on. Someone did that with me. This road was a residential turn off I knew about and while busy in the day because of a golf course, this was night with only local residents using it. It was too weird when that car did what I did, going right back on the freeway. I dumped the buy completely at that point, and my goal was now to get home in one piece, with the money intact so I could give it back to the people who fronted me and get the car back to its owner too. I was successful at getting away but was completely convinced I was being set up. I was also quite high.

A week later a friend of mine who worked at the local paper turned gray when he saw me and said, "What are you doing here?" It turned out he had seen my name on a prepublication grand jury indictment list given to the paper in preparation for the expected arrests in the very near future. I decided to trust his access because it made sense of what had happened to me.

In those first days after my road trip out of town but before I got that information it stayed weird. There were odd people about and strange goings on. I felt really exposed and at risk. I made a decision to get out of town. I also decided who my friends were based on whether they could take my distress seriously or not. I was really aware that I was right next to insane if not over the line. I had two roommates in this apartment we lived in, in an older house. We were not paying rent and on the way out the door. We all decided that the heat was on. It certainly felt like it. The task was to stay cool and not spin out totally. I went to Arizona for a few weeks and when I came back it was to a totally different life.

The line between distress at a real situation and paranoia is vague at best. I know there was trouble but I will never know how much was in our shared worry and how much was bearing in from the outside. The report about the list was real. The car and other stuff on the road that night was real too. The stuff that happened at the house was real but it was not clear what it was.

But if the list was real, how come I was never popped? I have had to take on faith that I somehow did the right thing and it voided their intentions. It really scared me but not how you might think. What scared me was I knew that I was not strong enough to tough out the way it would go. I was afraid I would be put in a situation where I had no way out but suicide. See, I knew it wasn't me but my supplier they were after. That guy was known to be a smuggler with Mexico connections but basically untouchable, except they knew, I surmised, that I knew him. I was afraid that they would give me an offer I couldn't say no to, and it would mean ratting out my friend. He trusted me and had fronted me dope more than once. I felt I would have to commit suicide as the only way out of all that, jail or being a rat. That's what scared me.

Paranoia...even paranoids are sometimes right. Sometimes they really are persecuted.

The gate and the glass shards on top of the high walls are however from an earlier time when I lived in Dacca (now Dhaka) in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).

There Are Threats

They come at me with
words and sneers, innuendos
and even placards
hung on my steel gate.

The glass shards atop my wall
keep nothing much out.

You tell me suffer
and grow stronger. Don't you know
I would if I could?

October 21, 2009 1:14 PM


  1. chris,
    i have always liked the way your poems climax...there is something about and ending that always cuts through you..
    and paranoia is effective to one's advantages sometimes....i think if people tell you are mad...and u know you are...the joke is always on them...

  2. manik, I am impressed that you write of a technique that I use instinctively and quite happily. It is reminiscent of any good short short story or joke. Yes indeed, make the work twist at the end, coming out with a new element. It ties things up in a presentation spiced with new spice. This adds lightness of being, I think.

    As for madness, what we write of is the dash of it that allows for creativity. True madness goes beyond into entrapment and misery. It is to ordinary life what ordinary life is to enlightenment. Each is a whole order of magnitude deeper into the heaviness of the material world. Catatonia simulates dead matter, so called. So do extreme schizophrenic states and depressions. Lesser madnesses of that ilk allow for more movement but not enough. You have to heal before you reach any chance for awakening. But ordinary consciousness is what we awaken from. Madness as we speak of it here is slipping the bonds of ordinary consciousness, cracking loose a little.

  3. and then comes the question of where do those cracks be situated so as to categorize or strangely enough orderly refer to the kind of madness.....if in the vicinity of of his mental structure simply following your thoughts is the way forward..who can blame genes cells grey matter etc etc....ofcourse the regular course of things would not allow that to stand...that is how madness is detected perhaps....i think we are severely gifted beings....that we look around and still feel that this/that qualifies as some level of human behaviour.....

  4. I like that you know this, but choose not to know this...the element of being watched. We all are, to some degree. Big Brother in my office for instance. But I have one co-worker almost immobilized by this fear. Everything is a conspiracy. Who's more nuts? She, or I? Only the final curtain will tell, but I can't live like that.

  5. Wow. You are thinking in your language and writing in mine. I had to work hard on this one. I wonder if you had to work as hard with my writing, if I was as dense for you?

    I think first you are wondering how we can make sense of any close by madness - how can we speak of it usefully, and if it is there, is it something that arises from natural causes or something more interesting. You seem to think the madness we find useful actually comes from something even deeper than some kind of damage to our genes or other natural source. Otherwise it falls short and is not very interesting.

    I tend to agree. If it is genuine, this crack is a crack in the "cosmic egg". What comes is a voice from beyond, but again not entirely but as a spice. It is not always there and that involves me in questions of my lifestyle. How can I enhance this gift, because we agree on this, I think, that what we are talking about is a gift? It is that extra something that raises a work to a true Work. And it is a madness.

    How can I live so that the madness does not destroy me?

    How can I live so that I can receive but not entrap it and so kill it, make it too much my own thing?

    It does not come from me, so from who or from where does it come? And how can I live with or trust the answer? Maybe even better, live without the answer?

    How do I avoid losing it? How can I measure up to it? Will I have the necessary patience to wait until we dance smoothly together, this alien timbre and my natural thinner (or whatever differently ordinary) voice? If I force its presence the rush of it may burn me up as is so obviously the fate of many. But if I don't use it, I lose it.

    What do I do while I wait? When it is time, then what? Which art allows the clearest space for it?

    How can I gain consistency? Gain its trust? Prove my love? Prove I am worthy? What form shall my devotion take?

    The Greeks called this the muse. Then how shall I marry her, or form brotherhood with him? Sex is involved, of that there is no question or else tantra makes no sense. So then how to avoid mere licentiousness? How to legitimate this bond?

    These and some others have been my lifelong questions. If I were literally the mage of which I write rather than an artist writing of mages, then I would add, in what familiar or companion do I find my assistance? Because of course the magic and the madness are indistinguishable and the madness is genuinely a power and the best of self preservation has me house this power not in me but in another close to me who will not desert me.

    That power is what distinguishes an artist from a devotee, an actor from an acolyte, a mage from a metaphysician, and a shaman from a priest.

  6. Annie, yes, and it fits right in to the discussion developing because this is another side of the muse, that (s)he is active and watches and is often the true source of the sense of scrutiny that drives paranoia.

    How do I rise to a sense of comfort that I am exposed, as if naked in public and so what? Because it just is true that we are seen both with accuracy and often enough with a distortion we can do nothing about.

    Most often I just hold my head up anyway. Eff them. They need to take the joke. That's what I to to walk among them, let them have their room.

    And yes, I am watching a someone close appear to self destruct as he cannot allow the flow to pass him smoothly. His hooks are out and the snags in the current are ripping them off as the flow rushes by. He bleeds and simultaneously shrinks and shouts and threatens. The jury is out on this, whether it is his ploy to let off steam or is a genuine move to separation.

  7. Yes. THIS is what I am learning. Let them have their room, and their assumptions. I cannot correct them all, and perhaps I should not want to. This immediate response to deny and re-direct is like shutting my eyes. Someone SAW something. Perhaps I should take a look. If the shoe fits, own it. If it is an obvious case of mistaken footery....let it roll.

    Oh but I get your friend. I understand being so barbed. Damn. I really do. It's a tough battle to find balance. I'm really sorry for his pain.

  8. Annie, I am trained up spiritually that THIS hook and rip or other style of clash is a strong form of the kind of attachment that stands in the way of spiritual progress. In the west, we want engagement with life while in the east the ideal is a form of withdrawal. No one wants this distress.

    The meditation disciplines are all about disengaging the hooks, turning the barbs into silken hair that finally dissolves. Nothing of course stops the flow, but style of life, living "right" may do much to assist in slowing it down, removing unfortunate turbulence.


The chicken crossed the road. That's poultry in motion.

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