The Descent

It was many years ago that I read ‘The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle’,  a novel by Japanese author Haruki Murakami, published in 1994–1995. It features a character, a man named Toru Okada (who narrates the story), a low-key and unemployed lawyer’s assistant who is tasked by his wife, Kumiko, to find their missing cat. In the course of the novel he finds an abandoned house that also contains an empty well, which Toru uses later to crawl into and think. I remembered this novel from so long ago, while I was working on another poem. All I could recollect were three aspects; the thinking well, a grotesque scene that inspired the other poem I should publish someday and two elegant Tokyo women in a café. Thanks to the internet I was able to find Haruki Murakami again and was so delighted to read his 2014 interview on the Guardian, where his answers to a few questions resonated with me greatly [1]

Haruki Murakami; Photo by Elena Seibert [2] for NPR

Murakami said: “My lifetime dream is to be sitting at the bottom of a well“
“It’s my lifetime dream to be sitting at the bottom of a well. It’s a dream come true. [Not a nightmare? asks John Mullan. “No!” “Why not?” “I dont know.”] I thought: it’s fun to write a novel, you can be anything! So I thought: I can sit at the bottom of a well, isolated … Wonderful!”
He also said : “My imagination is a kind of animal. So what I do is keep it alive””I’m obsessed with the well. And the elephant. The refrigerator. The cat. And the ironing. I can’t explain it.”And finally: “I have no intention to write about sad characters” An audience member asked why so many of his characters seem so sad. “Really?”, he asked, astounded. Toru Okada is certainly sad about his marriage, offered Mullan. “Everybody is!”, joked (we think) Murakami. “I have no intention to write about sad characters”, he concluded. I found the last one so funny, because I remember the sad vein of Toru Okada’s life in that novel and I would have answered similarly about my own writing: “What melancholia in my poetry, I don’t write sad depressive stuff at all. I’m quite the happy cat, as my husband, friends and family would attest to; writing though, is simply a soul exercise, if there can ever be such a thing”

There is mention of another well in ‘The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle’. The plot, in the style of Murakami, consists of strange incidences and stranger people, where Toru Okada meets a character called Lieutenant Mamiya, who tells him a long tale about his eerie and mystical wartime experiences in Manchukuo, (a Japanese puppet state created in China), while in the Kwantung Army, one of largest and most prestigious command in the Imperial Japanese Army, (1906-1945). The experience involved having to watch a man being skinned alive and then later, Mamiya being left within a deep well to die. I felt like writing for Toru Okada in the manner of his descent into a thinking well. I believe he would contemplate thus, in a similar way to how Lieutenant Mamiya does further in the story, each coming from a different experience leading to a unique perspective.

The photo is from an article on the USGS website about aquifers [3] and ground water, that’s well illustrated. There are illuminating primers on ground water [4] and one on water [5] that I am yet to read and have cited in resources below.


It is strange, the pathway of water. Like all liquid feeling, it remains confined to various strata of an Earth consciousness, I would like to imagine. It knows where to percolate to, permeate through or even be dramatically overwhelmed in a pressurized outburst of an Artesian nature. Aquifers are like chambers of the heart, they are lined by a sweet compassionate sandstone porosity, or sometimes confined to a dense granite of reserve, knowing that the water of life is just beneath and beyond the reach of anyone that thirsts for it. Such a perspective comes out of a certain possessiveness towards the Earth’s lifeblood, so to speak, the need to strike water through unyielding rock, even where it may spurt and gush forth like an injury to a carotid artery. Yet, from a human perspective, there do exist confined aquifers and legions of people with dry wells. It has been illuminating, this study of aquifers and wells [3] I would like to use the dry well to draw an analogy to a dearth of compassion. Does a heart / soul need to be bored through in the filling of a dry well? I mean, in such an exercise lies the possibility of confining unfamiliar expressions to a medieval grammar.  Nothing is original, I heard it said once, not even sin. All that we create has been created before, yet, we are new each time, despite our genetic ancestral inheritance and we seek to explore life like no human has, that have come before us, knowing at the end there is simply death for the sated or the hungry.


I have been missing out writing poetry that is simply for the sake of poetry, without the attendant prose. There is simply too much to write about without having the added pressure of perfecting articles for social media or the blog. It’s a discipline certainly, but an exhausting one, so perhaps I need a well too 😉

The Descent (For Toru Okada)

A stuttering silence
in stepping
down the rungs of
a shallow sentiment 
which arose from
disjointed syllables,
confined to an aquifer
within a strange
intellectual porosity. 

The water had long gone
that nourishes a soul thirst.
Here, like seeking egress
through shale,
the artesian lay languishing
in the heart. 

It's a circular view, sparkling asterisms 
cruising across silver patch of sky.
How would one ever know the world is round
from at the bottom of a well ?

It is strange, this, Murakami’s obsession with wells. In another interview [3] he said “When I’m really focused on writing, I get the feeling that I shift from this world to the other world, and then return to this world. Kind of like commuting. I go there, and come back. Going is important, but coming back is even more important. Since it’d be awful if you couldn’t return”. He also told a story; “At the beginning of the ninth century there was a nobleman in Kyoto named Ono no Takamura. During the day he worked in the imperial palace, and it was rumored that at night he’d descend to hell (the underworld) and serve there as secretary to Enma Daio, the ruler of hell. Commuting, as it were, every day between this world and the other. His passageway to travel back and forth was an old well, and it still exists in Kyoto. I love that story. Though I don’t think I’d ever like to climb down inside that well’.

It is wonderful, is it not, that the wellspring of our inspiration, can just as simply be a well ~ as well 🙂

From the USGS website [3]

References:

[1]~https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2014/aug/24/haruki-murakami-my-lifetime-dream-is-to-be-sitting-at-the-bottom-of-a-well

[2]~https://www.npr.org/2021/04/06/984447978/haruki-murakami-ive-had-all-sorts-of-strange-experiences-in-my-life

[3]~https://www.usgs.gov/special-topic/water-science-school/science/aquifers-and-groundwater?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects

Additional Resources:

[4] A Primer on Ground Water ~https://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/7000056/report.pdf

[5] A Primer on Water ~https://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/7000045/report.pdf

An epistle to a floating ball on the wisdom of teeth

That was Wilson. This is Harry !

I spotted this on my walk and it reminded me of the friend Tom Hanks created out of a volleyball that he named Wilson in the movie ‘Cast Away’. It wove into my dental visit somehow and the pain Hanks’ character suffered when he inflicted a tooth extraction on himself while cast away on an island in the South Pacific.

I believe it is either that some people seek imaginary friends or imaginary spirits seek them instead. Pessoa created over seventy heteronyms, Tevye had regular conversations with God (but that was in ‘Fiddler on the Roof’), Dante had his muse in Beatrice, Russel Crowe (he played John Forbes Nash Jr. who suffered from schizophrenia) was visited by fictitious friends in ‘In a beautiful mind’, others have their favourite patron saint or ideal and so on. I can understand why Tom Hanks made a friend of the inanimate Wilson. I find too that sometimes the universe ricochets in response to my poetry, perhaps it’s conceit to imagine this or simply our common lexicon, at the same time I am no Pessoa either, however brilliant that approach may seem. Yet, this sphere tickled my funny bone so. I am trying an attempt at humour today although my molar still hurts. Also, can all verse be profound ?

Well, yes it can. I learned that a ball is a marvel of engineering, especially after what it takes, to bring about a thirty percent increase in the true flight of a soccer ball. Apparently, eight years worth of engineered grooves, 3D ink microflaps (an idea from the aerospace industry) and four panel fuse welded exterior, help make the perfect true flight ball See end notes.

Process: Narrative free verse with the help of Marquis de Sade, Disney, marshland, floating ball, molar, wisdom tooth.

Harry, you didn't have to float long on 
the reeds for this dental update. Those

that bed you, were Phragmites once
and now my molar, merely fragments.

Dentists x-ray insurance faster than
they count teeth. There must be some

logic to this I cannot quite see but
you would know, if you could see,

since you are logically a marvel of
engineering. I still have a couple leftover

late bloomers naturally aching beneath
enamel that grant me the wisdom of

a Walrus, like you floating to no purpose
on a marshland. Respect! You had your time

on the court, vivacious orb of pleasure,
Casanova, you. I love my molars and

a dentists drill is sadism. I even brushed up
on the Marquis before the visit so I

could amalgamate the bruxism of
his misanthropy into something al dente

and profound. A hundred twenty days of
  F / L / O / S / S / I / N / G

...... is what the hygienist said. She even
granted me the softest toothbrush, like

the blue fairy in Pinocchio, and said
I could be a real girl with dead teeth. I mean

... Harry!? it's quite simple, everything fizzles
into a sordid reality. A ball that gives up

the ghost of games, a mouth that expels
an infected tooth, cast away on an island

or a marshland or simply land. There we are,
in a biopic of Neptune, merely dreamers,

deflated in drilled teeth, sharing candied
memories of guilty pleasures, loveless cavities.

Ball Existentialism: who knew ?

Nike Engineers Soccer Ball With Truer Flight, Fresh Technology ~https://www.forbes.com/sites/timnewcomb/2020/06/29/nike-engineers-soccer-ball-with-truer-flight-fresh-technology/

Globulisation of Corporate Science.
Some fancy ball this ! ⚽
Pic credit : from article

Nike believes it has accomplished the goal of true ball flight with the new Nike Flight ball, saying the ball has 30 percent truer flight thanks to its AerowSculpt design that took eight years, 1,700 lab hours and 68 unique iterations to make happen … The resulting Flight ball includes AerowSculpt engineered grooves, a four-panel fuse-welded exterior and the use of Nike All Conditions Control 3D ink to print “micro flaps” on the exterior of the ball to help with drag … A ball generally wobbles as it flies, with air gripping the smooth surface creating a wake and causing changes in direction. This can result in missed shots and disconnected passes. The patented AerowSculpt technology moves the force around the ball, rather than letting it grip the surface…

Now one would think, what does a tooth have to do with air; well, tooth squeeze, also called Aerodontalgia, is a pain caused by the expansion or contraction of air beneath the filling of a tooth when pressure within the mouth cavity is increased or decreased (https://www.britannica.com/science/tooth-squeeze)

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, mathematician and writer, better known by his pen name Lewis Carroll explains the wisdom of the Walrus best in his poem; no Walrus a better philosopher than this !

The time has come,’ the Walrus said,
      To talk of many things:
Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —
      Of cabbages — and kings —
And why the sea is boiling hot —
      And whether pigs have wings.’

Source:https:https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43914/the-walrus-and-the-carpenter-56d222cbc80a9

Non-native Phragmites, (Phragmites australis) also known as common reed, is a perennial, aggressive wetland grass that outcompetes native plants and displaces native animals. Because of its height and its distinctive, fluffy seed heads, Phragmites is easy to spot, even by traveling motorists. (Source:https://www.fws.gov/gomcp/pdfs/phragmitesqa_factsheet.pdf)

I think we all wish to have the Blue Fairy in our lives. “Prove yourself brave, truthful and unselfish and someday you will be a real boy! Awake Pinocchio. Awake.” Mostly, what we need though, is for the Blue Fairy to awaken our inner Jiminy Cricket. Said the Blue Fairy: “I dub you Pinocchio’s conscience. Lord High Keeper of the Knowledge of Right and Wrong, Counselor in moments of temptation and guide along the straight and narrow path. Arise, Sir Jiminy Cricket.” Source:https://pinocchiodisney.fandom.com/wiki/The_Blue_Fairy

The most impure tale ever written in 1789 is no match for the internet, clearly, though it was once reviled as one of the most sexually violent books ever written and banned in Britain in the 1950s – and now it is a Penguin Classic. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/oct/07/marquis-de-sade-120-days-of-sodom-published-classic

[The personal memoir of Casanova finally emerged in 1821, heavily censored, denounced from the pulpit and then placed on the Vatican’s Index of Prohibited Books. By the late 19th century, within the French National Library, several luridly illustrated editions were kept in a special cupboard for illicit books, called L’Enfer, or the Hell. Today, Casanova has finally become respectable. In 2011, several of the manuscript’s pages—by turns hilarious, ribald, provocative, boastful, self-mocking, philosophical, tender and occasionally still shocking—were displayed to the public for the first time in Paris in 2012. In another literary first in 2012, the library posted all 3,700 pages online. A French government commission anointed the memoir a “national treasure,” even though Casanova was born in Venice. Source:https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/who-was-casanova-160003650/ ]