photo by Nina Port
Balance of Discipline and Utter Abandonment
I take a book and notebook to the cafe, Intelligentsia several times
a week. An industrial collage of wood beams; and steel; and light
through clear and opaque glass. High ceilings, gray floors, squares
of cement. Skeletal steel shelves bracketed to the walls. The rest of
the light from compact high functioning clear bulbs. Glass and steel,
accents of wood. Skylights. There is an expectation of copper, but
one searches to no avail. Blues, jazz, and electronica over the
Baristas vary from un-maked-up jovial young women to stern men
in their late thirties. A determined ascetic, rather German, definitely
masculine vibe but the non-harsh light softens and fills space between
fine and various straight lines of wiring, pipes, and scaffolding. High
tech lightbulbs suspended on fine steel wires from the wood beamed
ceiling, slant of skylights, large aluminum funnels and pipes affirm
mysterious functions of their own, one thinks of trapeze artists, an
abundance of pattern like birds in formation above the espresso
drinkers who look as determined as the baristas over their Apple
laptops, lined up one after the other on the stainless steel counters.
Outside a beckon of green suggests you are not actually in a building,
though it is quietly and unobtrusively air-conditioned. Or is it? The
atmosphere is focused, not busy; the vibe human and intelligent. An
old structure, brick exterior, built in the late 19th century or at the
turn of the 20th century it was probably once a ware house for milk or
meat. Now people younger than myself stare into their computers,
all MacAir, from the look of them, one after the other, reminiscent
of an assembly line. Perhaps for screenplays. This is a different crowd
from what used to be Abbot's Habit down the street, which has sadly
lost its lease after thirty some years. Or if it's the same people, they
look different here.
Through the speakers some sort of driving dramatic drum beats
and synthesized strings. In the background grind of coffee beans.
Bells now punctuate the music, gives the sense a moment of
epiphany is imminent. Metallic pound of the espresso portafilter.
A dog barks. They allow dogs here? How enlightened. Russian s
poken next to me, the young woman who shares the little table a
nswers me in perfectly accented American. Wish I knew another
language. French. For some unnameable reason it makes me feel
as though I am home. I have never been. I will get there yet. Paris.
It will thrum in my breast bone the slow movement of ancient stone.
Everything is energy, particles move at varying rates. Even me—my
energy sometimes buoyant, sometimes pools in shadows. Now the
music hums and whines, a saxophone, a harmonica. A Parisian feel
again. There was a chance to go when we were in the U.K., but too
tired to cross the Channel that winter. (Now Creedence Clearwater
blasts.) Had to make due with Windsor Castle. Prince Albert's
opulent memorial; Victoria's love for him vastly, intricately, widely,
deeply evident—her heart a jewel on display for generations to come.
Who can measure love?
The less you talk about it and the more you move away from the subject,
those who know you, don't. The deeper that cave within you, encrusted
with a scintillating no one can capture. Protected treasure. Words hack.
Indeed there are those who have brought the pick axes deigning to
clarify and pigeon hole and articulate what your own heart cannot. If
all the jewels of the kingdom were at your disposal, they would not
be worthy of the quality that vibrates under your sternum, the pulse
no music can capture. So you remain silent with epiphany.
Most of the time I feel wordless. Occasionally or frequently something
takes hold of me and I'll write a poem. It's not me as I experience
myself, but some other part that rouses and seeks to share something,
some observation or feeling. Half the time I wonder who this person is.
When I set out to write an essay or a novel, there is a "plan" but even t
hen I will have to let go into what decides to reveal itself. It requires a
balance of discipline and utter abandonment. It is difficult to talk about,
harder yet, to "teach."
Fifteen years ago I visited a tiny seaside village in Cornwall which was
famous for buffeting incredible winds you could lean into and you
would not topple over. People liked to do this, while standing on the c
liffs that overlooked the sea. The winds dared you. And if you were the
daring type you answered the call. We walked along the pathway high
on the cliffs and next to the gray and gold spliced ocean. The light was
incredible. Painters flocked here to capture what they saw.
Sometimes I think I could give up this housing and shoveling of words
into print, this sense of wordlessness only to be taken over by this other
person who "speaks" and says things I only at times half understand.
Sometimes I think before I die I will lean into the wind some other
way and fight for my dual citizenship and find my way back to that
village, invest in watercolors and teach myself to capture on canvas
another way to render images and feelings and observations -- to stop
seeking to make sense of it all with these hieroglyphics I've devoted
my life to. Color and shape would be a respite, the gold spliced Atlantic
and standing on a steep cliff in a steeper wind would wipe out the
roving restless wordless state, the strange angst of gestation.
I tell myself this story. But in the end, you see, even such an experience
as that would seek to become a story. Would demand to become words
no matter how wordless I felt. And I would be used again, cramping my
fingers around a pen or over a keyboard, while the elements danced
more madly than they dance here in languid Los Angeles, its still blue
air, its pronounced sunshine, the Pacific calm and barely lapping. And
in that charming English village perched on the edge of daily capricious
forces, my paints would dry up untouched because these hieroglyphics
demand everything. And they promise it to me over and over again just
as waves and wind hurl and announce themselves unendingly against
the eroding gem of a rock that is England, they promise to me just as much.
© 2021 Lisa Marguerite Mora
BIO: Lisa Marguerite Mora has won prizes for poetry and fiction. She conducts workshops and offers literary services https://www.lisamargueritemora.com. Publications include Chiron Review, Rattle, Literary Mama, Public Poetry Series, California Quarterly, Cultural Weekly, Rebelle Society, Serving House Journal, among others, a Blue Mountain Arts Poetry Prize, First Place winner Micro Fiction for Dandelion Press as well as an Honorable Mention. Though she still seeks a home for her novel, it has caught the attention of top agents. Her prose and poetry have been nominated for Best of the Net as well as a Pushcart Prize.